Wednesday, June 22, 2011

51. ICT and Learning in the ESL Classroom

Making Waves, Not Just Surfing the Net: ICT and Learning in the ESL Classroom
Leila Kajee, Applied English Language Studies
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
ReadMatrix International Conference, California (2004)

This university dissertation includes a number of very important points about ESL and uses of ICT in the classroom for adults. It focuses on a scenario that is seemingly distant from ESL education in Alberta and Canada, but beyond the geographical walls of the study, a number of really valid points can be read and considered for more "close to home" settings, of adult learners who may find themselves, together with instructors, in online learning deliveries.

Here some of the highlights as usual:

  1. there is wide documentation that sustains that ICT in ESL adult environments brings a number of very important advantages (page 3)
  2. these may include: availability, currency, authenticity and variety of resources, improved collaboration and the possibility to implement a variety of strategies.
  3. the article reflects on key elements of andragogy - mainly from Knowles (1984), Davenport (1993) and Caffarella (1991). These are always good to keep in mind. With different levels of relevance the elements include: self-concept, experience, readiness to learn and motivation. A neat point made by the author is to remember that even though institutions and curricula may claim they elicit students' self-directed learning, there is still a great level of direct instruction and instructor-lead activities in traditional settings.
  4. another cool concept is the idea of "democratization" of the learning experience - ICT seems to bring all players to the same level.
  5. the article presents a summary table that is worth considering - in the table a number of characteristics of adult learners are considered and how ICT can support or connect to these characteristics.
    1. support can be given via ICT
    2. adults can take ownership of own goals and learning needs and make decisions in ICT learning environments
    3. connection to life experiences can be very relevant and facilitated in ICT settings
    4. student-led activities can more easily occur in ICT environments
  6. the author describes the context of her own study - this is where some of the geographical implications may need to be decontextualized and read with care. However a number of points remain valid, such as:
    • the ICT environment seemed to facilitate debate and deeper thinking through discussion postings
    • the training needed at the beginning of the course which implemented ICT reminds us all of the basic essential support all need before the ICT-driven learning experience
    • self-directed learning was facilitated - however students' motivation remains critical
    • extended access to instructor and other classmates
    • learners felt they had increased control over their own planning and implementation of the learning
There seem to be very recurring themes by now (since here we are at article/book/read number 51!) in the field of ICT and ESL learning. However this will not stop us from continuing on with reflections and more consideration, as we are just entering this very exciting field of studies.

Read on!

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