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Teaching English - TESOL and Technology in Instruction

The discipline of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) has significantly evolved over the past four decades. Globalization has not only changed the dynamics in business but also affected other aspects as well, including that of the use of the English language. Because of changes brought on by the merging of cultures and economies, English has become more important as this is the primary mode of communication among different races. Thus, more and more people are trying to become adept at communicating through this language. As such, there has also been a need to upgrade and adapt to the changes. Consequently, there have been numerous changes in TESOL particularly in terms of theoretical underpinnings, pedagogy, tools, as well as delivery of instruction. The delivery of instruction is also a response to how diverse students have become.

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Aside from the older generation returning to college, there are also students who want to enroll in Western universities who come from other regions. One of the most important developments in TESOL has been the use of technology in instruction. This is because digital media and web-based technologies have increasingly transformed almost every aspect of human life. It is important to note that albeit the field of education has been generally slower in adopting technologies in comparison to other fields, this situation is currently changing. Indeed, the role that digital media plays in language and learning is highly significant because these technologies have transformed the manners through which people read, write and communicate. For numerous language learners throughout the world, new digital environments embody both a channel for learning language as well as the primary medium through which they will eventually harness their second language (L2) in daily living. Today, educators use web-based technologies in the classroom to facilitate the delivery of instruction and to enhance learning among students. In fact, web-based technology has been a tool for delivering instruction through distance education. This paper presents a discussion on how technology has impacted TESOL, an evaluation of media applications currently being used in TESOL, as well as a discussion on constructivism as theoretical underpinning for the modern TESOL learning environment.


The delivery of instruction should always be theory-driven especially in the context of learning. Scholars seem to be in consensus that the use of learning theory to guide instruction and development of the language learning lesson plan is a crucial skill for TESOL tutors (Bofill 31). In light of the dominant role that technology is increasingly playing in the lives of learners, it is even more important that the TESOL teacher can integrate the use of web-based technologies in preparing for students' lessons.

When TESOL instructors endeavor to develop their instructional system design (ISD), they should take into consideration the different factors that support their students' learning. Learning theories, such as behaviorism and constructivism, have been widely used to underpin the development of ISD. These theories inform the TESOL teacher regarding the appropriate instructional design (ID) framework to be used both for assessing the learning needs of students as well as instructional design. The importance of using a learning theory as well as an ID framework cannot be emphasized enough because these ascertain that ISD and the lessons themselves are grounded upon proven pedagogical concepts. Here, the term pedagogy refers to approaches and methods that TESOL teachers use when they deliver instruction to learners. Without learning theories as foundation for instruction, the TESOL teacher cannot to assess whether the lesson has been successful or not in the context of learning.

Behaviorism has been widely used and accepted as theoretical foundation for classroom instruction. Inspired by conceptions of B.F. Skinner, behaviorists believe that speech and utterances "served as conditioned and stimulus response" Chirimbu and Tafazoli 188). Therefore, they regard reinforcements (positive and negative) as well as associations as the primary considerations in language acquisition. Two of the most widely-used concepts of behaviorism are programmed instruction and mastery learning. However, in fairly recent years, scholars and researchers have been asserting that behaviorism as a theoretical foundation of "language learning is not pedagogically sound" (Bofill 32).

Constructivism emphasizes the impact of the learner's environment on learning. From the perspective of constructivism, learners construct knowledge according to their experiences and belief systems thereby rendering knowledge as unique for every person. A key tenet of constructivism is that learners should be enabled to develop their own knowledge. Vygotsky, a noted proponent of constructivism, regards the learner's environment as encompassing peers, previous knowledge and experience, as well as social and political experiences. Some of the learning activities grounded upon constructivism are hands-on learning, exploration, discovery learning, problem-based learning as well as inquiry learning. Certain scholars explain that "constructivism is a fluid, intellectual, transformation that occurs as a result of the connections made between formal learning, existing knowledge, and cultural and societal factors" (Bofill 32). Constructivism holds that the social context of learning is important because this is where learning occurs and ideas form, thereby facilitating the learners' understanding. In other words, constructivism highlights the means through which a learner's life experiences impact the ways he or she interacts with and construct new knowledge. This means to say that in a room full of learners studying the same subject, each learner will leave that classroom with varying constructions of knowledge gained.

Constructivism and Online Learning

Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) refers to the application of technology and computers to language instruction. Numerous studies have shown that CALL provides multiple advantages to the learners. First, the use of computers is relevant in this modern age because they cope with the real-life needs of learners. Moreover, CALL enhances motivation levels of learners, even among non-self-motivated ones. Aside from these, even young learners are now adept at using computers and this technology can break down barriers between the classroom and the real world. However, when CALL was first developed, software developers rooted their modules on behaviorism. This was based on the rationale that every learner work through the same procedures according to identical sequences so that they could achieve the same level of competence. Nevertheless, the second wave of CALL developers in the 1970s and 1980s began adopting the cognitive constructivist views of learning, arguing that CALL, in the context of TESOL, must focus on the use of language rather than on language itself as was the tendency among the initial CALL developers. Gradually, the initial tenets of the communicative approach to language learning began to form. Subsequently, focus of TESOL using CALL shifted so that students were encouraged to "produce original utterances rather than manipulate prefabricated ones" (Chirimbu and Tafazoli).

TESOL English Teaching and Learning
Currently, CALL is used in online learning or distance learning environments that are also highly compatible with constructivism. Based on constructivist views of social context in learning, students learn everything according to two levels: first, by interacting with others; and second, by integrating what they have learned in their mental map. Today, CALL programs seek to attain the learners' meaningful interaction with authentic discourses. It must be emphasized that a challenge in applying constructivism to an online learning environment is that constructivism requires a paradigm shift from "the teacher-centric, passive learning environment to a student-centric, active learning environment" (Bofill 33). However, this is a critical shift because studies on TESOL have been showing that learner-focused approaches not only enhance learning but also creates a positive relationship between the learner and learning as an endeavor.

This increasing focus on the learner requires changes in the ways instruction is delivered to learners. As a result, there is a need for TESOL teachers to take a more collaborative approach to students instead of just providing lectures. To achieve this, there must be constant communication and discourse. For L2 students, it is essential that the TESOL teacher provides for "negotiation of meaning, which is an important component to second language learning" especially since learners might come from different cultural backgrounds. The significance of collaborative learning requires lessons that both educate new TESOL teachers on their appropriate roles in an L2 environment while at the same time, harnessing current technological tools facilitate collaboration between students and between teacher-student in an L2 classroom.

Technological Tools for TESOL

The use of technology has been indispensable in increasing global access to education. In online TESOL classrooms, technology has been found to enhance the distance learning experience. This is because modern technologies have been providing a number of advantages over traditional approaches to the design and delivery of distance programs. For example, L2 learners can benefit from the use of mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets due to their flexibility, portability and increased access to class materials such that the student gains better control over their learning process (Rogerson-Revell, et al. 104). Moreover, media technologies such as blogs, wikis and social networking sites have fostered student collaboration and interaction , particularly in the context of a constructivist approach to learning. The following are some examples of media and web-based technologies that have been found to be beneficial for TESOL.

1. Media Technologies.

One of the first tools used in TESOL classrooms have been audio files in CDs, USBs and other devices (Chirimbu and Tafazoli 188). Notably, the precursor of these technologies have been the cassette recorder, considered as one of the most important tools used in TESOL (Chirimbu and Tafazoli 188). Today, the cassette recorder has evolved into digitized audio and MP3 files as well as podcasts. To note, podcasts or audio blogs that may be downloaded over the Internet. Typically, users can subscribe to podcasts, considered as a new way of teaching languages as well as materials unto themselves. The difference between traditional Internet audio or radio broadcasts is that the user can listen to podcasts whenever and wherever it is convenient because they can store it on their computers or devices after it has been delivered to them.

Two other types of technologies that are useful to the TESOL classroom are videos and vodcasts considering that the use films in classrooms have been a widely-used instructional method for many years (Chirimbu and Tafazoli 189). It has been said that the use of videos is useful to TESOL because they can provide a glimpse into the various contexts of L2 learning. Meanwhile, vodcasts are similar to podcasts except that they are video files rather than audio files. They are typically posted over the Internet or are available through subscriptions so that learners may play them back on their computers and mobile devices. Studies show that vodcasts support learning in different settings and across multiple disciplines especially since learners can play them again and again for better understanding.

Mobile phones are now one of the most widely used devices for education. Indeed, online school libraries mostly have downloadable apps in order to provide access to learners who want to research through the use of wireless technologies. Currently, the widely used mobile devices among students such as smartphones and tablets have numerous functionalities, including, Internet access, mp3/mp4 player, digital camera, video Recorder. These are Flash-enabled and/or Java-enabled so that they can run multimedia contents such as audio and video. Language learning is a discipline that has high use for mobile devices. consequently, a sub-discipline called the Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) has emerged in the field of language acquisition and is used by numerous students who seek to improve aspects of language proficiency.

The reason why mobile devices have been popular among TESOL teachers and learners is because of the potential of transferring language learning from traditional "classroom-based learning contexts into contexts that are free from time and space and in which learning is to a larger extent defined by learners' participation, engagement and context awareness" (Chirimbu and Tafazoli). Mobile devices such as smartphones enable the learner "to learn from context and in context" as they collect information from their environment and seek assistance through their devices when needed. This is called as the scaffolding type of support, widely used in learning acquisition.

In relation to these, certain studies show that there are learners who use the mobile device in order to support and broaden their learning according to self-directed manners. Because of this, L2 learners have greater control over the management of their learning, and they can practice their L2 on their own, according to their own pace. Meanwhile, vocabulary learning has been found to be enhanced if supported by the use of mobile devices. Other functionalities of the mobile device such as the SMS also permit deeper collaboration between students and teachers, and among themselves.

2.Web-Based Technologies.

The Internet is currently one of the most powerful tools used in a variety of disciplines. Through the widespread use of the Internet, L2 learners can seek education from any online school that they want, according to the curricula that they desire. Through the Internet, L2 learners can interact with their classmates and instructors in ways that had not been possible. Examples of web-based tools used in these interactions are message boards, chat rooms, email, and discussion groups.Through these Web-based tools, learners can undertake both "direct and immediate communication between peers while using genuine language" (Chirimbu and Tafazoli 191). According to certain studies, shy students also benefit from Web-based technologies.

A recent innovation in Web-based technologies is called the Voice Board, created by e-learning software developer Wimba. Voice Board can be linked to virtual learning environments such as Blackboard and Moodle. Studies show that Voice Board effectively addressed two challenges related to online TESOL learning, through the reduction of student isolation and enhancement of student support.

Another innovative Web-based tool is the e-book reader. Usually, TESOL teachers use e-book readers because it addresses the challenge in online learning pertaining to the enhancement of flexibility and mobility. This are achieved by enabling learners to access their course materials whenever and wherever they need to do so, without having to get online. Another potential benefit of e-book readers is that they are cost-effective compared to having to purchase printed books and other materials (Rogerson-Revell, et al. 107). As seen here, the use of technologies in TESOL instruction, including those delivered online, can be beneficial to both the teachers and the learners.

Challenges in Saudi Arabia

Alotaibi conducted a study at the College of Languages & Translation in Riyadh in order to determine (i) TESOL teachers' willingness to integrate technology through CALL into their instruction; and (ii) the impacts of technology on students' reading speed and comprehension. According to the results of the study, after initial feelings of lack of self-confidence, distractedness and anxieties, learning among students improved due to a teaching approach integrating technology, discussion, collaboration, and motivational tasks that, in turn, promote interaction, higher level thinking, as well as autonomy. Moreover, the integration of CALL in a reading class gradually improved attitudes and motivations towards learning because students felt stimulated and had fun. However, the researcher emphasized that CALL should be regarded as a tool for instruction "rather than an end goal in itself" (Alotaibi). Alotaibi emphasizes that in the event that there is a nation-wide educational reform pertaining to technology or CALL adoption in Saudi Arabia, the first priority should be teacher training. Teachers have to learn about learner-centered approaches so that they could identify students' needs, interests, as well as learning styles and strategies.

Meanwhile, Ali conducted a study on TESOL teachers and students at Saudi Aramco's Dhahran North Industrial Training Center in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in order to learn about their perceptions of the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in their classrooms. Ali also sought to identify their perceived challenges regarding adoption of ICT technologies that included computers, smart boards, CD players, overhead projectors, the Internet and e-learning courses. There were positive perceptions about the use of certain technology. For instance, the learners' felt more stimulated because of the visual functions as well as the interactive nature of the technologies such that students felt a stronger involvement with their learning. The students also positively perceived technologies because of their flexibility and different media forms, such as, movies, images, video clips and aural material that may be stored in their computers or shared with classmates.

However, teachers and students identified a number of challenges regarding the adoption of ICT in the TESOL classroom. According to teachers, the most significant challenge was in the form of the distraction in learning because of the Internet. Specifically, students become side-tracked in their work because they were given control over the use of the Internet such that they tended to surf when they were supposed to be concentrating on their studies. Hence, the teachers found it challenging to efficiently manage and supervise their classes when the Internet is used particularly since learners worked at varying paces on different tasks.

For students, the greatest challenge was the lack of reliability and credibility of many sources that they found online. It must be noted here that majority of students in Saudi Arabia are of the Islamic faith, and it was challenging for them to encounter content over the Interne t that were "morally and socially harmful" (Ali). In relation to these, another challenge is "the temptation to plagiarize from the Internet." At a certain point in their classes, a number of students had become lazy and too dependent on the Internet that they found it better to plagiarize so that they would not be too burdened with their studies. Some students were also challenged by how technology adoption tends to lead to isolation because the tendency of the student is to work alone, rather than interact with one another. Implicated here is the instructional design that is made by the teacher particularly in the context of team activities.


Rapid advancements in technology have transformed the lives of people across multiple disciplines. It also has changed dynamics in many aspects of life, and consequently aided the expansion of globalization. Although the field of education is considered as a late adopter of technology, it cannot be denied that it now reaps the most important benefits that media and web-based technologies. This is particularly true for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages where students come from diverse backgrounds. Technology has become useful as a tool in expanding instruction and learning.

It must be noted that the use of technologies in TESOL classrooms is highly compatible with constructivism, which calls for learner-centered approaches in the classroom. Two studies on TESOL and technology adoption in Saudi Arabia identified advantages such as enhanced motivational levels among students, as well as better attitudes and motivations towards learning due to the intellectual stimulation provided by CALL. On the other hand, challenges in the adoption of ICT in the TESOL classroom include distraction, sense of isolation, harmful and unreliable material online and laziness. Given these pros and cons, it can be said that there is a need for balance and discipline so that students are able to maximize the benefits of technology in learning the English language.

Works Cited

Ali, Barraq. Teacher and Student Views of Educational Technology in Saudi Arabia.

Perspectives and English Essay Writing (TESOL) 20.1: 34-36. Web.

Alotaibi, Hind. CALL for Change. Perspectives (TESOL) 17.2: 7-14.

Bofill, Leslie. "Constructivism and Collaboration Using Web 2.0 Technology." Journal of Applied Learning Technology 3.2: 31-37. Education Research Complete.

Chirimbu, Sebastian, and Dara Tafazoli. "Technology & Media: Applications in Language Classrooms (Tefl, Tesl & Tesol)." PCTS Proceedings (Professional
Communication & Translation Studies) 6.1/2: 187-194. Communication & Mass Media Complete.

Example Research Papers at Custom Written Essays -

Rogerson-Revell, Pamela, Ming Nie, and Alejandro Armellini. "An Evaluation of the Use of Voice Boards, E-Book Readers and Virtual Worlds in a Postgraduate Distance Learning Applied Linguistics and TESOL Programme." Open Learning 27.2: 103-119. Academic Search Premier.

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