Profiles of Professional English Teachers in the CALL Environment

By: Endro Dwi Hatmanto, S.Pd, MA

English Education Department of UMY

Abstract

The emergence of internet era leads to the new challenges facing English teachers. One of the main challenges is the incorporation of computer and internet technology in teaching and learning English. This, in turns, positions English teachers in the Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) milieu. In order to face these challenges, English teachers need to embark on developing some profiles reflecting the professional teachers in the CALL environment. This paper is interested in finding out the attributes of professional English teachers in the CALL environment. The naturalistic inquiry is taken as an approach of this research. The perspective of three English lecturers of Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta is taken as the data of the research. The data gathered reveal that the profiles of professional English teachers in the CALL Environment comprise four competencies comprising internet and multimedia skill, CALL pedagogical skills, academic skills as well as the sound characters in the CALL environment. The paper suggests that the four profiles will contribute to enhance the professionalism of English teachers in the CALL environment.  

 

1. Background

In today’s technological era, teachers’ occupation cannot be separated from the advent of information technology (IT) driven by the emergence of the internet era. This positions teachers in the so called CALL environment. Standing for Computer-Assisted Language Learning, CALL can be traced back in 1983, when a relatively small group of technology enthusiasts met to discuss professional issues concerning the use of technology for language teaching and learning (Chapelle, 2005). Chappele (2005) added that in the year of 2003, the issues of CALL in the teachers profession was marginal at best to the profession of English teachers. By contrast, after the meeting technology issues in English language teaching has spread from the margin. A great number of scholars also suggest that today’s current theory and practice of English language teaching is centered on the computer assisted language learning.

As CALL has moved from the margins into the mainstream of English language teaching, Rose (cite in Chappele, 2005) maintains that the term CALL has been contested, modified and discarded by teachers, educators and experts. While there exists disagreement on this notion, those who do not view technology as a central concern would probably agree that teachers need to recognize the ways in which technology affects their profession.

As teachers’ profession spins around the technological tools, teachers’ profession is challenged by the incorporation of computer technology in English language teaching. Indeed, the emergence of CALL leads to the new demand of becoming professional teachers. Hence, it interesting to explore the attributes or profiles the teacher may have to improve their professionalism in the CALL environment. This paper is, therefore, interested in investigating the teachers’ perspective on the profiles of English teachers in the Call environment. To achieve this aim, the paper is organized as follows. First, the literature view surrounding the CALL and teachers professionalism in the CALL environments will be discussed. Second, the methodology of the research will be explored. Next, the finding and discussion will be illuminated and finally some conclusions and suggestions will be offered.

2. Literature Review

2.1 CALL Environment

The term CALL implies two other terms, namely computer and internet. In the past times, the term computer was solely related to the stand alone-computer. While computer create possibility for more efficient work due to its diverse facilities such as typing, printing, reviewing assignments, and creating presentation it has shortcoming in sharing the information and data in distance.  However, this situation changed drastically with the invention of internet. As internet is a vast system involving a multitude of computers (Gaer, 1999), it is able to search, upload, and download the data. Indeed, the rapid-paced, transitory nature of internet technology is both thrilling and daunting. Internet technologies, especially in English language teaching, introduces new jargons  such as world wide web, internet multimedia, CD-ROM, technology coordinator, chat room, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. In fact, internet offers divers facilities and advantages for both teachers and learners in the context of English language teaching and learning.

The learning sources provided by internet is enormous for richer material and development in the four areas of English skills. For improving students writing, for example, the study done by Cahyono proved that the students writing skills can be enhanced by the use of Facebook (Cahyono, 2011) . For reading skill, (Indriati, 2011) reported in her research that website provide more than adequate opportunity for extensive reading activities. In addition to a great number of researchers witnessing the diverse materials provided by the internet, the various information formats such as audio visual (web video such as you tube), visual (pictures), and text leads to limitless opportunity for teachers to develop teaching materials covering the four English skills.

The internet also provides ready-use materials in the form of web facilities and software. For example, (Opp-Beckman, 1999) wrote some ready for use-materials taken from World Wide Web such as electronic books, CD ROMs, reading software, web site sounds and video clips, IPTV real time TV or video, Newsgroups, electronic discussion lists. This available resources are made essay to be accessed due to the provision of search engines in the internet.

The amalgamation of computer and internet connection will together provide more opportunity for teachers to develop their professionalism. The next section will detail the teachers professional development in the context of CALL environment.

2.2 Teachers Professional Development in the CALL Environment

Professional development, according to (Gordon, 2003), is teachers’ conscious attempts to improve two major elements namely the capacity building and the core elements. The former refers to the teachers’ effort to enhance the elements which do not directly affect the students learning but it increases the capacity of the three elements, namely individual educators, educational teams, and educational organization to facilitate the students learning. The latter reflects the core element comprising three elements; improvement of the curriculum instruction and students assessment. These elements affect the student learning directly. In the CALL environment, the emergence of information technology such as internet will give a new spectrum to the curriculum instruction and students assessment. This section details two types of skills teachers can improve with regard to the teacher professional development in the CALL environment. .

2.3 The Development of Technological and Pedagogical Skills in the CALL environment

The digital culture that has emerged from the development of computer and internet technologies leads to a demand for a new theory of technological language and signs (Swertz, 2009). Together with expectation to enhance the technological facilities in computer and internet, these two skills become the fundamental vital for teachers if they want to teach effectively in the CALL environment.

Technology presents a whole new languages but the language of technology, although important, is not the most crucial information that educators need in order to use technology effectively in their language classrooms. More important is an understanding of good pedagogy and the relationship among teaching, learning and technology. (Levy, 1990), for example, has suggested the need for a theory of computer-assisted language learning that would provide educators with a framework for teaching and learning with technology. Specifically, he notes that “our language teaching philosophy, method or approach needs to be broadened to encompass new technologies, and the inter-relationship between language teaching and computing needs to be carefully explored” (p.5).

The call theory is supported by the increase in the number of computers available to language educators and learners and the desire of educators to apply theories of second language acquisition (SLA) to the computer-using classroom. (Egbert, 1999) argues that a theory of CALL can assist teachers in making decision about ways to prepare language learners for high-technology future that they face; in describing the kinds of theoretically sound, vital changes in curricula that can and should be made; and in assessing the types of technology needed to assist in the effective and efficient learning and teaching of additional languages. Egbert (2009) adds that a theory of ALL could help educators evaluate how and which students learn with different kinds of technology, and serve as a guide for research on language learning.

Egbert’s propositions concerning the strategic roles of CALL theories for teachers’ pedagogical skills leads to the concept of the CALL pedagogy (Chapelle, 2005). The underlying assumption of the CALL pedagogy is that the incorporation of computer technology in language teaching has implication for how and what teachers are trained in programs for teacher professional development (ibid, 2005). Critics of the ways in which technology is introduced in teacher education point out the need to go beyond mechanical aspects of how to make web pages, for example, to help students develop a deep understanding of many roles and meaning of technology in education (Bowers cited in Chapelle, 2005).     In language education the lessons would also incorporate at least critical analysis of the characteristics of electronic communication and cultural implications of computing. The teachers’ CALL pedagogy will not be improved unless there exists teachers’ serious attempts not only to learn the technological apparatus but also the learning process and method associated with the adoption of information technology.

3. Methodology

This research is qualitative, hence naturalist and interpretative. It is called naturalist, in the sense that it studies the participant real life setting without the researcher intrusion or manipulation. Thus the data emerge from natural context (Bogdan and Biklen, 2003). It is interpretative since the researcher should interpret the data from the participants’ perspective and experience.

 

The design of the research is a case study. According to Stake in Creswell (2003) in case study, the researcher explores in depth a program, an event, activity and a process. The term case study is also related with ‘some unit or set of units, in relation to which data are collected or analyzed; it is a specific from of inquiry that investigates a few cases, often just one, in considerable depth (Hammersley and Gomn, 2000).

 

Our research setting took place in Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta (UMY), Indonesia. The reason why we chose this site was primarily because the setting was accessible and manageable to collect the data. The data were taken through the interview with three lecturers at English Education Department of Unversitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta. The interview was transcribed and analyzed.

 

The sampling used is purposeful sampling as it is selected by purpose. The sampling used was not intended as the representation of the population rather to be used as the attempt to view different perspective to present wholeness in gaining sound description (Holliday, 2007).

 

In reporting the finding, this research uses descriptive and narrative writing. I observe and explore human behavior in particular context and then weave a narrative that accurately and honestly reflect the lives and voices of a group of people.

 

4. Finding and Discussion

The research questions posed in this research is “What are the profiles of professional English teachers in the CALL environment?” The data gathered through in depth interview with the research subjects reveals that the profiles of professional English teachers in the CALL environment fall into four sets of skills to be possessed by teachers, namely internet and multimedia, pedagogy, academic competence and character. The following subheadings will report the finding.

4.1 Internet and Multimedia Skills

The first skill to be mastered by a professional English teacher in the CALL environment is the internet and multimedia skills. When asked about what are some abilities covered by the skills, the first and second respondents shared similar answers; “Teachers should be able to find teaching materials in the internet”. The response of the respondent also highlighted the importance of the teacher’s ability to use internet for actively improving pedagogical and academic competence. Pointing out an example, respondent 2 said that teachers should be able to design the teaching materials and improve the teaching techniques through the internet tools. Hence, she added that English teachers should capitalize on the extensive reading ability to benefit the wide array of knowledge provided by internet. Another interesting response is shared by respondent 1 and 3 in that they suggested that teachers are to enable students to encourage and train students to use internet and multimedia in the teaching and learning process.

It is clear from the response that the respondents mostly relate the teachers’ competence in internet and multimedia with the ability to use connected internet rather than stand-alone computer. This indeed strengthens the view that internet era does changes the way teachers teach the students (Swertz et al, 2009). Additionally, teachers’ competence in internet and multimedia not only encompass the self-improvements of the teachers but the students’ improvement as well. This supports the concept of core element of the teacher professional development which affects the students’ learning directly (Gordon, 2003).

4.2 Pedagogical Skill

Pedagogical skill is the second attribute of professional English teachers as acknowledged by the respondents. Responding to the issues on what are some pedagogical competences to be maintained by lecturers, the subjects relate the internet technology with the teaching and learning process. For one example, respondent one said that English teachers in the CALL environment should be able to use electronic learning in teaching. In the same notion, respondent two argued that teachers should position technology to help themselves in carrying out academic duty. She added that teachers should use technology to motivate students’ learning. Specifically, respondent three mentions four skills related to teachers’ technological abilities comprising ability to; understand students’ level of understanding, design learning process, carry out learning process and assess the learning process.

The responds concerning the pedagogical skills reiterates the demand of English teachers to go beyond the mechanical aspects to how to utilize technology such as how to help students develop a deep understanding of the many roles and meanings of technology in education (Bowers, 2000). Additionally, the responds of the subject In the research reflects the urgency for teachers to develop pedagogy that takes advantage of technology (Chappele, 2005). As CALL activities are different from traditional materials, the CALL pedagogy should be conceived differently too by teachers (ibid, 2005).

4.3 Academic Skills

The third profile of the professional teachers in the CALL environment is having academic skills. Respondent 2 even has high expectation that teachers who have been enjoying CALL experience should perform better than those who have not. She explained, “The academic achievement of teachers in the CALL environment should be higher because they are supported by technology in doing their jobs”. A clear example of academic ability possessed by teachers in the CALL environment is “ability to search diverse references that support research” (Respondent 2). Supported by the provision of internet technology, teachers are, in turn, able to carry out academic research and publish it to journals (respondent 3).

The responds explained by respondents represent the teachers’ expectation to enhance the information literacy. Becoming inseparable part of research skills, information literacy is defined as abilities to search, locate and analyze information critically. As the main agents in developing the English teaching and learning process, professional English teachers in the CALL environment is also demanded to carry out research since by doing so, teachers will be able to identify problems and seek the solutions of the problems (Burns, 2005).

4.4 Character

As a part of educational dimensions, English language teaching involves not only information and knowledge but also values. The involvement of values in English language teaching has been explored clearly by (Johnston, 2003). Briefly, Johnston argues that more than transferring the linguistic dimension and methods of teaching, English language teaching is moral enterprise. The teachers’ interaction with students is moral in nature. With the advent of CALL environment, moral values in education are not abolished. Instead, the technological present pose challenges for teachers.

One of the challenges is teachers’ effort to cultivate the value of honesty. This is expressed by respondent 1 saying that “teachers should cultivate the mindset of being honesty in their writing work”. When asked further, respondent 1 gave an example of how to inculcate the value of honesty in the form of avoiding plagiarism in their writing. In addition to honesty, according to respondent 2 and 3, responsibility and respect are two other values which should be developed in the teachers’ character in the CALL environment.

5. Conclusion

This paper has investigated the perspective of lectures on the profiles of professional English teachers in the CALL environment. It is reiterated that to be able to functions their positions as professional teachers in the CALL environment, teachers should have some competence reflecting their professionalism comprising internet and multimedia skills, pedagogical skills, academic skills and sound characters. While the mastery of technological apparatus like computer and internet is vital, teachers also needs to develop their perspective on the pedagogical skills as this will equip teachers to effectively carry out the teaching and learning in the English classroom. The expectation of teachers to become researchers in the CALL environment is increasing since it will arm them to have problem-solution tools when facing hurdles in their teaching and learning process. Finally, as teaching is a moral enterprise, CALL environment does not exist in vacuum. Rather it inculcates the message of moral values as a way to cultivate teachers’ sound moral character. This research will give a model for teachers to develop their profiles if they want to pursue professionalism in the CALL era.

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*The biodata:

Endro Dwi Hatmanto, S.Pd, MA (A lecturer at English Education Department, UMY). Email: endro_hatmanto@yahoo.com.