Context of the research and reflections
Context of the research
The Abu Dhabi Men’s College is located in the United Arab Emirates and its students are mostly native Arab speakers. English is used in almost every context in UAE including shops, the streets and school. The use of English has particularly become important to the citizens of the UAE as they seek to communicate with the rest of the world.
The Foundation Studies program is designed to equip students with English reading and writing skills and arithmetic skills prior to commencement of their university education. The English programs is made up of four levels; level one is the lowest level while level four level is the highest level. The level at which a student commences his course is dependent on the entry level scores. A student could spend three to four semesters at the entry level if the entry score is low or one or two semesters if the scores are high. The student is required to excel in their final level four exams prior or attain an overall score of band 5 in the IELTS in order to meet the requirements for admission to a degree program.
In the past, English instruction was carried out using a book that was availed to both the teacher and the students. The book in use was and still is Reading Explorer I. Currently the book has been uploaded on to the I pad which is used in the instruction of English on all levels. Each teacher has his or her own Y drive which allows him or her to share content used during the lecture with the students. In order to gain access to the material that has been uploaded by a teacher, the students can either use an application that is known as Pages or Adobe reader. The students give the answers to the questions during the lectures by writing them on “Pages.” There are tests that are done on a weekly basis on the I- pad. During the tests, the students read material that is on paper but then provide their answers using an application known as Blackboard Windows Vista on their I-pads. The benefit of this mode of testing is that the teacher does not have to mark scripts and the students receive their results almost immediately.
Over the past few decades, English has gained a paramount position as the language of international communication therefore relegating other languages such as Spanish, French and German to regional or national languages. Globalization has to a large extent contributed to the rise of English to its current status. Globalization is one of the traits that distinguish the modern society from the traditional society which is mainly defined by “rapid, excessive and continuous change”. The rapid change that characterizes the modern society entails examination of well known norm with reference to newly acquired information. Globalization has resulted in the interaction between different cultures and identities therefore resulting in the suppression of some cultures while others are promoted. . The dominance of English as the international lingua franca is attributed to a number of factors as shall be discussed below:
The business community and the academic fraternity are particularly cognizant of the importance of a global language and have particularly contributed to the rise of English as a global language. It is possible for scientists from India, Italy and Sweden to have a simultaneous conversation over the internet only if they have a common language. A company that has branches all over the world can only flourish if there is a means of communicating to the directors of all the branches; a feat that is only possible if there is a common language spoken. English has continually fanned communication in the business circles and the academic fraternity therefore fortifying its place as global language.
Mass media on the other hand continually exalts English at the expense of other languages on the global front. Most channels air content with English as the main language and whenever this does not happen, English sub titles are available. English movies are often exalted above the movies that are scripted in Portuguese, French, Spanish or German with numerous movie and music awards recognizing the movies and music that are scripted in English while giving little recognition to those that are scripted in other language. The continued exposure to media content that is in English sends a subliminal message to the viewers across the world.
The worldwide web is another tool that has contributed to the dominance of English as the lingua franca on the global front. It has previously been found that 68.4% of all the content that is found on the worldwide web is in English. Given that most people have embraced the use of the internet in accessing information, it has therefore become paramount to be acquainted with the English language. However, the bias towards the English language is quite notable given that only 8.3% of world’s population utilize English as their second language. It is predicted that the number of websites that are in English will continually be an upward rise hence the need to learn English if one is to access information on the worldwide web easily.
It is however notable that the perspectives that are available on globalization are mainly the work of the scholars from Europe and North America. These views are often open to bias and inclined towards the culture of the respective scholars at the expense of other perspectives from Latin America, Asia and Australia. It is particularly critical to examine other voices in an attempt to gain insight into globalization.
Reflections on the emerging issues on the use of I pads in the instruction of English
Before the introduction of the use of I pads in the instruction of English, books were the main instructional materials. The main textbook in the instruction of English Foundation Studies in the United Arab Emirates is Reading Explorer I. Students handed in their assignments in written form which included exercises to improve their vocabulary and grammar. The students kept the books and took them home after class. They often asked questions on what had been taught in class in the course of the week. With a book, the students could review what they had learnt during the week, the month or even the semester. They seemed more eager to participate in the English lessons as compared to when the I-pads became the instructional material for English.
The I -pad has replaced the book but the book (Reading Explorer I) has been uploaded on to the I pad. There is also an audio version of the book which the students often have to listen to during their lessons. The pages of the book cannot be enhanced on the I -pad making it difficult for the students to view it. As a result, many of them often chat during lessons instead of participating in the lesson. The audio version of the book sounds boring to the students and does not allow for interaction with the students therefore it further demotivates the students in using the I pad during their English lessons.
Another challenge that is associated with the use of the I- pad is that the students often forget to recharge their I pads before lessons or over utilize them for other purposes hence depleting them of charge. The students are therefore unable to carry on with the lesson. In addition to this, the English Foundation programs that are available on I pads do not allow for interaction hence demotivating the students from using I pads in the course of their English lessons.
The use of the I- pad is not only a challenge to the students but it is also a challenge for the teachers. In fact, many teachers long for the return of the pen and the paper. This is because they abhor the habits exhibited by the students which involve internet chatting in addition to watching videos on YouTube. The students surf the internet looking for content that is more interesting than what they consider boring lectures and also send messages via social networks to their friends within and beyond the UAE borders. The students also play games on the I pads during the lessons hence they seldom pay attention to what is being taught in class.
Marking work that has been done on an I- pad has proven to be a daunting task for the teachers. Given that most teachers are still getting acquainted with the use of the I- pad, it is often difficult for them to mark the assignments that are done by the students. In the past, the students used to do assignments on paper on which the teachers could easily comment before handing the assignments back to the students. This is quite difficult for teachers to do on assignments that are handed in via I pads.
The teachers have barely had adequate training to equip them with the skills that are necessary for them to incorporate the use of the I pads in the classroom. As a result, they are often nervous and cautious of the use of the I pad in the classroom. The teachers often encounter several problems in setting up the Apple TV during the English classes. They have a problem in hooking up Apple TV to the main screen (smart board) which allows the students to view the content that the teacher would like to share with the students during a particular lesson. In the event that there is a breakdown, it would be difficult for the teacher to fix it given that the teachers are not well trained on the use of I pads for the instruction of the English. Based on the comments of other English instructors, it is evident that most teachers would rather use books, pens and papers for the instruction of English instead of the I-pad. It is also evident that the students are not entirely fascinated with the idea of using
I-pads as their instructional aids during English lessons.
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