A letter to the teachers of English: 98Computeracy for teachers and learners (2) [Archives:2005/896/Education]

November 21 2005

PROF. M.N.K.BOSE [email protected]
Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb

Dear Fellow teachers,

Knowledge of computer and how to use it profitably has become a necessity for everyone in this world, for any job computeracy is a necessary qualification. Teachers and learners need to know how to use computers for their purposes not because of the recent popularity of e-learning but for basic day-to-day classroom activities. Teachers find it easy to get their teaching notes prepared and printed out with their computer; they can carry them in the floppies or CDs and use them in the classroom if they have laptops with them; it is not utopian these days, as I see laptops with many teachers teaching in schools. Learners can store information, retrieve what is necessary for the class, print them out for the day. If laptops are available, not utopian any more, they can carry them to the classes. If not in schools, it happens in some college classes in Yemen (Don't get excited!).

Long ago, I wrote in an Indian newspaper about the myths that surround the computer and why to dispel them. It is irrelevant today as most of the myths have got dispelled in the course of time; but one of the myths is still lurking in the minds of some of my fellow teachers, especially the old ones. It is this: computers may replace teachers. If any of us believe this myth, we will become a laughing stock in the midst of today's learners. Not now, even after many years of computer use and so many technological advancements, teachers can never be replaced and divorced from the learners; as long there are learners, there will be teachers. So don't worry, computers can never be a threat to our jobs!

Apart from the personal use of computers, they can be used for teaching / learning purposes. The market is full of CDs for learning all kinds of things, for learning cooking, drawing, child rearing, driving, automobile repairing, sewing, and so on. There are CDs for learning languages, almost all languages in the world. (Don't ask me where then the need for teachers is; my quick answer is 'Who wrote the materials for these CDs?') I am told that there are CDs that can put a child to sleep in the absence of the mother!

What I am interested in are the English language teaching materials for use in our situations. There are plenty to choose from – for teaching grammar, spoken English reading, writing, note-taking, dictionary use etc. Good materials have been published by the Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and the BBC, to quote a few. Though I was using some of these materials in the 90's, when I taught a course called Computer-assisted English language learning at the CIEFL in India, I am aware that most of them are available now in their advanced versions. Some of them are to be used as they are (like our books) and some others are manipulatable according to our needs. In a grammar material, for example, the blanks can be moved as we need or the words can be deleted as we want. In a reading material, for example, the passage for reading can be written down by the teacher to suit the level of the learners. Similarly, in the writing material, we can change the exercises according to our needs. In addition, materials are available for self-learning, which can be used by the learners on their own, if they can afford, at home for further practice. In the next letter, I'll share with you the other advanced uses of computers in ELT these days.

Yours fraternally,