We all know that what distinguishes the age we live in now from earlier periods is its advancement in science and technology. A great leap in science and technology has brought considerable changes in every sphere of our society in this century. From the daybreak to the day’s end, we enjoy and experience science and technology contributions in every move of our life. The old systems which required both long time and heavy expenditure for any end of production are replaced today by various machines and innovations of science and technology. Out of the invaluable contributions of science and technology, Information and Communication Technology (popularly abbreviated as ICT) is a path-breaking achievement. It brought a sea change in all the sectors of production and distribution.
In simple, ICT uses computer technology in obtaining, sharing, and storing information. It is a “diverse set of technological tools and resources used to communicate and create, disseminate, store, and manage information” (Burton). The technological tools include the computer and its accessories, Internet connectivity, broadcasting technologies like radio and television, and telephony. According to Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary, ICT is “the study of the use of computers, the internet, video, and other technology as a subject at school.” It is evident from both that the emergence of ICT paved the way for replacing the old system of sharing and treasuring information by the modern electronic equipment computer.
The growth in the field of ICT has eased our way of living in a variety of ways. One such area where ICT proves to be a palliative to many problems in education. Its easy access to information, accessible storage, and easy sharing made ICT an integral part of today’s teaching-learning process. Hence, ICT-enabled teaching is one of the most discussed concepts of this era as it brought drastic changes in the field. ICT has made today’s classroom a digital forum just as it made the whole world a global village. In the context of a language classroom, ICT is a boon for both students and teachers as it helps in several ways to reach the goal of language teaching. Especially in English Language Teaching (ELT), EFL, and ESL, teaching-learning using ICT has several benefits. The present article attempts to discuss some essential benefits of using ICT in English language teaching. Though the benefits of using ICT change along with new inventions, the following are some significant benefits of the concept:
1) Learner Centric Teaching-Learning:
One of the significant benefits of using ICT in teaching is it makes the learning process learner-centric and contributes to experiential learning. In any situation or method of education, the participation of the learners decides success. Especially in learning a second or foreign language, the learners hardly get the proper forum to practice the language. Further, sufficient and adequate learning never takes place unless we achieve the active involvement of the learners. Using ICT in English teaching enables individual participation as we can give each learner a computer system to learn as there in Language labs. Moreover, since individual participation is possible, it caters to all levels of learners as slow learners can take more time, whereas fast learners can jump to the following lessons.
2) Teacher as a Facilitator:
In an ICT-enabled English classroom, the role of the teacher shifts from a teacher to a facilitator. Using ICT, the teacher provides stored lessons to the learners, making direct participation of learners give much time. A teacher in such a context acts as a facilitator, a mentor to guide learners to the lessons. A long lecture of a teacher becomes fragmented instructions wherever required, which will break ‘the monotony’ and ‘the monopoly’ in the classroom, making learning a lively and creative process.
3)Sufficient Room for Practice:
A swimmer cannot learn to swim unless he jumps into the water and try to swim. Similarly, a language learner needs good practice to gain language competence. Research studies have proved that poor English language learning in India is mainly due to a lack of suitable training in the learning process. As a result of some apprehensions such as hesitation to learn a foreign language, fear of mistake, excessively self-centric attitude, lack of time, and so on, English language learners miss the amount of practice they required for learning the language. Using ICT in ELT as in the context of a language lab enables learners to repeat lessons and practice them any number of times. Here, a learner has the freedom of choice to decide to practice the same class or move on to the next lesson.
4) Quick Assessment and Easy Feedback:
Another benefit of using ICT in teaching English is it helps quick assessment of the learning, often self-assessment of the learned lessons. Thereby it provides immediate feedback of the learned lessons to the teacher. For instance, in a language laboratory, one can feed questions on each class learned, and the learners of the same can be spot tested through that. Even a learner can raise questions and give opinions individually through feedback provisions available in the computer system. It also helps the teacher get quick feedback on the taught lessons and modify the classes as per the demands of the learners. Besides using a computer, one can also self-assessment questionnaire to help learners have self-assessment and evaluation after every lesson.
5) Easy Documentation and Retrieval of Knowledge:
One of the general uses of ICT, which is also a boon in education, is its easy documentation and retrieval of knowledge. Teaching English helps easy storage lessons and easy recovery of the same whenever-wherever required for repeated reference and practice. Any bulk of information can be organized systematically and stored easily in a computer system or online over websites through ICT. It also makes access to the stored information easy as a search can locate the required lesson within few seconds. This process indeed gives ample scope for English language teachers to create tasks. On the other hand, it provides various sources for the learners to learn a particular topic.
6) Provides Adequate Training in Non-verbal aspects of Communication:
The US journal, The Journal of Consulting Psychology, published a study in 1967 conducted by two researchers named Albert Mehrabian and Susan R. Ferris, which attempted to understand the importance of nonverbal aspects of Communication. The research explored the relative importance of words, tone of voice, and body language in understanding an underlying emotional message. It concluded that the interpretation of a message is 7 percent verbal, 38 percent vocal, and 55 percent visual. The conclusion was that 93 percent of Communication is “nonverbal” in nature.
The above research has an interesting implication for ELT. The learners in learning hardly get a natural language environment, which is very important to hone non-verbal aspects. However, in an ICT-enabled English teaching, non-verbal aspects of communications can be trained effectively using audio-visual aids of education and computer. The process is beneficial in English teaching. It provides the learners adequate exposure for para-language aspects, including all those non-verbal cues of Communication such as body language, gestures, postures, intonation, facial expression, etc. Thus, using ICT in teaching English is an excellent palliative for the gap created by cultural differences between native English speakers and us.
7) Creates a Portable Classroom and Help Consistency of Learning:
Using ICT facilities in education can change the traditional classroom into a portable one as it eases the shifting of teaching materials and learning situations. It is an added privilege in ELT as learners can attend class in any far off-center through video conferencing and other online teaching facilities. It establishes a close teacher-pupil contact though there is a significant gap of time and space. Besides, the online course materials, for example, maybe accessed at any place and help the learners practice the language at their convenient time and assure consistent learning. Further, the ICT-based educational delivery of English (e.g., educational programming broadcast over radio or television) also provides learners a forum to learn English from experts.
8) Provides a Gateway to Learning Resources in English:
Teachers and learners no longer have to rely solely on printed books and other materials available in limited quantities in libraries for their educational needs. Due to the development in the field of the Internet and the World Wide Web, a wealth of teaching-learning materials on every subject, including English, is easily accessible. It provides an excellent gateway to learning resources available across the globe. Using ICT in the teaching-learning process also facilitates access to resource persons, mentors, experts, researchers, professionals, business leaders, and peers worldwide. It is beneficial to train and polish the accent of English learners.
9) Prepare the Learners for the workplace:
Using ICT in teaching-learning should be an integral part of today’s education. The need for the hour is to prepare the current generation of students for a workplace where ICTs, particularly computers, the Internet, and related technologies, are becoming more and more ubiquitous. In this scenario, using ICT in ELT would help the learners improve their computer skills and soft skills and contribute to further their communicative skills in English.
10) Miscellaneous Benefits
Other than the above, ICT usage in ELT also has the following general benefits for the teachers and students in the teaching-learning process:
Benefits for teachers
ICT facilitates sharing of resources, expertise, and advice.
Greater flexibility in when and where tasks are carried out.
Gains in ICT literacy skills, confidence, and enthusiasm.
Easier planning and preparation of lessons and designing materials.
Access to up-to-date pupil and school data, anytime and anywhere.
Computer use during lessons motivates students to continue using learning outside school hours.
Higher quality lessons through greater exposure to resources.
More focused teaching, tailored to students’ strengths and weaknesses, through better analysis of attainment data.
Gains in understanding and analytical skills, including improvements in reading
Development of writing skills (including spelling, grammar, punctuation, editing, and re-drafting), fluency, originality, and elaboration.
Encouragement of independent and active learning and self-responsibility for learning along with fostering creative thinking.
Students who used ICT in school felt more successful in school, were more motivated to learn, and have increased self-confidence and self-esteem.
Thus, using ICT in teaching and learning of English language eases the process in plenty of ways. ICTs can enhance the quality of education in several ways: by increasing learner motivation and engagement by facilitating the acquisition of basic skills, and by improving teacher training. Though there are conflicting opinions about the concept, such as the fear of data loss, the requirement of a heavy budget, the necessity of good computer skills for teachers, etc.., ICT can become a boon in English language learning because of its benefits mentioned above. However, the wise use of the technology and exploiting it to productive output rests on the users.
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