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August 2020 - Year 22 - Issue 4

ISSN 1755-9715

The Use of Technology in English Language Teaching: Contexts, Constraints, and Hopes in Indonesia

Anita Lie is a professor at Widya Mandala Catholic University and a consultant on school improvement in remote regions. Her research interests include teacher development and heritage language learning. In 2011, she was a research fellow at UC Berkeley.  Her research on heritage language learning among Indonesian-Americans was funded by AIFIS.  She got a 2018 Dedicated Scholar Award from Kompas.id

 

Abstract

Two powerful tools that enable anyone to participate in global interactions, capitalize on the available resources, and contribute to the society in this 21st Century are English and internet technology.  Without these two tools, interconnectivity in a wider scope would be impossible and hence the loss of opportunities.  Therefore, countries are compelled to equip their citizens with the English language skills and internet literacy skills.  One avenue for the development of these skills for Pre-Service and In-Service Teachers is the Teacher Professional Education (hereafter, TPE). This paper presents the results of a small research on the perceived impact of the TPE on the participating teachers’ English proficiency and their internet technology skills. 

 

Introduction

Studies reveal that students who used the internet more achieved higher scores. The internet changes the interaction between learners and teachers (Kern, 1995): there is less teacher and more learner talk in computer-assisted classes. Furthermore, it changes teacher and students' roles (Peterson, 1997), makes learning more students centered (Warschauer et.al., 1996), and improved students’ writing skills (Ahmad, 2012).  Kajder (2003) further emphazised that "Focus has to be placed on learning with the technology rather than learning from or about the technology.” Along the same line, teachers were enabled to establish a community of inquiry during their professional journey through the internet (Primastiwi et.al,, 2018).

In such a diverse country as Indonesia, teachers of English have different situations, issues, and opportunities.  The country is still striving to find equilibrium between the drive for excellence in education among the privileged few and the need to provide quality education for all.  Throughout the country, English is officially taught as a foreign language in the formal curriculum in Grades 7 through 12 as well as at the university level with a spectrum of diverse quality levels, depending on the development level of the region.  At one point of the spectrum, many private schools have added English in their curriculum as early as pre- Kindergarten. Moreover, joint-cooperation schools (formerly known as international schools) attract children of upper middle class families with their international curricula and the use of English as a medium of instruction (Lie, 2017).  Students in these schools speak better English than Indonesian; some may even show indications of diminishing mastery of the Indonesian language (Prayitno & Lie, 2018).  At the other point of the spectrum, students in less developed schools have their English lessons where teachers of English do not speak English in their teaching simply because they are not comfortable speakers of English. 

Richards (2017) confirms that a threshold level of proficiency is needed for teachers to be able to teach through English.  As Renandya et.al. (2018) argue, “there is a pressing need to establish a national framework of English language proficiency so that appropriate standards can be established for students and teachers at all educational levels” (p. 625) because English language proficiency is a significant part of an English teacher’s professional competence.  Minimal standards of higher education have been set by the government but at the implementation level, teacher colleges have different available resources and levels of commitment to quality assurance. Another study on 149 secondary school teachers of English from five regions in Indonesia (Palembang, Yogyakarta-Sleman, Surabaya, Ruteng, and Maluku) finds that at the entry point, teachers do not start at the same level (Lie et.al., 2019).  Specifically, teachers in this study demonstrate various levels of English proficiency from novice low to advanced high.

Over the past several decades, technology has been integrated in the teaching and learning processes, including in English language teaching. Teachers in more privileged schools in Indonesia have been making use of the available resources in the internet to enrich their English language teaching.  Never before was the exposure to English readily available due to the internet technology.  Unfortunately, this technology access is not equal yet throughout the regions in Indonesia.

Realizing that teacher quality has a direct influence on the improvement of learning processes and thus student achievement, the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture has set the agenda to improve its teacher quality through the development of the Teacher Certification program as stipulated by Teacher and Lecturer Law no. 14 issued in 2005, which was aimed at enhancing teacher quality and professionalism through teacher education and professional development.  This law specifies four types of teacher competences: personal, social, professional, and pedagogical competences. 

The Teacher Certification program has now been transformed from its initial format into Teacher Professional Education (hereafter, TPE) for Pre-Service and In-Service Teachers participating to obtain their certification.  The program provides a hybrid learning platform established by the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture in collaboration with more than 50 teacher education institutes.   The certification program engages teacher-participants in 12 modules of online learning (https://ppgspada.brightspace.com) covering areas of professional and pedagogical competences, a total of 256 hours of workshops on campus and a period of 3-week teaching practices in school and concludes with an online-assessment of their professional and pedagogical competences and a classroom teaching assessment by a teacher educator and a certified teacher in participating schools. 

This article presents efforts to enhance English proficiency of English teachers and equip them with internet technology skills through a teacher certification program in Indonesia. A small research was conducted to find out the perceived impact of the TPE on the participating teachers’ English proficiency and their internet technology skills. 

 

Methods

Our university has served several batches of in-service English teachers. I was one of the facilitators in the online module delivery and on-campus workshops as well as an assessor in the final classroom teaching assessment.  The online module I facilitated was the first module, 21st Century Learning which comprise three parts, namely Characteristics of Teachers and Students in the 21st Century, the Role of Technology and Media in 21st Century Learning, and Designing and Assessing 21st Century Learning.  Within each module, participating teachers are obliged to read the learning materials, view video clips, participate in group discussions, take quizzes, write lesson plans, and do formative as well as end-of-the-module tests while instructors provide discussion questions, moderate the group discussions, review and grade participating teachers’ assignments.

Just like the diversity of regions in Indonesia, teacher participants in each batch also differ in their English proficiency levels and ease of technology use levels.  Among several batches that our university has served, one particular batch was noteworthy because the twenty-seven participants were a mix of teachers from two provinces—East Java where our university is located and East Nusa Tenggara. Each batch normally consists of 30 teachers. But only 27 of the participants made it until the end of the program. Three of them dropped out for unidentified reasons.These two provinces may be compared by their human development indexes (HDI).  HDI of East Java and East Nusa Tenggara in 2018 are 70.77 and 64.39 respectively (Badan Pusat Statistik, 2018).

Only six of these teachers were from East Java, a few of them were from Kupang the capital of East Nusa Tenggara, and the rest came from different remote villages in East Nusa Tenggara.  Teachers from East Nusa Tenggara were assigned to participate in the TPE at our university because no teacher education institute in their province was deemed to have sufficient credentials to partner with the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture in operating the TPE.

In regard to the use of technology, Indonesia is still striving to provide equal access throughout the nation.  During the online module delivery, many of the participating teachers from East Nusa Tenggara struggled to meet the course requirements of group discussions, assignments, and assessments due to the weak internet connection and sometimes even power black-out. 

During the delivery of the first module of 21st Century Learning, some of the questions I posted in the online discussion forum pertained to their experiences in the use of technology in their ELT.  Their responses were analyzed and compared with responses to an online survey sent to all twenty-seven teachers at the end of the TPE.  The survey consisted of 15 questions investigating their perception of their English proficiency, internet technology skills, plan to apply the newly-learned skills in their teaching, and expected impact on their teaching.  The time between the first module delivery (May 9-11, 2019) and the survey administration (September 20, 2019) was approximately 19 weeks.  Twenty-six teachers filled in the survey.  Insights gained through the data analysis are expected to shed light on the perceived impact of the TPE on the participating teachers’ English proficiency and their internet technology skills. 

 

Findings and Discussion

This section would be divided into two major sub-sections: Perceived Improvement of English Proficiency and Use of Technology in ELT.

Perceived Improvement of English Proficiency

Two of the questions in the post-TPE survey specifically pointed to the teachers’ perceived English proficiency improvement and areas of improvement.  All 26 teachers believed they improved their English proficiency after completing the TPE because the online discussions and workshops were conducted in English.  Twelve of them responded they improved in four areas: grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, and fluency.  The rest picked different combinations of those four areas.  The question provided an open option.  One wrote “classroom language,” and another one “expressions in English communication.” 

In addition, one open-ended question (Mention 3 most important points you have learned out of this TPE) yielded eight responses that included improving their English proficiency as one of the three most important points they got out of the TPE.  One of them stated “we are recomended by all of the great lectures [sic] to communicate in English and it brings a big impact for us especially the fluency of English.”  Another open-ended question (What impact do you think you will bring into your teaching as a result of your PPG completion?) got two responses pertaining to a commitment to using more English in their teaching.  One of them wrote “I will speak more English in my classroom to build up English behaviour so my students can take it as habit. I mean, I will allow them to take English as easy subject not a stranger [sic] subject.”

As Richards (2017) and Renandya, Hamid, & Nurkamnto (2018) indicate, many teachers have not achieved the threshold level.  The TPE program has managed to open teachers’ eyes regarding the need to continuously improve their English proficiency.  Through their interactions with other English teachers from different schools in the TPE online discussions and workshops, teachers are made aware of their positioning and the need to improve their English proficiency.  This implies that teachers need to be further encouraged to enhance their professional development beyond TPE.

 

Use of Technology in ELT

Responses to the questions on their experiences in the use of technology in their ELT at the beginning of the online sessions demonstrate that the development gap between the two provinces as indicated by the Human Development Indexes permeates through the different contexts and constraints faced by teachers in the two provinces.  At the beginning of the TPE, all the six teachers from East Java had been using and integrating technology in their teaching one way or another.  At the very least, one teacher mentioned using Powerpoint, LCD, and speaker and sharing the materials and exercises with her students through Whatsapp. Furthermore, others used the internet in somewhat more advanced ways such as Edmodo, Quipper, YouTube, Wondershare Video Editor, QR Code (used in their coursebook for the Listening section), and Google Classroom.

Among the twenty-one teachers of English from East Nusa Tenggara, there is a variation in their experiences in using technology in their teaching.  Six of them reported no or very minimal experience of using technology in the classrooms because of the infrastructure constraints.  Three of them gave side-tracked responses to the question.  Other responses reveal further variation in their use of technology in ELT, ranging from mentioning some applications from Microsoft Office, using their own mobile phones to deliver listening materials, through exploring more advanced applications such as Video Editor, Wondershare, Kinemaster and QR Code Scanning.  Those teachers with minimal use of technology addressed their contraints and expressed their perserverance, as written by Teacher Sylvia who taught in a state junior secondary school in Alor, a small island over 266 km northeast of Kupang the province capital:

I usually use Ms. words to prepare my teaching materials, excel helps me to analyze the assessments, power point is interesting and useful in the process of teaching and learning but the problem that we face in our school is we have no electrical network in our classroom. in teaching listening, usually i use music player tool that connected to my laptop or mobile phone. i also can get tutorial video or material for students from you tube.

Teacher Bob who taught in a state junior secondary school in Soe, a town around 110 km from Kupang described his experiences of teaching in an impoverished region and yet expressed his optimism as progress has gradually changed his classroom practices:

… there was a different situation I had at school  when I tried to turn on the laptop. Some students who sat in the front row got surprised because they were shocked and shouted. One of them shouted loudly using their  mother tongue. He said "Uis Nenoooooo ....at maeeeeettttt loooo". It means that "Ohhh  there was a very interesting and funny thing. Some of my students sitting in the front row were surprised when they heard the sound of windows. Even I was surprised too because they were shocked and shouted. One of them shouted using local language " Uis Neno.....At maeeeeeeeeettttt loooooo". it means "Ohhhh Lord Jesus....I think I will die". I felt  so funny but sad at the same time because it was the fact. They  never saw laptop  before even just once.

Actually I wanted to teach them about  Ms.Word and Ms.Excel. But finally we had to watch a movie called "Denias Senandung diatas Awan". I used Gom Player to played it. They were really enthusiastic and I felt that movie really inspired them. Because they really wanted to go to school even though they had to walk on foot for about 5 until 6 kilometers from home. I love you I love you my students. You remind and teach me about this life, guys!. Thanks Lord. Big Thanks Steve Jobs for recognizing us this technology. And I promise I will recognize this technology that I know to the next generation.  Thanks.

Note: First time I taught at SMP N Lotas Kec.Kokbaun Kab.TTS-NTT in 2009 and there was no electricity network. Nowadays,we can use laptop, android and LCD.

After approximately two months of online sessions, one month of on-campus workshops, three-week placement in schools, and final assessments, responses to an online survey reveal the hopes and promises these teachers kept as a result of the 19 weeks of interaction with each other and with the teacher educators. 

Six of the fifteen survey questions specifically address their technology skills and use.  When asked whether they had learned any new technology/internet skills during their TPE, only one teacher answered No. This one teacher, teaching near Surabaya, the capital of East Java where our campus is located, rated her internet literacy skills and the use of technology in her class before TPE as 5 (excellent) and 4 (very good) respectively.  The rest of the teachers admitted they had learned new technology/internet skills during their TPE.  They further expressed high hopes and enthusiasm that they would try out and integrate media and technology in their teaching.  Specific applications like Schoology and Kahoot were mentioned.

Three open-ended questions in the survey are Mention 3 most important points you have learned out of this TPE, What impact do you think you will bring into your teaching as a result of your TPE completion?, and  What are your specific expectations regarding your teaching improvement?  These questions further generated responses that reveal teachers’ hopes for better classroom practices.  The first open-ended question yielded ten responses that specifically mentioned technology, media, and other technology-related words.  The other two questions triggered responses such as I can use technology, I can make better lesson plan, Make my own lesson plan, use technology in my teaching,  I have been able to compile a good lesson plan and I have been able to make interesting media.

 

Conclusion

Around the time of their final assessment in September 2019, these teachers got the great news about the School Digitalization Program through the Affirmative School Operational Assistance by the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture. This program provided computer tablets to 1.753.000 students in Year 6, 7 and 10, especially in remote schools (see http://pustekkom.kemdikbud.go.id/kemendikbud-siapkan-bantuan-operasional-sekolah-afirmasi-dan-kinerja-untuk-digitalisasi-sekolah/).  Of course, this news highlighted the teachers’ professional journey as they were hopeful that would become better English teachers.  Teachers, especially those in remote regions have persevered through constraints and sustained their teaching through very limited resources. Now that they had completed their TPE and were about to obtain their certification, they achieved a milestone marking the recognition of their professional journey.  The support of the government through the School Digitalization Program would further spearhead these teachers’ efforts to guide their students to be contributing global citizens as Teacher Bob wrote,

In my dreams…one day my learners and my little kids will get their happiness and success not just for themselves but they will be usefull [sic] for others in this country or abroad. Oneday….

 

Acknowledgment

Some data presented in this paper are part of a study funded by Directorate of Research and Community Service, The Indonesian Ministry of Research, Technology, and Higher Education.


References

Ahmad, J. (2012).  English language teaching (ELT) and integration of media technology.  Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences, 47, 924-929.

Badan Pusat Statistik. (2018) Human Development Index 2018.  No. 32/04/Th.XXII, 15 April 2019. 

Kajder, S. B. (2003). The tech-savvy English classroom. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Kern, R..(1995). Restructuring classroom interaction with networked computers: Effects on quantity and quality of language production. Modern Language Journal, 79 (4), 457-476.

Lie, A. , Tamah, S.M., Trianawaty, Triwidayati & Jemadi, F. (2019). English proficiency of secondary school teachers in Indonesia. Beyond Words, 7(2).

Peterson, M. (1997). Language Teaching and networking. System, 25 (1), 29-37.

Prayitno, R. & Lie, A. (2018). A Case Study of a Seven-Year Old Indonesian-English Bilingual Child in a Trilingual School.  In Madya, S. et al (Eds), ELT in Asia in the Digital Era: Global Citizenship and Identity, 377-384. Retrieved from https://www.routledge.com/ELT-in-Asia-in-the-Digital-Era-Global-Citizenship-and-Identity-Proceedings/Madya-Hamied-Renandya-Coombe-Basthomi/p/book/9780815379003.

Primastiwi, P., Lie, A. Widiati, S. & Lie,  T. (2018).  Challenges and Resources in CPD for In-Service Teachers: Establishing Communities of Inquiry, Beyond Words, 6(2), 66-87.

Pusat Teknologi Informasi dan Komunikasi Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan. Kemendikbud siapkan bantuan opeasional sekolah afirmasi dan kinerja untuk digitalisasi sekolah. (The Ministry of Education and Culture prepares affirmative school operational assistance for school digitalization).  Retrieved from http://pustekkom.kemdikbud.go.id/kemendikbud-siapkan-bantuan-operasional-sekolah-afirmasi-dan-kinerja-untuk-digitalisasi-sekolah/.

Renandya, W., Hamid, F. & Nurkamto, J. (2018).  English language proficiency in Indonesia: Issues and Prospects.  The Journal of Asia TEFL, 15(3), 618-629.

Richards, J. C. (2017). Teaching English through English: Proficiency, pedagogy and performance. RELC Journal, 48(1), 7-30.

Warschauer, M., Turbee, L., & Roberts, B. (1996) computer learning networks and student empowerment. System, 24(1), 1-14.

 

Please check the Practical uses of Technology in the English Classroom course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Teaching Advanced Students course at Pilgrims website.

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