Editors Note: This study is a report of original educational research. It attempts to review the wide-ranging facilities of the internet resources from student teachers perspectives. Moreover, this study focuses on the positive and negative effects of the internet on the education process regarding the attitudes of students towards the internet accessibility.
Education: With or Without Internet Resources;
If With, to What Extent?
Muhlise COŞGUN ÖGEYİK and Işıl Gamze YILDIZ
The internet is available for endless resources required for the courses in educational surroundings. However, most of the students do not know how to select the appropriate resources. Moreover, it is observed in the courses that some students use the original resources as their own products without acknowledgement of source and intentional or unintentional cheating comes into view. Such tendencies lead to deterioration rather than creativity. This study is aimed at investigating the issues such as how the student teachers of English use the Internet, for what courses they mostly need the internet resources, and whether they can reach the specific information consciously. The survey method was conducted on 124 student teachers attending English Language Teaching Department at Trakya University, Turkey. The findings prove that the student teachers use the internet for their tasks actively but mostly unconsciously. Furthermore, they are not able to decide on the specific information due to endless information.
Keywords: the internet resources, ELT courses, educational development, language proficiency, professional development, language learning, the internet and ELT, teacher training, advantages and disadvantages of the internet, teaching materials
Technology has been effective in foreign language education as well as in other fields. The boost in using technology in the educational settings began in the sixties and seventies by installing language laboratories. The essential foundation of such technology was to test the verbal performance of learners in a behaviouristic sense. With the emergence of the communicative approach in foreign language education, computer assisted language learning (CALL) tools have been widely applied in teaching and learning processes. In recent years, however, with the notion of globalisation, the internet as a technological tool in educational surroundings is being increasingly used by both educators and learners to gather information and documents for teaching and learning activities.
The Internet and Education
The internet as a network of thousands of computers is a standpoint of the information age not only for education materials, but also for various sectors of society such as business, government, military, news broadcasting, and so on (Mike, 1996; Gillette, 1996). In the field of education, since the worldwide information is constantly available through the internet, it can open up a vast new collection of learning opportunities and better prepare learners to contribute effectively in a knowledge-based global economy (Todd, 1996). In this sense, the internet is a motivating tool with an increased emphasis on the critical thinking, problem solving, written communication, and collaborative skills (Owston, 1997; Akkoyunlu & Yılmaz, 2005). The feedback through the internet, thus, is provided for learners to obtain a variety of information about the investigated topic and to compare and evaluate different perspectives by analysis.
In teaching a second or a foreign language, particularly English, since learners can easily gather data written in foreign language, the internet use increases the comprehension and acquisition of a second language (Kasanga, 1996) and, thus, facilitates the interaction of language learners by gaining input in the language learning process (Brandl, 2002) for research activities outside the class. On the other hand, for the activities inside the class, the internet use changes the interaction between learners and teachers (Kern, 1995) by the active participation of learners.
Accordingly, through the internet which has been accepted as a functional component of the learning process, foreign language education has shifted to more technology-based dimensions. The most significant reason is that the internet resources and opportunities for learners as well as for teachers, scholars, and researchers in foreign language education have been available in a growing number each day. In this sense, the most valuable contribution of the internet to English Language Teaching (ELT) is its role in facilitating teachers access to professional materials, contacts and resources in English (Warschauer, Shetzer & Meloni, 2000).
The student teachers attending ELT departments also obtain many teaching materials, resources, literary works and the critical reports about those works, articles, lesson plans, etc through the internet during the education process. The prosperity of the internet in this sense causes them to become aware of the worldwide studies on many topics as well as gain self confidence. In a survey study conducted on 1091 student teachers in the faculty of education by Gürcan-Namlu and Ceyhan (2003), it was concluded that the anxiety levels of student teachers who never enrolled in computer assisted courses were three times greater than anxiety levels of those who enrolled in computer assisted courses. Hence, computer assisted courses can be acknowledged as supportive and encouraging services for both learning and teaching, and thus the internet as a component of computer assisted courses is a constructive medium for education.
Despite all the mentioned constructive and distinctive features of the internet, some disadvantages of using the internet in the field of education cannot be ignored. Since the amount of information generally makes learners confused when they try to find specific information (Chafe, 1999), it may not be easy to obtain the explicit information while searching for the required topic. When the information has been obtained, learners may not be able to analyse it critically or make assumptions whether the information is suitable, reliable, or valuable for them to use (Wood, 2004). Learners may start using the internet unconsciously without being equipped with the skills for searching on the internet. So teaching the internet skills and refreshing those skills throughout the courses are included into the related courses (O'Hanlon, 2002).
Another drawback is the lack of accessibility to the internet all over the world. This is also true for Turkey. According to The Turkey Information Technology Report 2008, the accessibility of the internet is only about 23% in Turkey. One more problem is the incapability in using the internet. According to a study conducted on 685 teachers from primary education by Akkoyunlu (2001), 65% of the teachers (n=115) cannot use the internet due to inaccessibility of the internet. On the other hand, 55% (n= 63) do not know how to search out through the internet. Moreover the multimedia feasibilities in education institutions may not be provided due to the costs. The other and the most striking disadvantage of the internet is that the internet is available for ready materials; that means learners mostly use these resources in the courses for their tasks instead of creating their own products. This may be judged as intentional or unintentional plagiarism. For instance, learners may prefer using the prepared coursework as their own products or reading the summaries of any novel or critical writings on the book instead of/or before reading the whole book.
In this paper, the main concern is to determine the perceived usefulness of the internet from the point of view of student teachers. In the courses in the ELT department at Trakya University, it has been observed that the student teachers widely use the internet resources for their tasks mostly in the original form. Therefore, the purpose of this paper, regarding all the benefits and detriments of the internet, is to inquire into the availability of the internet from the point of view of the student teachers, while using the information through it for their course tasks.
The population of the study includes 124 students among 165 students attending the English Language Teaching Department of the Faculty of Education at Trakya University. The participants were selected randomly.
In this study, the survey method was used to investigate the availability of the internet in the field of foreign language education.
EN-GB">The data were gathered through an assessment questionnaire completed by the students. The questionnaire comprising 20 items with 5 choices and 3 open ended questions, was developed by the researchers and administered in the survey.
The numeric data were computed statistically (SPSS 11.0) and the percentage is reported through descriptive analysis.
Findings and Results
The findings of this research are presented in three categories: 1) the responses for the open-ended questions; 2) the facilities of the internet, and 3) the use of internet resources in courses on percentage tables.
What is the internet?
The students mostly think that the internet is a tool but not an aim for obtaining relevant information on any topic. For many student teachers, the internet has replaced the libraries. They state that instead of going to the libraries and walking around looking for books, searching into the internet is much easier because of the endless resources. The internet is generally defined by them as a multi-purpose encyclopaedia comprising full information on all topics.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the internet?
Most of the students focus on the importance of the internet in education. Such a requirement emerges from the demand for obtaining information on many issues they deal with. Further, for them, the availability of the countless texts in the internet world facilitates the students tasks at once while attaining the required resources instead of going to the libraries. Despite all the beneficial aspects of the internet, the students mostly criticize some texts on the sense that they may be introduced in a subjective manners. In addition, they maintain that although it is cheaper while finding the required resources, the internet obstructs the habit of reading books. Another point on the facilities of the internet put forward by the students is that they mostly do not read the original literary works by themselves. They first read the summary or interpretation of any work and then they read the original work. That is a common view among the students. But they also state that a student teacher of English should try to read the literary work on his or her own for language development.
For what courses do you use the internet sources?
The responses of the students affirm that they employ internet explorations for all courses, but mainly for methodology, linguistics, literature, and translation courses.
As indicated in Table 1, all of the students use the internet in their educational activities. Among them, 86% declared that they always used the internet for their activities. When the reliability of the internet was questioned, most of the students (71.2%) proclaimed its reliability in common. In addition, they declared that they generally obtained the information they needed at all times and the majority (72.8%) found the internet as functional within their professional competence.
In general sense, the internet is available for perpetual resources which can be found in many languages. The availability of worldwide resources on the internet is among the major advantages of the internet. This notion was also admitted by all students (100%). Moreover, when they were questioned about the impact of the internet on creativity, most of the students (71.2%) acknowledged its benefits at this point. In addition, more than half (70%) of the students stated that they were not directed by their tutors to use the internet in their courses.
The participants were also questioned about how and how often they used the internet for the ELT courses separately. The responses for English Literature courses prove that all students searched for the internet resources to get information. Moreover, most of them (82.5%) admitted that they obtained information about any literary work via the internet resources before they read it. On the other hand, 28.5% of the students stated that they applied for the information about the work after they read it.
When the students were questioned about how often they looked for translated texts in the internet, 88% declared they mostly used the internet as a source, but 12% did not use it. More than half of the students also stated that they used the translated texts they obtained in the internet as models for their translation activities. Some students (39%) admitted they used the original form of the translated texts in their translation tasks.
Among the courses, linguistic courses are the most remarkable ones, because the internet is the best source for obtaining information about linguistics in a general sense. This notion was also accepted by all students. They confessed that they used the internet sources all the time for their linguistic courses.
Another course for which the internet can be widely used is material production. Ninety-six percent (96%) of students admitted that they employed resources in the internet. More than half of the students did not use those materials from the internet in original form. However, 87.5%)of students stated they adapted those materials for their tasks.
In ELT departments, the students are responsible for preparing lesson plans for their microteaching activities. In this context, the internet is the most accessible source because it is rich in these sorts of resources. The students responses also provide an idea about how accessible these resources are. All students admitted that they used the lesson plans in the internet as models for their microteaching activities and 91.5% acknowledged the directive potentials of the equipped lesson plans in the internet. Eighty point six percent (80.6%) of them stated that they adapted those model lesson plans for their microteaching tasks.
Conclusion and Discussion
The overall findings from the present study, which explores student teachers preferences about using the internet, clarify how useful the internet is for them, how often they use the internet in their academic lives, what they think about the facilities of the internet, and how they use the internet resources in their academic tasks in different courses. Although it might be difficult to generalise these findings since only 124 students from ELT department at Trakya University were involved in this survey, these results show that, from a holistic overview, the internet resources are widely used and accepted as functional by the student teachers for their academic studies.
The student teachers responses prove that the internet is the major source. The most significant problems are the availability of adequate materials and lack of easy access to those materials. Such reasons are acknowledged because the internet helps them with their schoolwork by directing them to learn new things.
Another outcome of the study is that the student teachers use the internet resources for the basic courses in ELT. In this sense, the advantages of the internet are in line with what Warschauer and his colleagues (2000) stated about the facilities of the internet such as access to professional materials and resources in English. Moreover, they admitted that the internet use facilitates getting data written in foreign language, and it may, as Kasanga (1996) and Brandl (2002) mentioned, increase the comprehension in second language and prompt gaining input in foreign language learning process. Thus it may create learning opportunities (Todd 1996).
In spite of all this positive and supportive supremacy of the internet, it may be the source of some troubles. The student teachers responses provide evidence to elicit overall information about the internets obstacles. They stated that they can easily obtain information and materials they need for their courses. Although such quality of the internet seems constructive, this can also be estimated as the darker side of the internet. If most of the student teachers gather ready-made materials, they may not activate their creativity for producing their own studies. Because cutting and pasting any piece of information obtained from the internet sites and producing a paper in this way is effortless. It may be viewed as cheating. On the other hand, student teachers may not be able to decide on the specific information due to endless information. That is, they may not reach, easily, accurate and required information as Chafe (1999) and Wood (2004) affirmed due to the fact that some sites can be amateur creations rather than polished and professional ones.
Since they mostly used the material in original form for their microteaching activities while preparing lesson plans and material production courses, this seems another trouble for the student teachers future occupation. If they use the ready materials, they may not manage to create their own course schedules. A teacher should learn how to create his/her own lesson schedule and to prepare suitable materials for courses.
Additionally, the internet resources are available for literary works. The purpose of introducing literary works into the literature courses in foreign language teacher training departments is to boost the student teachers analytic visions and language performances. But the resources in the internet may not lead to such an advance. Because getting in touch with the ready resources which can be summary, interpretation, analysis, or criticism of the literary work before reading the work is easy but a vain and worthless struggle for those learning a foreign language. Like literature materials, translation texts can be easily obtained through the internet. Such a choice may be an obstruction for the language development of the student teachers as much as using prepared materials effortlessly instead of translating the text.
Following the assertions, it can be concluded that the internet is available and useful for educators, educational institutions and students as well as other groups of people. It is helpful for presenting information on any topic and motivating the education process in a short time. However, the internet also creates hindrances for the language and professional development of student teachers due to the ready materials for literature, language teaching and material production courses. Moreover, the student teachers cannot use the internet appropriately for specific information. For this reason some precautionary measures may be taken into consideration, and among these, is to make out whether the materials produced by the students are copied or their own products. If they are copied, the students can be advised how to use the internet resources as models without cheating. Furthermore, the productive effects of using ready-made materials through the internet on their language development and professional competency can be discussed in the courses. They can also be directed to search for polished and professional sites. In order to implement some alternatives for tutoring students to use the internet in effective and creative ways, some sessions can be conducted in educational institutions. Some immediate and interactive facilities in extracurricular activities can be provided for students to overwhelm the troubles due to a variety of offerings appearing online.
The Facilities of the Internet
1. How often do you use the internet for your education activities?
2. Do you think the information of the internet is reliable?
3. How often have you obtained information you needed?
4. Do you think the internet is functional in your professional competence?
5. Is the internet useful for getting in touch with worldwide resources?
6. Does the internet prompt creativity?
7. Are you directed by your tutors for using the internet?
8. How often do you use the internet resources in your English Literature courses?
9. Do you get information about any literary work via the internet before you read it?
10. After you read the work, do you get information about it?
11. How often do you use the internet resources for your translation courses?
12.Do you use the translated text you obtained as a model?
13.Do you use the translated text in its original form?
14.How often do you use the internet in your linguistic courses?
15.How often do you use the internet for material production courses?
16.Do you use the materials in original form?
17.Do you adapt the materials for your tasks?
18.How often do you use the lesson plans in the internet as models in your microteaching courses?
19.Do you think the lesson plans in the internet are directive for microteaching courses?
20.Do you adapt the lesson plans for your microteaching tasks?
The data gathered in the study may contribute to better understanding of the phenomena of using the internet in education settings and it may be a supportive starting point for further research. The findings of the study may also support the educators of student teachers of foreign language to look into the internet habits and the way of using the internet. In conclusion, the internet is the world with its advantages and disadvantages in education environments as well as other surroundings. If it is used appropriately and consciously, the benefits of the internet can be countless. If it is used inappropriately, that is, just for cutting and pasting the ready-made materials, or copying the information available in the internet, no creativity will be introduced into the education process.
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About the Author
Dr. Muhlise COŞGUN ÖGEYİK is Assistant Professor at Trakya University, Faculty of Education, ELT Department, inTurkey.
Işıl Gamze YILDIZ is Research Assistant at Trakya University, Faculty of Education, ELT Department, in Turkey.