Editor’s Note: Common wisdom says that some areas of the curriculum should be taught by face-to-face instruction. However, the challenge to reach learners beyond the campus boundaries and service area is producing effective distance learning courses, both hybrid (distance plus classroom) and entirely distance learning courses. This study of college EFL teachers shows positive reactions to integrating Internet resources into classroom instruction.
The Internet and EFL College Instruction:
A Small-Scale Study of EFL College Teachers’ Reactions
Osman Zakaria Barnawi
Though today the Internet use in second and foreign language learning has brought enormous advantages to students, resistance to employ such technology in classrooms by many EFL teachers remains high. This study examined EFL teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns towards Internet-based EFL instruction, particularly at Yanbu Industrial College (YIC). Data was collected using a questionnaire which includes (a) participants’ background information, (b) a four-point Likert scale for measuring the participants’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns toward the notion of integrating the Internet into EFL classrooms, and (c) open-ended questions to gather richer data on the participants’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns toward the integration of the Internet into EFL instruction. The findings of the present study indicated that most of the participants showed positive attitudes and willingness to integrate the Internet into the classroom and viewed the Internet as a wonderful and rich source of information for teaching-learning purposes. However, factors such as a lack of training on the use of the Internet, a lack of technology resources, cultural appropriation, and imposition of traditional methods of instructional delivery could be possible internal and external impediments to the use of the Internet in the classroom. Based on the findings some suggestions and recommendations were provided as to help teachers overcome these barriers and implement the Internet technology in their EFL classrooms.
Keywords: Internet technology, college instruction, teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns
The introduction and development of the Internet, by and large, have had considerable implications for foreign or second language instruction. Numerous resources on the World Wide Web (WWW) offer language teachers convenience and support in language teaching and learning, (i.e., English as a foreign language (EFL) and English as a second language (ESL) instruction). It is no wonder that more and more language teachers have integrated the Internet into the classroom during the last 10 years (Fischer, 1999). This fact has brought revolutionary reform to language teaching methodology in the sense that both teacher and technology roles play equally important roles in creating innovative language learning classrooms. Currently, in many EFL/ESL contexts, the integration of Internet technology into the classroom, for example, is seen as a central issue owing to pursuing interactive teaching practices (Parks et al, 2003; Yang, 2001). Consequently, many EFL teachers, for instance, are concerned about the efficient application of the Internet to help students engage in a meaningful and interactive learning environment (Koehler, Mishra, Hershey, & Peruski, 2004).
Similarly, the growing technological advancement and globalization have influenced EFL instruction in Saudi Arabia’s higher education institutions. As a result, educational authorities in Saudi Arabia have tried to provide educational technology support in schools and colleges. For example, classrooms are fully equipped with Internet connections and multimedia facilities (i.e., projectors, computers, and videos). In spite of the accessibility of the Internet in most colleges, such as Yanbu Industrial College (YIC), the notion of implementing the Internet in the classroom to facilitate the teaching-learning process has been neglected. There are EFL teachers at YIC resisting the integration of the Internet technology into their classrooms. During my teaching experiences at YIC, I have observed that such teachers believe that the integration of technology into their classroom seems to weaken their roles as teachers. Teacher domination is believed to be the key to successful EFL instruction at YIC. Thus, most of the EFL teachers feel threatened that technology would replace their dominant roles as teachers; consequently, they will lose their authority and be unable to control the class.
I believe that as Baylor and Ritchie (2002, p. 398) argue, “regardless of the amount of technology and its sophistication, technology will not be used unless faculty members have the skills [and] knowledge.” More important, their attitudes toward the integration of technology into college curricula affect whether they use the Internet in the classroom. Moreover, personal attitudes and willingness of EFL teachers are key factors in whether the Internet can be applied to the classroom at YIC because teachers serve as the key figures responsible for instructional innovations in the classrooms. Adopted from Rogers’ theory of Diffusion of Innovations (1995), teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns are indispensable to make significant changes for instructional innovation and creativity. In response to this notion, the current study is aimed at investigating the EFL teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns towards the Internet-based EFL instruction, particularly at YIC.
The Study Background
Yanbu Industrial College (YIC), founded in 1989, is affiliated with the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Its objectives are twofold: (1) to develop human resources and (2) to equip Saudi manpower with advanced technical education and training. It is an independent technical institute, and is administered by the Board of Directors of the Royal Commission for Jubial and Yanbu (Yanbu Industrial College, 2008).
YIC offers associate degrees and bachelor degrees for both science and art majors. It has the Center for English as a Foreign Language that offers courses on English for specific purposes (i.e., English for Business Communication and English for Technologies) and English for General Purposes (EGPs). The main goal of the center is to equip the incoming YIC students with the sufficient English skills that will help them to pursue their technical or vocational studies at YIC and later pursue a job that requires English skills in one of the Saudi’s manufacturing companies (Yanbu Industrial College, 2008).
EFL Instruction at YIC
One of the distinctive features of YIC’s EFL instruction is that unlike other educational institutions in KSA, English is the medium of instruction in content subjects/areas. Additionally, classrooms are fully equipped with multimedia facilities (i.e., computers and projectors connected with the Internet). However, most classrooms are teacher-dominant: traditional instructional methods and teacher-centered approaches, prevail. What makes the situation worse is that EFL teachers strongly believe that teacher-dominated classrooms will guarantee success in learning English. It is assumed that in such classroom environment, students seem to have a little opportunity to learn their English using technology inside and outside the classrooms, and in turn this may affect their learning autonomy and language ownership. In short, EFL students at YIC do not seem to be prepared to be members of today’s and future societies, literate in information technologies.
Significance of the study
Globalization and information technologies, by and large, are a sign of today’s life and are likely to shift traditional instructional methods from a teacher-centered learning approach to a learner-centered instructional approach by which learning interactivity and meaningfulness are reinforced (AL-Mekhlafi, 2004; Warschauer, 2000). To implement this reformed approach to EFL instruction, I do believe as Yang (2001) maintains, that Internet technology offers “a new learning environment and a wealth of pedagogic possibilities” (p. 156). This notion suggests that it is important for EFL teachers and administrators at YIC to become part technology-literate educators. For EFL students to successfully acquire and learn English, EFL teachers should provide students with broad learning opportunities to practice and own the language inside and outside the classrooms. In other words, as Yang (2001) argues, technological tools and resources available on the Internet offer possible opportunities to acquire authentic language use through multimodal channels (e.g., listening and speaking).
I do realize that the accessibility of the Internet technology is an asset for YIC, but convincing teachers to implement this technology in EFL classrooms seems to be difficult. Thus, this current study endeavors to examine EFL teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns toward the implementation of Internet-based EFL instruction at YIC. The results of the study may complement the growing body of research on the use of Internet technology in EFL classrooms. More important, the results of the present study may be empirical evidence for making informed decisions about the implementation of Internet-enriched curricula at schools or colleges where the Internet facilities are available (e.g., YIC). Thus, examining teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns about the integration of the Internet in EFL classroom helps to better understand how to attain the goal of integrating technology into the classrooms.
Operational Definitions of Key Terms
In order to provide readers with a clear understanding of the key terms in the present study, it is important to define the following five terms.
- Teachers’ beliefs: personal opinions based on their experiences in using the Internet technology both inside and outside the classrooms.
- Teachers’ attitudes: the way EFL teachers psychologically react toward the integration of the Internet in the classroom.
- Teachers’ willingness: personal commitment and courage to try out teaching innovations (e.g., the use of Internet) in the classroom (Angers & Machtmes, 2004).
- Teachers’ concerns: internal and external problems that EFL teachers might encounter when integrating the Internet into their classrooms.
- The integration of the Internet in the classroom: making pedagogical and curricular changes to incorporate Internet applications (e.g., browsing skills, search engines, site evaluation, and emails) into classrooms (Wetzel, 2002).
A Review of Literature
The Internet Use in EFL Instruction
Over the past decades, the use of Internet technologies as teaching and learning tools has been exponentially expanding into EFL instruction. This implies that the Internet technology serves as a mediating tool for technology-enhanced and student-centered instructional environments (Watson, 2006). This notion suggests that, with the advent of the Internet, “it has become possible and feasible for language teachers to make effective use of instructional materials, especially in teaching language and culture” (Chen, 2008, p. 1016). As Hubbard (2004) points out, the rapid expansion of the Internet into language instruction takes places due to three main reasons.
The first reason is that many Internet applications (i.e., asynchronous computer-mediated communication (ACMC) like electronic bulletin boards or e-mails) encourage interactive language learning for both learners and teachers. Secondly, the tool and resources available on the Internet facilitate language learning and teaching; they provide rich learning resources for teachers and learners. The last reason is that, by implementing the Internet in the classroom, learners not only develop their language skills through interacting with different Internet applications, but they also function well on the Internet to explore varied language learning materials, which accommodate their learning needs, expectations, and goals. For example, through an electronic mail exchange, EFL learners can simply interact with each other, which in turn will help them overcome issues like (1) shyness, (2) peer pressure inside the classroom, and (3) a threatening language learning environment, which may appear in face-to-face communication with peers or teachers (Chan, 2008; Yang, 2001).
In short, the Internet applications allow language learners to be exposed to a real-life target language (English) and provide them with great opportunities to learn that language and acquire technological skills. More crucially, the Internet technology could serve as technological scaffolding, which complements teacher scaffolding inside and outside the classrooms.
The Importance of Using the Internet in EFL Classrooms
As the trend of language teaching has been transformed from structural views into communicative perspectives on language teaching and learning, by and large, the Internet can be implemented in EFL classrooms. Many researchers (e.g., Watson, 2006) believe that the Internet offers authentic materials-enriched sources for EFL instruction. Such sources can be perceived as a means of enhancing materials interactivity for EFL/ESL language learning. Using those sources, learners may be encouraged to use their relevant prior knowledge or experience, discourse, and existing language resources. Authentic materials-enriched sources, in turn, help create more stimulating and motivating language learning atmospheres. Previous studies (e.g., Warschauer, 1999; Yang, 2001) have investigated the effectiveness of Internet use in EFL classrooms. The findings show that learners were motivated to read and listen to Internet-based audio passages for hours because they did enjoy doing such learning tasks. In this way, they could manage their own learning goals and pace, thereby helping them foster their learning autonomy and its ownership and building a more learner-centered classroom. As a result, learners are engaged in authentic interactional situations and have the opportunity to make personal decisions about their own learning preferences.
In short, using the Internet in EFL classrooms provides language teachers with enormous benefits, as previously mentioned. This paradigm can be a cornerstone for further investigations into the benefits of the Internet in EFL classrooms and the integration of that technology into the classroom so as to examine more benefits of the Internet regarding how this technology facilitates EFL teaching and learning process.
EFL Teachers’ Beliefs, Attitudes, Willingness, and Concerns toward the Use of the Internet in the Classroom
By and large, many researchers (e.g., Al-Mekhlafi, 2004; Chen, 2008; Ertmer, 1999) argue that if we decide to integrate technology into our EFL classrooms, it is important to consider such major factors as teachers’ attitudes, beliefs, willingness, and concerns. Kersaint, Horton, Stohl, and Garofalo (2003) argue that teachers with positive attitudes toward technology feel more comfortable and confident in using a technology. They would like to include that technology into their teaching practices. Woodrow (1992) also maintains that a positive user attitude toward the new technology affects the success of educational reform. It is not surprising that there have been numerous studies on teachers’ perceptions and attitudes towards the use of the Internet in EFL classrooms and the importance of teachers’ roles, beliefs, and attitudes in introducing such a technology to the classroom. For instance, Al-Mekhlafi (2004) in his study examined 250 EFL secondary schools teachers’ beliefs in the value of the Internet in language teaching, their willingness to incorporate such a technology into their classrooms, and their concerns or problems in the application of Internet-based classrooms in the United Arab Emirates. The results of his study indicate that though most of the teachers were familiar with the Internet and had willingness to integrate that technology into their classrooms, the majority of the teachers did not use the Internet technology in their EFL classrooms due to the unavailability of the Internet facilities at schools. Only English teachers who had personal computers made use of the Internet at home.
Another findings of Al-Mekhlafi’s study also showed that the teachers had some concerns such as (1) student-related concerns—most of the students might use the Internet for fun, not for learning activities; (2) teacher role-related concerns—the majority of the teachers worried that their roles would be replaced by the Internet; (3) administration-related concerns—most of the teachers believed that the school administration would limit the use of the Internet at school due to costs and students’ misuse; (4) training-related concerns—the majority of the teachers felt there was the need for training on the use of the Internet for pedagogical purposes; and (5) culture appropriation-related concerns—most of the teachers were unwilling to integrate the Internet into the classroom owing to culturally inappropriate Internet-based materials. Those concerns are important for deciding whether the Internet should be incorporated into the classroom. However, more important, English teachers should weight the benefits of the Internet in the classroom.
Similarly, Chen (2008a) in his study investigated three issues: (1) the use of the Internet by 311 EFL teachers in Taiwanese higher education institutions, (2) the factors affecting the use of the Internet by the teachers, and (3) the participants’ problems or concerns about integrating the Internet into their classrooms. The findings indicate that more than half of EFL teachers in Taiwan made use of the Internet facilities such as search engines, emails, chat messages, and online dictionaries. The participants used the Internet facilities for teaching such language skills as reading, listening, and writing because most of them had training on the application of the Internet technology into their classrooms.
Further, based on his findings (2008a), Chen argues that two factors like teacher training and institutional support have significant implications for teachers’ positive attitudes towards the use of technology (i.e., the Internet) in the classroom. Teacher training in particular has great impact on technological integration (e.g., the Internet) in the classroom because the teachers will gain awareness of the benefits of the Internet technology for their students’ learning resources. In his study, Chen found some impediments to the application of the Internet in the classroom that included limited time, feeling of uncertainty, lack of peer mentoring/cooperation, appropriateness of course content, and lack of planning for technology integration in the classroom. These findings corroborate with Chen’s other findings in the same year (2008b). Chen concludes that teachers should be equipped not only with “technology knowledge, but also with the methods for connecting technology knowledge to pedagogical knowledge, content knowledge, and pedagogical content knowledge” (p. 1026). These ideas are compatible with Zhao’s ideas (2003).
Thus, it can be said that previous research findings reveal that such factors as teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns about the technology use affect the successful implementation of particular technologies (Albirini, 2006; Migliorino & Maiden, 2004). Another factor is that teachers with positive attitudes towards using the Internet have greater willingness to use the Internet in their classrooms. However, for teachers who get used to the traditional teacher-centered approach, uncertainty and fear may hinder them from using the Internet in the classroom (Fullan, 2001). More crucially, factors like lack of technological knowledge and skills could raise teachers’ anxiety and lack of confidence; consequently, they may feel uneasy and reluctant to use technology in the classroom (Finley & Hartman, 2004). In other words, those psychological factors should be taken into account when technology is introduced in the classroom.
In essence, teachers’ positive attitudes toward Internet technology are the keys, not only to enhancing Internet integration but also to avoiding teachers’ resistance to the Internet use in EFL classrooms (e.g., Saudi’s EFL teachers at YIC). Watson (1998) warns against the idea that ‘‘the teacher is an empty vessel into which this externally defined innovation must be poured’’
(p. 191). Therefore, the present study endeavors to examine EFL teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns about using Internet technologies in EFL instruction at YIC. The present study is aimed at providing empirical evidence, which helps to better understand how Internet literacy plays crucial roles in facilitating EFL instruction as a whole. This empirical evidence provides the informed basis for how the Internet could contribute to learning interactivity between teachers and students and between students and students inside and outside the classrooms.
A social constructivist perspective underlies the present study in which “teaching is a public, socially-constructed role, subject to the perceptions and expectations of learners, colleagues, schools and the community” (Roberts 1998 p. 309). The notion of social constructivism has formed pedagogical transformation in a sense that student-centred, collaborative task-oriented, and engaged learning substituted traditional instructions where passive learning and teacher centeredness had prevailed. This change in teaching and learning from teacher centeredness to student centeredness has matched the progress of instructive technology. Technology provides mediating tools that help to achieve the objectives of a social constructivist-based classroom. Technology should be viewed not only as a means for language learning but also as a tool for the development of both individual and society. From the social constructivist perspective, learners are perceived as learning actors who should manage their own learning, and the Internet is an arbitrating means for them to execute constructivist activities-- by offering students a wide range of learning opportunities, which enable them to construct and deconstruct knowledge and meaning through social interaction (Jonassen, Peck, & Wilson, 1999).
The purpose of the study is to investigate EFL teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns toward the use of Internet technology in their classrooms at YIC. In order to examine such issues, the following research questions are formulated into:
1. How do EFL teachers at YIC perceive the integration of Internet technology in an EFL classroom?
2. To what extent do EFL teachers at YIC consider Internet and computer to be useful in their teaching and learning process?
3. To what extent will the teachers be willing to integrate the Internet in the classroom, and what concerns might they have for the practicability and feasibility of using the Internet in EFL classrooms?
The participants of the current small-scale study were all EFL teachers at YIC. These participants were randomly selected via faculty members’ list of the YIC’s Website. This Web was used to retrieve the participants’ e-mail addresses and informed them whether they would participate in the current study. All of the participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire sent to them (N=13) with a cover letter explaining the purpose of the current study. Due to ethical issues, the participants were informed that the information they provided on the questionnaires would be confidential and used for the purpose of this research only (see Appendix: Questionnaire). Five teachers only completed and returned the questionnaires. Thus, the total number of participants for the current study was five male EFL teachers with an average of 7-13 years of experience in teaching EFL courses. It is worth noting that the assumption about selecting male participants for the current study is that males and females are segregated in the Saudi’s educational system. For this reason, the researcher had access only to male participants. For another ethical purpose, all of the participants were under pseudonyms. For this reason, the participants were named as A, B, C, D, and E.
The data for the present study was collected by means of a questionnaire developed to examine teacher’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns about the notion of the Internet use in their EFL classrooms. The questionnaire consisted of three components: (a) background information—the participants’ educational backgrounds, teaching experiences, and experiences in using computer and the Internet; (b) a four-point Likert scale for measuring the participants’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns toward the notion of integrating the Internet into EFL classrooms; and (c) open-ended questions to gather richer data on the participants’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness, and concerns toward the integration of the Internet into EFL instruction. It is also worth noting that in the Likert scale, the point “neutral option” was disregarded because the middle option of "Neither agree nor disagree" is not available. Another reason is that the unavailability of the option “neutral” was intended to encourage the participants to make a choice.
In the current study, the process of data analysis can be summed up into four core activities: (1) data coding by classifying the findings based on the questions; (2) data display by reexamining the findings for data reduction and verification; (3) data reduction by screening out the findings relevant to the research questions, and (4) conclusion drawing by looking at the entire findings for idea generalizations (Creswell, 2007). The researcher went through such activities back and forth to allow for an emergent, careful, and detailed data analysis. Thus, the qualitative data analysis using an interpretive framework was used in the current study in which theoretical and empirical accounts served as a basis for interpreting the data coded. Also, in the interpretive framework, empirical evidence is connected to relevant theories and previous studies in such a way that the findings are interpreted whether they support or complement the existing theories and previous empirical studies.
Findings and Discussions
Teachers’ Experiences in Using Computer and the Internet
Although none of the participants made use of the Internet in their own classrooms due to large classes, all of the participants had personal computers and Internet access from 12-35 hours a week at home. They have been using the Internet for 3-12 years. This finding shows that all of the participants are familiar with the application of the Internet. The only concern is that they teach large classes due to school policies. This finding suggests the use of collaborative learning through group work might help the teachers integrate the Internet into the classroom.
All of the participants made use of the Internet for different reasons: (1) doing research, (2) reading online news, (3) watching videos for fun, and (4) downloading supplementary materials for reading classes. Of the four reasons, three reasons could be related to teachers’ instructional purposes. The first purpose of using the Internet seems to pertain to teacher professional development. For this purpose, the participant did not spell out what kind of research he was doing. However, this finding suggests that the Internet, a rich source of information, could contribute to teacher professional development (Al-Mekhlafi, 2004). In short, EFL teachers might use the Internet as a facilitating tool for doing professional development.
The second purpose for using the Internet is to read online news. The participants suggested that online news could be a foundation for classroom tasks, and such materials could “prepare students to become life-long users of the language” (LeLoup & Ponterio, 2004, p. 6). More crucially, the participants added that online news is potentially used for reading materials because it is authentic as long as the news is written in English, and it is up-to-date information for students. Furthermore, online news materials could be an in-class discussion trigger for creating a more interactive classroom atmosphere.
The purpose of using the Internet for downloading supplementary materials for reading classes indicates that the Internet, indeed, provides rich resources for language learning activities. For pedagogical purposes, as Brandl (2002) emphasizes, Internet-based resources for reading activities should be based on the degree of teacher and student involvement in determining the content (choice and selection of topics and Internet-based materials), the scope of the learning environment (number of different sources: sites or links), and the learning processes and tasks (ways of exploring the reading materials. (p. 89).
These observations suggest that both teachers and students negotiate what sort of reading materials they have to read or use in the classroom.
Teachers’ Beliefs, Attitudes, Willingness, and Concerns about the Use of the Internet in EFL Classrooms
Teachers’ Beliefs in the Use of the Internet in EFL Classrooms. Teacher belief in the use of the Internet in EFL classrooms can be shown in the following table.
Teachers’ Beliefs in the Use of the Internet in EFL Classrooms
As seen in Table 1, half of the participants believed that they would be innovative teachers without necessarily using the Internet in the classroom (Q1), but half of the participants had beliefs that the Internet could help them become innovative teachers. Regarding question 2, more than half of the participants did believe that the use of the Internet would meet their teaching goals. Pertaining to question 3, half of the participants had a belief that the Internet facilitated their teaching-learning process, but half of the participants did not believe that they felt comfortable with Internet in the classroom. Interestingly, when the participants were asked to whether the Internet-based instruction would change teachers’ roles as authorities and sources of knowledge, they responded that their students might rely more on the Internet as a source of knowledge and scaffolding for them. This finding suggests that the participants would be afraid that their main roles as authority and source of knowledge would be replaced by the Internet intervention in the classroom.
Based on Table 1, as a whole, it could be said that some teachers felt uncertain of using the Internet in the classroom, but others felt confident that the Internet could facilitate their teaching-learning process. Nevertheless, most of the participants felt worried that the Internet roles would take precedence over their roles as authorities and source of knowledge in the classroom. This finding suggests that there should be training on how teachers play roles in Internet-based EFL instruction. When teachers believe that the Internet would not replace their role as teacher, but it would complement their roles in facilitating the teaching-learning process, such beliefs would enable the integration of the Internet in their EFL classrooms (Chen, 2008a).
Teachers’ Attitudes toward the Use of the Internet in EFL Classrooms. Table 2 shows how the participants had different attitudes toward the integration of the Internet into EFL classrooms. Regarding question 5, more than half of the participants had a positive attitude toward the fact that using the Internet in the classroom offers more advantages than traditional classrooms without Internet support. Pertaining to questions 6, 7, and 8 respectively, most of the participants showed positive attitudes towards the idea that the Internet could facilitate teaching-learning process. As a whole, teachers’ attitudes toward the use of the Internet in EFL classrooms can be seen in the table below.
Teachers’ Attitudes toward the Use of the Internet in EFL Classrooms
When the participants were asked an open-ended question to examine more in-depth information on their attitudes toward the integration of the Internet in the classroom, they provided a range of opinions. First, irrespective of time and place, the Internet allows teachers to communicate with their students inside and outside the classroom, as participant B pointed out. Participant C added that “the traditional ‘book system’ is boring and reduces the enthusiasm of the learner. To build students’ motivation and maximize classroom interaction between students-students or teacher-students, there is the need for using technology (e.g., the Internet) in the classroom.” It is true that Internet-based communications like threaded discussion boards, e-mails, and chats offer great opportunities for communicative and collaborative language learning tasks (Bonk & King, 1998). These technologies enable students to learn English outside the classroom and in turn help to promote their learning autonomy. Therefore, without constraints such as time and place, students have access to learning resources, the teacher, and interpersonal interaction with peers.
Participant D also expressed that the Internet technology would not only facilitate the teaching-learning process, but it would also reinforce in-class learning and provide real-life sources of class materials. Additionally, the Internet made classroom interactions more interesting, gave exposure to authentic language, and served as a tool for self-learning, which could meet learners’ diverse learning styles.
Based on the participants’ opinions about some benefits of the Internet in the classroom, it could be inferred that they had positive attitudes toward the use of the Internet in the classroom. Participant E said “To me, education without technology is like some food without spices.” As Chen (2008a) points out, such attitudes may be affected by the teachers’ experience in using the Internet—teachers feel comfortable and confident that they have already had sufficient knowledge and skills about Internet resources. This notion is also supported by Ertmer, Addison, Lane, Ross, and Woods (1999) who pinpoint that teachers who are willing to use the Internet in the classroom may be influenced by the following factors:
- teacher excitement for the use of the Internet in the classroom,
- teacher competence in the application of Internet,
- teacher preparation for more interesting and interactive lessons for students, and
- greater and more flexible access to students who would like to share their learning difficulties or problems with teachers.
Teachers’ Willingness toward in the Use of the Internet in EFL Classrooms. Table 3 shows the participants’ willingness to integrate the Internet in the classroom
Teachers’ Willingness in the Use of the Internet in EFL Classrooms
Based on the participants’ responses to question items 9-12, generally, most of the participants would integrate the Internet in the classroom for a number of purposes, such as (1) to teach interactive listening and reading skills, (2) to design their teaching materials, (3) to enhance interactive classroom interactions, and (4) to help students improve their English skills and build/develop their learning autonomy. This finding was confirmed by the two participants’ opinions about their willingness to integrate the Internet in the classroom, as listed below.
I use the Internet for classroom materials design and supplementary materials. In our institution the textbooks are predetermined and, as a teacher, I do not have the chance to use other books; they are imposed. Therefore, drawing on the goals of the units of the institution’s textbook, I turn to the Internet as well as other outside sources to provide my students with more authentic and focused materials as a way to enhance their learning. Also, the Internet is faster and easier to search.
I always asked my students to refer to English website at their home and do presentations about any topics that interests them. I always download lesson plans and adopt them for my classroom.
Based on the three participants’ opinions, it is obvious that the Internet allows the participants to enrich the language learning resources. Participant D expressed his concern about the imposition of the textbooks on his teaching practices. Because he had no choice, Participant D used the Internet as supplementary materials for students to provide them with more authentic and focused materials to enhance student English learning. Participant E tried to promote autonomous learning by asking their students to use the Internet for materials for doing in-class presentations and discussions based on students’ interests. These findings indicate that the teachers allowed the students the opportunity to make their own decisions about what to learn and share with the class. If this activity were organized by asking students to write reflective journals on the use of the Internet for their own learning, the teacher would know students’ learning progress using the Internet in addition to formal assessment.
Teachers’ Concerns about the Use of the Internet in EFL Classrooms. Teachers’ concerns about the use of the Internet in the classroom can be seen in Table 4 below.
Teachers’ Concerns about the Use of the Internet in EFL Classrooms
Table 4 shows that the participants’ concerns about the use of the Internet the classroom relied upon institutional support (e.g., the availability of the Internet), sufficient training in the use of the Internet for EFL instruction, cultural appropriation, instructional time allotment, and class sizes, as reflected in question items 13-16. The findings confirm what Chen found in his study (2008b).
When the participants were asked further about possible problems of integrating the Internet in EFL classrooms, they provided a range of answers listed in Table 5 below.
The Participants’ Concerns about the Use of the Internet in the Classroom
A lack of teacher training on the use of the Internet, student lack of literacy in technology, and a lack of technology resources are serious problems at my institution.
I work in a place where the core material is somewhat obsolete. Therefore, the Internet proves to be an invaluable resource. I use it for both in-class and outside-classroom material. However, some tweaking is necessary in order to have the content be in keeping with the socio-cultural environment. Also, material found on the Internet, though ESL/ESP/EFL related, is not necessarily suitable for Arab learners.
Some teachers need to be trained in order to be up-to date.
Because not all of the EFL teachers or my colleagues are familiar with the Internet application in the classroom, I would suggest providing them with sufficient training.
Training on the use of the Internet both for teachers and students is a must.
As most of the participants recognized the growing trend in the Internet use, the majority showed greater interest and were more willing to try it. Factors like lack of training on the use of the Internet, a lack of technology resources, cultural appropriateness, and imposition of traditional methods of instructional delivery could be possible internal and external impediments to the use of the Internet in the classroom.
Regarding the first possible problem, this finding suggests that there is the need for Internet training for both teachers and students so that they can search relevant materials online that match the syllabus or class objectives without wasting time. The training is also useful for evaluating sites because some sites might be culturally inappropriate and misleading. For this reason, teacher training is important for integration of the Internet into the classroom (Chen, 2008a).
Pertaining to the second problem, it is true that in many universities may lack Internet resources. For other higher education institutions, lack of Internet resources might be an external barrier to the integration of the Internet in the classroom. Interestingly, although the Internet gives participant B, for example, a range of materials, he was concerned about the cultural appropriatieness issue in which the materials should suit students’ cultural background because some materials might be sensitive to Arab students’ cultures (e.g., pornography, sex, or gambling). This finding corroborates with Al-Mekhlafi’s study result (2004) that cultural appropriateness was a concern that teachers might have because some materials found on the Internet were culturally inappropriate. For this reason, selection of the Internet-based materials needs to be made. In this regard: teachers have the responsibility for monitoring students’ Internet use in the classroom “through direct supervision or through censorship software program” (Al-Mekhlafi, 2004, p. 109).
Lastly, the imposition of traditional classroom formats by institutional management and administration may prevent teachers from trying out Internet-based EFL instruction. This finding suggests that policy makers and institutional authorities play crucial roles in deciding the implementation of Internet-based classrooms. In short, institutional leadership and support are important for the success of implementation of educational technologies (Epper, 2001).
Recommendations for Future Empirical Studies
In response to the findings, as previously discussed, there should be some future empirical studies that language teachers may conduct. To begin with, there is a need for examining students’ or teachers’ preferences toward Internet-based instruction in EFL contexts. This research would enrich the data on the benefits of the Internet in EFL classrooms. Additionally, there is the need for experimental research or comparative studies on the effectiveness of traditional EFL instruction and Internet-based instruction on students’ success in English learning. Because English learning is hard to measure or has a broad definition, teachers may modify English learning into English skills like listening, speaking, reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. For example, future empirical studies might examine how web-based videos could help enhance EFL students’ listening comprehension and vocabulary acquisition, or how online feedback through chats or emails could facilitate peer feedback inside and outside EFL writing classrooms.
Another important future research agenda is the study of students’ attitudes towards learning English through websites. This issue is important because students serve as decision makers of their own learning so that Internet-based EFL instruction would be successful. In addition to examining students’ attitudes toward the use of the Internet in EFL instruction, as Chen, (2008b) emphasizes, “more qualitative studies should be conducted to explore how language teachers in various curricular areas integrate the Internet into their instructional practices” (p. 1026). Lastly, ethnographic participant observations would be another method for closely examining teachers’ actual instructional strategies and their problems in integrating the Internet into classrooms, as Chen (2008b) suggests.
Conclusions and Pedagogical Implications for EFL Teaching and Learning
As found in the present study, most of the participants showed positive attitudes and a willingness to integrate the Internet into the classroom and viewed the Internet as a wonderful and rich source of information for teaching-learning purposes. The teachers’ motivation, positive attitudes and willingness need to be accommodated by reinforcing conducive institutional atmospheres and collegial support for promoting integrated Internet-based EFL instruction (AL-Mekhlafi, 2004; Chen, 2008). In this respect, English teachers are aware of their roles as classroom innovators whose tasks are to provide interactive and up-to-date materials for their students and to maximize student-student and teacher-student interactions by considering these factors like level of language proficiency, literacy in the Internet, current needs for English learning, and learning task completion (Yang, 2001).
It is also vital to recognize that both the roles of teachers and the Internet should be considered equally important in which both complement one another in Internet-based EFL instruction. Therefore, language teachers should be aware of the fact that the Internet serves as a facilitating tool for them to design interactive and non-threatening EFL classrooms. From this perspective, incorporating the Internet into classrooms or college curricula is a must, but it needs careful planning and sustainable evaluation in order to achieve particular curricular objectives.
In short, the use of technology for school curricula needs substantial investments of time, financial support, equipment, personal commitment and courage in order to explore teaching innovation in the EFL classrooms (ISTE, as cited in Angers & Machtmes, 2005). Technology integration (i.e., the use of the Internet in the classroom) does not mean necessarily replacing teachers’ roles as facilitators, guides, and resources, but it helps teachers facilitate the entire process of English teaching and learning. In other words, the use of the Internet should be viewed as a mediating tool for creating interactive EFL classrooms.
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About the Author
Osman Zakaria Barnawi is an EFL lecturer at Ynabu Industrial College, Saudi Arabia. Currently, he is doing a Ph.D. in Composition and TESOL at the Department of English, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA. His research interests include second language writing, extensive reading, ESP program evaluation, and teacher language education.
Email: email@example.com or NVLP@iup.edu
The purpose of this questionnaire is to examine your opinions and attitudes toward the application of Internet technologies into EFL classrooms at YIC. Please fill out this questionnaire as honestly as possible. Your answers will be kept absolutely confidential. Thank you very much for your time and cooperation.
Section 1: Information Background
Education and Experience
1. How many years of teaching experience do you have? ____years.
2. What is your highest educational background? Please select the most appropriate item.
(Diploma__BA__MA__ Med__Post MA__Phd__).
3. What is your area of specialization in English? Please select the most appropriate item.
(Literature___Translation___Applied Linguistics ___EFL___TESOL___)
- Do you have a high-speed Internet connection and networked computer in your classroom?
If yes, proceed to the following questions.
a. How often do you use the Internet in the classroom a week on average?
______per a week
b. What for do you use the Internet in the classroom?
c. How long have you been using the Internet in the classroom?
- Do you have a high-speed Internet connection and networked computer at home?
If yes, proceed to the following questions.
a. How often do you use the Internet at home a week on average?
_______ per a week
b. If yes, what for do you use the Internet at home?
c. How long have you been using the Internet at home?
__________ per week
- Do you use the Internet for classroom materials design, supplementary classroom materials, or outside classroom assignments for your students? If yes, please briefly explain why and how such activities are implemented.
Section 2: Teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, willingness and concerns toward the use of Internet in EFL classroom (Close-ended Questions using a Four-point Likert Scale)
Strongly disagree (SD)
1. I would be an innovative teacher without using the Internet.
2. The use of the Internet does not meet my teaching goals.
3. The Internet makes me feel uncomfortable when I teach.
4. The Internet-based instruction will change teacher roles as authorities and sources of knowledge.
5. Using Internet in EFL classroom offers more advantages than traditional classrooms.
6. Computer and Internet technology does help students learn English
7. Using Internet technology in the classroom would make the subject matter more interesting and facilitate English learning.
8. Internet serves as a facilitating tool for numerous language skills learning activities.
9. I will use the Internet for teaching listening and reading skills.
10. I will use the Internet to design my teaching materials.
11. If I had Internet access in the classroom, I would like to maximize the use of the Internet for classroom activities
12. I will use the Internet to help my students improve their English skills and build/develop their learning autonomy.
13. I would use the Internet if I receive my institutional support (e.g., the availability of the Internet in the classroom).
14. Teachers need sufficient training on the use of the Internet for EFL learning and teaching.
15. I would use the Internet where sites are culturally appropriate.
16. I would make use of the Internet if it suits my instructional time allotment, class sizes, and sufficient equipment.
Section 3: Open-ended Questions
- How do you believe that the integration of the Internet into school curricula will facilitate the teaching-learning process?
- What roles do the Internet play in EFL instruction in general?
- If you are willing to integrate the Internet into the classroom, what kinds of activities will you implement?
- What kinds of concerns will you have if you integrate the Internet into the classroom?
Thank you for your cooperation
Note: Some of the above questionnaire questions were adapted from the questionnaires developed by Al-Mekhlafi, (2004), Albirini, (2006), Chen (2008a), and Yang (2001).