Key Professional, Public, and Scholarly Debates on the Chosen Topic
The impact of technology on language learning, especially for English as Second Language (ESL) students is a topic that has raised a massive debate over the recent past as educators and other scholars try to find ways of improving the learning experience. In this study, the researcher selected two articles by Nomass (2013) and Akbar and Chen (2011), both of which focus on the importance of technology in second language acquisition. According to Ybarra and Green (2003), learning a second language may sometimes be very challenging, especially when it is done at advanced age in colleges. Professionals in the field of education have argued that the effect of first language often has a massive impact on one’s ability to learn a second language.
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For instance, Kenworthy (2004) observes that in some languages, there are some sounds that do not exist. When one is faced with a situation of learning about these new sounds, they tend to be distorted as they try to find an alternative sound in their first language to use instead of the new sounds. Languages are currently some of the top courses that students are pursuing in institutions of higher learning because of the increasing globalization and the need to interact with the outside world. English is becoming one of the most important languages at the international level (Constantinescu, 2007). Finding ways of making the process of learning this language simple has been a concern for the professionals in this field, the scholars, and general public.
According to Bhatia and Ritchie (2009), the emergence of technology as a tool that can simplify learning of English among the ESL learners has attracted massive attention of scholars in the education sector. While a section of these scholars argue that some aspects of technology have eroded learning as a process of knowledge acquisition, others believe that technology is the best thing that ever occurred in the system of education. This issue has raised a massive debate as the public, scholars, and professionals in the field of education try to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of technology on education. A study by Abanami (2015) shows that technology has made it possible for students with special abilities to learn without facing serious challenges that were common before the invention of assistive technology (Zahrani, 2015). Devices have been developed for children with autism, visual or hearing impairments, and any other physical or mental disabilities. These learners can now get the opportunity to learn languages in an easier way than it was before. Technology is not only benefiting students with special needs but also normal learners.
In the debate about the relevance of technology in learning, one of the main discussions that often emerge is online education. For a long time, learning has often been considered as a process that requires close interaction between a teacher and student. This is specifically the case among the ESL learners. It is possible for one to learn about grammar by reading books and other relevant literatures (AlMuaither & Qahtani, 2015). However, when it comes to pronunciation, one needs to listen to the pronunciations to learn how to speak the new language properly.
It means that it would require a person to sit in a brick-and-mortar classroom where there is a physical interaction between a learner and the teacher. However, the growing demand for educational services has overstretched the learning facilities in most of the learning institutions. Technology has come with the best solution to solve this problem. E-learning is increasingly becoming popular not only in institutions of higher learning but also at lower levels (Ololube, 2014). Students do not have to be physically present in the classrooms. They can interact with their teachers in an online platform where learning will take place as it normally would in a physical classroom setting.
Teachers at all levels of education have generally felt that technology has helped in reducing their burden in classroom, especially in cases where they have to handle huge classrooms. In the past, teachers had to spend a lot of time developing notes to be used during class sessions. They had to be physically present in the classrooms to deliver the lectures to the learners. However, this is changing due to some of the emerging technologies in the field of education. Teachers can now record their lectures accompanied by relevant notes and send these materials to the learners early enough before the class sessions. It makes it easy to handle large classes because the learners will already have knowledge about the concept to be taught to them prior to the onset of the classes.
In this debate about the relevance of technology in education, a number of scholars and professionals argue that most of the emerging technologies are more destructive than they are helpful to the learners. According to Alzein (2015), learners currently have developed phobia towards reading. They spend every little free time they have on social media discussing non-academic issues. When given academic materials such as tablets meant for receiving lecturer notes and other academic materials, they use these gadgets for activities not related to their studies. As such, they spend a lot of time on issues that only disorient them from their studies.
What makes this situation even worse is the assumption made by the teachers that these learners are using these gadgets responsibly. Information technology, especially the emergence of internet and the massive information available in this platform is further eroding the learning processes instead of simplifying the process. Some learners copy paste information from the internet instead of conducting actual research (Young, 2009). They end up handing in assignments which were done by other people. Without using software such as turnit-in, it may not be possible for the teacher to detect the plagiarism. As such, the student will be awarded marks for an assignment that was done by a different student.
According to Bergmann and Sams (2014), although both opponents and proponents of the use of technology in the education sector have valid reasons why they support or oppose technology, there is a general consensus that the future of education is more inclined towards technology. It is apparent that learning will largely depend on technology in future. Progress is being made and stakeholders are trying to find solutions to the valid issues raised by those opposed to the use of technology in the education sector (Aitken, 2014). L2 students will find technology very critical in their learning, especially those who are taking online classes. Managing the negative impacts associated with technology in the learning environment is the most important factor that professionals and scholars should address. The articles by articles by Nomass (2013) and Akbar and Chen (2011) emphasize on the need to find ways of integrating technology in the learning environment.
Points of Agreement and Disagreement in the Arguments of the Articles
The articles by articles by Nomass (2013) and Akbar and Chen (2011) both looked at a common topic about the relevance of technology in L2 learning. In their study, they made a number of findings about how technology is currently used in learning environments, the benefits it offers, and areas of weaknesses that still need the attention of the relevant stakeholders. It is important to note that although the two articles focused on the same topics, there are points of agreements and disagreements in their findings. In this section of the paper, the researcher will critically look at these similarities and differences in the arguments put forth in these articles.
Points of agreement
A critical review of the two articles clearly shows that the arguments in the two articles have very high similarity index than they do differ. The opinion of the scholars who wrote these articles about the relevance of technology in L2 learning is almost the same. In this section, the researcher will look at the common arguments in both articles. According to Nomass (2013) and Akbar and Chen (2011), technology has revolutionized education system in a positive manner. Learning has changed from teacher-centered approach to student-centered approach. In the past, teachers had to be physically present in classrooms for meaningful learning to take place. However, this is no longer the case in the modern society where technology is taking the center stage in the education sector. Learners can now access reading materials from various online sources and no longer have to wait for the teacher for them to learn new concepts (Li & Swanson, 2014).
Teachers also find it easy to work with the learners because of the new communication platforms. The revolution in the field of education is not only seen in the mode of issuing instructions but also sharing of ideas among the students. As Blue and Tirotta (2011) note, students get to learn concepts taught in class better if they spend time in small teams to go through what was taught and to conduct research as a unit. In the past, learners had to meet physically to conduct group discussions and to share ideas. However, technology has made it possible for them to meet in the online platform irrespective of their physical location. The convenience created by the emerging technologies has made the learning experience more enjoyable.
The two articles share the argument that technology has influenced L2 teaching positively. L2 learners often face a unique challenge that those who use English as first language do not face. The effect of their first language not only affects their written but also their spoken language. Those who are learning English for the first time often want to ensure that they perfect their spoken language just as much as their grammar (Zou, 2013). In the past, they had to rely on their teacher to learn specific pronunciation. Although most of the dictionaries provide pronunciation for every word, it is more convenient to hear the word spoken (Tucker, 2012). This problem has been solved by the emerging technologies. Learners now have online libraries where they can get both the meaning and pronunciation of every word. The internet also offers massive resources that learners can use to enhance their understanding of the language.
A critical analysis of the two articles shows that the scholars believe that technology enhances pedagogical development. The art and science of teaching comes with numerous challenges. In a classroom setting, the capacity of learners varies a great deal (Widstrom, 2011). There are students who are fast learners while others are slow learners. Then we have the average students. In such a highly diversified environment, a teacher is expected to come up with a teaching plan that will be suitable for all students. Focusing on the fast learners means that the slow learners and the average students will have to be ignored. Focusing on the slow learners will not be an appropriate method for the fast and average students. When emphasis is laid on the average students, the slow learners and fast learners will not benefit much from that plan. As Bowen, Chingos, Lack, and Nygren (2012) note, it becomes almost impossible to know the group that should be targeted in a normal classroom environment.
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However, the two scholars note that this problem has been effectively addressed by the emerging technologies. For instance, Doceri application enables teachers to develop notes and record lectures. Through this application, a teacher can send recorded lecture and lecture notes to the students as a single document. Learners can go through the materials before coming to class. Every student will have access to the recorded lecture and the notes. For the slow learners, they can re-play the lectures as much as they may consider necessary (Kraft, 2007). For the first learners, they can spend a short time going through the lectures before viewing other supportive materials. Every student will go through the documents at their own speed. The technology has helped teachers because they no longer have to worry about the learning speed of their individual students. When they come to class, they only need to go through the notes just to confirm that every student understood the lectures.
Self learning is another common argument seen in the two articles. These scholars believe that technology has promoted positive attitude towards self-learning. One of the biggest challenges that learners in the past faced when trying to educate themselves was limited educational resources (Zhao, 2005). They had to visit libraries to get the resources and this was time consuming. Currently, learners only need to go online to access most of the academic resources they need.
Points of disagreement
The two articles had a number of issues that they did not agree on when it comes to benefits of technology on L2 learning. While Nomass (2013) argues that educational technologies are appropriate for learners at all stages, Akbar and Chen (2011) hold that technology is more appropriate for learners at advanced stages. Akbar and Chen (2011) argue that sometimes the educational technologies tend to reduce or even eliminate the physical interaction between teachers and learners. Mature students, especially those in institutions of higher learning can know how to deal with the situation. However, the junior learners still need the physical interaction with the teachers. Teachers ought to interact with these young learners to know their strengths and weaknesses and what can be done to improve their learning environment. Nomass (2013) believes that technology does not significantly affect the interaction between learners and teachers.
Criteria Employed to Evaluate Educational Research
According to Bretzmann (2013), when evaluating educational research, it is important to come up with appropriate criteria informed by the educational research methodology. Two articles that focused on a common topic were reviewed, and it was important to determine their common views and arguments which were different (Strayer, 2012). The researcher used a clear method to select the articles in this paper, critique them, and come up with a proper interpretation. This was done as shown in the steps below.
Selection of the literature
In selecting the articles to be used in the study, the researcher limited the search to educational sources that focus on technology in the education sector. Of importance was to identify two different articles which talk about the same topic. The second criterion in the selection stage was the date of publication. The articles used must have been published within the past five years. This condition was necessary because technology is very dynamic and articles published over five years ago may not capture some of the massive changes that have taken place in this field (Cohen & Cowen, 2007). The selected articles also had to exhibit a thorough analysis of both primary and secondary data. The articles by Nomass (2013) and Akbar and Chen (2011) were finally chosen for this study.
Critiquing the literatures
The next important stage in evaluation of the selected articles was to conduct a thorough critique. It was not only important to determine the content of the articles but also necessary to know the bases of the arguments made and compare the arguments of the articles. The researcher had to make sense and conduct an evaluation of the arguments, especially on issues that appeared controversial. It meant that the sources used in the article had to be investigated to help validate the arguments (Todaro, 2005). The chosen articles were peer-reviewed, but it was still necessary to check the validity of the sources used to back the arguments. The researcher also compared the arguments made by the authors of these articles with arguments of other scholars. Given that in this study the researcher only relied on secondary resources, it was necessary to review other literatures to confirm the arguments in the articles chosen for the study.
Summary and interpretation
The final stage was the interpretation of the information found in the two articles. It was necessary to interpret the content of the articles to be in a position to conduct a comparative analysis. It was necessary to compare the arguments of the two articles, both of which focused on the relevance of technology in teaching English to F2 learners. Through this interpretation, it was possible to determine the common views of the authors about their common research views (Campbell & Martin, 2010). It was also possible to identify the areas where their arguments differ. The interpretation was particularly important because some of the arguments of these scholars contradict what other scholars say. As such, it was necessary to determine the rationale of their argument and the sources of their information (Bradley & Thouësny, 2011). The researcher had to judge and evaluate the approaches of research used in the articles, quality of research, and the basis of the interpretation. Through this interpretation, it was possible to come up with a summary of the content of the two articles. It was also possible to compare and contrast the arguments they make about the relevance of technology in learning English among L2 learners.
Comparative Evaluation of Research Approaches in the Articles
The two articles focused on the same topic but used different methods to present their main arguments and present their conclusions on this topic. Article by Nomass (2013) provides background information of the topic. It then reviews what other scholars have said about this topic, looking at the contrasting views. This way, readers are able to understand the controversial views that exist about the topic. It then provides a case study of a typical English language classroom and how technology can enhance the learning process. At this stage, readers are able to internalize the relevance of technology in a classroom setting in a practical context (Facer & Abdous, 2011). The article then moves to the analysis. It looks at the views of important stakeholders such as parents, students, teachers, and school administrators in regard to the use of technology. It is after such a rigorous process of data collection and analysis that the researcher in this article comes up with conclusions and recommendations. As Leaver, Ehrman, and Shekhtman (2005) observe, such thorough approaches of investigation and argument presentation makes it easy to trust the outcome.
The approach used by Akbar and Chen (2011) is slightly different from the one discussed above. In this article, the researchers provide a brief overview of the topic and then delve into a review of literatures. The article then gives an analysis of the primary data before making its conclusions. It has a relatively less detailed methodology compared to the first article. However, a comparative analysis of the approaches used in the two articles show that they both relied heavily on secondary data to arrive at their conclusion and to make recommendations.
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