by Dr Lee Kean Wah
It is an honour for me to announce the launch of the Going Digital ELT Blog. To provide a bit of background, the Going Digital ELT’s website (previously Going Digital Kota Kinabalu) is an online extension to a professional learning community for ESL teachers that I initiated together with Cynthia James and a team of educators from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and Kota Kinabalu District Education Office (PPD KK) in 2016. This community gathers ESL practitioners who have a common passion in digital technology for language education in Sabah, Malaysia. (Go here to find out more).
There was not much activity on the website for quite a while, after we completed our final face-to-face workshop in 2017. But behind the scenes, our work continued. We have an article featured on the World of Better Learning, a Cambridge University Press website, which introduces our community and its activities to the world. We also have a paper published on the International Journal of Computer Assisted Language Learning and Teaching which reported on the impacts of our PLC-based model of professional development on ESL teachers’ technology integration in the classroom. From 2018 to 2019, four members of our community participated in a narrative inquiry research to investigate the mobilisation of teachers’ knowledge from professional learning to professional practice. We have published the findings of the research in a book chapter on Recent Development in Technology Enhanced and Computer Assisted Language Learning. We also have another book chapter coming up, which discusses the roles of teacher identity and contexts in technology integration practices in the classroom (watch this site for more details soon).
The current pandemic has put educational technology on the limelight in somewhat unprecedented ways, and the creation of this blog section is partly inspired by that. On this blog, ESL teachers share stories of how they integrate digital technology in their classrooms. I believe many readers would find this blog’s offering quite unique compared to other resources within this genre in the sense that the focus is not on digital technology per se. This blog emphasises on the process that the teachers undergo as they select the technology they want to use, integrate the technology in their lessons, and evaluate its effectiveness on teaching and learning. The main highlight is on the process, as well as on the thinking that goes behind the process. This blog hopes to be a compilation of reflections, retrospections, self-assessments, and journeys towards discovering new opportunities and pathways.
For the Going Digital ELT community, this emphasis is important for multiple reasons. First of all, our members comprise of teachers who are teaching in schools where resources are scarce, and support is limited. A lot of them are teaching in places where Internet connectivity is a big issue, as you will read from the stories shared here. How do these teachers overcome the challenges? How effective are the solutions? Most importantly, what keeps them going? It is easy to find online resources discussing the latest tools and tips for integrating technology in the classroom, but when it comes to addressing practices in low-resource contexts, there is a large void. Through the teachers’ stories, we hope to offer inspirations and points for reflections for other teachers who are grappling with the same questions. We still have a long way to go in filling up the void, but this is a small step towards that direction.
Secondly, the teachers’ stories illustrate the importance of contexts, and how technocentric solutions are often not the best solutions when it comes to low-resource classrooms. The stories will tell us that often it is not about what tools are considered as the most trending, popular, or sophisticated at any point in time; it is about what works most effectively based on each classroom’s unique contexts and circumstances. Thirdly, not all teachers who share their stories here consider themselves to be ‘tech-savvy.’ These teachers acknowledge the struggles they have to face due to lack of confidence and also competence in handling the latest technology tools. Their journeys can serve as invaluable inspirations for other teachers who define their challenges in similar ways. Last but not least, the driving force behind all of the teachers’ efforts is not technology integration at all, but rather the desire to enhance the learning experiences of the students, using the right technology as a tool, combined with the most appropriate pedagogy. This, I believe, is the biggest and most important message that the teachers hope to convey through their stories.
It is my sincerest hope that this new section on Going Digital ELT will serve as a source of inspirations, insights, and information for teachers and educators everywhere; from every background, and in all contexts and circumstances.
Published on: 21 November 2020
Dr Lee Kean Wah is the co-founder and advisor of the Going Digital ELT community. He is an Associate Professor of TESOL, Deputy Head of School and Coordinator of MA TESOL at the School of Education, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC). Dr Lee is currently the Vice-President and Treasurer of the Pacific Association of Computer-Assisted Language Learning (PaCCALL). He can be reached through the UNMC website.
Start browsing through the Going Digital ELT Blog here.