University of Southern Queensland
The digital revolution and advancement witnessed in the last century have made massive impacts on all dimensions of human life and made it easier for people to connect and share knowledge. The effect of digital technology in learning has also been immense, allowing greater access to learning resources and collaboration among learners across different parts of the world. Language teaching became more manageable and effective since necessary materials on any language, particularly English, could be accessed from digital spaces. Digital technology has enhanced language learning by blending foreign language courses into their platforms. In some countries where English is either the first or second language, learners are encouraged to utilize digital technology to learn more. In this chapter, the role of digital technology in learning a foreign language, particularly English, will be discussed.
This chapter is structured to address different aspects of the application of technology in language learning. The first section expounds on digital technology used in Cambodia for teaching English as a foreign language. It addresses the role of learners and teachers in using digital technology for language learning and teaching. The second section highlights the role of digital technology in English major programs by describing how English as a foreign language was previously taught and how the teaching has been improved with the use of technology. The third section discusses the impact of technology on language learning in Cambodia by looking into how technology has changed the language learning landscape. The chapter then highlights some key challenges to the use of digital technology and provides some recommendations for the effective use of digital technology in English major programs in Cambodia.
Digital Technology in English Major Programs in Cambodia
In Cambodia, the main languages used for official communication are Khmer and English. French used to be a major foreign language in Cambodia (Clayton, 2002, 2017). However, with the influence of globalization, English has become a major foreign language in the country. English is now widely taught in Cambodia, particularly in the capital city and provincial towns. The best way to teach English to non-natives is to engage them in communication, influenced by a popular approach called Communicative Language Teaching.
Nowadays, various tools can be applied in teaching English as a foreign language. A wide variety of digital apps has been created to allow and encourage learners to speak, listen, read, and write in the target language. In Cambodia, digital tools in English language teaching have slowly been integrated into language programs (Heng, 2019). Fundamentally, digital apps are created in such a way to enhance classroom instructions and heighten the interest of learners towards learning a foreign language. Facebook and Telegram are examples of technological tools that can be used to support language teaching and learning. They have been used widely in Cambodia for social networking, marketing, and learning, including language learning.
Meanwhile, in language education in Cambodia, Quizlet is a common application used (Clayton, 2017). This web-based tool allows learners to study a new language through games and interactive activities. It is created to assist learners and their teachers in practicing what they are learning and teaching. The information of this application is arranged into study sets, and users add it to their accounts. The learners log into their accounts and select a suitable study set for the concepts they wish to review. Either the teachers or learners can generate the study sets. The application has been used widely in English major programs in Cambodia due to its flexibility and user-friendly customization. Quizlet can also be used to teach a new language to different levels of learners, from beginners to advanced students. It is mainly preferred because the teachers can integrate collaboration and teamwork in their classes. Therefore, it is possible to apply Communicative Language Teaching, which is crucial in teaching a foreign language (Kwangsawad, 2017). New technologies such as Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams have also been used in teaching foreign languages. With these fast-emerging technologies, a teacher based in Britain, for example, can have language sessions with language learners based in Cambodia. Some Cambodian universities are also applying learning management systems (LMS) such as Neo LMS or Google Classroom to reach more learners (Tumskiy, 2019).
Another key digital technology that has been employed in language teaching in Cambodia is Flipgrid (Difilippantonio-Pen, 2020). This web-based application from Microsoft allows the sharing of videos to assist teachers in monitoring each learner in the class. It also fosters fun and supportive social learning, which is critical in raising learners’ interests in the foreign language. Teachers can post discussion topics, and learners are expected to respond with short videos and skits from their classes or home. The goal is to ensure that the learners become competent and creative in applying the target foreign language. Digital technology allows the teachers to examine, describe, and review practices and perspectives of culture. They make interactive videos for the entire class, which is used in gauging the competence of a learner at a specific level of language acquisition. The learners create some videos using the app, which could be talking or singing. The videos are used to assess the depth of learners’ understanding of the new language acquisition. The app will also be crucial in assisting the learners in setting targets and reviewing their progress in using the language for leisure, enrichment, and advancement.
The Role of Digital Technology in English Major Programs in Cambodia
The role of digital technology in teaching and learning a language is based on the advancement of a foreign/second language in learners. Learners seeking to understand basic communication skills of speaking and listening do not require complex levels of training. Therefore, the technology and language used need to be simple to serve the purpose. Learners are subjected to all the ways of acquiring a new language, including the use of digital tools. The use of technology in language teaching has rapidly shifted from teacher-centered to learner-centered. Teachers are mandated to facilitate and guide learners to increase their knowledge. The use of technology has been proven to increase students’ cooperation in tasks by enhancing their interest in the language, hence requiring more involvement in the learning process (Chak, 2014). Technology also assists learners in gathering information and interacting with learning resources such as video lessons. When learners play an active role in the learning process supported by digital technology, they can get more information and knowledge than when they are passively involved in the learning process. The learner-based materials offered by digital technology in English major programs help learners process and sharpen their language learning skills.
Research has confirmed that computer-based communication is crucial for second language acquisition (Abrams, 2012; Loewen & Sato, 2018). A computer-based discussion can have equal advantages to face-to-face discussion by providing a platform that is accessible to the learners with fewer hurdles and no limitations to engagement. The learners are therefore likely to achieve more when using computer-based communications. For successful language learning, learners must have more access to authentic materials that are readily available on digital platforms. In a country such as Cambodia, English is not heavily embraced in areas outside the city as many people in provincial areas mainly use Khmer (Moore & Bounchan, 2010). Therefore, learners from these areas may require input from digital media rather than relying on locally made teaching materials. Adequate access to course materials will allow learners and their teachers to hasten the learning process (Golonka et al., 2014). Incorporating digital platforms in language learning programs also allows teachers to share their materials with learners without necessarily attending physical classes. This opens the door for foreign-based teachers to engage learners, thus increasing their grasp on the new language (Igawa, 2008). In addition, the presence of technology in English major programs ensures that learners get first-hand experience from their teachers and peers.
Digital technology such as social media and smartphones have been widely used in language learning. Social media platforms such as Telegram and Facebook, particularly, have been used in facilitating second language acquisition. Research has established that learners using social media platforms based on the target language improve their writing, vocabulary, word choices, and speaking ability (Cluggage, 2016). In addition, it has been shown that these platforms allow learners to engage with other users using the target language, hence improving the learning process (Cluggage, 2016). For instance, Aydin (2014) examining the role of Wiki technology in improving learners’ writing skills found that learners could improve their writing skills after engaging with Wiki pages. It was also found that learners could improve vocabulary, spelling, and sentence structures by reading their peers’ passages in the Wiki pages.
Benefits of Digital Technology for English Major Programs
Technological advancement has made it possible for second language learners to obtain skills from numerous learning platforms. Technology has also created one of the easiest ways to learn a foreign language through interaction with peers from different language backgrounds. Traditionally, dictionaries with translations were published to translate the basic words from one language to another. However, it was challenging to use words taken directly from dictionaries to construct sentences (Vulchanova et al., 2017). Incorporating digital technology in language learning has created applications that translate one language to another with a simple click. Downloadable translations make it extremely easy to understand any foreign language. Learners can now translate single words or entire sentences and identify the correct sentence structures.
The digital age has transformed how individuals interact with each other, share stories, and present and perceive reality. Access to digital devices such as smartphones and televisions has increased by more than ninety percent in the past century (Warschauer & Matuchniak, 2010). Social media, a significant highlight of the twenty-first century, has also impacted language learning massively. Users of digital technology can switch to a wide range of languages of broadcasting as they wish. Therefore, an individual with access to a digital device can easily access a foreign language and start the learning process from there. It requires the interest of a person to pursue the new language. For children, they are being exposed to technology from a young age, making it possible for them to acquire the new language (Ilter, 2015). By the time one is enrolled for English major programs, he/she will likely have interacted with the language from different platforms.
With time, rapid technologies to be used in second and foreign language learning have been discovered. Some examples include computer-assisted language learning (CALL), robot-assisted language learning (RALL), or mobile-assisted language learning (MALL). These technologies have been crucial in facilitating learning or acquiring a new language (John, 2018). They enable multimodal language activities where reading, writing, speaking, and listening are integrated, hence accommodating the strength of various students. They also assist in reducing language learning anxiety and increasing motivation and participation from learners. Most language learning technologies have game-based activities and opportunities that allow learners to be creative. Digital technology also enhances language learning by enabling learners to develop new social identities online, which provides them with confidence in communicating with native speakers of the target language. Therefore, technology provides learners with a medium for learning between their first language and foreign language. Digital technology in language learning also enables real-time feedback on assessments, thus making it easy to monitor the learning progress.
Challenges to the Use of Digital technology
Despite looking like an interesting practice, digital learning has posed several challenges. It becomes even more difficult when digital technology is used for foreign or second language learning. Generally, the output fails to meet the expectations of both learners and their teachers (Rahman, 2015). The first impression is that the use of technology will provide practical and beneficial language knowledge to learners. However, without the correct safeguards and controls into the curriculum, digital technology does not become impactful in the classroom. This happens in English major programs in Cambodia because there are no specific guidelines on the use of digital technology to help teachers implement it effectively. Furthermore, classroom facilities are not well equipped for technological teaching and learning. On top of inadequate integration, teachers’ lack of training or motivation can also become an impediment to language learning. Another challenge that is common in digital learning is related to administrative issues. In some cases, learners and teachers tend to forget their passwords to access the learning platform, making it difficult to continue with digital classrooms. Teachers are also sometimes forced to revert to the analog teaching methods which have been proven ineffective compared to teaching using digital contents (Rahman, 2015).
Recommendations for Adopting Digital Technology in English Major Programs
Despite its integration into language teaching and learning, digital technology still has many unexplored potentials that can be tapped to smoothen the teaching and learning process in English major programs in Cambodia which need successful integration of technology to allow learners to improve their foreign language skills. Teachers are, therefore, recommended to implement a technology plan that adopts a range of digital technologies to teach students in Cambodian universities bearing in mind that they are effective in different ways. Digital technology should be a core element of the learning process through which knowledge is passed to learners (Ahmadi & Reza, 2018). Teachers in Cambodian universities should ensure that they use digital technology more often in the learning process to catch learners’ attention and to create more interactive classrooms. Teachers should also urge learners to utilize digital technology to develop their foreign language skills as technology also provides a platform where students can learn from each other. Furthermore, teachers play a crucial role in dictating the path used by learners to acquire their language skills.
Meanwhile, universities should embrace technology as an integral part of teaching and learning programs. English major programs can benefit massively if the university departments or schools adopt digital learning practices to enable learners to consult digital spaces for more knowledge. Another recommendation is to ensure that any technology plan is closely aligned with the curriculum standards. Integration of digital technology in the learning and teaching process can only happen when the curriculum is considered. The digital technology applied should be aligned with the curriculum standards to ensure that learners are systematically taught as recommended by the education quality controllers (Matorerra, 2018). To ensure that technology is aligned with the curriculum, teachers should seek ways to assist students by applying a learner-centered rather than teacher-centered approach. A digital learner-centered educational approach can ensure that learners are given priority in the teaching and learning process
In conclusion, this chapter has identified the roles of digital technology in English major programs in Cambodia. It has been established that the programs utilize Quizlet, Facebook, Telegram, and Flipgrid, among others, as key digital tools for teaching English as a foreign language in Cambodia. The web-based applications are created to ensure creative and exciting interactions between teachers, learners, and digital technology. Developments such as CALL, MALL, and RAL have played a significant role in teaching foreign languages. The inventions have enabled students to collaborate, construct knowledge, and build communities. Learners are presented with opportunities to interact with other learners on a similar mission towards language learning. Digital technology has also allowed real-time feedback on assessment procedures, making it easy to track progress. Digital technology continues to present ample opportunities to be explored in language learning and teaching. Therefore, using digital technology for language learning in Cambodia should be enhanced. No doubt, learners are likely to learn more effectively through the use of digital technology than other traditional teaching methods.
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