The Perspectives of Iranian EFL Teachers on the Integration of ICT into their Teaching Practices

The Perspectives of Iranian EFL Teachers on the Integration of ICT into their Teaching Practices

Parivash Mozafari (University of Warwick, UK) and David Wray (University of Warwick, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8519-2.ch005
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Abstract

This chapter reports the findings of a multiple-case study that was carried out during October-January 2013 held with 9 Iranian EFL teachers -five male, four females- from across 6 schools in the capital city of Tehran. Underpinned by a socio-cultural epistemology and utilising an interpretivist qualitative paradigm, this study aimed to explore participants' perspectives on the integration of computer and other ICT (information and communication technology) tools into their teaching. The focus was the individual and contextual factors which had influenced and shaped the perceptions and practices of these teachers. In so doing, in-depth data was collected based on a total of 36 face to face individual semi- structured interviews that were guided by 27 observations of classroom practices. Thematic analysis of the data indicated that ICT uptake by participants was seriously hampered by several interacting and interrelated areas that influenced participants' perspectives and practices.
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Introduction

The expanding presence of information and communication technology (ICT) has influenced various aspects of the twenty-first century life and has altered the nature of communication and communicative competence. The new technologies have created new communities and new competencies. Competencies that people need to develop in the era of information and communication technology include functional technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, interaction and co-construction and negotiation of knowledge in virtual environments and to be able to communicate with others in processes of reading, writing, browsing, sharing, posting, commenting, and editing (Black, 2008; Duff, 2012).

The significant role of technology as a powerful teaching/learning tool in foreign language education (FLE) has been highlighted (Littlemore & Oakey, 2004; Davies et al, 2005; Blake, 2008; Muttaqin, 2010; Larsen-Freeman & Anderson, 2011). It has been argued that even in the English as a Foreign language (EFL) classrooms with the most communicative approaches, given the limited time available (this was generally around 2-3 hours a week in the schools in the present study), students have little opportunity to interact in English (Demo, 2001; Blake, 2008). Also due to the lack of exposure to authentic language and contexts, second or foreign language classrooms are unlikely to develop learners’ communicative skills in the target language (Demo, 2001). Technology and multimedia have the capacity to provide increased exposure to authentic language and to enhance learning by providing opportunities for developing communication skills (Larsen-Freeman & Anderson, 2011). Technology has the potential to provide opportunities for students and teachers to communicate within their own community or with the outside world beyond the restrictions of time or place through tools such as social networking websites, emails, online discussion rooms, wikis, and blogs (Blake, 2008; Larsen-Freeman &Anderson, 2011).

With the increasing importance of English as the language of international communication and a growing recognition of the challenges and realities of information age, the necessity to improve the preparation of students to meet the challenges of the 21st century has been emphasised in Iranian educational objectives at the macro structure level. In the Iranian ‘National Curriculum Plan’ (2007-2013), the importance of a communicative approach to foreign language teaching and the use of ICTs to improve teaching and learning in schools have been highlighted. Moreover, the ‘Fundamental Change Document’ in addition to trying to meet new educational demands, seeks the integration of ICT as an essential element of school educational activities. The importance of the study reported in this chapter comes from the fact that despite such enthusiasm in the objectives, recent studies indicate that in practice there has been little progress in the integration of ICT into Iranian EFL education at school level (e.g. Shahamat & Riazi, 2009; Rahimi & Yadollahi, 2011; Dashtestani, 2012). The chapter seeks to answer the question of why, considering a range of individual, pedagogical, contextual, and sociocultural factors, the ICT usage of Iranian EFL teachers appears so limited. What is amiss?

Key Terms in this Chapter

EFL: English as a foreign language, referring to the teaching of English in a country or region in which English is not generally spoken.

CPD: Continuing professional development – the experiences through which teachers maintain and develop their professional knowledge and skills.

TPACK: Technological pedagogical content knowledge - a framework to describe the kinds of knowledge needed by a teacher in order to implement effective pedagogy in a technology enhanced learning environment.

ICT Integration: The embedding of ICT into teaching and learning environments as a set of tools to create more effective teaching and learning.

Activity Theory: Activity theory provides a conceptual framework with which to understand the inter-relationships between activities, actions and artefacts, actors’ motives and goals, and aspects of the social, organizational and societal contexts within which these activities are framed.

ICT: An extended version of information technology (IT) which stresses the role of communications technology (computers, software, audio-visual systems) which enable users to access, store, transmit, and manipulate information.

Teacher Perceptions: The thoughts or mental images which teachers have about their professional activities and their students, which are shaped by their background knowledge and life experiences, and influence their professional behaviour.

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