New technologies for teaching children English as a Foreign Language (EFL): a mixed-method exploration of teachers' views about tablet applications and children as EFL learners, the design of tablet applications for EFL, and their integration in primary classrooms in Thailand
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 17:28 authored by Sompatu Vungthong
Recognising the global significance of English for individual and social prosperity, many non-English speaking countries have introduced English as a foreign language (EFL) as a compulsory school subject for children as young as 6 years of age. This trend has been accompanied by initiatives designed to help their citizens meet international English language proficiency standards and overcome the key challenges of foreign language teaching and learning such as large class sizes and a paucity of teachers with high foreign language proficiency. Among these initiatives, many involve heavy investment in new educational technologies and learning materials. Thailand's One Tablet Per Child (OTPC) project, which involved the distribution of a tablet PC to primary school students and the development of apps to be included in the tablet, and which to date has cost over 5 billion baht (or more than 152.8 million Australian dollars), is a prominent example of a government promoting new technology as a means of promoting equity and quality in education, including in teaching children foreign languages. Little is known, however, about the potential of such initiatives to fulfil this promise. Using Thailand's OTPC as a case study, this research expands existing knowledge of the implications of such projects for teachers, educational policy makers and material designers by examining (1) the multimodal design of EFL multimedia learning materials (or apps) distributed through the OTPC tablet, (2) factors that influence teachers' decisions whether and how to use the technology, (3) teachers' views about children as EFL learners and users of new technologies, and (4) the ways teachers employ speech, gesture and pedagogic space to integrate the EFL app in their classroom. This mixed-method exploration combines diverse data and analytical tools: content and statistical analysis of 213 Grade 2 EFL teacher questionnaires; critical systemic functional linguistic analysis of interviews with seven Grade 2 EFL teachers; and multimodal discourse analysis of the Grade 1 and 2 EFL apps provided through the OTPC project and two classroom interactions that integrate the Grade 2 app. The study's key findings highlight: the potential and limitations of new technologies and multimedia apps to address the challenges of teaching children EFL in particular and achieving equity in education in general; factors that influence teachers' decisions whether and how to adopt new technologies (teachers' age, confidence in particular target language skills, training in using the new technology, beliefs about its benefits for supporting children's EFL learning, and language teaching approach); and the important role teachers play in implementing new technologies in the classroom.