Phina Eloho Wilcox
School of General Studies in Education
Federal College of Education (Technical) Bichi, Kano State
This article looked at how the use of cloud computing-based tools can improve the teaching and learning of English language in schools and colleges. Information and communication technology has provided its relevance by offering more options and opportunities in education management. The article explored the use of cloud computing tools in transforming English teaching and learning in order to extrapolate how the future of teaching and learning of English can be improved and shaped. The paper examines the conceptual matrix of the terms English language and cloud computing, the relevance of cloud computing, distributive education and the challenges of cloud computing in the teaching and learning of English language. Provision of computers and Internet facilities for learning and teaching English language in schools, regular supply of electricity are some of the recommendations made to improve language learning through cloud computing.
English language is generally acknowledged as a global language in view of its numerous functions and preference over several other languages. It is not only Nigeria`s official language and medium of instruction but also the language of instruction and reference throughout the entire educational system. English language has not only been a central subject in schools, colleges and universities, it has also been gaining increasing importance in the day-to-day human activities worldwide. Thus, competence in English language assumes great importance for students as it directly affects the level of progress attainable irrespective of aptitude in their particular fields of specialization (Fakaye, 2010).
English language is the dominant language in Nigeria because no indigenous language is spoken by the overwhelming majority of the people. Since the introduction of English language in Nigeria in 1942, this cosmopolitan language has become entrenched as the language of education, law, government, business and commerce and Nigeria’s educational and social progress depends largely on Nigeria’s competence in it (Shuaibu, 2013). Consequently, the Nigerian student knows that he has to grapple with speaking the second language alongside his mother tongue. Though English is the pivot of communication among Nigerians, it is spoken and understood by a very insignificant percentage of the population (Egbe & Omeje, 2006). Obanya (1982) cited in Dopemu (2011) comments that “English is used and understood by only an estimated twenty percent of the population of the country, yet it is the most powerful medium of communication both within and outside. In spite of the fact that only a small percentage speaks it intelligibly, it is a compulsory subject that must be learnt by the student and passed at every level of their education”. This is so because English language is one of the most important means of initiating, synthesizing and reinforcing ways of thinking, feeling and behaviour. One discovers that without competency in English, students in Colleges of Education will continue to have problems in their teaching careers and interpersonal communication.
Okonkwo and Okpara (1991) posit that competence in English language is an essential pre-requisite for educational and career success. As the official language in Nigeria, English is used for all government transactions both oral and written and it is one of the languages in which information is stored and retrieved from the computer, hence it is important that the language be well taught
The role of technology in teaching and learning is rapidly becoming one of the most important and widely discussed issues in contemporary education policy. Most experts in the field of education agree that when properly used, Information and Communication Technology holds great promise to improve teaching and learning in addition to shaping workforce opportunities.
One has observed the growth of mobile learning which is gradually preparing to embrace every aspect of our life including education. Digital revolution has not stopped yet, thus the teachers and students are still profoundly required to open their minds to the way learning and instruction are transformed and delivered in the cloud.
Olabiyisi, et al (2012) defined cloud computing as an elastic and saleable utility model that offers flexible, ubiquitous on demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (for example ,servers, data centres, networks, applications and services) that can be rapidly provided and released with limited interaction of service provider or the management. It provides shared infrastructure, self-service dynamic and virtualized pay-per-use platforms which put it on high demand. According to the United States of American National Institute of Standards and Technology (NSIT, 2011) in Ezra and Dauda (2013) cloud computing is defined as:
a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to shared pool of configurable computing resources ( eg, networks, servers, storage, applications, services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
Cloud computing implies a level of dynamic, flexible resources sharing and allocation of assets. Cloud computing also known to be Internet computing refers to the delivery of computing resources over the Internet, instead of hosting or keeping records locally. It promises to cut operational and capital costs tremendously and makes services available and accessible always on the computers, laptop, iPad and mobile phones. It is a platform for new and innovative ways of acquiring and providing ICT functionalities.
Cloud computing in classroom refers to the use of ICT in systematic teaching and learning. The word ‘cloud’ could be used refer to ‘trend’ which may have a negative notion in academics as it is typically often associated with fashions, that may be forgotten soon. The trend is, however, speedily growing in English language classroom scenarios and has in fact extended the meaning of learning the day to day teaching in 21st century is shifting; it may be a requirement that teachers as well as students need to fulfill, to be capable of using technology tools in their teaching and learning (Khampusaen, 2014). The use of email addresses from Yahoo ,Gmail, Hotmail, and the use of social networks like Facebook, Twitter for exchange and keeping of information among publics is prevalent these days.
Gerald and Edun(2012), Oyeleye, Fagbola and Daramola(2014)conducted surveys on the adoption of cloud computing in the universities.The results of their analysis shed some lights on the current state of cloud computing adoption within the country’s public institutions, the main factors that fuel its adoption, the main barriers that impede its adoption and the direction it may take as it matures. The studies recommended that cloud computing should be adopted in schools and colleges for effective teaching and learning.
English language teachers are familiar with students handing in their written or printed assignments in class. Teachers collect such assignments to take them home, check them and jot down some notes, mark them and finally bring them back to class. The cycle does not end here. The essay be revised and resubmitted by good students. On the other hand, they could be promptly tossed into the dust bin on their way out of the classroom. Besides, essay writing and comprehension, the class spends plenty of time on some writing and reading. In reality, teachers are not able to ensure that the students are learning and applying target skills or students may notice that the teachers are not really spending time going through the essay. Several teachers of English language realize that the traditional way of teaching English language consumes time, wastes paper and fails to reach the learning goals.
Cloud computing is emerging as a trend which the 21th century teachers do not want to miss. The major models of cloud computing service are known as software as a service, platform as a service and infrastructure as a service. Example of familiar cloud vendors are Google, Amazon, IBM, Oracle Cloud, Rackspace, Salesforce, Zoho and Microsoft Azure. The term “cloud computing” refers to the delivery of It applications and services over the Internet such as on a college or university network (Khampusaen, 2014).
The impacts of cloud computing – based tools have led to the globalization of information communication and education. The cloud software is an indispensable tool that teachers of English language can use to teach language skills and other aspects of English language. Cloud computing–based tools for instance provide real life situations in learning and teaching of English language. They combine sounds, pictures/images and texts which draw the learners’ attention or compel them to watch, listen and become engaged in the lesson. Similarly, multimedia use in the classroom will provide the learners with opportunities for interacting with diverse texts that give students a solid background in the tasks and content in English language courses designed to improve their proficiency in English and interaction with the learning text.
Furthermore, since Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is now an integral part of the Colleges of Education curriculum, students learning English language must become proficient in accessing and using electronic resources.
Relevance of Cloud Computing – Based Tools in the Teaching and Learning of English Language
Cloud feature allows users to store work and to work in the cloud and is always available anytime and anywhere. Online communication is simply part of everyday life when users go on mobile devices as a result of the ability to communicate and access available information and make use of the advanced technology. Textbooks, lessons, push to talk (PTT), videos, research materials and almost everything are in the cloud (Web – based resources) for the use of the English teacher who takes the role of a facilitator or coach by providing contextual learning environments that engage student in collaboration activities in line with the current teaching paradigm of the teacher as the possessor and transferor of information.
There is no doubt that the cloud provides productive teaching and learning in languages in order to increase people’s creative and intellectual resources and especially in today’s information society through the simultaneous use of audio, text, multi–colour images, graphics, motion cloud. Cloud computing gives ample and exceptional opportunities to the students to develop capacities for high quality learning and to increase their abilities to innovate (Ogiegbaen & Iyanu, 2005).
Good practices in cloud computing in English language classrooms include the combination of faculty interaction and software to create the potential for success. The course offered by means of cloud computing must rely on a wide variety of technologies to ensure that student spend a significant amount of time hearing and speaking the language. As class interaction and authenticity is the core of success in English language classroom, teachers need to make their students use video chat to speak to them for 20 to 30 minute each week.
If cloud computing-based tools are applied in the learning and teaching activities in English language, the students will not only be computer literate but will become skilled professionals using modern technologies in their various vocations. The introduction of ICT as seen in the cloud computing-based tools has been of great relevance to a large number of Nigerians and thereby reducing the rate of unemployment.
The time has come for teachers and learners of English to realize the fundamental role of Information and Communication Technology not only in the area of English language teaching and learning but also in the global economy where the proficient use of English is fast assuming the indispensable engine of growth and development.
Although e-learning based on cloud computing enables students and teachers to have the opportunity to quickly and economically access various application platforms and resources through the web page on – demand, security concerns are the main things that require institutions to ensure that they receive information consent for any information accessed. In addition, the information must never be accessed or used beyond the purpose for which it was accessed. It is a necessity that personal information in the custody or under the teacher’s control is stored safely and properly (Khampusaen, 2014).
Cloud Computing as a Means of Distributive Education
Distributive education is a type of education , typically applicable at the tertiary level where students work on their own at home and communicate with teachers and other students via familiar cloud vendor, – email, electronic forums, video conferencing, chat rooms, instant message, Gmail, Google Doc, Skydrive, IBM, Microsoft Azure and other forms of computing – based communication. Distributive education occurs when the teacher and student are situated in separate locations and learning occurs through the use of technology, which may be part of the wholly distance education programme or supplementary traditional instruction.
Distributive education is a term that refers to flexible and location independent course delivery. It covers a range of provisions including campus– based learning distance education, work-based and home based learning. Distributive education provision is currently driven by a new generation of technologies. The convergent action of technologists is facilitated by telecommunication, in either cable or wireless format. Most distributive education programmes include a computer based training (C.B.T) system and community tools to produce a virtual classroom. This is because the Internet and World Wide Web (www) are accessible from virtually all computer platforms; they serve as the foundation for many distance or distributive learning system (Omeize, 2011).
Online education is quickly becoming a major phenomenon around the world due to the ease and convenience it offers to learners. The no-physical classes appeal to people especially those who are trying to balance work, family and other obligations while completing a course.
The employment of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) in the teaching and learning of English as a second language has been introduced to the Nigeria socio-cultural setting as a result of global networking of the new culture call “digital literacy.” This digital literacy culture has replaced the former “print literacy” in the technological world where the use of the computer in the teaching and learning of English as a second language has become common place. Teachers of English as a second language in Nigeria have commenced the act of updating their knowledge in computer literacy.
Cloud computing can actively help institutions reduce high expenditure on hardware, software and I.T maintenance. It can also offer enhanced availability, low environmental impact, and reduce investment in physical asset.
Challenges of cloud–computing in the teaching and learning of English language
The poor state of ICT in Nigerian tertiary institutions has really limited its impact on social- economic development, quality graduates and research output.
The high cost of ICT tools is a major barrier to the survival of ICT education which can be leveraged through the adoption of cloud computing.
The constraining factors to successful adoption and use of cloud computing include data insecurity, regulatory compliance concerns, locking, privacy concerns and unsolicited advertising.
The overall Nigerian educational system is underfunded. Therefore, available funds are used to solve more urgent and important survival needs of the institutions.
Design and production of computers specifically for instructional purposes has lagged behind the design and production for other purposes.
There is the ever-present problem of inadequate power supply to operate the computers. For example when power is rarely supplied, the admirable goals of transforming education with ICT and taking a paradigm shift in education remains a day dream, having access to educational resources on demand, anytime, anyhow and anywhere becomes a mirage and e-learning would not be sustained either.
The commitment and enthusiasm to the teaching and learning of English through the effective use of ICT should be of utmost importance not only to the curriculum planners and education policy makers but also to the teacher and the learners of English.
In order to facilitate the integration of cloud computing into language learning, the following should be put in place:
The curriculum of tertiary institutions in English language should emphasize the use of ICT in the teaching and learning process.
Teachers and students should be encouraged to be computer-literate and be provided with computer and Internet facilities for easy access to the system in schools for learning and teaching of English language.
Workshops and seminars on computer instruction should be organized for all teachers of English language, from time to time and provision of computer in schools for learners and laptops for teachers.
Latest software and application update should be made available to enable teachers of English language update their knowledge and improve their skills in the use of latest computer applications.
Provision of constant/regular supply of electricity and Internet facilities in schools and colleges should be ensured.
Software on English language teaching should be made available to schools and colleges for effective teaching and learning.
The poor state of ICT in Nigerian tertiary institutions has really limited the development and quality of education. The use of ICT-based tools cannot be underestimated in English language teaching and learning process because emerging technologies make it pertinent and practical to approach learning in diverse ways. The cloud- computing based tools in particular have become a conduit where teachers and students can learn share and collaborate in ways not possible many years before now.
Cloud computing – tools have earned a reputation in promoting collaborative and self – directed learning. As cloud helps students to access applications and data from all parts of the world at any time, all they would need is a computer with a link to the Internet. Successful implementation of this technology relies on a high degree of trust between users.
In conclusion, teachers and students need this new social environment, where they can move along seamlessly from chalk – and – talk to social networks to online tools for shared social learning, presenting, collaborating and connecting in the cloud.
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