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Development of Software Supporting the Foreign ( English) Language

Development of Software Supporting the Foreign ( English) Language Learning According to Basic Education Curriculum ( 2001A.D)  for Grade Ranges 1-2.

                                                                                              Dr. Somtawil Dhanasobhon*

                                                                    Abstract

  The research was aimed to develop the software to support the English language e-learning for

 

students at grade range 1(age 6-8) and at grade range 2(age 9-11)in Thailand

following the National Basic Education Curriculum(2001 A.D). The software developed

was in the form of CD-ROM comprised of 10 units of learning for each grade range.

The contents and learning activities in each unit were in the form of integrated

skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Fifteen experts who involved in

the development of the National Curriculum for English Language were purposively
 
selected to evaluate the software. The experts gave their opinion about the quality

of the software in the questionnaire asking about the contents, learning outcome,

learning activities and technology used after watching each unit. The answer of

agreeing, disagreeing and no decision in the questionnaire received the score of

+1,-1 and O respectively. The data was calculated by the use of Index of Consistency

 

 


(IOC). The research result showed that the value of Index of Consistency of each

unit was a lot higher than the .50 level of acceptance in terms of contents,

learning outcome, activities, technology used and application. The software was also

aligned to the strands, standards and benchmarks of the National Curriculum which

meant that teachers could use the software in class as class texts or supplementary

materials. Steps of development were also presented.  



 

 

Introduction

                                     Thailand has arranged for Thai students to learn English for not less than 100 years. Educators, linguists, and teachers have been applying various theories and approaches of English language teaching in the classroom especially after World War 2 ranging from the Audio-lingual method, the Direct-method, the Silent Way to the recently popular ones like the Communicative Competence and Task-based activities. Thai students’ ability in English is improved to a certain extent as more Thai are prone to speak English more though not up to the country’s expectation which often show that  every breathe of life seems to depend on international trade and tourism. Students’ incompetence of English may be caused by many factors ranging from teachers’ quality; most of which are not English majored, neither teachers nor students have a chance to use English outside classes or in their real life situation, large classes make it impossible for teachers to arrange language skill practices, teaching and learning resources are limited mostly to the class text book. The development of software supporting e-learning full of authentic language and activities is an

*Associate Professor, Kasetsart University, Thailand

 

alternative which can help teaching and enhancing students’ ability. The use of this kind of

 information technology corresponds to student-centered learning and teaching as students can learn and use it by themselves both in and outside classes anytime and anywhere. (The Office of the National Committee on Education B.E.2542.)

Research Objectives

1.        To develop the software supporting the English language learning which corresponds to the standards in the National Basic Education Curriculum
(2001 A.D.) for students at Grade Range 1 (age between 6-8) and  for Grade Range 2 (age between 9-11) in the form of CD-ROM supporting the work on  the Linux and Windows system.

2.        To evaluate the appropriateness of the software developed for students in terms of contents, activities, technology and its application.

Review of Literature

At present, educators and teachers advocate the use of technology supporting the English language teaching and learning.         

 Kang and Dennis (1995) stated in his research that in learning and understanding vocabularies students need to learn them in contexts with visual clues. The use of computer technology made this need possible and the students became active learners. It also responded to learners’ various learning style.

Liaw (1997) used e-book in creating learning atmosphere in class. The students read stories appeared on the computer. They interacted with the computer and
their classmates in group reading. It was found that the students had things to say and could use the language in different contexts of situation with friends in the group about
the books read.

Oxford University Press (2004) suggested that CD-ROM is a powerful learning tool; it can also be a tremendous support for language teachers. There are many
reasons for incorporating CD-ROMs into language courses:

 

Variety
Multimedia is exciting, frequently combining text, photographs and pictures, animation, audio and video clips. It can provide variety in presenting and practicing new language.

Motivation
Many students are motivated by using CD-ROMs and enjoy a technological component in their language course.

Learner-centered approach
Students have an element of choice which may not exist in the traditional classroom - for instance, whether to listen to a piece of language three or four times or more. They often work through the material in ways which match their preferred learning style, and can study at their own pace. Lower level learners and more introverted students can practice their pronunciation in a "safe" environment, without fear of making mistakes in front of their classmates.

Learner independence Making computers available can encourage students to do extra work outside the classroom, play language games and, hopefully, gain extra exposure to the language and improve their progress in the language.

Authenticity
Video clips and texts can provide exposure to real-world language, which in turn can motivate students.

Technology
The search facility on many CD-ROMs is fast; electronic dictionaries reveal amazing facts about our language, enabling teachers to set language research tasks.

Computer projectors, also called beamers, are falling in price; lap-top computers are both portable and powerful, and a new dimension can now be added to language classes more easily.

                                In designing the instructional media, Morrison, Ross and Kemp (2001) suggested 9 steps of how to do it.

                                     1. Instructional problems. It must be justified that the instructional problems can be eliminated by the use of software.

                                      2. Learner characteristics. The developer should know the learners’ characteristics and their learning environment.

                                      3. Task analysis. This is the analysis of the content and the procedure.

                                      4.  Instructional objectives. The objectives of the use of the software must be set clearly.

                                       5. Content sequencing. Arrange the language content into sequences of difficulties and learners’ levels and towards the expected learning

                                       6. Instructional strategies. This is the design of the presentation style and strategy that help students reach the expected learning outcome.

                                       7. Designing for messages. The language used must be appropriate and easy to understand.

                                      8. Development of instruction. The resources must be carefully selected; e.g., to use the still pictures or video.

                                      9. Evaluation instruments. The evaluation techniques should be correlated to the objectives.

Methodology

                                      The research was started in February 2004 and finished in January 2005 and carried out with the following procedure:

                                    1. Analysis of strands, standards, and benchmarks of Foreign (English) language, Grade Range 1-2, in the National Curriculum for Basic Education (2001A.D.) This was done to assure that the concepts and contents of the software respond to the expected standards of the Ministry of Education

                                    2. Planning of units of learning comprising of learning outcome, concepts and contents aligned to the strands, standards and benchmarks. Sitemap was planned alongside.

                                    3. Script writing. In writing script, the researcher had to describe in details the desired contents, interactive activities, graphics, and sound needed with the following reminders:

                                       3.1 The software is for flexible learning which means students can use it whenever and wherever they want with or without the direction of teachers and parents;

                                        3.2 Students can get access to the software by themselves corresponding to the “Access for All” status;

                                         3.3 The software can be used by elementary schools students in formal education system and by those disadvantaged in the non-formal education system;

                                         3.4 Each unit is independent from each other but sequences of learning from simple to complex and easier to more difficult occur from the first unit to the last;

                                           3.5 Each unit is an integration of listening, speaking, reading and writing skills interwoven in the cycle of learning, responding and feedback activities.

                                             3.6 The use of authentic texts for children like songs, chants, fables and games enhanced the authenticity of language and fun suitable to the age levels.     

                                           4. Evaluation of the scripts by two experts in the field of English    language teaching. The experts evaluated if the contents, learning activities, technology and application described in the scripts are appropriate to students’ age and ability level and understandable to the story-board developers and programmers.

                                           5. Development of the story-board and software. After the scripts were evaluated and improved as suggested by the experts, they were sent to the story-board developers and programmers. They worked closely with each other and with the researcher in the development of the prototype of the software in the form of CD-ROM. It took 7 months of working, checking back and forth, and adjusting the language, the interactive activities, the pictures and the sound. While working on this step, the researcher had to take the matter up with the psychologists to make sure that the software developed appropriate to age level and violence free. The researcher also followed the suggestion of the consultants assigned by the Office of the National Research Council who funded the project. They scrutinized and criticized the research for its betterment.

                                       6. Evaluation of the software. The evaluation of the prototype was held at the Office of the Computer Service Center, Kasetsart University on November 3-4, 2004. Fifteen experts in the field of English language teaching in Thailand, all of which involved in designing the strands, standards and benchmarks for Foreign (English) Language in the National Curriculum for Basic Education (2001A.D.) were purposively selected to do the evaluation of the prototype. The experts were informed of the objectives of the research project, the ideas behind the development of the software and how to evaluate it. The evaluation form for every unit comprised of questions divided into 4 categories: contents, activities, technology and its application.

                                  In contents, there were questions if the software was aligned to the strands, standards and benchmarks in the National Curriculum, and if the expected learning outcome and concepts of each unit corresponded to the software developed and appropriate to children at the two grade- ranges.

                                 In activities, there were questions if the activities could help students accomplish the learning outcome and concepts; if they reflected the use of English language teaching theories and practice and suitable to children at these grade ranges.

                                  In technology, the questions were on the appropriateness of the use of letters, pictures, colors, music, the transition from page to page, and the multimedia used.

                                  In application, the questions were on the flexibility of the software to be used as supplements by teachers in class and to be used by self-directed learners outside classes.     

                                 The computers were available for the experts on the one to one basis.  The experts gave their opinion after watching each unit. Each item of the questionnaire has three levels of opinion: agreeing, disagreeing and no decision with the score of +1,-1 and 0 given to each level respectively. The Index of Consistency (IOC) was used for the analysis of the data and the criterion of acceptance was set at .50 up. (Luan Saiyos, 1996)                       

                                         7. The final improvement and editing. After the evaluation, the researcher and the programmers used the results of IOC and the experts’ suggestions as the guidelines for improvement to the perfection of the final version of the software.

 

Research Result

                                    1.  The software for English language learning for grade ranges 1-2 in the form of CD-ROMs were derived after passing the process of scripts approval and the story- board checked. The software for grade range 1 comprised of 10 units of learning: Wizard Alphabets, Numbers, All about Me, Environment, In the Zoo, Fairy Tales, Collecting Things, Ice Age, Cut and Make, and World Culture. The software for grade range 2 comprised of 10 units of learning: All about Me, You Are What You Eat! , Our World, Miracle of Weather, Amazing Thailand, Help save Our World, Recreation, Space Adventure, Indian Bedtime, and Record Breakers.  

                                             The contents and learning activities were in the form of integrated skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Thai cultural issues were touched upon because of the country’s needs for Thai students to be able to speak about the country in English. However, some western and international cultural issues were also present. Every unit had interactive activities.

                                     2. The software was evaluated by the experts and the results were shown in the following tables. 

 Table 1  The Value of Index of Consistency Received from the Experts’ Opinion to the Software for English Language Learning Grade Range 1 

                                                                                                                         n=15

UNITS

IOC value

contents

activities

technology

application

WIZARD ALPHABETS

0.93

0.93

0.91

1

NUMBERS

0.98

0.98

0.97

1

ALL ABOUT ME

0.98

0.98

0.88

1

ENVIRONMENT

0.90

0.90

0.82

1

IN THE ZOO

1

1

0.93

1

FAIRY TALES

0.74

0.84

0.84

1

COLLECTING THINGS

0.89

0.88

0.88

1

ICE AGE

0.90

0.90

0.86

1

CUT AND MAKE

0.93

0.96

0.81

1

WORLD CULTURE

0.88

0.88

0.83

1

From the table 1 we can see that the experts perceived that every unit could be of good use to students as the value of index of consistency were a lot higher than the accepted .50 value of index of consistency. It can also be observed that the unit “In the Zoo” received the full score of 1.0 on the contents, activities and application. The experts also totally agreed that the application of every unit was appropriate to students as pointed out by the full score of 1.0.   

Table 2  The Value of Index of Consistency Received from the Experts’ Opinion to the Software for English Language Learning Grade Range 2

                                                                                                                   n=15

UNITS

IOC value

contents

activities

technology

application

ALL ABOUT ME

0.95

0.95

0.86

1

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

0.93

0.93

0.91

1

OUR WORLD

0.80

0.80

0.76

1

MIRACLE OF WEATHER

0.95

0.95

0.81

1

AMAZING THAILAND

0.95

0.90

0.90

1

HELP SAVE OUR WORLD

0.93

0.93

0.93

1

RECREATION

0.91

0.91

0.91

1

SPACE ADVENTURE

0.87

0.87

0.87

1

INDIAN BEDTIME

0.93

0.93

0.79

1

RECORD BREAKERS

0.88

0.88

0.78

1

 From the table 2 we can see that the experts perceived that every unit could be of good use to students as the value of index of consistency were a lot higher that the accepted .50 value of index of consistency. It can also be observed that the value on the application of every unit  was the full score of 1.0

 Discussion

                       The software was successfully developed and accepted by the experts in English language teaching in Thailand. The application category of both grade ranges received the full score of 1.0 which means that the experts agreed that the software could be used both in class by teachers as well as by students for individual use.  The success was due to several reasons as follows:

                    1. Units of learning, their learning outcome and concepts were carefully and clearly planned in such a way that they could easily pave the way to script writing. The alignment to the strands, standards and benchmarks of English Language Curriculum must be carried out and rechecked at this stage before continuing to other steps.

                     2.  For the script writing, the writer had to design activities using child learning and cognitive development principles to make the activities interesting, and appropriate to the children’s ability in each grade range and ages. The skills of thinking, observing, differentiating, comparing, sequencing, speculating, finding relationship, reasoning, choosing, decision making and concept attaining were used in the design of activities and learning process.  All these must be vividly described in writing in order to communicate clearly with the story board makers and programmers.

                         3. Communication between the script writer and the programmer was highly needed before developing into the software. Misunderstanding between the two led to mistakes. It was complicated and time consuming to correct them later.

                         

 Conclusion and Recommendation

                           The software can be flexibly used in class by teachers as supporting material to the lesson being taught or as students’ assignment for individual use at home or out of class.

The software can be linked online to the website of the government agencies like the Ministry of Education or the Educational Districts so that children from the remote areas will have the opportunity to learn and get access to English language lessons.  Research should be done afterwards comparing the use of the software between offline and online use by teachers and students. How the teachers use it and how the students like it are also interesting to study.                                                     

 

                                                   References

Department of Education, Ministry of Education. (2001) The National Curriculum for Basic Education B.E. 2544. Bangkok: Watana Panich Publisher

Kang, S.H and Dennis J.R (1995).   The effects of computer-enhanced vocabulary lessons on    achievement of ESL grade school children.  Computers in the School, 11(3), 25-35

Liaw, M.L (1997). An analysis of ESL children’s verbal interaction during computer book reading. Computers in the Schools, 13(3/4), 55-73

Saiyos, Luan and Angkana (1996) Measurement Techniques. Bangkok : Suriyasarn

Morrison, G.R., Ross, S.M., and Kemp, J.E. (2001).  Designing Effective Instruction.3rd Ed. New York: Wiley Text Books 

Oxford University Press (2004) Using Multimedia in the EFL classroom Available at

 http://www.oup.com/elt/catalogue/guidance_articles/multimedia_article?cc=global    

                                                                                                                              




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