Switching on to digital literacy? : a case study of English language teachers at a Vietnamese university

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Nguyen, Xuan Thi Thanh
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Master of Education
Unitec Institute of Technology
Benseman, John
Collins, Jennifer
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
ELT teachers
National Foreign Language Project (Vietnam)
Vietnamese universities
educational technology in language learning
teacher professional development
Nguyen, X.T.T. (2014). Switching on to digital literacy? : a case study of English language teachers at a Vietnamese university. An unpublished thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education, Unitec Institute of Technology.
Digital technology has significantly contributed to the shaping of an increasingly digitalised landscape of English language teaching (ELT) today. Recently, Vietnam has experienced initial development in technology-supported language learning (TELL). With its National Foreign Language Project, the country aspires to fully change the face of ELT nationwide by the year 2020 through upskilling English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers’ linguistic, pedagogical and technological competencies. Despite this favourable framework, no research has been found that surveyed Vietnamese EFL teachers’ digital literacy professional development (PD) in the literature to date. This identified research gap was where the present study aimed to situate itself. In this light, this study was conducted with a view to examining the professional needs and current practice of a group of Vietnamese EFL university lecturers in relation to digital literacy PD. This single case study involved twelve one-to-one semi-structured interviews with seven teachers and five leaders and twelve classroom observation sessions with four of the teachers. It also employed document analysis and observation of these teachers’ practice regarding the use of technology for teaching purposes and technology-related PD The results of this study revealed positive attitudes and optimistic views that teachers and leaders held about the use of technology in ELT and the PD of the teachers’ digital literacy. While the teachers’ technology uptake was found to be associated with to their prior learning and teaching experiences, it did not correlate with their positive attitudes and confidence in using technology. Nevertheless, the research also discovered that teachers’ insufficient digital literacy threatened their sense of competence and put them under the pressure of being success role models for their students in technology application. This lack of confidence led to teachers’ technology anxiety, low uptake of technology in teaching practice and in addition, their reluctance or resistance to TELL. Similarly, teachers’ frequent use of technology could possibly explain their skills and confidence in particular tools; however, it could not always be linked to efficacy in relevant TELL practice. Furthermore, there was a close relationship between teachers’ motivation and their pedagogical adoption of technology, with their motivation reliant on a number of factors mostly related to appraisals of various types, including sense of self-worth, official recognition, incentives, career advancement, improved working conditions, and other benefits. Most teachers shared negative experiences in both classroom use of technology and PD provision by their institution. Noticeably, despite having perceived the importance of technology use and digital literacy in ELT, most teachers did not show much pedagogical understanding of their technology mediated teaching practice. Even though the informants tended to be positive about the effectiveness of the teachers’ technology application for instruction, most of them saw the practice as challenging. Key inhibitors to teachers’ instructional use of technology and digital literacy PD included limited resources and time constraints, lack of guidelines, PD, technical and financial support. The research findings, especially observational data, also showed teachers’ rather limited digital literacy, which strongly affected their instruction and other related tasks including administration. Thus, all participants contended that there should be more practical PD on efficient TELL practice. Additionally, the study also identified their expectations and suggestions for better planning and implementation of future digital literacy PD. Based on this information, relevant implications and recommendations including teachers’ pedagogical use of technology, evaluating teachers’ digital literacy and identifying their PD needs related to digital literacy, and improving digital literacy PD planning and implementation for the teachers were put forward. Both formal and informal learning, including training, mentoring, community of practice, collaborative projects, off-site visits, professional networking, action research and self-training were nominated as potential strategies for teachers’ digital literacy PD.
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