You are on page 1of 34

i ESL Instructor Use of Available Technology at Pacoima Skills Center

by Barry Bakin A research project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education in Educational Technology American InterContinental University 2005


List of Tables Abstract Acknowledgments Introduction Statement of the Problem Review of Related Literature Method Participants Instrument Procedure Results Discussion References Appendix A Consent Form Appendix B Survey Form Appendix C Excel File with tabulated results

ii iii iv 1 2 3

5 6 6 7 15 21


Number [Click and insert List of Figures]



ABSTRACT English as a Second Language (ESL) Instructors at Pacoima Skills Center have access to many types of technology for use with and by students learning ESL. The researcher has anecdotal evidence that at least some of the ESL instructors at Pacoima Skills Center either under-utilize or do not utilize that technology at all. This research project is an attempt to survey ESL Instructor usage of the available technology to see to what extent instructors assigned to teach ESL at the main campus branch of Pacoima Skills Center are using the technology and in what ways. While results of the survey support the researchers anecdotal evidence for the most part, there is solid evidence that much of the available technology is used by students as a language learning tool, as well as by instructors for their own use in preparing for class.



The author wishes to thank his colleagues in the Master of Education in Educational Technology Program for their support and suggestions during the course of this project.



Many schools and school districts have invested thousands of dollars for new technology for use in the classroom in recent years. Pacoima Skills Center, an adult school in the northeast San Fernando Valley, that is part of the Division of Adult and Career Education of the Los Angeles Unified School District, is one of them. From computers to electronic whiteboards, the school has provided its teachers with access to a wide range of the latest technologies. Nevertheless, it has been the personal experience of this researcher that many of his colleagues do not make use of all of the available technology. In fact, it seems to actually be the case that at least some of the teachers do not make use of any of the available technology in their instruction. In at least one case, the belief that at least some teachers do not use much of the available technology arises from the personal experience of the researcher who shared a classroom that is extremely well equipped with technology (desktop and laptop computers, LCD projector,

overhead projector, etc.) with a colleague who never left any evidence that it was used at all (computers found in the morning exactly as they were left, no evidence of student work or projects 1

on computers, no handouts detailing use of computers, etc.), and in other cases thru personal conversations with teachers about their use of computers and other technologies at the school. The nonuse or under use of technology in instruction at the school has implications in at least two areas: the wasting of scarce financial resources in the purchase of expensive technology that is not used, and the failure of teachers to make use of teaching techniques involving technology that might be beneficial for students attempting to acquire English language skills.

Additionally, if it is found that teachers are not using technology that is available at Pacoima Skills Center that has been shown to have a beneficial effect on students learning, there are

implications for the need to examine why teachers arent using a teaching tool that is accessible and beneficial. Is the

underutilization of technology due to teacher perceptions as to the lack of benefits of using technology, lack of training in using it, or to some other reason. Finally, in an era when student progress, as measured by learning gains on state-mandated tests, has a direct financial impact on the school (achievement of a minimum number of pay points impacts funding received in a subsequent year) the

failure to use a tool that could improve student progress and achievement has financial implications as well.

Statement of the problem The purpose of this preliminary study was to survey whether or not ESL instructors on the main campus of Pacoima Skills Center use the different types of technology available to them on campus, and if so, whether or not they use any particular type of technology only for their own use as instructors in preparing for classes, whether they had students only use the technology as part of their learning, or whether they used the technology for themselves and also had students use the technology as part of the curriculum.

Review of Related Literature In How Teachers Learn Technology Best Jamie McKenzie notes, the failure to fund and design robust professional development leads to screensavers disease the educational equivalent of an accountants red ink as hundreds of computers sit idly glowing throughout the day and the districts investment proves a huge waste of funds. (McKenzie, 2001) Additionally,

attempts to get teachers to use the equipment can be focused on 3

training that is misguided in its approach, concentrating on learning a particular software instead of transforming teachers who use traditional teaching strategies into ones who use the constructivist, project-based approaches that the author feels are more conducive to incorporating the use of technology as well as being based in sound educational principles. (McKenzie, 2001) In McKenzies

view, teaching technology skills by itself isnt enough. One must also convince teachers of the value in engaging students in problem-based or project based learning with these new tools. The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) also concludes that to use technology effectively, teachers need more than just training about how to work the machines and technical support. (Coley, Cradler & Engel, 1997) This view is echoed in Koehler and Mishras summary of an approach to technology training they call Learning by Design. (Koehler & Mishra, 2005). In the Learning by Design approach, the traditional training methodology of teachers being trained to use the latest tools with the hope that they can apply them to their practice is turned on its head so that teachers focus first on a problem of practice and then seek ways to use technology (and

thereby learn about technology) to address the problem. (Koehler & Mishra, 2005) Fortunately some institutions are experimenting with

substantial and innovative approaches to training.

The English

Language Institute (ELI) at Oregon State University, for example dedicated 5% of its total budget to faculty development in the area of technology (authors emphasis) including giving release time to its core instructors to participate. (Averill, Chambers &

Dantas-Whitney, 2000) Investing so heavily in training helped the ELI to move from a situation where only two of its instructors had advanced technological expertise to a context in which most of the 20 full-time instructors are trained to make regular use of technology in the classroom. (Averill, Chambers & DantasWhitney, 2000) All of the training is in accord with the ELIs basic

philosophy that technology should be used as a tool to enhance instruction rather than to replace the instructor. (Averill, Chambers & Dantas-Whitney, 2000) Assuming teachers are getting some type of training, however minimal it might be, or whether or not its in how to do something technically vs. how is the technology useful for solving problems, is irrelevant if teachers dont even know the technology 5


One attempt to determine teacher awareness of the

existence of technology and other attitudes towards technology, was the Teaching, Learning and Computing: 1998 national survey of schools and teachers. More than 1,600 schools were part of the nationwide sample with information from approximately 4,100 teachers, 800 technology coordinators, and 850 principals. (Center for Research on Information Technology, 1998) Among the findings of this research was a direct linear correlation between the amount of spending on technology and the amount of

penetration of technology with penetration defined as a measure of what proportion of the teachers did each of the

following: (1) experiment with new teaching methods involving computers, (2) use computers for their own professional tasks, (3) sometimes have students use computers to do curricular

assignments, (4) become involved in planning or implementing Internet-based activities, and (5) seek out technology coordinators for advice about integrating technology and curriculum. (Center for Research on Information Technology, 1998)

Method 6

Participants The sample for this study was ESL teachers who teach on the main campus of Pacoima Skills Center weekday days, weekday evenings and Saturday days. Branch location teachers were not included because no current survey of available technology exists for the various off-campus sites and it would be necessary to ascertain what technology is available at each branch location prior to any survey investigating the use of that technology. The total number of assigned ESL teachers in this category is 14. Some

teachers teach both a day class and an evening class and every teacher who has a Saturday class also teaches during the week so there are fewer unique teachers than classes offered. The surveys were passed out at faculty meetings held on Monday. Teachers were given until Friday to fill them out and return them. Twelve surveys were returned representing 85% of the sample.

Instrument The survey instrument consisted of 4 questions to determine the number of hours a teacher taught at Pacoima Skills Center, the years of experience teaching ESL at Pacoima Skills Center and prior to being employed at Pacoima Skills Center, and the level or levels 7

of ESL taught. The remainder of the survey instrument listed 13 different types of technology (TV with VCR, Overhead projector, scanner, etc.) available for teachers to use at the main campus of Pacoima Skills Center. Survey participants were asked to describe their usage of each piece of equipment by placing a mark in the column that best described it using one of the following descriptors: Never, Instructor use only, Students use only, and Both instructors and students use. Certain newer or infrequently

purchased technologies were depicted in accompanying photos for clarity.

Procedure The researcher performed a preliminary analysis of the types of technology available in classrooms at Pacoima Skills Center as well as those technologies that are available but are not located directly in classrooms. The survey was compiled and

reviewed by the researchers study team for errors and issues of survey design. After the review, the survey and accompanying

consent form were distributed at departmental meetings attended by the ESL faculty. Most respondents completed the survey and

returned them immediately but several were returned the next day and two were returned the day after that.

Results Data from the 12 respondents show that the average instructor teaches 20 .4 hours a week and has been working at Pacoima Skills Center for 3 years. Prior to arriving at Pacoima Skills Center, teachers taught an average of 5 years at other locations but 5 of the 12 instructors have only taught 1 year or less at Pacoima Skills Center. Of that group of 5 instructors who have only taught 1 year, 4 of them report no previous teaching experience at other schools. The teachers who responded include at least one instructor from each of the levels of ESL taught at Pacoima Skills Center. The following tables illustrate the results for each category of technology. There are a few cases where the results do not add up to 100% because one respondent did not mark any answer for that category. Respondents were instructed to describe their use of the named technology according to the four categories. The

instructions for the survey defined the categories. For the purpose 9

of the survey Instructor use only meant that the instructor uses the technology for such activities as preparing for class, doing background research, creating a homework exercise, presenting material to the students, or maintaining class records. Students use only was defined as students use the technology for such activities as studying grammar, watching a video-based lesson, presenting a topic to the class, or doing research but the instructor did not use that technology for his or her own use as described in the previous category. Both instructor and students use was

indicated to mean that the instructor uses the technology in the ways described above AND has students use the technology in their studies. The fourth category Never was not defined but was

deemed clear enough to be understood without an explicit definition.


TV with Built-in VCR

80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Never Use Instructor Only Uses Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use 25% 75%

Table 1

Audiocassette/CD Player
60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 8%
Never Use Instructor Only Uses



Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use

Table 2


Overhead Projector
45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% Never Use Instructor Only Uses Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use 8% 25% 25% 42%

Table 3

Computer (non-Internet) Productivity Software: Word, Excel, Paint, PowerPoint, etc.

45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% Never Use Instructor Only Uses Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use 33% 25% 42%

Table 4


Computer (non-Internet) ESL software

45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% Never Use Instructor Only Uses Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use 8% 17% 33% 42%

Table 5

Computer (Internet) Not ESL Specific Websites

Websites intended for the general public, not necessarily English Language Learners
One survey participant did not enter a response to this question so the percentage of instructors does not equal 1 00%

60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Never Use Instructor Only Uses Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use 50% 42%

Table 6


Computer (Internet)
Websites intended for use by ESL students 60% 50% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Never Use Instructor Only Uses Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use 17% 33%

Table 7

Cardreader Machine
120% 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Never Use Instructor Only Uses Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use


Table 8


Interactive Whiteboard
70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Never Use 8% Instructor Only Uses Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use 25% 67%

Table 9

LCD Projector
90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Never Use Instructor Only Uses Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use 17% 83%

Table 10


Inkjet or Laser Printer

70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Never Use Instructor Only Uses Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use 17% 17% 67%

Table 11

Digital Camera
100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Never Use 8% Instructor Only Uses Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use 92%

Tab le 12


70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Never Use Instructor Only Uses 8% Students Only Use Both Instructor and Students Use 25% 67%

Table 13

Discussion Of the thirteen types of technologies available to instructors at Pacoima Skills Center, almost half of them are never used by 50% or more of the ESL instructors. Those technologies are using the Internet to visit websites that are not specifically meant for ESL such as a government website or a tourism website 50% card-reader machines 100% interactive whiteboards 67% LCD projectors 83% digital cameras 92% scanners 67%


Clearly, these technologies represent investments that are being under-utilized at the current time. Administrators and the ESL

program coordinator would be advised to further examine each of the above technology types to see why instructors are not using them in the classroom, because some of them represent substantial financial investments (the interactive whiteboards were very expensive and several were purchased). Unfortunately, not enough is known about why instructors never use a particular category. In retrospect, it is clear that the category Never should have been expanded into several categories to provide more critical information as to why the instructor never uses that technology. Is it because they dont know that the technology is available, they do know that the technology is available but have decided not to use it because they dont have training in using it in the classroom, or because they know how to use it and perhaps have even received training on using it in the classroom but have made a conscious decision that that particular technology isnt appropriate for use as part of their curriculum or teaching strategies. A follow-up study could ask further questions relating to the Never category to identify specific reasons why a technology is not being used by a particular teacher or numbers of teachers. 18

While most of the technologies showed usage by at least some of the instructors, 100% of the instructors stated they never used a card reader machine. Obviously, follow-up is necessary.

While card reader machines are not as expensive as computers or interactive whiteboards, they do have a cost and if not being used would perhaps represent an investment better spent elsewhere. On the other hand, card reader technology has been found to be useful in language learning and is used quite often in reading labs for vocabulary acquisition and pronunciation practice. It is quite possible that instructors are either not aware of their utility in the ESL context, or are simply not even aware that theyre available. Additionally, card reader technology, while it has been around for many years, has not been emphasized in ESL training courses for quite some time (since the advent of computer technology, which supplanted card readers for the most part) and since 33% (4 of 12) instructors have taught only one year or less, it is quite possible that they were never exposed to the technology as an ESL teaching tool at all. Only three of the 12 instructors have 15 or more years of experience (long enough to be familiar with card-reader technology as a language learning tool).


The only two technologies that 50% or more of the instructors said that they use both for their own preparation and their students use in their learning were the TV with built-in VCR (75%) and audiocassette/CD players (50%). This is perhaps not

surprising since they have been around for decades and instructors have been exposed to their use in the classroom for many years. On the other hand, the audiocassette/CD player usage might still be seen as relatively low, especially since the schools selected textbooks for ESL all come with accompanying CD-ROMs with recordings of the conversations and activities. If only 50% percent of the ESL instructors are using audiocassette/CD players with their students, than a reminder that the textbooks have accompanying CD-ROMs might be in order. That of course assumes that all of the instructors are using the course textbooks, but that would be the focus of another study. A full 25% of instructors state they never use the overhead projector in any way in the classroom. Overhead projectors allow larger numbers of students to clearly and easily view the displayed subject material than when that same material is presented on a chalk or whiteboard. It is also much easier on the instructor when writing large amounts. That this very useful teaching tool is not 20

used by 25% of the instructors is another indication that further investigation and perhaps technology training is called for. Not everything is bleak, however. 92% of the instructors

report that they use ESL specific software (non-Internet) either for themselves or have the students use it, with 75% of those instructors saying that their students are using ESL software in some way. That is extremely positive, indicating that the large

investment in purchasing ESL software has for the most part reached the students. Additionally, 25% of ESL instructors stated that they have their students use productivity software (Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Paint, etc.) as part of their curriculum. While that figure is less than that of students using ESL software, much more training is required for instructors to feel comfortable using such software in the ESL context because the activities involved are more project-oriented and an instructor cannot just point the student to the computer and say do the lesson on verbs. While 42% of instructors state that they use non-ESL sites on the Internet for their own preparation or use, and 50% state that they use websites intended for ESL for similar purposes, very few (17% in the case of sites specifically intended for ESL) stated that 21

their students are using the Internet at all. Clearly, in a time when using the Internet has taken such a primary focus not only in society, but also in the educational context, this low usage warrants further investigation. The investment in computer technology is

not only an investment in the computers themselves, but also an investment in the network that allows virtually all of the computers at Pacoima Skills Center to have some type of Internet access, be it wired or wireless. Further investigation should focus on why the instructors at Pacoima Skills Center are not giving students more opportunities to use the Internet for language learning activities. While the previously discussed results do confirm that instructors are using computers and also having students use computers, it is interesting to note that 83% of the respondents state that they never use an LCD projector. Since class sizes at Pacoima Skills Center must be larger than 25 students per class minimum, and often have 30 to 50 students attending, this result is quite curious. Further research is necessary to see just how instructors are teaching the students how to use the computers and software without a presentation device like an LCD projector (Pacoima Skills Center does not have television monitors for use as presentation devices). 22

Regarding the use of printers, 67% of the instructors report that they do not have students use the printers at all. Administrators who are interested in controlling expenses should find that result heartening, as it might indicate that instructors are very aware of the potential for runaway costs of ink and paper if students are given access to printing. One result that points to a need for further investigation is that 92% instructors state that they never use a digital camera. One wonders about this, as the use of imagery as a prompt for language learning is quite established. Taking pictures of a

location or object and writing about the pictures or using pictures to illustrate a writing assignment are certainly not new ideas. In

previous years, however, teachers had to wait for film to be developed before students could use the images. Digital cameras allow for almost instantaneous use of photos in computer-based documents. Their ease of use would seem to indicate that ESL

teachers would jump at the opportunity to incorporate them into instruction, yet obviously they are not being used. Further study is necessary to determine why. Finally, another possible area for a follow-up study to focus on would be to have instructors specifically identify and describe 23

activities that they do in the categories where they have indicated that they either use the technology themselves or have students use the technology. Open-ended questions giving the instructor

the opportunity to elaborate on actual activities would give administrators, the ESL coordinator, and trainers a clearer picture of where future trainings could concentrate.



Investing in People, Not Just Flashy Gadgets. Jane Averill, Eve Chambers, and Maria Dantas-Whitney. In Technology Enhanced Learning Environments, Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, Editory, pps 8598, Case Studies in TESOL Practice Series. Jill Burton, Series Editor.2000, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. Coley, R. J., Cradler, J., & Engel, P. K. (1997). Computers and classrooms: The status of technology in U.S. schools. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service Policy Information Center. Retrieved December 15, 2004, from (Adobe Reader PDF 979 KB) How Teachers Learn Technology Best By Jamie McKenzie Collected at From Now On, The Educational Technology Journal Vol 10| No 6|March|2001 Teaching, Learning and Computing: 1998, A National Survey of Schools and Teachers. , Teachers Survey, Combined Version 14,Collected at Teachers Learning Technology by Design, Matthew J. Koehler and Punya Mishra.,Collected at Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, Volume 21, Number 3, Spring 2005, me_21/Number_3_Spring_2005/te213094koe.pdf