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IADIS International Conference e-Learning 2011 E-LEARNING IN BANGLADESH: THE ‘TRAINER IN YOUR POCKET’ Christopher S. Walsh The Open University, United KingdomABSTRACTWhile sustainable models of teacher professional development through information communication technologies (ICT) indeveloping countries like Bangladesh provide new opportunities for improving teaching and learning, they are largelyunexplored. A variety of models of teacher professional development have been reported on in the research, but littleattention has been paid to large-scale mobile e-Learning models that promote changes in communicative languageteaching practices. This paper examines the ‘trainer in your pocket,’ an e-Learning component of English in Action (EIA),a project designed to contribute to the growth of Bangladesh by providing English language as a tool for better access tothe world economy. The ‘trainer in your pocket’ works to build the capacity of teachers to achieve pedagogical change atthe classroom level by providing them with strategies to teach English in more participatory and communicative ways onMP3 players and mobile phones. EIA’s ‘trainer in your pocket’ encourages continuous self and supported learning tohelp teachers rethink their pedagogical practices and simultaneously learn English. Teachers receive hundreds of audioresources for classroom use that provide students unprecedented opportunities to hear and experience high levels ofspoken English directly related to Bangladesh’s national curriculum. The paper argues e-Learning can play a critical rolein development projects alongside face-to-face and ICT-enhanced teacher professional development. Furthermore, itprovides a replicable framework or model for large-scale teacher professional development in emerging economies.KEYWORDSTeacher professional development, e-Learning, communicative language teaching, ICT, mobile phones1. INTRODUCTIONEnglish in Action EIA is a unique international development project led and managed by BMB MottMcDonald, The Open University (UK) and The British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) World Service Trust.The project also works collaboratively with local organisations including the Underprivileged Children’sEducational Programme (UCEP) and Friends in Village Development Bangladesh (FIVDB). Implemented in2008, EIA is designed to assist 25 million people in Bangladesh improve their English language skills inthree stages over 9 years. The project was originally requested by the government of Bangladesh, andsubsequently funded (£50 million) by the United Kingdom’s Department for International development(DfID). English in Action (EIA) aims to raise Bangladesh’s economic and social profile by providing Englishlanguage as a tool for the population to access global opportunities utilising multiple entry points in schoolsand the mass media. In schools, EIA promotes innovative teaching and learning methods through the use ofaudio resources on mobile phones and MP3 players (alongside visual and print resources) closely alignedwith the Government of Bangladeshs primary and secondary national curriculum, textbooks and assessmentprocedures. This ICT-enhanced teacher professional development is provided alongside a continuous (12month) face-to-face programme within a school-based open learning model. The Project also uses televisionand mobile telephones to increase access to learning materials for adults primarily through BBC Janalai, aunique multi-platform project that harnesses multimedia technology (TV, Internet, mobile phones) to provideaffordable education to potentially millions of people in the Bangladeshi-speaking community. This paper provides a review of research around e-Learning and teacher professional development(through and with ICT) and the use of short message service (SMS) in teacher education and training. It thendescribes EIA’s learning resources (print, audio & visual) that were distributed through a cyclical (12 month)face-to-face and ICT-enhanced teacher professional development programme. The teacher professional 165
IADIS International Conference e-Learning 2011professional learning opportunities” (p. 379) that teachers actively took advantage of. Power and Thomas’study found that over half of the teachers involved used the pocket PCs for professional development, byaccessing literacy and science e-books and resources. Teachers in the study also reported that they foundthese, essentially m-learning, resources very useful in terms of their own professional development. EIA’s m-learning approach draws on the work of Power and Thomas (2007) by providing a similar model of teacherprofessional development via mobile technologies (MP3 players and mobile phones) with face-to-face clustersupport. The major difference is that most mobile phones and MP3/MP4 players now have the same capacityas the pocket PCs (25 iPaq H4150) used in their study, but at a much lower cost.2.2 SMS in Teacher Education and for Improving Student LearningThere are a number of studies on short message service (SMS) and its uses in teacher education. One smallpilot study investigated how supervising teacher and pre-service students could discus and share their ideasabout teaching methods through SMS and digital photography as a part of the supervision process (Seppäläand Alamäki, 2003). Research that looks at formal uses of SMS in education in the Philippines and non-formal uses of SMS in Mongolia found that the inherent popularity of SMS text messaging offers importantopportunities for formal and non-formal education in Asia (Librero et al., 2007). Vilojen, DuPreez and Cook(2005) used SMS to support student learning at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. In their project,SMS was used for asynchronous academic support. This included the facility for students to ask questionsvia SMS and receive feedback. Students could also phone in to listen to mini lectures using interactive voiceresponse technology and take interactive multiple-choice quizzes. The project also uses SMS to directstudents to specific resources needed to complete academic tasks. Two projects from South Africa, Dr Maths on Mxit and M4Girls use SMS to enhance student learning.Dr Maths on Mxit is a programme aimed at assisting high school students with maths homework. It uses atutoring system using MXit1, a free instant messaging program for mobile phones. Dr Maths makes use of acall centre-like functionality that runs from a client-based platform on a PC. Through SMS, it provides m-learning tutoring and support for students with maths tutors in either English and/or Afrikaans (SAIDE,2008). The M4Girls project2 is a partnership between Nokia, Mindset Network, and the Department ofEducation (North West Province of South Africa) that delivers maths content using SMS on mobile phonesfor female learners. The project targeted the development of maths competencies in year 10 students fromimpoverished communities with the primary aim of empowering girl learners. SMS in teacher education,and student learning provide examples of how m-learning can be leveraged to meet specific professionaldevelopment and educational and/or social needs of teachers and students. EIA is currently drawing on thesestudies as we field test SMS as a means to provide teacher professional development to promote studentcentred learning and communicative English language teaching.3. EIA’S INNOVATIONS IN TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENTEIA developed an innovative ICT-enhanced programme of teacher professional development drawing on keyfindings from current research and their own baseline study entitled ‘An Observation Study of EnglishLessons in Primary and Secondary Schools in Bangladesh’ (EIA, 2009). The study found that traditional orstructural (grammar-based) methods of formal English teaching and learning were the primary Englishteaching methods used across the country. This method is characterised by English teachers standing at thefront of the classroom habitually reading from textbooks and asking closed (recall) questions of individualpupils or choral responses. The study found there was a general absence of visual resources used by teacherswith the exception of the blackboard. With a grammar-based approach being used throughout the country, thestudy highlights the reality that most pupils have few opportunities to speak or listen to English forcommunicative purposes during their English classes. Furthermore, there was little evidence that studentswere able to listen to native speakers or very fluent English speakers because many English teachers in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !1 For more information see http://www.mxit.com/2 For more information see http://www.mobileactive.org/case-studies/m4girls-empowering-female-students ! 167
IADIS International Conference e-Learning 2011levels of peer support, including monthly cluster meetings with other project teachers that are facilitated bythe TFs, who also visit teachers in their schools, and facilitate the sharing of challenges, strategies andachievements.3.1 e-Learning Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) ResourcesEIA provided extensive materials to primary teachers on MP3 players and mobile phone to assist them inimplementing communicative language teaching (CLT) practices with their students. Primary teachers’ iPodNanos came preloaded with audio resources specifically produced to match every lesson in the nationaltextbook series English for Today (National Curriculum & Textbook Board Bangladesh, 2002) at their yearlevel (Levels 1-5). In total, each primary teacher received 355 audio files (primarily dialogues). The iPodNanos (2009-2010) and low cost mobile phones (2011) also provide primary teachers with songs for thebeginning and end of every lesson, and a range of supplementary songs, poems and other readings3. Inaddition, all primary teachers have EIA-produced Activity Guides at each of the 5 grade levels withcomplimentary visual (posters, flash cards, figurines) and print resources (audio transcripts of the dialogues).Secondary teachers receive fewer additional classroom resources because they generally have higher levelsof English language proficiency and have received more pedagogical training then their primarycounterparts. To support CLT practices in the secondary classroom, teachers are provided with lesson plancards, maps, and photos. The sheer volume of materials (355 audio files, visual, tactile and print-basedresources and activity guides) made available to teachers thus far in the project (more than 700) is significant.By 2012, 4000 additional teachers will be provided with these same resources making EIA one of the largestCLT teacher professional development projects in the world. Then in stages the project will leverage thetechnology available to provide up to 100,000 teachers with audio files and speakers on mobile phones or SDcards to make the primary aim of the project, providing English language to 25 million Bangladeshis as atool for better access to the world economy, viable and sustainable.3.2 “A Trainer in your Pocket’EIA is a nine-year project that will provide professional development for 90,000 teachers by 2017. Thismassive undertaking was not conceived as programme with a fixed end date, rather the idea or ethos behindthe programme was to provide a vehicle for ongoing self-supported learning after the project officially ends.To this end, the idea of the ‘trainer in your pocket’ emerged as a viable way to provide teachers with theprofessional development required to meet EIA’s overall goal after 2017. In a pilot study (2009-2010) to test the viability of the ‘trainer in your pocket’ idea as well as provideteachers with audio resources, EIA provided teacher professional development resources (audio and video)preloaded on the Apple iPod Nano (primary) and Touch (secondary). These devices included a suite of audioresources teachers could use in the classroom to support the national curriculum because they were alsosupplied with portable, rechargeable speakers. The ‘trainer in your pocket’ set of professional developmentresources to support primary teachers’ own learning included 18 video clips and 4 audio recordings thatexemplify a range of correct and incorrect English CLT classroom practices. Figure 2 is an example of thetrainer in your pocket’, an ICT-enhanced teacher professional development video entitled, ‘Doing pair-work’developed by The Open University. It is intended for teachers to use on their own and the incorrect (red x inthe lower right hand corner) and correct (green check in the lower right hand corner) ways to introduce andimplement pair work in an English CLT classroom. The secondary teachers were supplied with 46 audio filesdedicated to teacher professional development on the iPod Touch. In the pilot 460 primary teachers weregiven an iPod Nano and 230 secondary teachers were given the iPod Touch. Secondary teachers’ iPod touchwas preloaded with audio podcasts enhanced with synchronized text and images. This was the core of theirthe ICT-enhanced teacher professional development materials. They also received a print-based teacherprofessional development package entitled, English for Today in Action, that presents 12 CLT modules(Active listening, predictive listening, using visual aids, creative writing, etc.) that they can adapt and use toteach communicative English.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !3 For examples of EIA audio and video materials visit http://www.eiabd.com/eia/ 169
IADIS International Conference e-Learning 2011English lessons in primary and secondary schools in Bangladesh, where 27% of teachers spoke in Englishmore than they did in Bangla. In the second study, primary (98%) and secondary (98%) teachers reported oninterview that they enjoyed taking part in EIA and believed their communicative English languageproficiency improved. As a result of their familiarity and experience using the mobile audio technologies,most teachers (96% Primary; 86% Secondary) noted they felt more confident in using and modeling spokenEnglish in the classroom. More important findings indicate the majority of teachers (86% Primary; 92%Secondary) have changed their pedagogical practices to focus on communication, with grammar beingexplained in context. 91% or primary and 90% of secondary teachers report often designing activities to havepupils interact in English; and all secondary teachers and 93% of primary teachers report improved pupilmotivation as a result in changes to classroom practice. It is important to also note that many of theseteachers still struggle with teaching communicative English due to low and/or developing English languageproficiency levels. More detailed and comprehensive research needs to be undertaken to uncover the changesin practice indicated by these preliminary research studies.5. CONCLUSIONIt is clear that e-Learning and ICT-enhanced forms of teacher professional development can play a centralrole in international development agendas, particularly large scales ones like English in Action (EIA). Ibegan this paper by providing an overview of how e-Learning and SMS are being leveraged to support andtrain teachers across differing international contexts both in the developed and developing world. I thenoutlined EIA’s innovative approach to teacher professional development which effectively blends face-to-face and ICT-enhanced approaches first using MP3 players and now mobile phones. As a large-scale projectthat aims to improve the English proficiency of 25 million people through school-based professionaldevelopment approaches (The Open University) and the mass media (The BBC World Trust), the notion ofthe ‘trainer in your pocket’ can be viewed both the means and the ends of development. It allows or providesfor individual freedom to access vital audio and visual resources to improve teaching practice alongside self-directed learning modules. Additionally as we are only three years into a nine year project, our ‘trainer inyour pocket’ model currently provides the technology to create, access and leverage new teacher networksfor communication and lifelong learning possibilities in an emerging economy. This is because it fosters thecreation, sharing and/or distribution of knowledge (pedagogical, technical and otherwise), through user-basedcontent generation, which I view as fundamental in increasing the possibilities of a person or community todevelop to full potential. English in Action (EIA) is a project designed to contribute to the growth of Bangladesh by providingEnglish language as a tool for better access to the world economy. The idea is that by increasing individuals’English language proficiency will also increase their social and economic opportunities. Through EIA’sdevelopmental Research (2008 – 2011) carried out with 700 teachers from government schools acrossBangladesh, as well as some 60 teachers from NGOs, we have tested the ‘trainer in the pocket’ and view thisform of e-Learning as one of the most effective, scalable and sustainable models of supported open anddistance learning for English language teachers in Bangladesh. As we scale up and provide mobile phone-based technology kits for 4000 teachers (alongside face-to-face teacher professional development) with EIAmaterials on SD cards and portable speakers, we will have more reliable data on the effectiveness of thisform of e-Learning. The challenge will be in further developing our open distance learning modules on themobile phones which will eventually need to replace the face-to-face teacher professional development at theend of the project. Directed efforts have also been undertaken to work with teachers from rural communities(80% of the 700 teachers in the developmental research were from rural communities) who do not havereliable sources of electricity. Our current field test is also supplying two schools with solar panel chargers(£32 each) to ensure they can charge and use the mobile phones and portable rechargeable speakers. Thespeakers themselves also run off of mobile phone batteries and have a slot for the SD card to maximize thepotential of being able to use EIA’s audio resources for classroom-based English language teaching andlearning. A core component of EIA’s school-based open learning model of professional development is working tobuild capacity among teachers themselves which explicitly addresses the human and teacher professionaldevelopment impacts of ICT implementation. This is an example of e-Learning for development that ensures 171