Explorations in EAP
I get the impression that if and when we talk about the intersection between EAP and technology, we tend to think mostly of student learning. This was certainly the case at the recent one day conference held at Southampton University in the UK on blending technology and EAP. It was a great day, but what was interesting to me was the complete absence of talks relating to technology and EAP teacher learning.
So what does e-AP knowledge and learning look like for EAP teachers?
I think there are two kinds of e-AP tool: those that connect fairly directly to teaching practice, and those that can help inform, organise and build EAP teacher scholarly knowledge. I’m interested in both and believe that both are necessary for effective practitioner development. I’ll share a few thoughts here on the first and deal with the second another time.
A useful notion to draw on in thinking about e-AP practice is Mishra & Koehler’s (2005; 2006) Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (see also @yearinthelifeof’s vlog introduction, @sharonzspace’s overview and application and a recent #EAPchat).
Koehler and Mishra extend Shulman’s (1986; 1987) notion of pedagogical content knowledge into the digital age, by considering the knowledge required of teachers at the intersections between the 3 knowledge areas of content, pedagogy and technology. This leads to useful distinctions being made between technological knowledge (TK), technological content knowledge (TCK) and technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK or ‘TPACK’). There are two aspects of TPACK that I think are important for EAP teacher practice and development.
Firstly, as in Shulman’s original PCK, TPCK is seen as knowledge that develops in situated ways, emerging from contextualised problem solving. In their 2005 paper, Koehler & Mishra describe TPCK development through collaborative staff learning-by-design for course development. For EAP practitioners, therefore, this means we also need to collaborate, experiment and problem solve. We should get our hands dirty with e-AP tools…since this is essentially knowledge-in-action (Schön 1983).
Secondly, TPACK for EAP means knowledge that develops to enhance EAP practice through technology. Technology should not be a just a newer, more convenient container for the same things we used to do; there should surely also be co-enhancement of practice:
“[T]echnology is not merely applied to the pedagogy of the past, but rather the introduction of technology has implications for how we teach and what we teach.” (Koehler & Mishra 2005: 144)
An EAP teacher may regularly use an interactive whiteboard as a blank canvas to record language, as they did a regular whiteboard (=TK), but not see how the IWB can be used for the public display and interactive engagement with an academic text (TPCK). Just as Nicky Hockly noted recently of The Younger Generation, teachers who regularly use technology do not necessarily do so effectively (2011: 324).
I think this is where the TPACK distinctions are useful, as they help separate knowledge that probably precedes pedagogical practice (TK; TCK) from that which may or may not develop through practice (TPCK). Setting up a Facebook site or a blogging space for EAP learners is not a demonstration of TPCK. It is TK only. A teacher understanding how academic blogging may change relationships with knowledge, readership, dissemination, notions of academic style and publication, however, raises this to TCK – and this can, of course, then serve further as possible input for learners (their own (T)CK). Using both forms of awareness for the situated and effective enhancement of EAP learners’ processing and production of academic texts (BALEAP 2008: 8) probably requires some TPCK. One way of a teacher developing such knowledge-in-action might be through scaffolding a group blogging project that centres around collaborative reflection on and critiquing of a selection of journal papers on a theme of disciplinary relevance to learners.
Technology for too many of us is a bolt-on extra in professional practice. We may be accused of being mere digital visitors among more adept digital residents (White 2008), but I don’t think this distinction helps to explain our problem here. An EAP professional may use FB every day in the spaces between work, but not see its use in education (or may even think it’s inappropriate). Bruno Latour (2007) and other Actor Network Theory (ANT) thinkers would probably tell us that any tool (such as FB) that is a stable part of one network of practice (keeping up with friends) is not necessarily part of another (teaching EAP).
In ANT terms, these tools need to become translated into stable networks of professional practice. EAP and e-AP must “…come together and connect, changing one another to form links…” (Fenwick & Edwards 2010: 9). Technology has to become part of our EAP practice ecosystem. This takes effort and relies on the interactions between actors. Following ANT, these actors include the tools themselves. A clunky, inflexible and unintuitive VLE package, for instance, will likely resist becoming much more than a repository for lesson handouts and thus is unlikely to help EAP teachers develop.
There is probably a dependency relationship in the uptake of technology for the enhancement of teacher learning and pedagogy (TK/TCK >TPCK). Practitioners need first to turn technology into techknowlogy, before it can be enrolled into pedagogical practices.
One example, of course, is the area of building and exploiting open educational tools and resources. TPACK is useful again here, since it reminds us there are different levels of awareness that may present challenges to enrollment. Knowing how to create a searchable database of texts is TK. Awareness of Creative Commons and how this changes our relationship with notions of knowledge ownership and content is TCK. Both of these knowledges take time to develop, of course, but it may be an extra leap into enrolling such tools and awareness into our EAP courses and into individual practitioner routines. What are the most realistically effective ways of achieving this, I wonder.
And this is only one area. So what are the other e-AP tools we need to get to grips with? How do they genuinely enhance pedagogy in ways that were not possible before? How do we best encourage colleagues to work on their TK and their TCK, in order to provide the foundations for TPCK? And many of my colleagues are already overworked, so where will the time come from in an already fuller than full-time working week? These are questions we need to work on.
BALEAP (2008) The Competency Framework for Teachers of English for Academic Purposes.
Fenwick, T. & R. Edwards (2010) Actor-Network Theory in Education. Oxon: Routledge.
Hockly, N. (2011) ‘The Digital Generation’. ELT Journal 65(3): 322-325.
Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2005) ‘Teachers Learning Technology by Design’. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education. 21(3): 94–102.
Latour, B. (2007) Reassembling the Social: an introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: OUP.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M.J. (2006) ‘Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: a framework for integrating technology in teacher knowledge’. Teachers College Record 108(6): 1017-1054.
Schön, D (1983) The Reflective Practitioner. Basic Books: New York
Shulman, L. (1986) ‘Those who Understand: knowledge growth in teaching’. Educational Researcher 15(2): 4-14.
Shulman, L. (1987) ‘Knowledge and Teaching: foundations of the new reform’. Harvard Educational Review 57(1): 1-22.