«ПРОСВЕЩЕНИЕ. ИНОСТРАННЫЕ ЯЗЫКИ»

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ICT IN TEACHING ENGLISH TO ENGINEERING STUDENTS

Среда 25 Март 2015


The article is devoted to the implementation of information and communication technologies in the process of teaching foreign languages to engineering students at Institutions of Higher Education. The author analyzes the main trends of implementing ICT in classrooms, possible problems, and ways to overcome them.

 
настроение: methodical

ключевые слова: foreign language teaching methods, ICT, bachelors’ education, masters’ education, postgraduates’ education, teaching problems

город: Москва

e-mail: PetrovaIV@MPEI.ru

 
The current modernization of high education, the «National Doctrine of Education”, and the new Federal State Educational Standards require engineering graduates to reach a high level of practical language skills in their everyday and professional communication, which implies scientific work. Such skills are also necessary to meet the EU requirements to core professional competencies.

However, the number of classroom hours is not sufficient to achieve these goals, and thus such issues as the individualization of the education process and autonomous learning are highly topical nowadays. One of the most effective ways to resolve the problem is to introduce information and communication technologies to the education process.

1. INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES THAT CAN BE USED IN TEACHING FOREIGN LANGUAGES

The widespread introduction of information and communication technologies and technical means to the process of teaching foreign languages provides a great opportunity for its intensification, individualization, and optimization, which leads to significant savings and efficient use of classroom hours and makes learning mobile and more motivational for students.

First steps in using ICT and automated educational courses in teaching foreign languages were taken in the National Research University MPEI back in the 1970s and 1980s. The advanced for the time automated classrooms CACTUS and «Tutor» led to more efficient methods of teaching, new educational environment, and a rationalized teaching load.

With the higher performance capabilities of modern information and communication technologies and their accessibility, the implementation of ICT is undoubtedly necessary. The shift to the three-level system of higher education also requires new educational resources different for bachelors, masters, and doctoral students.

The rapid development of information technology offers a wide range of teaching means. Among them are:

  • electronic textbooks, which can be stored as highly tailored libraries for each area of training;
  • electronic educational resources for each specific engineering specialization, i. e. online tests, distance learning, the multimedia dictionaries, etc.;
  • professional forums, etc.

A possible medium is the Institution’s Foreign Language Department website, which informs students of the studying programs and suggests additional tasks, texts, resources, and recommended literature.

To use modern technologies effectively, the chosen means should be appropriate to the stage of training and the set goals, as well as the principle of continuity of education. It is also important that professionals in information technology and faculties are engaged in the development of new educational programs and e-learning resources.

2. USING ICT IN BACHELOR’S DEGREE PROGRAMS

The purpose of bachelor’s degree programs at technical universities, in terms of foreign language education, is to achieve the level of communicative competence that allows students to use a foreign language in professional activities. The education is based on the language competences acquired in high school. The Federal State Educational Standards define three levels of language proficiency: basic, enhanced, and high (A2+, B1, and B2 accordingly). Hence, the difficulties students experience in further education due to inequality of their skills. Moreover, the inadequacy of secondary education leads to the fact that some students fail to have acquired the basic skills of a foreign language. The solution to the problem of mixed-level training is ICT, which can help students to improve insufficient language skills.

At the same time, most school graduates usually have enough experience in using information and communication technologies as a learning tool. Educational complexes for schools often include various elements of ICT. Among them are the Spotlight and the Starlight series which are successfully used by a large number of schools. There are also electronic courses published by the Prosveshcheniye publishers that help school-students prepare for the written and oral parts of the Unified State Exam in English. With these aids, would-be students are accustomed to using ICT for educational purposes.

Electronic educational resources should consist of interactive exercises, tests, and simulators with a response system, i.e. tips, questions, suggestions to try again, hyperlinks to help, benefits, individual recommendations, etc. Such tools can be used to monitor and analyze students’ progress. Moreover, the control over students’ learning activities is simplified, and their autonomous learning and self-testing skills are developed.

The implementation of such methods allows:

  • to improve the efficiency and quality of education;
  • to determine learning objectives of current importance;
  • to increase students’ motivation;
  • to develop language competence: ability to understand authentic foreign language texts (reading, listening), to transmit information in reasoned statements;
  • to broaden linguistic knowledge;
  • to develop the ability and willingness to work independently;
  • to make classes more dynamic.

Another goal of using ICT in classrooms is to develop skills in professional communication in a foreign language, which implicates specific terminology understood by a person skilled in the particular branch of science.

Implementing ICT to learning is a rather difficult and long-term process, but it solves problems at different levels of education and provides a better learning experience and a competitive education.

3. USING ICT IN MASTER’S DEGREE PROGRAMS

The principle of continuity of education should be based on a multidisciplinary approach and have a practical focus on the academic development of communicative competence in an international academic environment, i. e. creation of articles, essays, reports, presentations, etc.

Despite the importance of such training, at the beginning of the course there is a problem caused by the deep-seated tradition of teaching foreign languages in technical universities. Languages are taught only in the first or second year. The training is then resumed only in master’s degree programs. If a student is not involved in a foreign language for several years, the acquired skills are often lost. However, it should be noted that often postgraduates’ interest in learning a foreign language tends to increase together with their proficiency and professional vocabulary in the native language.

The technologies and methods used for training bachelors should be applied to solve these problems at a higher level as well. As previously used teaching materials decrease students’ motivation, new resources should be designed specifically for postgraduate programs taking into account, on the one hand, the necessity of repetition of previous stages, on the other hand, the development of professional language skills on a new, higher level.

With the reduction of classroom hours, students are required to work more independently. To develop their skills in professional communication students can:

  • search for information on specialized websites;
  • make reports and presentations on topical issues;
  • participate in discussions on professional forums.

At this stage, a conventional activity of individual academic reading is highly important as it advances students’ skills of information search, selection of keywords, and evaluation of search results. Postgraduates should be familiar with the Russian National Public Library for Science and Technology (www.gpntb.ru) and Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com), which focuses on scientific articles, patents, etc. These resources can help them search for professionally relevant information and use it in their scientific work and master’s thesis. For education purposes, students can be asked to write a review of a certain topic in the foreign language, which is then assessed by the adviser.

Various electronic resources and online courses specialized in professional and business communication, such as Career Paths: English for Specific Purposes by Express Publishing, can be used.

It is also essential to teach students use machine translation properly and edit texts in the target language.

4. USING ICT IN POSTGRADUATE DEGREE PROGRAMS

In addition to preparing for the qualifying examinations for the Candidate’s degree, further development of oral and written skills of professional communication in a foreign language — such as writing articles, reports, patents, conducting online discussions in a foreign language, delivering speeches at conferences, etc. — should continue. Thus, emphasis is laid mainly on the ability to gain knowledge, to solve problems, and to set criteria for the selection of the most effective solutions.

Currently, there is a lack of English courses for scientists and researchers; however, English for Research Students by R. P. Millrood can be used in postgraduate programs. It is also important that postgraduates go into business, so sufficient knowledge of Business English can be attained with Career Paths: Business English teaching aids.

5. PROBLEMS OF USING ICT AND THEIR SOLUTIONS

The increasing demand for specialists able to carry out effective professional communication leads to revision of the current established tradition of teaching foreign languages in technical universities, the education process, and related information resources.

The readiness of teaching staff to use ICT on a usual basis should be promoted by extension courses for teachers and a closer integration of the new methods in the teaching process, as well as up-to-date resources designed in collaboration with academic advisers. For successful professional training, teachers of foreign languages need to be familiar with the professional contexts their students can find themselves in and core relevant sciences.

The work to be done to create ICT resources and develop methods of their application to the education process requires large intellectual, financial, and time investments. Therefore, it seems reasonable to set priorities and plans for further methodological and research works, for which special scientific groups of teachers could be organized. In addition, appropriate training for teaching staff must be provided.

Summarizing, we can say that modern engineering education is impossible without the development and improvement of methods of teaching foreign languages with information and communication technologies. To implement new resources in the education process at technical universities a great methodological and research work involving specialists from engineering departments is required. In addition, the competence of teachers of foreign languages as active users of information and communication technologies and software creators means that they can use electronic resources, services, tools, and applications to optimize the traditional education process and independently designed distant learning courses to develop students’ skills and communicative competence.

 

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