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Teachers’ Attitudes and Experiences of Digital Tools Within Speaking Proficiency in Foreign Language Teaching and Learning - Interactional Competence Left in The Dark

Conference paper
Authors Elin Ericsson
Sylvana Sofkova Hashemi
Johan Lundin
Published in 12th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation, ICERI2019, 11-13 November 2019, Seville, Spain
ISBN 978-84-09-14755-7
ISSN 2340-1095
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies
Language en
Links https://library.iated.org/view/ERIC...
Keywords foreign language teaching and learning, digital tools, speaking proficiency, interactional competence
Subject categories Didactics

Abstract

Speaking proficiency is crucial, complex and ranked as the most important skill to teach and learn in foreign language education (Cambridge University, 2017). Communication in foreign languages and digital competence are two key competencies formulated by the European Union. Communicative competence, authentic interaction in the target language in relevant and meaningful contexts is in focus in today’s communicative approach of language learning. Digital tools can enhance language learning enabling users to engage in authentic learning situations facilitating real-life oral communication, and the development of speaking and listening skills (Li, 2017; Bajorek, 2018). Immersive simulations and safe digital environments lower learners’ anxiety to speak a foreign language (Grant et al., 2013). The purpose of this study is to explore language teachers’ attitudes towards using digital tools. Our study reports on responses from 36 Swedish teachers of French, German, Spanish and English surveyed about teaching speaking supported by digital tools. Speaking proficiency is here subcategorised in pronunciation of phrases, own production of utterances and interaction including dialogues. In accordance with previous research, our results show that teachers consider speaking as the most challenging skill to provide possibilities to practice. The survey shows that interactional competence is the hardest to practice and at the same time experienced as the least supported by digital tools. The majority of the teachers have positive attitudes towards digital tools in language education but use them to a varied extent. Tools for translation like Google Translate are used by almost all teachers but at varied frequency. Digital communicative tools like Skype are hardly ever used. The majority of the teachers seldom or never use digital textbooks, language apps, games designed for language learning or immersive simulations. Around a third of them report no use of digital tools for supporting speaking proficiency. Among those teachers who do provide digital tools for practising speaking, support for pronunciation is the most common whereas interaction is the least frequent. The teachers report on the importance of a safe environment, and working with meaningful and interesting topics to enable students to dare to speak. Though many digital tools can provide these possibilities, the teachers report obstacles for using them; lack of competence, time, and research evidence for the effects. Also, some teachers report on unreliable quality, lack of objective evaluation of the tools and as a source of distraction. In conclusion, the studied teachers view speaking and interactional competence as the hardest skills to practice. Although the questionnaire reveals positive attitudes, the teachers report on quite sparse use of a few types of digital tools in foreign language education. Speaking proficiency supported by digital tools seems to be a challenge, especially the interactional competence almost left in the dark. Based on the teachers’ perceived obstacles for students regarding anxiety to speak, and the teachers’ limited use of digital tools, there is a need for more empirical research of interactive tools as facilitators for more effective teaching and learning of speaking a foreign language in general and interactional competence in particular. At the moment we are conducting a study of digital tools supporting interaction in language learning.

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