Cyberculture: A Cohesive Tool to ELT World
Sagun Shrestha (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This modern world is entirely dominated by technology as often said the 21st century is an era of science and information technology. In one sense, we can view that the entire world is encroached by technology be it the computational fields or the digital. We are unable to run even our daily chores in the absence of these means. So, it is the digital age. And ELT cannot remain untouched from it.
Techno-strata and Critical Literacy:
The impact of technology is very immense, it cannot be judged in general. Earlier, there were strata in terms of production and economy from the standpoint of Marxist philosophy, but now there exists strata in regard to access to technology as techno-poor and techno-rich, the concept of post- Marxism. Those having no or a little access to technology are techno-poor, and those having access are techno-rich. Especially, the people from third world countries fall under the first category, no matter whether they are well-educated. Obviously, the one being very closed to technology can update him with the flux of the world, he can broaden his horizon of knowledge, and can be more critical and creative thinker since he requires the skills to operate and be familiar with the emerging modern technology and analyze the pros and cons of it in his daily life. It is the critical literacy which is also required in English language teaching.
English is being an international lingua franca. The person remains isolated purely from academic world if he lacks this language. Although some languages as Chinese, Spanish and others try to replace it, it is not so easy to be so. Therefore, accepting this fact, almost all emphasize teaching and learning English even for the survival in academia. At a moment, English language teaching has also been immensely affected by science and Information Technology (IT). With the use of different innovative means and methodology, it is taught and learnt. For a time being, let’s say it is the cyberculture that has left the impact on it.
Now there is CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) and which is also a part of cyberculture amid many others. The use of Internet, TV, recording devices, multimedia, movies, and cell phones can also make ELT the live one. Especially, in literature teaching, one has to deal with the trend that is being used on it. Literature is also a pivotal part to teach language. Since there is the use of newer and nobler trend, the instructor has to be well familiarized on it. He needs to know cyber world, if there exists its use. This is the information age and literature also gets bloomed as per the time. There comes cyberculture and the instructor is reluctant to know it on one hand, and on the other hand, he has to know the cyber world since ELT is cuddled up by the technology per se.
Cyberspace is the new medium of communications that arose through the global interconnection of computers. The term refers not only to the material infrastructure of digital communications but to the oceanic universe of information it holds as well as human beings who navigate and nourish that infrastructure. Cyberculture is the set of technologies (material and technological), practices, attitudes, modes of thought, and values that developed along with the growth of cyberspace.
The global interconnection of computers is immense now. Every place is closely linked via network; therefore, there does not remain the concept of distance as near and far, and in the same fashion, the concept of past and present also seems to be archaic. This is due to network and creation of cyberworld. There is no any area which refrains from cyberculture. ELT too use much of it to update itself with techno revolution. It can be seen in literature be it oriental or occidental which can be the means of better language teaching.
Technology in English Language Teaching and Learning
Over the last fifteen years American schools have dramatically increased spending on classroom technology to more than $5 billion annually, because there has been a widely held belief by governmental, business and educational leaders that “wiring schools, buying hardware and software, and distributing the equipment throughout will lead to abundant classroom use by teachers and students and improved teaching and learning” (Cuban et al., 2001) (http://www.marthalakecov.org/~building/strategies/technology/foltos.htm retrieved on January 24, 2011)
America’s return on this massive investment in classroom technology seems even more questionable when parents, policymakers, and educators look for evidence of the impact on student achievement. Supporters of educational technology continue to believe that technology will make a difference in academic achievement, but tend to rely on anecdotal evidence about student motivation and their development of critical thinking skills to support this belief. Recently, a growing number of researchers have published studies that provide substantial evidence that technology can play a positive role in academic achievement. Several organizations like Edutopia, the North Central Educational Lab (NCREL) and the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET) are documenting research studies that link technology to increases in academic achievement.
Now the question arises here: can the third world countries too afford such a big amount to introduce technology in language teaching? It is the major challenge to the countries which are developing. It seems impossible since the third world countries are lagging behind even to provide basic education which go through chalk and talk kind of methodology with teacher-centered pedagogy. But does it mean that we need not be familiar with modern techno-methodology? Does it also mean that all the learners do not have access with technology? Obviously, it’s a big ‘’no’’. Even in the context of Nepal, some good schools have already got access to these technology and others are trying for them. The computers are there even in rural areas. The mobile networks are everywhere throughout Nepal. The techno revolution seems out of blue in Nepal within a short period. It clearly depicts that we are in dire need to use them in pedagogy and especially in language teaching. Provided the technology is used for language teaching and learning, certainly there will be positive effects as motivation towards learning and critical thinking to operate them.
What can be the Different Tools to Use in ELT?
It’s so common to find different tools in ELT, out of them I will be sharing here some tools that I have used practically in my ELT classes which have shown a kind of magnanimous impact as regards the motivation of the both parties viz., instructor and the learners.
a. Online Virtual Classroom
Online virtual classrooms break away the narrow confinement of formal classroom setting and invite all the members of concerned class for the discussion of the issues that is raised there. The discussion chain in virtual classroom demands the learners to be more creative and critical which ultimately makes the learner and their writing adopt reformation.
There are so many online virtual classrooms, out of which to me the best ever I have used is http://www.nicenet.org. Once the account is opened, we receive a class key which is to be distributed to our students. With a help of class key they enter their class and take part in conferencing. This conferencing is basically used to get a discussion thread on any issue. The instructor posts a question and the learners comment or answer the particular question. They also comment on their friends’ answers along with their feedback which demand their critical voyage. The instructor is always with them, and he comments upon students’ answers if needed. This ultimately teaches students to have a feeling of respect as they are required to make some positive remarks to their friends’ writing in a discussion thread.
Conferencing, link sharing, having a classs schedule and a list of students are the features of an online virtual class. It’s effective for all the levels from teen to adult learners.
A blog is an electronic platform where we can post any document that can be reached out to anyone. It’s more a free and mini-website with a fixed template. Depending upon the instructor’s need, he can create either a class blog, project blog, teacher’s blog or student’s blog which are for different purpose. To me, class blog and teacher’s blog are so much useful in the field of ELT as class blog helps us to post our issues of the entire class and similarly, teacher’s blog supports the teachers to provide notes, slides and hand-outs to his students.
Project blog at times, can be useful to assign the learners some project developing project on some sites which will be discussed later. It will be more like getting discussion thread as done in Nicenet but for the different purpose. We can also appoint themselves as editors and subeditors to post their friends’ issues and ask other non-editors comment on it. www.eblogger.com,www.wordpress.com and www.weebly.com are the best blogging sites used so far.
c. Academic Project; A webquest
Academic project can be assigned online using some tools like www.zunal.com andwww.questgarden.com which has its fixed format called webquests. They have introduction at the very beginning followed by tasks, process, and evaluation. Since webquest is a well-arranged set, it seems a perfect tool for assigning some projects to the learners. The rubric will help them get the right instruction that can be placed on evaluation obtaining fromwww.rubistar4teachers.com.
d. Academic search engines and social Book Marking
Search Engines, the generic are google, bing etc. but the more academic that I use for language instruction is www.twurdy.com which shows the readability of each link. We can simply share the link checking the readability level. It is shown with the symbol of colour, like the deep orange is a link having a complex text whereas faint orange is a link having simple text. Moreover, it shows the age level too.
Social bookmarking site helps to have a record of each link. It can be termed as our online library since we have a tag to every site, and make a stack. The moment you need, you can retrieve from any computer having internet facilities from anywhere in the world. Even our friends can reach to our bookmarking if we have made it public. The private sites cannot be browsed by others besides the owner. The best social bookmarking site is http://www.delcious .com.
These all are the sites that I have been using in my classroom. At times I myself feel that the classroom setting has entirely been changed due to its intervention. Now the classroom’s formal setting has been distorted and everything needs redefining and regeneration, a feature of postmodernism.
Cyberculture as a Postmodern Fact
Postmodernism, the buzz term in the present era, rules over every disciplines. Be it the literature or politics, be it arts or architecture, it fixes its impact on them. It seems it is like a catch-all term for just about anything. Postmodernism started life mainly as an academic category concerned with certain developments in the arts, but soon became a descriptive term for all sorts of proposed shifts and changes in contemporary society and culture. Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary (2010, 7th edition) defines it as ‘a style and movement in art, architecture, literature etc in the late 20th century that reacts with modern styles’. It is not a school of thought rather it is a set of ideas or unified intellectual movement which tries to define or explain the state of affairs in the society. Therefore, it doesn’t comprise of a single theoretician or a spokesperson. In fact, it is not easy to define postmodernism. To say the description over disillusionment or unsystematic going as postmodernism is insufficient. Since postmodernism is concerned with different fields, the obscurity over definition is customary. Anyway, in general, it is a hard strike against modernity. It is ‘the end of the history’, ‘the end of man’ and ‘the death of the real’. (Ward. G, 2009)
The end of history is the skepticism about the idea of progress. It also relates to debate about how histories are written, and to the thought that events lack unity or direction. Similarly, the death of the real is to do with postmodernism’s abandonment of the pursuit of absolute truth, and its preference for the temporary, superficial and the apparent. The end of man is an interrogation of mankind as a social and historical invention. It is connected to the idea that new technologies are moving us into a ‘post-human’ stage of development. In other words, postmodernism describe about the role of technology in modern human life which is cyberculture indeed. Therefore, since postmodernism studies the impact of digital devices in human lives i.e., cyberculture, it takes cyberculture as one of the aspects among many postmodern facts.
Different terminologies have been evolved which are closely connected with cyberculture. Postmarxism, digital culture, globalization, cultural imperialism, cyber feminism and cyber punk are the jargons which have been frequented while dealing cyberculture as a postmodern fact.
Marxists view ‘mode of production’ or ‘economy’ as a major entity to create different strata in a society. The stratification exists there viz. bourgeois and proletarian due to economy and they viewed economy as a central entity while the post-Marxists object the stratification and advocates freedom and democracy; they view nothing remains in a centre. Further, they possess the idea i.e., the strata have been shifted to ‘techno-poor’ and ‘techno-rich’ in terms of technology. It is in regard to the access of technology. Those having access are ‘techno-rich’ and without access are ‘techno-poor’.
B. Cyber Feminism
It is the term coined by critics of feminism. Seeking their space in cyberculture, Bhattarai (2006) says, ‘It is purely the novel concept in a literary theory. The analysts for the feminists’ theory are seeking their space in cyberculture by impeding into the debate prevalent over there.’
Obviously, feminists conclude females are being technically dominated. In other words, they have a little or no access with technology vis- a-vis male. Females aren’t much interested in using technical devices and even they depend upon males or others to get their actions completed which need technical supports whereas the males are technically superior. The time they allocate in using technology is extensive; it is how the newer strata are formed in terms of impact of technology in gender. Once again Bhattarai (2006) says, ‘Most of the people say, this, cyber space is the deliberate structure formed by the male-dominated mentality which affects the female participation. It is clear through the email, bulletin board system, discourses, web-designs, and the structure of computer industries that we see.’ The current study on feminism in computer technology in Asia shows despite having equal qualification to male, the females are not going forward in using technology, bearing risks and seeking the help from either offspring or husbands or others. It also shows another stratum. Now the feminists politics is entering gradually in this academic discipline i.e., literature.
C. Digital Culture
One of the buzz words in this modern era: digital culture is so prevalent since our entire culture is dominated through electronic culture. This is digital age and our culture is also the digital one. The digital technologies: cellular phone, pedger, CD ROM, I-phone, I-pod has tremendously affected our lives. These all are linked to the computer which transmits message through electronic signals in an inanimate way.
We all are moved through silicon chips-which are one of the very dangerous aspects of digital age. Nothing remains secret and confidential. We are being observed everywhere through surveillance camera no matter where we are, be it while bathing in a bathroom or in a department store. It depicts that we have lost our freedom which is the major impact of digital culture. Cyberculture in literature also regards this as a major phenomenon in its study and deals the matter.
At a moment, the identities of writer and readers have been metamorphosed. Readers do not require being script-literate. Just visual or sound-literate is enough since any information can be extracted via these means, and writers also can enjoy copy and paste sort of stuff since all the sources can be googled and obtained. It shows that archaic status of reader and writer has been entirely changed.
This is another terminology related to cyberculture. Due to the immense use of satellite, the world has turned into a small village. This is a globalization. The transportation, commerce and trade have been grown larger besides communication. Along with this, cultures have travelled very far crossing the national boundary and now transnational state is being developed which does not have any specific boundary. Now the literati should not think of only his country but also has a view as if he is a common citizen of the world.
The prime reason to get the same food, same fashion and same brand throughout the world is due to globalization. We can know the information about holy places, hotels, mega events being closed inside a room. Since there is everything global product, it threatens the local ones. We surmise, there can be a time when the local ones may not be seen as it will be entirely replaced by the global ones, the tremendous impact of globalization, the cultural imperialism indeed.
E. Cultural Imperialism
The situation indeed evolved, due to globalization is cultural imperialism. Not only in this 21st era, can even its foundation be seen in Roman period. Just the shape has been changed remaining the quality or imperialism as usual. It denotes the way the developed countries impose their values, trends, cultures to the third world countries to be followed. The values, trends and local cultures of the third world countries are being encroached and they get diminished. When global stuffs substitute local ones, all the things become common gradually. These all things and cultures would be only of developed countries. The entrance of multinational companies and the substitution of local goods and cultures by the global ones are some of the instances of cultural imperialism.
Another reason of cultural imperialism to the third world country is due to the migration of youths in search of employment, education and other facilities to the developed countries. When they return back to their own countries after their certain purposes get fulfilled, they also bring the cultures of the developed ones which become the modal for being encroached. On one hand, the activities and language used in cyber help to promote it, on the other hand, the migration of youth to the developed countries.
F. Cyber Punk
Cyber punk, the crucial concept in cyberculture is related to rock music (punk rocker which was popular in 1960 to 1980) (Bhattarai, 2006). There was its own feature; one who would sing with extreme dissatisfaction to the world having long hair, chain on the body was known as punk rocker and it was adhered to the voice of freedom from the chaotic, sorrowful and pity society. However, in literature, the cyber punk fiction has its own unique existence. It became so much popular after William Gibson published his fiction entitled ‘Neuromancer’. It is used in sci-fi genre. The then cyber punk music was regarded as the symbol for destruction, devastation, mutilation and revolution but the present day cyber punk fiction is regarded as intellectual criticism to the current society.
Cyber punk fiction analyzes the future role and qualities of human through the creation of virtual world with the assistance of computer and modern technology. People are living in non-places these days creating global village. Humans have got second life as every chatting, clothing and chewing has been virtual which have been possible due to techno-revolution.
At a moment, many sci-fi movies are seen in the market which has been tremendously affected by the cyber punk genre. Some instances: ‘Robot’, ‘Neuromancer’, ‘The Matrix’, ‘The Machine Girl’, ‘The Eagle Eye’ and many other show its radical use. In this regard, the literature, both eastern and western has been saturated entirely through cyber punk in particular and cyberculture, in general which has further impact in ELT.
It’s so weird to have a view being a language instructor that we require no modification in our methodology. Everything needs redefining and regeneration and with this timely perception, we find cyberculture as a cohesive tool to ELT world. These days, the learners are techno-native and we some of us may be, otherwise most of us are techno-immigrants, and still overlooking the techno-native generation and trying to impose our age-long practice may mean creating frustration in our teaching and learning. The frustration of both parties can be seen sooner or later; therefore it is a high time, the language instructors adopted this cohesive fact in their instruction to address the need of the present day ELT world. This is what regeneration and redefining in ELT which is a resultant effect of techno-native generation.
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(Sagun Shrestha is the Assistant Coordinator of English Access Microscholarship Program, Nepal. He has also been teaching English at St. Lawrence college, Chabahil Kathmandu. A teacher and teacher trainer, Mr. Shrestha has co-authered ‘English Teaching Methods’ and has worked in the capacity of Editor-in-chief of ‘ The GEM’, an annual magazine of GEMS . He is particularly interested in cyberculture, researches in new trends in ELT and oriental and western Literature. )