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Technology use in ESP

on Sat, 04/22/2017 - 15:33

Technology use in ESP

A look at the programme of an ESP conference in 2011 shows that several sessions

were about how to use certain technologies in ESP lessons. Does this show a new

trend of more technology use in ESP, or has technology always been integrated in

ESP courses?

A brief history of technology use in ESP

Just as in general English language teaching and learning, technology in its

various forms has long been used in ESP, whether in the form of a tape recorder

or sophisticated digital technology. But maybe its impact on ESP has been more

profound (Arnó, Soler and Rueda, 2006a). ESP teachers have always used available

tools to devise materials and create situations relevant to their students’ needs

(Arnó-Macià, 2012).

92 | Technology-integrated English for Specific Purposes lessons However, technology’s role in language learning in general, and in ESP in particular,

has changed over time and significantly so in recent years (Arnó, Soler and Rueda,

2006a). Not only has the view of learning changed with time, from the behaviourist to

communicative to an integrative view (Warschauer and Healey, 1998), but technology

has also evolved and become more ubiquitous in everyday life, and particularly in the

professional world. Both of these have affected how technology is employed in

ESP lessons.

In the past, teachers had to book computer rooms or language labs to go with

their learners and allow them to use CALL software with mostly drill-type exercises

(Arnó, Soler and Rueda, 2006a). Today, technology has become integrated into the

classroom physically and pedagogically rather than being an add on. Computers

particularly have come to be seen and used as a tool to accomplish certain tasks

or to communicate (Warschauer and Healey, 1998; Warschauer and Kern, 2000).

Therefore, Garrett (2009: 719) defines CALL now as ‘the full integration of technology

into language learning’ with its three elements of theory, pedagogy, and technology

playing an equally important role.

Although technology has always played a role in ESP (Arnó-Macià, 2012), the internet

has had a particularly strong impact. As ESP puts emphasis on the needs of learners,

and authentic materials and tasks, IT has become a very suitable tool for ESP (Arnó,

Soler and Rueda, 2006a), specifically, the ‘second wave of online language learning’

(Kern, Ware, and Warschauer, 2004: 243), which Arnó-Macià (2012: 91) describes

as going ‘beyond language learning by focusing on culture and social discourses’

and allowing ESP learners to collaborate and engage in authentic communication in

their professional discourse community, to access up-to-date information relevant

to their profession, and to publish their ideas, which can all give them a sense of

empowerment as learners. This is why Warschauer and Kern (2000) termed teaching

using IT as ‘networked-based language teaching’.

In the business world in particular, and generally in professional life, the internet

has taken centre stage and allows, in an increasingly globalised world, fast and

efficient communication and collaboration, information generation, exchange, and

management. The professional world today would in most cases not be possible

without information technology. This places a challenge on teachers who need to

prepare their ESP students to ‘deal with global communicative practices online,

in all their complexity’ (White, 2007: 325).

As learners’ needs and authentic tasks are paramount in business English and other

ESP courses, many language teachers have integrated the same kinds of technology

into their courses which their learners use in their profession, whether it is the word

processor and email, the internet as a source for authentic material and place for

authentic communication, virtual conferencing platforms, simulation software, or,

in recent years, mobile technologies.