Dr. K. G. Halaswamy*
Teaching methodology over the years has undergone a metamorphosis. Gone are the good old days of the Gurukul system where the Guru was a revered person with abundant knowledge and the students would learn from the Guru at anytime and all time. In the present system of teaching in the tech savvy world, students expect teachers to teach at the click of the mouse. In fact, the ICTs have revolutionized the teaching methodology. Using different methodologies, both traditional and modern, makes teaching any subject more effective. This paper attempts to find out new methods to teach English as a subject by the tactical use of mass media.
English as a Subject
In many countries of the world, English is not a subject of study. In Europe itself, each European country has its own language which is used for teaching, learning and evaluation. In fact, people do not even speak English. Nevertheless, the world over a tremendous need is felt for speaking and writing in English. With advance in technology and the world becoming a ‘Global Hamlet’, English has become the language of the world.
However, English as an academic subject of study is generally taught as novel, poetry, prose and grammar. At the grassroots level, you need to learn the 3 Rs – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. English is taught to Read and Write. For any language to be learnt, it is necessary to learn its grammar. Indeed, it is possible to use mass media as a tool for powerful impact.
Traditional v/s Modern Method of Learning
In order to learn the pedagogy of English, one needs to understand the changing trends in teaching methodology.
Over decades, academicians have believed in following the rote method of learning; the teacher lectures in class, writes important points on the blackboard and promptly dictates notes. Homework becomes a part of the teaching system. The following day, the so-called homework is corrected by the already overtaxed teachers.
At the end of the semester, whatever is taught is ‘examined’ in just ‘three hours’. This again, is evaluated by teachers in just 15 minutes time.
Most importantly, when you are attempting to teach a ‘Language’, the rote method of learning becomes meaningless. Initially, when a language is being taught the three most important factors to remember are
- Understanding of the terminologies
Teaching any subject needs a proactive approach. Moreover, a language has to be taught through interactivity. In such a case, what is required is a paradigm shift from rote learning to Group Discussions, role play, interactive sessions and PPTs. In this respect, new media plays a vital role in preparation of PPTs.
Mass Media as a Tool
Many researchers have advocated using mass media as a tool for proactive teaching. Media ‘informs, educates and entertains’ according to functions of mass media. Prof. Wilbur Schramm (Professor of Communications) calls it the ‘Watcher-Teacher-Forum’ function. According to Shirley Baigy (1996), media ‘inform, amuse, startle, anger, entertain, thrill, but very seldom leave anyone untouched’ which is why media can be used as a tool for teaching. Before using media as a tool for teaching English, one needs to introspect on the following:
- How can media help students speak more?
- How can classroom media presentation help students speak more fluently?
- How to help students not to forget what they learn through media?
- How to exploit learning material offered by various media?
Uses of Media
Print is the earliest form of media. Every faculty of academia uses textbooks and other such reading-learning materials. The modern media of communication is the electronic media, which comprises mainly of radio and television. The major use of all these media in teaching English is in both written and oral communication skills. In general, provide information, motivate the students to speak, and try to integrate listening, reading, talking and writing skills.
Media are important because you get to know the world through them. Media also helps in developing creativity.
It is indeed true that print media is a great tool that a teacher can use to teach English. An ideal pedagogy is to use newspapers to teach English language skills. Newspapers can be used for language development and interpretation. Writing improves by reading newspapers. In fact, grammar and simplicity in writing can be learnt by reading newspapers.
To learn English through newspapers students should make it a habit to read newspapers everyday; they have to list out the complex words; refer to dictionary to understand the complex terms. It is found that vocabulary improves by following these activities.
The simplest form of using newspapers to teach English is to make the students write letters to the editors regularly. This will not only help in comprehension but also develop simple writing skills and in gaining general knowledge and create interest in current affairs.
To help develop creativity in English writing, students should be made to read important supplements of newspapers. Reading supplements will also help in honing analytical skills of students.
The ideal way to improve one’s vocabulary in English is to pick words from newspapers and find synonyms and antonyms for the same. Reading newspapers thoroughly also helps in improving one’s grammar. sentence structures, checking faults in them, finding typographical errors in newspapers will all help in improving grammar.
In fact, even magazines are a good source of learning English; magazines always have a lot of pictures. Picking these pictures and writing about them improves creativity in writing. With all these exercises while teaching English, it can be seen that the print media has most of the features that can act as tools for teaching English effectively and in a simple manner.
Radio as a Tool
Radio is an audio medium. It serves as a tool for development of listening comprehension. Radio in India is more popular as FM. There are a number of FM stations in both Kannada and English.
Each Radio Jockey’s style of speaking, speed with which he or she speaks is different from one another. Comprehending their talk is indeed an effort; you need to listen carefully. This helps students understand the various nuances of pronunciation.
In many countries of Europe, English classes are broadcast over radio. In these classes pronunciation, intonation, pitch of voice and modulation are taught. Students can also understand the various kinds of accents by listening to Voice of America, British Broadcasting Corporation and other such radio stations. These broadcasts can be recorded and played in classrooms while teaching English.
TV for Teaching English
Whatever may be the criticism against TV, no one can ignore its presence. Although criticized as ‘Idiot Box’, its defenders call it a ‘Window to the World’; they claim it enlarges knowledge and understanding; it encourages new ways of learning and thinking. Critics say it is mindless viewing of mindless programmes and promotes distorted thinking (Backert, 1992).
However, TV is a major Audio Visual source for teaching English. A number of educational programmes are broadcast for teaching fundamentals of English, one such very popular programme in local Kannada channels is Express English Coaching Classes wherein spellings, pronunciation and intonations are taught.
Many of the TV channels serve as educational classes. Discovery Science, Turbo, National Geographic, Animal Planet, Wild and a host of other channels are not only informative but also educative. Much of what is taught in classrooms can be supplemented with the information obtained from these channels. In addition, they serve the dual purpose of colourfully and pictorially presenting information, and we know that ‘a picture speaks more than 1000 words.’
With the technological advancement, the ‘Smart TVs’ not only are just informative but are also ‘interactive TVs’; one can interact with the presenter of a programme via video conference. In fact, schools and colleges should avail of this facility.
ICT and English Teaching
World over, the emphasis is on using the Information Communication Technology (ICT) and multimedia facility as a teaching methodology. The ICT is an all pervasive pedagogy that ensures success in teaching at every level.
ICT includes all electronic gadgets starting right from mobiles to super computers. Teaching English through ICT can start from learning spellings and pronunciation to finding synonyms and antonyms.
At the click of a mouse one can find information by ‘Googling’; using Google, Google+, one can take up English classes in English Grammar, Prose, Poetry or Drama.
Skyping and video conferencing by enrolling or registering for English classes anywhere in the world, one can learn the accent and pronunciation of different countries at home itself. In fact, ICT has made the world a ‘Global Class room’. But, classroom teaching, and one-to-one approach between the teacher and the taught is always a must.
Teaching any subject, especially a language like English has become overtly important because the world with the technological development has shrunk to a ‘Global Hamlet.’ (Marshall McLuhan, 1979)
For an impactful teaching of English, a mix of both traditional and modern methodology should be used.
A good method for teaching English should always include supplementing classroom lectures with role play, interactions and group discussions.
All forms of Mass Media both Print and Electronic and the New Communication Technology (ICT) should be used at every level of teaching. A judicious mix of traditional and modern mass media will be an ideal form of teaching English.