PRE-SERVICE TEACHERS' INITIAL EXPERIENCES WITH THE FIRST-TIME DEVELOPED GREEK CYPRIOT DIALECT KEYBOARD
In Cyprus (the third biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea), the majority of the population is Greek Cypriots (77%) where Standard Modern Greek (SMG) is one of the official languages (CIA-Factbook, 2011), mostly used in the public formal settings, including political speeches and university lectures; it is the language of the press and of the media at large, with the exception of cartoons, satirical columns and some television serials (Tsiplakou 2004). However, the Greek Cypriot Dialect (GCD) is the dominant method of the daily informal verbal communication. Greek Cypriots are not officially asked to express themselves on paper by using the GCD either in school, in their profession or even in their daily lives. Students are products of a school system where Standard Modern Greek (SMG) has primacy over the GCD. Consequently, in- and pre-service teachers are implicitly expected to reproduce such accepted linguistic and literacy norms in their classroom practice (Pavlou & Papapavlou, 2004). Besides the above, a new era has begun regarding the GCD, since 1) the new curriculum released by the Ministry of Education and Culture early in 2011 is more “friendly” towards the GCD, and 2) the GCD keyboard was developed in 2010 (Themistocleous, 2010).
The study aims to evaluate pre-service teachers’ experiences with the GCD keyboard as an educational tool. Specifically, the study aims to identify pre-service teachers’ attitudes and opinions as well as the difficulties encountered after their initial experience with the GCD keyboard. Additionally, it aims to identify how pre-service teachers perceive its added value and usefulness as educational tool, and its potential integration in the educational practice. Finally, it investigates if they used the two most characteristic (in comparison to SMG) phonemes of the GCD, how they used them and if they had used them correctly.
The current study employed a mixed method approach collecting qualitative and quantitative data. The population of the study was 61, 1st year pre-service teachers (Department of Primary Education, Frederick University Cyprus). The experiment took place within the Introduction to Technology course, where one of its objectives was to learn and practice GCD keyboard installation and use. Two exercises were given to pre-service teachers: 1) to write twice the same 30 words in SMG and in GCD (total of 60 words) and 2) to describe their most recent conversation. For both exercises they requested to use the GCD keyboard as needed. Forty-five students completed the above two exercises. Additionally, they were asked to use discussion forums to express their views on the subjects under investigation. The discussion forum is part of university’s e-learning system (Moodle). Fifty-one pre-service teachers responded to the questions posted at the discussion forum.
We are in the process of analyzing the data collected. Specifically, discussion forums data is analyzed based on the main variables under investigation, using the method of continuous comparison of data (Maykut & Morehouse, 1994) (qualitative analysis). Basic quantitative analysis is also conducted, calculating descriptive statistics regarding the use of the two most characteristic phonemes of the GCD. The educational and scientific significance of the study lies in the fact that there is limited research on the use of GCD and GCD keyboard in formal settings. Important conclusions and implications are expected to emerge.