TECHNOLOGY, ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING AND INTERNATIONALIZATION AT A CROSSROAD: INSIGHTS FROM THE ANALYSIS OF A VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT IN BRAZIL
, G. Prebianca2
, J. Schmitt2
, D.F. de Andrade3
1Universidade Federal do Espirito Santo (BRAZIL)
2Instituto Federal de Educação, Ciência e Tecnologia Catarinense - Campus Blumenau (BRAZIL)
3Federal University of Santa Catarina (BRAZIL)
The paper reflects on the impact of technology and internationalization in education in general and in English as a foreign language (EFL) teaching in Brazil in particular. So as to foreground the discussion the study reviews educational policies in regards to the role of technologies and English as a foreign language teaching and learning in Brazil and analyzes the affordances of an English as a foreign language virtual learning environment offered by the Brazilian Ministry of Education as part of its internationalization agenda. The virtual learning environment analyzed - My English Online (MEO) - is part of the English without Borders (EwB) internationalization program launched in 2012 by the Brazilian government to correct a perceived historical deficiency in EFL learning in that country so as to boost the internationalization process there. The EwB Program includes many actions to foster EFL learning but the three most important ones are 1) the MEO virtual learning environment, 2) the Nucli face-to-face classes offered in federal universities and 3) the administration of Toefl tests for university students. The present study addresses internationalization and educational policies in Brazil in relation to the use of technologies in general and the effectiveness of the MEO virtual learning environment for EFL learning in general and the internationalization process in particular. The analyses use a mixed methods design (Dornyei, 2007) to assess students’ perceptions of the ergonomic features of the software underpinning the virtual learning environment as well as its affordances and limitations in what concerns EFL development. Preliminary results of the qualitative analysis suggest that the MEO might not be sufficient to promote language learning by itself since interaction and oral practice are important aspects of foreign language learning apparently not catered by this virtual learning environment. Aligned with these results, the analysis of students’ perception of the use of MEO suggests that the speaking ability is seen as the most challenging one to develop through the use of the virtual learning environment. In addition, students believe that the lack of correction of written texts and audio recordings impact negatively on EFL learning, once they are not aware of what must be improved and how to accomplish it. The human-computer interaction features of MEO are currently under scrutiny so as to allow for statistical analyses of data but preliminary results point to the fact that the lack of feedback is a negative feature of the course analyzed, as well as its lack of affordance for the development of productive skills such as writing and speaking. It is expected that the statistical analysis reveals a relationship between the pedagogic and the ergonomic characteristics of the software, corroborating Prebianca, Vieira and Finardi (2014, paper submitted). Overall results of the study indicate that the critical use of technology aligned with educational policies seem to be necessary to combat the perceived lack of English language proficiency of Brazilians which in turn affects and is affected by the internationalization and development processes in that country.