Technology, risk and education: English language teaching with computers in Japanese universities
AuthorBradley, William S.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractA study of computers and the teaching of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Japanese universities was designed to look at interrelations of technology and teachers' theories in these contexts. A review of the literature on technology and education concludes that technology is often given a purposive role in formulating change. However, instead of focusing on the effects of technology, it is argued that technology is better seen as indicative of other purposes. Connections to changing employment opportunities, skills, relations of professionals within the university, as well as problems and issues in teaching and learning with computers, lead to a conceptualization of risk in the teaching approaches in this study. In recent years, Japanese universities face increasing competition for a declining population of students. The financial pressures are concomitant with changes impinging on Japanese universities. These include the first attempts at on-line education in Japan, the need to reduce costs, initiatives from the central government to reform higher education, and demands for new skills. The primary source of data in this study were 14 in-depth interviews with experienced university English teachers who used computers frequently in teaching. A second source was a reflective journal of the author's teaching in a computer classroom for two years. Themes in the data were analyzed and linked to sociological theories of risk. Two strands of risk-oriented theories reviewed, Beck's risk society and Foucault's governmentality, were used to hypothesize simplified approaches to risk, one that is ethical and another that is strategic. Both approaches help explain ambivalences in the pattern of responses in the interview data. How these teachers value the skills of computing in English as necessary but at the same time express reservations for the isolating tendencies of using computers in teaching is an example. The results show that risk is useful in explaining ambivalences while pointing to the need for further research to understand how computing is becoming part of the educational equipment of more and more teaching contexts in Japanese universities and how risk as strategy and ethics opens up possibilities for increased understanding of computers and education.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Language, Reading and Culture