Using Computers in ESL Teaching: Some Suggestions

by Ioanna Michalakelli


Undoubtedly, the use of technology plays a crucial role in ESP teaching as it seems to increase student motivation which, in turn, leads to “increased language use and consequently to improved proficiency” (Meloni, 1998).

The present article focuses on the significance of technology in ESP teaching which is manifest both in the selection of appropriate teaching materials and the preparation of motivating activities that will encourage students to become autonomous and responsible for their own learning.

1. Selection of ESP materials

With respect to the issue of the selection of ESP materials, a first observation that could be made is that the field of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) requires the use of authentic content materials that are not always constructed for the purpose of language learning.

Nevertheless, attempting to find the exact materials in a vast area of professional publications and media formats can be “a daunting task for any language instructor” (Dumitrescu, 2000).

Thus, in many cases, the Internet becomes the indispensable tool that can decisively assist the ESP teacher in their attempt to identify and gather appropriate teaching materials from the students’ subject area.

2. Examples of computer-based ESP activities

Apropos of the preparation of activities in an ESP classroom, a first suggestion that could be made relates to the way students should acquire the new terminology.

According to Carrell (1988: 243), the mechanical memorisation of lists of vocabulary items does not guarantee the learning of the words or the concept behind these words and is probably doomed to failure. Instead, contextualised learning seems to be preferable;

Kavaliauskien? and Janulevi?ien? (2001) suggest that the unfamiliar vocabulary items must be integrated into the learner’s linguistic resources so that they are spontaneously available when that is necessary.

Therefore, students could be encouraged to look for the meaning of the vocabulary items they are not familiar with in a particular website (namely and to decide which of the definitions offered apply to the context of the particular passage.

According to McGrath (1998), the use of technology will make this activity “feel” more real-world and relevant to the students’ interests and needs.

Another activity that could be incorporated in an ESP lesson involves the preparation of a PowerPoint presentation. Students could be encouraged to work in pairs or in small groups and prepare a PowerPoint presentation based on the passage they have been exposed to.

Undoubtedly, oral presentations provide learners with a beneficial learning experience and a variety of advantages. According to King (2002), presentations bridge the gap between language study and language use.

Besides, they enable learners to use the four skills in a naturally integrated way and help them to collect, inquire, organise and construct information.

Furthermore, presentations, if properly guided and organised, decisively contribute to the enhancement of team work and help students become active and autonomous learners.

Such an activity basically focuses on developing students’ fluency in using the language without repudiating the interest in grammatical accuracy, which is deemed essential during a public presentation.

3. The Teacher’s and the Learners’ Roles

At this juncture, it is of paramount importance to consider the teacher’s and the students’ role during the performance of the aforementioned activities.

Undoubtedly, the activities proposed in this article require the teacher to negotiate with the learners about what is most appropriate to include, and when to include it.

In this sense, the teacher becomes an equal with the students but uses his/her greater knowledge of the language to enable them to interpret what is happening in the specialist course.

Pertaining to the learners’ role, it is deemed rather significant to encourage students to take the initiative for their learning and exploit their profound knowledge of the content of the particular material in a constructive way.

Concluding Remarks

The main aim of this article was to emphasise that the use of technology offers a new perspective to ESP teaching. As a conclusion, it is worth citing Robinson’s (1991, cited in Jordan, 1997: 122) remark as a recommendation to all ESP teachers:

the key quality needed by the ESP teacher is flexibility: the flexibility
to change from being a general language teacher to being a specific
purpose teacher, and the flexibility to cope with different groups of
students, often at a very short notice.


Carrell, P. L. (1988). ‘Interactive text processing: implications for ESL/Second Language Reading Classrooms’ in Carrell, P.L., J. Devine and D.E. Eskey (eds.) Interactive Approaches to Second Language Reading. Cambridge: CUP, pp. 239-259

Carrell, P. L., J. Devine and D. E. Eskey (eds.). (1988). Interactive Approaches to Second Language Reading. Cambridge: CUP

Dumitrescu, V. (2000). ‘Authentic Materials: Selection and Implementation in Exercise Language Training’ [Online] Available from: [accessed 20/05/2006]

Jordan, R. R. (1997). English for Academic Purposes: A guide and resource book for teachers. Cambridge: CUP

Kavaliauskien?, G. and V. Janulevi?ien? (2001). ‘Using the Lexical Approach for the Acquisition of ESP Vocabulary’ [Online] Available from: [accessed 12/12/2005]

King, J. (2002). ‘Preparing EFL Learners for Oral Presentations’ [Online] Available from: [accessed 20/12/2005]

McGrath, B. (1998). ‘Partners in Learning: Twelve Ways Technology Changes The Teacher-Student Relationship’ [Online] Available from:
[accessed 09/05/2006]

Meloni, C. (1998). ‘The Internet in the Classroom A Valuable Tool and Resource for ESL/ EFL Teachers’ [Online] Available from: [accessed 09/05/2006]

Robinson, P. C. (1991). ESP today: A Practitioner’s Guide. Hemel Hempstead: Phoenix ELT

(Posting date 14 May 2007. This article first appeared in 
ELT News (May 2007, ), an online publication for teachers of English as a second language in Greece, under the title "Using Computers in ESP Teaching: Some Suggestions.")

HCS encourages readers to view other articles and releases in our permanent, extensive archives at the URL, especially those by Ms. Michalakelli under the category "Vatoussa, Lesvos, Greece." For more information about author Michalakelli, see her brief biographical sketch at the URL .

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