qualitative research reports the experience of a small group of Iranian English
language teachers in using Shaad application during COVID-19 pandemic and
highlights their suggestions for improving the quality of language teaching in
this app. The participants were 12 English language teachers. Drawing on
self-report data, it was observed that teachers considered different individual
and contextual factors important in enhancing the productiveness of teaching
of coronavirus was reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. On March 11,
2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the epidemic led to
COVID-19 pandemic all around the world. On February 19, 2020, the Iranian
government reported the first cases of COVID-19 in Iran. To date (by September
16, 2020) over 407,353 confirmed cases and over 23,000 confirmed deaths have
been reported in Iran (WHO, 2020).
In response to
this emergency, in February 2020, Iranian government announced schools’ shut
down to limit the spread of COVID-19. The rapid and sudden closure of schools
required an appropriate reaction by the Iranian Ministry of Education (MoE).
Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) started to
broadcast some educational programs based on the school curriculum. Mohsen
Haji-Mirzaei, the Minister of Education, noted that:
necessary to devise a method to enable the students to have an experience of an
atmosphere like the classroom in the virtual space, and to enable the teachers
to have [a] two-way interaction with their students in the platform of virtual
space and handle the question and answer process and the exams just like how
they did in the classroom. (IFP Editorial Staff, 2020, para. 4; brackets added)
MoE showed an initiative by developing and running a national mobile
application called Shaad (meaning happy in English) to assist school teachers
and students to change the situation effectively. Shaad app is an acronym for
the term ‘Student Education Network’ in Persian. Now, based on the MoE’s
report, “more than 60 percent of students and 94 percent of teachers have so
far attended 64 percent of classes through the Shaad app” (IFP Editorial Staff,
2020, para. 5).
Given that one
of the main elements of successful integration of technology in language
learning and teaching is addressing teachers’ considerations and exploring the
applicability of the tools from their lens (see Tafazoli, 2017; Tafazoli et
al., 2018, 2020), the present small-scale study focuses on the reflections of
Iranian school teachers for improving the productivity of teaching language
with a mobile application.
abundant on teachers’ attitudes towards computer assisted language learning
(CALL) tools and programs such as online informal learning of English (e.g.,
Toffoli & Sockett, 2015), flipped classroom (e.g., Basal, 2015), Web 2.0
tools (e.g., Sadaf et al., 2015), information and communication technologies
(ICTs) (e.g., Laabidi & Laabidi, 2016), mobile-assisted language learning
(MALL) (e.g., Tayan, 2017), and social networking services (SNSs) (e.g., Habibi
et al., 2018).
spherical model of second language teachers’ integration of technology in
classroom informed the design of this study.
Figure 1. The
spherical model of L2 teachers’ integration of CALL technology into the
classroom (Hong, 2010, p. 61)
To address the
above-mentioned research objective, a qualitative content analysis design was
applied. The directed content analysis acts as the predictor of the variables
of interest to discover the de/merits of technological tools based on the
collected data (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005). An online 9-item survey, which was
designed and developed using Google Forms, was administered. A panel of experts
in different fields of CALL, curriculum design, teacher education, and English
language teaching from Australia, Iran, Spain, and New Zealand commented on the
first and second drafts of the questionnaire until a consensus was reached
about the content of the instrument. The final survey contained five
demographic questions regarding the age, education level, gender, teaching
level, and teaching experience of the participants and nine open-ended
A total of 12
(i.e., 11 females and 1 male) English language teachers with the experience of
using Shaad mobile application were selected for the study following
criterion-referenced (purposive) sampling techniques (see Mertens, 2014).
Participants took part in the study on a voluntary basis. Four participants
were Bachelor of Art (BA) level students, five were Master of Art (MA) level
students, and three were Ph.D. students in English language-related fields. As
far as age was concerned, the majority of the participants were 42 and above,
two participants fell within the age range of 36 to 41, and only one
participant was below 29 years. Teachers are referred to using a code in
brackets to protect their confidentiality.
looking into teachers’ experiences (as mentioned in their survey responses), it
was observed that three teachers considered Shaad app productive for classroom
management and notifing learners. [T1] stated: “Shaad application is a good
device for informing others. Also, it’s useful for roll-calling”. Likewise,
[T2] declared that: “It is effective for classroom management”. The same point
was highlighted by [T3]: “I use Shaad app only for checking the homework, final
test, and solving students’ problems”.
To make a
complex definition simple, classroom management is defined as a “wide variety
of skills and techniques that teachers use to keep students organized, orderly,
focused, attentive, on task, and academically productive during class” (Abbot,
2014, as cited in Debreli & Ishanova, 2019, p. 2). This finding is in line with
the results reported in Rashid (2017), in which teachers in Pakistan
highlighted the importance of classroom management and timing issues (also
A number of
respondents believed that effective Shaad app use was tightly related to teachers’
and also learners’ CALL /computer/technology literacy. In the absence of such
knowledge-base, teacher and learners’ productive interaction with technology
might be impeded. A significant body of research indicates the positive effects
of technology on boosting interaction among teachers and students (e.g.,
Ioannou, et al., 2015; Li & Kim, 2016). Neumann and McDonough (2015) affirm
that “interaction plays an essential role in knowledge-building by creating
opportunities for learners to elicit help from experts or simply articulate
steps in the problem-solving process through internal or external speech” (p.
84). Given that learner engagement and active participation are substantial
elements for learning (Berman, 2014), CALL should increase student engagement
in both inside- and outside-of-the-classroom language activities (see Denker,
2013; Mango, 2015).
have concentrated on the concepts of computer and digital literacies and/or
competencies (Ilomäki, et al., 2014; Liu & Kleinssaser, 2015; Røkenes &
Krumsvik, 2016; Tafazoli et al., 2017). Tafazoli (2017) defined CALL literacy
as “the ability to use technology at an adequate level for teaching or learning
a language” (n.p). Considering product end-users, developing teachers’ CALL
literacy should be one of the tasks of educational scholars and teacher
educators. The more CALL literate students and teachers, the more appropriately
CALL applications will be used.
In the same
vein, the availability of technology-related facilities and infrastructure were
two main factors that teachers believed must be addressed for a better
experience. The absence of such qualities, they believed, largely restricts
teacher/learner technology-enhanced language teaching/learning experience.
teachers who suggested to increase the attractiveness of the interface to make
it more engaging for the learners. The loading speed of the app was addressed
by one of the teachers who suggested improvements in Internet connection
qualities for better future experiences. A number of teachers suggested using
tools and platforms like Adobe Connect and Skyroom alongside Shaad. For this
group of teachers, Shaad was more productive as social software app whose
primary mission was asynchronous communication and notification generation.
Another concern which was highlighted by the teachers participating in this
study was the essence of providing them with relevant preparation and training
to enable them have a better experience in using technology.
Last but not
the least is the issue of technology access, cost, and availability. In line
with previous research, teachers in this study highlighted the essence of
technology access and affordable user cost for better teaching/learning
experience with Shaad. It should not be forgotten that technology imposes some
financial expenses on families. Hence, nation-wide successful distance language
teaching/learning with Shaad calls for more systematic attentions to
nation-wide technology availability. Similar issues are reported by different scholars
in different parts of the world. In the investigation of the barriers for
implementing ICT, English language teachers in Morocco counted some
school-level barriers. These included limited access to the Internet, lack of
computers, insufficient technical support, and limited access to ICT (Laabidi
& Laabidi, 2016). The same issues (e.g., technical concerns and network
sustainability) are reported as challenges in MALL research (Kukulska-Hulme
& Sharples, 2016). The problems related to old equipment and lack of
appropriate infrastructure within the school due to technology expenses and
maintenances are similarly reported in Nova’s (2017) study.
Due to the
sudden COVID-19 outbreak, face-to-face teaching shifted to online forums. The
Ministry of Education developed and introduced a new platform for education and
moved to Shaad mobile application. Drawing on a small group of English language
teachers’ experience in using Shaad, a number of implications are highlighted
for a more productive teaching/learning experience with this mobile app. These
• offering more
systematic CALL teacher education and professional development programs for
in-and pre-service teachers to enhance their CALL/digital literacy,
the range of technical support and technological infrastructure and facilities,
more economical facilities for educational institutions,
• offering a
more extended and nation-wide service to include teachers and learners all
across the country, especially those who are located in geographically
dispersed areas with fewer facilities available, to address education justice,
higher bandwidth and Internet services, and
• upgrading the
technological features and interface quality of the app.
We should not
ignore the opportunities that a local application might bring into the Iranian
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