Adeleke Adelekan Fakoya, Professor of Applied Linguistics, Educational Sociolinguistics and Cyber Discourse, is the immediate past Dean, Faculty of Arts, Lagos State University (LASU). Recently, he spoke to The Education Report on various issues of interest on teaching and language studies especially as they relate to classroom situation and school administration. Excerpts:
Sometime ago, you mentioned something about the need for teachers to know something about the ecology of technology. If I may ask, how has that personally helped you in your teaching career?
The ecology of technology that I am talking about is that we are surrounded by so many possibilities arising from the incursion of the Internet and its accompanying technology. Social media is there. Blogs are there. So many things are there to help us. And, they are helping the hard-working lecturer, not the lazy ones. So, no lecturer can tell you: ‘I don’t have books.’ No. there are books online. Go there. They are not necessarily to be sold or to be bought: they are free. Students cannot say they don’t have access to anything. Just go online. They are there. So, students and lecturers can use these things to aid their learning and teaching. In everything I have done on this job in the last 15 or 20 years of Internet being with us, my work has been greatly enriched by my infusion of computer technology into my work. It makes everything so easy. You don’t need to write in long hand any longer; you can just get on your computer and begin to type at once. Again, for research, how do you get to know what others are doing in other places if you do not have access to those things? Many of the books you will like to read are expensive and inaccessible, unavailable. So the Internet makes everything easy because there are so many e-books you can download and use to augment what you have to foster your scholarship. The same thing for your students who may say they don’t have books; you can always give them e-books. E-books are inexhaustible; you will read and read and read. You can pass them over to one million people. Because it is e-book it can be given to as many people as asked for it.
In the inaugural lecture that you delivered sometime last year, you mentioned something about “amnesia”, “fantasia” and “inertia” as standing in the way of acquisition of sound knowledge and advised school administrators to do something about the problems among students. Could you elaborate on the points you made then?
Amnesia is when you forget something. If somebody had an accident and hit their head on something, it is possible for them to have amnesia and just lose their memory. Many of our students do not remember that they had been to class to learn anything and the research I have conducted using educational social linguistics will tell you that when you read their answer scripts it would seem that for a whole semester these students have not been in school. Of course, you know that you see them in school but then the true test of memory is ‘come and report what you have learnt,’ then there is no proof, there is amnesia because they have forgotten. But then instead of asking for further information they now call students like themselves who may be worse off to come and teach what they don’t even know. So, they all revel in the same ignorance. That’s fantasia. The inertia part of it is, even when they know these things, they cannot put it to good use. They have been told, for instance that, if you remove one from ten, it leaves nine. But then, if you have ten birds on the wire and you shoot one of them, how many will be left? It can’t be nine; all of them will fly away. So, we need that kind of application of knowledge to different social circumstances for students to show that they have been to school. They don’t have this application and when there is no application, it means your education is just nothing.
So, in such cases, what would school administrators need to do?
Well, they have to put in place some measures; you know there are psychologists here and there. They can be contacted to ask: what can we do to remedy this situation? Each student, believe me, is different from every other student. There are students who need to see what they are being taught – visual students. There are students who need to hear certain things. If you say, for instance, that this is the sound of a sax, this is the sound of a flute, this is the sound of a whistle; students need to hear how the sax sounds differently from a flute or a whistle. Such students are auditory students. There are other students that are kinesthetic: they have to touch. If you tell me that this is khaki. I can see that this is khaki or polyester and so on. Even though they have eyes, some people will need to feel that thing to be sure. Usually, we can say that they doubt everything, which is part of what we do in school. We’ve been trained to doubt everything to some extent, to subject everything to thorough analysis and discussion. However, a teacher needs to take care of what we call VAK – visual, auditory and kinesthetic dimensions of learning. In that case, you now say, ‘ok, this is how we can tackle amnesia, etc.’ There are things you can do to aid your memory, exercises you can do every time to aid your memory. For instance, you can ask yourself: what was I reading in the morning? If you can consistently ask yourself, you will find that your memory improves. For auditory, your ears are a very good barometer for sound. They will tell you how near, how different is sound. So, these are things we can do, not only the school administrators but, and even parents and students themselves can do these to help themselves. Just seek for knowledge; you will get the appropriate answer to remedy your problem.
You also insist that lecturers should not allow their students to surpass them in the acquisition of knowledge and information….
Yes, because we live in the age of information. Information is at your beck and call now. So, a lecturer should not think because he occupies the position of lecturer, therefore he knows more than the students. No. There are many students who are more curious than the lecturers we have around now. And, therefore, they command knowledge. So, the control of knowledge in the classroom is not the prerogative these days of only teachers. Even students can subject teachers’ knowledge to the test. Therefore, lecturers should not allow their students to be superior to them because the information bank is there. Don’t let your students get there and get the better of you. Get there together but still come and show that you are the teacher.
When you talk about students, you said they should improve on their reading and spoken English. You advise them to read novels written by native speakers….
Not necessarily, native speakers, but model users of the language, possibly a native speaker.
What kind of novels would you advise them to read?
You see, however, good we are at speaking English and so on, there are still certain things we can never get to being able to do because it is not our language. By the grace of God, without boasting too much, I think I speak and write good English. But I will not compare my knowledge of English with that of 20-year-old native speaker of the language: it is their language so they can better manage it. Our writings are still conditioned by, sometimes, our cultural backgrounds. But if you want to improve your language skills, the best you can do is, we have so many people that write literature, write good novels and many of them write themed novels. Stephen Sheldon for instance, the way he writes is different from the way Ted Dekker writes. What Ted Dekker writes is not the same thing as that of Stephen King, John Grisham writes differently. If you are interested in law, for instance, then go for Grisham, it is the same English, very good English; it is just that the vocabulary of Grisham is different from the vocabulary of King who writes on horror and so on. If you like Christian things, born again things and so on, there is Francine Rivers, also a native speaker of English who writes good novels. So, go and look for those people and read such novels; they will enrich you better than if you read a pastor’s devotional in Nigeria, a pastor that is still struggling with how to use the language effectively and so on.
What novels can you recommend?
I just said it, themed novels. Each novel has a theme. So, if you a Christian and feel that you can’t be reading about sex and so on, no problem. Francine Rivers, Ted Dekker write about things that happen to Christians and how they are able to wriggle out of them because there is grace. So go for Rivers, go for Ted Dekker and so on. If you love horror, go for Stephen King, if you like the language of law, go for John Grisham. If you like adventure stories, there are many good writers.