• Computer Aided Language Learning

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    With the advent of the internet and its increasing importance in the classroom, Computer Aided Language Learning, or CALL, has become a viable and useful source for both teachers and students. CALL first became prevalent in US classrooms in the late 1070’s. Since its introduction it has gone from a primitive, structured Q&A program, to full-fledged language programs such as Rosetta stone.

    Although programs like Rosetta Stone have experienced success, many experts believe that CALL should be used to augment rather than replace face-to-face learning environments. This was one of the big questions facing ESL teachers in the late 90s, how to integrate CALL and its resulting technological concerns successfully into the classroom. Such things as whether an institution had the necessary funding, teachers with the technical skills to run the CALL programs, and facilitators to manage the new IT requirements were all necessary to take into account before proceeding with the installation of a high end CALL lab. Over the next decade those problems would become less burdensome as technology advanced and costs diminished.
    Today we see many institutions using integrated CALL programs and labs for a variety of purposes. Warschauer stated that there were three distinct phases of CALL:

    Behavioristic: The earliest stage, where the computer is used to give learners instructions and materials

    Communicative: The next stage, where the computer is used for skills practice and gives the students more choices and control. It has also helped in that now dictionaries, concordances and other reference material has been digitized and put on computers. This cuts down vastly on the amount of time needed to look something up and has given students and teachers more time for other language related activities.

    Integrative: The final phase and the one we are now entering, spurred

    • Multimedia
    • Internet

    Multimedia and internet have given students the opportunity to combine all the skills into one activity. Gap-fill exercises, multiple choice tests, simulations, video games, and using word processors for writing exercises are just a few of the areas CALL has branched into. Even oral skills can be addressed by CALL with the advance of such technologies like Skype, a computer based voice over IP program that allows people to communicate via phone or video conferencing for free.

    Teachers in internet equipped classrooms have started using it to access crosswords, word searches and other internet based games. Teachers have also started using the internet to help prepare lesson plans citing that it is easy to use, easy to find information and holds the latest information, information that, if not for the internet, would not be available to many teachers given their remote locations.

    For all the advances in computer technology and computer aided learning, face-to-face teaching time is still one of the most necessary parts of learning. Because of this, CALL although helpful, will never take the place of real teachers. It will continue to be an aid for those teachers. Yes it will make their jobs easier. Yes it will help create a fun atmosphere for students. But always, a teacher will be needed to create the synergy between the technology and the students the technology is serving.

    David Thompson

  • Computer Aided Language Learning

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    What is it?

    CALL (Computer Aided language learning) is an approach of teaching and learning a language, such as presentation, assessment or reinforcement of material that uses the technology of computers as a aid for the learners to learn and it often includes interactive element that is substantial.

    Interesting facts about the history of CALL (Computer Aided language learning)

    • In the early of 1990s, an alternative term to CALL emerged and it was named Technology Enhanced Language Learning (TELL) that it was designed to provide a much more accurate description of the learning models that was confined within the range of activities of CALL. In the end, however, this term TELL had never gotten nearly as popular as the original CALL.
    • CALL was originated in the USA and was in common use until the early 1980s - that was when CALL became the dominant term for such technology.
    • Throughout the 80’s CALL had improved its learning mode functions drastically by adding or upgrading the unique communicative approach as well as a range of bundled new technologies, such as multimedia and communicationstechnology…amongst many others.
    • Amongst some of the very first specialist businesses that developed CALL in the early 80’s was “Wida Software” originated in London, UK. And, the first generation of CALL included a feature that allowed the students to match two sentence halves or anything else that belongs together that it was commonly named “Match master”. On the other hand, “Choice master” was the classic multiple-choice test format, or “Gap master” designed for texts that were gapped together. “Text mixer” was used to jumble lines within a poem or sentences inside a paragraph. “Word store” as a function of a learner’s own secret vocabulary database that was to be complete with a definition plus some example sentence that the word was supposed to be learned and used in a context. Last (but not least), “Storyboard” where a short text being blotted out completely that has to be stored from scratch. It is important to note that all of the above unique features of CALL that continues to be popular nowadays merged into one general-purpose, multimedia authoring program known as “The Authoring Suite” designed from the one and same company “Wida Software”

    What might the user expect when using CALL?

    The typical CALL programs present a stimulus in a sense that the learner must respond that it may be presented in any combination of text, still images, or sound, and even motion video. Some of which might come with the format of CD-ROM, DVD, Web-Based CALL, Interactive Whiteboards (for the whole class), or Blogs and Pod-casts - the learner responds to the stimulus by typing at the keyboard and to point out; click with the mouse; speaking through a microphone, then the computer or program will give feedback to the user in order to indicate whether the learner’s response is right, wrong, or to analyze the user’s response pinpointing potential mistakes or errors. It’s been known that one of the common features of more sophisticated CALL programs come with the ability to branch and to help the student through designer-remedial activities.

    Extra - (considerations for Pedagogical and methodological methods)

    In the Golden early days of CALL, and many teachers were overly excited by the new technology that they neglected innovative pedagogical and methodological issues that would have been required to integrate the successful use of computers into the TEFL (Teaching English As Foreign Languages) curriculum. A good example would be the “battery chicken” syndromes where the learners inclined to isolate themselves from one another as they’re working in a computer lab. Fortunately, it was soon discovered that new technology doesn’t necessarily have to separate students inside languages classes and if anything - it improves it. Provided that team work ensue and if planned well, it could encourage the learners to use the foreign language communicating through each of their own computer(s) and to increase the time they spent practicing their oral skills.

    How is the current situation like with the CALL technology?

    Before we delve into the topic, it is equally important to pinpoint that there’s a website out there called “ICT4LT” that contains a wealth of information over the topic of and that describes the current situation in CALL. It was set up to target European Commission aid but it was also to provide a comprehensive set of ICT training resources for language teachers.

    Finally, and as already implied from above, currently the CALL software has embraced the technology of CD-ROM, DVD as well as a growing interest in Web-based CALL; Interactive Whiteboards that applied the method of whole-class teaching, and the usages of blogs and podcasts along with the currently popular approach to “normalised” CALL that is to stress the possibility that computers may only become fully effective in language teaching and learning when we use them everyday (in language teaching) as we use pens and books…”Normalisation” of CALL could also be seen as potentially an extremely valuable aim and even agenda for the profession and learners alike. And with the additional aid of “learning management system” that would allow the user to explore language through environments with a breakthrough TEFL technology named “Moodle” that is designed for Language Teaching.

    Michael Balcombe

  • Computer Aided Language Learning

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    Computers have been used for teaching languages since the 1960s. With the invention of the personal computer, the PC, in the 1980s and subsequently the development of the World Wide Web or WWW, computer use in language learning has grown very quickly. Throughout the period there have been a number of discussions and debates regarding the benefits and barriers associated with its use, the use of technology in general in language learning, and the application of CALL in modern language pedagogy.

    There are a number of barriers to the use of CALL in language learning: financial, availability of hardware and software, technical knowledge and acceptance of technology. Institutions and students alike may have problems affording the equipment and programs to effectively use or implement CALL. Even if the financial barriers are overcome, in many cases the learning may be taking place in remote regions where there is a question of availability of the hardware and software or a suitable environment to implement or use a computer in. Finally, even if the institution or student has the financial resource and the hardware and software is available, there still may be issues and barriers regarding the practical awareness and/or the acceptance of the technology for a successful implementation.

    When an institution or student makes the commitment to implement or use a CALL system, there are several areas where that utilization has obvious benefits and quite possibly surpasses traditional teaching methodologies. In the early days of CALL, computers were used primarily as drill and practice tools. This is still true today and has proved effective. Computers were originally designed to perform repetitive tasks, which suits the drill and practice requirements ideally. The computer also has the advantage of not tiring or becoming frustrated with the drill and practice activity’s repetition.

    Another benefit the use of CALL has is the use of hypermedia on a low end computer. The CALL software can deliver the desired material as text, audio, visual or any combination of the three. This modern way of presenting information and getting the students attention, keeps the learner interested and involved, and often contributes to a more productive learning environment. Through the use of more advanced technologies such as hypertext, links and the internet, the learners experience can be further customized and enhanced providing a more complete learning experience. Existing software has the capability of providing an image, audio pronunciation, usage information or additional information that often would not be practical or possible in a traditional classroom environment.

    The history and development of modern computer technology has definitely established CALL as an effective and efficient tool in language learning. Call is firmly entrenched in today’s language learning arena and will be for the foreseeable future. However, there are several cautions to be observed and it is important to remember CALL is not a one stop solution. As raised by Garrett, “the use of a computer does not constitute a method” but rather a “medium in which a variety of methods, approaches, and pedagogical philosophies may be implemented.”

    References:

    Computer-Assisted Language Learning:An Introduction by Mark Warschauer

    Potential Benefits of Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) at Pôle Universitaire de Djibouti By: Cullen M. Church

    Garrett, N. (1991). Technology in the service of language learning: Trends and issues. Modern Language Journal, 75(1), 74-101.

    English Teachers' Barriers to the Use of Computer-assisted Language Learning Kuang-wu Lee

    R.C. White



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