CALL is the acronym for computer-assisted language learning. There are a number of ways to conceptualize field of CALL, but one useful way, especially for those just entering the field, is to divide computer use according to the functional roles of tutor and tool, concepts popularized for CALL. Here it is the list of representative acronyms and attitudes of CALL; CELL, TELL, TALL, CBLT, IT and ICT, NBLT, DLL, MALL.
In practice, courseware has been used to refer to everything from complete software packages that can be used without a teacher to software that is just a part of a language learning course, sometimes a minor or optional supplementary part. CALL software is a bit different from a checkbook balancing program in that it involves a more complex view of who the evaluators and end users are. Evaluation, for instance, may be connected to the developer and be used for improving the courseware prior to release, or it may be done by an outside reviewer for a professional journal.
Implementation considerations are relevant during the evaluation process, but they become crucial when deciding how best to use software that is available. Some of the key questions to address in implementation are the following.
- What is the setting in which the students will be using the software (classroom, lab, home, etc.?)
- What kinds of training or preparatory activities are warranted?
- What kinds of follow-up activities either in or out of class will there be?
- Given the options provided by the program, how much control will the teacher exert, and how much control will be left to the learner?
Whether they are done in class together, in a lab with individuals or pair working on computers, or outside of class at a computer cluster, the student's own computer, or even on a mobile device like a cell phone, computer exercises should be clearly linked to the rest of the course.
In many cases the tool uses may be more appropriate for a given teaching approach or teacher's experience, or may serve a given learning situation better. In one category of tool uses, computer-mediated communication, or CMC, computers are a means through which teachers communicate with learners, learners communicate with one another and learners may even communicate with native speakers. That communication takes place through variations in the following elements: timing (synchronous or asynchronous), number and patterning of participants (one to one, one to many, or many to many), and medium (text, voice, or video). In addition, the physical properties of the device may offer a significant variable, such as the difference between email on a computer and text messaging on a cell phone. In this unit we will briefly examine the options and then go over some of the rationale for various uses to support language learning.
The first use of CM C in language teaching almost certainly came through email exchanges from teachers to students and among students within classes. Email can be used for a number of purposes. Teachers can receive homework from students and give responses to it. Students can communicate with one another to practice using the language, to discuss issues, to fulfill communicative tasks, or to collaborate on projects.
Another form of asynchronous communication is discussion lists or listservs, where the email goes out to groups rather than individuals (one to many). Another form of asynchronous communication is discussion lists or listservs, where the email goes out to groups rather than individuals (one to many). With synchronous text, or chat, the messages are exchanged in text form, but in real time.
Distance education is increasing in education generally and language learning is no exception. While tutorial CALL material can be presented online for independent study without teachers, there are also classes that are offered to groups of students online with a live teacher's guidance. These classes can be either synchronous or asynchronous, and CM C usually plays an important role.
A growing area for CM C is the virtual world, like www.secondlife.com. In virtual worlds students have avatars that can move in a 3D environment and interact with other avatars. Although communication is most commonly done through text chat, Second Life has added voice chat, increasing the potential value for language learning.
Asynchronous CM C allows for more thought and planning, and thus it may be more reasonable to expect closer attention to organization and language forms. One of the great advantages of CM C over tutorial CALL is that both teachers and students are usually familiar with the medium, the resources are often already present or readily available, and the language content is not prewritten but is rather created by the activities themselves.
The Web represents the largest collection of material that is accessible almost anytime and anywhere by almost anyone having a browser equipped computer and an Internet connection. The Web is also where you find the most common tool applications for CALL, in particular the browsers and online video players that give access to a seemingly endless collection of both dedicated and authentic English language material.
The key to using the Web is to be prepared. Know what the objective of your lesson is and try to make sure students are trained in what they need to know to accomplish that objective. Try to build some flexibility into the assignment or activity so that if something isn't working as expected it can still go on.
The enormous number of English teachers and learners, there are quite a few multi-skill collections for ESL. Some of these are divided by skills and have examples of web-based materials.
Listening is potentially one of the most promising areas for CALL development. This is because multimedia computing has everything standard audio and video have with the addition of a variety of meaning technologies such as text support, hyperl inked glossaries, and even translations.
In terms of direct practice of speaking, recent developments on the web have allowed for voice chat sites which make it possible for learners and teachers to interact through the Internet in distance education courses. Asynchronous speaking practice is possible through www.wimba.com, using Internet voice mail, or simply attaching sound files to email.
In the early days of CALL, reading software was designed to improve skills in order to transfer them to paper materials. More recently, reading in digital form is becoming more and more common. Most CALL reading instruction, first on disk and later on the web, has involved the use of meaning technologies.
Writing was revolutionized for everyone with word processing, and the addition of spell checkers has been quite helpful. Grammar and style checkers are much less useful to date, and using a thesaurus can be counterproductive if students aren't trained in their limitations. Writing has also been a common skill taught as a course through distance education using the Internet.
As with other areas of second language learning, there are two ways for teachers to approach CALL research. One is as a research consumer; the other is as a classroom or action researcher. Research has continued in all areas of CALL but recently has focused on several identifiable areas, such as:
- Computer mediated communication; especially, interaction in synchronous chat settings and email in tandem settings
- Visual, text and sound annotation to promote comprehension and vocabulary acquisition Effectiveness of online collaborative and constructivi st activities, including development of communities
Absent a teacher, students using computers are typically given more control over their own learning. Due to the newness of computer environments and the range of choices in many CALL applications, they are arguably unprepared to take on this responsibility. The result is that students may not use the computers in ways that are effective for achieving language learning objectives, and it is even less likely that they will use them in ways that are most effective.
One way out of this dilemma is to spend time training learners in dealing appropriately with this new environment. In the process, we may be able not only to help them with their CALL use, but also help them in general to become more effective autonomous learners. A second alternative is to take the philosophical position that learners have a right to self-discovery and that left alone they will naturally move to the strategies that work for them and that are consonant with their learning style.
In the past few years, there has been a much stronger interest in CM C and the web compared with tutorial CALL, particularly in TESOL. At recent TESOL conventions, for instance, there have been many more tool-oriented presentations compared with those involving the computer in the tutorial role. Tutorial CALL still has importance from the learner's perspective however, especially for listening, as the popularity of sites such as English.
Tracking of student use of computer applications has been a part of CALL research since the beginning, but a lot of research, both formal and informal, has relied on other data such as pre- and post-testing, observation, think-aloud and recall protocols, and simply student attitude surveys to determine effectiveness.
Virtual worlds are 3-dimensional online environments where students in the form of projected avatars interact with one another and native speakers as well as with "physical" objects and spaces within the world.