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A brief history of CALL

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1. A definition of CALL

2. A brief history of CALL

3. CALL stages

4. Types of CALL

5. Benefits of CALL

6. Teachers' Barriers to the Use of Computer-assisted Language Learning


Computers have been used for language teaching ever since the 1960's. This 40-year period can be divided into three main stages: behaviorist CALL, communicative CALL, and integrative CALL. Each stage corresponds to a certain level of technology and certain pedagogical theories. The reasons for using Computer-assisted Language Learning include: (a) experiential learning, (b) motivation, (c) enhance student achievement, (d) authentic materials for study, (e) greater interaction, (f) individualization, (g) independence from a single source of information, and (h) global understanding. The barriers inhibiting the practice of Computer-assisted Language Learning can be classified in the following common categories: (a) financial barriers, (b) availability of computer hardware and software, (c) technical and theoretical knowledge, and (d) acceptance of the technology.

In the last few years the number of teachers using Computer-assisted Language Learning (CALL) has increased markedly and numerous articles have been written about the role of technology in education in the 21st century. Although the potential of the Internet for educational use has not been fully explored yet and the average school still makes limited use of computers, it is obvious that we have entered a new information age in which the links between technology and TEFL have already been established.

In the early 90's education started being affected by the introduction of word processors in schools, colleges and universities. This mainly had to do with written assignments. The development of the Internet brought about a revolution in the teachers' perspective, as the teaching tools offered through the Internet were gradually becoming more reliable. Nowadays, the Internet is gaining immense popularity in foreign language teaching and more and more educators and learners are embracing it.

A definition of CALL

Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) is often perceived, somewhat narrowly, as an approach to language teaching and learning in which the computer is used as an aid to the presentation, reinforcement and assessment of material to be learned, usually including a substantial interactive element. Levy (1997:1) defines CALL more succinctly and more broadly as "the search for and study of applications of the computer in language teaching and learning". Levy's definition is in line with the view held by the majority of modern CALL practitioners.

A brief history of CALL

CALL's origins can be traced back to the 1960s. Up until the late 1970s CALL projects were confined mainly to universities, where computer programs were developed on large mainframe computers. The PLATO project, initiated at the University of Illinois in 1960, is an important landmark in the early development of CALL (Marty 1981). In the late 1970s, the arrival of the personal computer (PC) brought computing within the range of a wider audience, resulting in a boom in the development of CALL programs and a flurry of publications. Early CALL favoured an approach that drew heavily on practices associated with programmed instruction. This was reflected in the term Computer Assisted Language Instruction (CALI), which originated in the USA and was in common use until the early 1980s, when CALL became the dominant term. There was initially a lack of imagination and skill on the part of programmers, a situation that was rectified to a considerable extent by the publication of an influential seminal work by Higgins & Johns (1984), which contained numerous examples of alternative approaches to CALL. Throughout the 1980s CALL widened its scope, embracing the communicative approach and a range of new technologies. CALL has now established itself as an important area of research in higher education.

CALL stages

According to Warschauer & Healey (1998), this 40-year period can be divided into three main stages: behaviorist CALL, communicative CALL, and integrative CALL. Each stage corresponds to a certain level of technology and certain pedagogical theories.

Behaviorist CALL

In the 1960's and 1970's the first form of computer-assisted Language Learning featured repetitive language drills, the so-called drill-and-practice method. It was based on the behaviorist learning model and as such the computer was viewed as little more than a mechanical tutor that never grew tired. Behaviorist CALL was first designed and implemented in the era of the mainframe and the best-known tutorial system, PLATO, ran on its own special hardware. It was mainly used for extensive drills, explicit grammar instruction, and translation tests (Ahmad, et al., 1985).

Communicative CALL

Communicative CALL emerged in the 1970's and 1980's as a reaction to the behaviorist approach to language learning. Proponents of communicative CALL rejected behaviorist approaches at both the theoretical and pedagogical level. They stressed that CALL should focus more on using forms rather than on the forms themselves. Grammar should be taught implicitly and students should be encouraged to generate original utterances instead of manipulating prefabricated forms (Jones & Fortescue, 1987; Philips, 1987). This form of computer-based instruction corresponded to cognitive theories which recognized that learning was a creative process of discovery, expression, and development. The mainframe was replaced by personal computers that allowed greater possibilities for individual work. Popular CALL software in this era included text reconstruction programmers and simulations.

Integrative CALL

The last stage of computer-assisted Language Learning is integrative CALL. Communicative CALL was criticized for using the computer in an ad hoc and disconnected fashion and using the computer made 'a greater contribution to marginal rather than central elements' of language learning (Kenning & Kenning, 1990: 90). Teachers have moved away from a cognitive view of communicative language teaching to a socio-cognitive view that emphasizes real language use in a meaningful, authentic context. Integrative CALL seeks both to integrate the various skills of language learning (listening, speaking, writing, and reading) and to integrate technology more fully into language teaching (Warschauer & Healey, 1998). To this end the multimedia-networked computer provides a range of informational, communicative, and publishing tools that are potentially available to every student.

Types of CALL

Traditional CALL

Traditional CALL programs presented a stimulus to which the learner had to provide a response. In early CALL programs the stimulus was in the form of text presented on screen, and the only way in which the learner could respond was by entering an answer at the keyboard. Some programs were very imaginative in the way text was presented, making use of colour to highlight grammatical features (e.g. gender in French and case endings in German) and movement to illustrate points of syntax (e.g. position of adjectives in French and subordinate clause word order in German). Discrete error analysis and feedback were a common feature of traditional CALL, and the more sophisticated programs would attempt to analyse the learner's response, pinpoint errors, and branch to help and remedial activities. A typical example of this approach is the CLEF package for learners of French, which was developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s by a consortium of Canadian universities. A Windows version of CLEF has recently been released: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/clef.htm Error analysis in CALL is, however, a matter of controversy. Practitioners who come into CALL via the disciplines of computational linguistics, e.g. Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Human Language Technologies (HLT), tend to be more optimistic about the potential of error analysis by computer than those who come into CALL via language teaching. The approach adopted by the authors of CLEF was to anticipate common errors and build in appropriate feedback. An alternative approach is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques to parse the learner's response - so-called "intelligent CALL" (ICALL) - but there is a gulf between those who favour the use of AI to develop CALL programs (Matthews 1994) and, at the other extreme, those who perceive this approach as a threat to humanity (Last 1989:153).

Explorative CALL

More recent approaches to CALL have favoured a learner-centred, explorative approach rather than a teacher-centred, drill-based approach to CALL. The explorative approach is characterised by the use of concordance programs in the languages classroom - an approach described as Data-Driven Learning (DLL) by Tim Johns (Johns & King 1991). There are a number of concordance programs on the market, e.g. MonoConc, Concordance,Wordsmith and SCP - all of which are described in ICT4LT Module 2.4, Using concordance programs in the modern foreign languages classroom: http://www.ict4lt.org/. See also Tribble & Jones (1990). The explorative approach is widely used today, including the use of Web concordancers and other Web-based CALL activities.

Multimedia CALL

Early personal computers were incapable of presenting authentic recordings of the human voice and easily recognizable images, but this limitation was overcome by combining a personal computer and a 12-inch videodisc player, which made it possible to combine sound, photographic-quality still images and video recordings in imaginative presentations - in essence the earliest manifestation of multimedia CALL. The result was the development of interactive videodiscs for language learners such as Montevidisco (Schneider & Bennion 1984), Expodisc (Davies 1991), and A la rencontre de Philippe (Fuerstenberg 1993), all of which were designed as simulations in which the learner played a key role.

The techniques learned in the 1980s by the developers of interactive videodiscs were adapted for the multimedia personal computers (MPCs), which incorporated CD-ROM drives and were in widespread use by the early 1990s. The MPC is now the standard form of personal computer. CD-ROMs were used in the 1980s initially to store large quantities of text and later to store sound, still images and video. By the mid-1990s a wide range of multimedia CD-ROMs for language learners was available, including imaginative simulations such as the Who is Oscar Lake? series:http://www.languagepub.com/. The quality of video recordings offered by CD-ROM technology, however, was slow to catch up with that offered by the earlier interactive videodiscs. The Digital Video Disc (DVD) offers much higher quality video recordings, e.g. the Eurotalk Advanced Level DVD-ROM series: http://www.eurotalk.co.uk/. A feature of many multimedia CALL programs is the role-play activity, in which the learner can record his/her own voice and play it back as part of a continuous dialogue with a native speaker. Other multimedia programs make use of Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) software to diagnose learners' errors, e.g. Tell Me More Pro by Auralog:http://www.auralog.com/english.html. Most CALL programs under development today fall into the category of multimedia CALL. See ICT4LT Module 2.2, Introduction to multimedia CALL: http://www.ict4lt.org/.

Web-based CALL

In 1992 the World Wide Web was launched, reaching the general public in 1993. The Web offers enormous potential in language learning and teaching, but it has some way to go before it catches up with the interactivity and speed of access offered by CD-ROMs or DVDs, especially when accessing sound and video files. For this reason, Felix (2001:190) advises adopting hybrid approaches to CALL, integrating CD-ROMs and the Web and running audio conferencing and video conferencing in conjunction with Web activities. The Web Enhanced Language Learning (WELL) project, which has been funded under the FDTL programme of the HEFCE, aims to promote wider awareness and more effective use of the Web for teaching modern languages across higher education in the UK. The WELL website provides access to high-quality Web resources in a number of different languages, selected and described by subject experts, plus information and examples on how to use them for teaching and learning: http://www.well.ac.uk/.

Benefits of CALL

Research and practice suggest that, appropriately implemented, network-based technology can contribute significantly to:

Date: 2016-06-12; view: 1144

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