A foreign language is studied in a cultural context. In a world where the use of the Internet becomes more and more widespread, an English Language teacher's duty is to facilitate students' access to the web and make them feel citizens of a global classroom, practicing communication on a global level.
What Can We Do With CALL?
There is a wide range of on-line applications which are already available for use in the foreign language class. These include dictionaries and encyclopedias, links for teachers, chat-rooms, pronunciation tutors, grammar and vocabulary quizzes, games and puzzles, literary extracts. The World Wide Web (WWW) is a virtual library of information that can be accessed by any user around the clock. If someone wants to read or listen to the news, for example, there are a number of sources offering the latest news either printed or recorded. The most important newspapers and magazines in the world are available on-line and the same is the case with radio and TV channels.
Another example is communicating with electronic pen friends, something that most students would enjoy. Teachers should explain how it all works and help students find their keypals. Two EFL classes from different countries can arrange to send E-mail regularly to one another. This can be done quite easily thanks to the web sites providing lists of students looking for communication. It is also possible for two or more students to join a chat-room and talk on-line through E-mail. .
Another network-based EFL activity could be project writing. By working for a project a pupil can construct knowledge rather that only receive it. Students can work on their own, in groups of two or in larger teams, in order to write an assignment, the size of which may vary according to the objectives set by the instructor. A variety of sources can be used besides the Internet such as school libraries, encyclopedias, reference books etc. The Internet itself can provide a lot of food for thought. The final outcome of their research can be typed using a word processor. A word processor can be used in writing compositions, in preparing a class newsletter or in producing a school home page. In such a Web page students can publish their project work so that it can reach a wider audience. That makes them feel more responsible for the final product and consequently makes them work more laboriously.
The Internet and the rise of computer-mediated communication in particular have reshaped the uses of computers for language learning. The recent shift to global information-based economies means that students will need to learn how to deal with large amounts of information and have to be able to communicate across languages and cultures. At the same time, the role of the teacher has changed as well. Teachers are not the only source of information any more, but act as facilitators so that students can actively interpret and organize the information they are given, fitting it into prior knowledge (Dole, et al., 1991). Students have become active participants in learning and are encouraged to be explorers and creators of language rather than passive recipients of it (Brown, 1991). Integrative CALL stresses these issues and additionally lets learners of a language communicate inexpensively with other learners or native speakers. As such, it combines information processing, communication, use of authentic language, and learner autonomy, all of which are of major importance in current language learning theories.
Teachers' Barriers to the Use of Computer-assisted Language Learning
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.
Financial barriers are mentioned most frequently in the literature by language education practitioners. They include the cost of hardware, software, maintenance (particular of the most advanced equipment), and extend to some staff development. Froke (1994b) said, "concerning the money, the challenge was unique because of the nature of the technology." Existing universities policies and procedures for budgeting and accounting were well advanced for classroom instruction. The costs of media were accounted for in the university as a part of the cost of instruction. Though the initial investment in hardware is high, inhibiting institutions' introduction of advance technologies; but Hooper (1995) recommends that the cost of computers will be so low that they will be available in most schools and homes in the future.
Lewis et al. (1994) indicate three conditions under which Computer-assisted Learning and other technologies can be cost-effectiveness: Computer-assisted Learning costs the same as conventional instruction but ends up with producing higher achievement in the same amount of instructional time, it results in students achieving the same level but in less time. These authors indicate that in examples where costs of using technologies in education are calculated, they are usually understand because the value of factors, such as faculty time and cost of equipment utilization, is ignored (McClelland, 1996).
Herschbach (1994) argues firmly that new technologies are add-on expenses and will not, in many cases, lower the cost of providing educational services. He stated that that the new technologies probably will not replace the teachers, but will supplement their efforts, as has been the pattern with other technologies. The technologies will not decrease educational costs or increase teacher productivity as currently used. Low usage causes the cost barrier. Computers, interactive instruction TV, and other devices are used very few hours of the day, week, or month. Either the number of learners or the amount of time learners apply the technology must be increased substantially to approach the concept of cost-effectiveness. There are other more quick and less expensive ways of reducing costs, no matter how inexpensive the technology being used (Kincaid, McEachron, & McKinney,1994.
Availability of Computer Hardware and Software
The most significant aspects of computer are hardware and software. Availability of high quality software is the most pressing challenge in applying the new technologies in education (Herschbach, 1994; Miller, 1997; Office of Technology Assessment, 1995; Noreburg & Lundblad, 1997). Underlying this problem is a lack of knowledge of what elements in software will promote different kinds of learning. There are few educators skilled in designing it because software development is costly and time-consuming (McClelland, 1996).
McClelland (1996) indicated having sufficient hardware in locations where learners have access to it problematic and is, of course, partly a financial problem. Computer hardware and software compatibility goes on to be a significant problem. Choosing hardware is difficult because of the many choices of systems to be used in delivering education, the delivery of equipment, and the rapid changes in technology.
Technical and Theoretical Knowledge
A lack of technical and theoretical knowledge is another barrier to the use of Computer-assisted Language Learning technology. Not only is there a shortage of knowledge about developing software to promote learning, as shown above, but many instructors do not understand how to use the new technologies. Furthermore, little is known about integrating these new means of learning into an overall plan. In the communication between McClelland and C. Dede (1995), Dede indicated the more powerful technologies, such as artificial intelligence in computers, might promote learning of higher-order cognitive skills that are difficult to access with today's evaluation procedures and, therefore, the resulting pedagogical gains may be under-valued. Improper use of technologies can affect both the teacher and learner negatively (Office of Technical Assessment, 1995).
Acceptance of Technologies
We live in a time change. Gelatt (1995) stated that change itself has changed. Change has become so rapid, so turbulent, and so unpredictable that is now called "white water" change (p.10). Murphy & Terry (1998a) indicated the current of change move so quickly that they destroy what was considered the norm in the past, and by doing so, create new opportunities. But, there is a natural tendency for organizations to resist change. Wrong conceptions about the use of technology limit innovation and threaten teachers' job and security (Zuber-Skerritt, 1994). Instructors are tend not to use technologies that require substantially more preparation time, and it is tough to provide instructors and learners access to technologies that are easy to use (Herschbach, 1994).
Engaging in Computer-assisted Language Learning is a continuing challenge that requires time and commitment. As we approach the 21st century, we realize that technology as such is not the answer to all our problems. What really matters is how we use technology. Computers can/will never substitute teachers but they offer new opportunities for better language practice. They may actually make the process of language learning significantly richer and play a key role in the reform of a country's educational system. The next generation of students will feel a lot more confident with information technology than we do. As a result, they will also be able to use the Internet to communicate more effectively, practice language skills more thoroughly and solve language learning problems more easily.