The Most Extraordinary Developments in Pedagogy, Term Paper Example
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Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) is any process by which a learner makes use of a computer in order to increase proficiency in a language. CALL offers a number of advantages over conventional pedagogy, including access to more materials, customizability to learner preferences, and the use of computers to process information in ways that no human mind can. Because of these capacities, it is small wonder indeed that CALL successfully produces proficiency in far less time than conventional methods take. However, a number of issues in CALL learner research highlight the challenges to optimize instruction in order to facilitate the realization of maximal learner outcomes: in essence, CALL methodology must utilize efficacious strategies of instruction, and not merely attempt to substitute technology for these.
Fundamentally, Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) is the use of computerized curricula to improve some aspect of one’s mastery of a language (Hubbard, 2009, p. 1). By means of CALL, pupils can increase their efficiency in learning languages: in other words, not only can they learn languages, they can also increase the efficacy with which they learn languages, thereby improving upon their overall ability to acquire new tongues (p. 2). CALL can also facilitate a better and more thorough grounding in learning a language, helping learners to make deeper and more meaningful connections with regards to what they have learned (Blake, 2013, pp. 3-4; Hubbard, 2009, p. 2; Smith & Lafford, 2009).
A particular strength of CALL in this vein is its accessibility and convenience: oftentimes, learners can profit from online instruction, as well as other forms of instruction that would otherwise be unavailable to them. The ability to learn and study in a greater variety of times and places is a very key aspect of the merits of CALL (Hubbard, 2009, p. 2). All of this in turn can serve to better motivate the learner, and learners using CALL require less supervision and instruction from teachers (p. 2). Learner autonomy is arguably a particular strength of CALL, one that has proved to be one of the most significant subjects in the literature (Stockwell, 2012, p. 9). Because learners use computers, they often need much less interaction with, and help from, teachers. This can fundamentally change the learning process, and thus the whole conception of pedagogy (p. 9).
That said, learner autonomy is not necessarily a property of CALL: curricula are only as good as they are designed to be, in this regard (Stockwell, 2012, p. 9). Ergo, maximizing learner autonomy in CALL, if such is the desired goal, necessitates optimizing the curriculum in order to give learners the tools that they need for such self-direct and self-guided learning. By these means, learners can better take charge of their own education (p. 9). Indeed, whilst the technology is certainly important, promoting autonomy in CALL goes far, far beyond it: the activities designed must meaningfully contribute to autonomy within the context of helping the learner to genuinely master the language in question (p. 10). And all of that said, there is much merit in the abilities of some CALL programs to facilitate interactivity between learners, making for a more dynamic group-focused learning experience.
One form of CALL that maximizes interactivity with other students is Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) (Brandl, 2012, p. 5). Compared with a conventional classroom, CMC involves different processes of interaction between students, which may be either advantageous or disadvantageous in accordance with preferred learning styles, curricula, and the like (p. 5). The additional control of time is an especial advantage of CMC, since students do not all have to be in the same place at the same time (p. 5). One way in which CMC certainly facilitates interactivity is with the ability of internet message boards to allow students to reply to multiple posts left by their peers (p. 5).
This may increase interactivity—indeed, in many situations it does—but it also makes it easier for learners to select those interactions they care to have, which may result in clustering and decrease overall interactivity (Brandl, 2012, p. 5). Maximizing interactivity with such a curriculum requires designing tasks that are equipped to be able to increase this important quality, requiring students to participate in interacting with each other in order to facilitate learning outcomes (p. 5). The best tasks to achieve this have consistently been found to be problem-solving tasks, specifically problem-solving tasks that require the students to all chip in information to find the solution (p. 5). These tasks, called “jigsaws”, effectively force students to work together, thereby facilitating group participation. This is especially true because jigsaws that are designed well necessitate interactions that are very complex, between different groups of students (p. 5).
Putting the above in appropriate context, an important issue in CALL learner research is the need to evaluate to what degree learners are simply experiencing more ‘interactivity’, but not actually learning to use the language they are supposed to be learning (Davies & Williamson, 2000, pp. 8-9). In this vein, a pertinent question for pedagogical purposes concerns the guidance which learners receive, whether from teachers or from the CALL program itself. The proper use of rightly-guided CALL programs can promote learner fluency in the target language with astonishing rapidity (p. 9). The time frame for achieving fluency may even fall from years, months, and weeks to hours (p. 9). Here, the information-processing abilities of computers are absolutely critical: precisely because computers are capable of things of which the human mind is not capable, they are invaluable in processing information in a fashion that can facilitate proficiency in the language the learner desires to master (p. 10). In fact, CALL has facilitated a paradigm change, from instruction in the more conventional sense to a kind of exploration, wherein the learner is free to engage in a process of linguistic discovery as they acquire increasing command of the language in question (p. 10).
Essentially, Garrett (2009) stresses the importance of assigning equal weight to three crucial elements in CALL: pedagogy, theory, and technology (p. 720). Garrett explicitly notes that this represents a change in her thinking since her seminal 1991 work, driven by the recognition that all three elements ought to function in a dynamic interplay in order to maximize outcomes for learners (p. 720). Assigning all three elements equal weighting allows one to steer clear of the pitfall of letting technology drive pedagogy, or—conversely—insisting that experimentation with technology should be entirely subordinate to established pedagogical models and practices (Garrett, 2009, p. 720; Wang & Heffernan, 2010). And regarding theory, Garrett observes that second-language acquisition (SLA) theory was originally crafted in service to the English as a Second Language (ESL) field, something which has tended to limit its efficacy with respect to other language-learning programs (p. 720). Other than ESL, SLA research has focused overwhelmingly on the acquisition of French and Spanish, two languages which are related to English through the Indo-European family and which share many important structural similarities (p. 720). As such, SLA theory has largely neglected the study of the acquisition of other, very different languages, indicating a clear direction for future research (p. 720).
Notwithstanding this, a key problem with the various theoretical approaches to SLA, such as universal grammar, autonomous induction theory, the concept-oriented approach, input processing, and processability theory, among others, is that each one has a relatively limited scope, one confined to a specific set of phenomena (Chapelle, 2009, p. 747). CALL, on the other hand, spans a wide range of learning opportunities, and as such defies easy categorization in accordance with a single typology. By means of CALL, the learner can increase their facility with the specific particulars of such diverse subjects as “grammar, vocabulary, and pragmatics”, not to mention improve their command of a language in an interactive format (p. 747).
In a study of South Korean EFL teachers’ attitudes and practices with respect to CALL, Park and Son (2009) identified factors that promote or inhibit successful implementation of CALL. They noted that one key effect of the implementation of CALL programs is the shift towards a more learner-centered environment, an environment in which the teacher is expected to be more of a facilitator, as opposed to the more ‘traditional’ teacher role (pp. 81-82). What they found was that the South Korean ESL teachers generally perceived CALL in a favorable light (p. 95). In particular, the learning contexts that CALL makes possible were welcomed by the teachers, who generally found them to be effective in improving their own pedagogy (p. 95). This acceptance of CALL rested on a recognition of the benefits that using computers in the language classroom can bring (p. 95). However, the teachers also expressed the belief that the quality of teaching is ensured by the quality of the teacher, who is responsible for enhancing instruction by means of computers (pp. 95-96). There was a relatively even division of opinion on the desirability of CALL classrooms being learner-centered environments, with some teachers favoring the shift and others maintaining a perspective favoring more traditional roles for teachers (p. 96).
Stressing the importance of formulating objectives, Joseph et al. (2009) argue that all CALL activities must needs be guided by a proper understanding of the overall goal of the activity, specifically formulated to take into account the psychological conditions required to achieve the goal successfully (p. 136). Understanding the appropriate psychological conditions is a necessary step for optimizing the exercise, and encouraging maximal learner outcomes. Visible, observable metrics are of foundational importance as well, in order to ascertain the course of progress (p. 136). By appropriately designing the exercise in accordance with the psychological conditions determined to be optimal, learner efficacy with regards to the acquisition of the desired languages can be greatly increased (p. 136).
What, then, are the properties needed to optimize CALL instruction modules? Joseph et al. (2009) delineated three general processes, by means of which the learner may better remember a word: “noticing, retrieval, and generation” (p. 137). The process of noticing entails actually “giving attention to an item” (p. 137). By practicing the process of noticing, the learner becomes better at actually perceiving what is presented to them, by means of which they can increase their educational outcomes. The second process is that of retrieval: retrieval is the process whereby the learner can recall the meaning of a particular word form (p. 137). Retrieval is of considerable importance; indeed, without it there can be no true learning of a language (p. 137). Finally, there is the process of generation: generation is the process whereby the learner can generate new sentences and other combinations of language forms, notably different uses of a given word or words (p. 137).
The question of whether or not to provide first language (L1) translations in computer programs is one that has emerged as an increasingly pertinent and interesting issue in CALL research since the 1990s. Grace (2000) studied the performance of samples of students who were either given L1 translations or not. Of especial significance, she factored in the element of gender, in order to ascertain whether or not this variable would prove to be a dimension of variance. This is of interest as per the findings of earlier research, some of which has evinced differences in the means by which men and women learn a second language (pp. 214-215).
Accordingly, Grace (2000) posed three important questions: firstly, whether L1 translations benefit males and females equally in CALL; secondly, whether both genders have equal outcomes in an environment without such translations, and thirdly, in cases wherein students have access to L1 translations, as in the experimental group, whether or not males and females “spend different amounts of time accessing translations” (p. 216).
What Grace (2000) found was that in fact, there were no significant differences of any kind on the basis of the interaction between method, gender, and tests (p. 218). All of the students who had access to L1 options outperformed those who did not, and the lack of interaction indicates a lack of gender differences in terms of response to method (p. 216). However, there was an interaction between method and gender: “generally, females in the translation group have higher performance scores than their male counterparts and… in the no-translation group, the opposite holds true” (p. 216).
The great strength of CALL is its ability to promote communicative interchange (Mertzani, 2011, p. 119). By means of this property, CALL has the ability to increase the authenticity of the educational experience, due in no small part to its ability to offer the learner
“unprecedented exposure to authentic samples of language cultures by means of integrating multimedia… in ways that correspond to a broad range of learners” (p. 119). This, then, is what CALL offers: the ability to experience more of a language culture than one would ordinarily have the means to access (p. 119). Inasmuch as CALL promotes such a learning environment, it can precipitously impact the facility with which a learner acquires a new language. An important aspect of this, too, is the ability of CALL to promote personalization: CALL allows much greater flexibility in customizing and personalizing learning resources than is possible under the conditions of a conventional classroom (p. 119).
Moreover, Lafford (2009) stressed the importance of linguistic context: it is essential to view languages in their appropriate ecological context (p. 674). Every language has a context—or a range of contexts—in which it is spoken, and this informs the community of practice that uses that language (p. 674). Taking this into account means ascertain the system of relations embodied in the language, rather than seeing it merely in terms of the terms and phrases and the like that it uses to express this series of relations (p. 674). Interaction Framework theory has much to offer in this regard, with its emphasis on comprehension as foundational to the generation of meaningful output in the language (Joseph & Uther, 2009, p. 11). Through this lens, the practice of language learning becomes a more fluid and dynamic process (p. 11).
CALL has much to offer teachers and learners alike. While it may displace teachers from some traditional teaching functions, it also opens new possibilities in pedagogy: it can facilitate greater interactivity between students, and can encourage more learner autonomy. Fundamentally, the promise of CALL is the use of a platform to do some truly remarkable things—if the platform is properly managed.
Technology, though important as well, must not be allowed to supplant sound pedagogy and theory. Understanding of core learner processes is needed: processes such as noticing, retrieval, and generation. By unifying these three elements, maximal efficacy may be attained. Indeed, this is precisely why CALL, when appropriately and intelligently used, consistently produces better educational outcomes than are typical in standard settings: it provides learners with more options with which to work, thereby allowing them to reap the benefits of a truly dynamic and interactive educational experience.
Blake, R. J. (2013). Brave new digital classroom (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
Brandl, K. (2012). Principles and guidelines for task design in CMC learning. In F. Zhang (Ed.), Computer-enhanced and mobile-assisted language learning: Emerging issues and trends (pp. 1-34). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
Chapelle, C. A. (2009). The relationship between second language acquisition theory and computer-assisted language learning. The Modern Language Journal, 93(9), pp. 741-753.
Davies, T., & Williamson, R. (2000). The ghost in the machine: Are ‘teacherless’ CALL programs really possible? The Canadian Modern Language Review, 55(1), pp. 7-18.
Garrett, N. (2009). Computer-assisted language learning trends and issues revisited: Integrating innovation. The Modern Language Journal, 93(9), pp. 719-740.
Grace, C. A. (2000). Gender differences: Vocabulary retention and access to translations for beginning language learners. The Modern Language Journal, 84, pp. 214-224.
Hubbard, P. (2009). General introduction. In P. Hubbard (Ed.), Computer assisted language learning, vol. 1: Foundations of CALL (pp. 1-20). New York: Routledge.
Joseph, S. R. H., et al. (2009). Key aspects of computer assisted vocabulary learning (CAVL): Combined effects of media, sequencing and task type. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning 4(2), pp. 133-168.
Joseph, S. R. H., & Uther, M. (2009). Mobile devices for language learning: Multimedia approaches. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 4(1), pp. 7-32.
Lafford, B. A. (2009). Toward an ecological CALL: Update to Garrett (1991).”The Modern Language Journal 93, pp. 673-696.
Mertzani, M. (2011). Computer-assisted language learning in British Sign Language learning. Sign Language Studies 12(1), pp. 119-154.
Park, C. N., & Son, J.-B. (2009). Implementing computer-assisted language learning in the EFL classroom: Teachers’ perceptions and perspectives. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, 5(2), pp. 80-101.
Smith, B., & Lafford, B. A. (2009). The evaluation of scholarly activity in computer-assisted language learning. The Modern Language Journal, 93, pp. 868-883.
Stockwell, G. (2012). Introduction. In G. Stockwell (Ed.), Computer-assisted language learning: Diversity in research and practice (pp. 1-13). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wang, S., & Heffernan, N. (2010). Ethical issues in computer-assisted language learning: Perceptions of teachers and learners. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), pp. 796-813.
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