By the widespread usage of technology and its supplements computer based technologies have started to be used in classrooms to teach language. The article supplies a brief overview of Computer-Assisted Language Learning. By the help of this article, the readers will gain a viewpoint about how computers can be used for language teaching and how it has been used throughout the history of technology.
THREE STAGES OF CALL
As the article mentions CALL is a recent development and there are three stages of it. From the perspective of the author the stages are behavioristic CALL, communicative CALL, and integrative CALL. According to the article, every new stage does not reject the old one, but the old stage proceeds within the new one.
It is the first stage of CALL. It was applied in the 1960s and 70s. Behavioristic CALL was based on behavioristic theories of learning. As the behaviorists stated, this stage of CALL required repetition of language drills. Thus, it can be referred to as “drill and practice” based on computer as tutor model. In the model of computer as tutor, computer supplies instructional materials to the students like an instructor. The basis of this model can be summarized in three articles:
- repetition of the same material beneficial or even essential to learning
- computer is an ideal instructor for repeated drills, as it is a machine that does not get bored to repeat the same material and provides non-judgmental feedback
- a computer serves materials in an individualized basis, allows students to proceed at their own paces
In the late 1970s and early 80s, behavioristic CALL was weakened by two important factors. First, from both theoretical and pedagogical perspective, behavioristic approaches to language learning had been rejected. Secondly, the introduction of the microcomputer showed new range of possibilities rather behavioristic drills.
Since the drill and practice of the previous decade had not supplied enough authentic communication to language learners, the second stage of CALL named as communicative CALL became prominent in the 1970s and 80s.
There are some characteristics of communicative CALL as John Underwood proposed in his series of “Premises for ‘Communicative’ CALL” (Underwood 1984:52). Communicative CALL:
- focuses on using form
- teaches grammar implicitly
- allows and encourage students to create their original utterances
- avoids telling students they are wrong
- creates a natural target language environment
During the stage of communicative CALL, various types of CALL programs were developed and used. The first type of these programs provides skill practice such as paced reading, text reconstruction, and language games. In these programs, as mentioned in behavioristic CALL stage, computer stayed the knower-of-the-right-answer but the process of finding the right answer involves student choice, control, and interaction. These kinds of programs are extension of the computer as tutor model.
The second model of communicative CALL is computer as stimulus used for communicative activities. In this model, the goal of CALL activity is not to find the right answer but rather to stimulate students’ critical thinking, discussion, or writing. Software used for this model is not specifically designed for language learners; the programs are authentic in this case.
The third model is computer as tool. In this model, any language learning material has been designed specifically; the learners have been encouraged to use and understand the language.
As the article mentions, there is no absolute distinction between these models. Every new model follows the old one and then separates its path with a new introduction. If we want to decide a line between behavioristic and communicative CALL, we should consider not only which software is used, but also how the software is put to use by the teacher and students.
Integrative CALL approaches based on two technological developments of the last decades: multimedia computers and the Internet.
There are a number of advantages of hypermedia such as creating more authentic learning environment, integrating skills, having students control their own learning, and the most important one, focusing on the content. Dustin is an example of usage of hypermedia to language learning. The students have chance to use language in more authentic and real-like medium with Dustin.
Besides these advantages of hypermedia for language learning, multimedia has some problems. First of all, the quality of available programs is a big problem. Language teachers are not trained to create such kind of programs and these programs’ developers are lack of pedagogical principles. The second problem is the interactivity of these programs. A program should be able to understand the students’ spoken input and evaluate its correctness and appropriateness. The last problem is unavailability of intelligence degree of computer programs.
Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) has been using since the 1960s allowing users asynchronous communication with electronic mail tool, or synchronous communication with MOOs. In addition to these, it also allows one-to-many interaction with different user groups.
Using World Wide Web, Computer Mediated Communication users can search millions of files around the world and publish their texts or multimedia materials.
The example of an integrated communicative environment for EFL students in Bulgaria shows how the Internet combined with other technologies. Their course is assisted by three technological tools: email communication with an American class of TESOL graduate students, concordances to search for other uses of an expressions, and audio tape recorded by the American students to provide listening and practice.
To sum up, the history of CALL shows us there are number of uses of computer to language learning both in classroom and out. It can serve tutor role to provide language drill and skill practice; or it can offer online discussion and interaction all around the world; or it can be used to access information and writing. The use of computer cannot be accepted as a method; in contrast, it allows applying a variety of approaches, methods, and pedagogical philosophies.