Thursday, August 21, 2008

Exercise 2.4.2 - Kern (2006)

Question: What do you think about the future directions of CALL research?

There has been a shift in focus in the role of technology in learning, from tutorial applications (instruction, feedback, testing…) to that of tool (access) and medium (providing places for interpersonal communication, multimedia publication, distance learning, community participation and identity formation). Current research has therefore been becoming more attentive to learner’s interactions with technology and what that technology can enable them to do. E-mail has made it possible for people to communicate with each other in writing, whereas Chat/Skype/Video Conferencing has facilitated synchronous communication activities… It is very clear that interaction and communication is happening, but not so clear how this communication is translating to beneficial and holistic learning outcomes for the L2 learner, or how the use of this technology is assisting/hampering effective communication and identity formation, and what positive or negative effects there are for specific contexts? This appears to be the new role of research in CALL for the future. To understand not only what interaction is happening, but also the impact of that communication on language, learning, and the individuals involved – A Sociolinguistic perspective, rather than just an Interactionist one. Kern (2006) summarizes the future of CALL Research into four main areas: Transversal relationships (how one proficiency can transfer to another), reading and writing electronically (emergence of new discourse patterns in CMC that affect reading and writing), curricular issues (implications of electronic literacies) and sociopolitical issues (access to technology).
The uses of technology are wide and varied, and are changing the way that people are communicating and learning, and affecting what people learn. Ss sending text messages often start looking for shortcuts, that tend to make communication faster, even though it may not be grammatically correct. How does this kind of communication affect writing and reading competence? People are gaining access to an ever-increasing resource (the web), and new technologies are opening new doors. There are whole communities that are interacting with each other from different parts of the world, and very specific niches being created all over the net. People have such varying levels of electronic literacy (computer, information, multimedia and CMC), that it is becoming more important to understand what electronic literacies our Ss have upon entering our classes/programs (as this contributes to learner differences), and how we can develop them or new literacies within our students (Warchauer 2003, as cited in Kern 2006). Each person has their own identity within their own social contexts before coming into contact with new technologies or our specific curriculum. Is that identity malleable enough to adapt to different kinds of interaction, and how does that identity react to the new contexts?
Another major consideration that was highlighted by Kern was the socio-cultural perspective, and developing an idea of how to better understand the social constraints and opportunities that affect intercultural communication. The research of the future will have to understand that having connectivity between people from different cultures, will mean that competency/performance is influenced by more than just the input and output, but also such things as differences in communicative genre’s, medium, task type, linguistic style, and cultural characteristics. A virtual classroom in “second life” for example, will bring together people from all kinds of backgrounds (culturally/technologically). People will have a place, and a target language, but the limits of each particular virtual classroom will be influenced by the individual identities of the participants and the way those identities interact in the context of a virtual world (just like in a normal ESL classroom, but incorporating their technological identities). Some cultures are context bound and others are not. Japanese for instance is heavily dependent on contextual cues that leave English-speaking learners lost. How will English learners enter a Japanese context and participate effectively? This is not only a research question for CMC, but a general question for sociolinguistics. It is just that these new virtual worlds are making it easier for people to connect.
The other social force that I see in new technologies is that of what I call the “Facebook phenomenon”. People are connecting in contexts such as these, but guidelines for social communication have not yet been established, and people are entering these virtual environments without clear ideas about what is permissible, what is abrasive, what is effective communication? More research needs to be done on not only the positive aspects of getting people together, but also what Ware (2003,2005 as cited in Kern 2006) considers the many forms of CMC that can facilitate missed communication.
The classroom of the future will undoubtedly extend beyond the four walls, and into virtual worlds that include people from all over the world. Harnessing new technologies, and making those technologies as effective as possible for all participants will be the new goal for teachers and researchers alike. Researchers will need to understand not only electronic literacies, but also cultural/technological identity within new and specific environments.

Kern, R. (2006). Perspectives on technology in learning and teaching languages. TESOL Quarterly, 40(1), 183-210

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Exercis 2.1 Penderson's (1987) article

I'd like to begin my personal response by saying that according to Penderson's (1987) article, we can assume that we still don't have enough knowledge (obtained via research) to make any firm assertions toward the impact of CALL. However, Penderson does call for more research (Basic CALL and Evaluative research, rather than Comparative research) to answer the very general question of how CALL (in all its forms) can affect learning (cognitive/metacognitive, psycholinguistic)? The research data so far accumulated, seems to point to the idea that there are no real learning advantages associated with the specific medium. Rather, it is the way that the medium is delivered through the specific software that has the capability of affecting learning outcomes. Computers are just the machines that enable different software to run, and with the applications of more sophisticated software, we can start noticing differences in not only outcomes in learning performance, but attitudes toward the learning medium. As Penderson suggests, the design of software, not the medium, leads to adjustments in cognitive processing. One can design straightforward behavioral type programs that respond in a very linear way, or one can be more open ended and communicative, allowing Ss to search for multiple answers in a negotiated response. Of course the development of the medium, in this case the computer, will enable greater access (speed: CPU and Internet), but it is the design of the program that would ultimately determine the successful achievement of learning goals and positive attitudes toward the learning task. This by no means is only related to computer learning tasks. Even in class, paper worksheets (the medium) can be designed to facilitate learning. One can have a study guide (to a book) that elicits answers on comprehension alone, or have worksheets that have a number of different sections that guide the learner through the task (schema building, vocabulary, extension)...and promote interaction and negotiation.
So I believe that within any medium there is infinite choice in design. The medium provides the canvas, but the software is likened to the artists tools (brushes, paints) that allow the user to express themselves in limitless ways. Steven (sorry for the mixed metaphor)

Exercise 2.3.2

Do you think that CALL activities can be improved through classroom research?
by Steven Mondy - Tuesday, 19 August 2008, 06:07 PM
The question asks us to seek out a relationship between L2 classroom research and CALL activities, to possibly try and establish a beneficial effect of current research (which kind?) on the medium of instruction (in this case CALL activities). I believe that Chapelle (1997) is right to be cautious in establishing the relationship, before first understanding what is meant by ‘research methods’, and stating the general methodology that surrounds SLA researchers and designers of CALL activities (Interactionist/Discourse analysis), at least to date.
Chapelle states that there is a need for more descriptive research (as opposed to just empirical), which documents the nature of interactions in which learners engage in within various CALL contexts. This means that we need to get a more holistic idea of what is happening within various contexts, how it is affecting the learner and how the learner is reacting to the interaction. The descriptive research should in Chapelle’s view describe learner input, output, and the relationship between both the input and output. This last point I believe is significant, in that it acknowledges there is change with each interaction. The description taking into account five characteristics: pragmatic, linguistic, non-linguistic, quality of language, and the medium of language transmission.
I believe that this focus on interaction (learner within their context) will give greater understandings about how communication is affected by the learning task, and method of instruction (and vice versa). Focus on the learner and how they react to various methods of gaining comprehensible input and being able to give effective comprehensible output (Swain and Lapkin, 95 as cited in Chapelle, 1997) will speak volumes about how effective the actual task is capable of being. Research that is able to understand how a task is able to encourage effective communication will undoubtedly make it possible for designers to improve upon CALL tasks (by tweaking and changing various aspects), so they in turn can make an optimal situation for better communication.
Chapelle states two critical questions in search of new research paradigms:
1. What kind of language does the learner engage in?
2. How good is the language experience in CALL for L2 learning?
These two questions can be a general framework for successful teaching, for any L2 teacher, in any domain, and using any methodology. If any research can help to answer these questions, then teachers and designers will both have an opportunity to design better learning tasks, that will interest students, engage them, keep them motivated and enable effective communication. Thus, facilitating successful learning.
Chapelle, C. (1997). CALL in the year 2000: Still in search of research paradigms? Language Learning & Teachnology, 1(1)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Future of CALL

I agree that our activities are already showing signs of openness and integration and I am a little frustrated at some of these articles, as they are inherently a little dated. Bax's article is dated 2003, and now it is 2008. There have been incredible steps - more leaps and bounds, in the past 5 years than ever before. Chat, video conferencing, and more integration of technology into everyday life (i-phone, etc). People are already doing things in an integrative way. The future appears to mix synchronous tasks more seamlessly into our everyday lives. The task for us teachers is to tap the resource, and make use of the potential. That means we have to be on top of what is happening out there. This is what I think Bax is asking us to do...more R & D, for future situations.

Bax’s (2003) article

I kinda like Bax's criticism of Warschauer, if it isn't a little direct. I started off reading and kinda took offense (thinking I already had the idea after reading Warschauer) at the beginning, but I think he does have a point, with respect to the 3 point framework that was set up by Warschauer did have its limitations, especially with its confusion with terminology. I think that Bax's framework may have a few problems, too (especially with his idea of integrative CALL, not yet being realized). Yet, it does open up discussion on a future direction of CALL, and doesn't take CALL so seriously to make it a separate entity. It tries to call for the normalization of CALL into everyday life, and posits a time where the role of technology is significant in terms of what can be done, but not how it can be done.

Bax, S. (2003). CALL - past, present and future.

After reading Bax (2003), I am left pondering which stage of normalization do I find myself in (early adopter, ignorance/skepticism, try once, try again, fear/awe, normalizing and normalization), and how much does my school encourage the goal stated by Bax of heading toward a situation in which computers become as ubiquitous as the humble eraser or dictionary. I don't know how close to that goal we can eventually reach, but I feel that computers occupy a unique position that maybe DVD/CD players once had. But, look at what happened to many of the technologies that were created. MD's lived a short life (sometimes brilliant) in some countries then died out, and older technologies such as audio tape, are very reluctant to die out. Is this part of the fear and awe factor, or something else?
On a personal note, our school is exceptionally quick at buying new technology and experimenting with various software (but, unfortunately not giving enough training), yet most of the new developments tend to come from the teachers (who are interested)curiosity and willingness to adopt the new tools. Whist some teachers move head on into trying things like discussion boards and blogs, other teachers seem to be very hesitant, without being shown. Without training, as Bax points out, the full potential may not be realized.
I feel that normalization would make an excellent target, and it was even suggested by my boss in a directive toward staff members. He stated, "'IT' within the context of the classroom and related to EFL student endeavors, should consider computers as part of the necessary equipment which give Ss the opportunity for research and enable effective communication." His directive has at its heart the essence of 'Open CALL' (open to new approaches when needed) and the desire for seamless integration of technology within the school environment. However, are Ss and teachers really ready for such a generalized imperative? Maybe not now, but with the slow implementation over the coming years, Ss may get used to the idea (just as high school kids start getting used to typing out assignments instead of handwriting them).
My concern, is for the way that that directive is put into practice. As in the Bax article, implementing technology without concern for the other crucial factors for success such as training, administrative and pedagogical support, can lead to a state where technology can impact badly upon schools, teachers and learners. Teachers may be unwilling to try again after initial bad experiences with software. Ss may initially have access issues, which may impact negatively on motivation to participate in future attempts. For this reason, I believe that the implementation of technology should be well planned. Yet, with all the planning, there will always be hidden aspects, so with that specific plan, there needs to be an openness to the 'unexpected factor'. This is probably what Bax is calling for within his hope for more ethnographic research. Finding out what is happening, the attitudes toward the present situation, and the perceived direction that we and end users wish/need/have to take, in the process of learning.
Steven Mondy

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Warschauer & Meskill (2000)

After reading Warschauer & Meskill (2000), I'm left wondering how the 'IT' revolution is going to effect the whole teaching industry. I believe that even though we over estimate the impact of technology (take a simple Back to the Future movie), there are incredible advances in both what can be done with technology and with teaching behavior. Warschauer & Meskill discuss three phases of CALL (Behavioristic, Communicative and Integrative) as closely following not only technological advances, but also pedagogical ones.Teachers with a behavioristic bend who want drill practice, and translation (using concordance programs) can do so with programs that allow repetitive practice. The teacher that has a communicative style, will thrive on software that allows communication within the realm of real world experiences, such as what e-mail, chat and online conferencing can do. Then there's the integrative focus, which I see as the phase that promises to appeal to a greater variety of people, and be open to a greater variety of tools.
Ss today are part of a multi-tasking community, that requires the ability to manipulate many kinds of tools, for many purposes. Our Ss, as part of their everyday lives are required to communicate in both a synchronous and asynchronous way already. The tools are phones, computer networks, the internet... Which they manipulate with ease. Often these tools are used in tandem (or more)... Even at home, with simple online games, people are finding ways to connect, in ways that we could never have dreamed of before. (All the while, being able to handle various devices, at the same time).
Warschauer & Meskill discuss the quality of programs and how they may lack the pedagogical outcomes, because teachers lack the time and experience with these programs (leaving design of perfect systems up to commercial developers). Yet, I believe that potential lies within even the most basic program. All it takes is a little creativity to unleash the hidden capacity. A teacher with a desire to look outside the box, can create meaningful and authentic learning activities for Ss, with the tools that are already available. As for new technologies, they are being created in Beta form all the time.
I think that the Warschauer & Meskill article has become a little dated, in that it does not take into account the capacity of CMC in programs such as 'Second Life', where the computer technology has already enabled interactive communication within virtual worlds. I think the next phase will be 'Virtual'. People are already setting up schools ( in Second Life, where avatars make their way to virtual schools, using virtual money, to learn new languages. It is starting to seem a little like connectivity is the key to the new phase of CALL. This again, may be over-estimating the value of the technological advances. However, in the 90's (when I first came to Japan) who would have considered the ability to conference call, for free, on Skype, with a number of people. Even with this limited technology, Ss are able to break free and enter new domains in their learning. Teachers are able to provide new opportunities within the confines of existing technology. And what has made this possible is access to an unlimited source - the internet. Anyone can learn anything, at anytime, from anyone.
Teachers can lead this new revolution in conjunction with software makers (both commercial and freeware), and work collaboratively in developing new ways to use existing technology, and provide avenues for new development. Teachers are at the grass roots level, and are the ones to respond to reactions of students, within ever increasing domains. They are also the ones who can tweak existing programs, to suit real-life demands...
As Garrett (1991) states, the computer (internet) does not constitute the method, but a medium in which a variety of methods and approaches may be implemented. Teachers are the ones that implement the methods with the help of tools that are readily accessible. And as those tools develop and change, it becomes possible for them to tweak their methods in a careful balancing act, that enables better access and more learning opportunities.
Steven Mondy
Do I make any sense...?