Thursday, August 7, 2008

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