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 there...mobile 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 (Gaijin.com) 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...?