Monday, September 29, 2008

Future of Language Learning Labs - Sinicariello, S. G. (1997)

What impact might the virtual language laboratory have on language teaching?
Do you think that laboratories will be changed?

The WWW has made it possible to have greater connectivity and enhanced the accessibility of many resources. As Scinicariello (1997) points out, the future of the LL will go beyond just equipment provider, to the role of information resource and beyond. I believe that the new language laboratory will take on a number of different functions. Primarily digital interfaces will (and have been) start replacing other formats and act as a main resource for various language learning materials, in a more integrated way, bringing together video, audio and text. This, as Scinicariello (1997) suggests, supports pedagogical aspects with the possible integration of the four skills in language learning, especially with the ability to link materials, such as through hypertext. In addition to providing access, the language laboratory of the future (within the virtual realm), will also provide chances for Ss to interact with material, allowing them to personalize their own learning, or add to the ever-increasing wealth of resources. There will be opportunities for Ss to access material that is directly relevant to them, or even alter or add to material, according to their own background experiences. Places such as Wikipedia are already setting precedents that will provide models for future VLL, in that material can be in constant flux, and reactive to the communities they serve. This would obviously create doubts about the reliability of information, but can also serve as a great way to produce a huge amount of material, in a cost effective and speedy way. Teachers and Ss will be able to create for the VLL, and work can be judged and edited by peers…This would give a very personal touch to the VL environment, that could be highly motivating to all users.
I believe that the greatest obstacle for the VLL is that of Copyright infringement. With greater access to material within campuses offering Wifi, there will be a need for language laboratory directors to monitor and regulate the availability of information. Having the participants create much of the material can be one way to avoid this (Kangaku University in Japan has created much of it’s own material), but much of the resources will be commercially available material, at least in the early stages. I think that the VLL of the future will be an environment that will be entered into by using a password (such as this USQ board), which has varying levels of access. Publishers of material will need to alter their business models to take into consideration a number of different hubs of learning, and there will be a need for more collaboration with schools to work out how to make material available. Scinicariello (1997) suggests a collaborative of human beings working to help learners reach their goals, with the assistance of technology. The VLL will be the Hub, within the school, or community. Access will be given and monitored, and contributions will be sought after and encouraged. The VLL will be a work in progress, constantly changing and adapting, but always being responsive to the community it serves.
Scinicariello (1997) says that with the loss of the physical space will contribute to Ss feeling isolated because there is no focal point for language learning activities. On the contrary, I believe that with the WWW, there will be new environments that are created in the virtual world that bring groups together on a regular basis. Some schools will establish spaces in virtual environments, and even have specialized language-teaching functions, or be spaces where Ss can connect to others with similar needs (I’ve heard of a project by a university here that is trying to establish a virtual school in second life. The VLL can be connected to this learning hub). As long as there is access to the internet, Ss and teachers will always find little niches for support. That along with specifically created chat rooms and discussion forums that help focus language learning.


Sinicariello, S. G. (1997). Uniting teachers, learners, and machines: language laboratories and other choices. In M. D. Bush & R. M. Terry (Eds.), Technology-enhanced language learning. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Exercise 3.8 (Kelly, 2000)

After reading Kelly (2000), I was reminded of when I was answering the question on useful HTML sites. I included in my table a section on Website design tips, which seemed to cover much of the same issues as in the Kelly article.
It has made me a look at my own website to see if I have broken any taboos with web design, and which aspects I have actually adhered to. Also I started to look at my motivations for creating my website (how much is it for me, and how much is it for others). When creating a website it is very easy to get wrapped up in exciting new capabilities...Having flashing banners, and super animated gifs that on their own are very impressive, but when combined with other aspects tend to detract form the overall effectiveness of the website.
I was at one stage getting so involved in the creation process that I lost site of what Kelly (2000) calls the visitor’s point of view:
1. Is it usable?
2. Does it have something that the visitor wants?
3. Does it waste their time?
4. Is it irritating?

I started adding all these third party add ons, that tended to slow the website down. As a user myself, I realize how quickly I get annoyed at pages that take forever to load...and my connection speed is pretty high...imagine someone on slower ADSL or even dial up (like in some developing countries)...I found that my website had an annoying habit of being slow on some computers/computer networks...I had to speed it up...and this meant reduce the amount of things on one page, and maybe spread them out in a different layout. I had to balance the idea of getting to a destination within 3 clicks, and the amount and kind of information I could display in one place... i am still struggling with this idea.

Kelly(2000) says that websites should be easy to use...this is very difficult, especially with the variety of designs that are out there...I guess, in the end, simple is best...but then how do you make your page stand out from the thousands of other pages? This is one of my complaints with using blogger, and even to a lesser degree i-web (Mac web page design software). Pages start looking the same all over the net. Yet on the other hand, one good thing that these programs have brought about is a certain amount of standardization...which will reduce a lot of confusion out there in cyberspace.

My website is in the end about the user...just as a presentation must think of it's audience and a teacher their Ss. I think that showing excitement about the design of a page is essential, and will keep your page looking fresh. But, if the page is not being accessed, then no matter how great the information you have to share, there simply is no point....
Also, no matter how flashy you make your page, if the content is simply won't be trusted...

I believe that websites have to be constantly evolving, but also responsive to the users, at least our linguistic resource sites. They should be authoritative, but not condescending to the user, or their needs. They should be fun, and easy to use, yet not redundant or waste someone's time. Most of all they should be accessible in all possible the greatest number of users...

Kelly, C. (2000). Guidelines for designing a good web site for ESL students, Japan: The internet TESL Journal, 6(3), Retrieved at

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Exercise 3.7 (Healey, 1999)

First of all, please download my list of tasks (click here)

Well, I took this activity, and I turned it into one which I could look at some of the things that I am already doing, and some of the things I would like to do, based partly on Healey's (1999) article.

I discovered that I had been doing a lot of the basic things that Healey had suggested, but that the activities on my website centered around 3 major areas:
1. Tutorial type activities that provide Ss with the material if they wish to pursue learning on their own.
2. Vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension type activities that are both interactive and tutorial.
3. Authentic listening tasks that both supported other types of learning, and gave extra practice to Ss.

Healey (1999) presents many types of activities that stimulate learning of specific language skills (vocabulary, and grammar), and skills that help in the learning process (reading: Skimming, and research of the WWW; Pronunciation: helps Ss to notice). Healey (1999) also presents tasks that stimulate collaborative/cooperative work.

One thing that I have discovered about my own website is that there should not only be a variety of tasks that help language acquisition with specific language tasks, but also ones that encourage more holistic goals that incorporate socio-linguistic objectives, too. Motivation, group dynamics, and language context also influence a students behavior and willingness to take part in an activity.

Another thing that I discovered was that it is very important to have task where a number of different skills support each other, often brought together by a theme. I found in my research, that there are many sites devoted to one specific area; be it grammar, vocabulary, listening or something else. What we need is collaboration between these sites, and better directories that bring them together better.
There are, however, some tasks (such as speech recognition and simulations), that still may be a little beyond my technical expertise and budget. Things that I would like to use, but have a very steep learning curve, that may discourage teachers like me implementing them at this point in time (not for a want to use them). That is why collaboration is increasingly more important between specialty sites...

Healey, D. (1999). Classroom practice: Communicative skill-building tasks in CALL environments. In J. Egbert, & E. Hanson-Smith (Eds.), CALL environments: Research, practice, and critical issues (pp. 116-136). Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Mikulecky, B. S., Jefferies, L. (1996). More reading power, U.S.A: Addison-Wesley publishing.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Exercise 3.5 List of Useful Web sites for Web design

Hello everyone...

Please first download my table (click here)

My approach to this activity was to make a usable table for beginners through to advanced users. As with any kind of learning, once we know the basics, our learning increases exponentially, and there's no limits to what can be done.

I tried to look at a number of different layouts, from linear to hyperlinked pages to partitioned pages. People have different learning styles as we talked about under MI theory...and the layout can influence learning.

I also looked at simplicity and ease of learning, with 3 main objectives:
1. does it provide a good and easy to understand desription,
2. does it provide an example,
3. Is it easy to navigate between pages (how many clicks, can I get back to the home page if I need to)

I also looked at what makes a web page a good one - What are the dos and don'ts of web page making. A little knowledge goes a long way...and saves time messing with things we don't need.

The last thing I looked at was open source free sites that provide ready made examples for advanced users to tweak... There's no point re-inventing the wheel, and these open source sites can save a lot of time and headaches...

All in all, the activity allowed me to find easy tutorial sites...but I didn't come across the more interactive style of site, that would possible take me through the site step by step...making my page as I go through... I guess they are reserved for paying customers... Some sites were called interactive, but would be what I consider tutorial, How to steps... (what they thought of as interactive were hyperlinks to other pages that had steps written down...
I guess there will be more interactive sites in the future...

I had thought of including a section on clip art (Gifs and Jpegs), but didn't because clip art sites are so ubiquitous and easily accessed, that it would become redundant...

Well that's my response for this activity, let me know what you think and if there is anything I can add...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Exercise 3.4.2 Teachers as courseware designers

Who better to influence the design of courseware than those who on an everyday basis, help to facilitate learning and can directly observe and evaluate the processes involved? Courseware – that is the software that is used to support formal language learning is becoming so much a normal part Ss lives (inside and outside the classroom) in what Bax (2003) terms ‘normalization’ that teachers cannot help but become involved in some way, in the design, development and evaluation of tutorial software. Teachers are also being encouraged to support ongoing research into CALL related studies and also be critical of new claims by software designers with little teaching experience (Penderson, 1987). However, there is a great disparity between those with the technical expertise to directly influence change, and those who have pedagogical knowledge, yet little technological know-how/experience to make a difference. However, I believe that with the ever-increasing presence of technology in educational settings, more and more teachers will seek out options that suit their particular contexts. As Son (1998) suggests, it would be worthwhile for teachers to make materials that meet their own and student’s needs. Whether that is through the use of authoring programs, or preferably through collaboration between various groups (software designers, or other technologically proficient educators/Computer lab, technician), teachers as professionals will want and need to become familiar with technologies (hardware and software) and/or uses of technologies that provide the best possible learning environment and access for their own students. Of course, the rapid changes in technology make it difficult to stay abreast of new developments. That is why teachers need to work together with other specialists. Scinicaiello (1997) suggests a future where computer labs (real or virtual) are the meeting places for extensive collaboration. Imagine if you will people coming together for online meetings and sharing of information.
If teachers are to become more actively involved (in design teams) in developing courseware, with the help of software designers/technologically proficient people, there are a number of important considerations that need to be addressed in relation to pedagogical needs:
1. How does that software support Ss?
2. Who has a hand in developing it?
3. Is it being implemented effectively?
Hubbard (2008) sets up a framework that has been adapted from the Richards and Rodgers model (1982) that brings together the teacher/developer, the computer as an interface/the materials and the learner. In Hubbard’s model the first thing for future collaborative teams to think about is to understand what the specific software will attempt to do (“Operational description”), then design it so that it ‘fits the students’ and finally take on an approach that meets the expectations of the learning objectives set out by the curriculum (“fit the teachers”). Teachers already have the background to be able to participate in this kind of process. They plan and write syllabi, and constantly evaluate the progress of their classes in relation to specified learning objectives. The greatest difficulty will be for those without technological know-how (or access to tech savvy staff), trying to find/create software that meets these criteria, for their specific context. That is where the collaborative efforts of a team can help share the work. This vision of a future language lab team, headed by a lab director, can take the pressure off teachers having to keep up to date and by sharing of information and problems can ensure that courseware meets the particular needs of the specific contexts.

Bax, S. (2003). CALL - Past, present and future, U.K: Cacterbury Christ Church University College

Hubbard (2008). Linguistics and the teaching of English as a second language: CALL Mini-course, Retrieved September 2, at

Pederson, K. M. (1987). Research on CALL. In W. F. Smith (Ed.), Modern media in foreign language education: Theory and implementation (pp. 99-131), Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook.

Scinicaiello, S. G. (1997). Uniting teachers, learners and machines: Language laboratories and other choices.

Son,J. -B. (1998b). Reading & Dragging: The development and use of courseware. On-CALL, 12(3), 10-19. Available:

Monday, September 1, 2008

Exercise 3.2 Categorization of CALL Activities

For the full answer to this question, please click on the following link:
CALL Activities
1. Passive/Traditional/Individual
– Activities focus on achieving mastery of a certain skill, by repetitive practice. These activities utilize a one-way transmission of information. They are categorized by tasks that require repetition, and achievement of a correct answer. They include such things as drill practice and translation types of activities.
* Drills
* Cloze activities
* Translation
* Matching
* Crosswords
* Word searches
* Powerpoint presentation
* Word processing, grammar and spell checking.

2. Interactive/Analytical/Inferential.
– These kinds of activities tend to present information that challenges students to use a number of cognitive processes in an interactive way. Activities include simulations that require manipulation of onscreen info, and information retrieval systems. They are more student-centered.

* Multimedia videodisc. programs (full motion video, sound, graphics and text – allowing learners to walk around and explore simulated environments.
* Simulations (SimCity)
* Reading for enjoyment/or find information.
*Speed Reading

3. Interactive/Cooperative/Collaborative/Creative
– These kinds of activities require a greater amount of autonomy in student-student interactions. Collaboration is a key element for successful participation in these tasks. The computer’s role is limited to that of a tool, to help in the completion of a task. The parameters of the activities are bound by the limits of the students imagination and the orchestration by the teacher facilitating learning.
* e-mail
* Chat
* Moos (discussion boards, learning centers)
* Online conferencing/video classrooms
* Blogs
* Hypermedia
* Search Engines
* WebQuests

Chapelle, C.A. (2001). Computer applications in second language acquisition: Foundations for teaching, testing and research, U.K: Cambridge.
Healey, D. (1999). Classroom practice: Communication skill-building tasks in CALL environments. In J. Egbert, & E. Hanson-Smith, CALL environments: Research, practice, and critical issues (pp. 116-136),
Alexandria, VA: TESOL.
Warschaer, M. & Kern, R. (2000). Network – based language teaching: Concepts and practice, U.K: Cambridge.

2.5 Research Question

Statement of research problem
Last year, I started a new subject which integrated two major technological tools: The DVD video and the computer/internet. The aims of the class were to increase the amount of comprehensible input through video (getting Ss involved and invested to a 12 week drama), and then slowly increase comprehensible output using a discussion board format (writing in /out of class –wherever they access to a computer). The use of the discussion board as a medium for increasing writing output is a new thing at my college, and I wish to know if the discussion room format is useful for increasing the amount and quality of writing responses, over a period of 12 weeks.
Research Question
What are the effects on writing fluency, quality and quantity of a discussion board format as the medium of writing output, over a 12-week period?
1. How much do students contribute (number and length of entries) to a discussion board, based on a video resource? Do students contribute more toward the end of the twelve weeks (Do all students increase comprehensible output)?
2. Are errors in grammar, and spelling frequent? Do errors increase/decrease over the research time?
3. Does typing influence the amount of writing that is produced? Does typing influence motivation?
4. How long does it take students to formulate a response?
5. Do students respond to other student’s discussion board entries?
6. What are student’s perceptions about writing on a discussion board?
1. Students will be motivated to write on a topic if they know that their fellow classmates are reading and responding in real time (synchronous way).
2. Students will produce more writing in their responses as the semester goes by.
3. Students will gain greater confidence in expressing themselves in writing when it’s for an audience.
4. Students will write more as their confidence grows in using the technology, and as they start to become invested in the drama.
Part I:
• There is one two-hour class per week. The students will be introduced to one season of a drama (usually 12-episodes). The students will have a small worksheet for each episode that initially works on schema building, language points, and comprehension. Part of the worksheet will be done before watching, and part of it will be done after.
Part II
• Students will enter the computer lab, where they will log onto the discussion board (Google) and be confronted with a list of 10 discussion questions about the episode that they just watched.
• The students have to make at least one discussion board entry to answer one of the questions, and are encouraged to write responses to other student’s entries. At the beginning of the course the Ss are told that their grade will depend on both answering the discussion questions and responding to other Ss responses.
Part III
Students are observed throughout class for:
• Amount of time to formulate responses
• Amount and kinds of questions asked (about the drama’s plot, language questions etc…)
• Use of other Internet tools like spell checkers, data bases, web pages, concordance type software …
• Use of computer internal tools (spell checkers, grammar checkers)
Part IV
Ss work is checked in regular intervals throughout the 12-week course (every 3 weeks) for:
• Accuracy (spelling, grammar)
• Length (number of words)
• Kinds of words (first 1000, 2000 word lists, and AWL – Academic word list)
Part V
Ss will be given a survey at the beginning of the course and again at the end of the course for:
• Attitude toward technology (DVD and CMC)
• Personal performance rating
• Attitude toward the learning task (Motivation –before and after)
• Attitude toward the difficulty of task
• Attitude toward the teacher’s expected performance / actual performance.

Ethical issues:
Ss electronic literacy will impact upon how well students perform in tasks and their attitudes toward the medium under investigation. Ss will all have different beginning points, and their learning will vary according to their comfortableness with this technology, and the skills they posses in manipulating it.

This study would have to include qualitative (heavy description of the learning and learning environment) and quantitative (empirically observed data) methods in order to gain understandings about learner attitudes on the medium that is used, and to understand the effect on Ss performance over the research period.