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 http://www.stanford.edu/class/linguist289/CALL2.htm

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: http://www.usq.edu.au/users/sonjb/papers/oncall98.htm


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