Ok, Here we go: this is a reading reflection on Week one, L53 (http://www.danielcraig.com/call/fall2006/)-- A ComputerAssisted Language Learning class taught online by Dan Craig ( http://www.danielcraig.com/) , Dept. of Language Education (http://www.indiana.edu/~langed/), Indiana University (http://www.indiana.edu/), USA. (http://www.danielcraig.com/call/fall2006/).
1. Egbert, J., Chao, C., and Hanson-Smith, E. (1999) Computer-enhanced language learning environments: an overview. In Egbert, J. and Hanson-Smith, E. (eds.) CALL Environments: Research, Practice, and Critical Issues (pp. 1-13). Alexandria, VA: TESOL.
2. Kern, R. & Warschauer, M. (2000). Theory and practice of network-based language teaching. In In M. Warschauer & R. Kern (Eds.), Network-based language teaching: Concepts and practice.New York: Cambridge University Press.
CALL in a Changing World: A Reading Reflection
Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. of Linguistics,
Indiana University, Bloomington
Egbert, Chao and Hanson-Smith (1999) begin by talking about the need for a theory of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). They provide a number of reasons that lie behind that need, and cite a couple of scholars to support their argument. They then argue that a theory of CALL should not be divorced from 'an integrated theory of language acquisition'. Thus, they turn to talking about language learning theory and the learning environment. They cite Spolsky's (1989) variables that are said to 'govern' acquiring additional languages. Spolsky's variables seem to be useful and encompassing. Interestingly, these variables are provided in the form of input-output schema. In addition, the variables situate the learning process in a socioeconomic context, thus going beyond the classroom environment. At this point I can see a relationship between these variable proposed by Spolsky and the Sociocognitive Approach to language learning that Kern and Warschauer (2000) review. To me, situating language learning into a socioeconomic/sociocognitive perspective is interesting and illuminating, let alone being useful. I should be able to return to this point by the end of the current essay.
Egbert, Chao and Hanson-Smith then spell out eight conditions for 'optimal' language learning environments. They derive such conditions from the learning theory literature, including that on Second Language Acquisition (SLA) and English as a Second Language (ESL). They point out that their 'conditions' are not meant to be inclusive, or exhaustive. The eight conditions provided seem to be very useful. They not only envisage learning an additional language as an interactive, sociosultural, innvovative effort, but support learner autonomy and care for such learner needs as time, and stress, as well. The teacher's role is more supportive and facilitative than instructive and authoritative. Indeed, again, this can be related to the many benefits of what Kern and Warschauer (2000) term Network-based Language Teaching (NBLT) where computers are regarded as 'toolkits'.
Finally, Egbert, Chao and Hanson-Smith focus more on the research aspect related to the CALL classroom. They introduce six steps for conducting research in the area of CALL. One points of criticism I need to make on the steps they propose: I think research should not have this kind of fixed step by step procedure. In other words, the various steps should not be in a fixed and stagnant order. As we have some research question in mind we can go ahead and review the literature and continue the research process, but we can go back and add other research questions, refine the questions, or we may need to do more literature review. The writers touched upon this kind of possibility, but I think it evaded them to make it clear that conducting research is a heuristic process. Out of my own research experience, I can claim that the steps are not, and should not be, that linear. In all, I believe that Egbert, Chao and Hanson-Smith's chapter is a good introduction to the field, but they 'fail' to relate their claims to the wider theory of linguistics as a field, an attempt that Kern and Warschauer (2000) skillfully and quite deeply make. Thus, I turn to reflect on Kern and Warschauer's introductory chapter now.
From the very beginning Kern and Warschauer seem to be eager to introduce NBLT and relate it not only to CALL, but also to other fields as we will see later. In addition, They manage to 'create a research space' (See e.g., Swales, 1990; 2004) for their book by indicating that little was published on the relationship between the use of computers and language learning. Thus, In their effort to bridge such a gap, they need first to situate NBLT within SLA and CALL approaches. And this they masterly do. The two scholars review the language learning and teaching perspectives and relate them to the wider theory of linguistics as a field. Since SLA was and still is closely related to, and affected (sometimes badly!) by views about language generally, there is a rational for the authors' efforts to present, though briefly, the mainstream approaches to language. Thus, they introduce three such approaches.
First, they introduce the Structural Perspective and point out how it generated the two now-loathful grammar translation and audiolingual methods. They touch on related concepts in behavioral and cognitive psychology, contrastive syntax, and contrastive rhetoric and pinpoint the applications and drawbacks of the two above-mentioned methods. Secondly, they present the Cognitive/Constructivist Approach pointing out the reasons for which it emerged. The effect of applying this approach on specially reading and writing is also talked about. Thirdly, they introduce the Sociocognitive Perspective, talking about the context in which it appeared and the positive effect it had, and still has, on SLA.
One minor negative thing is that the authors focused more on reading and writing than on other language skills (e.g., listening and speaking) while reviewing the three perspective. But I really liked the way the authors reviewed the three approaches and their ability to show us how the focus changes from language per se to learners (and their cognitive processes) to learner's relationship to the various speech communities. You would envisage a wide knowledge of various disciplines behind the scene and will feel compelled to admire the way the authors simultaneously present the theory and theorize! In addition, you would see the domino-effect that the work of some pioneers (e.g., Bloomfield, Chomsky, Halliday, Hymes, etc.) have had (and actually continues to be so) not only on their own fields but on various other (not-necessarily-at-a-certain-time-related) fields. We are watching multidisciplinarity at play here (and now!).
Finally, the authors relate the three perspectives they introduced to the theory and practice of CALL, giving examples to the different ways CALL methodology was affected. They exemplify by giving a bird's eye view about some CALL programs and applications. Here, I began to reflect not on the readings--:)-- but on the myriad ways I myself was using the computer to learn additional languages (well, namely French), and the different programs I used to resort to. I began to classify the programs according to the classification of approaches the writers provided--and it turned out to be useful, since I reached some conclusions and decisions about future plans! I came to be very interested to to NBLT, not only because it situates the learning process into the larger milieu of a speech community, and relates such a process to the different genres. We would for instance asking ourselves questions like why, how, when, and where we learn a foreign language. In addition, NBLT is intimately related to the now-in-vogue field of CMC (see e.g., Herring, 1996) and the phenomena of hyper-text and hyper-media. The writers end up by hinting on the need for more NBLT research, thus intelligently re-attempting to create a research space for themselves and motivate us to read, and perhaps buy their book! Interesting to me is to read more in the future about the field of CALL, NBLT, CMC and Hyper-media.
Interesting to me will be to read more about the fields of CALL, NBLT, CMC and the phenomenon Hyper-media. I think I am performing well till now in the course and hope to continue acquiring the various useful skills the course provides.
Herring, S. C. (Ed.). (1996). Computer-Mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social and Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Pragmatics and Beyond series. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Swales, J.M. (1990). Genre analysis. English in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Swales, J.M. (2004). Research Genres: Explorations and Applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Journal of CMC: http://jcmc.indiana.edu/
IU School of Library and Information Science: http://www.slis.indiana.edu/
Center for Research on Learning and Technology: http://www.crlt.indiana.edu/
Center for Social Informatics: http://rkcsi.indiana.edu/
IU School of Linguistics: http://www.indiana.edu/~lingdept/
Prof. Susan C. Herring's (my advisor and CMC pioneer) Homepage: http://www.slis.indiana.edu/faculty/herring/
A new interesting CMC/CMDA book:
Brenda Danet and Susan C. Herring. (2007). The Multilingual Internet: Language, Culture, and Communication Online. Oxford: OUP. http://pluto.mscc.huji.ac.il/~msdanet/multilingTOC.html