The Computer’s Role in the Language Classroom: A Medium, Not a Method Presentation outline • Computers and society • Misconceptions about the computer’s role in the L2 classroom • Cognitive and socio-cognitive approaches to language learning • Computer-mediated communication (CMC) • The positive effects of collaborative text-based computer- mediated learning
Computers and Society 1990s ~ 1. Personal computers improve dramatically 2. Microsoft Windows 3.0 (1990) 3. Internet and the World Wide Web 2000s ~ 1. High-speed Internet access 2. Instant messaging 3. Tablet PC 4. E-commerce 5. The skies the limit….
Learning in the digital age is a process of connectivism
Knowledge is growing exponentially
Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning
The capacity to form connections between sources of information, and construct meaningful information patterns is now a necessity
(Siemens, 2005, p.5)
Offered visions of a world where all-powerful computers controlled the running of society, many believed they would be left free to develop their creative talents – or languish in eternal boredom (Ahmad et al, 1985, p.7) CALL (Computer-Assisted Language learning) was placed on a pedestal The computer’s association with progress lead some programs and schools to promote CALL activities regardless of whether they were shown to improve learning or not (Kern, 2006, p.189) ► Misconceptions about the computer’s role in the L2 classroom
Cognitive and Socio-Cognitive Approaches to Language Learning
Much of the research over the past 40 years dealing with second language acquisition (SLA) theories has lent itself to cognitive and socio- cognitive approaches to language learning
Cognitive approach Language learning is a creative process Learners construct a mental model of a language system through combining their own innate cognitive knowledge with comprehensible, meaningful language (Chomsky, 1986, as cited in Warschauer and Meskill, 2000, p. 304) Socio-cognitive approach Learning is a process of apprenticeship or socialization Students need to be given maximum opportunity for authentic social interaction, not only to give them comprehensible input but also practice with the kinds of communication in which they will later engage outside of the classroom (Warschauer and Meskill, 2000, p. 305) Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)
An example of how the World Wide Web can be utilized in a regular language classroom to facilitate task-basked learning AIM Practice reading skills – skimming for information LEVEL Intermediate TIME 90 minutes PREPARATION Hardware One computer per individual or pair Internet access Knowledge of search engines and list of potential links for information search PROCEDURE Pre-computer work 1. Put students into groups and allocate a topic. (Or have them decide on one for themselves) 2. Hand out a list of web sites related to the topic. Computer work (Allocate a set amount of class time) 3. Each student scans a different site, taking note of the main ideas and a few significant details. Post-computer work 4. Students complete a communicative information gap activity. 5. (Optional) Students reflect upon similarities or differences in their own experiences Figure 1 (Healey, 1999, p. 118)
High Tech Vs Low Tech High Tech • Synchronous / Asynchronous chat • Discussion forums • Social networking sites (SNS) The hybrid vernacular varieties that learners develop in CMC environments may not have much in common with the language needs to be learned in school contexts…this process will involve forms of literacy which may differ significantly from traditional forms of school literacy (Koutsogiannis & Mitsikopoulou, 2004, p. 84). + Dynamic in nature + Reflects contemporary means of communication - Concerns that it is improper, or ‘not real’ communication Low Tech • Word • Excel • Power point + Available + Familiar + Easy to employ in a limited capacity
AIM To practice letter applications LEVEL Intermediate TIME 75 minutes PREPARATION Hardware One computer per group preferably, but not essentially, linked together in a Network Software A word-processor Knowledge Basic use of the word-processor PROCEDURE Pre-computer work: 1. Either from a suitable textbook, or using an authentic text, present students with a letter of application. 2. Hand the students recent job advertisements, and ask them to choose the job they would most like to have. Computer work: 3. Students write their letters of application on a computer, as a group-writing exercise. 4. When students have finished their letters, they save them. Then they load another group’s text. They read the text carefully, and, depending on the quality of English, write a letter asking the person to come to an interview. Post-computer work: 5. Students conduct a job interview role-play, alternating between applicant and interviewer. A good example of a low tech CALL activity that follows a task-based approach. Figure 2 (Hardisty & Windeatt, 1989, pp. 87-88)
Computer-mediated communication (CMC)
Synchronous (SCMS) and Asynchronous (ACMC)
Pedagogically, CMS has proved to be an effective medium for facilitating the emergence of ‘learner-centered discourse communities’ (Darhower, 2002, as cited in Zeng and Takatsuka, 2009, p. 435)
Asynchronous (ACMC) Computer-mediated communication ► ACMC allows learners to study anytime and anywhere ► To do it at their own pace ► Promotes reflective learning (Hiltz & Goldman, 2005, as cited in Yamada, 2009) The very nature of social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook is rooted in community building, social networking, and inter-personal relationships (Blattner & Fiori, 2009, p. 4). A sense of community is necessary to sustain a dynamic and meaningful educational experience over time and is a valuable asset to promote higher level thinking and the construction of knowledge (Kanuka, 2004, p. 97).
Asynchronous (ACMC) Computer-mediated communication
A point of caution – Participation in these types of communities does require a
complexified view of literacy that goes well beyond the skills
of encoding and decoding texts.
(Kern, 2006, p. 195)
Beware of ‘missed communication’ (Ware, 2005) Institutional constraints and time pressures which negatively influence students’ communicative choices may lead to disengagement, and missed opportunities for intercultural learning Successful intercultural correspondence is achieved when students invest a large amount of time into their messages.
Synchronous (SCMC) Computer-mediated communication
(Image and voice)
(Voice but no image)
Text chat with image
(Image but no voice)
Plain text chat
( No image and no voice)
Four categories of SCMC SCMC has a great potential to perform a supportive role in the instruction of communication skills in language learning, arguably promoting more equal participation among interlocutors than what would happen in regular classroom discussions
Is one SCMC predominately better than another?
FACTOR IMAGE VOICE/TEXT MEAN 1. Perceived ease of communication in Yes Voice 21.00 English due to the interlocutor’s No Voice 12.90 presence Yes Text 16.80 No Text 17.00 2. Consciousness of natural communication Yes Voice 20.10 No Voice 15.90 Yes Text 17.10 No Text 20.10 3. Confidence in grammatical accuracy Yes Voice 7.00 No Voice 8.10 Yes Text 10.80 No Text 11.70 TABLE 1. (Yamada, 2009, p. 826) METRIC IMAGE VOICE/TEXT MEAN 1. Mean number of turns Yes Voice 65.30 No Voice 34.40 Yes Text 10.80 No Text 9.10 2. Mean number of utterances of the Yes Voice 1.30 target expressions No Voice 1.70 Yes Text 0.60 No Text 0.40 3. Mean number of self-corrections Yes Voice 1.50 No Voice 0.50 Yes Text 0.40 No Text 0.20 TABLE 2. (Yamada, 2009, p. 827) Video conferencing was given top scores for ‘perceived ease of communication’ and ‘number of self corrections’ Audio conferencing was given the lowest rating for ‘consciousness of natural communication Text chat with no image was rated just as high as video conferencing Text chat with no image scored highest for grammatical accuracy
Collaborative learning tasks Task-based group discourse, in which learners collaboratively “engage in problem solving, and knowledge building” (Swain, 2001, p. 61) is seen as one way which effectively raises learners awareness of stated language objectives. In collaborative discussions of this kind, “learners use language to reflect on language use, and in doing so, the divide between language use and language learning is overcome with the two co-occurring in the same activity” (Zeng and Takatsuka, 2009, p. 434) Text-based SCMC As Warschauer (1996) explains, text-based chatting promotes a learning environment where by learners collaboratively “learn language, learn about language, and learn through language” (p. 471) Text-based collaborative learning tasks
Initiation of language related episodes (LREs) Discourse move Example Inviting opinion Yi: it should be “the sun has just risen” not rise, do you think so? Song: I see thank-you. Requesting for assistance Xin: er…I forget the past tense of “throw” suddenly do you know Ying: threw Xin: Oh! Yes! So clever you are! Suggesting improvement Z: “wasn’t hurt” is better T: yes, this is better Providing an alternative Qian: what about “lying on”? Shu: it is fire! The woman cannot lie on it Qian: yes Requesting clarification Bing: why do you use “poor”? Ping: poor in my sentence means Helpless and painful Figure 3 (Zeng and Takatsuka, 2009, p. 442) Research on the effectiveness of text-based computer mediated learning The text-based hybrid form of communication helps promote learners collective awareness of their employment of L2 vocabulary and grammar (Zeng and Takatsuka, 2009)
► The computer is not to be viewed as a method unto itself. ► It is a medium through which learning objectives can be enhanced and the principles of CLT upheld ► Though the power of computer technology is not limited to the confines of the classroom, it does not mean that it should not be afforded a place within its walls as well Final comments The end
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