Authoring Software: Hot Potatoes There are many authoring softwares out there for language teachers to use in allmethods and areas of the teaching and learning process for the four skills; reading speaking,listening and writing. Some of these softwares were created even in the 1970s but were shortlived such as WinCALIS, Dasher, Edutext, Microtext, Tutor, TenCore (Bangs, 2010) and manymore. Nonetheless, after much evolution of softwares for language learning as well as the birthand rising usage of the Internet, these authoring softwares gradually became moresophisticated as teachers can bring in sources from around the world to produce better qualityexercises for the students. Moreover, the Internet allows students to access the exerciseanywhere and everywhere, giving less excuse for students to not complete their exercises. One of the many authoring softwares that can be used by language teachers to come upwith exercises is the Hot Potatoes. Developed in 2009, this software allows teachers „to createinteractive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering andgap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web‟ (Hot Potatoes Homepage, 2010). This allowsteachers to design exercises based on their lessons and the level of the students. There are many advantages of using Hot Potatoes or basically any of the AuthoringSoftwares. Rogerson-Revell (2005) attributed a few benefits in this area. Firstly, the exercisesmade by the authoring software are accessible anywhere by using various methods; save incompact discs as a programme file or uploaded to the Internet. This easy accessibility allowsstudents to do the exercises independently even when they are not in their formal education orclass (Somekh and Davis, 1998). The convenience that the students feel can result to anincrease in motivation for students to use the computer which will be more interactive than thenormal exercises in paper. Moreover, as the exercises are done independently, students canpace out their exercises and can learn more effectively through the immediate feedback from
the software. There will be clues which have been initially set up by the teacher in offering guideto students if they do not know the direct answer, encouraging students to think. For teachers, especially those who are not computer savvy, the modules of the HotPotatoes are logical and easy to use. They do not require programming knowledge, yet they stilloffer flexibility for teachers who have more advanced knowledge towards creating their ownauthentic materials that fit their lessons (Arneil, Holmes, Street, 2001). This is because thesoftware includes a tutorial to guide new users through the process of creating an exercise.Moreover, the projects can be saved and can even be sequenced according to order andpreference of the teacher which makes the learning process more flowing and contextualized.Creative teachers who want to capture the attention of their students can even include soundsand pictures along with the exercises in motivating students to do the exercises (Winke &MacGregor, 2001). This can further enhance students‟ learning and attention span towards theirexercises because of the existing stimuli for them. Nonetheless, there are some disadvantages of the software, too. Firstly, there is limitedinteraction between students, teacher and even with the software itself (Arneil, Holmes, Street,2001). This is because the feedback given, though immediate, is pre-scripted by the teacher.This means that feedbacks will be limited in the sentence pattern and variation whichsometimes may not bring any benefit for students to acknowledge their weakness or strengths.Moreover, there will definitely be a tendency for students to have a binary correction strategy inanswering the questions (Garrett, 1995 as cited in Yoell, 2000), further decreasing the level ofknowledge and understanding the student has towards a particular language area. Therefore,this software cannot be credited to become an assessment tool due to its reliability in questionand can only become an self- learning tool.
Summary The usage of authoring software in a computer assisted language learning approach hasby far many advantages for teachers and students. The easily availability of these softwarethrough the Internet offers an easier and faster alternative in supporting their language teachingand learning process for second language students besides the traditional method. Althoughthere are certain setbacks in using this tool as a teaching aid because of its rigid communicationbetween the learner, teacher and computer, yet students are able to relate learning with fun andwhich can help to decrease their affective factor towards the language. Nonetheless, teachersplay an important role in developing the positive vibe for students to be interested in learning thelanguage. As teachers, it is important to remember that computer and the various languagelearning software and programmes are only tools to assist in language teaching. Garrett (1991)has previously mentioned that “the use of the computer does not constitute a method but rather;it is a medium in which a variety of methods, approaches, and pedagogical philosophies may beimplemented” (p. 75). Thus, teachers should be fair in acquiring the various skills andknowledge needed to present their teaching and lessons for the ultimate benefit of the students.
Reference ListArneil, S., Holmes, M. & Street, H. (2001). Hot Potatoes (Version 5.2.6) [Computer Software]. Victoria, Canada: Half-Baked Software.Bangs, P. (2010). ICT4LT Module 2.5: Introduction to CALL authoring programs. Retrieved January 21, 2010 from http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_mod2-5.htmGarrett, N. (1991). Technology in the service of language learning: trends and issues. Modern Language Journal, 75(1). pp. 74-101.Hot Potatoes Homepage. (2010). Hot potatoes: Version 6. Retrieved January 20, 2010 from http://hotpot.uvic.ca/Rogerson-Revell, P. (2005) A hybrid approach to developing CALL materials: authoring with Macromedias Dreamweaver/Coursebuilder. ReCALL l, 17 (1). pp. 122-138.Winke, P & MacGregor, D. (2001). Language learning & technology Retrieved January 21, 2010 from http://llt.msu.edu/vol5num2/review3/default.htmlYoell, S. (2000). Hot Potatoes----- A Healthy Diet for the 21st Century? Retrieved January 20, 2010 from http://www.yoell.fsnet.co.uk/HotPotatoes.htm#requirements.