Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) is an approach to language teaching and learning in which computer technology is used as an aid to the presentation, reinforcement and assessment of material to be learned, usually including a substantial interactive element.
- 1 Definition
- 2 Technologies used in CALL instruction
- 3 History
- 4 CALL and computational linguistics
- 5 Role changes for teachers and students
- 6 Use of CALL for the four skills
- 7 Advantages of CALL (motivation and authenticity)
- 8 Problems and criticisms of CALL instruction
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) is an approach to teaching and learning in which the computer and computer-based resources such as the Internet are used to present, reinforce and assess material to be learned and usually includes a substantial interactive element. It also includes the search for and the investigation of applications in language teaching and learning.  Except for self-study software, CALL is meant to supplement face-to-face language instruction, not replace it. 
CALL has also been known by several other terms such as technology-enhanced language learning, computer-assisted language instruction (Davies) and computer-aided language learning but the field is the same. 
Technologies used in CALL instruction
The technologies used in CALL instruction generally fall into two categories, software and Internet-based activities.
Software used in a CALL environment can be designed specifically for foreign/second language learning or adapted for this purpose. Most language textbook publishers offer educational software of some sort, whether it is meant to support a paper textbook or to stand alone for self-study. 
Most programs designed for language learning are tutorials. These generally are drill programs that consist of a brief introduction plus a series of questions to which the learner responds and then the computer gives some kind of feedback. With these kinds of programs, the material to be learned may already be programmed in by the publisher, which is more common, or may allow the instructor to program in the material to be learned.
Programs not designed specifically for language learning can be adapted for this purpose. Generally, these are task-based activities where the stated goal is something other than language learning; however, using the target language is essential for getting the task done. For example, with Facemaker, students create different faces by using words in the language to command the computer. Role playing games, where the user creates and controls a character in a fantasy realm, can be used in this manner as well.
Authoring programs allow an instructor to program part or all of the content to be learned and program part or all of how the content is to be learned. Some examples of these programs include Cloze master, Choice master and Multitester. With these, the format is pre-programmed and the instructor puts in the material. General authoring programs like Macromedia Director can be used to make an entire course; however, most teachers do not have the time or the technical ability to make use of such programs. 
The World Wide Web was launched in 1992 reaching the general public by 1993, opening up new possibilities in CALL. 
Internet activities vary considerably, from online versions of software (where the learner interacts with a networked computer), to computer-mediated communication (where the learner interacts with other people via the computer), to applications that combine these two elements.
Nowadays, web sites that cater to foreign-language learners, especially those learning English, are so numerous and varied that it can be very difficult to determine where to begin.  There are even meta-sites dedicated to trying to give a starting point such as Dave’s ESL Café (www.eslcafe.com) and LLRC Recommended Sources (http://llrc.itesm.mx/webresources). Many of these websites are based on the drill-exercise format but some also include games such as Hangman. 
Computer-mediated communication (CMC) has been around in one form or another since the 1960’s but only became widely available to the general public since the early 1990’s. CMC comes in two forms: asynchronous (such as email and forums) and synchronous (such as text and voice chat). With these, learners can communicate in the target language with other real speakers cheaply, 24 hours a day. Learners can communicate one-on-one or one to many as well as share audio and video files. Because of all this, CMC has had the most impact on language teaching. 
Internet applications with combine interaction with another computer as well as another person or people both derived from role playing games (RPGs), which are activities where participants become part of a story where they work together and/or work against each other. RPGs were originally played on paper with pencils and dice but since the 1990s nearly all RPGs have been computer-based, with the computer acting as a player and/or referee. RPG scenarios can be as simple as Crimson Room’s (http://www.fasco-csc.com/index_e.php) goal of escaping from a locked room, but more often the scenario is a quest or journey, where players become a fantasy character and must use their skills to obtain treasure and experience. Some popular online RPGs include: Fairyland (http://www.1010game.com/asp/downloadpage.asp), Runescape (http://www.runescape.com/) and the simply-titled Quest (http://www.questrpg.org/). In chat rooms, the purpose is basically just to talk, so usually all participants see is a blank screen with words on it. RPG programs, however, participants appear on the screen (usually as simple animated figures) and interact with landscapes and objects as well as text they, the computer or other participants wrote. Participation in an RPG mimics many real-world communicative situations, such as buying and selling as well as a few not-so-real ones such as casting spells. 
While most RPG’s online nowadays simulate the video game experience, RPG’s first went online in the forms of MUDs (Muli-user Dungeons) and MOOs (Multi-user Dungeon, Object-oriented). MUDs are purely textual environments, forcing the participant to imagine the visual components and MOOs have some visual elements, however very simple and not animated. MOOs have been converted in education into virtual classroom and office space where teachers and students can interact one-on-one or all together as a class in real time. 
CALL’s origins and development trace back to the 1960’s and since has consisted of a symbiotic relationship between development of technology and pedagogy.  Its development can be divided into three phases: behavioristic CALL, communicative CALL and integrative /exploratative CALL. 
Behavioristic CALL is defined by the then-dominant behavioristic theories of learning of Skinner  as well as the technological limitations of computers from the 1960’s to the early 1980’s. Up to the late 1970’s, CALL was confined to universities where programs were developed on big mainframe computers, like the PLATO project, initiated at the University of Illinois in 1960.  Because repeated exposure to material was considered to be beneficial or even essential, computers were considered ideal for this aspect of learning as the machines did not get bored or impatient with learners and the computer could present material to the student as his/her own pace and even adapt the drills to the level of the student.  Hence, CALL programs of this era presented a stimulus to which the learner provided a response. At first, both could be done only through text. The computer would analyze errors and give feedback. More sophisticated programs would react to students’ mistakes by branching to help screens and remedial activities.  While such programs and their underlying pedagogy still exist today, to a large part behavioristic approaches to language learning have been rejected and the increasing sophistication of computer technology has lead CALL to other possibilities. 
Communicative CALL is based on the communicative approach that became prominent in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. In the communicative approach, the focus is on using the language rather than analysis of the language, teaching grammar implicitly. It also allowed for originality and flexibility in student output of language.  It also correlates with the arrival of the PC, making computing much widely available resulting in a boom in the development of software for language learning.  The first CALL software in this phase still provided skill practice but not in a drill format, for example, paced reading, text reconstruction and language games but computer remained the tutor. In this phase, however, computers provided context for students to use the language, such as asking for directions to a place. It also allowed for programs not designed for language learning, such as Sim City, Sleuth and Where in the World in Carmen Sandiego? to be used for language learning. However, criticisms of this approach include using the computer in an ad hoc and disconnected manner for more marginal rather than the central aims of language teaching. It will usually taught skills such as reading and listening in a compartmentalized way, even if not in a drill fashion. 
Integrative/exploratative CALL, starting from the 1990’s, tries to address these criticisms by integrating the teaching of language skills into tasks or projects to provide direction and coherence. It also coincides with the development of multimedia technology (providing text, graphics, sound and animation) as well as computer-mediated communication. CALL in this period saw a definitive shift of use of computer for drill and tutorial purposes (computer as a finite authoritative base for a specific task) to a medium for extending education beyond the classroom and reorganizing instruction.  Multimedia CALL started with interactive laser videodiscs such as “Montevidisco” (Schneider & Bennion 1984) and “A la rencontre de Philippe” (Fuerstenberg 1993)… all of which were simulations of situations where the learner played a key role. These programs later were transferred to CD-ROMs. 
In multimedia programs, listening is combined with seeing, just like in the real world. Students also control the pace and the path of the interaction. Interaction is in the foreground but many CALL programs also provide links to explanations simultaneously. An example of this is Dustin’s simulation of a foreign student’s arrival to the U.S.  Programs like this led also to what is called exploratative CALL. More recent research in CALL has favored a learner-centered exploratative approach, where students are encouraged to try different possible solutions to a problem, for example the use of concordance programs in the language classroom. This approach is also described as data-driven learning.
CALL and computational linguistics
CALL and computational linguistics are separate but somewhat interdependent fields of study. The basic goal of computational linguistics is basically to “teach” computers to generate and comprehend grammatically-acceptable sentences… for purposes of translation and direct communication with computers where the computer understands and generates natural language. Computational linguistics takes the principles of theoretical linguistics with the aim of characterizing a language with computational applications in mind. 
A very simple example of computers understanding natural language in relation to second language learning is vocabulary drill exercises. The computer prompts the learner with a word on either the L1 or target language and the student responds with the corresponding word. The computer “understands” the input word by comparing it with a stored answer and gives feedback to the user. Cloze tests work on a similar principle, where the computer compares the words/phrases provided by the learner to a database of correct answers. 
On a superficial level, the core issue for humans and computers using language is the same; finding the best match between a given speech sound and it corresponding word string, then generating the correct and appropriate response. However, humans and machines process speech in fundamentally different ways. Humans use complex cognitive processes, taking into account variables such as social situations and rules while speech for a computer is simply a series of digital values to generate and parse language.   For this reason, those involved in CALL from a computational linguistics perspective tend to be more optimistic about a computer’s ability to do error analysis and other pedagogical tasks then those who come into CALL via language teaching.
Role changes for teachers and students
Although the integration of CALL into a foreign language program can lead to great anxiety among language teachers,  researchers consistently claim that CALL changes, sometimes radically, the role of the teacher but does not eliminate the need for a teacher altogether. Instead of handing down knowledge to students and being the center of students’ attention, teachers become guides as they construct the activities students are to do and help them as students complete the assigned tasks. In other words, instead of being directly involved in students’ constructions of the language, the teacher interacts with students primarily to facilitate difficulties in using the target language (grammar, vocabulary, etc.) as use the language to interact with the computer and/or other people.  
Elimination of a strong teacher presence has been shown to lead to larger quantity and better quality of communication such as more fluidity, more use of complex sentences and more sharing of students’ personal selves.  However, teacher presence is still very important to students when doing CALL activities. Teachers should be familiar enough with the resources to be used to anticipate technical problems and limitations.  Students need the reassuring and motivating presence of a teacher in CALL environments. Not only are they needed during the initial learning curve, they are needed to conduct review sessions to reinforce what was learned. Encouraging students to participate and offering praise are deemed important by students. Most students report preferring to do work in a lab with a teacher’s or tutor’s presence rather than completely on their own. 
Students, too, need to adjust their expectations of their participation in the class in order to use CALL effectively. Rather than passively absorbing information, learners must negotiate meaning and assimilate new information through interaction and collaboration with someone other than the teacher, be that person a classmate or someone outside of the classroom entirely. Learners must also learn to interpret new information and experiences on their own terms. However, because the use of technology redistributes teachers’ and classmates’ attentions, less-able students can become more active participants in the class because class interaction is not limited to that directed by the teacher.
Use of CALL for the four skills
A number of studies have been done concerning how the use of CALL affects the development of language learners’ four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing). Most report significant gains in reading and listening and most CALL programs are geared toward these receptive skills because of the current state of computer technology. However, most reading and listening software is based on drills.  Gains in writing skills have not been as impressive as computers cannot assess this well. 
However, using current CALL technology, even with it current limitations, for the development of speaking abilities has gained much attention. There has been some success in using CALL, in particular computer-mediated communication, to help speaking skills closely linked to “communicative competence” (ability to engage in meaningful conversation in the target language) and provide controlled interactive speaking practice outside the classroom.  Using chat has been shown to help students routinize certain often-used expressions to promote the development of automatic structure that help develop speaking skills. This is true even if the chat is purely textual. The use of videoconferencing give not only immediacy when communicating with a real person but also visual cues, such as facial expressions, making such communication more authentic. 
However, when it comes to using the computer not as a medium of communication (with other people) but as something to interact with verbally in a direct manner, the current computer technology’s limitations are their clearest. Right now, there are two fairly successful applications of automatic speech recognition (ASR) (or speech processing technology) where the computer “understands” the spoken words of the learner. The first is pronunciation training. Learners read sentences on the screen and the computer gives feedback as to the accuracy of the utterance, usually in the form of visual sound waves.  The second is software where the learner speaks commands for the computer to do. However, speakers in these programs are limited to predetermined texts so that the computer will “understand” them. 
Advantages of CALL (motivation and authenticity)
Generally speaking, the use of technology inside or outside the classroom tends to make the class more interesting. However, certain design issues affect just how interesting the particular tool creates motivation.  One way a program or activity can promote motivation in students is by personalizing information, for example by integrating the student’s name or familiar contexts as part of the program or task. Others include having animate objects on the screen, providing practice activities that incorporate challenges and curiosity and providing a context (real-world or fantasy) that is not directly language-oriented.
For example, a study comparing students who used “CornerStone” (a language arts development program) showed a significant increase in learning (compared to students not using the program) between two classes of English-immersion middle-school students in language arts. This is because CornerStone incorporate personalized information and challenging and imaginative exercises in a fantasy context.  Also, using a variety of multimedia components in one program or course has been shown to increase student interest and motivation. 
One quantifiable benefit to increased motivation is that students tend to spend more time on tasks when on the computer. More time is frequently cited as a factor in achievement. 
Adapting learning to the student
Computers can give a new role to teaching materials. Without computers, students cannot really influence the linear progression of the class content but computers can adapt to the student.  Adapting to the student usually means that the student controls the pace of the learning but also means that students can make choices in what and how to learn, skipping unnecessary items or doing remedial work on difficult concepts. Such control makes students feel more competent in their learning.  Students tend to prefer exercises where they have control over content, such as branching stories, adventures, puzzles or logic problems. With these, the computer has the role of providing attractive context for the use of language rather than directly providing the language the student needs. 
“Authenticity” in language learning means the opportunity to interact in one or more of the four skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) by using or producing texts meant for an audience in the target language, not the classroom. With real communication acts, rather than teacher-contrived ones, students feel empowered and less afraid to contact others. Students believe the learn faster and better with computer-mediated communication.  Also, students learn more about culture in such an environment.  In networked computer environments, students have a conscious feeling of being members of a real community. In situations where all are learners of a foreign language, there is also a feeling of equality. In these situations students feel less stressed and more confident in a language learning situation, in part because surface errors do not matter so much. This works best with synchronous CMC (e.g. chats) as there is immediate feedback but email exchanges have been shown to provide most of the same benefits in motivation and student affect. 
Critical thinking skills
Use of computer technology in classrooms is generally reported to improve self-concept and mastery of basic skills, more student-centered learning and engagement in the learning process, more active processing resulting in higher-order thinking skills and better recall, gain confidence in directing their own learning. This is true for both language and non-language classrooms. 
Problems and criticisms of CALL instruction
The impact of CALL in foreign language education has been modest.  Several reasons can be attributed to this.
The first is the limitations of the technology, both in its ability and availability. First of all, there is the problem with cost and the simple availability of technological resources such as the Internet (either non-existent as can be the case in many developing country or lack of bandwidth, as can be the case just about anywhere).  However, the limitations that current computer technology has can be problematic as well. While computer technology has improved greatly in the last three decades, demands placed on CALL have grown even more so. One major goal is to have computers with which students can have true, human-like interaction, esp. for speaking practice; however, the technology is far from that point. Not to mention that if the computer cannot evaluate a learner’s speech exactly, it is almost no use at all. 
However, most of the problems that appear in the literature on CALL have more to do with teacher expectations and apprehensions about what computers can do for the language learner and teacher. Teachers and administrators tend to either think computers are worthless or even harmful, or can do far more than they are really capable of. 
Reluctance on part of teachers can come from lack of understanding and even fear of technology. Often CALL is not implemented unless it is required even if training is offered to teachers.  One reason for this is that from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, computer technology was limited mostly for the sciences, creating a real and psychological distance for language teaching.  Language teachers can be more comfortable with textbooks because it is what they are used do, and there is the idea that the use of computers threatens traditional literacy skills since such are heavily tied to books.   These stem in part because there is a significant generation gap between teachers (many of whom did not grow up with computer) and students (who did grow up with them).
Also, teachers may resist because CALL activities can be more difficult to evaluate than more traditional exercises. For example, most Mexican teachers feel strongly that a completed fill-in textbook “proves” learning.  While students seem may be motivatd by exercises like branching stories, adventures, puzzles or logic, these activities provide little in the way of systematic evaluation of progress. 
Even teacher who may otherwise see benefits to CALL may be put off by the time and effort needed to implement it well. However, “seductive” the power of computing systems may be, like with the introduction of the audio language lab in the 1960’s, those who simply expect results by purchasing expensive equipment are likely to be disappointed.  To begin with, there are the simple matters of sorting through the numerous resources that exist and getting students ready to use computer resources. With Internet sites alone, it can be very difficult to know where to begin, and if students are unfamiliar with the resource to be used, the teacher must take time to teach it.  Also, there is a lack of unified theoretical framework for designing and evaluating CALL systems as well as absence of conclusive empirical evidence for the pedagogical benefits of computers in language.  Most teachers lack the time or training to create CALL-based assignments, leading to reliance on commercially-published sources, whether such are pedagogically sound or not. 
References required for his article.
- See the ICT4LT Resource Centre for a select bibliography on CALL: http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_resource.htm
- See also EUROCALL's CALL Bibliography. This is a comprehensive list of CALL publications, including other bibliographies on the Web.
- ATALL (Autonomous Computer-Assisted Language Learning) ATALL Wikibook. See also Littlemore J. (2001) Learner autonomy, self-instruction and new technologies in language learning: current theory and practice in higher education in Europe. In Chambers A. & Davies G. (eds.) ICT and language learning: a European perspective, Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger (now taken over by Taylor & Francis). David Little has also published widely on learner autonomy in the context of CALL, e.g. Little D. (1991) Learner autonomy: definitions, issues and problems, Dublin: Authentik http://www.authentik.com
- Bax S. (2003) CALL - past, present and future, System 31: 13-28
- CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) journal, Taylor and Francis (formerly published by Swets & Zeitlinger): http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/
- Chapelle C. (2001). Computer applications in second language acquisition: foundations for teaching, testing and research, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Cheon Heesook (2003) The viability of Computer Mediated Communication in the Korean secondary EFL classroom, The Asian EFL Journal Vol 5, 1: http://www.asian-efl-journal.com/march03.sub2.php
- Davies G. (1997) "Lessons from the past, lessons for the future: 20 years of CALL". In Korsvold A-K. & Rüschoff B. (eds.) New technologies in language learning and teaching, Strasbourg: Council of Europe. Also on the Web at: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/coegdd1.htm
- Davies G. (2007 - revised) "Computer Assisted Language Learning: Where are we now and where are we going?" http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/docs/UCALL_Keynote.htm
- Davies G., Bangs P., Frisby R. & Walton E. (2005) Setting up effective digital language laboratories and multimedia ICT suites for Modern Foreign Languages, London: CILT: http://www.languages-ict.org.uk/managing/digital_language_labs.pdf
- de Szendeffy J. (2005) A practical guide to using computers in language teaching, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
- Egbert, J. & Petrie G. (eds) (2006). CALL Research Perspectives. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Egbert J. & Hanson-Smith E. (eds.) (1999) CALL environments: research, practice and critical issues, Alexandria, VA: TESOL.
- Felix U. (2001) Beyond Babel: language learning online, Melbourne: Language Australia.
- Fitzpatrick A. & Davies G. (eds.) (2003) "The Impact of Information and Communications Technologies on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and on the Role of Teachers of Foreign Languages". This is a comprehensive report commissioned by the EC Directorate General of Education and Culture.
- Fotos S. & Browne C. (eds.) (2004) New perspectives on CALL for second language classrooms, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Gi-Zen Liu, Aleck Shih-Wei Chen (2007). A taxonomy of Internet-based technologies integrated in language curricula. British Journal of Educational Technology 38 (5), 934–938. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00728.x
- Hubbard, P. (2003). "A Survey of Unanswered Questions in CALL." CALL Journal 16.2-3. See www.stanford.edu.~efs/callsurvey.
- Hubbard, P. (2005). "A Review of Subject Characteristics in CALL Research." CALL Journal 18.5.
- Hubbard, P. (2006). "A Review of Subject and Treatment Characteristics in CMC Research.“ Paper presented at PacSLRF Conference, Brisbane, Australia, July 2006. PP online at www.stanford.edu/~efs/pacslrf06.
- Hubbard, P. & Levy, M. (2005). Why call CALL "CALL"? Editorial. Computer Assisted Language Learning 18(3): 143-149.
- Jarvis H. (2005) Technology and change in English Language Teaching (ELT), The Asian EFL Journal Vol 7, 1: http://www.asian-efl-journal.com/December_05_hj.php
- Kessler, G. (2007). Formal and Informal CALL Preparation and Teacher Attitude Toward Technology. CALL Journal, Taylor & Francis: Antwerp.
- Kessler, G. (2006). Assessing CALL Teacher Training: What are We Doing and What Could We Do Better? In Hubbard, P. & Levy, M. Teacher education in CALL. John Benjamins: Amsterdam.
- Language Learning and Technology: A refereed journal for second and foreign language instructors: http://llt.msu.edu
- Levy, M. & Stockwell, G. (2006). CALL Dimensions: Options and Issues in Computer-Assisted Language Learning. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Levy M. (1997) CALL: context and conceptualisation, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Liu, G.-Z. & Chen, A.S.W. (2007). A taxonomy of Internet-based technologies integrated in language curricula. British Journal of Educational Technology 38 (5), 934–938. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00728.x
- Mills, Jon (1997) "Virtual Classroom Management and Communicative Writing Pedagogy" Proceedings of 1996 European Writing Conferences: EARLI Special Interest Group Writing, Writing and Computers Association, University of Barcelona, 23-25 October 1996. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona, Universitat Autònima de Barcelona. CD-ROM. ISBN 84-88795-36X. http://www.geocities.com/f_j_mills/Virtual_Classroom_Management_and_Communicative_Writing_Pedagogy.PDF
- Piper A. (1986) "Conversation and the computer: a study of the conversational spin-off generated among learners of English as a Foreign Language working in groups", System 14, 2: 187-198.
- ReCALL: The Journal of EUROCALL, now published by Cambridge University Press - login at http://www.journals.cup.org. Back numbers are available at: http://www.eurocall-languages.org/recall/r_online.html
- Son J.-B. (ed.) (2004) Computer Assisted Language Learning: concepts, contexts and practices, Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.
- Warschauer M. (1996) Computer-assisted language learning: an introduction. In Fotos S. (ed.) Multimedia language teaching, Tokyo: Logos International.
- Warschauer M. & Healey D. (1998) Computers and language learning: an overview, Language Teaching 31:57-71.
- Wenger E. (1998) Community of practice: learning as a social system. Relates more to business than education, but contains some interesting ideas on creating, organising and sharing knowledge.
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