ICT4LT_LogoICT4LT Module 1.1

Introduction to new technologies and how they can contribute to language learning and teaching



The main aim of this module is to introduce you to new technologies and to present the arguments for using them in the language classroom. The module includes a discussion on the effectiveness of new technologies as learning and teaching aids.

This Web page is designed to be read from the printed page. Use File / Print in your browser to produce a printed copy. After you have digested the contents of the printed copy, come back to the onscreen version to follow up the hyperlinks.

Authors of this module

Graham Davies, Editor-in-Chief, ICT4LT Website.

Sue Hewer, Freelance Educational Consultant, UK.

1. Definitions of terms

In the context of the ICT4LT website, the term new technologies includes Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) for language teaching and learning in which the computer plays a central role, embracing a variety of different software applications, e.g.

See the list in Section 4.2, headed Twenty different ways of using ICT in the Modern Foreign Languages classroom.


There is a bewildering array of acronyms, abbreviations and new coinages associated with new technologies, with which you will need to become familiar. The most widely understood abbreviation is ICT (Information and Communications Technology). ICT is the term that is currently favoured by most businesses and educational institutions worldwide to describe new technologies. The "C" reflects the important role that computers now play in communications, e.g. by email, the Web, by satellite and mobile phone (cellphone). We always insist on the "s" at the end of "communications", which is a term that predates computer technology and was originally associated with morse code and radio communications and usually abbreviated to comms. You will also find references to IT (Information Technology), which is an older term and is still widely used in some circles. Many more abbreviations and definitions can be found in the Glossary. We welcome suggested additions to the Glossary: Feedback.


E-learning (electronic learning) has become a buzzword in recent years. To some people, e-learning describes any application of ICT in learning and teaching, from producing a word-processed handout to a full-blown course on the Web. The whole of the ICT4LT website is, therefore, in this sense all about e-learning in the context of teaching and learning foreign languages. Other people perceive e-learning in a more limited way, i.e. online learning in the sense of distance learning on the Internet. Because of a lack of agreement on what e-learning is all about, it probably makes sense to use the term online learning when talking about distance learning on the Internet and to use CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) as a catch-all term for the use of computers in language learning and teaching. See the Glossary entry on E-learning, which will link you to other relevant terms.

Mark Pegrum's wiki on E-language is a useful source of information: http://e-language.wikispaces.com

See especially Mark Pegrum's wiki on Myths of E-learning: http://e-language.wikispaces.com/myths

2. Why should the language teacher be concerned with new technologies?

Here are some of the benefits of ICT that have been identified by teachers:

What other benefits of ICT can you think of? Let us know: Feedback.

It has also been argued that technology of any sort gets in the way of language learning. People have learned languages successfully for hundreds of years without resorting to any kind of technology. During the 1960s language laboratories were introduced into educational institutions in the UK. The language lab boomed in the late 1960s and 1970s, and then went rapidly out of fashion. The demise of the language lab is often pointed to as an example of the failure of technology. But it was not the failure of technology. The failure of the language lab was due largely to human failures - a lack of investment in training teachers how to use it and a lack of imagination: see Ely (1984). Training is crucial - the main reason why we have designed the ICT4LT materials. Technology alone is not a panacea - although it is often perceived that way by administrators. If insufficient effort is put into training teachers to use technology - and to use it imaginatively - then it is probably better to dispense with technology altogether: see Davies (1997).

Learning to use a computer is rather like learning to drive a car. Some people can learn to drive in ten hours while others need 40 hours. Once you have learned to drive, however, you can get from point A to point B quicker than you did before - subject to traffic conditions. The same principle applies to learning to use a computer. The time taken to learn how to use it varies considerably from person to person, but once the necessary skills have been acquired you can do many things quicker than you did before. You still need to use your imagination, however. The main problem with introducing computers into language teaching was identified by Jones (1986) in an article that should be essential reading for all language teachers considering using new technologies. The title of Jones's article says it all: "It's not so much the program: more what you do with it: the importance of methodology in CALL".

With adequate training the teacher will find that ICT offers a new range of teaching and learning opportunities. The ICT4LT website does not aim to teach you how to use a computer. It is assumed that you already have a basic knowledge of Windows, word-processing, using a browser and email - i.e. that you have already passed your basic "computer driving test" or have even gained a qualification such as:

The main target group of the ICT4LT project is language teachers already in service, although parts of the syllabus are suitable for teachers undergoing initial training and for teachers following short intensive courses. The ICT4LT website materials have been developed by practising language teachers who have many years of experience in using a wide range of technological aids in language teaching. Our approach is pedagogy driven and the emphasis is on language teaching methodologies that can be implemented successfully with the aid of new technologies.

A document containing a set of ICT "can do" lists can be found here in Word DOC format: ICT_Can_Do_Lists. This document is still undergoing development and will be added to on a regular basis. It is designed for:

Feedback is welcomed.

3. How effective are new technologies in promoting language learning?

This is a question that has been raised on a regular basis ever since the introduction of the language lab in the 1960s and, from the early 1980s, when personal computers were introduced into schools. In November 1998, the following message appeared in the Linguanet Forum:

At a meeting comprising some significant figures in the field of education and training which I attended last week, it was suggested that there was little on-going or completed systematic research which could evidence the benefits of ICT in the delivery of Modern Foreign Languages.

This statement prompted two swift replies, one by David Wilson, a teacher in secondary education, and one by Graham Davies, Editor-in-Chief of the ICT4LT website. Both expressed surprise at the lack of awareness of the "significant figures". Relevant extracts from their replies are quoted here:

David Wilson: Researching CALL effectiveness is admittedly a very difficult endeavour. In the past, projects which chose to deliver MFL teaching wholly via ICT have often flopped because students understandably craved human contact. The scientifically approved but ethically flawed control-group / experimental-group approach to educational ICT research frequently fails because the subjects in the control group resent being denied access to technology, while the subjects in the experimental group revel briefly in the novelty value of technology - the Hawthorne Effect. Properly integrated with off-computer teaching, CALL appears to be a very effective tool, but then it is extremely difficult to tease out whether pupils progress because of good teaching or good CALL or an equal measure of both. If we accept the premise that educational research findings, especially in the field of ICT, may be contradictory, do these "figures in the field of education and training" conclude that we should banish computers altogether, even when they are "just" used in foreign language word-processing and communications technologies? If so, what about MFL learners with special educational needs? What about school pupils' general educational entitlement to ICT skill development across the curriculum?

Graham Davies: ICT has been making a contribution to modern language learning and teaching since the early 1960s and quite significantly so since the early 1980s: v. the flurry of publications in the early 1980s: Davies & Higgins (1982; 1985), Kenning & Kenning (1984), Higgins & Johns (1984), Last (1984), Ahmad et al. (1985). The list of relevant publications continues right up until the present day, the most comprehensive recent work being Levy (1997), which contains a wealth of information on the effectiveness of CALL in Modern Foreign Languages in its historical context and in the present. See also the Web page created by Ridwan Sedgwick, which contains an annotated bibliography on the effectiveness of CALL. Finally, many papers presented at CALICO, EUROCALL and IALLT conferences have addressed the issue of the effectiveness of CALL since the early 1980s: v. especially Nina Garrett's paper, presented at EUROCALL 1997 (ReCALL 10, 1). See also an interesting paper by Caroline Grace, CALICO Journal 15, 1-3, reporting on her extensive research study which appears to confirm that students learn vocabulary better and retain it longer if they have access to translations when working with multimedia packages. [See also Grace (1998a), Myles (1998)]

Concrete evidence on the effectiveness of CALL is difficult to obtain. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence about the positive effects of CALL. Teachers often report on their students being "enthusiastic", "engaged", "motivated" and even "excited" in classes in which CALL is used, but are sceptical about measuring its effectiveness. See this summary in Word format of a discussion that took place in the MFL Resources Forum in 2008: How effective is the use of ICT in language learning and teaching? A small-scale investigation by Graham Davies: ICT Effectiveness. See also Section 3, Module 1.4 on the effectiveness of using interactive whiteboards in whole-class teaching.

There have been relatively few controlled research studies, namely where one group of students has been taught with regular use of CALL and a control group has been taught at the same time without the use of new technologies. Such studies have often been inconclusive, with mixed reactions from students and mixed outcomes, depending on the skills being taught: for example, some students may progress better in speaking the foreign language when taught by a teacher in the classroom but may develop better listening skills as a result of regular exposure to CALL programs. Often the only positive conclusion that can be drawn is that students in the 21st century feel comfortable using technology and expect it to be available for learning.

In 2002 a Survey of unanswered questions in Computer Assisted Language Learning was carried out by Phil Hubbard, Linguistics Department, Stanford University in July and August, 2002. Effectiveness issues are a major theme in this survey. See: http://www.stanford.edu/~efs/callsurvey/

Some small-scale studies have provided useful data. Have a look at the report on the mini-research project conducted by Heather Rendall: Section 5, Module 1.4, headed Teaching in the computer network room. Heather writes:

Within the first year it was clear that CALL was having a positive effect. In those areas where a grammar point was totally lacking in English - such as gender and adjective agreement - students’ performances could be seen to move rapidly from total confusion to a system for resolving each task faultlessly.

See also the article by Heather Rendall, Life without the computer, in which she describes the drop in standards, especially awareness of genders in French and written accuracy, that she observed as a result of one class having to forego its regular CALL sessions in the computer lab: Rendall (1988).

Evidence of the effectiveness of CALL can also be seen in two of the case studies described in Module 3.1, Managing a multimedia language centre:

A report on a research study conducted by BECTA, ImpaCT2 (2002), was tentative in its conclusions:

  1. There were strong indications of a positive association in GCSE Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) at Key Stage 4, and some indications of a positive association in GCSE geography, although neither reached statistical significance.

  2. It is possible […] to estimate that high ICT use in Modern Foreign Languages can help to raise performance by the equivalent of 0.82 of a GCSE grade.

  3. There is no consistent relationship between the average amount of ICT use reported for any subject at a given Key Stage and its apparent effectiveness in raising standards. It therefore seems likely that the type of use is all-important. [My italics.]

Uschi Felix provides a comprehensive survery of research into CALL in her article The unreasonable effectiveness of CALL: what have we learned in two decades of research? In her conclusion she writes:

We are beginning to see enough data in CALL that suggest positive effects on spelling, reading and writing. There is also a substantial body of data that indicates that student perceptions of CALL are on the whole positive, provided technologies are stable and well supported. On the negative side there are still concerns about technical difficulties interfering with the learning process; older students not feeling comfortable with computers; younger students not possessing the necessary metaskills for coping effectively in these challenging environments; training needs in computer literacy for both students and teachers; problems with group dynamics; and time constraints. (Felix 2008: 156)

See also:

At one time CALL research was often not properly recognised by bodies that awarded research funding, but the situation has changed over the years and now there is no lack of research acivities in this area. Professional associations such as EUROCALL, CALICO and IALLT have addressed this question and produced a Joint Policy Statement on CALL Research. Journals published by EUROCALL (ReCALL), CALICO (CALICO Journal) and IALLT (IALLT Journal) have a strong focus on research: see the Journals section in our Resource Centre.

In the end, however, the effectiveness of ICT hinges on the individual teacher. Angela McFarlane, Professor of Education and Director of Learning Technology, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol, sums it up:

What we do know, whether from personal experience as teacher or learner, or as the result of 20 years of research into the question, is that ICT has an impact on learning, for some learners, under some conditions, and that it cannot replace a teacher. We know that a key factor in impact at school level is and remains the teacher, whose role in managing and integrating the ICT-based experiences learners have with the rest of the curriculum and culture is vital and probably always will be. (Times Educational Supplement, ICT in Education Online, 26 April 2002, p. 17.)

4. What can ICT offer the language teacher and the language learner?

Contents of Section 4

4.1 Traditional media and digital media

Language teachers are used to dealing with a range of "traditional" media: printed texts, images, audio materials and video materials. They are familiar with the characteristics of each of these media and what they can do best in terms of supporting language teaching and learning. For example, printed materials and images can be easier for a beginner to deal with than audio materials because they "stand still", and video materials are invaluable in providing both aural and visual input and thereby giving the learner visual clues to the meaning of what is being said. Video can also be used to add a cultural perspective. ICT, however, brings with it new characteristics and new opportunities that are not always obvious. Section 5, Section 6 and Section 7 of this module contain a summary of the characteristics of the components of ICT that language teachers need to be aware of. The most important point to grasp is that ICT is more than just a medium incorporating electronic versions of the various media with which language teachers are already familiar. ICT opens up exciting new possibilities of combining different media. It is a new concept in that it is multi-faceted, and the media facets of which it consists are not exact replicas of those that language teachers are used to dealing with.

4.2 Twenty different ways of using ICT in the Modern Foreign Languages classroom

ICT in the context of the Modern Foreign Languages classroom can manifest itself in many different ways as a tool for assisting the development of the four key skills: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. Here are twenty different ways in which the teacher and learner of foreign languages might use ICT. This list is by no means exhaustive. Language teachers are continually finding new ways in which they can make use of ICT. See, for example, the collection of articles in José Picardo's Box of Tricks Blog: Technology in Modern Foreign Languages - a practitioner's perspective. The complete collection of these articles can be downloaded in PDF format from Scribd. Have a look at other blogs written by language teachers in Section 12.2.2, Module 1.5, headed Useful blogs created by and for language teachers. Our downloadable Word document, containing a set of "can do" lists, may also be useful: ICT_Can_Do_Lists. The document is designed for:

This document covers selected generic applications (e.g. Word, browsers, email software, PowerPoint) and software applications that are particularly relevant for language teachers. Under the heading for each application there is a range of essential tasks that the teacher should be able to carry out in order to feel comfortable working with the software - a so-called "can do" list. If you need information on using a specific application have a look at Russell Stannard's excellent set of Teacher Training Videos for a range of ICT applications.

What other uses of ICT can you think of? Let us know: Feedback.

  1. Use by students of materials that the teacher has created for them with generic software applications, e.g. word-processed handouts, electronic worksheets, PowerPoint presentations for whole-class teaching using an interactive whiteboard - and materials of this type downloaded from Web resource centres. See Module 1.3, Using word-processing and presentation software in the Modern Foreign Languages classroom. See also the Teacher's Pet text tool.

  2. Use of generic software applications such as Word and PowerPoint by students to create their own materials, e.g. essays and presentations. See Module 1.3, Using word-processing and presentation software in the Modern Foreign Languages classroom.

  3. Use by students of audio and video recordings that can be downloaded from the Web. See:
    1. Section 2.1.3 (v.), Module 1.5, Podcasting
    2. Section 2.1.3 (vii.), Module 1.5, Video sharing
    3. Section, Module 2.2, Saving and converting streaming media for use offline
    4. Section 3.5.2, Module 2.3, Podcasting
    5. Section 3.5, Module 2.3, Audio and video

  4. Use by students of audio and video recordings that the teacher has created for them with audio and video editing tools. See:
    1. Section, Module 2.2, Sound recording and editing software
    2. Section, Module 2.2, Video editing software
    3. Section, Module 2.2, Saving and converting streaming media for use offline
    4. Section 3.5, Module 2.3, Audio and video

  5. Use of audio and video editing tools by students to create their own audio and video recordings. See:
    1. Section, Module 2.2, Sound recording and editing software
    2. Section, Module 2.2, Video editing software
    3. Section, Module 2.2, Saving and converting streaming media for use offline
    4. Section 3.5, Module 2.3, Audio and video

  6. Use by students of commercially-produced CD-ROMs and DVDs. See Section 3, Module 2.2.

  7. Use by students of commercially-produced multimedia CALL packages, e.g. the EuroTalk series of CD-ROMs and DVDs. See Section 3, Module 2.2.

  8. Use by students of materials that the teacher has created and tailored to their needs using authoring programs such as Hot Potatoes, TaskMagic and Fun with Texts, and materials of this type that can be downloaded from the Web. See Module 2.5, which focuses on authoring programs.

  9. Use of the Web as a resource, including online interactive quizzes, webquests, scavenger hunts, dictionaries, encyclopaedias and grammar reference materials, as well as generic tools such as search engines for finding information. See Module 1.5 and Module 2.3.

  10. Use of a range of Web 2.0 tools by the teacher or by students, including social networking sites. See:
    1. Section 2.1, Module 1.5, What is Web 2.0?
    2. Section 12 Module 1.5, Discussion lists, blogs, wikis, social networking

  11. Use of email, e-pal and e-twinning schemes, and tandem learning (buddy learning). See Section 14, Module 1.5, Computer Mediated Communication (CMC).

  12. Use of audio- and videoconferencing facilities. See Section 14.1.2, Module 1.5 on audioconferencing and Section 14.1.3, Module 1.5 on videoconferencing.

  13. Computer Aided Assessment (CAA). See Module 4.1.

  14. Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL). See Section 5, Module 2.3, for further information on MALL.

  15. Use of chat rooms: See Section 14.2, Module 1.5, Chat rooms, MUDs, MOOs and MUVEs.

  16. Use of MUDs, MOOs and MUVEs. See Section 14.2, Module 1.5, Chat rooms, MUDs, MOOs and MUVEs.

  17. Use of virtual worlds, e.g. Second Life. See Section 14.2.1, Module 1.5.

  18. Use of concordance programs. See Module 2.4,Using concordance programs in the Modern Foreign Languages classroom.

  19. Use of tools falling into the category of speech technologies. See Section 4, Module 3.5.

  20. Use by the teacher of whole-class presentation devices and software, e.g. computer plus data projector or interactive whiteboard (IWB). See Section 4, Module 1.4.

See also Section 3, Module 1.4, headed CALL typology, phases of CALL, CALL software evaluation, which describes a range of different manifestations of Computer Assisted Language Learning.

What other uses of ICT can you think of? Let us know: Feedback.

5. General characteristics of digital media

Contents of Section 5

5.1 Text

The most important characteristic of text produced by a computer is that it is always provisional until the writer declares it to be final. Written or typed text on paper is fixed. Changes involve rewriting in one form or another. That is bad enough for a teacher producing a worksheet, and much worse for a student writing an essay. Computer-produced text is flexible. Using a computer to produce text means that the writer is able to review and revise their text as often as they like. This characteristic is an important factor in the development of writing skills in second language learning: see Module 1.3, Using word-processing and presentation software in the Modern Foreign Languages classroom. It is also an important factor in the production of differentiated paper-based or electronic worksheets where every student is to work on the same text, but some will demonstrate understanding by multiple-choice questions, others will compose open answers in their mother tongue and others will compose answers in the target language. Even when the teacher has declared the worksheets "finalised" by printing them out and issuing them to students, they still remain provisional in that they continue to exist in electronic format and can be edited in response to student performance and feedback.

5.2 Images, audio and video

Images and audio and video materials share the characteristic of flexibility. Like written text, they can be edited at will with the aid of appropriate editing tools, and they can be incorporated into learning materials using a variety of authoring programs. See:

5.3 Mixing media

Unlike paper-based documents, digital materials can include not only text and images, but also audio clips, video clips and animations. This facility provides a rich environment within which to create activities for students. It is not difficult, for example, to embed an audio clip into a word-processed document or to incorporate a video clip into a PowerPoint presentation. See Section 8, Module 1.3, headed Enhancing Word and PowerPoint documents with pictures and sound. See also Module 2.2, Introduction to multimedia CALL.

5.4 Distributing media

Texts, images, audio files and video files that have been produced on a computer can be distributed via a school intranet or, more widely, via the Internet. In addition they can usually be edited by the recipients. See: However, you must pay attention to copyright issues regarding the distribution of any kind of media. See our General guidelines on copyright.

6. Online media

Contents of Section 6

6.1 Electronic communication

Communication is at the heart of language teaching and learning. Contact with speakers of the target language has always been encouraged, but has not always been easy to achieve, particularly in recent years when letter writing has not been a favourite activity of young people. But electronic communication is a less formal medium than paper-based letters, and students are therefore more likely to want to correspond with partners overseas. They know that they can edit their email messages, blogs and wikis in response to comments from their teacher and they know that their messages will reach their target audiences in a matter of hours rather than days. See:

6.2 Information on the Web

The advent of the World Wide Web in 1993 was undoubtedly the biggest breakthrough in the dissemination of information, but it is not always easy to find what you want. Although Web pages may look very like their paper-based counterparts, they are quite different because of the hyperlinks that they contain and the ability to navigate backwards and forwards between pages and sites at will with the click of a button, achieving a similar result as you would by consulting a number of different books at the same time, but in a more efficient way. The Web is also a publications medium open to everyone and anyone. Worldwide publication of documents is no longer solely in the hands of established publishers. This brings with it problems in terms of accuracy of language and authenticity of content. On the other hand, it does provide opportunities for teachers to publish their teaching materials and for students to publish their own work, which can either be available for the entire readership of the Web or, via a password, for a pre-determined audience who will understand the provenance of the work and provide appropriate feedback. See:

7. Software

Software is the collective term for computer programs (also known as applications) and contrasted with hardware, which describes the computer itself and the other bits and pieces attached to it: see Module 1.2, Introduction to computer hardware and software, and the Glossary for further details. Different kinds of software have different characteristics, as described in further detail below.

Contents of Section 7

7.1 Interactivity

All software can provide the user with various levels of interactivity. The interactivity might only involve the user in making choices from a menu which determine the route that they take through the software. Higher levels of interactivity might influence what happens next in a much more detailed way. For example, by selecting a certain response the student might be able to change the course of a dialogue: see Section 5.10, Module 3.2, headed Branching dialogues. The fact that the contents of the software are not displayed in their entirety the first time that a student uses it encourages the student to go back to it several times to discover what else there is to do. This multi-route approach to software design is unlike the "single-route" linear approach found in more traditional media, especially in books. It is of particular interest to the language teacher and learner in that it offers the opportunity to revisit vocabulary and structures in new contexts, which is likely to lead to deep learning. Further discussion of this topic can be found in Section 1.2, Module 1.4, headed Interactivity, and throughout Module 3.2, CALL software design and implementation. See also Sims (1996) on interactivity.

7.2 Feedback

One of the most important aspects of interactivity is that of feedback. In an evaluation of a number of software packages produced by the TELL Consortium, University of Hull, the most important feature of the various packages that was highlighted by students was the ability of the software to provide immediate feedback in direct response to the students' input. One of the packages evaluated, GramEx, focused on French and German grammar:

[The students] agreed that GramEx was an efficient learning tool. They felt that it helped them to return to basics as far as grammar was concerned. They referred in particular to the fact that it was a more efficient use of time than working with a text book, not least because of the speed of correction and readily available explanations. [...] Students liked the choice of different "problems", and being able to work in their own time, at their own pace. They appreciated the ease of use and the instant feedback. They also liked the quiz-like feel to the software. (Hewer 1998:14)

Students indicated that if they did grammar exercises for a tutor, they often had to wait up to a week to get their work back, by which time they had moved on and tended to take more notice of their mark than their corrections. When they did similar exercises on the computer they received immediate feedback, either by the way of clues to help them towards the correct answer or, after a certain number of attempts, the correct answer with the possibility of seeking an explanation. They found this extremely helpful and felt that the software contributed greatly to their improved performance in the grammar areas selected. The fact that they could do similar exercises from a grammar book containing a key to the answers in the back of the book did not have the same effect on their learning because they were only able to correct answers that they had actually completed, rather than being able to work towards the correct answer as a result of the feedback received.Tutors' and students' comments on another package produced by the TELL Consortium, Encounters, were also positive. One of the aims of Encounters was to improve students' speaking skills by engaging them in different role-play activities. Students could record and play back their own voices, hearing them slotted into a range of different dialogues:

The tutor has noted improved performance in role plays based on the dialogues in Encounters, not only when assessment follows practice with the software in the same class period, but also a week later when the assessment takes place at the beginning of the class. (Hewer 1998:9)

The most frequently cited aspect was the role play in terms of being able to listen to a native speaker, to role-play with them, to record one's own input, and to compare it with the native speaker's. The tutor remarked that students expressed great pleasure at hearing themselves in a dialogue with a native speaker and that they seemed to gain in confidence as a result of the experience. One respondent noted the value of the instant feedback in the exercise sections. (Hewer 1998:10)

Feedback is an important concept in the application of new technologies to language learning and features in a number of the ICT4LT modules. See especially Section 8, Module 2.5, headed How to factor feedback into your authoring, in which the distinction between intrinsic feedback and extrinsic feedback is discussed. Unfortunately, there is now a discernible trend, especially in Web-based materials, to provide very little feedback, apart from a "right" or "wrong" response or a tick or a cross next to the chosen answer. Many modern CALL packages appear to place more emphasis on presentation rather than meaningful interactivity. Far too many packages are characterised by a "point-and-click-let's-move-on-quick" approach. See also Laurillard (1993) and Bangs (2003).

7.3 Multimedia CALL

The power that enables you to produce multimedia materials, to communicate with people all over the world, and to receive multimedia materials from websites worldwide, has also enabled software developers to incorporate a number of features which distinguish computer-based language learning activities from those based on more traditional media. See Module 2.2, Introduction to multimedia CALL.

7.4 Which media?

A wide choice of multimedia software is available to the software designer just as it is to any computer user. The job of the software designer is to identify which of the media at their disposal is most appropriate for their purpose. When you evaluate software you should use this as one of your criteria: see the ICT4LT CALL Software and Website Evaluation Forms. For example, if a software package is intended to focus on reading skills but insists on providing a spoken version of every text, it might be that the inclusion of sound is either surplus to requirements or even positively detrimental if the spoken version contributes a great deal to exposing the meaning of the printed word. The fact that the various media are integrated makes software a very different learning environment from one in which, for example, the student starts with a printed worksheet and then has to play an audio- or videocasssette in order to complete the task. There is always a danger that newcomers to ICT may be bowled over by the multi-faceted facilities it offers and try to include everything but the kitchen sink. Software design needs careful thought: see Module 3.2, CALL software design and implementation.

7.5 Discussion topics

  1. Some of the benefits of interactivity and feedback are referred to above. Why is the ability of software to provide interactivity of importance in the context of self-access? Does it have implications for homework when students have access to the Internet from home? Feedback.

  2. What advantages can you see for students in working within an integrated multimedia learning environment as opposed to a multiple-media environment where they need to move to different resources for different aspects of a learning activity? Feedback.

Bibliography and references

Ahmad K., Corbett G., Rogers M. & Sussex R. (1985) Computers, language learning and language teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bangs P. (2003) "Engaging the learner - how to author for best feedback". In Felix U. (ed.) Language learning online: towards best practice, Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Beatty K. (2003) Teaching and researching computer assisted language learning, Applied Linguistics in Action Series, Harlow: Pearson Education.

BECTA (2002) ImpaCT2: The impact of Information and Communication Technologies on pupil learning and attainment, Coventry: BECTA.

BECTA (2007) The Impact of ICT in schools: a landscape review, Coventry: BECTA.

CALICO: Acronym for Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium, the leading North American professional association for Computer Assisted Language Learning.

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 in a revised edition (2009) at: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/coegdd1.htm

Davies G. (2001) "New technologies and language learning: a suitable subject for research?" In Chambers A. & Davies G. (eds.) New technologies and language learning: a European perspective, Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger. Reprinted in Hubbard P. (ed.) (2009) Computer Assisted Language Learning, Volume I, Routledge: London and NewYork: http://www.stanford.edu/~efs/callcc/

Davies G. (2002) Article on Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) in the Good Practice Guide at the website of the Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS), University of Southampton. Also available here, with updated links: LLAS CALL.

Davies G. & Higgins J. (1982) Computers, language and language learning, London: CILT.

Davies G. & Higgins J. (1985) Using computers in language learning: a teacher's guide, London: CILT.

Ely P. (1984) Bring the lab back to life, Oxford: Pergamon.

EUROCALL: The leading European professional assocation for Computer Assisted Language Learning. EUROCALL maintains an extensive CALL Bibliography (EUROCALL members only), including links to other bibliographies on the Web.

Felix U. (2005) "What do meta-analyses tell us about CALL effectiveness?" ReCALL 17, 2: 269-288.

Felix U. (2008) "The unreasonable effectiveness of CALL: what have we learned in two decades of research?" ReCALL 20, 2: 141-161.

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, EC Directorate General of Education and Culture. Available here in PDF format: http://www.ict4lt.org/en/Fitzpatrick_and_Davies.pdf. The contribution by Graham Davies, relating specifically to the UK, is available in HTML format at http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/docs/ICC_Grahams_Report_Final.htm

Garrett N. (1998) "Where do research and practice meet? Developing a discipline", ReCALL 10, 1: 7-12. Available at:

Grace C. (1998a) "Retention of word meanings inferred from context and sentence-level translations: implications for the design of beginning level CALL software", Modern Language Journal 82, 4: 533-544.

Grace C. (1998b) "Personality type, tolerance of ambiguity, and vocabulary retention in CALL", CALICO Journal 15, 1-3: 19-45.

Hewer S. (1998) Summative evaluation report: optimising the use of TELL products - an evaluative investigation into TELL products in use: Hull: The TELL Consortium, University of Hull.

Higgins J. & Johns T. (1984) Computers in language learning, London: Collins.

International Association for Language Learning Technology (IALLT)

Jones C. (1986) "It's not so much the program: more what you do with it: the importance of methodology in CALL", System 14, 2: 171-178.

Jones C. & Fortescue S. (1987) Using computers in the language classroom, Harlow: Longman.

Kenning M.J. & Kenning M-M. (1984) An introduction to computer assisted language teaching, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Last R.W. (1984) Language teaching and the microcomputer, Oxford: Blackwell.

Laurillard D. (1993) Program design principles, Hull: The TELL Consortium, University of Hull. This document is incorporated as Annex 1: Program design principles into Laurillard (1996).

Laurillard D. (1996) Formative evaluation report: the TELL Consortium, Hull: The TELL Consortium, University of Hull.

Leakey J. (2011) Evaluating Computer Assisted Language Learning: an integrated approach to effectiveness research in CALL, Bern: Peter Lang.

Levy M. (1997) CALL: context and conceptualisation, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Myles S. (1998) "The language learner and the software designer: a marriage of true minds or ne'er the twain shall meet?" ReCALL 10, 1: 38-45. Available at: http://www.eurocall-languages.org/recall/pdf/rvol10no1.pdf

Rendall H. (1988) "Life without the Computer", CALLBOARD No. 10, NCCALL Ealing College of HE, London. This article has been reproduced with the author's permission in Word DOC format and is now available at the ICT4LT website. Click here: Rendall (1988).

Sedgwick R. (1999) Annotated bibliography of the effectiveness of CALL. This bibliography first appeared at the website of the Centre for Language Teaching and Research site, University of Queensland, Australia, but it has now disappeared. We have taken the liberty to copy Ridwan Sedgwick's bibliography to the ICT4LT site and update some of the links as it is an extremely useful source of information. Click here: Sedgwick.htm

Sims R. (1996) "Interactivity: a forgotten art?" In Instructional Technology Research Online. See Research Repository at: http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwitr/

Wolff D. (1997) "Computers and new technologies: Will they change language learning and teaching?" In Kohn J., Rüschoff B. & Wolff D. (eds), New horizons in CALL: proceedings of EUROCALL 96. Szombathely, Hungary: Dániel Berzsenyi College.

WorldCALL: A worldwide professional association that embraces a number of national and international associations for Computer Assisted Language Learning and aims to address the needs of countries that are currently underserved in the use of ICT in learning foreign languages. The First World Conference on CALL was held at the University of Melbourne, Australia, in 1998, and the Second World Conference on CALL took place in Banff, Canada, in 2003. The Third WorldCALL Conference took place in Japan in 2008. WorldCALL 2013 is scheduled to take place in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Document last updated 27 March 2012. This page is maintained by Graham Davies.

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Davies G. & Hewer S. (2012) Introduction to new technologies and how they can contribute to language learning and teaching. Module 1.1 in Davies G. (ed.) Information and Communications Technology for Language Teachers (ICT4LT), Slough, Thames Valley University [Online]. Available at: http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_mod1-1.htm [Accessed DD Month YYYY].

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