omputer Assisted Language Learning (Call) As a Method to Develop Study Skills in Students of Engineering and Technology at the Tertiary Level

Posted: December 20, 2010 in CALL related teaching

INTRODUCTION
Computers have emerged as fascinating technological tools in the
educational arena. Their use in classrooms as a tool for teaching holds a
great significance for language learning using computers in language learning
can go a long way in developing study skills in learners of engineering and
technology at the tertiary level.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STUDY SKILLS
Every learner is an individual with different needs and abilities of
learning a language. Traditional methods of teaching a language placed the
teacher in the role of a transmitter of knowledge while learners were seen as
passive recipients of this knowledge. With the advent of the communicative
method of language teaching, the focus in the classroom shifted from the
teacher to the learner. Current trends in the field of English Language
Teaching focus on learner autonomy, learner involvement, learner-generated
syllabi, creation of relaxed atmosphere for learning, and training to relate to
need-based learning. As a result, the concept of individualized instruction is
increasingly gaining importance.
STUDY SKILLS IN ENGLISH.
In a sense, Study Skills are doing with getting information from any
subject from the relevant sources of knowledge. The main sources of
information for a learner are: a) books, b) classroom lectures, and c) the
world at large. Learners have to internalise the information provided by these
sources in the most efficient way in order to retain and retrieve it when
necessary.
As for as school learners are concerned, when it comes to collecting
information from different sources, they mostly depend on reading the
textbooks and listening to teachers explaining the contexts of the textbook.
In identifying the source of knowledge and understanding the ways by which
the source of information, school learners mostly depend on reading the
textbooks and listening to teachers explaining the contents of the textbooks.
When they move from school to college their horizon of knowledge is
expected to expand. They are expected to take down notes while they listen
to lectures in the classroom. They are also expected to seek information from
various other sources and read more than one book for any given subject and
assimilate the information presented in them. This requires efficient ways of
reading. They need to organize this information and present it in their
assignments, examinations and projects.
But when it comes to training in learners receive study skills in colleges
at tertiary level, it is rather inadequate instead they are made to receive
dense information in a short time. Due to their inability to assimilate the input
they receive in various subjects, a sense of insecurity grips their minds.
The sense of insecurity thus gives rise to diffidence and makes them
take recourse to ‘memorization’ without proper comprehension. Such
cramming makes the knowledge received short lived and haphazard. What is
required is not learning long texts by rote, but developing an ability to take
down notes in the classroom. For, certainly the lectures given in classes
contain more details than what is given as ‘handouts’. Though reading,
summarizing, writing paragraphs, information transfer skills are included in
the syllabus in the first two semesters at the first year level in colleges, these
skills remain confined to the English classes alone and are not extended to
the learning of core subjects.
In this cyber age where, most of the academic activities are computer
directed the study skills particularly those related to receptive skills can be
effectively developed using Computer Assisted Language Learning method.
While talking about the computers and second language skills
development says that out of the four skills of language learning, the
receptive skills mainly, listening and reading can be commonly addressed by
CALL programmes. Hence, Study skills that fall in the category of receptive
skills can also be developed using the CALL method.
While using CALL materials in a language classroom, the computer
envisages an important role for the teacher. Though, the teachers do not
control the learning process they by integrating technology in their teaching
provide an excellent backup or support because, they can monitor the
linguistic performance and progress without directly interfering during the
learning process.
Teachers can also modify and adopt any CALL learning materials to
suite the learners needs and levels of competence. While using the CALL
materials the learners have the autonomy to identify and adopt the kind of
strategy that would best suit their learning style, choosing such a strategy
would also facilitate the learning process. Studies show that CALL materials
motivate the students for a better learning and provide them a stress free
environment.
STUDY SKILLS – AN INSIGHT
The term “Study Skills” a general term, which encompasses a wide
variety of traits, is associated with personal growth and development ranging
from attitudes to behaviours.
Study Skills are skills acquired for the purpose of self-development or
for a good career. On the academic front, new learning styles, networking
with other students, acquiring communication skills, ability to listen to
lectures with concentration, reading a book and taking notes, participating in
classroom activities are some of the study skills.
The focus of teaching these skills centers around the individual
academic or personal growth. The basis for success in academics is hard
work, disciplined studying and acquiring the ability to critically assess. As
time is very precious, time management can also be considered as a Study
Skill.
Study Skills also include reading academic texts efficiently and
effectively; taking notes from lectures and books; doing basic research; using
library or computer-based resources; writing academic papers; taking part in
discussions; presenting papers; managing study time and preparing for
examinations
Encouraging students to be creative and appreciating innovation in
students motivate students to excel at what they are doing. Teaching them to
plan projects inculcates a sense of responsibility and helping them to manage
these projects infuses a sense of accountability. By giving focus to these
different types of study skills the communication skills of learners can also be
developed by using CALL.
NOTE TAKING
Note taking is another Study Skill, which has to be necessarily
developed in students. There are usually three main occasions, as Michael J.
Wallace says when notes are taken while listening.
There are three main occasions when notes are taken.
According to Michael J. Wallace (1998) they are:
a. to take down notes while listening.
b. to take down notes while reading.
c. to write notes from memory.
Similarly there three main reasons as to why note are taken down:
1. to have a record of the speaker’s own or writer’s main ideas.
2. to help one’s memory when revising, e.g. before an examination
3. to make what the speaker or writer says a part of your own
knowledge.
In order to inculcate this skill of note taking students can be trained to
use CALL as a technique of language learning. When it comes to taking down
notes while listening, a worksheet can be given and students can be asked to
listen to an audio text either from a CALL material or from an audio-text. The
worksheet can have a gap-filling task wherein the students while listening to
the text can fill up the gaps by using relevant information from the listened
text. The worksheet can be programmed in the CALL text. So that, the
evaluation will be instantaneous.
REFERENCE SKILLS – SEARCHING AN ONLINE CATALOGUE
Reference skill is another important study skill, which must be
inculcated in students. Here, CALL has a major role to play because; even
though manual cataloguing is still available people prefer online catalogues.
An online catalogue is a list of the materials available in the library,
and this list can be accessed through the computer. Most libraries have an
online catalogue of holdings (e.g. books, journals, electronic publications and
audio-visual materials) available with them. So, it becomes the duty of the
English teacher to make the learners get familiar with the method of using
online cataloguing.
COMPUTERS AND LANGUAGE LEARNING
Computers and language learning are closely inter-related and the
judicious integration of both can enable students to organise and process
their knowledge at the touch of keyboard button. This innovative approach to
language learning, which is a variation from the conventional classroombased-
instruction, will definitely yield exciting and rewarding results in
language teaching.
Over the years, a wide variety of teaching aids have been placed at the
disposal of language teachers. Charts, slides, tape-recorders, videos,
overhead projectors and many other technological innovations have taken
the place of traditional chalk and board, though not completely. Computers
are the latest among the aids used for instructional purposes. Besides being
powerful and stimulating aids, computers offer great potential for language
learning.
Computers are effecting fundamental changes not only in the society
outside the classroom walls but also within them. The invasion of the
electronic media has revolutionised language teaching methodology.
Computers are now used as effective tools in teaching grammar, vocabulary,
syntax, and comprehension and even in developing interactive
communication skills and in creating writing activities.
While talking about bridging the gap between computers and language
teaching gives the perspective that CALL programmes have the potential to
be used as individual teaching programmes.
Advantages of a CALL classroom
Computer Assisted Language Learning enhances the motivation level
of students.
Teachers can customise any CALL program to the syllabus or course
design that they are using to increase the level of proficiency in
students.
Computers are useful in-group activities as well as in imparting
individualised instruction, which is rarely possible in a traditional
classroom.
There are no limitations with regard to practice-sessions or time.
Students can have as many practice-sessions as they wish, repeat the
tasks any number of times to acquire mastery and select the material
according to their individual requirements. Thus the computer is an
efficient learner-centred device.
It has a powerful self-access facility and gives immense scope for selflearning.
Teachers in language classes give students exercises to write. Students
most often do not revise or correct the scripts immediately even
though they are incorrect. The computer helps to reduce this handicap.
CALL software has tutorial modes, which help the students explore the
correct answers and learn from the errors they make.
As computers can store, access and analyse more data than books,
they create a technology enabled exciting learning environment.
Computers maximize learning opportunities for their students.
ADVANTAGES
The immediate feedback given by computers helps the students to
analyse patterns in the language. The novelty that is an integral part of CALL
programmes increases the motivational level of students.
CALL programmes besides helping the learner to learn a
foreign language or a second language, also provides some computer
literacy which is becoming essential in a technological era, and could be of
great help in the future training and career prospects.
CALL programmes provide the information requested in a
very short time, almost instantaneously.
By using CALL method the students will not only learn more number of
words but also the usage of those words as well. The advantage of using
CALL method is that they can do the entire study skill activity at their own
pace and time using their own learning styles and strategies. Also,
integrating CALL with language teaching provides the learner with an
opportunity to become part of the skills. They are learning and address their
subject related issues by the study skills approach. Having introduced to CALL
method of learning at the tertiary level, the learners will continue the exercise
of study skills approach and achieve distinctive mastery in their subjects
when they come to their higher semesters.
LIMITATIONS
The computer is a means of communication between the programmer
and the user. However in this analogy, the author and the programmer do not
mostly share similar concerns. While the author is bound to be a subject
expert, the programmer is mostly a technician. This gap between the author
and the programmer is responsible for inappropriate lesson content, poor
documentation, errors in format and content, improper feedback, etc. found
in some CALL materials. Likewise, in most of the software packages, there is
little chance for the teacher to add or modify the existing programmes, even
if he wishes too, since most of its locked to prevent pirating. And for the few
of those who develop their own material, the time spent on preparation and
programming can be quite lengthy running to hours and days.
But, these limitations or problems should be seen in the backdrop of a
development stage of computerisation. The rapidity with which computer
integrated activities and taking place in the academic sphere shows that the
drawbacks found in the CALL methods are only temporary. The next
generation of teachers and learners will be part of a computer generation.
They will take for granted the skills demanded by computer technology and
handle them as coolly as switching on a tape recorder or watching a
television.
CONCLUSION
The language teacher, who has the prime objective to develop study
skills in learners, seeks to make an effective use of the computer-assisted
language learning method. An analysis of the methods discussed so far leads
the researcher to conclude that it is ultimately the teacher who has to be
more innovative, more resourceful, and more thoughtful to create awareness
in students about the importance of the study skills in English and to provide
opportunities to practice the language by using CALL.
Computers make excellent teaching tools, especially in teaching
languages in any aspect, be it vocabulary, grammar, composition,
pronunciation, or other linguistic and pragmatic-communicative skills. The
major benefits offered by computer in enhancing language acquisition
apparently outweigh its limitations.

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