Tips for Teaching with CALL: Practical Approaches to Computer-Assisted Language Learning [with CD].

Posted: December 20, 2010 in CALL related teaching

Tips for Teaching with CALL: Practical Approaches to Computer-Assisted Language Learning [with CD]
Carol A. Chapelle and Joan Jamieson
2008
ISBN 0132404281
US $52.00 (paperback)
240 pp.
Pearson-Longman
White Plains, NY, USA
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Tips for Teaching with CALL: Practical Approaches to Computer-Assisted Language Learning [with CD] is one of the latest additions to Pearson-Longman’s professional development series. Since the mid-1980s, a number of publications have tried to introduce, teach, support, and provide ideas to foreign language instructors on the use of computers in the classroom (Hardisty & Windeatt, 1989). Some of these volumes are intended to encourage language teachers to use computers (Axtell, 2007; Gooden, 1996; Szendeffy, 2005) while others suggest specific ways of implementing Internet-based language teaching (e.g., Clarke, 2000; Griffin, 2006; Lee, Jor, & Lai, 2005; Sperling, 1998; Windeatt, Hardisty, & Eastment, 2000). In contrast to these titles, Tips for Teaching with CALL largely deals with Web sites that could be valuable for ESL/EFL teachers who are either beginning to implement CALL in their classes or who want to improve their teaching skills through computer based practice. In this sense, the book bears a certain resemblance to Sperling’s (1998) volume on Internet-based CALL, but, in contrast, Chapelle and Jamieson’s book also includes screenshots of the Web sites mentioned by the authors, and the authors relate the use of these Web sites to current language acquisition theory. Overall, the book will mostly benefit general practitioners, teachers who may be familiar with computers but are just beginning to use CALL in their classes, and expert teachers who may be looking for new materials.
For Chapelle and Jamieson, teachers play a decisive role in providing opportunities for learning and balancing online, in-class, and out-of-class activities. The authors also believe in the value of Internet-based resources, such as dictionaries, tutorials, and online libraries (Loucky, 2005). In their opinion, Web sites and technology “perform functions similar to what many teachers do in class and through textbooks” (p. 6) in serving as teaching tools and providing opportunities for language learning, and multimedia software is an excellent source of input at each student’s proficiency level.
Chapelle and Jamieson place special emphasis on the following ideas: (1) language learners should proceed steadily by learning structures and vocabulary that is just a little above their current knowledge (cf. Krashen, 1982); (2) language needs to be noticed in order to be learned (Hegelheimer & Chapelle, 2000); (3) interaction with peers is essential to developing learners’ communicative competence; and (4) learning strategies are necessary for language learning (Vinther, 2005). Besides, according to the authors, “teachers can guide students to be more autonomous” (p. 207).
Tips for Teaching with CALL consists of a book and an interactive CD-ROM. While the book presents the content, “tips and their rationale and examples” (p. 9), the CD provides examples of what is presented in the book. The book is divided into eight chapters with corresponding units on the CD, plus a preface, an introduction titled “What is CALL?” and a conclusion called “After Class.” The topics addressed in the chapters focus on the following language skills and content areas: vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing, listening, speaking, communication skills, and Content-Based Language. Each chapter follows exactly the same structure: an introduction, between five and six teaching tips to develop the activities suggested in each section of the chapter, a description of the intended outcomes of the chapter called “What It Means,” a research review that links practical cases to research literature called “What the Literature Says,” and suggestions for the utilization of the content in the classroom “What Teachers Can Do.” The chapters are illustrated with color screenshots of existing CALL software programs, along with descriptions, the minimum proficiency level of the students for whom each activity is designed, and notes for implementing the activity, with a total of more than 100 examples of Web sites and software programs across the eight chapters. The authors also mention how students will need to interact with the computer and other students in each activity, how teachers should proceed with the ELT/ESL pedagogical assessment and feedback provision, and finally, how they can teach and reinforce both language learning and strategic computer competence.
The CD-ROM uses images and video clips to illustrate the contents of the book through demonstrations of learners using CALL software and simulations that guide them through authentic CALL materials. According to the authors, the demonstration “is a real-time video that shows how a learner might perform an activity” (p. 9), while the simulation “guides teachers through an activity as if they were students” (p. 9). Both demonstrations and simulations are divided into the same units (or chapters) as presented in the book (Figure 1).
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The CD can be motivating and helpful for teachers who may want to see applications of what has been presented in the book. Each activity on the CD is connected with the tips presented in the book (either through a demonstration or simulation) and has three main parts: goals and instructions for an activity, the activity itself, and a summary and description of the purpose of the activity.
The book begins with a nine-page introduction that provides a definition of CALL, a basic notion of language learning theory emphasizing the importance of the communicative approach in CALL, and the role of computers in ELT/ESL pedagogy. In addition, the authors introduce three basic principles of language that guide their selection of activities in the book:
a) Learners need guidance in learning English.
b) There are many styles of English used for many different purposes.
c) Teachers should provide guidance by selecting appropriate language and structuring learning activities. (p. 3)
A fourth principle, although not explicitly mentioned is that computers trigger communication between teachers and students and among students by providing appropriate input, especially in listening, reading, and vocabulary, and by facilitating oral communication.
Chapter one focuses on vocabulary, which, in the authors’ words, “is the most important aspect of language for students to learn” (p. 11), and that it is worth “spend[ing] time and effort studying vocabulary” (p. 11). According to Chapelle and Jamieson, the Internet gives “sufficient exposure to words in English that [students] hear or read” (p. 11). In the section “Tips for teaching vocabulary with CALL,” Chapelle and Jamieson stress that vocabulary is best taught when words have the appropriate level of difficulty, which can be identified by examining a word’s frequency, but missing for the reader are other criteria to support this condition. The authors remind readers of “including vocabulary illustration, explanation and practice … in [a] meaningful context” (p. 17), “looking at sentences from a corpus that contains key words” (p. 24), and using Web sites that can promote autonomous learning. Additionally, the CD ROM demonstrates how to foster communication among learners while building vocabulary skills. For instance, in the demonstration, two learners help each other to solve a puzzle. The CD reproduces the conversation between two students and shows how they solve the vocabulary task. The simulation section shows how the learners implement Tip Number Six (“Help students to develop strategies for explicit online vocabulary learning through the use of online dictionaries and concordancers” by using Compleat Lexical Tutor (http://www.lextutor.ca/). This chapter offers some motivating activities to approach vocabulary learning. While some of these interesting activities (such as crosswords or image identification) rarely take place in the classroom, students may do them individually through the Web sites presented in this chapter. This chapter clearly supports the importance of lexis in language learning. The authors even mention that “vocabulary is the most important aspect of language for students to learn” (p. 11) but they do not clearly establish whether computer based vocabulary learning is an explicit or implicit process or just even why they consider such importance. Readers will see that although Chapelle and Jamieson believe that “most students believe that they need to study vocabulary” (p. 11), little support is given to demonstrate this idea or even the implications of learning vocabulary through CALL. Nevertheless, this chapter is potentially key for understanding the rest of the book because the authors go on to emphasize the importance of vocabulary teaching in the following chapters.
Chapter two deals with grammar and follows the same structure as Chapter One. Although many teachers and students consider grammar important, the authors recommend “not to plan a syllabus around grammatical points” (p. 39). When presenting their tips, Chapelle and Jamieson assert that grammar activities presented on many Web sites are numerous, but many “are rather limited, as context is often at sentence level and practice is often in the form of recognition [instead of meaningful production]” (p. 41). They recommend CALL software with discourse-level activities, such as listening “to a part of a dialogue and then producing the target form orally” (p. 43). Chapter Two also includes suggestions for using cartoons or movies for grammar learning which are available online. For example, a very attractive exercise suggested in the CD Rom is completing sentences with Understanding and Using Grammar-Interactive (http://www.pearsonlongman.com/ae/multimedia/programs/uuegi.htm), but the program offers a larger variety of grammar exercises. Additionally, the authors give examples of Web-based activities that provide “grammar assessment and feedback about correctness both before and after instruction” (p. 53), as well as ideas for developing students’ learning strategies. The CD-Rom demonstrates Tip Four, “Include evaluation of students’ regular responses and regular summaries of their responses,” by using Understanding and Using English Grammar–Interactive software (http://www.pearsonlongman.com/ae/multimedia/programs/uuegi.htm). In this demonstration, a learner completes a grammar test, looks at the scores, and accesses a tutorial with grammar explanations. In the simulation of Tip Five, “Help learners to develop strategies for learning grammar from texts on the Web through explicit grammar and inductive learning,” students can learn how to search for a structure in an online corpus, compare its distribution across genres, and see example sentences in the View Web site (http://view.byu.edu/).

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