CALL’s origins and development trace back to the 1960’s (Delcloque 2000). Since the early days CALL has developed into a symbiotic relationship between the development of technology and pedagogy.
Warschauer divided the development of CALL into three phases: Behavioristic CALL, Communicative CALL and Integrative CALL (Multimedia and the Internet). Bax (2003) perceived the three phases as Restricted, Open and Integrated – and there have been several other attempts to categorize the history of CALL: see the ICT4LT website (Section 3 of Module 1.4)].
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 is 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 usually taught skills such as reading and listening in a compartmentalized way, even if not in a drill fashion.
Integrative/explorative 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, and new RPGs such as Who is Oscar Lake? made their appearance in a range of different languages.
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 in the USA. Programs like this led also to what is called explorative CALL.
More recent research in CALL has favored a learner-centered explorative approach, where students are encouraged to try different possible solutions to a problem, for example the use of concordance programs. This approach is also described as data-driven learning (DDL), a term coined by Tim Johns. See Module 2.4 at the ICT4LT site, Using concordance programs in the Modern Foreign Languages classroom.