Problems and criticisms of CALL instruction

Problems and criticisms of CALL instruction

The impact of CALL in foreign language education has been modest. [7] 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[1] and the simple availability of technological resources such as the Internet (either non-existent as can be the case in many developing countries or lack of bandwidth, as can be the case just about anywhere). [3] 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. [7][1]
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. [6]
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. [6] 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. [14] 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. [14] [15] These stem in part because there is a significant generation gap between teachers (many of whom did not grow up with computers) 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. [15] While students may be motivated by exercises like branching stories, adventures, puzzles or logic, these activities provide little in the way of systematic evaluation of progress. [3]
Even teachers 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[3], 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. [1] 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. [3] 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. [7] 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. [1]
However, the most crucial factor that can lead to the failure of CALL, or the use of any technology in language education is not the failure of the technology, but rather the failure to invest adequately in teacher training and the lack of imagination to take advantage of the technology’s flexibility. Graham Davies states that too often, technology is seen as a panacea, especially by administrators, and the human component necessary to make it beneficial is ignored. Under these circumstances, he argues, “it is probably better to dispense with technology altogether”.[8]

Rody Klein, Clint Rogers and Zhang Yong (2006), studying the adoption of Learning Technologies in Chinese schools and colleges, have also pointed out that the spread of video games on electronic devices, including computers, dictionaries and mobile phones, is feared in most Chinese institutions. And yet every classroom is very well equipped with a desk imbedded computer, Internet connexion, microphone, video projector and remote controlled screen to be used by the teacher for multimedia presentations. Very often the ‘leaders’ prefer to ban completely Learning Technologies for students at the dismay of many foreign ESL teachers. Books and exercise books still prevail. In order to enhance CALL for teaching ESL and other languages in developing countries, it would be also crucial to teach students how to learn by themselves and develop the capacity to practice self evaluation and enhance intrinsic motivation. Tests and quizzes should be designed accordingly to encourage and enhance students autonomous practice. Teachers using CALL should be computer literate and trained continuously. Ideally each Foreign Language Department using CALL should hire an experienced Computer Scientist who could assist teachers. That expert should demonstrate dual expertise both in Education and Learning Technologies.

~ by jeanehistoria on December 29, 2009.

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