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Integrating CALL into EAP.

 Why should we do it, and how can it be done?

Introduction

CALL is a component of many English courses within the Australian ELICOS context.  In the industry there are a range of approaches to this area of teaching and accompanying pedagogical arguments.  For example, some centres use commercial CD ROM materials which could almost be run as standalone language programs.  The same centre may also run web-homepages as project work for classes at particular levels.  Other centres create their own materials and also source quality free resources from the Internet.  These are normally arranged through a “portal”, which is basically a web page which acts as an index to available sites.  There are also various forms of computer-mediated communication which can be used.

There is one aspect that should be taken into consideration with all of these different approaches, that of integration.  This is the fact that the CALL component of courses should be tightly interwoven with the curriculum of the course as a whole.  Although this appears common sense it can be seen that some of the approaches above may not follow this tenet particularly well.  The integration of CD ROM materials such as “Planet English” and web-projects such as home pages will have a greater or lesser degree depending on their use by individual teachers.  The use of a wide range of approaches allows for CALL to be tailored both to the curriculum and to students’ needs.  As Garrett (1991) says,

“the use of the computer does not constitute a method, rather it is a medium in which a variety of methods, approaches  and pedagogical philosophies may be implemented.”

That said, the flexibility and collaboration that the Internet and networks provide allow for students to participate in a constructionist learning environment.  Students can choose resources from the whole Internet from which to construct their personal understanding of language and other areas.  For further clarification and discussion they can then use networked communication, from personal web pages to chat, to collaborate with students in other institutions.

This paper will attempt to outline a range of CALL lessons that will take advantage of several of these approaches.  The varying degrees of computer literacy and technical requirements will also be outlined as will general procedure in CALL classes.

Choosing CALL

Before an institution or course designer decides that CALL should be a part of their courses it is essential that the course outcomes should be taken into account.  If the stakeholders can see no specific pedagogical reason for the inclusion of CALL into the program then the advisability of incorporating it is highly debatable.  With this in mind it is important for teachers, program managers, directors of studies and also principals to have some understanding of the various benefits, in terms of both pedagogy and marketing, that CALL may bring to their institution.  Any CALL program will only be successful when there is appropriate support from the class teacher upwards.  If a course is to become established and developed for use within a whole school the CALL component needs to be accessible to all the teachers who may deliver it.  Policies and simple handbooks also need to be made clearly available for teacher access.

Classroom behaviour

There are many barriers to the effective use of CALL in classrooms; however, there are three main problems.  Firstly, management need to give support to the project in terms of the allocation of time for professional development and by sending a clear message to the teachers as to its importance.  Then there is the difficulty of arranging the PD for teachers in a working school environment, especially true if there is no CALL specialist employed by the institution.  PD is essential if teachers are to feel comfortable using CALL, and also to have confidence in the pedagogical aims of the program.  Finally, teachers need to be aware that their role in a computer lab is actually very similar to their role in a traditional class, that the skills and knowledge they have acquired through experience are still highly pertinent.  Teachers are primarily there to direct, encourage and facilitate the acquisition of language.  In short it is important to realize that the traditional teacher behaviour and skills are much more important than computer expertise in many CALL class situations.

The first aspect that a novice CALL user should consider is pedagogy.  They should set out the goals or outcomes that they hope to achieve within the CALL class period and have these clearly in mind well before the lesson.  From investigating the goals, particular types of exercise or activity can be envisaged, these then need to be sourced or developed in the preparation of the class.  Obviously if the class is based around web based exercises or pages they need to be evaluated in much the same way as a new course book or other teaching resource.  In the process of evaluation it is also necessary to check for the ease of use of the interface so that any class problems can predicted.  In the same way as a traditional class, but to a greater extent, extra activities should be planned in case there is a problem in the class.  Problems can range from students completing activities faster than expected to CALL specific technical problems such as inoperative web pages.

To simplify the discussion several ways to deliver CALL lessons will be discussed.  These will often depend on the technology available and the classroom layout.  Before these are considered individually the fact that a teacher will be particularly active in a CALL class needs to be stressed.  An effective CALL teacher will spend a high proportion of class time monitoring students and assisting them on an individual or small group basis.  Due to the nature of computers and the way that there is total freedom in access to the Internet, teachers need to be particularly vigilant of students’ task focus.  In addition to checking that they are not using personal e-mail or accessing their native language sites it is also necessary to help them with technical or language based problems that they might have.  Fortunately, the need for this type of careful observation will decline throughout a course as students become more aware of their responsibilities and their skills improve.  This leaves teachers with more time for resolving specifically language or course based problems.

Delivering instructions is one of the major problems in the computer lab and this is also dependent on the classroom layout.  Some classes may have computers arranged in rows facing a board, some may have computers facing the walls and some may even have laptop computers arranged on moveable tables for complete flexibility.  The two low technology ways of giving instructions are to use the board, if the classroom layout allows this, or to hand out photocopied instructions.  If the classroom has a projector connected to a computer it can be very effective to simply type instructions directly onto the computer screen (with a large font in Word) and also demonstrate the operation of exercises or software.  The most sophisticated method is for the teacher to create some form of electronic document and make it easily accessible to students.  This can be a web page stored on the Internet or a Word document stored on a shared drive.  This has the advantage of allowing use by other teachers in repeat deliveries and even by other institutions.  Electronic documents also allow  the use of hyperlinks so students can access an array of web pages easily and quickly.  However, regardless of the quality and clarity of the instructions the teacher will still have to monitor and assist as outlined previously due to variations in student skills and motivation.

Two further aspects need brief mention at this point.  Firstly, computer literate students should be considered as an asset, it improves their confidence and communication skills if they are used as experts for the purposes of peer teaching.  If their superior knowledge is acknowledged and planned for it benefits the class as a whole.  Secondly, it should be remembered that although there may be one computer for each student it may well be more beneficial for students to work at computers in pairs or small groups.  This adds an additional communicative and collaborative dimension to any activities. 

Lesson outlines

1)  Introduction to autonomy, an online scavenger hunt

This lesson is a starting point for both students and teachers who are CALL novices.  It is based around encouraging students to be active in their choice of materials and also to help them understand why the different materials are used.  It can be used to introduce classroom CALL or to introduce computer based independent learning material.  This activity is a variation on a theme which includes ILC/SAC explorations and new course book introductions.

At its simplest level this class requires computers with an Internet connection and some form of a list of online resources, the list can even be written on the board or handed out as a photocopy.  The preparation for this involves the teacher actively searching resources to create questions which will guide students in exploration.  For example, a question could be “How many exercises are there on Randall’s ESL LAB?”, or “How many exercises are there on the CDLP readings?”.  In the process of trying to answer the questions students are exposed to a wide range of exercises and should find several which they would come back to in independent study.  In the final ten or fifteen minutes of an hour lesson the teacher can go over the answers.  An alternative conclusion to the lesson is for students to briefly present a resource that they found interesting and useful.

This class works best if it the list of resources is presented as a web page which allows for easier searching and also enables students easy access as they only need to record a single web address.  A useful fact here is that most word processing software will automatically convert copied web-addresses into hyperlinks to the page.  There are freely available indexes on the Internet, many produced by experienced professionals, so there is no requirement for teachers to be able to author web pages.  Of particular note is a page from the Monash University ELC which sources a range of activities organized by level, topic and skills.  The site is maintained by Renata Chylinski and is free for students and teachers to access, its address is http://muelc.monint.monash.edu.au/Esl/index.htm.  If there are students who are complete novices it can be useful to pair them with a student with greater computer experience.  In this class the teacher’s role is to help students to understand that the explicit goal, answering all the questions, is not the pedagogical goal, which is the understanding of the range of material available.

2)  Compare and contrast (with presentation skills)

This lesson can be used as a follow up or extension of the previous one.  It could be delivered in a second lesson, or preferably, after students have been using online resources for several weeks.  It features three aspects of EAP; the compare and contrast text type, formal presentation skills and a degree of critical thinking.  Unfortunately, for this lesson to be totally effective regarding presentation skills it is necessary to have a projector connected to a computer.

In this class the students are organized into small groups, from pairs to groups of four is probably best.  Each group is given a pair of EFL specific web pages to evaluate as a compare and contrast exercise.  For example, comparing Randall’s ESL LAB with the material on the California Distance Learning Program.  This evaluation can be guided by a list of questions, or it can be left up to students to organize a suitable array of criteria.  Obviously the second option entails more critical assessment of the media and will also take more time.  The students are given an appropriate length of time to consider the pages and prepare for a presentation on them.  The projector is invaluable when the presentation phase begins as it allows students access to ready made visual aids, yet at the same time requires them to communicate more than they might with a custom written Powerpoint presentation.  If there is no access to a projector it is possible to finish the lesson with students planning a report or essay comparing the different resources.

3)  Webquests

One of the most frequently noted advantages of the Internet for language teaching is the easy access to authentic materials that it allows.  However, if students or teachers have little experience in searching the Net it may prove frustrating.  In EFL classes students can be shown how to use advanced searching techniques or, more simply, shown a range of materials already selected by the teacher.  Exercises where students browse a variety of pages on a limited range of topics are called Webquests.  These take advantage of the complex links that exist between web documents and allow students to participate in high-level evaluation and synthesis of information.  It is important to realize that these activities can exist on various levels, from the access of a single page accompanied by simple comprehension questions to semester long courses which involve students in solving problems by synthesizing information from multiple sources.

The Virtual ILC has many examples of the single page exercises, which are good for lower levels, but do not extend EAP students far enough.  There also may be little appreciable difference between doing these activities on the Internet and printing the text and questions for use in class.  On the other hand, the use of multiple pages, with varied sources and a wide range of question types, takes advantage of the Internet more and gives students valuable skills in the effective reading of the web.  These activities can be designed for the delivery of a specific outcome, as mentioned below, or they can be easily integrated into topic based EAP courses.

The Webquest page has a lesson for EFL students which could be usefully adapted for the purposes of EAP.  The lesson in question is based around the evaluation of web- based material in terms of validity and authenticity.  Students are required to access the pages and consider the mode of presentation, the language used, the creation date and the domain (www.unimelb.edu.au, www.vu.edu.au, www.abc.com.au are probably reliable domains.)  This type of skill is becoming pertinent as web documents become more and more popular as academic sources.  The lesson in question is extensive and as such it needs a certain level of streamlining to allow it to be completed in one or two lesson periods.

This type of activity may be best carried out in pairs or small groups.  John Gillespie and Jane McKee from Ulster University found that students were far more critical in their evaluation of web based information when they were not working alone.  In addition to this exercise promoting critical analysis of information on the Internet there is evidence to suggest that hyperlinked material provides “superior knowledge transfer” (Jacobson and Spiro, 1995).  Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that documents with multimedia elements such as photos, diagrams and video all facilitate comprehension more effectively than the pre-teaching of vocabulary (Hedelheimer and Chapelle, 2000.  Chun and Plass, 1996).  If possible, pages which effectively use these features should be used as resources, to facilitate comprehension and the acquisition of vocabulary.

4)  Needs based Vocabulary, Style and Grammar

Throughout the delivery of multiple EAP courses it is possible to define trends in functional problems that students may have.  Contrary to accepted EAP and IELTS belief, it is possible to define language points that are necessary and relevant to high-level students.  However, the most effective way of doing this is to use student work as a resource of mistakes from which exercises can be made.  If these exercises are transformed into electronic documents they can be accessed by students in supervised CALL classes or self-access.  These are effective because time for grammar instruction is often severely limited and students can work through exercises at their own speed.  It is also possible to link them to online grammar resources so they can choose if they want an explanation of the grammar point.

To make this type of exercise particularly meaningful for students it is possible to make it more collaborative, or constructive, in nature.  If students are aware that it is possible to make specific exercises they can request particular grammar or vocabulary to be included.  Modified examples of student work can also be included if students are willing for it to be used

These exercises can be simply made in Microsoft Word, and published as web pages.  Although this method is simple it is not interactive.  A better solution is to use a program called Hot Potatoes, this creates interactive web pages very simply and quickly.  If your web page is freely available to the public it is also available at no cost.  For people who want to use it privately there is a cost involved.

5)  Computer Mediated Communication

One of the skills in EAP which is both difficult to teach reliably and assess is that of high level discussion.  One of the main reasons for this is variations in classroom dynamics and also the individual personalities of students. Possibly for this reason there is a frequent use of oral presentations in EAP courses for the evaluation of students’ oral competencies.  Although presentations are a part, sometimes assessed, of many graduate and post-graduate courses it appears that being able to participate in seminar and tutorial discussions is at least as important in terms of self confidence, collaborative learning and possibly acceptance by native speaker students.  Ideally the skill of effective speaking in tutorials would be taught as a major component of EAP courses and assessment tools developed to give effective feedback to students.  Unfortunately this is a difficult path to pursue.

The use of computer chat or discussion boards can be used to a certain extent in addressing this problem.  The fact that some less confident speakers become more vocal when they are interacting via the computer has become common knowledge amongst online teaching practitioners.  Although this activity cannot address the oral problems, it does address the skill of having to formulate responses to arguments quickly and clearly.  Another advantage of using this type of activity on a computer is the fact that a record of the discussion or chat can be kept permanently and used for assessment or feedback for students.

Unfortunately this activity requires private access to either a discussion board or a chat room via the Internet.  It is possible to find some free services on the Internet but they do require a certain level of computer literacy to set up, and may not work in every country [1] .  The ideal situation is if the institution has their own web server and can administer access to both chat and discussion boards.

The basic use of the system begins when the teacher logs in to the system and leaves a discussion question on the board.  This can be related to the problems of studying EAP or it can be related to the topic in a topic-based course.  It is also possible to add features to the question which will create a need for a certain text type in the response.  The students can then log in during class time, or even after class, and respond firstly to the teacher and then to other students.  In this activity students start to be exposed to the writing of other students and can then “exploit, model and observe the contributions” to the community.  One of the things that has to be considered with this is the size of the group, or the size of EAP within the institution.  If there are too many people participating in a discussion their responses can effectively disappear.  The number can bear some investigation by the teacher but a starting point may be around ten students in each discussion.  To make things more interesting and authentic it is also possible to have more than one class in each discussion, especially if they may be following the same topic but with different materials and a different teacher.  The logical extension of this is to have students in different institutions or countries collaborating within the same discussion.  As a final point, if online groups are kept small, there should be an area of the site where particularly good postings are shown as models, and for student motivation.

6) Complete integration

The previous five lessons have outlined ways that CALL can be used to develop certain skills within EAP courses.  This final project based approach will consider how CALL can provide a basis for the development of a whole course and some of the advantages that this may offer.  As can be imagined this approach will require teachers to have more resources and skills at their disposal than those previously discussed.

Mark Warschauer (1999) makes a very strong argument that the Internet is becoming one of the primary, if not the primary, environments where people are communicating in English.  He goes on to recommend that language learners learn a range of skills for working within and contributing to the online community.  He also suggests that “people are beginning to communicate, read, write, and learn in different ways”.  A possibility that all language teachers should at least consider.  Internet publication allows students to take control of their texts (Kramsch, Ness and Lam, 2000), and this may also allow them to take more control over their academic discourse.

The basic premise of the CALL aspect of this course is to use the Internet for the evaluation of a body of work, the defining of a topic by peer collaboration, the web publication of an article on the topic and, finally, peer feedback to clarify and improve the article.  It is based around skills that can be used to improve the academic strength of articles, rather than linguistic skills which could be tackled in traditional classes.  An ideal, and highly impractical, version of this course would require access to experts in a field.  However, in real terms it would be possible to collaborate with language schools in different cities of the same country or overseas by using a discussion board.  This course also requires access to a server for the publication of the articles and access to some form of web page editor (including Microsoft Word) in the computer labs.  A class teacher would also need assistance from an IT or CALL specialist, or would need to have the skills to upload pages to a web server.

Before the course starts topics and resources for them need to be sourced.  This would narrow down the amount of reading and research that students would need to do before they could define a topic.  The topic and an outline of the article can then be posted on the discussion board for peers to comment on.  In order to ensure that this is used, CALL class time would need to be allocated for posting outlines and responses.  At this point it would also be possible to assign pairs or groups based on the topics chosen.  These could give each other peer support throughout the drafting of the content and improvement of the argument.  To aid students in this activity they could be given lists of evaluative questions to be worked through

The class teacher would give linguistic help throughout the course but would be relieved of the sole responsibility for commenting on the academic quality of the paper.  Once the paper had been revised it could be published on the server, possibly with an e-mail form appended to the end of it.  This would allow for further feedback to be given and revisions made.


Bibliography

Moras, S.  (2001)  Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) and the Internet.  http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/CALL.html

Board, D.  Information and Communications Technology-implications in the classroom.  Developing Teachers.com  http://www.developingteachers.com/articles_tchtraining/ict1_darron.htm

Chun, D and Plass, J.  (1996)  Effects of Multimedia Annotations on Vocabulary Acquisition.  Modern Language Journal 80 (2), pp.31-42

Chun, D. and Plass, J. (1996)  Facilitating Reading Comprehension with Multimedia.  System 24 (4) pp. 503-519

Gillespie, J. and McKee, J.  (1999)  Does it Fit, and Does it Make Any Difference?  Integrating CALL into the Curriculum.  Computer Assisted Language Learning 12 (5),  pp. 441-455

Hedelheimer, V. and Chapelle, C.  (2000)  Methodological Issues in research on learner computer interactions in CALL.  Language Learning and Technology 4 (1), pp. 41-59

Jacobson, M. and Spiro, R.  (1995)  Hypertext Learning Environments, Cognitive Flexibility, and the Transfer of Complex Knowledge:  An Empirical Investigation.  Journal of Educational Computing Research, 12 (4), pp. 301-333

Kramsch, C., A’Ness, F. and Lam, W.S.E (2000)  Authenticity and authorship in the computer-mediated acquisition of L2 literacy.  Language Learning and Technology 4 (2), pp. 78-104

Lee, K.C.  (2001)  Selecting and Integrating CALL software programs into the EFL classroom.  Papers from the ITMELT 2001 Conference.  http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/conference/papers2001/lee.htm

Resnick, M. (1996)  Distributed Constructionism.  Proceedings of the International Conference on the Learning Sciences Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.  http://web.media.mit.edu/~mres/papers/Distrib-Construc/Distrib-Construc.html

Warschauer, M. (1999)  Millennialism and Media.  Keynote address delivered at the World Congress of Applied Linguistics (AILA), Tokyo, August 1999.



[1] A useful service, www.tripod.com, is not accessible in China as there is free access for people to add their own content to the Internet.  Also www.communityzero.com has recently introduced charges which has made it much less attractive.