17.1037, Review: Applied Ling/Lang Education: Egbert & Petrie(2005)

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Subject: 17.1037, Review: Applied Ling/Lang Education: Egbert & Petrie(2005)

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Date: 03-Apr-2006
From: Kara McBride < kmcbride at email.arizona.edu >
Subject: Call Research Perspectives 

-------------------------Message 1 ---------------------------------- 
Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2006 20:11:46
From: Kara McBride < kmcbride at email.arizona.edu >
Subject: Call Research Perspectives 

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/16/16-2522.html 

EDITORS: Egbert, Joy L.; Petrie, Gina Mikel
TITLE: Call Research Perspectives
SERIES: ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series
PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
YEAR: 2005

Kara McBride, Second Language Acquisition and Teaching, University 
of Arizona


As stated in the preface, this book is ''not a how-to-do research book'' 
(p. ix). The book is meant to get people involved in computer-assisted 
language learning (CALL) research reflecting on CALL research. 
Thus, the first two chapters that comprise ''Part I: Introduction to CALL 
research'' assume some familiarity with the topic, and they focus on 
past misconceptions and flaws in the field's brief history. Both 
chapters call for more rigorous work to be done, and for research to 
be solidly grounded in second language acquisition (SLA) theory.

The next 12 chapters of the book each in turn present one 
theoretically-based perspective on CALL research. Each chapter is 
roughly 15 pages and follows the same outline, including sections on 
previous research, methods, and issues. They all dedicate ample 
space to presenting questions about CALL research that arise 
naturally when the field is viewed from the theoretical perspective 
under discussion. The reader is provided extensive bibliographical 
references, and sometimes a list of recommended reading. For the 
CALL researcher in search of his or her next project, this book is the 
perfect stimulus for creative thinking.

Meskill's Chapter 3, ''Metaphors that shape and guide CALL research'' 
reminds us that the metaphors that we use to understand an 
abstraction shape the way we about think it. The author describes 
some dominant metaphors from CALL literature, and she discusses 
these metaphors' strengths and weaknesses.

Chapter 4, ''Sociocultural perspectives on CALL'' by Warschauer, 
reviews the concepts of mediation, social learning, and genetic 
analysis from Vygotsky's sociocultural theory to illustrate, among other 
things, how technology, being a tool, shapes the behaviors that it is 
used to perform.

Chapter 5, by Chapelle, is called ''Interactionist SLA theory in CALL 
research.'' Interactionist theory proposes that language acquisition is 
most likely to result when the language learner interacts with others in 
a way that requires negotiation of meaning, that pushes the learner to 
communicate, and that also allows for focus on form. CALL activities 
can be judged, then, by the extent to which they provide opportunities 
for this kind of interaction. This kind of ''...evaluation can be conducted 
without recourse to assessment of learning outcomes, which are 
typically very difficult to identify and measure for brief sessions of task 
work'' (p. 62).

Chapter 6, ''Metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive strategies, and 
CALL'' is written by Hauck, who works at the Open University in the 
UK, where the Department of Languages has shifted to having all 
courses be at least in part online. Students learning on line have to be 
more autonomous learners. Thus, the department has developed 
activities to ''foster learner reflection on the following: self-knowledge, 
beliefs about self, beliefs about learning in general, beliefs about 
language learning in particular'' (pp. 79-80).

Mohan and Luo's Chapter 7 calls for the investigation of the roles that 
computers and language play through systemic functional linguistics, 
in which the ways language is used to make meaning are the focus of 
study, as opposed to focusing on syntax. Discourse analysis is a 
primary means of carrying this out. It is suggested that this would be a 
particularly useful approach in the study of multimedia and 

Petrie takes up the topic of ''Visuality and CALL research'' in Chapter 
8. Petrie notes that the nonlinguistic, visual characteristics of 
computer-presented material shape our experience of the material. As 
a consequence, the nature of literacy is changing.

Lotherington's ''Authentic language in digital environments'' continues 
the trend in this part of the book to talk about the changing nature of 
literacy. She sketches out dramatic shifts in language use that have 
become typical of online communication as used between adolescent 
native English speaking chat partners.

Egbert's Chapter 10 discusses ''Flow as a model for CALL research.'' 
The term FLOW refers to the state in which things ''click'' and the 
participant loses his or her sense of time. We should like to know what 
is special about those activities, such as navigating around in a MOO, 
that have resulted in an experience of flow for their participants.

In Chapter 11, Brander points out ways in which technology interacts 
with culture. The opening example is of an online English as a foreign 
language class. The differences that the students' diverse cultures 
presented were in some ways minimized by the fact that the students 
never interacted in the same physical space. However, because some 
differences were thus obscured, cultural misunderstandings were 
more likely to arise, and the participants, not fully aware of the other 
participants' cultural perspectives, were in a worse position to resolve 
such misunderstandings than they would be in a face-to-face situation.

Yang's ''Situated learning as a framework for CALL research'' 
describes learning as becoming a member of a community of practice. 
Newcomers participate peripherally. The change in identity to full 
member is one and the same as learning the ways of the community of 

Chapter 13, ''Design-based research in CALL'' by Yutdhana describes 
a way in which theory can grow out of practice. Theory should inform 
the design of CALL activities. The assessment of those activities can 
in turn further inform theory. If the two remain intertwined, theory shall 
become more precise, and designs implemented in practice shall 
continue to improve as well.

The last chapter that presents a new theoretical perspective is 
Chapter 14, ''A user-centered ergonomic approach to CALL research.'' 
Ergonomic studies look at the way humans interact with machines. 
The anecdote that opens the chapter is an example of how a user 
may employ a computer application in a way that is different from the 
way its designers intended it. Ergonomics seeks to explain when and 
why this happens. This perspective, it is argued, could be particularly 
useful in evaluating online practices.


Although the book presents many different perspectives, the 
perspectives are for the most part more complementary than 
contradictory. Even the one article, Chapter 7, that claimed to be 
opposed to ''the dominant perspective in CALL, the interactionist SLA 
approach'' (p. 88) did not, in fact, contradict what was said in 
Chapelle's Chapter 5. Further, Mohan and Luo continue in the article 
to use the acronym SLA to refer to a very restricted and I would say 
out-dated version of second language acquisition in which social 
issues are marginalized as being of little importance. In this volume 
alone, one-third of the theory chapters (Chapters 4, 11, 12, and 14) 
cite Vygotsky. Other common themes in the volume that match the 
Zeitgeist of SLA include 1) a frequent call in several chapters (as well 
as the preface) for collecting both qualitative and quantitative data 
and using them together; 2) seeing both identities and contexts as 
dynamic and changing; and 3) a move to more fully embrace 
complexity by taking an ecological perspective on learning situations.

An ecological perspective requires taking the environment into 
account when considering a learning activity. One factor that clearly 
must not be ignored in language education is culture (Chapter 11). 
Sociocultural theory (Chapter 4) reminds us that, just as context 
shapes behavior, the tools that we use alter the behaviors that we use 
them for. The research that Warschauer reviews in this chapter 
concerns how computers shape students' communication. Future 
CALL research will have to consider this relationship from the opposite 
direction, as in-coming language students will already have their 
concepts of language and communication altered by recent 
revolutions in communication technology (cell phones, text messaging, 
chat, e-mail, etc.).

These important realities about swift change in language are brought 
home in Lotherington's Chapter 9. Her examples of chat language use 
are authentic, whether or not they strike one as impoverished. The 
extent to which and the ways in which these language shifts enter our 
classrooms or CALL materials will have something to do with our 
beliefs about the balance between prescriptive and descriptive 
grammars, and it will have much to do with factors entirely out of our 

Probably not all linguistically-mediated interaction is pedagogically 
useful. Interactionist theory (Chapter 5) offers to guide us as to what 
kind of interaction we are looking to encourage in our learners. In this 
chapter, Chapelle reminds us that the interactionist hypotheses are 
subject to revision, as researchers encounter evidence for or against 
their predictions. This is an important point to reiterate. Knowing what 
something is NOT can be just as important as knowing what 
something is, when attempting to come to grips with a complex 
system. As Huh and Hu explain in Chapter 2, bias can only be 
overcome when negative results are also reported in the literature. To 
improve and to understand CALL, we need to know what does not 
work well, in addition to hearing about successes.

We also need to know how CALL is actually used, especially when this 
does not match expectations. Anyone who has designed and carried 
out a CALL project can affirm this. For example, my dissertation work 
involved creating an online course that took participants a total of 
roughly four hours to get through. The mini-course was divided into 13 
steps. I was quite surprised to find many participants doing the last 
four-fifths of the project all in one sitting. Perhaps these participants 
were experiencing flow as it is presented in Egbert's Chapter 10.

Flow is not unique to CALL situations (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997) but is 
instead considered a goal to aim for in lesson design, because the 
experience is very motivating and leads to increased interaction with 
the content of the lesson. Interestingly, those ten participants of mine 
who got carried away with the activity and kept at it for hours were 
also the participants whose scores dramatically dropped from pretest 
to posttest. One assumes that they were just tired and that in the long 
run this kind of motivated activity will lead to greater language 
acquisition, not less. However, we must not simply automatically 
assume that more is always better. CALL phenomena must be studied 
without such bias.

The research and design model described in Chapter 13 offers the 
best chance of improvement for both CALL design and CALL research 
by enforcing a cycle between the two. Yutdhana calls this ''an 
emerging paradigm in educational inquiry'' (p. 176). To me, it just 
sounds like good practice, and one certainly popular in the business 
world. Perhaps because of the marketable quality of CALL products, 
and/or because much of CALL's popularity is a result of it being more 
attention-grabbing than traditional lessons, CALL research is 
especially concerned with ''customer satisfaction.'' To the extent that 
this will make research more rigorous, it is a welcome development.

Just as research can only advance when there is an opportunity to 
evaluate outcomes, learning is also advanced by an ability on the part 
of the learner to self-evaluate in order to self-regulate, as we are told 
in Chapter 6. This same concept of self-regulation is what Dörnyei 
(2005) says that the field of educational psychology has adopted and 
what SLA should adopt, instead of pursuing the elusive subject of 
learning strategies. Dörnyei argues that, because no clear line can be 
drawn between strategy use and learning, it is better to talk of self-
regulation. Hauk's work suggests that successful strategy use (which 
may be the same thing as successful learning) is likely when the 
learner knows him- or herself very well.

Taking a critical look at one's own thinking is encouraged in Chapter 3 
by identifying some dominant CALL metaphors and their implications 
for research. One of the ways that metaphors work as tools is that 
they allow us to mentally manipulate familiar objects and then carry 
over that skill to manipulate the less well understood concept (the 
referent of the metaphor). Meskill gives us many metaphors to 
consider. Some, we are to understand, are limiting and misleading 
metaphors, as with the conduit metaphor. Other metaphors are more 
appropriate for CALL, such as the berry-bush metaphor. The 
presentation of the metaphors sets up a number of dichotomies. 
Dichotomous thinking is itself a limiting framework, and we the readers 
might use our metaphorical understanding of the issues to imagine 
what a compromise or a hybrid might be like, for example between the 
two ends of the most famous metaphorical dichotomy in CALL, the tool 
and the tutor (Levy, 1997).

The chapter that speaks the most about what kind of research should 
be done, as opposed to what has already been done, is Chapter 8, on 
visuality. Petrie predicts that the concept of literacy will need to be 
redefined to capture the role of non-linguistic, visual factors. The kind 
of analysis Petrie calls for has begun to be done in some areas. For 
example, Boardman's (2004) description of the process of web page 
reading includes visual cues, such as letter font and positioning, 
instead of abstracting language out of the form of presentation and 
dealing with it separately.

Perhaps some of the metaphors that are used to understand complex 
processes are not, in fact, fully metaphorical. As explained in the 
chapter on situated learning, it is not just that knowledge is created 
through social interactions, but the social interactions ARE the 
learning process. In CALL research, content, activity, and context are 
all part of our object of study. It is not that one of these happens to be 
accompanied by the others; and research is not the process of 
abstracting truth out of reality. It is literally true that the medium is the 
message: ''signs are not objects out there, nor thoughts in here, but 
relationships between the person and the world, physical and social'' 
(van Lier, p. 151).


Boardman, M. (2004). The language of websites. London: Routledge.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow in everyday life. New York: 
Basic Books.

Levy, M. (1997). Computer-assisted language learning: Context and 
conceptualization. New York: Oxford University Press.

van Lier, L. (2002). An ecological-semiotic perspective on language 
and linguistics. In C. Kramsch (Ed.), Language acquisition and 
language socialization: Ecological perspectives (pp. 140-164). New 
York: Continuum. 


Kara McBride is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Arizona 
interdisciplinary program Second Language Acquisition and Teaching. 
She is interested in how language pedagogy and psycholinguistics 
can be used together to optimize educational and assessment 
applications on the computer.


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