26.2030, Review: Applied Ling; Computational Ling: Son (2014)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-26-2030. Thu Apr 16 2015. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 26.2030, Review: Applied Ling; Computational Ling: Son (2014)

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Date: Thu, 16 Apr 2015 17:33:33
From: Nadia Economou [enadia at ilsp.gr]
Subject: Computer-Assisted Language Learning

 
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/25/25-3305.html

EDITOR: Jeong-Bae  Son
TITLE: Computer-Assisted Language Learning
SUBTITLE: Learners, Teachers and Tools
PUBLISHER: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
YEAR: 2014

REVIEWER: Nadia P. Economou, Athena Research Center, Institute for Language and Speech Processing

Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry

SUMMARY

As mentioned in the short preface, the book is a collection of papers on
computer assisted language learning (CALL), exploring issues related to
learners, teachers and tools.  All case studies have to do with research
conducted in the Asian-Pacific context; thus the book appears as the third
volume of the Asia-Pacific Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning
(APACALL) Book Series. 

Chapter 1:  “Low-achieving language learners in self-directed multimedia
environments:  transforming understanding,” by Pei-Lun Kao and Scott Windeatt.

It is widely believed that learners working with multimedia material can
profit from making their way through the material at their own free time and
space and receive immediate feedback, This can prove frustrating for low
achieving learners who use this kind of material for remedial purposes or self
study. Kao and Windeatt have conducted their research on the learning
processes associated with such problems. More particularly, they have used
data--including interviews, learning diaries, observation and
questionnaires--from 12 learners working with CD-ROMS for a period of two
semesters (one academic year) at a university in Taiwan. 

In their literature review, the authors attempt to define low achieving
language learners going beyond low performance in tests and examinations.
Performance has to do, among other things, with “good” learning strategies,
cognitive and affective factors, anxiety and apprehension, intrinsic and
extrinsic motivation. Self-directed language learning is defined in terms of
needs analysis, goals setting, independent choice of material, self assessment
motivation, etc. In any case, it requires a lot of effort and training for
self directed learning to lead to better language learning. The final part of
the literature review deals with the contribution of CALL and multimedia
learning material in language learning. 

In designing their research, the authors have selected their participants
among those that have scored low in the Taiwanese National Entrance
Examination for English and high in the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety
Scale test. These 12 participants had similar educational backgrounds, shared
similar low motivation in learning English and had really few opportunities to
practice their listening and speaking skills. Data was collected on a weekly
basis, after the students had their eighty minutes of self-study using various
multimedia CD-ROMs. The researchers also conducted follow-up interviews with
all the participants one year after the end of the study, to be able to
pinpoint longer term effects of the study. 

The results show that participants have positive attitudes towards working
with multimedia material; they mention facts like choosing their own material
and working on it at their own pace, getting non threatening feedback etc.
Still, their attitude toward their speaking and listening skills and,
consequently, performing speaking and listening tasks remained negative
throughout the whole first semester. They also encountered problems with
speech recognition technology in role play activities. They developed various
strategies to cope with their difficulties and overcome their fears; for
instance, they repeated listening activities. 

Participants also reported a change of attitude towards their learning in both
their conventional English class and in non-English contexts. To take
listening as an example, some students made an effort to work out the meaning
of the teachers’ words instead of waiting for them to translate into their
native language. They also felt more willing to participate in speaking
activities since they had managed to overcome the fear of saying “something
stupid”.  Attitudes have also changed for some participants concerning their
professional life beyond the university, since they felt that they are ready
to consider alternative careers that require a higher level of English. 

Overall, the main conclusion from this longitudinal study is that
low-performance students can benefit from participating in CALL activities in
the long run although with considerable variations. In any case, linguistic,
technical and emotional support is necessary for both students who work with
the material and their teachers. 

Chapter 2: Mobile natives: Japanese university students’ use of digital
technology by Peter Gobel and Makimi Kano

The chapter reports the results of a survey conducted in a Japanese university
on the relation formulated by “digital native” students with Information and
Communication Technologies, namely, computers and mobile phones. This new
generation of learners, born in the digital era (after 1980) has grown up with
technology being an integral part of their life. Thus, they have developed new
cognitive and social skills that need to be taken into account when adapting
teaching and educational environments.  The authors review the literature on
‘digital natives” and relevant research on the implications for university
education. Cultural issues emerge as influencing learning styles together with
individual preferences. 

As far as Japan is concerned, mobile technologies have been widely adopted and
mobile phones have been used not only for phone calls but for internet access
and email. For various reasons, “ICT proficiency and confidence of Japanese
school students is one of the lowest in the OECD [Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development] … “(p. 27). Thus, the researchers try to
investigate the ways in which Japanese students adopt ICT in both academic and
non academic settings as well as the effect that this practice has over their
learning styles (as opposed to using paper based media). 

Data has been collected using online distributed questionnaires, including
questions on mobile phone and computer use, learning preferences etc. The vast
majority of the respondents (97%) have access to computers at home and at the
university and rate their computer skills as average. They also use their
phones and computers for various activities. Still, they prefer to take
paper-based tests/quizzes in class. 

At the end of the chapter, the Gobel and Kano discuss the limitations of their
study as well as some interesting findings, namely the fact that a large
number of students still favor traditional methods of teaching and learning
and face-to-face activities as opposed to out-of-class lectures and online
presentations.  The respondents, the authors conclude, are not digital natives
who detest reading and traditional classroom activities. 

Chapter 3: A task-based needs analysis for mobile-assisted language learning
in college ESL contexts by Moonyoung Park

As stated in the abstract, the purpose of this chapter is to investigate
“potential synergy between task-based language teaching (TBLT) and MALL
[mobile-assisted language learning]” (p. 47) so as to contribute to future
development of MALL tasks, lesson plans and curricula. 

It is taken for granted that MALL can contribute new insights to language
learning, although as Park points out, little research has been conducted on
the tasks that students can undertake. Literature on MALL is reviewed on the
basis of the distinction between review and experimental studies. Task-based
needs analysis has the advantage of combining selection and description of
goals with formulation of classroom activities. Based on the above, the author
has conducted research (mainly semi-structured interviews and online
questionnaires with administrators, teachers and students) to identify the
potential of the use of mobile devices in language learning. 
Results have shown that while students are highly motivated to use MALL tasks
for all language skills, teachers are rather cautious. Still all groups have
reported having used various mobile device features for different activities.
Vocabulary learning and video watching seem to be the most popular among
students. In both the open ended and the closed survey, the researcher has
collected a variety of desired target tasks for the four basic skills,
reading, listening, speaking and writing. 

One of the issues that emerged was that of students’ lack of confidence in the
use of technology that is attributed to various reasons; various other
limitations in the implementation of MALL have been highlighted in other
studies and replicated in this study. Still, Park concludes that despite some
limitations, that the list of task types and target tasks that he has come up
with is indicative of the ways MALL can be integrated into ESL classes and
pedagogy. 

Chapter 4:  An analysis of EAP students’ use of Wikipedia as a resource for
learning academic English by Reza Dashtestani

In this chapter, Dashtestani investigates the attitudes of students in Iran
towards Wikipedia and the ways they are using it for learning academic
English. The author acknowledges that various internet technologies, e.g. Web
2.0, blogs, wikis etc. form part of English as a Foreign Language (EFL)
classes and that there is a plethora of research evaluating the impact these
tools have on learning. What this literature review suggests is that English
for Academic Purposes (EAP) students benefit from ICT use. 

Wikipedia has played a significant role in educational settings; however,
educators express their concerns about the credibility of the content. This is
attributed not only to the fact that many non experts contribute information
but also to the fact that many of the contributors have limited English
language proficiency. Therefore, it should be used with caution.  All relevant
studies conclude that the use of Wikipedia has a positive effect upon
students, especially in the development of their reading and writing skills.
The author formulates his research questions around the use of Wikipedia by
Iranian EAP students, their attitudes and their perceptions of their ability
to use it efficiently for learning academic English. 

Data collection was conducted with 275 undergraduate students of chemical
engineering most of them with elementary or pre-intermediate knowledge of
English. The language used in both the questionnaires and the interviews was
the subjects’ native language, not English. An interesting issue that emerged
is that some students pointed out that they cannot trust the grammaticality of
Wikipedia, since it contains mistakes and some others mentioned the
unreliability of the academic information. Despite that, the majority reports
copying and pasting information from Wikipedia, and using it at least
occasionally. Still, their English proficiency is not adequate for using
information in English from the Encyclopedia.  Overall, students tend to use
the Persian version of Wikipedia more than the English one, although they
point out that the Persian one is much more limited in information. 

The chapter concludes with suggestions for further research on various
aspects, but the most important is the teachers’ attitudes towards Wikipedia
and other ICT tools and resources. 

Chapter 5: Developing Malaysian ESL teachers’ technological, pedagogical
content knowledge with digital materials by Kean Wah Lee and Choon Keong Tan

This chapter aims to investigate how teachers develop their Technological,
Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCN); for this reason, the authors conducted
research on teachers’ experiences in producing their own digital material for
the Malaysian primary school curriculum. 

In order to achieve a “developed” status by 2020 (Malaysia’s Vision 2020),
stakeholders and curriculum planners need to enforce digital literacy for both
teachers and students. Therefore, the government developed programs to support
in-service school teachers seeking professional progression. Part of the TPCN
program is enhancing the concept of digital storytelling as pedagogy. Digital
storytelling is described as the process of designing and developing a digital
story by using various technological tools available and making it public
through digital channels. It has been acknowledged as a very effective
language learning tool. 

The authors move on the describe a TPCK model where Pedagogical Knowledge
(PK), Content Knowledge (CK), Technological Knowledge (TK), Technological
Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK) and Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge
(TPCK) are interrelated. 

The participants of this study were 122 in-service English teachers with an
average of 12 years of teaching experience following a 4-year degree course at
the University of Malaysia. During the course, teachers were trained to design
and produce their own digital stories, namely, choosing from potential topics,
integrating different elements and peer reviewing evaluation results. Data
collection included reflective journals, records and artifacts from the course
and focus group interviews. 

The results from the study showed that by developing their TPCK teachers
improved their ICT skills, enhanced their collaboration and cultivated their
pedagogical skills. They also recognized that by improving their technological
skills, they could further help their students become technology literate.
Additionally, they realized that they have to adapt their pedagogical beliefs
to the current digital world. In the conclusions, the authors stress the
importance of providing teachers with authentic contexts to facilitate
meaningful learning.

Chapter 6: Moving beyond basics: from CALL coursework to classroom practice
and professional development by Jeong-Bae Son

This chapter reports on a survey conducted at an Australian University on the
impact that an optional computer-assisted language learning (CALL) course had
on the teaching of language teachers and the ways in which the latter
implemented the knowledge they gained in this course in their everyday
classroom practice. The author reviews relevant research on the relationship
between teacher-training in CALL and in-service use of CALL in classrooms. 

The subjects participating in the study were language teachers who have had
training in CALL at an Australian University; they completed questionnaires
and were interviewed by email on how they use CALL in their classrooms. They
were asked to provide examples of CALL activities they have learnt in the
course and adopted, as well as their experience with CALL. 

The results showed that the majority of teachers have been considerably
influenced by the CALL course and that it has been relevant to their teaching
careers. Among the reasons for not using CALL in the classroom, they mention
lack of time, shortage of confidence in their ability to cope, and need for
rigorous observance of the curriculum. The analysis of the interviews provides
more insights on the above issues. 

The study concludes by pointing out the importance of teacher training in CALL
that should take the form of ongoing mentoring and discussion. Recommendations
for further research include identification of effective methods of
integrating CALL into the language classroom and activating teachers to be
creative in the use of CALL.

Chaper 7: Connectivist learning: reaching strudents through teacher
professional development by Vance Stevens

This paper aims at exploring the initiatives the contributor has taken towards
incorporating connectivist models in teacher professional development.
Connectivist learning is defined as searching for ‘why’ instead of ‘how’ to do
particular things. The notion of connectivism was coined in 2004 by Siemens.
According to him, connectivism allows us to better understand how we learn in
an ever changing world in the digital age. The notion of ‘master learner’ has
been coined by Warlick (2010) to portray the learner who is constantly
learning in order to teach and teaching in order to learn. What is important
is to understand that in order for “teachers to impart the heuristics for such
learning to students, they have to have practiced connectivist learning
themselves” (p. 154).

The widespread use of the internet, especially after the advent of Web.2.0.
has important effects for teachers, especially teachers of English, allowing
them to overcome both their isolation and the isolation of their students.
Stevens mentions case studies where Web sites are created for students to
display their writing and exchange multimedia material. In other cases,
students construct communities to promote language learning and the target
language is being used in authentic contexts. For Stevens, constructivist
learning, like “learning via social media is ineffable; meaning it has to be
experienced in order to be understood” (p. 160).  Conferences dedicated to
language educators worldwide have been organized, open to anyone and free of
charge, where teachers were exchanging experiences of connectivist ways of
sharing expertise. Massive open online course (MOOCs) are other attempts to
share and make connectivist experiences work. 

Chapter 8: Learning about Computer-Assisted Language Learning: online tools
and professional development by Jeong Bae Son

In his second contribution to this volume, Son reports on a research study
about CALL practitioners’ use of online tools and how this practice
contributes to their overall professional development. 

The author starts by pointing out that CALL training is important for teachers
so as they can develop the necessary competencies and skills to implement CALL
activities in their classrooms. In fact, this should be a continuous and
autonomous process. Various CALL-focused journals have been studied to derive
teachers’ experiences from CALL practices; what emerged for the literature
review and has also been stressed by Stevens in the previous chapter, is that
use of online tools helps practitioners avoid isolation.  

The author distributed online questionnaires to CALL practitioners on the use
of online tools for language teaching, which tools they use most, how
frequently, and how they remain up-to-date in the field. From the responses,
it emerges that they are using communication tools and web search engines
almost daily whereas tools for web creation and virtual worlds are rarely
used.  The results also show that many participants consult journal articles
or books, check email list messages and link into social networks on a regular
basis. On the other hand, online conferences are rarely attended. Based upon
these results, the author concludes that it is important for CALL courses to
enhance teachers’ personal learning strategies and autonomous development.
Still, the number of participants was very small to allow for generalizations.

EVALUATION

This collection contains insights into CALL, illustrating diverse viewpoints,
attitudes, practices and issues related to learners, teachers and tools.
Although all the papers derive from the Asian-Pacific context and are
exclusively focused on English as a foreign language, similar conclusions can
be drawn in educational contexts in other parts of the world.  Therefore, the
collection addresses an international audience. In fact, the results of the
studies can be extrapolated to similar contexts apart from Asia and Australia.

All contributions adopt approximately the same structure, with abstract,
introduction, literature review, research design and methodology (participants
and sampling), data analysis, results, discussion and conclusions. 
Shortcomings of the research, limitations and prospects for future research
are also included. Each paper is accompanied by its own bibliography. There
are no cross-references to other articles whatsoever. In addition, there is no
introduction to the volume, apart from a one-page preface; thus, readers may
get the impression that they are reading a journal issue instead of a book on
CALL. Since this is the third volume of the Asian-Pacific Association for
Computer-Assisted Language Learning Book Series, I could not help but wonder
why they do not publish journals instead of books. The book lacks an
introductory chapter that would have informed the lay reader about the aims
and objectives of APACALL and the purpose of bringing together all those
papers as book chapters. 

Still, CALL communities can benefit from these papers. The volume achieved its
purpose of drawing on experiences in CALL to highlight current issues in this
field; and it can be of help to those seeking to expand their knowledge and
explore  new trends in the field of teaching and learning English as a foreign
language. It can also be of help to Ph.D. students or educators who want to
enhance their research in this field; the book can serve as a tool in the
procedure of formulating research questions, conducting field work and
collecting data, analyzing and presenting results.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Nadia Economou has been working with the Institute for Language and Speech
Processing (ILSP)/ R.C. “Athena” since 1994 and she currently holds the
position of Principal Researcher in the area of Modern Greek language teaching
with multimedia. She holds a B.A. in Linguistics from the University of
Athens, an M.A. in Language Studies from the University of Lancaster U.K. and
a Ph.D. from the same University with specialisation in Educational
Linguistics. In the Department of Educational Technology in ILSP / R.C.
'Athena' she has been involved in the design and development of educational
multimedia software. She has worked on various projects as a researcher and/or
coordinator. She has published research papers in the areas of language
teaching and learning, CALL and discourse analysis. Her current research
interests include multimedia technologies in education, language teaching and
learning and discourse analysis.





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