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CALL: Computer-assisted language learning

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Since the passage of the Bilingual Education Act in 1967, schools have sought innovative and effective ways to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). In keeping with technological trends, education has embraced a variety of approaches to branch out from the traditional brick-and-mortar schools. One such movement - computer-assisted language learning or CALL - uses the benefits of online learning to expand English Language Learners’ (ELLs) repertoire of study tools.

Considerations for taking a CALL approach to language learning

Although CALL programs have been used since the early 1960s, it was not until the birth of the internet that CALL became language-rich and engaging. Through virtual learning environments, ELLs can take part in meaningful and interactive language practices, such as language-based games and real-world simulations. One cannot merely choose to adopt a CALL philosophy to language learning, however. When deciding to use a CALL approach, many factors must be considered for both the teacher and the learner, such as computer literacy, self-motivation and interest, as well as access to computers and the internet.

Teacher characteristics for CALL effectiveness

For teachers, there are a number of criteria to successfully implement computer-assisted language learning. Most importantly, teachers must possess a constructivist view toward education, removing themselves from the teacher role and taking more of a mentor role. As facilitators of learning, Constructivist teachers develop a student-centered approach, considering their students’ individual learning styles and prior knowledge.

CALL educators must also have a certain level of technical savvy, setting the tone for a learning environment in which students are comfortable working with computers. Finally, teachers of CALL should possess an unwavering confidence in their technological abilities. The use of technology comes with an understanding that challenges will arise. The efficacy of a teacher’s ability to overcome these challenges can determine the effectiveness of a CALL approach (Cunningham, 2000).

Student prerequisites to be successful in a CALL program

There are also considerations for determining an ESL student’s readiness for computer-assisted language learning. For one, students must have, at the very least, a basic level of computer literacy. Due to the autonomous nature of CALL programs, ELLs looking to work in a CALL environment should also be self-motivated, with an inherent interest in learning English. A final prerequisite for students considering a CALL approach has to be accessibility. Does the student have access to a computer and the internet? These resources need not be in the home, but students should seek them out in their communities, such as local libraries and career centers.

All things considered, a hybrid approach to English language learning may be the best approach. Combining the flexibility and multidimensionality of online learning with the familiarity of face-to-face interactions increases an ELLs chance for success.

References

Cunningham, K. (2000, May). Integrating CALL into the Writing Curriculum. The Internet TESL Journal, VI(5), . Retrieved from http://iteslj.org/Articles/Cunningham-CALLWriting/

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