Computer Assisted Language Learning and Second Language Acquisition by to7otmos


									                                                   Claudio Colabianchi
                                                      ISG Norwich

                                        ISG Course MFL 2001
                      Norwich Institute for Language Education

                                   Portfolio: Main Assignment

                   Name: Claudio Colabianchi - Verona - Italy

Computer Assisted Language Learning and Second Language Acquisition

                  (In electronic environments click on underlined items to navigate through the document)

   Synchronous Networked-based communication
   Asynchronous computer conferencing
   Synchronous conferencing
   Audio- and videoconferencing


                                                   Claudio Colabianchi
                                                      ISG Norwich

      The topic of this research is related to learning/teaching languages through computers
      as stand-alone machines and in network environments.

      New forms of delivering teaching with Information and Communication Technology
      (ICT) and their development in recent years will be examined; various types and modes
      of software and activities and their overall potential and validity for second language
      acquisition will be compared. The focus will be on apparently isolated, but fundamental
      and pedagogically meaningful points, aspects and trends, such as computer-based
      testing (CBT), various combinations of synchronous and asynchronous interactions
      such as chat and e-mail, digital video, and unusual programmes such as concordancers.
      Qualitative and quantitative benefits, pedagogical and social implications and relevance
      based on levels, cost, speed, accessibility, viability, complexity, appeal and correlated
      impact, will be explored and examined.

      Conditions for using software such as CD-ROMs and hardware such as stand-alone
      machines and network communication will be comparatively illustrated and analysed,
      focusing on interactional activities, tasks, evaluation and assessment.

      The latest, most essential and extraordinary innovations, issues, and experiments
      discovered in different areas of CALL development in relation to academic research
      will be discussed.

      This research has been possible thanks to several sources such as hard-copy documents,
      reviews, journals, books, and electronic texts on CD-ROMs or retrieved from the
      Internet, this last tool providing fresh and continually updated material for analysis.


Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is playing an increasing role at all levels and in
all fields of education. It affects and determines extensive studies and investigations in many
academic sectors of research. As Warschauer, one of the most eminent computer-assisted language-
learning (CALL) researchers, puts it:

‘Until quite recently, CALL was a topic of relevance mostly to those with a special interest in that
area. Recently, though, computers have become so widespread in schools and homes and their uses
have expanded so dramatically that the majority of language teachers must now begin to think about
the implications of computers for language learning.’1
As a teacher, teacher-trainer and Web designer2, I have experienced and taught how to use many
computer programs such as educational CD-ROMs, developing projects with graphic or

  Warschauer, M. (1996). Computer-assisted language learning: An introduction. In S. Fotos (Ed.), Multimedia
language teaching (pp. 3-20). Tokyo: Logos International.
  These Web sites belong to the sites for language teaching and learning. They incorporate various forms of
communication: text, audio and visual. 1. (teacher trainers’ material) - 2. (on-line exercises and manuals for teachers) - 3.

                                                  Claudio Colabianchi
                                                     ISG Norwich

presentation applications, e.g. MSPowerpoint or MSFront Page for Web sites, and even authoring
software, e.g. Hot Potatoes3, for developing automatic exercises on-line, etc.

The choice of the theme of this research, related to the development of computer-mediated learning,
emerges from a personal, professional concern, which is: ‘Do the traditional CALL programs,
activities, tasks etc. that I have taught, provide useful input and output for effective EFL
acquisition/learning – and if so, how?’

Only recently, on the ISG 2001 course at NILE in Norwich, did I have the opportunity to approach
computers from a different perspective and to reflect intensively on this matter. I received some
stimulating hints on CALL from sessions that I attended with David Eastment, and then I had the
opportunity to find a vast repertoire of resources of correlated literature in books, reviews, journals
and electronic texts on CD-ROMs and on the Internet.

Another issue, which made me reflect and ponder, was: ‘How much of the most recent trends in
EFL instruction is gained through Networked Based Learning?’

In this paper a particular focus will be to find substantial differences, or conjunctions, between
traditional CALL and the latest trends of EFL learning mediated by computers, bearing in mind
experiential and theoretical research.

In my EFL teaching career my own beliefs regarding computers have shifted from an initial
behaviourist domain approach, to a subsequent cognitive framework that satisfied opportunities for
learning through mental processes, to finally embracing the recent theories that embody
constructivism, interactionist and social psychology sciences.

This paper will explore different ways, modes and approaches of language teaching/learning and
language acquisition mediated by computers, examining and laying particular emphasis on
pedagogic beliefs and the degree of impact of different hardware and software such as: CD-ROMs,
e-mail, Hypertext, Multimedia and networked-based learning. I will also consider relevant
contemporary issues of research in relationship to areas of synchronous-asynchronous
communication, authoring software, and the teacher’s role in a context of redefinition of electronic
literacy and training.

In my experience as teacher, I have had the opportunity to carry out a European program of school
partnership, called ‘Transpro’ (European Socrates-Comenius 2.1), by which my students and I
developed projects of ‘on-line quizzes’ exchanged between four European countries. The real
communication that this project enhanced, both through the quizzes and via subsequent e-mail
exchange, establishes and constitutes an element of personal and direct comparison for effective
evaluative reflection.

 I very much agree with Bader’s concern, when, in issues for choosing CALL Software, she says:
‘Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) is difficult to assess, in part, because it requires
expertise in several academic disciplines and little attention has been given to whether particular
programs promote second language acquisition (SLA)’4.

I consider it important that terminology related to language learning via ICT is changing and
becoming increasingly more specific. If the acronym CALL is not to be considered dated today

    Free software downloadable at
    Bader, M. J. (Summer 2000). Choosing CALL Software: Beginning the Evaluation Process. TESOL Journal, 18-21.

                                              Claudio Colabianchi
                                                 ISG Norwich

(2001), it now encompasses a larger area in evolution with branches both in the fields of
methodological and practice developments, and in which Network-based Language Teaching
(NBLT) is of prominent importance. Computer Applications in second language acquisition
(CASLA), Computer-adaptive testing (CAT), Computer-mediated communication (CMC),
Computer assisted second language research (CASLR) are other current subjects of professional
discussion and research.

                                THE RISE AND FALL OF CD-ROM

In the 90s, for several years, I illustrated, demonstrated and encouraged the use of CD-ROMs, on
courses for both students and for teachers. Like a traditional CALL program, the use of CD-ROMs
has provided evidence of useful qualities in relation to repetitive practice, gap-filling activities,
multiple-choice practice, text reconstruction mix and match, etc.5As learning tools, CD-ROMs can
fit into the language syllabus for the immediate and high degree of exposure to language to which
one can gain access to through it, and because they foster self-access and learner independence, and
their ‘game-like’ characteristics potentially reinforce and enable motivation. I have supported this
tool as it represents a unique model for a self-study course respecting the learner’s own pace and
rhythm, and has demonstrated evident benefits especially for language consolidation. The teacher
will never be replaced by CD-ROMs, s/he is irreplaceable and necessary as a tutor to mediate and
balance, to complement grammatical patterns and functional suitability, to show and to control the
practicability of an activity and to focus attention on particular items at the right time.

‘There is a complex issue, and there is no easy answer to the question of the optimum ratio between
teacher contact time and learning from technology. One guideline is to keep the balance clearly
tipped in favour of teacher contact time, while allowing the technology to enhance the course and
help optimize learning, whenever appropriate’6. The CD-ROM lends itself to individualized
learning due to the immediate and unlimited possibilities of access to grammatical items or
functions, without connecting to the Internet. Every type of learner personality, be it predominantly
auditory, visual, kinaesthetic, analytical, introverted or extroverted, can find the most suitable way
of learning according to the findings of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. The visual learner can
profit from the wealth of images and graphics, the auditory one will find suitable stimuli from the
sounds and recorded language available on CD-ROMs and the kinaesthetic student can enjoy
operating on the keyboard, and so on. Using CD-ROMs has a great value for young and for low
level learners, especially those with ‘an exotic mother-tongue, such as an oriental language’7 due to
their game-like characteristics and the availability of consolidation exercises which they

The chunks of language presented are sometimes less complex than those of genuine
communication, and the adaptations that may occur can sometimes be close to a simplified
‘motherese’. Nevertheless, using CD-ROMs can also meet other requirements, such as easy and
instant access to specialised language (ESP), i.e. business, technical English, etc.

  Hardisty, D. & Windeatt, S. (1989). CALL, OUP.
  Sharma, P. (1998). CD-ROM, A Teacher’s Handbook, Summertown Publishing.
  Sharma, P. (ibidem)

                                                  Claudio Colabianchi
                                                     ISG Norwich

Cost, market affordability and absence of time restrictions are other advantageous factors to be
considered. The teacher can easily individualize tasks for almost every different level of learner in
the same class.

Feedback remains a crucial point. Some researchers maintain that as long as feedback consists, of
right/wrong responses without any other prompt for correction, it can lead to a certain degree of
demotivation both of learner and of the teacher. This is, in any case, a controversial issue because
some studies maintain that students want, and have to discover the correct answer on their own;
other researchers, however, support the idea that students need ‘intelligent’ 8 feedback, that is to see
the correct item and possibly have also an explanation of errors.
Many discs can be more or less appropriate to the syllabus, some need to be scanned and selected to
be suitable to the ‘chunks’ of language that are being learned. In a rapidly expanding market one
can find CD-ROMs that are, unfortunately, reminiscent of the grammar practice activities of the
1960s. Teachers who feel that the students receive only a limited drill-based practice have moved
forward to a new ICT methodology that can provide a more genuine form of communication with
more effective and realistic feedback, based on negotiation of meaning, as we can see below when
dealing with e-mail or chat interaction.

                                           TOWARDS E-MAIL

In my teaching practice, I have been involved in an international project of school partnership,
called Transpro. This project belongs to the European educational program Comenius 3.2. It
consisted of a semester long exchange of thematic quizzes9 (sport, music, logic games, etc.) among
four countries: Italy, Greece, Spain and the Czech Republic. The students’ project tasks were to
prepare a set of text- and graphic-based quizzes to send by e-mail every month to their European
partners’ schools. The results, showing the final scores, were then sent to every participating class.
In the meantime, some students, who found this activity highly motivating because of the
genuineness of the competition, engaged in a key-pal correspondence exchange either through their
personal e-mail or through the one available at school. Students were allowed to write and reply
freely to school partners. The teacher’s role consisted in creating situations to involve them in
meaningful instances of communication, clarifying doubts, fine-tuning and helping in eliciting
learners’ self-corrections. Students were engaged both in the What and in the How of writing e-
mails, but their interest was mainly focused on the semantic content of their messages. This project
was greatly appreciated by students because they were performing and conducting a process of
authentic communication. There was a sense of satisfaction when everyone realized that the time
had arrived to move on from the quite boring and demotivating ‘simulations’ assigned so far.

Some investigations link the value and qualities of e-mail electronic communication to Krashen’s
hypotheses about unconscious language acquisition, others to the opposite theory (see below
Chapelle, ‘Research on CALL’) which maintains that ‘noticing form is necessary to learning’ 10.

In a quite appealing, even if rather controversial article11, Aitsiselmi deems that e-mail interaction
offers the possibility of addressing both language acquisition’s ‘unconscious process, which is
  Nagata, N. (1993). Intelligent computer feedback for second language instruction. Modern Language Journal, 77(3),
  International quizzes on-line.
   Robinson, P. (1995). Attention, memory and the noticing hypothesis. Language Learning.

                                                     Claudio Colabianchi
                                                        ISG Norwich

responsible for fluency’ and learning’s ‘conscious process, which monitors language rules’. He adds
that ‘if we assume that acquisition is central and learning secondary, e-mail is a stimulating way for
promoting language acquisition through authentic communicative activities’.

He then affirms that in e-mail interaction the affective filter is at its lowest, considering the ease and
tranquility with which this activity is carried out by his students.

He finds even more consensus when he maintains that e-mail, unlike paper correspondence, ‘offers
the possibility to replace a deferred exchange in the present time’ and since the original message
can be automatically included in the writer’s reply, it produces a question/answer format which is
closest to the synchronous exchanges of teenagers’ most appreciated ‘chatting’.

Learners like e-mail activities and furthermore feel comfortable with the intrinsic word processing
features that they incorporate such as e.g. copying, pasting, drag-and-dropping, so that even the
most reluctant and technophobic students are changing their minds and greeting it with enthusiasm.
Other advantages and evidence to consider for using e-mail at school are: speed, possibility of
receiving and delivering any type of file as attachments, natural tendency to use a ‘talky-written’
language, low cost in relationship to the quality and quantity of the message, flexibility in
negotiating meaning and the ease in finding the school’s database for exchange.

                                           THE STATE OF THE ART

The recent dramatic change and the (r)evolution of Information and Communication Technology
(ICT) increases the theoretical and methodological CALL areas, uncovering new perspectives,
possibilities and combinations in relationship to the past years.

In the vast repertoire of proliferating technological educational tools the connection between
technology, learning theories and methods is very strict.

Not long ago, computers were mainly employed as drilling machines responding to a behaviourist
teaching model based on stimulus-response (see below the explanatory table ‘The Three Stages of
CALL’), encouraging and implementing programmed instruction, exercises and authoring

Later cognitivism, concerned with what goes on inside the brain, inspired the development of a
large number of ‘Artificial Intelligence’ programmes, such as the very popular LOGO 12. With the
aim of activating the learner’s mental processing, the most widely used types of software were the
word processor, graphic and simulation programmes.

Subsequently, the latest theories of constructivism determined the historical shift from the centrality
of the teacher, transmitting a body of knowledge, to the centrality of the learner.

11   Aitsiselmi, F. (1999). Second Language Acquisition through e-mail interaction. ReCaLL 11:2 Newsletter (available
      on the World Wide Web)
     Simple programming language used at elementary level aimed at instruction of logic, invented by Seymour Papert.

                                             Claudio Colabianchi
                                                ISG Norwich

Today’s powerful Internet and multimedia computers offer unexpected and immense possibilities
for learning environments.

The learner is at the centre of the learning/teaching process; s/he has become an active subject, is
more independent, explores, constructs and collaboratively creates paths of knowledge.

In this new context, the teacher’s role is that of activator, facilitator, counsellor and mentor.

The focus has moved from the idea of what to teach, to how to teach.

CALL activities are negotiated between teacher and learner and are based on the Internet, WWW,
e-mail, chat, e-video and forum discussions in multimedia and hyper-textual settings.

Genuine, real-time communication based on authentic language is now a common medium in
genuine learning situations where learners are often engaged in problem solving or case discussion
activities with distant peers.

The shift from a product-oriented to a process-oriented idea of teaching aims at the acquisition of
skills and strategies that redefine the student as a ‘lifelong learner’.

In ICT-based lessons the learner has the possibility of both improving in the target language and of
acquiring relevant technological skills: i.e. using the hardware and software to perform the tasks,
handling information while navigating and selecting in hypermedia, using search engines,
exchanging writing through e-mail or chat, videoconferencing, discussing, mediating and reporting
in forums, as well as in mailing lists or newsgroups.

The extent of autonomy and independence that a learner can reach through distance learning
represents a considerable educational added value.

These issues, together with the implementation of hypermedia, have led/pushed many CALL-
engaged teachers to re-think their roles, to reflect about acquiring new literacies, to reformulate
objectives, to re-plan methodologies and to redefine their rapport with learners, school and society.

                                The Three Stages of CALL
Stage         1970s-1980s:             1980s-                      21stCentury:
              Structural CALL         1990s:Communicative          Integrative CALL
Technology    Mainframe                PCs                         Multimedia and

                                                    Claudio Colabianchi
                                                       ISG Norwich

English-      Grammar-                        Communicative                Content-Based,
Teaching      Translation &                   Language Teaching            ESP/EAP
Paradigm      Audio-Lingual
View of       Structural                     Cognitive                     Socio-cognitive
Language      (formal-structural            (mentally-constructed          (developed in social
              system)                       system)                        interaction)
Principal Use Drill and Practice             Communicative Exercises       Authentic Discourse
of Computers
Principal     Accuracy                        Fluency                      And Agency
(Based on Kern R., & Warschauer, M.(2000). Networked-based Language Teaching: Concepts and Practice. CUP)


More and more teachers, who considered computers almost as enemies and approached them with a
sense of hostility in the recent past, are now, thanks to user-friendlier multimedia, increasing their
electronic literacy and feel computers are good, powerful and reliable allies in the field of

A framework of reference needs to be drawn in the plethora of software, hardware and network
tools used i.e. intranet and the Internet, in relationship to the different levels of learning/teaching,
ranging from the elementary to the academic level.

As mentioned above the transformation and the development of technologies have had strong
repercussions, not only on social life, but also at school, changing methods, styles and approaches
to learning /teaching.

Warschauer13, analysing the evolution from the 70s mainframe to today’s personal computers, has
outlined a number of considerable changes and the impact they have had on forms of behaviour and
on features of education in the 21st century. These important changes range from phone-based
wireless communication with computers in every classroom in developed countries, to permanent
direct connections, to on-line devices like operating systems, to very powerful broadband capable of
delivering 10 Megabytes per second.

Other tangible evidence to mention regards the fall in cost of ICT and consequently a massive/wider
mass affordability, development of communication from text to audiovisual, dropping of the
quantity of pages from English to multilingual Web (even if English will still be used for most
international communication!), an educational change in children growing with ‘native-like’
fluency for the Internet.

     Warschauer, M. (2001). The death of cyberspace and the rebirth of CALL. In IATEFL, CALL in the 21ST Century.

                                            Claudio Colabianchi
                                               ISG Norwich

‘It is no longer just a matter of using e-mail and the Internet to help teach English, but also of
teaching English to help people learn to write e-mail and use the Internet’14.

The new required literacies and skills, both for teachers and for learners, include: selecting and
choosing internal or external links, finding, archiving, interpreting, citing information, making
critical decisions and judgment.

New genres will substitute essay skills with mastering multimedia and electronic communication,
while long-distance inquiry, authoring and publishing hypermedia are tasks to be carried out.

The new identities are those perceived by a global cybernetic youth movement which has acquired
the new literacy, carrying with itself all its good and bad effects (e.g. pernicious international cyber
attacks on public or private institutions).

As Warschauer15 puts it, ‘The new pedagogies to be considered are the switch from a
communicative CALL to a more complete integrative CALL’. While the former was based on
communicative exercises for practising English, the latter is based on socio-affective views of
language learning intended in new discourse communities.

‘The purpose of studying English is,’ adds Warschauer, ‘not just to ‘know it’ but it increasingly
consists of becoming aware of getting the skills to ‘be able to use it to have a real impact on the

New literacies are developing ‘new perspectives addressed not only to reading the word but also to
reading the world and to… re-writing it’.


           1.   CONCORDANCERS
           3.   COMPUTER BASED TESTS (CBT)

     Warschauer, M. (2001). (ibid)
     Warschauer, M. (2001). (ibid)

                                                  Claudio Colabianchi
                                                     ISG Norwich

                                  1. CONCORDANCERS

Besides e-mail, other ways of delivering teaching via authentic writing, but this time mainly on CD-
ROMs, and on which little research has been done, are concordancing programmes. Most teachers
do not know these corpus-based programmes, and thus of course do not use them. ‘It is a surprise
that not many teachers are using corpora’16, affirms C. Tribble.

The software we consider is based on linguistic corpora. ‘A Corpus is a collection of texts which are
held on computer and which can be analysed for purposes of language description’17. One can very
quickly ask the program to search through the corpus selecting every example of the search word
shown in its context. ‘Concordancers allow teacher and learners to go straight to the primary source
of language itself rather than secondary sources like dictionaries and grammars which contain
someone else’s interpretation’18. This is probably the best way of providing, with authentic
examples of language, frequency and patterns of use. This corpus-informed approach to language
learning and teaching has proved to be a good means for extending the understanding of how
certain words work and serves well for improving appropriacy, positioning of words, developing
provisional rules and making comparative lexical analogies or contrasting roles. Concordancing
programs can be used for teaching purposes, for example in the case of confusion between
‘practice’ and ‘practise’ in British English. Popular programmes like ‘mixed micro-corpus’,
containing business-, sports- and health-related texts, provide exemplification and clarify
appropriate use. Most academic applications and experiments conducted so far are generally aimed
at specialised vocabulary to make comparative studies of the actual use of the language, to study
citations, to improve extensive creative writing or for business communication. An example of
procedure to introduce students to (academic) discourse is: ‘Look, familiarise, practise, and create a
piece of writing’.

Re-elaboration of the data can be done on word processors or on spreadsheets. Students seem to like
this way of learning as they declare: ‘it is like word games’. The commonest concordancing
programmes are e.g. MicroConcord (OUP), WordSmith tools or MonoConc 1.5 and Pro.

                         2. DIGITAL VIDEO AND MIX MEDIA

Interesting research has been conducted in the field of multimedia, in their combination, and
particularly in digital video. Differing from analogue video, digital video is usually of high quality
and it can be surrounded by and linked to a variety of learning material. Digital video lends itself
better to varied and various, useful, versatile operations, e.g. composing, editing, instant cueing,

   Tribble, C. (2000). Practical uses for language corpora in ELT. In A special interest in computers. IATEFL.
   Tribble, C. (2000). ( ibid)
   Thurston, J. (2001). The use of concordancing for vocabulary teaching and language awareness. In CALL in the 21 st
   Century CD-ROM. IATEFL.

                                                      Claudio Colabianchi
                                                         ISG Norwich

rewind, and tracking. The common tasks and activities that a teacher can devise, by freezing a video
clip, range from information gaps to jigsaw viewing and questionnaires, for example.

Knowing a video file extension is important for issues of ‘compatibility’ and in relationship to
memory capacity. Video file extensions can be identified by their labels i.e. -avi., -mov., -mpg.,

The object of this research is to find out the latest discoveries in e-video linked to other media and
its relevance for learning a second language.

As Paul Brett maintains: ‘video indicates that its use increases comprehension of L2 speech, it
develops listening skills and may have a positive effect on the learning of grammatical

Assuming all the advantages that multimedia has as a learning medium through the combination of
sound, pictures, graphic and text, attention must be paid to the ‘mix mode’ of the media used.
Contemporary academic research, conducted by Brett, 20has demonstrated that some combinations
may be efficacious, others less efficient or inefficient. For example, video more than audio alone,
increases listening skills due to the fact that learners experience the full dynamic of language

All paralinguistic features of communication: i.e. face-to-face, gestures, appearances, dress and
other cultural elements that are available, may assist understanding. Comprehension also improves
when lip-synch is involved. Subtitled video has given evidence of increased ‘recall’ and ‘reuse’ of
the original lexicon of the spoken text. Subtitles and sound can be combined beneficially in various
ways: L2 subtitles combined with L1 sound, but also L2 subtitles combined with L2 sound.

Some recent trends on SLA research, depart from Krashen’s theory (which maintains that input
must be comprehensible) deem that acquisition can also be promoted when input is not
comprehensible, since it can be made comprehensible by ‘interactional modifications to mend
communication breakdowns, requests for clarification, confirmation checks, etc.’

Subtitles, on-line dictionaries and links to comprehension tasks provide the resources for modifying
interaction and so may help learners to better understand.

If the benefit is derived from processing information presented simultaneously through two modes,
i.e. verbal and visual information, then ‘conversely, when different information is conveyed
simultaneously through both processing channels, then processing is likely to be less efficient’ 21.

Conditions of over-stimulation, cognitive overload, distraction and fatigue are to be avoided, as they
are not helpful for learning and memory. Brett maintains that including subtitles in L2 multimedia is
useful because reading skills are more efficient for comprehension than listening skills, and anyway
concludes that a teacher must be aware regarding the ‘right mix of media’, because ‘more media
does not always mean better recall’.

     Brett, P. (2001). Too many media in the multimedia? A study of the effects of combinations of media on a recall task.
     In CALL in the 21 st Century CD-ROM. IATEFL.
   Brett, P. (2000). Using computer-based digital video in language learning. In A special interest in computers.
   Brett, P. (2001).ibid.

                                                     Claudio Colabianchi
                                                        ISG Norwich

                            3. COMPUTER BASED TESTS (CBT)

With the aim of reducing labour and cost, computers have played a key role in testing in the USA
since 1935. Multiple-choice has been the most used test item for years. The machines made possible
cheap and efficient automatic marking. Many efforts have been made to reduce the element of
chance in objective item types. ‘The reason why multiple choice items have been used so much for
a century is not some innate reliability of the item type, but the simple fact that it can be scored so
easily by a machine’22

Scorability, distinguished from reliability, remains an area of concern in active research of CBT.
Another important issue is what one wants the test to measure, because multimedia may change the
nature of the construct being measured. Concerns are felt and raised about the validity of a
multimedia test, due to the fact that different clues can influence results and scoring. Scoring may
depend in some cases on visual clues of the medium, on test construct or error.

The most advanced development in the last decade has been Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT). In
CAT, the computer, through algorithms, selects automatically the next item for the test taker,
depending on the response. As Fulcher maintains ‘CATs have been possible by extensive use of
Item Response Theory, and the development of algorithms that drive the test program to select and
deliver test items, score responses, and provide immediate feedback to test-takers.’

The major advantages of CAT are: individualization of tests, reduction of test items for test-takers,
instant results, test security due to the fact that the algorithm selects a more difficult item for
learners who get the response to the previous item correct, and easier items for learners who answer
many items incorrectly. The disadvantages associated with CATs are the cost and time consumed to
prepare sufficiently calibrated item banks.

Bernstein23 reports on the development of PhonePass, a test of speaking conducted over the
telephone with a computer, which is able to match pronunciation. A contribution to the research
project is e-rater, a program suitable for building models of individual writing and for testing essay

                             NETWORKED-BASED LANGUAGE TEACHING

A) Synchronous Networked-based communication
B) Asynchronous computer conferencing
C) Synchronous conferencing
D) Audio- and videoconferencing

     Fulcher, G. (2000). Computers in language testing. In A special interest in computers. IATEFL.
     Bernstein, J. (1999). PhonePass. Testing: Structure and Construct. Available on-line:

                                                  Claudio Colabianchi
                                                     ISG Norwich

Traditionally, CALL has been associated with programmed applications such as tutorials, drills,
simulations, instructional games and tests. The new side of CALL, Networked-based language
teaching (NBLT), however, is accomplished by using computers which are connected to one
another in either local (LAN) or global networks and the emphasis is on the communication
between humans. NLBT is not a particular technique, method or approach. It is an expansion of
CALL in which on-line texts and multimedia documents increasingly engage new discourse in
virtual communities. This engagement takes place in different modes through socio-cultural
interactions via a local net or the Internet. Several studies and investigations have been conducted to
discover pedagogical implications, characteristics and efficiency related, for example, to
synchronous and asynchronous networked environments, audio-and audiovisual conferencing; all of
which are aimed at peer-composition projects, peer tutoring and collaborative learning.

A) Synchronous Networked-based communication (NBC), such as chatting, presents
characteristics that recall, in mode and structure, oral interaction i.e. in turn-taking or interruptions.
In several trials, this form-focused activity has demonstrated tangible benefits for learning since it
has proved to foster negotiation of meaning. Learners negotiate over all aspects of the discourse and
work cooperatively, thus facilitating mutual comprehension. As Pellettieri puts it, ‘NBC chatting
can play a significant role in the development of grammatical competence among classroom
language learners’24. Negotiation taking place through repetitions, checks, echo-questions and re-
casts provides enhanced language input and thus messages become more comprehensible. Modified
output occurs when learners notice a form problem, and are provided either with explicit or implicit
corrective feedback by the other conversant. ‘Ytalk’ working on ‘Unix’ operating systems is the
software Pellettieri used in her investigations. This software permits splitting the screen into two
parts: at the top, the writer can see her/his text and at the bottom, the conversant’s reply, letter by
letter as it is typed (conversely, InterChange – see below in Synchronous conferencing – shows only
the final version of the partner’s composed utterances). In this way the two interlocutors co-
construct the discourse ‘on the wing’, much as in oral interaction. Another useful and recommended
piece of software, which has helped in this very accurate study to better reflect and analyse learners’
self-correction, is NCSA Telnet. It allows the automatic capture and storage of transcripts of every
single interaction i.e. backspaces and keystrokes for more profound data analyses.

B) Investigations made with Asynchronous computer conferencing, a kind of newsgroup restricted
to members, have demonstrated significant benefits in writing production. The study conducted by
Davis and Thiede25 focused on issues of style in socio-cultural imitation, adjustment and
accommodation between L1 and L2 learners.

In a setting of a ‘learning community on-line’, participants can freely and spontaneously intervene
in writing to each other. This activity differs from other asynchronous information exchanges, such
e-mail or newsgroups, in that conferencing software archives and threads all writing, as long as the
conference is stored on his host. All messages from all participants are equally available and
arranged topically. The software used for this research, ‘VAX-Notes’, allows the splitting of the
screen into two parts: one for the message to be read and one for the message to be composed. The
experiments, conducted on Asian students, examined their shifting in written style related to
discourse conventions such as approbation, agreement and alignment. After the trial, the learners

   Pellettieri, J. (2000). Negotiating in cyberspace. In, Kern R., Warschauer M., (2000) Networked-based language
teaching: Concepts and Practice. CUP.
   Davis, B. & Thiede, R. (2000) Style shifting in asynchronous electronic discourse. , Kern R., Warschauer M., (2000)
Networked-based language teaching: Concepts and Practice. CUP.

                                              Claudio Colabianchi
                                                 ISG Norwich

showed an increased degree of linguistic awareness and control. They improved their stylistic skills
in accommodating to social status and discourse conventions. The use of politeness indicators i.e.
compliments, etc., was evidence of social negotiation and reflection.
Acquisition of more sophisticated/complex syntactic and lexical items is also a significant benefit of
this discovery-based collaborative learning environment.

C) In ‘Computer and collaborative writing in the foreign language curriculum’ Schulz 26maintains
that Synchronous conferencing sessions can produce very good results in learning writing
composition. She compares the advantages received from ‘written discussion’ to ‘face-to-face
discussion’ in a process of peer-to-peer editing with the aid of ‘Inter-Change’ software, even if she
concludes with thought-provoking observations regarding the differences between oral and written
communication. Using InterChange, students type their messages on the bottom half of a split
screen. When they hit “Enter”, messages are instantaneously posted (with the name of the writer) on
the top half of their own screen and everyone else’s. Messages on the top half are continually posted
in chronological order. Users can scroll back and forth to re-read previous messages if they wish.
Students are allowed to communicate with one another via networked computer stations in real time
and can ‘talk’ all at the same time, thus producing more extensive feedback, group-responses,
suggestions etc. from peers. Modifications and improvement in writing composition occur and refer
mainly to content, style, discourse organization and some areas of grammar. The focus of this study
concentrates on the principle and on the positive outcome that ‘seeing writing’ has on the process of
learning writing composition. Schulz debates the different effects of visual computer-mediated
discussion, i.e. through learners’ exchange and correction of written drafts, and of verbal discussion.
The former seems to provide a more immediate comprehension of the specific, while the latter may
have more generalized but also more profound impact. She concludes that a fusion of the two
interactive modes, namely a mix of written and face-to-face discussion, can produce radical changes
in some students’ papers and superior results in writing development.

D) Projects with broadband telecommunications networks suitable for Audio- and
videoconferencing have been conducted to establish reciprocal ‘peer-to-peer tutoring’ in the target
language. Through this project, called LEVERAGE27, British and French students, learners of
French and English respectively, have supported each other negotiating, building consensus and
maintenance, and repairing their target language. The subjects examined have been engaged in task-
based approaches i.e. advertising, bidding for a contract, etc. Explorations of problems, thinking
and reflections of the learners have been opportunities for framing, planning, monitoring, evaluating
semantic and syntactic issues, for constructing new concepts and new meaning in a collaborative
environment via audio and visual channel (through high-bandwidth: 25 Mbits ATM network cards).
Contextualisation, authentic language, socially and culturally situated forms of learning/teaching

 Schulz, J.M. (2000). ‘Computer and collaborative writing in the foreign language curriculum’., ,In Kern R.,
Warschauer M., (2000) . Networked-based language teaching: Concepts and Practice. CUP.
  Zähner, C. & Fauverge, A. & Wong, J. (2000). Task-based learning via audiovisual networks. In , Kern R.,
Warschauer M., (2000) Networked-based language teaching: Concepts and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

                                                Claudio Colabianchi
                                                   ISG Norwich

and engagement in real-time constructive discourse, i.e. on how to plan a report with the other
group members (three students at different sites), are factors that gained the favour both of learners
and teachers.

                                         RESEARCH ON CALL

Recent academic research tries to clarify the criteria for CALL evaluation and focuses on the
concept that a second language is acquired through interactions (interactionalist SLA models), by
which meaning is negotiated allowing a ‘focus on form’.

Separate and specific areas of investigation are clearly and rigorously defined, namely: computer-
assisted language learning (CALL), computer-assisted language testing (CALT), and computer-
assisted second language research CASLR.

Chapelle28 deems that the best, most thorough way of investigating in this field is the study of SLA
theories, maintaining also the urgent need for evaluation, not only of CALL, but also of CALT and
CASLR. According to her, Computer-assisted second language acquisition (CASLA) should
encompass different sectors of CALL: educational technology, computer-supported collaborative
learning (CSCL), artificial intelligence, computational linguistics, corpus linguistics, and computer-
assisted assessment.

Based on the principle that evaluating CALL is complex and cannot be reduced to only considering
its outcome, as it can be influenced by multiple factors, she maintains that the variables to be
examined range from status, to medium and strategies used, to classroom discourse, pre-technical
training, socio-cultural contexts and even ideologies. For example an average student from Japan,
where technology is strictly connected to political choices, would obviously have a totally different
interaction and approach to learning with computers as compared with a student from less
industrialised countries.
Chapelle affirms that to improve CALL evaluation, the criteria used should incorporate findings and
theory-based speculations about ideal cognitive and socio-affective conditions for SLA. She also
debates CALL task appropriateness considered from different perspectives: language learning
potential, learner fit, meaning focus, authenticity, positive impact, and practicality. Judgmental
evaluation of CALL software and empirical evaluation of learners' performance are essential
conditions she propounds to support her theories. In CALL, the evaluation of learning potential
appears to be the most important aspect on which to reflect.

She also engages with computer-assisted language testing and asserts that the more appropriate a
test is to circumstances, the more valid the test is. Construct validity is central in test evaluation,
while other evaluative factors e.g. reliability, authenticity, interactivity, positive impact and
practicality, are considered secondary. She stresses the necessity for professionals to collaboratively
develop software that integrates assessment and instruction with L2 learning and SLA research.

  Chapelle, C.A. (2001). Computer Applications in Second Language Acquisition: Foundations for teaching, testing
and research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

                                                     Claudio Colabianchi
                                                        ISG Norwich

To fulfil this accomplishment, she appeals to team-work developers for the implementation of
programmes like Prolog (to test grammaticality), Authorware, WebCT, of markup languages like
DHTML or XML (that allow particular highlighting of e.g. verbs or nouns with the aim to focus on
‘form’), and of high-level, multi-platform programming languages like JAVA.


This study has tried to review the recent trends, innovations, programmes, and the significant
methodological changes that have taken place in the field of CALL at the beginning of the 21 st

Attention has been focused on different approaches of computer-mediated learning considering
pedagogical and technological aspects.

Based both on empirical and theoretical findings, this analysis demonstrates that CALL is shifting
the focus from the use of traditional CD-ROM and stand-alone machines to network-based
environments, the latter favouring synchronous, asynchronous and conferencing communication.
The positive feedback of Internet, e-mail and chat-based learning has proved to be effective, due to
the ‘interaction among learners’ engaged in real time and authentic discourse. The most noticeable
keywords that often appear to emerge from these learning processes are: ‘negotiating’ meaning
while and through chatting, which once relegated to teenagers’ enjoyment and neglected in
teaching is now being re-evaluated as one of the most efficacious means for developing fluency.

Contemporaneously, the alluring results obtained from these activities are encouraging and pushing
EFL committed CALL teachers to engage in new literacies, to rethink their role, to reshape
methodology and syllabi.

Some considerations, reflections and elements of this investigation will probably be shortly
surpassed and outdated, as a natural consequence of the fast obsolescence of the subjects treated,
that, in parallel with computers, have short lives and will be quickly replaced by more qualitative
and powerful implementations.

Technology, anyhow, is not a fashion and it will not disappear, nor will it be eliminated; conversely,
it will continually grow and develop, and it will be always welcomed not only by consumerist
techno-addicted, but also by the most reluctant and difficult to convince, humanistic individuals.

The equation, computer = method, has always been an issue for CALL evaluation and should be
firmly rejected. As pointed out by Garret29 ‘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. The effectiveness of CALL cannot reside in the medium itself but only in
how it is put to use’.

     Garrett, N. (1991). Technology in the service of language learning: Trends and issues. Modern Language Journal.

                                                   Claudio Colabianchi
                                                      ISG Norwich

It is fundamental that projects, design, software, applications, hardware, multimedia and networks
are strictly based on principles of SLA, that is on cognitive processes, on general learning strategies
and pedagogical theories.

In the very near future a further field of investigation will also probably have to consider the
cultural and socio-psycholinguistic aspects and implications of telephone-based contrived written
messages, enhanced by the Short message service (SMS) and their next diabolic developments,
UMTS, EMS, etc.

If e-mail is surpassing spoken-based, telephone call use, as Warschauer asserts, these keyboard-
integrated hybrid telephone systems are already going to surpass both, whilst writing increasingly
seems to assume, more than speaking, a preminent role of centrality in (in)human communication.


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                                                   Claudio Colabianchi
                                                      ISG Norwich

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                                                     ISG Norwich

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CALICO Journal Duke University 014 Language Center Box90267 Durham, NC27708-0267 U.S.A.
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                                                   Claudio Colabianchi
                                                      ISG Norwich

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                                                  Claudio Colabianchi
                                                     ISG Norwich


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