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Evaluating Computer-Assisted Language Learning

An Integrated Approach to Effectiveness Research in CALL

Jonathan Leakey

Schools, colleges and universities are investing a great deal in the purchase of computer resources for the teaching of modern languages, but whether these resources make a measurable difference to the learning of language students is still unclear. In this book the author outlines the existing evidence for the impact of computers on language learning and makes the case for an integrated approach to the evaluation of computer-assisted language learning (CALL). Drawing on current and past research linked to CALL and e-learning, the author builds a comprehensive model for evaluating not just the software used in language learning, but also the teaching and learning that takes place in computer-based environments, and the digital platforms themselves. This book will be of interest not only to language teachers and CALL researchers, but also to those interested in e-learning and general research methodology, as well as designers of educational software, digital labs, virtual learning environments (VLEs) and institutional budget holders.

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Chapter 1 - The need for systematic quality control in CALL 1

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Chapter 1 The need for systematic quality control in CALL Introduction New technologies, new literacies and a need to demonstrate their value There have always been sceptics who have doubted whether the computer has anything significant to add to the language learning experience beyond the ‘wow’ factor. Even with the arrival of the modem, broadband, Local Area Networks (LAN), the worldwide web (WWW), Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) and e-learning, doubts have persisted and the absence of clear-cut empirical data demonstrating improved learning has not helped to quell the uncertainty. It is still not really known with any degree of cer- tainty whether computer-assisted language learning (CALL) makes an objective, measurable and significant dif ference to students’ learning. Qualitative studies have been aplenty and these have lent some cre- dence to the educational benefits of new technologies for language learn- ing. The language teacher may now, by means of a computer, deliver the four main language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), teach vocabulary acquisition, grammar tuition, literature, area studies, and also enhance meta-cognitive language learning skills. Computer-mediated com- munication (CMC) and web-enhanced language learning (WELL) have sought to exploit the opportunities to motivate a new generation of lan- guage learners. Within educational institutions we also have ever-improv- ing multimedia language laboratories, interactive whiteboards (IWBs), networked courseware and sophisticated tracking software. Nowadays, language learning can occur through mobile-assisted language learning (MALL), audio-, video- streaming, mp3s, pod-casting and wi-fi – literally, 2 Chapter 1 language learning on the hoof. But can we show...

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