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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 6 - Case Study 1: Evaluating digital platforms 133

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Chapter 6 Case Study 1: Evaluating digital platforms Introduction and definitions By definition, a platform is foundational, a launch-pad for software; one might also see it as a skeleton, with software as the muscle. Without plat- form or software, CALL pedagogy is homeless. For this reason digital platforms are the first of the three ‘P’s that will be looked at, programs the second ‘P’ and pedagogy the third. Each ‘P’ has its own separate iden- tity and may be evaluated separately, and usually is. Like modern medi- cine which, since the discrediting of diagnosis of illness by means of the humours, has tended to look at the individual parts of the body for the causes of disease rather than the whole system, ef fectiveness research has tended to be atomistic rather than holistic. Such measurement is easier, having fewer variables to deal with and being, therefore, a more precise science. This narrowly-focused approach may, however, sometimes miss the wood for the trees. The Case Studies look at the three ‘P’s and their sub-elements as sepa- rate entities, then step back and look at the whole. Their overarching goal is to see how the one ‘P’ relates to and interacts with the others and see if there is a synergy at work. Platforms, like programs and pedagogies, can dif fer vastly from one to the next, are designed to meet functional and human needs, and have the capacity to motivate, surprise, and infuriate. They can enhance, or detract from, the performance...

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