Archive for June, 2012

In many schools, new classrooms are designed according to the technological changes and they are called as Smart Classes. One of the main components of these classrooms is the Interactive White Boards (IWB) and it is considered as an inevitable part of these smart classes. It is for sure that they might have some advantages; however, do they really deserve the money paid for them; and, are the teachers and students ready to use IWBs in their classrooms?  I have some doubts about these IWBs.

When we look at the article reviewed, it was stated;

the arrival of new technologies in the language classroom is a complicating factor, creating a second, technological, hegemony where teachers are under pressure to use new equipment and software, and to do so within the new constructivist framework.

As mentioned in the article, the importance of constructivist approaches has always been mentioned in the studies related to the use of CALL tools and teachers are expected and suggested to follow the constructivist approach if they are implementing CALL tools into their classrooms.

This study was carried out in state schools in France and Germany with the teachers using IWBs in their own classrooms. The teaching activities and models of these teachers were observed and at the end of the study it was found that teachers were using methods ranging from traditional grammar-translation through behaviorist drilling, to more communicative and constructivist models of task- and project-based learning despite the fact that constructivist approaches had the hegemony over the aforementioned methods and approaches. The methods and approaches in the classroom were shaped by variety of factors, such as teacher cognition and particular teaching contexts.

At the end of the data analysis, some activities and materials were grouped according to the methods. For example, stories & songs and vocabulary activities (bingo, hangman, etc.) were categorized as traditional methods; opening routines & vocabulary drills (flashcards, physical response etc.) were samples of behaviorist approach; guessing games were analyzed as communicative approach, and, finally, the use of video conferencing project and other potential projects were listed as task-based project.

In this study, it was clearly mentioned that the use of technological tools does not guarantee the implementation of constructivist approach and teachers’ cognition and the features of the context determine the methods used in the classroom. It was also mentioned;

The widespread introduction of IWBs was justified by the rhetoric of ‘positive transformation,’ the technology was installed in schools before an appropriate investigation of its educational potential could be conducted to inform training and lead to effective exploitation. Indeed, critics of the IWB have pointed out that one of its drawbacks is the fact that it can be easily assimilated into teachers’ traditional pedagogical practice, thus leading to patterns of technology use that simply replicate previous practice.

This case is quite similar in Turkey. The Ministry of Education has attempted to install IWBs in all schools and provide tablet PCs to all students in order to improve the quality of the education. However, we should ask whether all teachers are ready for this change. Not only the older teachers but also the young teachers are not ready for these IWBs.

In addition to these, I personally do not believe that IWBs are among the quite essential components of smart classes and they are needed for implementing CALL tools into our classes. An IWB without any installed software is not very different from the traditional white boards. Firstly, the schools should pay for the IWBs and then they should purchase some educational software programs. Moreover, these programs are mostly designed for a specific course and schools should purchase different software programs for each course which is quite expensive for a state school. If the teacher knows how to use a computer and overhead projector effectively, s/he could easily do whatever can be done with IWBs.

Follow the link in order to read the original article: http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2012/cutrimschmidwhyte.pdf

Cutrim Schmid, Euline & Whyte, Shona (2012). Interactive Whiteboards in State School Settings: Teacher Responses to Socio-constructivist Hegemonies. Language Learning and Technology, 16(2); 65-86.

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This article is a state-of-the-art article about the use of technology in language learning and teaching with some commentaries of the author. In this article, the intended audience is researchers studying upon language learning and technology. Although some implications for teaching are also available in the article, those implications are about conducting an action research, particularly about the telecollaboration. There are some important points to consider before deciding to conduct a research by means of telecollaboration.

The aim of the article is to present the current controversies in the field of CALL and literature review of CALL with recommendations for teaching, research and further research. This article is composed of three sections – four controversies related to information and communication technologies, research findings, and implications for teaching and research. In the first section, the controversies are related to the status of CALL, theoretical grounding for technology based teaching and research, notions of effectiveness, and cultural neutrality of the computers. In the second section, research findings are categorized under three headings – computer mediated communication, electronic literacy and telecollaboration; and in the final section, the implications for teaching, research and further research are mentioned.

There is a section in the article asking “Should CALL still be called CALL?” on which I really think about in recent years. Actually, it is mentioned by Richard that computers are used very commonly in our daily lives and thus it should not be used as a separate device:

Given the high level of integration of digital technology in people’s everyday lives in many (but not all) parts of the world, Warschauer (1999a) has argued that the term computer-assisted language learning has outgrown its usefulness as a construct for teaching and research. The problem, Warschauer states, is that a CALL framework posits the computer as an “outside instrument rather than as part of the ecology of language use” (n.p.). While this may have been fine in the early days of CALL when computers were used to perform structural drills, it is no longer appropriate when online communication has become a normal part of daily life. For Warschauer, the use of computers should not be framed as a special case but rather as an integral aspect of language learning and language use (184-185).

As it is mentioned in the article, computers are integrated into our lives and we can not think of language learning and teaching without technology. Although we do not use them in our classes, we use them for our professional development, for developing personal learning network or just for searching for materials to use in the classroom. We talked about this issue with Vance Stevens a few weeks before and he said that another acronym is being used for this field nowadays: SMALL, which stands for Social Media Assisted Language Learning. This acronym fits quite well with what I have in my mind for the field. In recent years, I have always mentioned that CALL should be associated with communication, social networks and mostly collaboration. Computers are not tutors or teachers; they are just tools for communication, creating social networks and creating opportunities for our students.

Kern, R. (2006). Perspectives on technology in learning and teaching languages. TESOL Quarterly40(1), 183-210.

Warschauer, M. (1998). CALL vs. electronic literacy: Reconceiving technology in the language classroom. In Proceedings of the Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research Information Technology Research Forum. London: Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research.