Computer-Aided Language Learning
Computers are becoming more and more common in the classroom. While they should not be relied upon as the main or sole source of teaching, they can be very helpful for students and teachers in the classroom. One of the complaints about Computer-aided language learning (CALL) is that computers can be costly and it requires many of them to teach, but that does not have to be the case. In fact, computers can be cost-effective in that almost all other teaching equipment and their features can be used on one or a few computers. Part I of this essay will discuss the advantages CALL has over other forms of technology. Part II will discuss the useful activities and applications of CALL in the classroom.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Nathan D. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Benefits of Technologies in The Classroom
Computers have an advantage over other forms of teaching technologies such as the overhead projector and the whiteboard in that if they are hooked up to a projector screen, teachers can spend more time talking to the student than writing with their back to them. Files can be saved with CALL without worrying about marker smears or losing material in the same way that a teacher would with an overhead sheet or whiteboard. All at the same time, teachers can use CALL in the same way as a whiteboard or overhead projector.
Likewise, a single CALL can perform the functions that a cassette recorder. A CD player or DVD player can perform. CALL allows teachers to rewind and fast-forward, save multiple recording and teaching files whether on audio or video and allow teachers to prepare their own dialogues. Utilizing the record feature on the laptop can be much more efficient and inexpensive than using tape. Many laptops will also play DVDs and if not, many videos can be found online.
Last, dictionaries are one of the most useful tools available to students. CALL generally provides far more material in online dictionaries than in physical dictionaries. Students can often view on not only multiple examples of a word in a sentence, but also the synonym and antonym. Best of all, most CALL online dictionaries allow students to click on the word and the audio will pronounce or read the sentence for them. This feature is not available in books and is a more interactive and arguably effective way for students to hear and process the material.
Choice of Activities
CALL is a great tool for teaching because it is so interactive and there are many activities and applications that can be used in the classroom. As learned prior in this unit, students, particularly young students, need more visuals and changing activities to keep their attention. Utilizing a computer can stimulate this interest, as well as to attain more participation from students that want to use the laptop.
Word applications are a great activity that students can use on the laptop connected to the projector to learn a language. Gap-fill activities could be so much more interesting if a story was up on the board with multiple blanks that each student came up and typed something for the class to view. Word documents would also allow students to worry less about penmanship and legibility and more about the language itself. If the vocabulary word or grammar is misspelled, the red line that normally appears under incorrect words can provide an opportunity for students to catch their mistakes.
Another useful activity that can be used on the computer is viewing clips from videos played on the screen. When I studied Chinese, watching simple clips and interactions was so helpful. It is one thing to practice vocabulary or grammar, but it is another to see full dialogues played out at real-life speed and seeing the expressions and body language that goes with them. Watching a clip or a film that is popular with subtitles is also an engaging way for students to connect their memory of scenes with the new vocabulary to better recall information.
Also Read: One More View on Consistent Lesson Planning
Last, PowerPoint can be a very beneficial tool that is only available on CALL to make an engaging lesson. PowerPoint slides not have to be read or boring and predictable like are often depicted. Instead, as this course has taught us, one of the most important parts of any class is having a lesson plan to go off of and to stay organized. A simple slide can stay up to list the rules of activity, so students do not have to keep asking the teacher. PowerPoint slides can also be a way of indicating at what point you are in the lesson to stay organized or pick-up for the next class. PowerPoint slides can also provide variety. One slide could have a video built in for students to watch, another could have words that will be drilled, and a third could have images that students describe or form stories or sentences around.
To summarize, there are many features with CALL that make it an all-encompassing piece of teaching techniques for students to learn on. In this way, CALL can be much for cost-efficient than having multiple devices, DVDs, tapes, etc. CALL also does not require every student to have a device and in fact, it might be better with fewer. Part II shows that there are many useful activities that can be used with CALL. Word documents for gap-fill, PowerPoint, video, interactive dictionaries, and images are all diverse and non-monotonous activities that can be utilized with CALL. Furthermore, CALL is fun and interactive. Students young and old appreciate the stimulation and opportunities for participation that comes through using CALL. It is especially good for short attention spans and allows teachers to quickly shift between activities with more time teaching and less time with their backs to students.
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