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«jaltcalljournal ISSn 1832-4215 Vol. 8, no.1 Pages 17–32 ©2012 jAlt cAll SIg The growing body of literature on Computer CALL Assisted Language Learning ...»

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ISSn 1832-4215

Vol. 8, no.1 Pages 17–32

©2012 jAlt cAll SIg

The growing body of literature on Computer

CALL Assisted Language Learning (CALL) in the past

decades has advocated the use of CALL in edunormalization: cational circles in order to get to a normalized

state. However, the uptake of CALL is stipuA survey on lated by various known and unknown factors.

This study examined various factors that may inhibitive factors have influenced the uptake of CALL resulting in disuse and discouragement. Fifty Iranian inservice teachers filled out a questionnaire on the sources of CALL use discouragement. The Parviz Maftoon results indicated a comparative analysis of Islamic Azad University, Science and these sources. Lack of facilities and perceived Research Branch usefulness were regarded as the most and pmaftoon@srbiau.ac.ir the least discouraging factors in the uptake of CALL respectively. Pertinent discussion and some suggestions for consideration were also Amin Shahini put forth.

Islamic Azad University, Science and Research Branch Introduction aminshahini@yahoo.com Normalization of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) refers to the stage in which computer use has been so integrated into our educational practices that it is no longer considered as something exceptional or as an experience of anxiety.

This stage is the end state and the ultimate goal of CALL – a stage where a group of CALL experts and educators wish to approach (Bax, 2002, 2003; Chambers & Bax, 2006, Hubbard, 2008). According to Bax (2003),

CALL is normalized only:

when computers are used every day by language students and teachers as an integral part of every lesson, like a pen or a book... withoutfear or inhibition, and

–  –  –

the centre of any lesson, but they will play a part in almost all. They will be completely integrated into all other aspects of classroom life, alongside course books, teachers and notepads. They will go almost unnoticed. (p. 23) As it is obviously inferred from the above quote, “This will probably mean that computers will be at the centre of no lessons, but will play a part in almost all. This in turn gives us an agenda for research and development, namely to find ways of moving towards that normalized state.” “Only when CALL is normalized will teachers and learners reap its full benefits.” (Chambers & Bax, 2006, p. 465).

According to Bax (2003), if CALL is to be normalized it has to be “integrated” into the routine classroom activities. By “integration” he means that CALL should merge into the daily classroom tasks to the extent that it becomes “invisible” in the same way that we have Book Assisted Language Learning (BALL) or Pen Assisted Language Learning (PALL).

However, this integration is not easy and the necessary grounds should be established. The first step in normalizing CALL is to remove the sources of discouragement that teachers may confront in CALL application.

This paper proposes some sources of teachers’ CALL use discouragement and the possible solutions that may lessen the distance between teachers and CALL, all with the aim of normalizing CALL in ELT settings.

This study is important due to the following reasons:

1. By removing the sources of discouragement in CALL application in classes, we can move towards normalization. The research highlights the fact that in a successful approach to teaching a second language, many ecological complexities – rather than technological “one-shot” solutions – are at work to produce a desirable outcome. (Tudor, 2003)

2. When normalization is achieved through removing the technical fallacy, CALL will become an integrated part of the syllabus. Consequently, the decision-makers can consider CALL as an important part of the course materials and syllabi so they can confidently timetable CALL into teaching practice and assessment.

3. In this way, the technology immigrants (Prensky, 2001), no longer have the phobia to confront computers and the probable technical failures. The mere fact of CALL as a separate and monstrous phenomenon brings with it reluctance and uneasiness in its application.

Review of literature

Why normalization?

Chambers and Bax (2006) argued that CALL in its present status is exclusive to a few groups of people. They remarked that for CALL to be normalized, first it has to be incorporated into the daily life of every school and educational systems exactly in the same way as pens, books and whiteboards.

Normalization, as an end state in itself is significant in the field of language teaching on the following grounds: First of all, normalization is the gateway that leads us to the vast world of educational evolution through connecting us with the past literature.

Normalization makes this connection feasible as it treats CALL like any other innovation among myriads of innovations. Not that it downgrades CALL but it tries to induce the feeling that CALL is not something unique that should be avoided (Fullan, 2005).

Maftoon & Shahini: CALL normalization The second merit of normalization builds on the idea that it makes practitioners keep pace with the most recent and state-of-the-art studies on educational change and advancements. It advances humans capacity on how to cope with this educational change and builds their know-how on the way that these innovations function and integrate into our everyday life (Rogers, 1995). This knowledge is undoubtedly of certain value to ELT profession in a computer assisted environment. Moreover, it is of undeniable value to CALL practitioners to base their research partly on the findings of the pertinent literature concerning the more meticulous analysis and discussion of new technologies and also in part to direct their focus to the new aspects of the emerging innovation all with one aim which is helping CALL move towards normalization. Accordingly, the usefulness of normalization finds significance in ELT in that it draws on insights from that wider literature on how human beings deal with change in general.

The third merit of normalization which is actually an amalgamation of the first two provides CALL practitioners with an objective aim and agenda. In fact, normalization sheds light on the path stretched between computer application in one end and language teaching in another with the aim of making CALL as unremarkable in ELT setting as BALL and PALL (Chambers & Bax, 2006).

CALL discouragement in teachers A number of studies have been carried out to investigate the possible sources of discouragement in computer use (Demetriadis et al., 2003; Jaeglin, 1998; Ioannou-Georgiou, 2006;

Mumtaz, 2000; Russel & Bradley, 1997; Teo, Lee & Chai, 2008).

Mumtaz (2000) argued that although there was some evidence that Information and Commuincation Technology (ICT) is finding its way into education system, regrettably it was not equally welcomed by teachers. In her study she brought to light three interconnected factors that affect teachers’ take-up of technology in classrooms. She categorized these factors under the general headings of institution, resources, and the teacher himself.

Rosen and Weil (1995) maintained that schools and institutions give little support to teachers in their use of ICT in their classes. These limited resources within schools are a great impediment to the take up of ICT (Teo et al., 2008). Limited resources will lead to the lack of computer integration into the classroom and thus a hindrance to CALL normalization.

However, Veen (1993) showed that teacher factors far outweighed the institutional or school factors. Despite essential technical support provided by the school and a positive attitude to Information Technology (IT) from the school principal, the teacher factors that involved beliefs about the way the subject should be taught and skills associated with competence in managing classroom activities and computer-handling technical skills were the most influential in teachers’ use of computers.

In a related vein, Askar and Umay (2001) referring to the possible sources of discouragement pinpointed that if teachers do not perceive computers as to be fulfilling their own and their students’ needs, they will most probably resist applying computers in their teaching.

Research has shown that teachers attitudes towards the computer is a major predictor for future computer use (Myers & Halpin, 2002) and their need for learning computing skills that in turn will lead to computer literacy (Zhang & Espinoza, 1997). As an example, Yildirim (2000) found that teachers who used computers more would tend to develop positive attitudes that promote further use of the computer in their daily teaching tasks.

The jalt call Journal 2012: Regular Papers Obstacles to normalization Teo (2006) argued that teachers’ attitudes towards computers – whether positive or negative – will have a direct effect on their students’ attitudes towards CALL and in case of teacher’s negative attitude it may adversely affect students’ current and future computer application which may endanger CALL integration and normalization.

A study carried out by Chambers and Bax (2006) dealt with identifying the contextual sources and other obstacles that intervened with the ‘normalization’ of CALL. In this qualitative study, they identified productive ways of moving towards normalization in the future.

They proposed Stakeholders’ Conceptions, Knowledge and Abilities as one of the barriers on the way to normalization.

In a more detailed analysis of their proposal, they came up with (a) worries, expectations and misunderstandings, and (b) monitoring and evaluation. With regard to worries, expectations and misunderstandings, Chambers and Bax believed that although some teachers are skilled computer users, they are apprehensive that they might “lose face” in confrontation with students who are more technologically competent. Some other teachers, based on the study report, misunderstood the role of CALL in language classrooms. They proved to have a wrong conception of CALL by placing the students in front of the computers for all session long without any role for the teacher.

As for monitoring and evaluation, Chambers and Bax (2006) discerned that no systematic appraisal of current practice in applying CALL in the curriculum has been carried out. And even if there were any evaluation, it would be limited to evaluation of the technological issues rather than the ecological and pedagogical dimensions, along with a bulk of recommendations on the needed types of equipment to improve current application of CALL (Tudor, 2003).

The increasing emphasis on the evaluation of physical aspects of CALL per se was somehow due to experts’ recommendation for heavily investing on the technological dimensions of CALL application. Many teachers reported they had not been consulted as which software, for example, was better in terms of educational merits. On the whole, the prevalent belief was that the mere provision of software and hardware could thoroughly obviate CALL problems without considering the teachers’ real needs and factors (Lam, 2000).

The false belief of considering technology as the only cure-all or way to successful teaching has been dubbed ‘technical fallacy’ (Bax, 2000). According to Bax (2000) technical fallacy may lead to “misusing” or “underusing” of the device since the teacher merely relies on the technology and nothing beyond (Healey, 1998). To worsen the issue further, the technology being misused will not reach its full potential and applications, thus inducing a feeling of ineffectiveness among other teachers. This impedes CALL to enter the public world and keeps it in the confined world of so-called geeks and experts, acting as a barrier to normalization (Levy, 1997).

Chamber and Bax (2006) argued that schools, universities, and institutions will have a more valuable and productive output in future if teachers make more effective use of the facilities at hand. To put it another way, development of teachers might be more effective than simply assuming that the solution is to focus on buying more technology. This study is an extension of Chamber and Bax’s (2006) study of CALL normalization, aiming at investigating the sources of discouragement in CALL in language teaching settings. The

questions guiding data collection were:

Maftoon & Shahini: CALL normalization

1. What is the relationship between the familiarity of teachers with computers and their recognition of the sources of discouragement in computer use?

2. Which of these factors are the most influential in discouraging teachers in using computers?

Method Participants Out of 70 Iranian teachers who were approached, a total of fifty in-service male and female teachers (female = 34, male = 16) took part in this study. They worked in different English language teaching institutions and universities in Tehran with at least three years of experience. Stratified random sampling was carried out not only to come up with a more or less homogeneous population of participants but also to account for the typicality of the recruited teachers. Some control factors were considered when drawing from the total population. For example, all participants had to be majored or studying in Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and all were between 20 to 50 years old.

Instruments A 33-item questionnaire on the sources of discouragement in computer/technology use in language classrooms was given to all participants. The items of the questionnaire were in English and originally taken from a previous study done at Simon Fraser University in Canada (Akins, 1992). These items were taken and altered to a form of a questionnaire to fit the purpose of the present study. Prior to the main study, the pilot questionnaire was given to 20 in-service teachers with the same qualities of the main participants. They were required to fill out the questionnaire so that any problematic points like ambiguity or multidimensionality of the items show up. They were also required to include any sources of discouragement not mentioned in the body of the questionnaire. Later, those comments were considered and included in the body of the finalized questionnaire. The questionnaire was composed of two sections. Both sections were in the form of Likert scale – where 1 indicated strong disagreement with the statement and 5 indicated strong agreement. Section one, which consisted of nine items, measured teachers’ familiarity with and interest in computers and technology. Section two with twenty four items measured the sources of discouragement and unwillingness that any teacher might experience with regard to the use of computers and technology in his/her teaching career. The questionnaire had a highly acceptable reliability index (α = 0.82).

Procedure The questionnaire used in the present study was distributed among the participants either by email or in person. In “in-person” mode, it didn’t take more than ten minutes for the participants to fill out the questionnaire, whereas in “e-mail” mode, the majority of the questionnaires were returned only after one day. Only two participants failed to hand in the questionnaire on time.

After collection, all of the questionnaires were coded and inserted into the SPSS software for analysis. Also, the items of the questionnaire were grouped into seven general The jalt call Journal 2012: Regular Papers

–  –  –

**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

*. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).

sources of computer use discouragement: 1. Lack of time, 2. Lack of administrative support,

3. Low mastery, 4. Perceived usefulness, 5. Perceived ease of use, 6. Others’ attitudes, and 7.

Facilities. As for the third section of the questionnaire, the written comments were carefully read and considered as other possible participants’- believed sources of technology use discouragement in classrooms.

Results and discussion In this section, the questions under study are statistically investigated and their results

are put to discussion:

–  –  –

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