Language learning through technology

Authored by: Trude Heift , Carol A. Chapelle

The Routledge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415479936
eBook ISBN: 9780203808184
Adobe ISBN: 9781136666896

10.4324/9780203808184.ch34

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Abstract

Many second language teachers and researchers may think of the use of computer technology in language learning as a phenomenon arising in the mid-1990s with the advent of the World Wide Web. In fact, however, the idea of harnessing the capabilities of technology for language instruction was acted upon in the 1960s by individual teachers and a few researchers at universities. For the first two decades (1960s–1980s), researchers in this area were preoccupied with the question of whether learning might be better accomplished through computer-assisted instruction than in the classroom by, for example, measuring the acquisition rate and mastery of grammar and vocabulary taught in a computer-based language learning environment compared to a teacher-led classroom. Although such comparisons are relevant in some contexts, research attempting to understand what, why, how, and to what end technology leads to successful learning outcomes is the challenge for most applied linguists working in this area today. In addition to these comparative studies, some teachers, in contrast, were interested in developing programs that provided learners with some added features such as individualized instruction, interactivity, and record keeping. For instance, the PLATO project developed in the early 1970s included a reading course with interactive vocabulary and grammar drills and translation tests that measured students’ progress. It remains clear why such capabilities were of interest, but the materials from that period reflect the structural view of language dominant in North America at that time, and therefore, the beginnings of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) are typically shown as text-based interactive programs intended to teach grammar and vocabulary (Hart, 1981).

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