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THE APPLICATION OF COMPUTER ASSISTED LANGUAGE LEARNING IN

VOCATIONAL SCHOOL
Chapter 1: The Development of Computer Assisted Language Learning
1.1 A Definition Of Computer Assisted Language Learning
Computer assisted language learning (CALL) is also known as computer assisted
language instruction (CALI), computer assisted instruction (CAI), computer aided language
learning (CALL). Computer Assisted Language Learning is often perceived, somewhat
narrowly, as an approach to language teaching and learning in which the computer is used as
an aid to the presentation, reinforcement and assessment of material to be learned, usually
including a substantial interactive element. Levy provides the following succinct and broad
definition of CALL (Michael Levy, 1997, Computer-Assisted Language Learning-Context
and Conceptualization):
Computer Assisted Language learning (CALL) may be defined as the search for and
study of application of the computer in language teaching and learning.
This is a catchall definition, which is also approved by the leading international
professional association, e.g. EUCALL, CALICO and IALLT. In the Joint Policy Statements
of EUROCALL, CALICO and IALLT (1999), CALL is defined as a relatively new and
rapidly evolving academic field that explores the role of information and communication
technologies in language learning and teaching. These definitions are useful to break down
CALL into various subdivisions.
1.2 Three-phase-development of Computer Assisted Language Learning
CALLs origins can be traced back to the 1960s, Warschauer & Healey (Warschauer, M.
& Healey, D. 1998, Computers and Language Learning: An overview) pointed out that this
40-year-period can be divided into three main stages: behaviorist CALL, communicative
CALL, and integrative CALL. Each stage corresponds to a certain level of technology and
pedagogical theories.
Behaviorist CALL
In the 1960s and 1970s, the first form of Computer Assisted Language Learning featured
repetitive language drills is the so-called drill-and-practice method. It was based on the
behaviorist-learning model and computer was viewed as little more than a mechanical tutor
that never grew tired. Behaviorist CALL was first designed and implemented in the era of the

mainframe and the best-known tutorial system PLATO, which ran on its own special
hardware. It was mainly used for extensive drills, explicit grammar instruction and translation
tests.
Communicative CALL
Communicative CALL emerged in the 1970s and 1980s as a reaction to the behaviorist
approach to language learning. Proponents of communicative CALL rejected behaviorist
approaches at both the theoretical and pedagogical level. They stressed that CALL should
focus more on using forms rather than on the forms themselves. Grammar should be taught
implicitly and students should be encouraged to generate original utterances instead of
manipulating prefabricated forms. This form of computer-based instruction corresponded to
cognitive theories that recognized that learning was a creative process of discovery,
expression and development. The mainframe was replaced by personal computers that
allowed greater possibilities for individual work. Popular CALL software in this era included
text reconstruction programmers and simulations.
Integrative CALL
The last stage of Computer Assisted Language Learning is integrative CALL.
Communicative CALL was criticized for using the computer in a disconnected fashion and
using the computer made a greater contribution to marginal rather than central elements of
language learning (Kenning, M. M. & Kenning, M. J., 1990, Computers and Language
Learning: Current Theory and Practice). Teachers have moved from a cognitive view of
communicative language teaching to a socio-cognitive view that emphasizes real language
use in a meaningful, authentic context. Integrative CALL seeks both to integrate the various
skills of language learning (listening, speaking, writing, and reading) and to integrate
technology more fully into language teaching (Warschauer, M. & Healey, D. 1998,
Computers and Language Learning: An overview). To this end the multimedia-networked
computer provides a rage of informational, communicative and publishing tools that are
potentially available to every student.
Chapter 2: Present condition and application of Computer Assisted Language Learning in
Vocational school
2.1 Present condition of English teaching in Vocational school and its weaknesses
Twenty-first century is a time of enormous opportunities and challenges when the

vocational education in China is upgrading and booming to impact the future of China. Since
the 1970s, the Ministry of Education P.R.C has mandated the Foreign Language Teaching
Policy in China should center on English instead of other alternative foreign languages, such
as Japanese, French, German and Russian. English education has been put to such a high level
that every vocational school student has to pass the exam in order to graduate. After more
than two decades of application experience, many innovative pedagogical strategies have
mushroomed recently, but the major pattern of English teaching and learning in China is still
in traditional, synchronous classrooms. Lets take an example to explain the situation of
English teaching in one vocational school. In this grammar lesson, the teacher worked hard to
introduce reforms. She organized the important text-based information into beautiful writings
on the blackboard. Students listened carefully and sat quietly all the time, but most of the
time, the teacher just read through the whole material while the students were busy copying
the writings. Maybe you think grammar lessons should be like this. But you are sure to be
surprised when you find the situation doesnt change much in an oral English lesson.
Whats more, as the student enrollment has been increasing since last century, every
vocational school English teachers burden becomes heavier as one teacher has to deal with a
large class with more than 50 students inside. However, the total number of full-time teachers
has not increased at the same rate as the number of students. Consequently, after the recent
years of enrollment enlargement, many vocational schools indeed have doubled, trebled, or
even quadrupled in student numbers. They force themselves to admit more students despite
their own limited capacity and teaching resources. Urgent answers responding to these
problems are proposed correspondingly, such as increasing teachers teaching hours,
enlarging the size of each class, or enhancing the technology-based classroom to meet the
requirements. The ratio of taking up an occupation and the competition with other schools is
also a heavy burden for teachers. Not to say paying attention to students individual interests
and their different needs in teaching.
2.2 Present condition and application of Computer Assisted Language Learning in Vocational
school
A questionnaire inviting comments on English teaching and learning has been circulated
nearly 10 vocational schools in Jiangsu Province. Nearly all these schools have multimedia
classrooms and computers in many of their teachers rooms. But the deploy of these

computers are not very good. And the multimedia classrooms are only used for public lessons.
Some teachers in these schools even said frankly that there was not much difference from the
traditional English class except that the teachers writing onto the blackboard was shifted onto
the computer. Of course, a lot of time can be saved because using the slides is really a matter
of getting done once and holding good for all time. However, many other teachers who sat in
on her class feel that this computer version of lesson preparation does not significantly
improve the participation and involvement of the students in classroom. Students interest
cannot always be maintained and when they get tired of the color, the sound and the
highlighted parts, they still refuse to speak or use English in classroom actively.
Teachers are getting to know that the key point in using CALL is not just putting one
piece of furniture called computer in front of the students, but that the teachers themselves
must coordinate and integrate technology into the students learning environment so that
students can be provoked to absorb and construct their own knowledge in whatever kind of
classroom.
Whats more, although our country is fast moving toward the Information Age and
vocational schools are more computer-enhanced, vocational school teachers in general are not
prepared for this new era. The lack of technically trained English teachers is another major
obstacle to integrate computer assisted language learning (CALL) into English curriculum in
China. The lack of time and money to practice using CALL and the unilateral enthusiasm for
perusing high rate of taking up an occupation all limit the development and application of
CALL in vocational schools.
Chapter 3: A Typology of CALL Programs and Applications
3.1 How to Use CALL To Teach Listening
Now lets try to find some ways to use CALL to achieve some specific teaching goals.
Probably, CALL is most widely used in teach Listening. Although tapes and recorders are still
playing important roles in teach Listening, their weaknesses such as large in size, difficult to
keep, easy to fray and hard to edit make people use other technologies. With the development
of multimedia technology and computers, an individual is able to digitalize the materials. So
can English teachers establish a bank of personal digital listening resources in order to meet
the need of teach and test listening.
In order to establish a bank of personal digital listening resources, we should store

different kinds of listening materials in the hard disk of personal computers and categorize
them according to the contents, teaching purposes, objects of teaching and so on. In order to
collect materials, we can depend upon online resources as going online has become very
convenient and we can find almost all kinds of audio materials on the Internet. Besides that,
we can digitalize the sounds in the tapes into the computers as well as buy some CD-ROMs
which contain listening materials such as Crazy English and so on.
Despite the familiarity of using computers, English teachers should have some basic
knowledge of audio frequency and media displayers in order to collect and deal with different
kinds of information. We can use some software such as Hero Audio Converter and Goldwave
to change the format. Some software such as Cool Edit can repeat arbitrary lengths of the
material and even change the speed of the original.
When we have stored the listening materials in the computer and categorized them, we
can conveniently use them. We can use the materials to serve as the leading reading as well as
the training and testing of listening. If the students come across any difficulties, they can copy
the materials with their Flash Disks and their MP3s and listen to them whenever they want.
Thus, students can improve their listening abilities easily.
3.2 How to Use CALL To Teach Reading
As one branch of CALL, multimedia reading focuses mainly on two aspects: vocabulary
acquisition and overall text comprehension. And some schools experiments have shown that
multimedia can indeed improve students vocabulary acquisition in particular and reading
comprehension in general.
In order to improve students vocabulary acquisition, we can recompose the lesson to
short movies that are repurposed for language learning. Each repurposing of the movie
highlights several vocabulary items in the text. Each vocabulary item is linked through
hypertext to a definition of the word, its part of speech, some example sentences, its video
context and usage of the word with synonyms and antonyms. These are available for all the
words in the study. Students can choose to look at one or all of these options. They can first
watch the movie without the text and without the linked options. Then the second viewing
provides the text and the option to stop the video, so as to let the students be able to consult
these vocabulary learning support options and also do exercises using the vocabulary.
It is harder to improve students reading comprehension because comprehension is far

more complex. At present, computers are mainly used to enlarge students knowledge about
the texts background information as teachers can present pictures or video clips in
introducing the background. And it proves to be very effective.
3.3 How to Use CALL To Teach Spoken English
With Chinas entry into the WTO and the deepening put-in-force of the opening policy, it
becomes more and more important to improve students spoken English. Using CALL to
teach spoken English proves to be more effective than the traditional method as the
development of software can totally meet students needs in listening, recording, reading and
talking in small groups and let every student has the chance to speak. Whats more, it can
greatly improve the ratio of the time using in class.
English teachers can use three kinds of exercises to improve students spoken English.
They are answering questions, translating sentences and rehearsing paragraphs. In the first
part of the lesson, teachers can ask the students to do the question answering exercise. They
can design several questions about some specific topics such as students hobbies and so on.
This part mainly trains students abilities to organize the language and expressing their own
ideas. In the second part, teachers can design some sentences and let the students to translate
them. This part can show whether the students are familiar with the usages of words and
sentence types. In the third part, students are required to rehearse the paragraphs they have
heard twice. They can first rehearse the paragraph to their classmates and then to the whole
class. After rehearsing, teachers can also design several questions about the material and ask
the students to answer them. This part can also train students listening abilities.
Teachers comments are very important in this case. Besides commenting on students
pronunciation, intonation and the content of their answers, teachers can also tell the students
the skills of doing the exercises of each part. Thus, by comparing each others answers and
listening to the teachers comments, every student is able to find out his own weaknesses and
receives more training at the same time.
3.4 How to Use CALL To Conduct Tests
Nowadays, receptive-response items including multiple-choice, true-false and matching
items are fairly easy to adapt to the computer assisted testing medium. Relatively cheap
authoring software like Testmaster (1988) can be used to create such tests. Even productiveresponse item types including fill-in and cloze can be created by using authorizing software

like Testmaster. Maybe you will say that the more interesting type of language tasks (e.g. role
plays, interviews, compositions and oral presentations) are much more difficult to develop for
computer assisted testing. But as science develops, advancing technologies are going to have
more potential ramifications for computer assisted language testing.
In order to conduct such a test, we need to establish a test room in which CD-ROM
players work with video-image projectors, computers control the whole interactive process
between students and machines for situations and language tailored to each students specific
needs. Now, with the use of computer communication networks, scanners and handwriting
recognition devices, the logistics of gathering the language samples can be simplified by the
use of computer assisted testing procedures.
Besides that, two other benefits can be gained from computer assisted language testing.
The first one is that since computer assisted language tests can be individually administered,
even on a walk-in basis, group administered tests and all of the organizational constraints that
they impose will no longer be necessary. The second one is that since traditional time limits
are not necessary, teachers will be released from the burden of waiting around for students to
finish the test.
No doubt, cheating will exist in this kind of tests. But more thought and planning can
surmount such problems. Given the advantage of individual, computer assisted testing will
sure be proved as a positive development.
Chapter 4: Conclusion and Prospects
From the computer application in foreign language teaching to the present day CALL has
experienced around 40 years. The whole history of CALL can generally be divided into three
stages: the behavioristic period, the communicative period and the integrative period. Thanks
to these theories and researches as well as the development of modern science and
technology, a computer program now can handle sound, pictures and video along with
characters. Thus it is possible for modern English teachers to make computer mediated
communicative environment more like real social communicative environment. Conceived in
the 1950s and implemented in the 1960s and 1970s, computer assisted language learning
(CALL) systems have developed to employ a wide range of scientific disciplines.
As the Information Age commenced in the late 20th century, CALL provides us with an
environment of virtual reality in which there are no limits of boundary and time for the

foreign language learning. Since the future rapid development of computer network
technology, pedagogy, multimedia and artificial intelligence will maximize the function of
CALL, the intelligent CALL serving as an integrative advanced tool in the modern foreign
language teaching and learning is at hand. Whats more, it provides the timely feedback,
immediate guidance to adjust to the individual with different language proficiency regardless
of geographic location. And this is the key area within artificial intelligence field.
To summarize, the computer can play multiple roles in language teaching. It originated on
the mainframe as a tutor that delivers language drills or skill practice. With the advent of
multimedia technology on the personal computer, it serves as a space in which to explore and
creatively influence micro worlds. And with the development of computer networks, it now
serves as a medium of local and global communication and a source of authentic materials.
This multiplicity of roles has taken CALL far beyond the early electronic workbook variety of
software that dominated the second and foreign language marketplace for years and has
opened up new avenues in foreign language teaching.
The ultimate and permanent goal of foreign language teaching is to enable students to
acquire the ability to communicate in target language. However, it is very hard for the average
vocational school English teachers to perform in the common physical classroom. Engaging
in computer assisted language learning is a continuing challenge that requires time and
commitment. With the development of modern science and technology, new methods of
teaching English by applying CALL and more advantages of using CALL will sure to appear.
As will-be teachers in the 21st century, we realize that CALL is not the answer to all our
problems. What really matters is how we use CALL. As a result, foreign language teachers
including vocational school English teachers should be equipped with the relevant knowledge
of using the computer and the Internet as soon as possible. Since teachers of the future will
perform the very same functions they do now, but will make use of technology to give
students a richer, more stimulating learning environment, the effect of the digital revolution
on teaching and learning will be more enormous and the teachers must prepare now for the
changes ahead of them.

References:

1. Michael Levy. 1997. Computer-Assisted Language Learning-Context and


Conceptualization [M] Oxford University Press
2. Warschauer, M. & Healey, D. 1998, Computers and Language Learning: An overview [J]
Language Teaching, 31, 57-71
3. Kenning, M. M. & Kenning, M. J., 1990, Computers and Language Learning: Current
Theory and Practice [M] New York, Ellis Horwood

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