Malaysian English Language Educators Net


What is CALL?

CALL stands for Computer-Assisted Language Learning. It is an educational program or also known as a courseware. CALL offers “interactive language learning materials”. It is designed to cater for specific group of learners and/or specific level of proficiency.

Where does it come from?

CALL  came into the literature of computer-based learning after CAI (Computer-Assisted Instruction) was introduced in 1960s.  Specifically, CALL focuses on language learning.  Thus, CALL can be categorized as a form of CAI or CBL.

CAI was first used in the mainframe computer like PLATO System at University of Illinois before it was made available in DOS-based program in personal computer (PC). CALL programs  have appeared in DOS-based, Windows-based, and now Web-based, integrated with multimedia elements. New terms emerged and coined for CALL such as multimedia CALL (MCALL),  intelligent CALL (ICALL), and  interactive CALL.

What are the main characteristics of  CALL?

CALL carries two main characteristics:  (1) individualized instruction that caters for specific groups of learners who may need  certain level of learning materials and (2) bi-directional or interactive learning that provides feedback, progress record of their language learning performance.

What are not CALL?

Software applications are not CALL. MS Office software such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc are not CALL. Why? These software applications do not meet the TWO criteria mentioned above. They are tools to create or compose written materials or documents but they do not offer “learning”.

Is CMC (computer-mediated communication) also CALL? CMC has several tools for communication: e-mail, chat, forum, audio- and video conferencing.  E-mail is not CALL. So is e-Forum.  Chat is not CALL.  Audio and video conferencing are not CALL. In short, CMC is not CALL.  Moreover, surfing or navigating the Internet is not necessarily a CALL activity. All these activities cannot be categorized as CALL as they do not offer (1) individualized instruction (2) bi-directional or interactive learning.

Programming languages like C++ and Visual Basics are not CALL.  Author languages such Course Builder and Multimedia ToolBook or Authoring Systems like HotPotatoes are not CALL. They are tools or engines used to design computer programs.  The products of the design can be categorized as CALL if the products meet the two main criteria of CALL. Furthermore, statistical packages like SPSS, Statgraphics are not CALL as they do not offer the two main characteristics of CALL.

In short,  it is erroneous and misleading to claim that any computing activity is CALL or categorized as CALL.

They key word here is “learning” which involves 4 instructional processes:

1.  students are introduced to a concept or idea or skill

2.  students are guided to grasp the concept, idea or skill through illustrations, examples, and demos

3.  students are reinforced through drill and practice to master the  concept or idea or skill being learned

4. students are assessed to find out the level of their competence and performance

(Allessi & Trollips, 1987, 2001)

Computer application software, communication software, programming software, and utility software do not offer these 4 instructional process in learning; thus, they cannot be categorized as CALL.

The role of computer in CALL is to enhance or facilitate the process of language learning. It is not meant to replace teachers.

more to come…meanwhile, can we discuss the following?

What are the theories that underpin CALL?

What are the categories of CALL?

Can CALL survive in Second Life?

Cam CALL be used in Mobile Learning?

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