Annotated Bibliography: Technology integration

Al- Fudail, M.; Mellar, H. – Investigating teacher stress when using technology. Computers & Education (51) 3 p. 1103-1110

     This mixed-model study aimed to explore whether there is a significant and quantifiable build up of stress among teachers who are using technology in the classroom. The rationale behind the study is to determine whether the stress does occur, and to use these observations to determine the needs-basis in a learning institution for taking specific and careful consideration to the human factor when integrating technology as part of the mission and vision of the institution. With the advent of the Web 2.0 and the paradigm of “21st century teaching and learning”, many organizations have incurred in great budget expenditures trying to obtain the technology tools that have hit the market, and use those purchases to solidify their claim of aiming towards a futuristic educational setting. However, this research points that if the technology is used in an isolated way, and the human element is not taken into consideration as much as the technology itself, the learning organization will be in danger of wasting away a lot of money that they could have spent on how to train teachers to use readily-available and free programs.

     In this study, the researchers used the “teacher-technology environment interaction model”. This is a research tool that includes direct observation, video-logging, the galvanic skin response (GSR) taken during the lessons, and interviews. The participants were all at different levels of technology skill, and 32 hours of teaching activities were included in the data. The aim of the data is to determine whether the teachers suffered what the authors referred to as “technostress” , or an increased stress level that comes as a result of using technology while teaching.

     The results of the investigation showed that teachers do suffer stress associated with the implementation of technology application in the classroom. The causative factors of stress range from 1) preparing the classroom for the technology, 2) troubleshooting technology when it fails , 3) anticipating possible malfunctions of the technology when students are behind the monitor, 4) concocting a strategy to teach and demonstrate at the same time while maintaining the discipline and focus of the students, 5) keeping the class topic as the first focal point of the lesson, and not the technology itself.

Casey, J. (2008) Students “power down” for school: Technology left behind. Reading Today (25) 6, 40-41

      This article describes real life examples of schools that, in their quest to catch up with the changing trends in technology, lost sight of the actual mission, purpose, goal, and vision of establishing a technology -based program in their schools. This erroneous view of technology as a deterministic and instrumentalist tool resulted in the mismanagement of funds that were invested on technology that was not understood, nor conceptualized as part of daily life.

     The research identifies  all students born after 1989 as “technology natives”. The reason behind this coinage is that these individuals were born in the precise time when technology was becoming integrative and coming out with programs such as Windows. The internet had been somewhat active by then, but several new inventions became available for ready use, and from there, even more sophisticated services and elements of communication expanded at a rate.

     The Technology Natives are then students who have the benefit of early technology exposure, and such exposure has lowered their affective filters due to the familiarity of the materials. The advent of computer usage and the Web 2.0 resulted in many families having computer and internet access, and the children (most Technology Natives), experimented with the computer and with the internet in a myriad of ways through independent exploration. This implies that the students that are served in schools today have an increased technological ability or at least a potential for it. Are we aware of their increased need? Are we ready to met their demands? Are learning institutions acting in a responsibly and active way?

     This article narrates an instance when a teacher contacted the author, concerning this very matter. The teacher claims that, in the classroom where she was assigned, there were six available computers. However, nowhere in the school mission and vision was the word “technology” included. The teachers were not encouraged to include technology in their lesson plans, and the technology component was never addressed as part of the school’s improvement plan. Yet, the computers were purchased, and the technology was available.

     According to the teacher, she decided to arrange a lesson using the computers and a program to continue their se as she was more computer literate than most teachers, however, she could never log-in her students because, since the insertion of the computers in the classroom, they had never been logged in the system. In another report, the author tells about a student teacher reporting how in her assigned room there were seven laptop computers that also went unused. In addition to this resource, her school also had a computer lab, since the district funds for all schools to have one. The lab was hardly ever used except for conducting specific tasks such as typing or taking reading tests. Nothing extended beyond the use, and the organization had already spent thousands of dollars in acquiring these machines. What was more frustrating in this case, according to the teacher, is that the school had recently received an influx of L2 students who needed to catch up in their reading scores for the upcoming standardized state test, and the teachers were working overtime trying to get them there. None of them thought, researched, or even inferred that the technology to help ELL’s was precisely there in the computers that they refused to use. Their “analog” mentality wasted the school money, and was also wasting their time.

     The article also reports the percentage of usage in technology as of 2008. Children within the 2-17 age span use computers at a 70% rate, and more than that use cell phones, iPods, the internet, or video games. This constant and consistent rate of exposure to technology might lead one to assume that schools are working extra hard at catching up with what the kids know, and trying to emulate learning experiences similar to that which the kids explore at home with their home computers, so that the kids can relate academics to technology in the way they relate fun to technology. This article proves that this is not the case everywhere, and it is a shameful waste of money, intelligence, time, and resources.

     Another important implication presented in this article shows how, in 1999, the author presided over a research in California, evaluating the results of implementing IBM and MAC computers into the curriculum to read, write, and integrate technology. While the implementation of the program was received with fanfare and excitement, everyone joined forces into promoting the program, and the children performed at a marked superior ability in the areas of reading, writing, and even webpage creation. However, as the “honeymoon season” ended, it has been 10 years and the same exact equipment lays in the same classrooms. Since so much has changed in 10 years, the current students at that school simply do not feel challenged to work on the once-innovative computers, and again money did not meet its goal: The mission and vision over the use of technology was not modified over the years, therefore, it went into oblivion.

Christensen, E., Merrill, P., Yanchar, S. (2007) Second language vocabulary acquisition using a diglot reader or a computer-based drill and practice program. Computer Assisted Language Learning (20)1, 67-77.

     The foundation of the study is the language learned versus language acquired and natural language acquisition hypotheses proposed by Krashen, among others, which states that language learning happens naturally whether specific means of teaching are employed or not. The purpose of this study is to determine whether a computer-based diglot reader makes a different impact in second language learning compared to a complex and sophisticated computer-based language learning program.

     The diglot is a method that was created by Robbins Burling (1968, 1978). The words di-glot refer to dual (di) language (glot), and the logic is that you can teach language at a less immersive and much lower pace by integrating the target language within the foreign language through stories, sentences, or other methods. The basic premise is that the target language is presented to the students in brief within a first language setting. Exposure which is low key, and non threatening, not overwhelming, and done in “small doses” is presumed to lower the affective barrier of communications, thus allowing the student to welcome the information at a more comfortable level. The aim of this method is to acquire language naturally and incidentally.

     The methodology of this research was to expose students to vocabulary by using the methodology of diglot, and another group would be exposed using a computer-based language learning program. The research specifically granted that the computer-based language learning program would present a very similar level of familiarity to the student the way a diglot methodology would do.

     Affect was the key element of comparison between the two methods based on the afore-mentioned premise that the diglot method is allows students to acquire more confidence as they continue to see their first language molding the second language lesson. In order to ensure that both programs were measured equally, the computer-based model drill method selected for this study was one designed for early beginners, which means that the words that it would teach would be basic and easy to learn.

     The computer-based program used in the study offered slow-paced presentations, increased repetitions, and a lot of review. This would coincide with the notion that incidental language is acquired precisely through ample amount of exposure, repetition, and spaced opportunities, as well as from exposure to print-rich elements. However, a emphasis was given to the fact that second language readers acquire have more difficulty acquiring language through reading exposure because of the lack of vocabulary that they already have which does not allow for easy reading comprehension, nor incidental language learning.

    This emphasizes that diglots are used  at a mid to later stage of second language acquisition. This obstacle in second language learning, where a learner is incapable of being exposed to print-rich extensive reading due to the lack of vocabulary is what is referred to as the “Beginner’s Paradox”, and is precisely what the researcher tried to avoid in this study. Therefore, the program selected to be compared to diglot ensured that this problem would not occur.

     The results of this research showed that the two methodologies of language learning were equally effective, and resulted in high scores in both groups. Both, the breadth and the depth of the vocabulary that was learned obtained high scores from both groups. However, an important point was that the participants did show more comfort, confidence, and interest in the diglot method as opposed to the computer based method, and it is presumably because the computer based method did not frame its drills around the student’s first language which is, as expected, the comfort zone of the learner. A flaw within the drill and practice computer program was the lack of context learning: The method by which the computer-based program exposed early learners to vocabulary was by word-to-picture correlations, and sound correlations that made it very hard to actually apply the lexicon to context-based learning, and scaffolding was extremely limited.

     Diglots may have proven to motivate students in their ease of use, and may have proven to be as effective as computer-based vocabulary drills, but the research also points as the importance of weaning off the diglots as soon as the students acquire enough familiarity with the vocabulary. As with every method of learning, anything which seems more familiar will tend to be the most favored method. Yet, as with all levels of competence, once the goal is reached, the zone of proximal development should be the next target. This research shows that the methodology in a second language learning program is not necessarily the most important thing to take into consideration, but the relationship of the methodology to the vision and mission of the second language program.

The importance of this research project to Organizational theory and the depth component is that it shows that a learning institution must place emphasis on how they are going to use their resources and not how much resources they need. In other words, it is not what you need, but what you can do with what you have. This research shows that, even a method as simplistic and much cheaper as diglots can prove to be more effective than sophisticated software, as long as it is employed with a goal in mind.

Cutrim Scmid, E. (2006) Investigating the use of interactive whiteboard technology in the English language classroom through the lens of a critical theory of technology. Computer Assisted Language Learning (19) 1, 47-62

     This qualitative research was a response to several arguments pointing at the lack of theoretical framework surrounding Computer Assisted Language learning (CALL). Since CALL is a methodology that co-exists with the availability of computer-based resources, the goal of this study was to add to the research-based foundation that can solidify CALL to a higher academic status. However, this article is of special importance to the depth component of this KAM, because it aims to also withdraw a critical theory of technology from its investigation. This theory stresses that there is a need to integrate technological research into all the fields, and not treat it as a separate field. In other words, technology is to be seen as part of every academic subject by contextualizing, understanding, and analyzing its usefulness in every field.

     This study explored the usefulness of the Promethean Interactive Whiteboard (Smarboard) as technology that could be employed to the teaching of English as a second language. The study was qualitative in that it not only tested and correlated results from the use of the machinery, but also included the personal views of the teacher as users of the Smartboard for best practices, their educational philosophy, the student attitude towards the use of this resource, and their level of understanding regarding whether they perceive it to be useful or not.

     For methodological purposes, the research observed lessons taught using the Smartboard as one of the conduits to demonstrate vocabulary. In the Smartboard, an electronic pen is used along with a wall-mounted screen, which will interact with the touch of the fingers right there on the same board while it projects information from a computer. The hypothesis for using this methodology as a best practice is that it would evoke cooperative learning, collaborative education, and hands-on practice. The methodology of this research also included 24 lessons of 90 minutes each in which the research questions asked were: a) “What kinds of interactions are produced when this technology is used?” and , b) “what kinds of pedagogical goals can the Smartboard help achieve?” Most importantly, the study outlined a critical theory of technology and its potential integration as the foundation behind the use of the Smartboard as a best practice.

     This research is important for the depth component of the KAM because it goes back to the foundation of critical theory of technology. In turn, a critical theory of technology is also to be considered in Organizational theory also as theoretical evidence for the implementation of certain best practices as part of the vision and mission of the organization. The basis of the critical theory of technology state that technology is a compound of interactions and not just a tool to be used when needed. These have been classical (and old-fashioned) views of technology which are labeled as “instrumentalism” and “determinism”, that is, that technology is just a tool (instrumentalism) that acts in the human race without needed input from us. It is like a force of its own, without a goal, or a purpose. Based on these premises, this research aimed to debunk any determinist or instrumentalist views of technology and aimed to integrate it to a lesson as an everyday available resource, proving the need to explore the field of technology under a more welcoming and less threatening environment.

     Data was collected for this particular research included ethnographic instruments such as conversations, interviews, recordings, field notes, online discussion forums, and surveys. The rationale behind the use of qualitative instead of quantitative research for this investigation is the argument that technology is seldom studied to determine the quality of education, but the quality of the technology itself. Therefore, by integrating both the experiences of the student to the quality of the technology the research questions would be answered in full.

     The results of the investigation noted that the technology in this case was both a cause for struggle and integration at the same time. It influenced the classroom structure because, as it was used, the teacher found herself changing lesson plans, and goals for her curriculum thanks to the feedback obtained from the activities. Social relationships were developed whether in a competitive or non competitive way, all for the sake of using the Smartboard, and through the collaboration of students during the lessons. Most importantly, the use of the technology did prove to be a best practice that could be easily integrated to the regular curriculum. The study also implied the need to understand how communication is key when new technologies are implemented, how it is important to keep the vision and the mission of the lesson at hand at all times, and the need to understand that the tool itself, or the teacher himself.

Kessler, G. (2007) Formal and informal CALL preparation and teacher attitude toward technology. Computer Assisted Language Learning (20)2, 173-188

     The purpose of this qualitative study was to measure the impact of formal and informal CALL training among TESOL teachers, and whether the quality of the information and training they receive from a college-based CALL training is as rich and helpful as the information they receive when they informally learn to deal with CALL on their own and by using the computers in their homes. The methodology of the research consisted on surveying 240 TESOL teachers recently graduated from a CALL training course, all ranging from different levels of computer skills. In the survey, they were asked to express their opinion on the level of usefulness of a college-based CALL training, compared to incidental skills acquiring while trying to learn on their own.

     The rationale for this study is the effectiveness of CALL methods in L2 programs. The success of CALL is accentuated by the increase in resources provided by the Web 2.0 and fast-paced learning software available for self-paced learning. Both literature and current research show that technology is indeed a resource. Yet, the problem of this study is that all the vast majority of the 240 surveyed teachers responded that the training they got to implement CALL methods was “highly ineffective” and “non-relevant.” These problems caused a further situation where the teachers ended up either “giving up altogether”, “became insecure” with their own skills or had to end up trying to teach themselves online, spending great amounts of time they did not have.

     This study explains that the reason behind the lack of effectiveness of CALL training falls precisely in a lack of synchronicity among the mission, vision, goal, and purpose of the training program itself. The programs do have a mission and goal of educating teachers on employing CALL methods. However, although they do train the teachers in the use of technology, they do not teach the teachers on how to use technology for instruction. It is this deterministic mentality what deviates from the actual mission of the program, and creates a contradictory goal where in one hand teachers are expected to know information, but on the other hand they are not told how to apply it.

     The importance of this research study is that it points out how an entire organization, program, or group can be negatively impacted by not understanding the exact purpose of what the program is supposed to offer. The trend of CALL in L2 learning might be leading a lot of companies to create quick training programs that would render them a lot of profits considering the increase in technological tools. On the other hand, learning organizations that technology education find themselves not getting what they need from the other learning organizations, leaving teachers as empty handed as when they first began the program. It is imperative to note then that in order to formalize a program of any kind, the organization must clearly propose the exact goal and the use of that goal in society. Once that goal is identified and its uses are distributed, then the organization can offer a service that could result in social change. Therefore, this information is relevant to all future curriculum designers, program directors, and leaders of organizations.

Masanori Y., Kanji, A. (2008) Social Presence in Synchronous CMC-based language learning:  How does it affect the productive performance and consciousness of learning objectives? Computer Assisted Language Learning (20) 1, 37-65.

     The ongoing research in Computer Mediated Communication targets both synchronous and asynchronous CMC based language learning in terms of which of the two is more effective in the learning process. This particular research focuses on synchronous (real time, live) CMC language learning with emphasis on how social presence affects the students.

     The rationale of the study was based on the current system of second language instruction in Japan, and the shifts in the organizational mission and vision of their second language learning institutions. The current increase in globalization has switched the teaching of ESL from a cultural and sophisticated process to a more matter of fact and commercialized process where the focus is practical communication skills. The urgency of learning English for business and practical purposes leaves the teachers to teach high level language skills as quick as possible without the chance of exposing the students to a more human environment.

     The solution that many learning organizations have found is to combine CMC and regular education methods in a process where an online-centered study will mix interaction and technology for the student. The concern, however, is that both teachers and students are not in complete agreement on what are the objectives of learning the language itself. There is little consciousness of the learning objectives in many of these programs, and they feel it is due to the lack of blending: Again we find that some learning institutions have a deterministic and instrumentalist view of technology such as CMC communication, and isolate it from the human component during the process of teaching. Therefore, this study aimed to show the need to combine both, and to allow for the technology to blend in with the human factor effectively.

     The experimental research involved dividing into four groups. G1 communicated with the teacher via teleconferencing, G2 used audio conferencing, G3 used text-based chats with included the image of the teacher, and the last group communicated with the teacher in plain text with no image. All learners were engaged in task-based communication with their teachers. The study searched for its effects on the student’s perceived consciousness of social presence, perceived consciousness of language learning in communication, the productivity in the performance, and the consciousness of the learning objectives.

     The results of this investigation demonstrated different results. For example, the ability to observe the teacher during the communication affected performance in some aspects, while the use of voice feedback increased the student’s connection and consciousness of the importance of language learning in communication, in addition to their performance and the recognition of learning objectives. There is a quantifiable interaction effect which grants that social presence does aid in the process of second language communication in a learner-centered environment. The study was specific in that the combination of image and voice is as influential in language learning via Computers the way it occurs in a face-to-face setting.

     The participants in general were comfortable communicating via a visible partner to obtain both verbal and non verbal feedback, but in the same token, those who used text only experienced a similar effect, contrary to the audio conference group who complaint about the overload in communication and a rush to get their answers correctly. However, it should be kept in mind that this was an experimental research done in an experimental and isolated setting where students were specifically limited to the parameters of the design, and the results may not be transferable to practical and daily situations.

     The relevance of this article is that it solidifies the hypothesis that an organization whose mission and vision is to push the students towards a 21st century learning environment should leave aside the pervasive deterministic mentality of technology as an instrumentalist element, and should understand the importance of combining technological and human factors together as part of their improvement plans.

Meskill, C., Anthony, N. (2007) Learning to orchestrate online instructional conversations: A case of faculty development for foreign language educators. Computer Assisted Language Learning (20)1, 5-19

    One of the major problems of a deterministic and instrumentalist view of technology is that technology is portrayed as an isolated tool with an importance that surpasses that of humans. What a theory of technology would like to accomplish, however, is the view that technology produces change through human agency, and that both elements coexist intrinsically and not in parallel worlds.

     However, it does not only rest in the mission and vision of an organization to promote this type of mentality. Proper, relevant, engaging, and productive training must be given to faculty in the use of technology applications for foreign language teacher. This article demonstrates one of these trainings, and its effects on the goals of the learning institution where it was conducted.

     This research describes a faculty development program developed for higher education foreign language teachers. In this seminar, the teachers were asked to work with a Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) program and learn to understand it as a potential tool for foreign language teacher. The investigation describes how the majority of the teacher had a deterministic and instrumentalist mentality towards CMC, and deemed it to be an isolating tool since it separates the teacher from the student. The program consisted on the “assisting classroom” rationale, which means that there is an ongoing instructional conversation between the student and the teacher. The teachers were given activities which engaged them in educational dialogue with the assumptive students in the areas of reading, thinking about, and discussions. Given that the view of the teachers was deterministic at first, the study was clear in engaging the teachers in the conversation so that they could experience the value of CMC as both learners themselves and as potential leaders in the area.

    The results of the study demonstrated that, after understanding first- hand the process through which the program works, they were able to sense the additive value of CMC as part of a traditional classroom program (as an add-on) or as an online program tool who becomes as good as the sense of human agency allows. The teachers realized that it was possible to provide healthy human feedback even if its via email or chats, that the print-rich nature of written communication allows for more exposure to the language via reading, that the student will probably feel more relaxed as they get to offer responses to problems in a more private setting, and that there is a human factor in electronic socialization that weans away the idea of technology being an isolating tool.

     The relevance of this article is that it demonstrates how organizations who intend to direct their mission and vision towards a futuristic mentality must first eliminate instrumentalist views of technology among its participants, and should allow them to experience firsthand how to integrate the most basic Web 2.0 tools in a simple and productive way. Given that CMC is so cost-effective in a time and age where e-mails are free and available everywhere, this might be one of the key elements that would assure the success of the organization in achieving its 21st century goals

Peterson, M. (2006) Learner interaction management in an avatar and chat-based virtual world. Computer Assisted Language Learning (19) 1, 79-103

     The ubiquitous nature of computers and computer usage allows for new trends in educational practices combining technology. These new best practices also offer the ease of being readily available and free of charge thanks to the advent of a myriad of new Web 2.0 tools. The increase in computer usage, particularly among younger learners have resulted in a shift from an “analog” to a “digital” paradigm particularly in learning organizations, who now seek to gear their mission and vision towards a futuristic mentality. The only danger of such a paradigm is the traditional tendency to view technology in a deterministic and instrumentalist way, that is, as a separate tool that can be used for specific purposes. However, it is a known fact that technology is indeed an everyday tool that can be properly integrated to everyday life.

     In the field of education and organizational leadership, however, special consideration should be given to that tendency, with the aim of not allowing it affect the goal of the institution. The sophistication and interest level of using technology might lead to increased expenditures of money and the addition of resources that may not be entirely necessary to obtain. To counteract this, organizations should create a mission of utilizing all the current technology available to the most immediate usage, of mastering those tools, and of increasing their skill progressively so that technology slowly becomes symbiotic instead of additive to the everyday life of the organization’s participants.

     This current paper presents one of such tools, and its ease of use and integration. It is a tool that is free, available in the internet, and has show amazing influence in student success: It is an avatar, or a virtual word called “Second Life”. The purpose of this research is to explore the benefits of adding second life to a second language learning curriculum and its impact when it is integrated as part of the technological vision and mission of a learning organization.

     As a “citizen” of “Second Life”, a student creates a virtual reality persona. However, it cannot be categorized as “gaming” because each individual use has to meet a set of goals. In the case of teachers, educational goals take the form of challenges that the persona of the student has to complete in a systematic process where, from Vygotskyan perspective, the student scaffolds his or her way through them. The aspect of the program, however, is that of a “gaming” program. The students are engaged in the creation and selection of all the elements that his or her personal will include, and the process of learning becomes more meaningful, motivating, and personal. The article includes ample background research and social information that shows that Second Life is a very commonly used tool especially among high school teachers, and its correct implementation in a learning program allows for immediate feedback, better student to teacher interaction, a lower affective filter, fun, and increased productivity coming from the constant exposure to the “game”. The article even reports how Second Life citizens who are in the medical field have set up clinics (a la WebMd) to interact with people who might have questions about conditions, and how teachers of second language have even built conversation-based avatars to explore both the language and culture of the target language.

     This article is very relevant in that it serves as solid ground evidence that technology and organizational leadership, the mission and vision of an organization, and the goals of a learning institution can be solidified in an element which is free of charge, easy to use, and readily available. An organized system does not need to perceive technology as an isolating tool that costs thousands of dollars to implement, nor should its participants feel threatened by the changing times with the advent of the Web 2.0. This article shows how, when goals are clear and in place, learning institutions can make use of the cheapest and easy Web 2.0 tools to increase the potential of gain and social change within their organization.

Qing, M., Kelly, P. (2006) Computer assisted vocabulary learning: Design and evaluation. Computer Assisted Language Learning(19) 1, 15-45

     This qualitative research explores the implementation of a CALL vocabulary program. With the changing times, new methodologies that include computer methods for CALL learning have expanded as new programs continue to develop. However, it is important to know that there has to be an element of CALL efficacy, when deciding which method to implement, or what technology package to purchase. The importance of such CALL efficacy is grants that the program is one of quality, and serves the mission, vision and goal of the learning institution. This is a particularly important characteristic to solidify the goals of the learning institution as social agent of change for 21st century teaching because it shows that resources are being used and that money is being spent wisely.

     This particular investigation based its research on a program developed by them called WUFUN. Far from being a way to promote their program, this investigation is very valuable for the depth component of the KAM in that the researchers carefully explained their own mission and vision of the program as it pertains to the achievement of goals of any institution. The questions they asked themselves were: To what extent will this program help the L2 (in this case Chinese) learners to accept and perceive the L2 as a welcome experience and not a difficult task; in which ways can this program be used both individually and in a whole-group setting?; will the learners develop the vocabulary strategies that will facilitate future learning in both an individual and general basis; how will the users evaluate the program, and how are user actions related to the learner evaluation and to the learning results in the two different settings?

   The results of the experiment demonstrate that CALL learning continues to be a center for student learning that has undeniable positive outcomes if it is implemented correctly, and with a set purpose in mind. The results of this investigation were not entirely the effectiveness of the WUFU program, but whether the initiative of implementation and the process through which its usefulness was determined can serve as a quality indicator for other learning institutions. The researchers were specific to note that their main objective is to introduce a CALL efficacy model to ensure quality of CALL programs.

     This demonstrates that the process of making CALL quality and productive resource has to come strictly from proper implementation and concrete educational goals. These factors are what will, in the future, elevate CALL to a field of within pedagogy that will be embraced with as much strength and general acceptance as any other learning models.

Rivero, V. (2006) Computer labs: Are they here to stay? America School Board Journal   (193), 10 p. 50-51

     This article compiles testimony from several sources regarding the different mentalities among schools regarding the use of technology as part of the mission and vision of the organization. The scope of the analysis is the implementation use of computer labs in schools. What exactly is their purpose ten years after their first implementation? Why and how are they being used, and, most importantly, do their usage follow a developing and more embracing view of technology as an integrative and additive tool? Do they isolate technology to “a room in the building?” 

     According to this article, the correct and most modernistic view of technology is to connect it to “mobility” instead of “stability”. Students would not have to have to go to a place to obtain the tools provided by technology but, instead, the technology will come to them, or be readily available wherever they go. In an ideal worlds, like the article states, students would have wireless access and a portable learning device that they could take to every lesson, or bring them outside of the school with the teacher to explore further on a plant, or a bird; to a field trip to research the author whose play they just saw onstage right after it happened; even to their cafeteria, if necessary, to research nutritional data. The possibilities are endless-in an ideal world. What do we have to offer our students of the 21st century for the 21st century?

     The article reports a few schools that have posted their opinions on this matter. One school said that they have used the same computer lab for over 10 years simply because they have not been able to obtain a grant or a monetary initiative that is substantial enough to provide all students with independent technology. As a response to this, the director of the Discovery Educator Network, Scott Kinney, the key to the success of any technology program is to strategically integrate it into instructional practices, and most importantly, to “shift the budgets” going step by step and using what is available now, making the usage of the lab more consistent and constant, and from then on, a real need will determine which way to go as far as financial support.

     Perhaps the student’s own demonstrated consistent use of a lab as shown in a project or a long-term investigation might entice a corporation that operates in that field to provide a grant to the school. In other words, it has to be used enough to really see where the program is going.        This notion is solidified by the director of the Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology Susan Patrick explained that an average of $8,700 is spent nationwide per student, but that we have very little to show for it. The paradox and worldwide assumption that Americans cannot point America on a map is perhaps the result of years of low standardized test-scores, and low Math scores across the country. Patrick claims that we continue spending money on following the same curriculums, the same learning methodologies, the same teaching styles, basal readers, materials, and subjects. The money that some learning institutions are spending on 21st century learning is separate from their current spending which (again) continues to gear towards a traditionalist mentality. In those cases, without their knowledge, no matter how much they want to integrate 21st century tools, they are still viewing it as an isolated resource, and not an integrative component that should be aligned with the same budget.

     The relevance of this article is that it voices the hypothesis of the analysis: We need to transform our schools by acquiring and adopting new learning environments that eradicate the Victorian classroom mentality, and the classicist view of the analog classroom. This new learning environment must exist within a digital platform where technology begins to become integrative, and not isolating, within each and every school subject. Technology should be portable, and available. The student of the 21st century is maybe perhaps already adopting mentalities for the century next to come.

     If a school can only count on minimal technological resources, at least the teachers who have been properly trained in these applications can easily use them to re-create more sophisticated programs, simulate “store-bought” software programs, and/or replicate formats from the internet that the students can also build themselves. This makes the learning kinesthetic, an promotes higher concentration level as the high concentration of cognitive loads that comes as a result of the intensity of the process will allow learning to take place. Therefore, this article will be a way to demonstrate that even the American School Board Journal is looking into this situation and considering as important as it is critical to correct.

Son, J. (2007) Learner experiences in web-based language learning Computer Assisted Language Learning (20)1, 21-36

     The purpose of this mixed model method investigation is to explore the attitudes of L2 learners during their performance of Web-based language learning activities in an English language extensive course for overseas students or (ELICOS). The rationale behind this exploration is to analyze real-life activity among students of different cultures during independent and group-based tasks. It is important to note these attitudes because the amount of available WEB 2.0 resources to enhance education, particularly L2 education, entices learning organizations to go out of their way to obtain the latest available software, or implement a myriad of programs into their curriculum, without clearly noting how the students will make best use of the experience.

     It must be recalled that students born in 1989 and on (the oldest  are 19 years of age as of 2008), are referred to as the “Technology Natives”, and their exposure to technology applications is far superior than that of their teachers. Their comfort-level using computers is higher and, according to this study, their level of motivation to seek for new applications online is superior enough for them to find things online before their teachers do. In order to embrace and go along with this trend among learners, teachers also must get in gear and catch up with them. Yet, education must continue to be goal-oriented, mission-based, purposeful, organized, and delineated. For this reason, once must gather all the students attitudes, combine them with an appropriate integration of technology, and add to it the human element of the teacher as the coach, support system, guide, and motivator. Son quotes Nunan (1988) in a very important quote that summarizes the gist of this study: “no curriculum can claim to be truly learner-centered unless the learner’s subjective needs and perceptions relating to the process of learning are taken into account” (p. 177).

     Son’s participants included 2 ESL students who were at an upper-intermediate ELICOS level.

The students ranged from 17-38 years of age. Five students spoke Chinese, three spoke Korean, one spoke Thai, one spoke Japanese, one spoke Spanish, and one spoke Arabic. Three of the students were male, and nine were females. They have studied English in a span from 3 years to 18 years at intervals in schools, college, and home. All of them have had internet experience ranging from 2-11 years. They all cited that they used the internet primarily for entertainment purposes such as chatting, mail, downloading music and pictures, read the news, and conduct searches.

     In a period of four weeks, the students were exposed to pre-created and task-based web activities to include: Vocabulary pre-created activities, group work about discussing the news online (task-based), reading in pairs online (pre-created), book and film reviews pair work online (task-based), listening exercises (pre-created), and research a country online to write an essay titled “a trip to my dream countries” (individual, task-based).

    The results of the experiment showed that: a) 66% of the students agreed while 33% “strongly” agreed that they enjoyed the pre-created activities, b) 83% agreed that they enjoyed the task-based activities, but 23.1% (2 students out of 12) did not; c) two students (23.1%) strongly agreed that they had learned from the task-based activities, eight students (66.6%) agreed, and two (23.1%) did not agree; d) comparatively, two (23.1%) students claimed to “strongly agree” to have learned a lot from the pre-created web activities, nine (75%) students agreed, and only one (0.08%) disagreed. The tasks-based web activities showed 2 students strongly agreeing (23.1%), eight students (66.6%) agreeing, and another two (23.1%) disagreeing to have learned a lot from the task-based web activities.

     As far their learning experiences in general and the impact of the internet in their process, the students four students disagreed, while six students agreed, and two students agreed. Also one students only disagreed in that the web activities were valuable for learning English, yet, 4 students “strongly” agreed, and seven students agreed. Out of 12 students, 11 claimed to have gained confidence in their ability to use the web for learning purposes. The majority also showed that they felt comfortable with the use of the web during the web-based activities (only 3 disagreed), and also the majority showed comfort using it for language learning (only 1 disagreed). It is interesting to note that one or two students continued to stand out disagreeing with the common questions, but perhaps the tenth research question: “Do you feel that the web is a useful learning tool” showed 5 students strongly agreeing, 6 agreeing, and only 1 student disagreeing. This makes one wonder if the student was the same one disagreeing in most of the questions, whether the student had an agenda in mind, or whether the affective filter of the student is not still lower enough to embrace technology as an everyday resource. Many factors should be taken into consideration such as cultural upbringing, flexibility in thought and process, personal attitudes towards change and innovations, social malleability, and overall experience with technology.

    These results are very relevant as they demonstrate both the positive and the negative perspective of the usage of the internet, and it shows leaders of learning organizations all the things to take into consideration before implementing a technology, 21st century perspective in their schools. Do not be guided by what is available, what is new, or what seems to be innovative: That is actually the second step of the process. The first step should be assessing the attitude of the students, the level of confidence of the students in the use of technology, how important they feel that technology is in the process of learning, and how they should connect the computer usage at home to that at school. These implications also pertain to the teachers, and to the mission and vision of the learning institution as a whole. Only with these details and with this important information could any learning organization fulfill a mission and goal to enter 21st century teaching and learning.

Stewart, I., File, P. (2007) Let’s Chat: A conversational dialogue system for second language practice. Computer Assisted Language Learning (20) 2, 97-116

     This exploratory research describes a project to design and prototype a compute dialogue system named “Let’s Chat”. The program consists in virtual chats between the learner and the computer, where target expressions and social conversations will take place via pre-stored phrases. The philosophy behind this model is that repetition and exposure to L2 sequences in a holistic setting help new learners in the areas of fluency and capability. The study claims that, through the consistent repetition of native-like utterances, and wellc0nstructed sentences in the target language, the learners have more exposure to the language, particularly because it is rendered in a computer-based setting which they can go to anytime they want, and which does not let them feel threatened.

     The Let’s Chat prototype is still under development at the University of Albertay at Dundee, but its basic program includes slot filling, cloze tasks, interactive exchanges of native-like expressions, visual representation of what is being said, and enough print rich exposures to the language in written form. The program encounters the typical needs of developing sensitive and highly interactive demonstrations coming from the computer to provide feedback to the learners. The importance of the program to the learning experience is its availability and the opportunities it provides to the reader for constant, consistent, and repetitive exposure to words.

     The importance of this information is that Let’s Chat represents the trend in expansion and continuous implementation of computer assisted language learning programs throughout different learning institutions. CALL programs are gearing towards more sophisticated methodologies to ensure learning. However, as with every new program, organizational leaders have to weight its worth within its improvement plans, and within the goals and mission of the organization. “Let’s Chat” is an example of how the integration of computers to everyday actions such as conversing, dialoguing, and mediated speaking is going to be a focal point in the development of future software programs.

     Special attention must be given to this pattern of growth within the technological community, as many organizational leaders might tend to want to fall for the “newest” and “geekiest” releases not knowing that there has been a pattern of development among those programs that can be traced back to basic tools that are readily available within the institution itself, and can be easily replicated for the use of the learners.

Vinagre, M. (2005) Fostering language learning via email: An English – Spanish exchange Computer Assisted Language Learning (18) 5, 369-388

     This article intends to demonstrate how Tandem learning is positively impacted by the integration of technology in the teaching of second languages through the implementation of an email-based L2 program. Tandem learning is a concept that has been investigated, according to the article, “for more than 30 years” and refers to collaboration and simultaneous learning of L2 learners helping acquire other’s language by speaking to each other in their respective L1s.

     The Antonio de Nebrija University in Madrid and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst created and implemented a system of instruction based on e-mail exchanges. English speaking students who are non-specialist learners of Spanish were randomly assigned to a Spanish e-mail “keypal” of the same non-specialized skill in learning English. The intended method was for the students to interview each other and exchange valuable cultural information while making corrections in the use of language of one another. The English speaking students would ask the questions and tell their narrative in their target language, and vice versa.

     The rationale of this study is that learners will acquire the target language incidentally through experiences that are relevant to the learner, increasing their affective filter. A second rationale is that extensive reading and exposure to print is much accomplished technology applications, such as e-mail and other reading material. The third rationale is that authentic communication with a person who is actively living in the culture that is being studied is the most natural way to exchange pertinent, accurate, and precise information about things that matter to the student. The fact that both students are at a learning stage allows for the free flow of information in the least threatening environment possible, and with ample space for two-way collaboration.

     The results of this study showed that 65% of the participants were satisfied with their linguistic improvement after exposure to the program, but only 15% felt that they had increased “very much” in their use of the second language. The results also demonstrated things to be taken into consideration when planning programs such as these: 1. The students must remember their role as editors of the other partner’s language, and should always continue the process of editing back and forth; 2. There must be a rubric by which students should guide their editing process and correction techniques so that a true score can be achieved; 3. Ensure that the students develop a good rapport through comfortable conversations prior to starting the editing process, to ensure that already-established biases (such as negative feelings for the American or Western Culture) will not impede a proper feedback. This article calls for further research in Tandem learning and its integration to technology, and suggests that the combination of both could result in a great learning and cultural experience.

     The importance of this information is that methodologies such as e-mailing for Tandem learning, keypals, and others, are great and effective no-cost methods of instructions that can be added to the mission and vision of a second language learning organization which intends to integrate technology as part of an improvement plan. This study shows that, with the correct measurements, Organizational leaders can integrate this method as one of several that will increase participation among its learners, and promote connectionism and the use of technology without having to invest in unnecessary materials that will not be used, or will not be understood by teachers.

Yasuyo E., Kaori K. (2007) An ethnographic study of a key-pal project: Learning a foreign language through bilingual communication. Computer Assisted Language Learning (20) 3,189-207

    Key-pal projects are the modern and technological version of “pen-pal” projects. The academic goals that are often related to the practice of pen paling are transferable to a key-pay project format. These goals include exposure to language in print, the development of writing skills, exchange of dialogue in print form, collaborative feedback, exposure to the pen-pal’s culture, establishing communication bonds, creating social networking, exploring cultural tolerance, and making cross cultural connections. These goals are part of the mission and vision of almost every learning organization. This particular project involves the same goals, but using e-mails, instead of handwritten letters, to establish the communication with a person living in the culture of the target language. The fact that written paper has been replaced with computers and e-mails, and the immediate availability of the key-pal in, many times, a real-time scenario with immediate responses and feedback is what denotes social change in this particular methodology.

     The participants of this study were Canadian university students learning Japanese and Japanese students learning English. The research design was a collaborative ethnography study and the data was collected from the information that the students sent each other via e-mail. The rationale and philosophical background of the study was the principle of the Tandem learning method which consists on students helping each other to learn each other’s target languages via collaborative interaction involving written and verbal communication, communicative feedback, and mutual support.

     The purpose and goal of the investigation was to determine whether this methodology indeed offers an opportunity for learning as it would be measurable by post-testing on words and phrases acquired, and the way they utilize them in context. In addition to this main goal, other research questions included the quality of the communication between the sets of students, and what elements of the process of communication allowed for it to flow more naturally, and less inhibiting.

     The results of the study determined that the key factor to the success of the communication between the participants was their discussion of their similarities, such as hobbies, choice of music, etc. The natural aim of students to ask each other questions about common interests immediately creates connections at both the emotional and cognitive level that decrease the affective filter, and enable more communication input. The data showed that most of the learning occurred at both the vocabulary and syntactic levels. Those students who were more cognizant of their own first language demonstrated a higher strength of editing and communicative skills, which is a “note to self” on selecting students who are at a higher skill level to ensure that the communication offers academic and quantitative efficacy.

     The relevance of this investigation is that it demonstrates the implementation of a 21st century teaching and learning tool that is free of charge, and effective. The technology is readily available through internet e-mail, and the students can be easily monitored, as their conversations can be printed for later review. The teacher can occupy various functions within this project, such as third party speaker, monitor, conversation leader, topic selector, or just plainly be there for assistance. With this particular kind of project, cross-curricular connections can be made to include the study of ethics and internet legal use, cultural expressions, and internet etiquette. Therefore, studies such as these will be used as examples on how to integrate technology into the mission and vision of a learning institution without wasting the resources that area already available for use, and without having to spend any money that could go towards other things.

Zapata, G., Sagarra, N, (2007) CALL on Hold: The delayed benefits of an online workbook on L2 vocabulary learning. Computer Assisted Language Learning (20) 2, 153-171

    This research performed on Spanish and English students aimed to demonstrate whether there is a difference in the learning productivity of students who learned L2 vocabulary divided into two groups: One of the groups learned, re-learned, practiced, and produced a demonstration of knowledge about the words using a paper workbook. The other group used an online workbook.    Once a week and during two semesters, the participants received 4 hours of classrooms instruction per week and did this task during the first semester and second semester of school. They were tested on the same words, and at the same time, using the same methodology for assessing their learning.

     The results of this research in the first semester demonstrated that the students did not perform any differently and, percentage wise, no group surpassed the other dramatically or even close to substantially different in their performance scores. However, the second semester test did demonstrate a big difference in which the online workbook book did surpass the scores of the paper and pen group by a high percentage. The rationale behind the results is linked to the hypothesis of the research which states that there is enough background confirming that the benefits of CALL are delayed since they are part of the learning process as it is (learning the usage of the technology) but that, once all is learned and the learning begins, the rate of learning is quicker and the volume of cognition increases. However, the study is quick to point out that there has to be enough length of exposure to the online environment precisely because the application of the technology is a learning process of its own, new to many students (and teachers), and just cutting it dry in the middle would not do anyone any favors.

     There are several implications of this study. For once, it solidifies its hypothesis that CALL is an additive methodology to include as part of the mission and vision of an organization, as long as it has a goal and a purpose, and as long as it is implemented correctly. Second, it shows that once it is implemented consistency is key. Many teachers who are not exposed to technology will waste away thousands of dollars by not trying to catch up with the usage of available technology resources. Enough exposure to these tools means that at some point even the most retrograde teacher will at least need to become exposed to the product, even if just once. It is the same with students who are not exposed. They feel more comfortable with what is known to them and in many cases, it is paper and pen which might have been the reason why the students performed better at first. Therefore, having the technology as part of an organizational goal is parallel to understanding the technology, embracing the technology, learning it, applying it, and becoming used to it. This is the only way a 21st century mission and vision plan would work for a learning institution, and this study shows that, if done right, the time spent on this will pay off well.


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