Computers—the most powerful dimension of the second or foreign language learning experience since the advent of the teacher—serve as tireless portals to limitless target language models and, more important for the classroom, as tools for activities that draw students together to cooperate on activities that interest them and stimulate their creative language production and comprehension, all while challenging them to overcome obstacles in a complex environment in the target language.

In the computer-assisted language learning (CALL) classroom, students don’t study language as much as use it to cooperate and solve problems not unique to the language classroom. If we recognize the value in the process more than product, then we can appreciate that when a CALL class activity gets messy, and it does, it’s realistic: It reflects real language use and life in general with unforeseen problems and the need for creative solutions using a tool central to modern life.

What are the greatest obstacles to realizing this learning potential of the CALL classroom?
1. Users not appreciating these challenges in the process as being valuable to language use and therefore learning. These challenges may take many forms for students:
• following verbal and written instruction
• needing to gain comprehension in one step in order to get to the next
• consulting each other for clarification
• helping struggling neighbors with secondary instruction
• translating concepts (activity ideas) into action (specific procedures)
• working through challenges and problems with language and procedures
• being immersed in the target language on screen, content, and interface
2. Teachers not being adequately oriented to this relatively new, challenging environment in terms of their own comfort with personal computing, as well as effective CALL pedagogy, practical activities, and relevant resources.

Download pdf A Practical Guide to Using Computers in Language Teaching