ISSN 2231-4431



Technology Enabled Learning in Classroom Situation: A Small Scale Survey
 

N. Lakshmi 
Associate Professor of English, Department of Humanities & Basic Sciences, 
College of Engineering, KIET, Kakinada. 


Abstract 
            English Language teachers in recent years have understood that the integration of technology with traditional classroom teaching enhances language learning. It is felt that traditional classroom environment offers limited scope for creating real life situations in the classroom due to various reasons such as lack of appropriate infrastructure, large classrooms and rigid curriculum. In engineering contexts, it is imperative to offer language instruction in multiple settings as it promotes the use of language skills in authentic situations with the help of various techniques such as CALL and through e-learning. This paper concentrates on the benefits of CALL and technology based learning. A survey was conducted on 120 B.Tech students to know the use of CALL in the present context. The questionnaire method has been used to conduct the survey. 

Needs of English Language today:
            English Language teachers in recent years have understood that the integration of technology with traditional classroom teaching enhances language learning. It is felt that traditional classroom environment offers limited scope for creating real life situations in the classroom due to various reasons such as lack of appropriate infrastructure, large classrooms and rigid curriculum. 

            In engineering contexts, it is imperative to offer language instruction in multiple settings as it promotes the use of language skills in authentic situations with the help of various techniques such as CALL. Teachers need to use advanced technological tools in these like blogs, podcasts, PowerPoint presentations many more to offer input in technical English beyond classroom setting too. This becomes the need of the hour as such sort of use of technological tools in teaching technical English helps even slow learners to comprehend technical aspects by doing tasks, assimilate what is learnt and use that knowledge in real life contexts.
Importance of Technology and its use in Language Labs: 

            In the present era of globalization, multinational companies demand a wide variety of soft skills and life skills along with technical skills. Now English Language Resource Centres have been set up in various universities. Language laboratories is a concept introduced to improve the communication skills of engineering students. The demand of the job market has necessitated effective lab oriented activities for the students’ development.

            Language labs allow teachers to utilize radical teaching approaches which provide the students space and comfort to learn. Technology based learning like using power point presentation, overhead projectors, language softwares, web based teaching etc., can be useful to mould them into perfect professionals.

            English communication is largely task based and skill oriented. All the four skills involved in learning a language Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing are focused upon. Students from the vernacular find these skills difficult and they miss out many jobs despite possessing sound technical knowledge due to lack of requisite soft skills and communication skills. Technology has made learning and teaching more interesting and successful. Science and Technology can be learnt as subjects but communication skills and soft skills have to be learnt and practiced as skills. Carefully designed activities and language softwares help to develop language and communication skills in the students..

            Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) serves as the motivator along with the teacher to increase students interest in language . Students can overcome their inhibitions in such language labs participating with unlimited enthusiasm. CALL helps to introduce English speech sounds, accent, stress, rhythm and intonation to neutralize the influence of the mother tongue. CALL provides advantages to the students to record their responses, listen to them, check the correctness and identify the errors. Such learning allows weak learners to learn language at their own pace with minimum assistance. As Bax said, “the technology becomes invisible, embedded in everyday practice and hence 'normalised'”. (Bax 2003:24) To take some commonplace examples, a wristwatch, a pen, a mobile - these are all technologies which have become normalised to the extent that we hardly even recognise them as technologies.

            Learners can also be shown DVDs containing dialogues, recorded programmes and English motivational films. Activities like introduction, Greetings, GDs, interview techniques, language games can be held in the labs. Hence the overall personality development can be assessed along with the correction of body language while a presentation is on. 

Understanding CALL:
            As Hubbard (1996) has pointed out, “the use of computers in language acquisition is becoming common practice, a challenge for research and a business opportunity.” So, if the students need to have greater exposure to the world at large they need to resort to the use of CALL.Communication skills and soft skills teaching within a framework of computer-assisted language learning seems to be the best strategy.

            According to Chapelle, “this term is widely used to refer to the area of technology and second language teaching and learning despite the fact that revisions for the term are suggested regularly” (Chapelle, 2001, p. 3). CALL accommodates, infact any process in which a learner uses a computer and, as a result, improves his or her language. (Beatty, 2003, p. 7). It now encompasses a variety of issues from materials design, technologies, pedagogical theories to different modes of instruction. Materials for CALL can include those which are purpose-made for language learning and those which adapt existing computer-based materials, video and other materials like CD/DVDs, ppts etc. 

Popularity of CALL:
            The popularity of CALL has increased in the contemporary scenario since
  • learning has become integrated with audio-video support systems in the past few years. 
  • With internet, a new platform of CALL systems has evolved. Native speakers now resort to e-mail and chatting. 
  • The main advantage of such CALL packages is that they enable reading, writing, speaking and listening to be combined in a single activity, with the learner exercising a high degree of control over the path that he/she follows through the learning materials. 
  • It builds on multimedia technology and in addition enables both asynchronous and synchronous communication between learners and teachers. 
  • CALL allows promotes the acquisition of autonomous learning developing the learner’s critical faculties. It allows a sufficient level of stimulation (both cognitively and affectively) dealing with multiple modalities (to support various learning styles and strategies). There is a high level of interaction (human-machine and human-human) formed since teacher too is available in such Labs as a facilitator. 
            As Ahmad, Corbett, Rogers and Sussex (1985) point out : “CALL arose from the combination of two separate factors: educational needs and technological needs. .. With both pedagogy and technology together as the focus of CALL research, the final systems implemented more accurately meet the language learning educational needs by providing a plethora of language learning activities.”

            CALL packages that are available as software include: gap-filling exercises, multiple-choice exercises, re-ordering exercises, comprehension passages, simulations, action mazes, vocabulary games, "total Cloze": text 

manipulation exercises, exploratory programs in writing etc.,for developing grammar and vocabulary. CALL Packages for developing Soft skills include: Interview skills, Presentation skills, Telephonic skills, GD skills, Resume writing skills, etc., 

Use of Technology in teaching Listening skills: 
            Computer Assisted Language Learning allows teachers to add multisensory elements, text, sound, pictures, video, and animation, which provide meaningful contexts to facilitate comprehension. Students can hear the available input as many times as needed until they feel they understand it in a Language Lab with the help of CALL. Teachers can use: Interactive Audio-Picture English Lessons, Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab refer to BBC or British Council’s material-Learn English. 
Using Technology to Teach Speaking and 

Pronunciation Skills: 
            We use CALL to create an environment that encourages communication and provide increased and more varied communicative opportunities for students to utilize their oral skills.  In teaching speaking skills teachers can use: My English Tutor, Conversation Questions for the ESL & EFL Classroom, ESL Café, Articulatory charts, Sample words utilizing the targeted sound, Sounds of English and English Pronunciation at EnglishClub.com and the Online Oxford Advanced Dictionary and making them to watch excerpts of documentaries from DiscoveryKids.com 

Using Technology to Teach Reading and Soft Skills: 
    CALL can be used to teach automatic word recognition skills; vocabulary and structure knowledge; formal discourse structure;content/world background knowledge;synthesis, evaluation and metacognitive skills.CALL can be used by teachers using BBC Words and Pictures, AceReader ,Online dictionaries,Online concordancers, Word Based Games for ESL Students available on net, listening and reading news on CNN International. 
Using Technology to teach Writing skills: 

            CALL can also be used to teach writing skills like report writing, resume writing, letter writing etc. by using sites like: www.businessballs.com,  www.4shared.com, www.tesol.org,  www.eslworldwide.com, Grammar Safari , Writing Den (Assists students in their abilities to write sentences, paragraphs, and even essays) Purdue University's OWL (Online Writing Lab), BBC Learning English, Grammar from EFLnet.com etc.

Need based survey of CALL: 
            A small survey on a group of 120 students in the Ist year and another 120 in the IIIrd year to determine whether the use of CALL was useful for them or not was done. The empirical study was based on student analysis. The parameters were set as Good / Moderate / Low / Yes-No type answers / Intrinsic / extrinsic. Questionnaires were set with various evaluation criteria like the one given under: 

Evaluation CriteriaParameters   
Assess the level of language that the program offers ? Rate the instruction orientation?
Good / Moderate / Low

Rated:
Good/Moderate 
Is the user interface that is used by the Program understandable? 
Yes / No 

Rated:
Yes  
What is the mode of feedback given to the student ? 
Intrinsic / Extrinsic 

Rated:
Mostly intrinsic
Is the learner given an opportunity to seek an explanation after using CALL? 
Yes / No 

Rated:
Yes 
Is the learner provided help by the teacher to seek additional guidance on grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation etc? 
Yes / No 

Rated:
Yes 
Is the learner given the opportunity to easily quit something that is beyond his/her level of understanding?  
Yes / No 

Rated:
Yes 
Does the program include pictures, sub-headings etc., & are they relevant & do they aid understanding? 
Yes / No 

Rated:
Yes 
Does the learner have the choice to choose a program that can be worked out easily with minimum understanding? 
Yes / No 

Rated:
Yes 
If the program includes sound recordings, are they of an adequate standard? Are the voice/accent variations understandable? 
Yes / No 

Rated:
Yes, mostly 
Can the learner record his/her own voice? 
Yes / No 
Rated:
Yes 
Does the program include video sequences of an adequate standard? 
Yes / No 

Rated:
Yes 
Are the video programs understandable by the student? 
Yes / No 

Rated: 
Yes 
Can the learner hear the playback clearly? Does the program make use of Automatic Speech Recognition ? 
Yes / No 

Rated:
Mostly Yes 
Does the program include scoring? If so, does it encourage the learner to participate more? 
Yes / No 

Rated:
Yes 

Findings: 
            This survey was largely need based. Many students responded to the questionnaires positively. CALL was found supportive and useful both for the student and the teacher. Questionnaires like these provided us with the facts that CALL definitely holds the key to future improvement of students in learning english and also in boosting up the morale and confidence of students. 

Conclusion: 
            The effectiveness of CALL cannot reside in  technology itself but in how it is put to use and for what purpose. Training is the key to success in implementing technology. So, teachers should be trained to use CALL or it will be underused and ineffective.Teachers should also vary their methods, techniques and ways of teaching according to students needs and interests. However, the role of the teacher can never be underestimated for the behaviouristic and psychological motivation rests upon the teacher who can act as a mentor, a trainer and as a guide to train the students to become useful trendsetters in the long run. Use of Technology just provides the shift from teacher centred learning to student/learner centred learning to make learning an enjoyable experience.