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Vance's: Papers / Cyprus 2001 Conference page / Plenary / Workshop

Implementing Expectations: The Firewall in the Mind

Plenary Address by Vance Stevens


The presenter brings 20 years of experience with CALL to bear on traditional notiions of how computers should be be used for language learning and suggests alternatively paradigms inherent in two development models he has been working with recently, one institutional and one online. In the institutional setting the presentation supports a tool-based approach to CALL with reliance on teachers as craftspersons who focus on the curriculum, while the online model promotes community building incorporating students' faces and personalities. The presenter uses video, sound and examples of web-based humanistic interfaces to show positive outcomes through application of these paradigms to CALL implementation.

The talk begins with a characterization of how languages were taught when the presenter began his career in the mid 1970's, and how CALL developed soon thereafter initially as a means of carrying out with greater efficiency the notions of language instruction prevalent at the time. As these notions tended over time to become more learner-centered, so use of computers has shifted to promote greater learner empowerment .

The presentation utilizes numerous media clips to both recall past teaching practices and demonstrate their influence on the roots of CALL, and illustrate the transition into the more versatile and humanistic tools being developed for and adapted to computer-assisted language learning today. Media clips include PowerPoint slides, audio tracks, Internet web sites accessed (ideally) live or in the form of screen captures, and Internet video cached in the presentation computer.

Points are illlustrated using examples from two projects the presenter is currently involved in. One is a language institute where computers have been generally embraced by students, teachers, and administrators and integrated into all aspects of the curriculum. The other is an online class where computer-based interfaces have been the sole means of student transaction over years the class has existed. Principles guiding both these projects are discussed. In the former instance, they are a workshop approach to implementaton where hardware and software tools have been assembled and teachers are treated as craftspersons expected to use the tools available in teaching and developing the curriculum. And in the second case the computers are used to create an environment where participants can express themselves in the course of forming a viable and longlasting target-language community. Examples of serendipitous outcomes from both models are given and a case is made for not so much prescribing or controling development of a CALL facility as constructing it properly and enjoying benefits from its organic development.

The presenter concludes with a call for a fresh look at what we do with computers in language learning, and questions the notions of a separate CALL curriculum, and even the notion of CALL itself. On the upside, language practitioners now have a more productive range of tools to work with, if they can conceive of ways of using them that exploit them to appropriate advantage, as illustrated in the model implementations. The presenter encourages participants to cast aside vestiges of the firewall in the mind causing them to adhere to outmoded notions of how those tools should be applied to language learning.

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Last updated: May 23, 2001 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0