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The Firewall in the Mind (Slide 13) First exposure to CALL

Now, at the university I was working at in Saudi Arabia, I was teaching the language component in an orientation-year program where the students were also taking some science courses. The maths and computing department were implementing a programmed instruction component to their course. Without anyone bothering to tell the instructors at the language center what they were doing, and why should they, indeed, the science chaps had a computer brought down and installed in an unused room in the language center offices. It was a DEC mini-mainframe costing a million riyals, or about $300,000 dollars. They installed it in 1978, and for a while it just sat there all by itself in the spare classroom.

No one in the Language Center ever went to see it, but it was left on all the time. One day, I just went in the room and sat down at the keyboard and just tried to see what it would do. I don't remember that it did anything in particular, or even what I expected it to do, but the director noticed me in there, thought I might be interested, and put me in charge of developing the new computer-assisted instruction lessons for English that the maths and sciences side of the orientation year program thought we should be developing.

So what kind of lessons did they want? So, try and imagine yourself in this situation. It's as though you're on the spaceship in 2001: Space Odyssey and you want to use Hal, the omniscient computer, to teach you the language of the civilization whose galaxy you are approaching. What do you do?

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