Hotel Ciputra, Jakarta, Indonesia, 8-9 November 2008
This year’s GloCALL Conference focused on Globalization and Localization in CALL, bringing together presenters and participants from a wide variety of countries to discuss their shared interest in the broad – and expanding – field of computer-assisted language learning. We spent two intensive days in the Hotel Ciputra, many floors above the busy, traffic-filled streets of the Indonesian capital, sharing international, national and local perspectives on technology-enhanced communication and collaboration, much of it facilitated by web 2.0 tools. Key themes included the fostering of collaboration and growth of community through CALL, and the vast range of CALL manifestations, each of which may be appropriate to different students indifferent contexts. There was a notable focus on the use of audio and/or video in conjunction with blogs, e-portfolios, digital storytelling, podcasting and m-learning.
Blogging was the focus of Penny Coutas’s session, Blogging for learning, teaching and researching languages, in which she demonstrated the principles behind blogging in an interactive paper-based exercise, before going on to outline the uses of blogs for learners, teachers and researchers. She stressed that the value of blogs lies as much in the interactions and community building that go on around them as it does in the actual blog postings themselves.
Podcasting was the focus of Wai Meng Chan’s plenary, Harnessing mobile technologies for foreign language learning: The example of podcasting. After reviewing the literature on podcasting, he described a research project conducted at NUS, which showed very positive overall student reactions to podcasting. He noted that podcasting can lead to a great variety of different kinds of language practice.
My own talk, entitled Web 2.0: Connecting the local and the global, discussed the ways in which a variety of web 2.0 tools, including blogs, wikis, rss, podcasting, vodcasting and virtual worlds, can be used to connect the local and the global as part of the language learning process. These tools can help students not only to learn language, but also to begin to develop the local and global linguistic affiliations which are so important for today’s citizens.
There is continued interest in the area of e-portfolios, complemented by rapidly growing interest in digital storytelling, as reflected in a number of talks and workshops. Debra Hoven, in a paper entitled Digital storytelling and eportfolios for language teaching and learning, spoke of digital stories, whether collaborative or individual, as a valuable mode of communication. She noted that digital stories can be used for reflection, sharing, presentation, showcasing knowledge or skills, and can even function as part of or in conjunction with e-portfolios. Typical goals may include improvement of L1 and L2 literacy as well as multiliteracy skills, (re-)connecting with family, culture and traditions, and intergenerational communication. They can be a means of expression, an avenue of creativity, a way to make the mainstream curriculum more meaningful, and can help L2 learners to find their own voices. They are, ultimately, about language for real purposes and real audiences, involving practice in the following areas:
- writing/scripting (grammar, vocabulary, syntax, genre, register, audience, interest)
- communicating a message
- organising ideas
The notion of community was also stressed by Peter Gobel in his paper, Digital storytelling: Capturing experience and creating community. He described a pilot project conducted with Japanese learners of English from Kyoto University, who were asked to create digital stories about key experiences on overseas language learning trips from which they had recently returned.
A number of language areas were involved:
- topic choice – focus
- narrative awareness – voice and audience
- organisational skill – expression of ideas
- mixed media (created and found objects)
In addition, students required scaffolding in multimedia and digital composition skills. Overall benefits of the exercise included:
- debriefing after the trip
- creating a database (to be consulted by future students travelling overseas)
- reflection on learning experiences
- comparison and sharing of experiences
- creating a social network of shared experiences
There is also continued and even growing interest in open source software such as Moodle (which was covered in a number of presentations) and Drupal, as well as other freeware which can be used in language teaching. John Brine, in a paper entitled English language support for a computer science course using FLAX and Moodle, outlined developments around the New Zealand Digital Library Project run by the University of Waikato, with particular focus on the Greenstone Digital Library and the FLAX (Flexible Language Acquisition) Project, which allows language exercises to be created based on freely available material drawn from web sources such as Wikipedia and the Humanity Development Library. There is now a prototype version of a FLAX module for Moodle, which allows students to collaborate on language exercises.
Phil Hubbard’s plenary focused on the need for Integrating learner training into CALL classrooms and materials. He argued that CALL can give students more control over – and thus more responsibility for – their own learning, but that they are generally not prepared to take on this responsibility and so need training in this area. Reiterating the learner training principles he outlined at WorldCALL 2008, he concluded that it is not just the technology that matters; nor is it just a case of how teachers use the technology; rather, it is important to train learners to use it effectively. In his paper, entitled An invitation to CALL: A guided tour of computer-assisted language learning, he introduced the online site which underpins his own teacher training course, An invitation to CALL.
In her plenary, Individuals, community, communication and language pedagogy: Emerging technologies that are shaping and are being shaped by our field, Debra Hoven suggested that rather than using multiple, slightly different terms to describe different aspects of language learning with technology, we should work with one main term (such as CALL) to maintain cohesion in the field. She went on to argue against chronological classifications of CALL which, she said, do not really capture what people are doing with the technology. She proposed her own six-part model to capture the main roles of CALL:
- Instructional/tutorial CALL (language classroom applications, sites such as Randall’s ESL Lab)
- Discovery/exploratory CALL (simulations, roleplays, webquests)
- Communications CALL (CMC involving language for real communication purposes)
- Social networked CALL (blogging, microblogging, photosharing, SNS and social bookmarking)
- Collaborative CALL (notably wikis)
- Narrative/reflective CALL (digital storytelling and e-portfolios)
It became apparent in a number of talks that, while educators around the world share similar interests and concerns with the use of technology, there are also important geographical differences. In his opening plenary, entitled CALL implementation in Indonesia – Yesterday, today and tomorrow, Indra Charismiadji explained that obstacles to use of recent educational technologies in Indonesia include technological issues such as lack of hardware, software and internet connectivity; policy issues such as governmental and institutional support for behaviourist pedagogical approaches; teachers’ resistance to change; and a general lack of computer literacy. Computer-based teaching (which fits with a transmission pedagogy where the teacher remains in control) may represent a first step towards broader adoption of more recent e-learning approaches and tools.
All in all, it was fascinating to compare CALL perspectives and experiences, noting some differences but also the considerable similarities in educators’ interests around the world.