As you read the following scenario, think about influences on student achievement in technology-supported language classrooms.
Ms. Johnston had carefully planned the activity for her lab time with her fifth grade students, making sure that each had a role to play, knew what to do and how to do it, and was aware of the goals of the activity and how to obtain feedback. Although this was the students’ first time in the lab, Ms. Johnston expected a successful experience because she had set up the environment so carefully.
Once in the lab, Ms. Johnston set the students to work. Although some of the students jumped right in, Dari and Stephen were very confused about the array of buttons, instructions, and windows on their screen and could not figure out how to begin. Jana, who had a visual impairment, could not read the text on the screen, and Alice, who was physically challenged, had a difficult time using the mouse. Anu politely but firmly declined to work on the computer; Ms. Johnston did not understand Anu’s obstinacy until she later discovered that Anu’s father did not believe that computers were an appropriate part of schooling and did not want her to participate in such activities. Many of the students completed their tasks successfully, but Ms. Johnston was concerned that she had failed to address the needs of all her students, and she determined to work more attentively toward this goal.
► Overview of Factors That Influence Student Achievement
Although Ms. Johnston based her lab activities on principles for effective CALL, she did not consider other factors in the environment that could have an impact on student outcomes. This is not surprising—although computers can be used as a tool in the same ways that pencil and paper can, they are capable of more than such tools, and both learners and teachers must understand both the advantages and liabilities of using computers. This chapter focuses briefly on five areas for reflection: new literacies, the needs of differently abled students, computer uses in limited technology contexts, the impacts of culture in CALL classrooms, and legal issues of technology use.