Read the following scenario and think about the barriers that Ms. Plenner faced in implementing a CALL activity.
Ms. Plenner’s supervisor was pushing her to use the school’s new computer cart with 24 laptops. He assigned her a time slot in the middle of the week and strongly recommended that she have her students use some of the ESL software that the school had recently purchased. Ms. Plenner was not familiar with any of the software packages and had little experience with the Internet other than using a basic e-mail program. Her curriculum, already packed, did not include ideas for using technology, and she had not had any training in using technology during her teacher certification classes. She did not have time before the middle of the week to investigate the laptops or the software or even to talk to her colleagues about using technology with second language students.
Ms. Plenner’s students, most of whom did not have other access to laptop computer in the economically poor neighborhood in which they lived (although some students had smartphones), were excited (and nervous) about using computers in class and expressed their hope that their language learning would increase as a result. Ms. Plenner decided to give her students each a laptop and let them choose what they wanted to do, hoping that they would catch on to the software fairly quickly because they were highly motivated.
The class time in the computer lab was a disaster. Ms. Plenner did not know that each student would need a password to log on. She expected that there would be some kind of tech help or instructions, but there was not. After she had spent time getting the password from the principal and helping students access the computers, the students did not know which program to choose. Ms. Plenner picked one from the desktop that helped students practice grammar and asked everyone to do unit one. Two students said that grammar drills were not useful for them and that they wanted to talk to native English speakers online. After several other students seemed confused about how to answer some of the questions in the grammar unit because it used idiomatic language and contexts that they did not understand, Ms. Plenner told the students to turn off the laptops and put them back on the cart, promising that she would figure out how to use the computers better for future sessions.
► Overview of CALL Professional Development Opportunities
Pressure from the school administration to use technology contributed to Ms. Plenner’s problems using CALL. Because she was not given a chance to learn about the technology and its uses beforehand, she was not prepared to use the laptops, she did not consider using the computers as tools to help meet her goals, and she did not set up tasks based in CALL principles. This scenario is an exaggeration, but many teachers meet at least some of the same barriers to effective use of CALL: lack of time, training, freely accessible resources, and incentive. These barriers are often difficult to overcome, but many resources and tools exist to help teachers and administrators understand these barriers and to surmount them. This chapter outlines ways for teachers to get started in creating plans for professional development in CALL and to begin to develop strategies for CALL that fit the needs of their classrooms and contexts.