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Computer Use in Limited Technology Contexts

Although many of the newer features of technology (e.g., real-time audio, active graphics, artificial intelligence, many-to-many communication) are useful, they are not always used to best advantage in classrooms. Reports abound in the literature of activities during which students and technology did not perform as expected. In other words, even advanced technologies can be used poorly for language and content learning. On the other hand, even with limited technology, teachers who base tasks on principles of effective language learning can provide learners with rich experiences.

Many scenarios and activities in this book have presented limited technology contexts. These contexts have limited access to technology, lack of or limited Internet access, dated software that does not match current theory, mandated use of specific technologies, or lack of hardware. It is difficult to find literature that outlines the benefits of limited technology contexts; to some educators, benefits and limited present an oxymoron. However, educators in limited technology environments find that students can more easily learn how the available technology functions, use learning strategies supported by simple technologies, do not have to deal with unnecessary and distracting audio and graphics components, focus on the learning rather than the technology, and have opportunities to use off-line resources. Despite the fact that some educators might view limited technology as a barrier to effective instruction, limited technology used in a principled way can support the development of effective language learning. (See Egbert, 2010, for information and ideas from a large range of contexts).

Much is written in the literature about barriers to using technology in classrooms; interestingly, the most common barriers are not caused by lack of technology, but by administrative, curricular, and personal needs. Barriers often include what educators see as the extra time it takes to use technology, the lack of curricular freedom, and large class sizes that make it difficult to give all students equitable access. These three aspects of technology use are discussed briefly below (teacher development in technology is discussed in chapter 10).


The activities described throughout this book should not be seen as additions to an existing curriculum. Teachers can use the CALL principles to rethink the opportunities that they provide for learners. Because using the principles can make learning more effective and more efficient, computer-enhanced language tasks like those described in the examples can replace others that do not provide these opportunities. Teachers do not develop such activities to use exclusively, but rather to use appropriately when they meet classroom goals. Further, there are innumerable lessons and activities available throughout the Web that teachers can use so that they do not need to start from scratch. Websites such as Pinterest (pinterest.com) provide resources at all levels for all classroom contexts.

Standardized Curriculum

The use of technology should not change the goals of the curriculum. Used as a tool, technology can help teachers to meet curriculum goals more effectively and efficiently. Textbook pages and other required curriculum materials can be integrated with the technology in creative ways to give students more opportunities to learn and practice curriculum objectives.

Large Classes

Many of the activities described in this book can be adapted even for large groups of students in one-computer classrooms. For example, during a grammar exercise while the teacher or other person reads sentences from the screen, students in the class can take the role of “A” or “B” to write down odd- or even-numbered sentences. The teacher can randomly call on students to discuss answers or create groups that provide group answers. Learners then pair up to write the story. Such adaptations are especially useful in more teacher-fronted classes. Most CALL experts advise teachers to start small, understand how to use CALL successfully, and then expand as warranted.


Creative Commons License
Computer Use in Limited Technology Contexts by Joy Egbert and Seyed Abdollah Shahrokni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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