This introductory section briefly outlines the challenges second and/or foreign language educators are faced with in terms of using technology in their classrooms in a way that is beneficial to their students. Also provided is an overview of the main components of this article.

the challenge | article overview

The Challenge

Many forms of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) are being used in todayís second and foreign language classrooms and students and teachers alike agree that the use of computers enhances the studentsí language learning process. However, both technology and language instruction have changed over the years and so have expectations. DÌaz-Rico (1999) aptly verbalizes the ongoing trend concerning the use of the World Wide Web when she says:


Cybertutorial technologies describe the brave new world of the computer-learner nexus. These are not the preprogrammed tutorials of the integrated language systems, in which basic skills are carefully sequenced in computer-managed drill-and-kill. This is learner-managed information access, with project-based learning at its core. Who would have thought that an interactional information web would empower the learner-as-creator to spin around so artfully? Students who surf the web to complete projects for class can process English purposefully and independently, becoming, in effect, their own tutors. (p. 20)

In other words, the recent developments of CALL[1] in the second and foreign language classroom go beyond the task-based student-centered communicative approach with project-based learning being emphasized. Whereas computers had been used primarily as machine drillmasters in the past, they now provide learners and teachers with an opportunity to communicate with native speakers via the Internet (Lambert, 2001, p. 359) and to create projects in the target language making the computer not only a tool to learn with but also a means to learn with and thus offering the learner a chance to engage in meaningful authentic activities. And while experts, students, and teachers alike are in favor of using technology in the language learning classroom, questions on how to best incorporate and use all of the technologyís capabilities remain widely unanswered. Chun and Plass (2000) describe the current situation as follows:

In recent years, use of the World Wide Web for delivery of language learning materials has been expanding rapidly. […] There is a plethora of Web sites for language teaching and learning that incorporate the multimedia capabilities of the Web and present information in form of visuals and audio in addition to text. However, the vast majority of learner production activities involve only text-based responses from the learner (e.g., answering multi-choice questions about content or grammar, typing in answers to content questions or grammatical exercises, filling in tables with information discovered in the various Web sites, and writing short answers or essays […]). Follow-up activities suggested on Web sites do often require students to compare notes with each other, discuss what they found, or present their findings orally to the class. Although these activities may be inspired by hypermedia environments, however, they are usually carried out in more traditional, non-networked means. (p. 151)


Thus, the real challenge is to incorporate the technologyís many capabilities into the learnersí production of the target language in a meaningful way. This article is meant to present various theoretical concerns on how to implement technology in a way that it supports the language acquisition process of the learner.

the challenge | article overview

Article Overview

The article consists of two parts. Part one discusses recent publications on the use of technology in the second/foreign language classroom. Numerous variations of technology applications in the classroom such as Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL), Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), Computer-Enhanced Language Learning (CELL), and Technology-Enhanced Language Learning (TELL) as well as Computer-Assisted Language Testing (CALT) will be looked at. It will also be discussed how the use of technology changes the classroom dynamics and how this influences the studentsí learning process. The second part of this article provides a number of guidelines and checklists for evaluating software packages and web pages which can be modified and further adapted to many different teaching contexts.

[1] Here the term CALL refers to all kinds of uses of computer technology in the second/foreign language classroom.