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Affiliate News: February 2010

Affiliate News (October 2009): E-Learning Focus: TESOL Aotearoa New Zealand

by User Not Found | 11/10/2011
E-Learning Focus: TESOL Aotearoa New Zealand

Pat Syme, Editor, and Karen Haines

E-learning was the focus of the TESOLANZ April 2009 newsletter. This editorial highlights some of the articles.

CALL FOR NORMALIZATION

Digital technology is becoming a normal part of the everyday lives of most New Zealanders, including language teachers and their students. Normalization (Bax, 2003; Chambers & Bax, 2006) refers to the stage in which technology becomes embedded in our day-to-day practice to the point of being almost invisible. So, the normalization of computer use in a TESOL classroom would mean that teachers and students use computers as part of their regular classroom practice, with the focus firmly on the language learning that is taking place, rather than on the use of the technology per se. The articles that contribute to this edition of the TESOLANZ newsletter certainly suggest that in a number of New Zealand teaching and learning contexts the use of CALL (computer-assisted language learning) is becoming normalized.

As language teachers we all operate within what Levy and Stockwell (2006, p. 234) described as “a complex system of opportunity and constraint.” The challenge for normalization, they suggested, is to work toward understanding the infrastructures, the support networks, and the materials of our local contexts and to work effectively within them. The contributors to this newsletter demonstrate such understandings from a variety of contexts and institutions. Their use of technology gives us an appreciation of the opportunities of e-learning as well as some of the constraints that may be encountered on the road to normalization.

Teaching Online

Cynthia White gives a brief overview of distance learning and describes the opportunities for global interaction in a telecollaborative course involving students in New Zealand and Germany. Annette Sachtleben describes her experience of putting online a face-to-face (f2f) course in interpreting, while Hazel Owen examines the ups and downs of working with a Japanese group of learners using Web 2.0 tools such as Moodle and Flickr.

Using Digital Tools for the Classroom

The second group of articles suggests some of the different ways that we, as teachers, can use digital tools in our f2f classrooms. Chris King explains how he slows down audio and video resources to make them more accessible for his students, while Jim Brook has created a tool for classroom presentation to be used within Word, working around the constraints of existing applications. Steve Varley and Michael Barlow, in separate articles, unpack some of the mysteries of using corpora and concordances to support classroom teaching and learning and to create materials for students.

Developing Self-Access

Digital tools and materials also offer potential for self-access, as the final three articles in this newsletter demonstrate. Kathy Parker gives a detailed and very practical outline of her experience establishing a self-access center incorporating CALL in a secondary school. Helen Cartner describes the process of putting the vocabulary aspect of an EAP course online and how students responded to this. Pat Syme describes both the opportunities and constraints that she discovered in her development of the eslnews Web site and finally Martin McMorrow tells us about the audio classroom wall.

OUR RESPONSE

These examples of technology being integrated into language learning in New Zealand contexts may well represent only the tip of the iceberg of actual CALL use. However, they offer some practical springboards for teachers still waiting to take the digital plunge, with descriptions of existing technologies as well as newer technologies. As well, they illustrate broader themes from language learning and education in general such as

  • the potential for global interaction and the possibilities that this offers for learning
  • a focus on the social: learning communities and collaboration
  • a focus on the individual: how e-learning can support different learning styles
  • a focus on the teacher’s role: in spite of developing learner autonomy, teachers are still usually the designers of learning opportunities and environments
  • emerging uses of digital audio and video tools
  • the ever-present and often growing gap between what we would like and what we, or rather our institutions, can afford

As you read these articles, take time to reflect on these themes as well as on your own support networks and the resources available to you. Find out what opportunities your colleagues see in CALL and how they work through technical or pedagogical issues related to computer use. If you feel isolated in your use of technology, connect with other CALL teachers in New Zealand by joiningecentric, the e-mail discussion list advertised in this newsletter. Consider how you can effectively work within the constraints and opportunities of your particular context to normalize CALL practice in your classroom and for your students.

For more information and to access these and other articles, visit the TESOLANZ Web site.

Bax, S. (2003). CALL—past, present and future. System, 31, 13-28.

Chambers, A., & Bax, S. (2006). Making CALL work: Towards normalisation. System, 34, 465-479.

Levy, M., & Stockwell, G. (2006). CALL dimensions: Options and issues in computer-assisted language learning. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.