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Using CMC to promote gains in language learning

Background:  I'm at a loss to pinpoint a burning research issue.  I'm a bit disillusioned with research.  It seems fairly understood that there are so many variables in educational psychology, ranging from effectiveness of interface to the difficulty if not impossibility of controlling variables that might enhance and thereby contribute to one individual's learning as opposed to another's; and that the likelihood of not accounting for significant variables of this nature render quantitative studies pretty much all suspect (for example, students a and b both take pretest and receive treatment; meanwhile student a watches TV in English, b watches it in Chinese, b has better results in post test - I'm deliberately being counterintuitive here to drive home my point).

Accordingly, there's been a recent acceptance of qualitative research (researcher keeps logs while a and b self assess effect of treatment but neglect to mention TV habits, thinking them irrelevant).  It would take a clever researcher to come up with a  protocol that would provide definitive insights into what computers contribute to the process, without tripping on a welter of confounding variables.

I think the positive effects of using computers, and there clearly are positive effects, have a lot to do with motivation, integration of the medium with life skills, and enhanced ability to communicate authentically and effectively in a target language, and motivation is increased as the other two are augmented in whatever use of computers is implemented.

Research question:  Given that computers can facilitate authentic and effective communication in a target language, how can using computers in this way promote gains in language learning?

Suggested methodology/comments: 

Contact:  Vance Stevens vstevens@emirates.net.ae

Submitted August 2002

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