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Conditions for CALL effectiveness  vs. alternatives

Background: Whereas there are a lot of claims in favor of increased use of technology in language study, there simply are not enough studies that support the superiority of CALL activities over other more (or less) traditional ways of language learning. The existing studies usually deal with small populations, use different methodologies and statistical techniques (if any) to give an overall picture. Any proof has to come from replication, but that can happen only if researchers address the same question systematically in a structured, principled way that could be replicated by varying just one parameter, not all of them. I would like to see a paradigm evolve that would provide us all with some guidance as to how to proceed with a systematic comparison of language learning with and without computers.

Research question: Do CALL activities produce better results than other methods of learning? This question needs to be systematically studied by skill area, learner level, time on task, measurement instruments, etc. In other words, under what conditions result in superiority/inferiority of CA vs. non-CA activities?

Suggested methodology/comments:  No specific methodology, but it would help a lot of CALL researchers familiarized themselves with basic research methodology recommended by the American Psychological Association and had at their disposal statistical tools that would force them to ask only statistically interpretable questions and help them  set up controls over variables. A variety of approaches, including observational, ethnographic, qualitative, and quantitative would yield triangulation of data that we need.

Contact: Irene Thompson   IrnThomp@aol.com

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