KOTESOL 2007 International Conference

Technology Overload in Teacher Education

Dan Craig

Technology overload in teacher education
Abstract: The newest face of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) has been forged in Web 2.0 technologies. These are not the ultra intelligent systems that we have been promised for years, but rather a collection of existing information and communications technologies (ICTs) that are finding their place in both society and language instruction. Web 2.0 is also referred to as the Read/Write Web or Participatory Web. As these names indicate, these new technologies encourage people to not only be consumers of information, but also to be producers of it. These technologies popularly include blogs, podcasts, and wikis as well as the lesser known technologies including XML syndication (RSS), social bookmarking, and online social networking sites (Cyworld, MySpace, etc.). Herein lies the problem. These diverse and numerous technologies are neither standardized nor necessarily intuitive. Therefore, teaching educators to utilize these technologies with their learners may result in Web 2.0 overload, which can result in feelings of failure, isolation, and general distrust of the technology. This study details the experiences of learners in two online, graduate-level, computer-assisted language learning classes as they wade through pools of new vocabularies, new technologies, and new pedagogical approaches that leave them at times exhilarated and other times exhausted. What is CALL?  CALL has been a fixture of language learning programs since the beginning of the CAI movement. From PLATO in the 1970s to Facebook in 2007, the design and use of computer applications for language learning have changed greatly. These changes have mirrored those in the educational community as a whole.  CALL in the late 1960s and early 1970s utilized language drills (reflecting Behaviorism) (Warschauer & Healey, 1998; Kern & Warschauer, 2000) to supplement instruction of grammatical rules, lexicon, and reading/listening comprehension. Learners sat down at a terminal and completed drills for that week’s lesson, which normally consisted text and/or audio prompt with a series of multiple choice questions. Unfortunately, popular conceptions of CALL are still situated in this paradigm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computerassisted_language_learning) In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was the beginning of the communicative language learning approach (corresponding to Cognitivism) (Warschauer & Healey, 1998; Kern & Warschauer, 2000). This approach emphasized the need for language learners to use the language to communicate. Task-based learning became the goal of CALL methodology (the methodology of using computer applications with language learners). This change required learner teams to interact with each other and realistic materials in order to accomplish a task. While students were largely still in language labs, computers essentially moved from tutors to tools. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the movement from cognitive to sociocognitive perspectives (Warschauer & Healey, 1998; Kern & Warschauer, 2000) shifted the emphasis from the classroom to the “real world.” This shift meant that realistic tasks were no longer good enough. “Authentic” became the term of choice to represent all materials and interactions that took place in a language learning context. Individual or groups of students were given ill-structured problems to solve that required interaction with both materials and people from outside of the classroom. During this time, the language lab was gradually subsumed by the Internet connected computer lab. The explosion of the Web in the mid-1990s continued to fuel the flame of authentic communication. Language students are better situated now than ever to participate in authentic communication with speakers of the language(s) that they are learning (both native and non-native speakers). The use of Internet Relay Chat (IRC), bulletin board systems (BBS), Voice over IP (VoIP), Internet Video Conferencing, and applications that combine these technologies give language learners all over the (Internet connected) world the ability to contact speakers of other languages with the click of a button. The last few years have seen the growth of the Read/Write Web. Technologies such as logs, podcasts, wikis, and online social 1

KOTESOL 2007 International Conference

Technology Overload in Teacher Education

Dan Craig

networks encourage users to be both consumers and producers of content. Learners and teachers are being asked to be consumers of networks, finding new ways to interact with and process content and connections to the collective knowledge of their personal learning networks (Luckin, 2002). These realities have begun to spawn newer, emerging learning theories such as the recently popular, Connectivism (Siemens, 2004). What is Web 2.0?  The term Web 2.0 came about in a brainstorming session in 2004 on the resurgence of Web-based technologies after the dotcom bubble burst in 2001 (O’Reilly, 2005). O’Reilly really focuses on Web 2.0 in terms of what it means for developers and businesses: o the Web is the platform for applications; o applications must harness the collective intelligence of its users; o applications are run on data-data is king; o applications are never finished, they are always in development; o when it comes to programming, keep it simple; o applications must “live” in multiple devices; o applications must provide rich user experiences.  Web 2.0 technologies have been heralded many times over as agents of change in education (O’hear, 2006). o The movements from closed systems to open systems; o from individual to social; o from consumer to producer o highlight remarkable changes in attitudes about and uses of Internet and Web-based technologies (Alexander, 2006) and, arguably, about perceptions of the world in which we live. There is really no good definition of what a Web 2.0 application is (Clarke, 2006), but there seems to be a general consensus of what these tools should have or should be able to do. Web 2.0 applications should o enable users to both consume and produce content, o allow users to comment on content, o allow users to share content with others, and syndicate (e.g., RSS) content for easy distribution. o Aside from these common characteristics, Web 2.0 applications seem to cover every aspect of life from shopping to worshipping and these pursuits are served by applications in a number of different categories. Some popular categories and examples of Web 2.0 technologies include: o Blogs - Blogger (http://www.blogger.com), EduBlogs (http://edublogs.org), WordPress (http://wordpress.com); o Podcasts - Grammar Girl (http://grammar.qdnow.com), Breaking News English (http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com), English as a Second Language Podcast (http://www.eslpod.com); o Wikis - Wikispaces (http://www.wikispaces.com), Zoho Wiki (http://wiki.zoho.com), Wetpaint (http://www.wetpaint.com); o Photo sharing sites - Flickr (http://www.flickr.com), Picasa (http://picasa.google.com), Photobucket (http://photobucket.com); o Video sharing sites - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com), Google Video (http://video.google.com), TeacherTube (http://www.teachertube.com); o Online social networks - Cyworld (http://www.cyworld.com), MySpace (http://www.myspace.com), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com), italki (language learning - http://www.italki.com), and Soziety (language learning http://soziety.com); o Social bookmarking - del.icio.us (http://del.icio.us), StumbleUpon (http://www.stumbleupon.com), diigo (http://www.diigo.com); o Aggregators - Google Reader (www.google.com/reader), Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com); o Personalized start pages - Netvibes (http://www.netvibes.com), PageFlakes (http://www.pageflakes.com), iGoogle (http://www.google.com/ig). For a remarkable database of Web 2.0 technologies, see Go2Web20.net (http://www.go2web20.net). For a good directory of Korean Web 2.0 technologies see KoreaCrunch (http://koreacrunch.com/korean-web-20-lists). 2

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