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Thursday, 28 March 2019


Made with Padlet
This week I was invited to present at an event jointly organised at Warwick for the Extended Classroom and the Arts faculty co-ordinated by the new Digital Arts Lab. The event was really well attended and I spoke about my personal perspective on the history of CALL and how it has contributed as a field of study to better teaching and learning. 

A personal journey through CALL from University of Warwick

The audience included some familiar faces - people who regularly get together around use of technology in teaching, friends from languages at Warwick and some new (to me) so I was eager to ensure that I didn't get too bogged down in the technical or the personal. Meaning of course that there were some things I meant to say that I possibly didn't say clearly enough. Thankfully this blog is a good way to reflect on what I may have omitted! 
The tools I used for the event were the slides embedded above and a set of resources for exploration shared on the padlet embedded at the top of this post. The story (just like my personal biography) goes back to the 1960s. 

CALL has a long history of research involving practitioners in language teaching and researchers in language acquisition, it overlaps and connects with practitioners in English language teaching and applied linguists from around the world who also have their own networks. As a larger community we have sometimes been accused of being techno-evangelists (I have no idea what this accusation really means). I don't think there is a religious zeal within the community, we are mostly excited to try new things but often disappointed by their failure to deliver the promised change we seek!). Publications arising out of CALL and related fields such as Computer-mediated communication, Mobile Assisted language learning, Online Intercultural Exchange etc. often tell of the disappointments, the things that go wrong, the misuse of power through use of technology and other such critical issues. As a community we are well placed to help the scales drop from the eyes of those enchanted by the promises of technology enhanced learning. 

I feel I dwelt a little too much on avoiding the mistakes of the past and perhaps failed to mention the triumphs emerging from the work of this extensive, diverse, international community. So time to put that right. 

The best teaching arising from those who have engaged with the work of this community upholds some really important principles which contribute to the best in teaching and learning today:

  • human centred approaches to learning can be achieved using technology if we take care to prioritise learners,
  • we can use our agency to inform and empower learners, encouraging autonomy and innovation in pedagogy,
  • linguists are used to navigating the intercultural, any disciplinary project can be improved by involving a suitably competent linguist.
I did in passing make a point around critical digital literacies. We  must always ask ourselves when we think of computer-assisted language learning and technology enhanced (language) learning: who are we assisting? what are we enhancing? I should have also stressed that open practice is a great way of supporting reflection and improvement for researchers and practitioners. In my defence I have spoken about this many times so my work on this is fairly easy to find!

I really hope that something positive comes out of what was an exciting and positive event, that some more barriers have come down and that projects rooted in great teaching continue at Warwick.