ESL and Digital Classrooms

How might you use a computer in your classroom?


Wow, this is a difficult one to answer because I’ve been using computer technology in my classrooms throughout my teaching career. My students and I have explored everything from on-line questionnaires, email exchange projects, and CALL drills, to use of computer-mediated video editing, in-class computer-facilitated synchronous language practice, and even cell-phone message exchange. My main paper for the qualifying portfolio will likely be an overview of my research from the last 4 years examining the uses of such technology in Japanese university classrooms and the majority of my published research has centered on the various stages and outcomes of keypal / penpal email exchange projects. Even now, as I develop my own online multi-lingual magazine, both synchronous and asynchronous communication data – as a result of regular emails, text chat, and discussion board use – is beginning to pile up! So the question “How might I…” could be re-worded as “How is your own experience reflected in the projects described in Warschauer and Kern (2000)?”

Warschauer anticipates my own conclusions about global needs for experience and understanding of both computer and internet use while Meskill and Ranglova underpin the benefits of active involvement and collaboration in CALL that is often missing from text and audio learning. Pelletieri’s exploration of NBC as being similar to the functions of oral interaction speak to my hypotheses about the “oral” nature of chat rooms, discussion boards, and blog commenting. Additionally, I might supplement future email curricula with NBC “synchronous chat” requirements. Though this form of communication requires more advanced skills than usually displayed by the students I’ve worked with, I wonder if regular in-class chat experience might not be a good compliment to pair and group oral drills. Davis and Thiede’s ideas about style-shifting shed new light on possible additional research topics to explore when examining future email exchange projects and would seem to be the next step for me as an instructor-researcher; exploring what actually goes on during the communicative process can no doubt be a process rich with information about how and why language learners and their L1 partners do what they do in asynchronous (CALL) communication.

Schultz’s research on computers and collaborative writing reflect my own belief that no one approach is most beneficial, but that an eclectic approach fosters different skills in different students, perhaps due to factors such as learners’ differing skill levels and learning styles. Chun and Plass raise a number of outstanding questions for future research in networked multimedia environments, especially the possibilities of “cognitive overload.” I’ve considered this form of learning to be the next logical step for me in materials writing and course design. Because the paper is nearly 7 years old, there is no doubt a whole new world of research to consider. Finally Chapelle’s discussion of the relationship between NBC and CALL was a surprise to me because I had always assumed a relationship such that NBC simply enables awider range of CALL activities.


About Marlen Harrison

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison has been teaching language, communication, composition, literature and gender/sexuality studies at universities in Asia, Europe and North America since 1997.
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