Chapter 2: WWW and Language Learning

2.1 Introduction

Since its origins as a military invention in the 1950s, the WWW has grown spectacularly over the past ten years. Although access varies from country to country and indeed, within countries, the WWW has become a world-wide phenomenon and has had an impact on many different areas of modern society. From business to education, entertainment to communication, very few areas of modern society have not been touched to some degree by the development of the WWW. Nevertheless, the full impact of the WWW on all of these areas is only slowly being discovered with many initial predictions having failed to prove accurate over the longer-term. Only time, research and experience will serve to highlight the full implications of the WWW in society.

This is equally true for evaluating the potential role of the WWW in terms of education. Initially, the possibilities of almost unlimited resources and access to information appear to offer an essential educational resource but, as with any such tool, the true benefits are not automatically apparent. Ashworth (1996: 80) summarises this call for caution: "Because hypermedia is a new medium, it has suffered from the same problems as all new media in the beginning - unbridled development with little attention to quality of content." The same is true of the WWW as a whole: far too many uncritical, overly-optimistic claims have been made of the WWW when what is required is a more cautious process of testing, exploration and reflection, essential in developing appropriate uses of any tool within a given context. This is certainly so when considering the exploration of the WWW for language learning. The tantalising potential of immediate access to and contact with the language itself and other learners and teachers around the world, has to be tempered with a reminder that quantity is not always a guarantee of quality and that a means of communication does not imply a built-in teaching methodology.

Taking into account the background outlined in Chapter One, this chapter provides a more detailed examination of what the WWW provides followed by an analysis of the implications of hypertext, a key element in the interface of the WWW. The impact on both learners and teachers and the requirements made of them are also examined in detail, as is the question of how WWW material can be integrated into existing classrooms and methodological approaches. Finally, having examined some of the central issues involved, the chapter concludes with a brief summary of what is currently available for the exploitation of the WWW in language learning.

2.2 What the WWW offers and entails

The WWW has become a key source of communication on a world wide level. Exchange of information globally has suddenly become a day-to-day issue. The repercussions for language learning and teaching are both obvious and immediate. A language class can now, potentially, be directly connected to the immediacy and reality of the wider world within which the language exists and is used. Warschauer (2000a) speaks of the impact this may have on English teaching in terms of five areas: new contexts in which people around the world are increasingly using English as the chosen medium for communication; new literacies as we move from a reliance on print to develop the skills such as those of searching and reading hypertext which the Internet requires; new genres as new forms and styles of writing evolve through email and chat; new identities as the Internet allows new means of communicating; and new pedagogies which will be necessary to effectively incorporate all these novel factors into an effective educational experience. What is perhaps inescapable is the fact that these new literacies, the advent of the WWW, will have to be dealt with by language learners and teachers because as Warschauer (1998) indicates: "To know English well in the current era includes knowing how to read, write, and communicate in electronic environments. For most academics and professionals, learning how to compose electronic mail or make effective use of the World Wide Web are as essential English language skills as learning to speak on the telephone or make use of a library."

On the one hand, therefore, the WWW may force a change in the content and approach of what is taught in a language course, while on the other hand, the range and scope of material available may concurrently facilitate such change, as Atkinson (1998:1) says: "The Internet provides a window on the world that can bring foreign languages and culture into the classroom. It is a dynamic, authentic resource that can enrich language learning in many new and exciting ways." Chun and Plas (2000:161) offer a further summary of the general features of the Internet that could enhance learning: it provides authentic materials which can be exploited in class; offers a range of communication capacities which are central to modern language learning approaches; it has multimedia capacities and provides a non-linear structure which may again be attractive to learners.

This potential leads Teeler and Gray (2000: 62) to the logical conclusion of asking the question as to why should people use out-of-date course books striving to provide students with stimulating material when the WWW provides an endless source of up-to-date information. Dudney (2000:1) makes a similar point and offers a further list of advantages for teachersí use of the WWW as a source of authentic material but does point out that teachers need a place to start: initially, in the early stages, the WWW is a massive source of information but to realise its potential teachers and learners will need help in finding out where to begin, what to use and how best to exploit the material for a given set of needs.

Hackett (1996) outlines some of the possible benefits as those of providing authentic materials, as providing a platform for CALL software programmes, as a medium for exploration and discovery, as a medium for genuine communicative interactions and finally, as a source of professional development. In other words, the WWW provides a powerful tool for anchoring language teaching within a wider, genuine context, and thus encouraging a beneficial move away from the potential isolation of working in a language classroom.

Referring to I.T. in general, Kramsch and Anderson (1999) summarise the attraction of the area: "In effect, computers seem to realise the dream of every language teacher - to bring the language and culture as close and as authentically as possible to students in the classroom." The WWW further encourages such euphoria but also raises some very practical issues as Townshend (1997: 1) points: students today live with instant communication so:

"... if languages are to have a meaningful place in the perspectives of young people, we should try to use everyday technology to enhance the learning of foreign languages, teaching children that the special relevance of languages in modern life lies in our essential need to communicate with people from different countries who speak languages other than culturally dominated English."

Effective use of new technologies and the WWW will increase student contact with the target language, be stimulating and have an overall positive impact on learner's motivation.

Perhaps even more important, is the question of how best to use the information: course books provide much more than simple input; they have been designed specifically for the purpose of instruction, following a set pedagogical approach and providing support for the teacher who will use them. Brandl (2002) points out however, that in terms of the WWW such support is lacking: "What still remain rare, however, are models and guidelines that are based on theoretical or empirical research findings to guide teachers and teacher trainers towards pedagogically sound practices." Warschauer, Shetzer and Meloni (2000: 8) make a similar point: "Though the Internet provides a valuable medium for helping bring classrooms alive, successful results depend on how the WWW is used ..." and draw the logical but important conclusion that: "In the end, it is not the technology itself but the teaching that makes the difference." The key is that of adequately developing this teaching practice.

Slaouti (2002) argues the need to develop new study skills in order to take full advantage of the WWW:

"Talking from the perspective of an WWW Librarian, Jones (1996: 2) considers how we develop 'information literacy', and argues for the need for critical thinking skills on-line in order to ensure that we are able to not simply locate information but also synthesise successfully and create new knowledge from the 'plethora of what is available."

Slaouti continues to state that 'study skills challenge' therefore revolves around WWW in terms of its texts and its tools. "The former refers to being able to use the information that the Web brings critically and appropriately, in the way that we would expect to use more traditional paper-based forms of input. The latter refers to being able to locate information effectively, to manage the tool with which we are dealing." Shetzer and Warschauer (2000) make a similar argument for the necessity of being aware of the new skills the WWW demands of learners and teachers and summarise their points: "We divide electronic literacy skills into three broad overlapping areas: communication, construction and research ..." In short, effective use of the WWW requires a range of new abilities, and perhaps even more important, a recognition of these skills which are required so that a conscious effort can be made to understand how to best to develop them.

2.3 Hypertext / Hypermedia

The WWW allows computers around the world to exchange information in a variety of different ways: writing texts via email; exchanging files using FTP or other web-based formats for music or video material; and of central importance, through the WWW. The WWW is one of the most popular Internet services and is based on the concept of hypertext, a means by which a WWW page may have "hot-words" or "links" which when clicked upon will call up on screen a graphic, an explanation or a completely new page or website.

2.3.1 Hypertext

Slaouti (2002) summarises some of the crucial qualities of hypertext: "Hyper textual links cut though texts, providing links to a deeper level of detail or exemplification in another location ..." with the result that: "Hypertext liberates us from a linear concept of text and certainly provides us with the ability to write texts in a more three-dimensional way."

The result is an endless collection of interrelated information organised with the implication, as Higgens (1996) says that: "Hypertext is any kind of text which you can read in other ways than starting at the beginning and reading through to the end." Such a potentially liberating principle requires, however, both discipline and experience for the "reader" to initially find the relevant information and then deal effectively with it.

Even while Fox J. Labbett B. Mathews C. Romano-Hvid & Schostak J. (1992: 19) claim that: "Hypertext can be said to be a natural way of accessing information, because it mimics an important way we try to retrieve information when in discussion with other people, largely through association." The authors (1992: 20-21) continue to highlight the importance of a well-designed hypertext system. In other words, while hypertext may in some ways duplicate a natural process of handling information, unless well designed and by implication unless users are aware of the possible limitations, a hypertext system may become at best confusing and at worst uninformative and possibly a provider of inaccurate information.

2.3.2 Hypermedia

The WWW is not solely a text-based medium. The principles of hypertext can be applied beyond simple text and related to any medium. Images, graphs, diagrams, video and audio feeds, can all be inter-linked, thus creating the more general concept of hypermedia rather than just hypertext. The strength of such capability is that it provides multimedia resources through which text can be enhanced with a range of visual and auditory supports. Brett (1998: 6) highlights how multimedia, through its varied input of text, sound, video and their combinations, can lead to learnerís senses being "highly aroused and stimulated" and thus "add to learnerís interest and motivation." This is achieved by the combination of different media sources, which provide a variety of means of dealing with language material and making it more easily accessible. Eastment (1998: 1) gives three reasons why this combination of sources and interactivity can be powerful and popular: because it is interactive, it reinforces and it provides context.

Ashworth (1996: 79) sums up the nature of hypermedia by stressing the essential paradox which is at its centre: "Hypermedia is conceptually very simple but allows for a very high degree of complexity." The interactive nature of hypermedia environments can appear deceptively simple to use; yet how many WWW users have spent hours "surfing" without perhaps getting anywhere concrete, without finding the information they initially sought? Such freedom may be liberating in one way but it also has the potential to be a source of intense frustration. The full power of multimedia environments on the WWW remains, however, for the future. Even though broadband connections are becoming more common, for many WWW users, demanding multimedia packages and resources on the WWW remain slow to download.

2.3.3 Hypertext and Hypermedia in language learning

Oliver (1995) highlights the potential of hypermedia in educational fields: "The use of hypermedia as an instructional medium is growing rapidly with developments and enhancements in instructional and computing technologies. Much of the popularity of the medium is derived from its capacity to convey large amounts of structured and associated information to learners in ways which promote student-centred and independent learning." One of its key qualities, as the author (1995: 82-90) continues to explore, is that of interactivity and the power of the medium for reference, instruction and research. One of the major advantages, therefore, is that: "Hypertext systems, when organised in a consistent and logical way, have the potential of enlarging and enriching the computerised learning environment within which language learners attempt to improve their skills." (Fox et. al. 1992: 21).

Effective use of hypermedia environments has been explored by a number of authors. Chun and Plas (1997) explore the impact of multimedia environments for reading; focusing on the question of annotation, Lomicka (1998) discusses the benefits of "glossing", including definitions of words through hyperlinks; research by Al-Seghayer (2001) indicates that vocabulary acquisition is aided by the inclusion of dynamic video annotations. Multimedia, however, like any technological development does not immediately provide a simple, quick or definitive method of language learning. Research by Brett (2000) indicates that some learners may even prefer more limited input sources rather than a full range of media. Yu-Hua Chen and Ford (1997) summarise both the positive contributions of hypermedia and potential difficulties: on the one hand there are immediate benefits for language learners offered through the combination of different media, the non-linear nature and interaction. Nevertheless, the complexity of such interconnectiveness can also lead to disorientation, a lack of comprehension and inefficient learning strategies. Barnes (1994: 24) summarises the point succinctly:

"Hypertext can provide students with a new type of interactive learning experience. However, the introduction of hypertext can easily become a barrier to those who are not familiar with the technology."

What is clear is that hypertext and hypermedia, the backbone of the WWW, may be beneficial for language teaching but in themselves do not provide any guidelines as to how they can be best exploited: "Hypermedia refers to a medium, not a method of teaching or learning, though some seem to treat it as a method - as if CALL had simply extended itself to a new way of drilling and exercising." (Ashworth 1996: 92). Milton (1997: 237) summarises the central issue that while computers can provide an "information-rich environment" no language teaching method has so far offered a means of fully exploiting this. What is needed Milton (1997: 237) argues is the need for IT to become learners' tools rather than expert tutors, in other words, learners and, by extension teachers, need to develop the skills necessary to use a medium such as the WWW effectively for language acquisition.

2.4 Learners

Chen (1996) says that: "Many teachers, domestic and foreign have observed that students generally have a positive attitude toward technology in the classroom." Nevertheless, such statements may need more in-depth study as "... societal pressures encourage positive responses towards technology." This may be especially true for teenagers, who may feel the need to be part of what is currently fashionable and this is certainly true of the WWW at the moment. Thus, while in general computers may be seen positively, care has to be taken to explore how best they can benefit the learner and how the learner can be helped to see this. Initial enthusiasm may be helpful but will need tempering with long-term training. With care, however, as Egbert (2001) says: "Computers can often make it easier to develop tasks during which language students of any age or language level are active and have opportunities to interact."

One of the major benefits of computers is that many CALL programmes and activities "... give learners freedom to work at their own pace and level, and to receive immediate and personalised feedback" (Hoven 1999). However, as Sheerin (1989: 4) indicates, the consequence is that: "Instruction consisting of one diet for all aimed at a class of, say thirty, will almost not constitute a completely suitable diet for any one of the individuals in that class." Thus, one of the major attractions of CALL becomes a challenge for the instructor charged with organising the material and the classroom. What is essential is that a CALL activity dramatically changes the traditional class dynamics by decentralising and by focusing on the individual, allowing increased independence in terms of pace, feedback, and perhaps the activity itself as different learning styles are given the freedom to develop more fully.

2.4.1 Motivation

It is widely believed that the increase in individual attention mentioned above, combined with the authenticity provided by WWW content and the scope for genuine communication all aid learner motivation. Warschauer (1996) refers to the motivational aspects of using computers for writing and identifies the key factors as being communication, empowerment, positive student perception of the computer role in their learning and an overall sense of achievement. It is reasonable to presume that any computer-based activity may generate positive results in these same areas.

Norris-Holt (2001) distinguish between Integrative and Instrumental Motivation in second language acquisition. The former refers to a general admiration for the language and culture being studied while Instrumental Motivation is more specific, more limited perhaps: "... the desire to obtain something practical or concrete from the study of a second language.." such as the necessity of learning English to qualify for a research grant in an English speaking country. Both are, however, important but it is Integrative motivation "Öwhich has been found to sustain long-term success when learning a second language." In Spain, traditional educational learning and teaching styles stress Instrumental Motivational factors, primarily through the necessity of sitting frequent exams. When faced with the complexity of learning a language students frequently find it difficult to move into an area where exams are perhaps not the best test of progress or the best guide as to what and how to study. Exposure and experience of the WWW may aid in increasing Integrative motivation for such students as come to realise the attractiveness and necessity of being able to understand and communicate on a world-wide basis, through a common language such as English.

2.4.2 Autonomy

Kitao (online) quite simply says that: "Computers are ideal for individualised instruction." Referring to Japan, the author explains that in a context where traditionally students follow teacher instructions and are very dependent on the tutor, the computer helps them take more responsibility for themselves. This, again, is relevant to the context of Spain where exams and cramming are central to the educational system with the result that many language learners have problems in grasping the range of issues involved in learning a language. Computer-based activities are one means through which students may be encouraged to explore the area of responsibility for their own learning, becoming active participants and moving from over-reliance on the teacher. Computer-based activities rely on interactivity which (Sims 1999): "...refers to the facilities provided by a computer-based application to provide the user with both control of the process and communication with content." Sims continues: "The word interactive, when used to describe computer based learning resources, has tended to imply better experiences, more active learning, enhanced interest and motivation." In other words, what is being explored and encouraged is the concept of learner autonomy.

Wenden (1991: 53) provides a clear definition of what learner autonomy implies: "Autonomous learners are willing to take on the responsibilities for their learning." Nevertheless, Benson and Voller (1997: 1-2) highlight how difficult it is to define the meaning and implications of autonomy and independence but do stress that: "... learner-centeredness is characterised by a movement away from language teaching as the transmission of a body of knowledge ("the language") towards language learning as the active production of knowledge." They continue (1997: 11) to refer more specifically to the gradual encroachment of technology into language acquisition: "... we may be viewing a situation in which "language learners are more and more forced to rely on their own resources in an increasingly technological world."

Little (1991: 4) offers a further exploration of what autonomy implies when discussing the complexity of the issues involved: "Essentially, autonomy is a capacity - for detachment, critical reflection, decision-making and independent action." but: "The fact is that autonomy is likely to be hard-won and its permanence cannot be guaranteed; and the learner who displays a high degree of autonomy in one area may be non-autonomous in another." In reality, autonomy is a concept which is by no means clear cut, rather as Dickinson (1996: 36) indicates, something which has many shades:

"There are various degrees of this learning mode, the ultimate being autonomy, in which the learner is responsible for all of the decisions concerned with her learning, and carries out all of the necessary activities."

Learner autonomy is thus a complex area but one which is central to any discussion of Computer-based language learning. A study by Toyoda (2001) sheds more light on the area:

"The findings suggest that technology can have a positive impact on learner autonomy when learners have extensive experience with technology. However, they also suggest that it can have a beneficial impact on autonomy only when learners perceive technology as a useful tool."

Interestingly, the article also points out that studentsí perceptions were very dependent on their computer literacy although this may be modified through a positive student-teacher relationship. The author concludes with a list of three essential conditions for effective autonomous learning: reliable and easy to use technology; a degree of computer literacy; and effective peer communication and support. Once more, what is crystal clear is that technology in itself is not sufficient: there are a wide range of issues which need to work together for effective learning to take place.

2.4.3 Learner Training

The WWW may be fashionable and as a result attractive to many learners but that in itself is only one plank in the development of an effective language learning context and experience. Davies and Crowder (1996) support this when they point out that: "In designing multimedia courseware it should be recognised that whilst the novelty features of multimedia may offer a short term incentive to engage in the technology, this by itself does not ensure that students engage in the subject matter and enter into the learning process."

When attempting to deal with such a complex issues as learner autonomy it is logical to presume that while computer material may help the process, to develop autonomous learning more fully requires an element of learner awareness of the process and potential. A certain degree of learner training is important and should be considered when designing materials. This leads to the question raised by Benson et al (1997: 107):

"There is a paradox about a teacher's role in independent language learning; the truly autonomous learner would not need a teacher at all. Equally, autonomy is not a gift that can be handed over by the teacher to the learner, so is autonomy un-teachable?"

Effective computer-based learning materials must take this into account and provide support and guidelines which enable students to make the most of the perceived advantages of computer materials.

On another very practical point it must also be recognised that using computer-based materials requires a range of IT skills which may vary from understanding a mouse to searching the WWW. Research by Martin (1997) shows that, even at university level, presumptions about the level of IT literacy cannot be made: many students have very limited experience and are only hesitatingly comfortable when faced with computers and the WWW. Greening (1998: 49-59) makes a very important point with regard to the WWW: "It is a wonderful cognitive tool. However, as with any tool, it requires a level of expertise to gain full benefit from its usage. Unfortunately, the ease of use and general seductiveness of the interface may suggest that this is not the case." This paradox of the WWW offering an illusion of simplicity has already been mentioned but it remains a critical issue because as Russell (1994) says: "What students may need is not so much the ability to access information, but the ability to exclude it." Students will need the training necessary to become aware of the WWW itself and how it can be used for language learning purposes.

Effective use of computer materials thus requires careful consideration of the learner both in terms of needs and how to maximise benefits. This in turn has implications for designer of materials and also for the role of the teacher in possibly designing but certainly exploiting such materials to a maximum.

2.5 Teachers

While effective use of computer materials requires a number of skills from the learner there are also associated questions related to the changing role of the teacher. "The technology is powerful, but without a teacher to organise the resources and then contextualise the learning possibilities within curricula, that power will dissipate and the potential of the teaching aid will be lost." (Heimans 1995) This in turn implies aiding teachers by developing awareness of the issues involved, as Johnson (1999) says: "Identifying, exploring, and discussing key issues in the area of CALL are essential if teachers are to learn how to make informed choices about computer use." Teacher involvement will be crucial in the effective employment of WWW materials and this will necessarily imply, not only a familiarity with that material and awareness of the core skills necessary for effectively surfing the WWW, but also a degree of understanding of how best it can be exploited pedagogically.

2.5.1 A new role for the teacher

Quite clearly, using the WWW in language classes implies a new set of questions and concepts for teachers to think about. For one, as Forsyth (1999: 14) describes:

"The use of the WWW changes both the role of the teacher and the role of the learner. If the WWW is a source of information for the course, then this is a significant change in the role of the teacher who in a face-to-face course delivery has been the source of knowledge. With the WWW as a source, the role of the teacher changes."

One possible result of this is as, Higgins (1995: 6-7) suggests;

"In the process teachers are going to find their authority, in particular their authority as "knower" of their subject, will be undermined, since some or the learners will seize opportunities to discover things the teacher does not know. Teachers will have to find new roles, as advisers, as managers, even as fellow learners discovering new insights into language by using the same facilities as their students. For some teachers it will be an uncomfortable experience."

Two paradoxes have already been outlined, both of which ultimately rely on the teacher as mediator: firstly, the WWW is far more complicated than it appears to be; and secondly, learner autonomy requires learner training, a role for the instructor. Autonomous learning and computer-based materials do not replace the teacher, although they do perhaps change the teacher's role. Levine, Ferenz and Reves (2000) in their discussion of academic reading and technology note a considerable difference in the teacherís role using computer-based reading materials. "In the computerised environment, the teacher's role could be described as that of an observer and facilitator." and this can be compared to a more traditional posture: "In the conventional class, the role of the teacher was much more authoritative. While in the computer class students could take initiative and work on the material of their choice ..."

Fisher (1993: 58-60) addresses this new role and speaks of the increasing "managerial function" teachers provide as they move from controllers of knowledge to co-workers and facilitators in computer-based lessons. This may not come naturally to teachers, indeed it may even conflict with their view of their own role and experience in traditional classrooms with the result that when using computer based material teachers may even want to be more authoritative as attention is taken away from them (Teeler and Gray 2000: 59).Windeatt, Hardistry and Eastment (2000:10) make a similar point when they advise teachers to: "Try to resist the temptation to interfere while students are actually working at the computer."

Just as learners will have to develop new skills, so too will teachers and it will be those "... with the knowledge, skills and attitude for innovatively designing, adapting and applying technology in the classroom, appropriate to local context" (Warschauer 2002) who will ultimately create models for most effective use and generate maximum benefits from the use of the WWW in language classrooms.

2.5.2 Students need teachers

In this changed classroom where teachers are being forced to reconsider their roles, there is a very important note of encouragement for teachers also. Oliver and Omari (1999) drew the following conclusions when using on-line technologies to support problem-based learning:

"While the environment seems readily transferable to flexible and open learning settings, the students frequently indicated that they valued the input of the teacher and saw this component as a valuable part of teaching and learning. The results suggest the need to remember the importance of the teacher in any learning process and the need to ensure students have adequate access to, communication with their teachers."

The teacher may have a new set of concepts to deal with but the importance of the teacher has not been diminished in the slightest.

The role of the teacher also remains important within a constructivist framework. Oxford et al (1998) describe Vygotsky's concept of social constructivist learning which:

"... emphasises that learning occurs with the help of a teacher, classmate or other concerned person, who is more expert in the subject or skill than the learner. This person provides assistance (<scaffolding>) to the learner at the right times and in the right ways and removes this assistance as the learner's performance indicates it is no longer needed."

Stepp-Greany (2002) also discusses the changing role of student and teacher and in the light of constructivism:

"This theory posits that students are not passive recipients of knowledge. Instead, they are active participants in the construction of new knowledge that is idiosyncratic and derived from the learner's prior experience and need to create equilibrium ... when faced with a new situation that creates cognitive dissonance. In this theory also, students assume responsibility for their learning, and the teacher is a facilitator rather than a purveyor of knowledge..."

Mercier (1993: 28) also sees the teacher as scaffolding, propping up the learner until they can internalise external knowledge and convert it into a tool for conscious control: "In secondary and further education, computers are commonly perceived as offering good opportunities for relative autonomous learning on the part of the students: but this is still a teacher's responsibility to ensure that studentsí efforts are supported and contextualized" (1993: 37). Use of technology is comforting for the teacher on one level in that their role remains central, but it is also potentially demanding as the nature of that role is quite seriously changed. Obviously, the whole area of teacher training must be central to effective teacher exploitation of computer based teaching materials in class.

2.5.3 Teacher training

On the one hand, as Atkinson (1998: 56-7) points out, there are a range of IT skills teachers may need which range from the very basic to the more complex. Eastment (1998) stresses the latter, the importance of moving from specific skills to more empowering long term skills. "To cope with the demands of the new technology, the key need will be for teacher training. This training, however, should not be in the form of learning how to use specific packages, which change with alarming frequency, but in the acquisition of core skills." In terms of the WWW, core skills are those which allow effective searching for material, evaluating of search results and the resulting material, and then once material has been selected, the creating and integrating of tasks and materials for use in class. This is, however, a question which needs to be approached with care and sensitively as Slaouti (1998) points out: "Perhaps the introduction of what is perceived to be Ďhi-techí teaching provision brings with it more uncertainties for teachers inexperienced in technology than many other innovations."

On the other hand there is an equally basic need for training teachers in the pedagogical issues involved in using technology. The mediation of the teacher may be crucial but teachers need to be aware of this and also understand, not just how to use technology, but how to use it for teaching, how to use it as one more tool in their arsenal. The development of such skills will require training, initially perhaps quite a lot because the challenge as described by Warschauer and Healey (1998) is quite daunting: "As facilitators, teachers must in many ways know more than they would as directive givers of information. Facilitators must be aware of a variety of material available for improving students' language skill, not just one or two texts. They also need to know how to teach learners to use the material effectively."

Writing almost twenty years ago Rope (1985: 65) stressed that: "Whether computers gain a permanent place in the classroom depends as much on the guardians of that space - the teachers - as on the quality and relevance of the technology." Faced now with the potential of the WWW this argument retains all its original force and relevance and this implies: "... that the successful development of CALL depends not simply on adequate teacher training but on teacher involvement in and control of the process." (Regan 1993: 52). This is quite a challenge but an essential one if the next point is to be successfully achieved.

 

2.6 Integration

Ping Lim (2002) outlines one of the key problems when it comes to utilising CALL activities: "Very often in schools, WWW technologies are merely bolted-on to existing classroom teaching and learning activities, leaving the traditional curriculum, learning objectives, teaching strategies and student learning activities more or less intact." This compares starkly with the author's description of what should be happening: "Schools need to view on-line learning as providing a unique opportunity to redefine themselves and their role to enculturate students to be lifelong learners." Hagen (1993: 11) points out that: "The wealth of new multimedia technologies can distract attention from the true role of technology which is to support and enhance the learning process.

Technology is simply a powerful resource that should be harnessed to meet curriculum needs and achieve specific learning aims." Hagen (1993: 11) draws the following conclusion that technology: "... should be seen as the servant of the curriculum, rather than its master, and its place in the curriculum as a response to the learner's interest and needs." In this respect, just as learners and teachers require training to accommodate a new learning context, institutions also have a responsibility for the effective implementation of technology within a given curricular situation. Indeed, it will probably only be as a result of such involvement that adequate teacher and learning training will take place, that the most suitable materials will be selected and / or designed.

It is, however, as various authors indicate, only when computer-based activities are firmly anchored in normal classes that the technology is most effective as a language learning tool, fulfilling the prescription Regan (1993: 44) offers: "There is nothing better than a fair balance, and the new skills which students will acquire should not replace, but complement, the language skills and knowledge which are equally important." Warschauer (1996), in the study of writing previously referred to, concluded that the best results were produced when computer work was "... absolutely integral to the class ..." while Jones and Fortescue (1991.101) also stress that IT is: "... only effective if it is used as part of an overall lesson plan." They continue (1991: 129) to point out that the pattern should be to work from the classroom to the computer room and not vice versa, in other words the WWW needs to complement what is happening in class and it must fit into existing curricular values, approaches and requirements.

Failure to achieve such integration is identified by Criswell (1989:3) as the greatest danger for effective use of IT materials. This in turn implies, as Cook (1985: 14-18) describes, the need to develop techniques to fit computers into pedagogical approaches "Without such a bridge, the use of computers in foreign language teaching will turn into a meaningless activity, providing programs that no-one actually wants to use about aspects of language that few people consider important." This is quite obviously applicable to any discussion of the WWW: without something to give the mass of material form and purpose for a specific language learning context, it remains nothing more than raw, unprocessed data. Crucial to the shaping into something practical and useful is the notion of task: what has to be achieved with the information selected.

2.6.1 Tasks

What CALL is best at accomplishing has always been a question. In general there has been a progression from more behaviouristic, drilling type software to a more communicative approach with the computer used as a stimulus for further wide ranging skills work. Warschauer (1996) continues to describe current approaches in terms of Integrative CALL highlighted by the advent of multimedia and the Internet.

Nevertheless, the range of material available and the extent of how the WWW is used often indicates a very cautious approach and in many ways one lacking in innovation and in a fuller exploration of the mediumís potential. Jones and Fortescue (1991: 8-13) point out that traditional drilling and vocabulary practice are still very common on the Internet. Wilson (2001) agrees with this view: "Many current systems depend too heavily upon the question and answer or multiple-choice method of instruction. There must be a drastic departure from this approach. The curriculum must ask students to be both creative and critical thinkers when solving curricular challenges." Eastment, makes a similar point when discussing the material available on CD-ROM, pointing out that: "Frankly, if ELT-specific materials were all that was available on CD-ROM, it is unlikely that most schools would consider the investment worthwhile."

Oliver and Omari (1999) identify a similar lack of imagination at University level, where there is a tendency not to explore new methods and material but to reformat standard course material in on-line form and thus under-use technology and limit many opportunities for more innovative exploration of collaborative learning etc. There is, therefore, a history of under-utilising the potential of the WWW by using it as simply a new platform for old ideas and material rather than considering the potential it may offer for new ways of learning. In this way, returning to Eastment, if the WWW were solely a platform for somewhat tired vocabulary and grammar drills there would appear little point in investing heavily in its use and implementation. It also appears a missed opportunity to spend time on such material while ignoring the vast resource the WWW can provide in terms of samples of real language and opportunities to use it.

Effective integration, innovative, creative and effective use of the WWW implies careful attention being paid to the tasks, the activities students are set. The argument is exemplified clearly by Esling (1991: 129):

"...it remains for the teacher to design and assign tasks within the CALL environment that ensure that the range of listening/speaking and reading/writing activities outlined above is practical. This implies that teaching methodology does not need to change dramatically to accommodate CALL techniques, but that the way computers are used needs to conform to the same pedagogical and linguistic criteria applied in other kinds of classroom activities. At the same time CALL can introduce opportunities for practising types of language which are not otherwise adequately represented in the classroom."

As Johnson (1991: 77) argues, it is not the computer which affects interaction but the nature of the tasks teachers devise and the way the teacher organises the classroom.

When designing and developing tasks Jones (1996) argues for a constructivist framework. This implies the anchoring of all learning activities to a larger task; supporting the learner in ownership of task; making it authentic; devising tasks that reflect the complexity of environment the learner will face; supporting and challenging the learner's thinking; encourage testing of ideas; providing opportunities for reflection on content and learning process. Teeler and Gray (2000: 83) offers a more detailed but compatible list of what good tasks should achieve which centre around the importance of involving, challenging, stimulating the learner without being threatening and allowing at all stages for individual needs. One further aspect of an appropriate task needs to be emphasized, the necessity of integrating tasks in the computer room with wider classroom activities. In this respect, Windeatt, Hardisty and Eastment (2000: 10-11) highlight the importance of pre- and post-computer work. By blending the computer based tasks with wider tasks, the WWW can be brought into the classroom, extending the classroom to the outside world and in the process provide exposure to, and experience and practice of a whole range of language materials.

2.7 What is available.

Having outlined the main areas of concern for the use of WWW in language teaching it is useful to outline briefly what material has been designed for language learners or how the WWW has already been exploited for language teaching. The material available for language learners and teachers can essentially be classified under the following categories:

2.7.1 Authentic language exposure

One of the great benefits of the WWW is that of offering access to authentic language. A Spanish student of English, for example, once confined to the materials used in class or the occasional English newspaper or magazine, now has access to an incredible range of authentic language on-line. While initially text based, increasingly video and audio feeds are a realistic proposition. Communication through chat and email is also available and, for many in business, increasingly a necessity in a global economy. Authenticity, however, implies a lack of quality control, of gradability. A learner may very well find the prospect too daunting and, in effect, within Spain statistics show that the majority of WWW users only use pages which are written in Spanish.

2.7.2 Reference

There are a number of on-line dictionaries and grammars for language learners providing what is very often an electronic equivalent of a standard printed grammar or dictionary. Their main attraction lies perhaps in the novelty of the electronic platform and the ease of availability and use. Additional multimedia facilities also prove attractive and useful. The availability of on-line concordancing facilities offer students a further source of reference as to how language is used.

2.7.3 Specific EFL/ESL sites

The WWW has a range of sites dedicated to most areas of human interest including that of language learning. Such sites offer, along with reference material, language practice exercises, the possibility of contact with other language learners from around the world through email or chat. On the whole, it appears that students tend to use such sites for quick grammar or vocabulary practice activities, a somewhat traditional area of CALL usage. Teachers also use these sites for ready-to-use worksheets or simply as a reference point as to where to start exploring the WWW.

2.7.4 Publishers

Increasingly, a number of course books contain along with cassettes and video, a website. These sites provide lesson plans related thematically to areas covered in the books themselves. Typically, they imply accessing a specific site and answering the set questions. It is an effective means of expanding the text book into something more authentic and up-to-date and thus a simple way of integrating the WWW into standard class activities and progress.

2.7.5 Recipe books

Dudeney (2000) and Windeatt, Hardisty and Eastment (2000) have written two key books in the "recipe" format; in other words, they provide a collection of Internet-based activities designed for use in class. There are also a number of books: Warschauer, Shetzer and Meloni (2000), Teeler and Gray (2000), Atkinson (1998) dealing with how teachers can use the WWW. In general, this material aims at providing teachers with ideas and material to experiment with, although long term integration would have to be achieved on a more local level.

2.7.6 Web Quests

Web Quests as described by Dodge (1997 & 1998) aim at scaffolding learners and providing tasks which are designed at aiding students to process the scope of information available on the WWW in an effective way. Web Quests impose a rigid structure on what is not naturally a tightly controlled medium and thus, are a major step forward in taming the WWW into something manageable and useful to language learners.

2. 8 Conclusions:

Clearly, there is a lot of material already available to explore. Nevertheless, as has been pointed out, effective use of the WWW raises a large number of issues, some of which are global but most of which need to be discussed and analysed within a specific teaching context as highlighted in Chapter One. What is of uppermost importance is the necessity for a clear pedagogical framework for the design and use of WWW materials in language learning. Only by analysing, understanding and preparing for the exploitation of on-line materials within such a framework, applied to a particular context, will effective learning take place. The existence of material and ideas are not in themselves enough, as the experience at ELI has shown.

This chapter has explored the key issues involved in using the WWW in a language classroom. Taking these issues into account, the following chapter will outline a pedagogical framework for the exploitation of the WWW at ELI.