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Computer Assisted / Aided Language Learning (CALL)

Enviado por jairo_agustin

Partes: 1, 2

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Theoretical framework
  4. Research design
  5. Data analysis
  6. Conclusions and implications
  7. References
  8. Glossary


This research aims at analyzing the potential benefits of interaction with multimedia software environments by providing strategies to enhance teaching and learning processes. It illuminates some aspects resisting the development of quality interaction while using teaching-learning English as a foreign language multimedia. Interaction includes communication or inter-personal-machine contact and multimedia includes audio (speech, sounds, music), video (text, graphics, pictures, animations, movies) and interactivity (via keyboard, mouse, microphone). A combined ethnographic and oral analysis is used to describe the participants group dynamics. In the development of this research, adults from the Extension English Program were observed in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Gran Colombia University Language Laboratory. Following the communicative approach, the purpose of the study is more to observe what learners do each other around the computer rather than examining what they do with the machine. The teacher is considered as participant observer who describes step by step the students’ behavior in the learning process. The scope is intentionally limited to research concerned with evaluating the nature of interaction and teacher and student’s roles. Results from this study are expected to contribute to the area of TEFL and to raise critical questions about the integration of multimedia in the curriculum and to study how to foster interaction amongst learners, teachers and the use of multimedia software.



This study discusses the nature of interaction and participant’s roles during ten months observation of students and teachers using the Discoveries multimedia teaching–learning software. Interactivity in learning is "a necessary and fundamental mechanism for knowledge acquisition and the development of both cognitive and physical skills" (Barker, 1994:1). The role of interaction in foreign language curriculum has grown since its beginnings. There is a high body of research reported about interaction in the traditional classroom. However, there is a little body of research reported about interaction at instructional settings equipped with computers and programs. At the lab, it is very important to identify ways to promote quality interaction amongst students, teachers and computer software. Quality interaction is understood as the one that allows the development of knowledge acquisition and the one that promotes language use.

The Discoveries multimedia learning software gives a diverse opportunity to interact with learners and teachers. During a typical multimedia session in the computer lab, each student sits (or two students) in front of a computer terminal to work with multimedia programs. The teacher walks around the lab in case any student needs some help. Adequate assistance to students is a very important teacher task because it promotes interaction.

This project evidences the fact that computer pair work enhances interaction. Pool (1999) argues that a growing number of research indicates that group work is an efficient model. In this research, there is evidence that students learn better when they cooperate with others students that when they work alone by their own way.

Several aspects motivated me to study about the use of multimedia in English learning. For instance, computerized classrooms are becoming in something normal in Colombian schools and universities. We need to know how to incorporate the computer in the curriculum and to assist teachers in a effort to become the best educators.

Multimedia is one of the many tools and techniques that can improve the students learning environments available for them. The new technologies for education have increased responsibilities, creativity, productivity and team work. Interactive Teaching Approach and computer-assisted language learning usually look into the topics in their own domain. The research combining the two fields is not common so far, which makes this study important.

This research is related to the conceptual and empirical fundamentals of the technology and education research area presented in the Master’s program in Applied Linguistics because through observation, use, and appraisal in the computer laboratory of a computer specific multimedia application which is thought to be an important alternative that teachers have in preparing future English speakers in the area of foreign language. Ortega (2002) affirms that language learning is concerned with the development of communication skills and teachers and students have traditionally and creatively exploited all these communication elements. The results of this project offer another opportunity for English teachers and foreign language programs to achieve objectives focused on technology and education.

In this study I see to gain insight into what impedes the development of quality interaction while students use multimedia in a setting were I work as the multimedia EFL language laboratory teacher. Recently, I have developed a pronunciation program called "Talker" which complements the Discoveries multimedia activities. With a lesser amount of frequency, students also interact with various multimedia programs like "Talk To Me," The Internet, and they even design electronic Power Point hyper-histories. In spite of this, the report of this study is limited to subjects interacting with the Discoveries because at the laboratory in the research setting is the software most used by students and teachers.

The findings stemming from the existing body of interaction research on multimedia were critically examined. In addition to analyzing interaction outcomes by means of well-motivated measures of communication use, a multiplicity of data sources be used in research, so as to be able to document the processes learners actually engaged in when interpreting and carrying out multimedia tasks. A process and ethnographic-driven research was accomplished with the ultimate goal of describing the nature of interaction and the interlocutors (learners, teachers and computers) adopted roles as well as the context-related specific emerging roles while working with multimedia.

The present thesis is organized as follows. Section one contains the statement of the problem, the objectives and the rationale that supports this study. Section two presents the theoretical framework which explores the relevant theory for this study, the concept of interaction, multimedia, collaboration, autonomy, forms of negotiation of meaning, talk taxonomy, input modification devices, knowledge construction and teachers and learners roles. Section three describes the research design, methodology, and data collection. Section four refers to the instructional design. Sections five, six, seven, and eight present findings and discuss the issues raised by the study with pertinent pedagogical implications, some limitations of the study, and recommendations for further research.

Statement of the Problem

Gran Colombia University has a modern Internet language laboratory equipped with new hardware and software that is not fully exploited as a tool for foreign English language teaching because the absence of current knowledge about effective use of technology and empirical knowledge about the best way to interact with multimedia. For years the teaching of English at Gran Colombia University has used teaching methodologies with a multimedia material and audiovisual rooms, which have not fulfilled the needs and expectations of both students and teachers in the learning process of English as a foreign language. A common concern among students from the Language Center is the technical problems. Some students also ask for an adequate guidance during the multimedia sessions because some teachers lack training in using multimedia.

Due to my studies as a systems engineer in the field of computer science, I was appointed as the new language laboratory English teacher hoping to solve both technical problems and unsuitable guidance. To solve technical difficulties is easy because their mechanical and predictable origin. On the other hand, the complexity of teaching and learning is a matter of systematic research. The technical details of the mouse are simple but the teaching principles are complicated; for that reason, we need to consider the effectiveness of learning through multimedia.

Breakthroughs in technology have made possible for students to be in contact with multimedia simulations of the target language. Teachers are introducing multimedia software as a means of exposing their students to native realistic activities of the target language. Students now have the opportunity to interact with simulations of residents of different communities and as a result realistic input takes place. After reviewing the literature and having had some teaching experience, I found that in a Colombian context and more specifically at Gran Colombia University the nature of multimedia interaction has not yet been explored. These were the main reasons which motivated me to start this research about quality interaction more in agreement with the new technology of the world the students are living in and more related to their interests, likes and needs.

General Objective:

To see to what extent the use of multimedia software enhances the communicative behavior of the students and teachers and promotes interaction within the language laboratory so as to enrich and improve the teaching-learning processes when learning a second or foreign language.

Specific Objectives:

  1. To identify the oral and multiple-level of students' interaction while using multimedia software.
  2. To establish the role of interaction in EFL multimedia classes.


The role of interaction in foreign language curriculum has grown since its beginnings. Interactivity in learning is "a necessary and fundamental mechanism for knowledge acquisition and the development of both cognitive and physical skills" (Barker, 1994:1). Today, computer technology helps the communicative approach of learning that is concerned with the interaction between the teacher and learner, and in which the teaching strategy is dependent upon students' learning needs and learning styles.

Due to the significant changes in second language teaching and learning (the role of the teacher, the role of the learner, the role of multimedia, and the way the learning process has to occur in the language laboratory settings), interaction has become an increasingly important and relevant area of study in the field of second language acquisition since it reflects what goes on in formal learning and teaching processes.

The role of interaction in the foreign language curriculum is increasing with influential works like the one done by Warschauer, M., & Healey, D. (1998) about software-related research in CALL such as the amount and type of interaction at the computer and attitudes toward computers and CALL. Interaction is intrinsic to success, effective instructional practice as well as individual discovery. The implementation of interactivity can be perceived as an art (Sims 1997) because it requires a comprehensive range of skills, including an understanding of the learner, an appreciation of software engineering capabilities, the importance of rigorous instructional design and the application of appropriate graphical interfaces.

The increased quality interaction is directly translated into increased performance. This expectancy theory of the value of interaction states that a learner’s performance is based upon a quality interaction between the learner’s and a qualitative input. The source of qualitative input ranges from pair, teacher and multimedia. The introduction of multimedia technology into the education process in higher education not only provides an opportunity to reconsider teaching strategies to be adopted but also requires reconsideration. This reconsideration should address the opportunities for promoting the efficiency and effectiveness of learning through the use of this new technology.

We must therefore specify the value of how multimedia can enhance interaction to enhance learning. Warschauer, M., & Healey, D. (1998) state that the type of software and the task teachers set for students had a large effect on the type and quality of student interaction with each other when working in pairs or small groups. English as a foreign language Colombian teachers may want to work on preparing students for meaningful learning, recognizing the role of multimedia, context and interaction in language teaching. With the continuing development of technological advances in the areas of communications, information networks, and multimedia and with each new development, the challenge for foreign language classrooms goes far beyond current knowledge about effective use of technology.

Results from some studies, which I refer in the literature review, show that multimedia interaction opens the doors to different points of view, different ways of behavior, beliefs, linguistic expressions, and styles of communication. With the advent of multimedia computing and the Internet, the role of computers in language instruction has now become an important issue confronting large numbers of language teachers throughout the world.

Interaction and technology are of special interest for the area of applied linguistics since, as it was mentioned before, it is a topic not far from the foreign language classroom, curriculum and programs. For instance, Gran Colombia University is interested in giving ample opportunities for teachers and students to interact with virtual environments. Within this view, the administrative staff of the Language Center promotes the need on behalf of the University, to adapt to these new technologies, and to analyze concepts on education technologies applied to the language development. Furthermore, the third semester exploratory hyper-stories seminar at the Master program in Applied Linguistics at Universidad Distrital has contributed, with high level of impact, to embrace these new technologies in our teaching learning rooms.



The objective of this research is to observe and describe the communicative and social interactional events that take place in the language laboratory in order to understand how learning opportunities are created. It should be an attempt to demonstrate the effects of different types of interactional opportunities on L2 because according to Ellis (1994) few studies have investigated this relationship directly.

To answer the research questions, the theory reviewed in the following pages is relevant to the work with multimedia learning software to promote interaction in an English as a foreign language teaching and learning setting. The literature quotations and references review facilitate the incorporation of technology in education.

The present theoretical framework, which explores the relevant theory that supports this study, is organized as follows. Part one contains the concept of interaction and the notion of interactive in the technological field. Classroom Interaction and its modes of negotiation of meaning, talk taxonomy and input modification devices. Part two presents the theoretical review of multimedia for this study. Part three examines the concepts of collaboration, autonomy, knowledge construction and teacher and learner roles..


Through decades the role of the students have been changing from a receptive agent (Behaviorism) to more active one (Interactionism). This is why cognitive approaches emphasize the importance of what the learner brings to any learning situation as an active meaning-maker and problem-solver. Thus, the learner plays a central role in this model. Examination of humanistic approaches emphasizes also the development of the whole person in educational settings and to suggest that language teaching/learning can and should be seen in this light.

Social interactionism emphasizes the dynamic nature of the interplay between teachers, learners and tasks, and provides a view of learning as arising from interactions with others. Since learning never takes place in isolation, it is also recognized the importance of the learning environment or context within which the learning takes place.

Williams and Burden (1997) have identified four key sets of factors which influence the learning process - Teachers, learners, tasks and contexts. However, none of these factors exists in isolation. They all interact as part of a dynamic, ongoing process.

Teachers choose tasks which reflect their beliefs about teaching and learning. Learners interpret tasks in ways that are meaningful and personal to them as individuals. The task is therefore, the interface between the teacher and the learners. Teachers and learners also interact with each other. Besides that, the context plays an important role here since according to it, the tasks have special characteristics and parameters to be developed.

The way that teachers behave while teaching reflects their values and beliefs and the way in which learners react to teachers will be affected by the individual characteristics of the learners and the feelings that the teacher conveys to them. These three elements : teacher, task and learner are in this way in dynamic equilibrium (Williams and Burden, 1997).

Defining classroom interaction

Learning a foreign language, like the learning of anything else, is essentially an individual achievement, and exploitation of the capacities of the brain to make sense of the environment. But typically this private process takes place in the public context of the classroom , the individual is one of a group, a member of the class, and the activities which are to set the process are determined by the teacher. The assumption is that this internal process of learning will come about as a consequence of the external interaction which takes place between the two kinds of participants: the teacher on the one hand and the learners on the other. To be in agreement with the preceding views; subsequently, it is necessary then to talk about different aspects such as: Classroom action, Action and actual reaction, Classroom interaction and Cooperation and conflict.

Classroom action

This aspect refers to the plans teachers have in order to develop their classes, so as to establish what they want to do in their lessons by means of having a clear idea of the aim of the lesson. Therefore a good plan for classroom action is a first step to succeed in the teaching goals.


After having a plan of action, the next step is to put this plan into action, from which the students are expected to evoke some sort of reaction. Teaching is undertaken so that learning can occur. Hence the success of any lesson can be best judged in terms of the learning that results from it and in terms of the kind of interaction learners and teacher have.

Actual Classroom Interaction

The first two above-mentioned aspects do not constitute quality interaction. On the contrary, they need to be implemented in order to have quality interaction. Interaction is more than action followed by reaction, it is acting reciprocally, acting upon each other; that is to say, the teacher acts upon the students, but the class reaction subsequently modifies his next action and so on. The learners’ reaction becomes in itself an action evoking a reaction in the teacher, which influences his/her subsequent action. There is a constant pattern of mutual influence and adjustment (Malamah-Thomas, 1988).

The notion of interactive in the technological field

The Collins English Dictionary (New Edition) unlike many other contemporary dictionaries includes the vocabulary of modern technology in its aim to represent its increasing use in contemporary English language. It contains two definitions of interactive. First, allowing or relating to continuous two ways transfer of information between a user and the central point of a communication system, e.g. computer. Second, two or more persons or forces acting upon or in close relation to each other. Even from a superficial glance at these definitions one can see clearly that the first is the technological definition.

As is clear in definition 1, the word interactive in the technological field denotes two-way communication between a computer system and its operators. Its common usage has earned it an entry in the dictionary and it is not difficult to see why this particular word was chosen: it reflects, as previously mentioned, the developments in technological communication systems. The ability to send a signal to access information from the main communication system and have it sent to the user's workstation has demanded a descriptive label versus the linguistic interactive. Out of the applied linguistic community the term interactive could be described as the two-way transfer of information. But, to the language teacher and applied linguist, definition two relates far more closely to their concept, which is more complex and certainly more dynamic.

Ann Malamah-Thomas (1987) expands on its definition: `Interaction is more than this, more than action followed by reaction. Interaction means acting reciprocally, acting upon each other'. In the language classroom, then, interaction does not only denote the presentation of material followed by a programmed reaction from the student. Included in this term are the student’s responses to it and the teacher's pragmatic reaction to that response and so on; each is dependent on a variety of influential factors and capable of producing an infinite number of variations. For instance, oral interaction involves the combining the listening and speaking skills in order to exchange information and to respond to the speech of others.

Levels of interactivity

Sims (1994) has proposed 7 levels of interactivity: Object, Linear, Support, Update, Construct, Reflective and Simulation Interactivity. Object interactivity (proactive inquiry) refers to an application in which objects (buttons, people, things) are activated by using a mouse or other pointing device. Linear interactivity (reactive pacing) refers to applications in which the user is able to move (forwards or backwards) through a predetermined linear sequence of instructional material. About support interactivity One of the essential components of any software application is the facility for the user to receive performance support, which may range from simple help messages to complex tutorial systems.

Update interactivity relates to individual application components or events in which a dialogue is initiated between the learner and computer-generated content. The construct class of interactivity (proactive elaboration) is an extension to update interactivity, and requires the creation of an instructional environment in which the learner is required to manipulate component objects to achieve specific goals. A classic example of this form of interaction is a lesson created for the original PLATO system (0distill) which required the learner to construct distillation apparatus from component parts.

Reflective interactivity records each response entered by users of the application and allows the current user to compare their response to that of other users as well as recognised "experts". Simulation interactivity (which ranges from reactive elaboration to mutual elaboration, depending on its complexity) extends the role of the learner to that of controller or operator, where individual selections determine the training sequence. With hyperlinked interactivity (proactive navigation), the learner has access to a wealth of information, and may "travel" at will through that knowledge base.

The theory relevant to interaction, the input modification devices, talk tanonomy and the different levels of interactivity helped me answer the first subquestion. The aim was to find out about the nature of interaction. The intentions of the participants in producing their oral interaction were critically examined. I hoped to describe the most common students’ interaction patterns while using multimedia software.

Input modification devices

Input perspectives on interaction and negotiation in language learning stem at least in part from the theories of Krashen (1981; 1985; 1987), who postulated that language learning is directly related to the amount of comprehensible input a learner receives. While later researchers rejected some of Krashen's other points—for example, the view that acquisition is an unconscious process (the significance of noticing and awareness will be discussed later in this paper)—the notion of comprehensible input has nevertheless inspired an active school of research. Scholars such as Long (1980; 1989; 1991; 1996; Long & Sato, 1984; Long & Porter, 1985), Pica (1983; 1993; 1994; Pica and Doughty, 1985; Pica, Kanady, & Faladun, 1993), Gass (1990; Gass & Varonis, 1994), and Varonis (Varonis and Gass, 1985) have directed their attention to examining what features of linguistic interaction and negotiation seem to make input more comprehensible and facilitate language learning. Proponents of input-processing models make a number of claims about the relationship of interaction and negotiation to language learning. The first claim, related to Krashen's views as well as to research by Long (1980; 1985), is that "comprehension of message meaning is necessary if learners are to internalize L2 forms and structures" (Pica, 1994, p. 500).A second claim is that interactional modifications due to negotiation for meaning facilitate language learning (Long, 1980; 1996). Negotiation is defined by Pica (1994) as "modification and restructuring of interaction that occurs when learners and their interlocutors anticipate, perceive, or experience difficulties in message comprehensibility" (p. 495).

Input modification devices deemed beneficial include repetitions, confirmations, reformulations, comprehension checks, recasts, confirmation checks, and clarification requests (Long, 1996). Research has indicated that these input modifications "are significantly more abundant during negotiation than during the rest of learners' interaction" (Pica, 1994, p. 506); they also occur to a greater degree in NS-NNS speech than in NS-NS speech (1994). There are three possible interpretations as to how these interactions assist language learning: (1) they make input more comprehensible; (2) they draw attention to L2 form (see next claim below); and (3) they help provide negative evidence to learners, that is, information as to the inappropriateness of certain linguistic forms (Long, 1996). A third claim—and one that will be especially important when we later discuss computer-mediated instruction—is that some form of conscious awareness is beneficial if not required for language learning to take place (Long, 1996; 1990; Schmidt, 1993). Schmidt (1990) makes a distinction between input and intake, which he defines as "that part of the input that the learner notices" (p. 139). Schmidt's earlier longitudinal study (1986) of his own experiences learning Portuguese demonstrated a high degree of overlap between the linguistic forms that he noticed in the process of learning the language and those that later appeared in his own speech. A number of researchers have given further attention to the relationship between noticing and learning (see discussion in Long, 1991), and have demonstrated that enhanced input benefits language learning by calling learners attention to certain linguistic forms (Doughty, 1991; Sharwood-Smith, 1993).

Pica T. & Doughty C. (1987). Have establish the following taxonomy. Confirmation checks, Clarification Requests and comprehension Checks. Furthermore, Long (1996) has identified a number of Input modification devices that include Repetitions, Confirmations, Reformulations and Recasts.


The interactive perspective

According to the interactive perspective, learning a new language is a function of social and meaningful interaction (Long, 1983); the degree of language learning success depends on the quality and type of interactions between learners and teacher (Long, 1983; Pica, Kanagy, & Falodun, 1993). In this view, language learning is enhanced `particularly when they [the learners] negotiate toward mutual comprehension of each other's message meaning' (Pica et al., p. 11).

Long (1983) proposes that during meaningful interaction learners use different communicative strategies, ranging from modifying and adjusting input to using facilitative strategies such as requests for clarification, requests for repetition, and comprehension checks. It is argued that these strategies promote negotiation of meaning and consequently enhance second language acquisition; they make input comprehensible and result in further opportunities for communicating thoughts in a meaningful context (Gass & Varonis, 1984; Pica et al., 1993; Swain, 1985).


Cooperation and conflict

One more aspect to be considered when talking about interaction is cooperation and conflict. As is well known, interaction is a two-way process with a positive state, where the interactants feel that something worthwhile is being achieved as a result of the interaction, or with a negative one when the opposite happens. How the situation actually develops depends on the attitudes and the intentions of the people involved and their interpretations of each other’s attitudes and intentions .

As seen, having a plan of action means that the teachers knows what he or she wants to do in the classroom. The teachers have something to communicate to the students, but having something to communicate is not the same thing as actually communicating it. In order to achieve this, the plan of action must be carried out in a context of interaction. The teacher must engage in the sort of interaction with the learners which will enable communication to take place.

Where there is no interaction, but only action-reaction, there can be no communication. Where there is conflict in the interaction, communication breaks down. Only where there is co-operation between both sides involved in the interaction can communication effectively take place, and learning occur.

Knowing what you want to do, what you want to communicate to your students in the classroom, is a good start. Actually doing it, actually achieving communication, requires a lot more effort and expertise ( Malamah-Thomas, 1988).

Collaboration and Autonomy

Tinzmann (1990) affirms that effective communication and collaboration are essential to becoming a successful learner. It is primarily through dialogue and examining different perspectives that students become knowledgeable, strategic, self-determined, and empathetic.

Moreover, involving students in real-world tasks and linking new information to prior knowledge requires effective communication and collaboration among teachers, students, and others. Indeed, it is through dialogue and interaction that curriculum objective come alive. Collaborative learning affords students enormous advantages not available from more traditional instruction because a group--whether it be the whole class or a learning group within the class--can accomplish meaningful learning and solve problems better than any individual can alone.

Vygotsky (1986) has influenced some of the current research of collaboration among students and teachers and on the role of cultural learning and schooling. His principal premise is that human beings are products not only of biology, but also of their human cultures. Intellectual functioning is the product of our social history, and language is the key mode by which we learn our cultures and through which we organize our verbal thinking and regulate our actions. For example, children learn such higher functioning from interacting with the adults and other children around them.

Vygotsky’s work (1986) has also major influence on learner autonomy. His emphasis on social relationships in the development of mental abilities and thus also learning underlines the importance of peer support for any form of learning. Central to his theory is the idea of "the zone of proximal development. It is the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers" Vygotsky (1978). The Vygotskian approach, then, emphasises the need for a collaborative learning environment where learners are enabled and encouraged to interact and give each other support with their language learning, a public space characterised by interaction and scaffolding.

Construction of knowledge

The book Dialogic Inquiry by Gordon Wells characterizes a unified picture of knowledge and knowing. This social constructionist model, with an emphasis on the importance in the `co-construction' of knowledge, is presented as an alternative to unstructured discovery learning. A number of specific educational activities and classroom practices can be constructed.

As with many modern investigations of learning, Wells begins with discussions on the meaning of knowledge itself, leading to the spiral metaphor shown in Fig.(1). The projection into the figure characterizes varying modes of knowing, ranging from the `Instrumental' knowledge of basic tools on the part of primitive humans to the development of Theoretical (scientific) knowledge within the last three millennia. While the identification of socio-historical phases in the development of knowledge is clearly interesting, it is the common, spiral model of constructing knowing within each mode that is more important for the present study purpose.

According to the spiral metaphor, knowing is achieved (or, more properly, incremented) in a four step process. First, experience: an individual's social history defines the context within which new stimuli are to be encountered and processed. Second, information: this is, in general, an `interpretation of others' - an expression of meaning as construed and presented by some external, often authoritative, agent. It can come in a number of genres, including speech, written text, physical artifacts, and works of art.

Third, knowledge Building: in order to assimilate externally provided information, the learner must construct, use, and progressively improve various representational artifacts. Ideally, this produces a consistent, coherent `internalization' which is, however, individual and personalized. Fourth, understanding: With time (and recurring use), the internal representations constructed during knowledge building become `second nature', and part of the learner's enhanced experience base. This transformation of `knowledge' into `understanding' is almost holistic.

The cycle then repeats. Beginning from a personal experience base, knowledge building transforms new information into understanding. Understanding, in this sense, is taken to be the real goal of any educational activity. Vygotsky ideas helped me provide answers to the study research questions and Wells model was significant to understand the way participants constructed understanding while working with Discoveries multimedia software.

Forms of Negotiation of Meaning

Littlejohn, A. & Breen M. (2000) established three types of form of negtiation. PERSONAL: A psycho mental process to discriminate, analyze, synthesize, memorize or recall, and so on. INTERACTIVE: spontaneous social events when people use language to share meaning. PROCEDURAL: The discussions between people who seek to reach agreement.

Talk Taxonomy

Peter Scrimshaw (1995) has identified three types of talk after the analysis of students interacting around the computer. DISPUTATIONAL: Characterized by disagreement and individualized decision making and it challenges other views. CUMULATIVE: Speakers build positively but uncritically upon what other has said. EXPLORATORY: Partners engage critically but constructively with each others ideas.

Multimedia learning software

"Space age multimedia technology might replace stone age methodology."

Hardisty & Windeatt (1989) establish that CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) is the term most commonly used by teachers and students to describe the use of computers as part of a language course. According with the English Discoveries teacher’s pedagogical guide interactive multimedia (IMM) is one of the aspects of CALL that is effective in language learning. The word multimedia comes from the latin multus = "many, multiple" and medium = "a channel or system of communication, information, or entertainment.

Multimedia is any combination of text, graphic art, sound, animation and video that is delivered by computer. When you allow the user--the viewer of the project--to control that and when these elements are delivered, it is interactive multimedia. When you provide a structure of linked elements through which the user can navigate, interactive multimedia becomes hypermedia.

At the beginning, during the period before multimedia were used in the language laboratories the term multimedia was used in the field of education to describe the audiovisual tools to teach. The actual version of the word, just differs in what it consists of more equipment such scanners, CD laser units, remote controls, digital picture and video cameras, etc. To use the equipment it is necessary to have the computer programs required to adequately run each device. To the aims of this study multimedia is the integration of: Audio (speech, sounds, music), Video (text, graphics, pictures, animations, movies) and Interactivity (via keyboard, mouse, microphone).

Because multimedia technology, which integrates graphics, sound and text, is someway similar to the relational manner of human thinking, I consider that multimedia software might be effective to language learning. Therefore, it is important to develop pedagogy and methodology related to multimedia learning software. In fact, to engage the learner actively in the knowledge construction process, three main things should be considered. First the multimedia software; second the methodology and third the student's task.

The best technological description of multimedia might be "the integration of two or more media forms on a computer." The possible media forms include text, graphics, animation, video, music and digital audio. But merely defining multimedia in the context of the technology alone does no more justice to the concept than describing books as pages of paper with printed text on them.

The uses of multimedia are even more diverse than the numerous variety of media combinations. Initially, multimedia was no more than a enhanced version of a traditional slide show, but in today’s times multimedia is being used more and more to present information to the masses as information kiosks, interactive manuals and encyclopedias, product demonstrations, and interactive training packages as well as providing entertainment in the form of computer games.

On the conceptual level, the potential of multimedia represents a fundamental change in the way we communicate. Multimedia allows us to use the best combination of media to present compelling information suited to specific situations and allow user-control over how and when that information is accessed. This technology empowers anyone with a message to communicate his or her ideas effectively to others.

One of the constructs of an English program can be to return the control of the learning process to the learners. For example, Soo and Ngeow (1998) worked in a university program study in which one of the constructs was to give control of the learning process to the students through multimedia. Probably, students can construct meaning by interacting with the multimedia listening and speaking segments that includes speakers of the target language in authentic situations. Soo and Ngeow (1998) also found that the creation of the learning environment was crucial to the success of the project and that it would have been made much harder without appropriate software. Their findings make me think about the importance of having a good multimedia program but at the same time how equally important is to have an appropriate methodology.

Discoveries CALL software

English Discoveries is a interactive multimedia computer to learn English as a Foreign or Second language.. It combines high resolution color graphics, animations, videos, text, music, digital voice and a voice recognition function. English Discoveries presents the basic linguistic structures and aproximately 3000 lexical elements. Students do not need previous computer experience to work with English Discoveries. The initial proficiency level of English Discoveries is cero (students do not need previous English knowledge) and the final level is advanced. The complete course covers more than 1500 academic hours of study and it is divided according with the following levels:

· Let's Start (First steps)

· Basic (Beginners)

· Intermediate (Intermediates)

· Advanced (Conversation)

· The Executive (Commercial English)

With English Discoveries, students can chose their own road of learning. Using the mouse they can click on the activity that they are more interested in: a linguistic structure, a structured lesson, a test, or an adventure game. Students can navigate through the modules at their will. The program is always there to help and to orientate students. Some students become addicts to work with the linguistic interface (picture 1) with the many options available, they always have a new learning experience.

Communicative CALL corresponds to cognitive theories which stresses that learning is a process of discovery, expression, and development. Discoveries CALL software includes text reconstruction programs (which allows students working alone or in groups to rearrange words and texts to discover patterns of language and meaning) and simulations (which stimulates discussion and discovery among students working in pairs or groups).

Teacher and learner roles

When working with multimedia software the role of the teacher as authority source and expert changes. She or he becomes a mere participant as stated by Warschauer, 1998. Hence, the teacher does not dominate the floor and does not do most of the talking. Besides, he or she does not direct and redirect the development of the topic, pose display questions, nominate students as next speakers, or evaluate individual student's contributions, all of which is the norm in traditional teacher-fronted EFL classrooms. Then again, multimedia provides another light that can be turn on in the students mind. Thanks to multimedia, teachers can explain old ideas in new manners.

As pointed out by (Warschauer, Turbee, & Roberts, 1996), the teacher must learn to become a "guide on the side" rather than a "sage on the stage". A situation which is likely to lead to the kind of atmosphere optimal for language learning. The guide on the side teacher labor does not imply a passive role for teachers. Teachers' contributions in a learner-centered, multimedia-enhanced classroom include coordinating group planning, focusing students' attention on linguistic aspects of computer mediated texts, helping students gain meta-linguistic awareness of genres and discourses, and assisting students in developing appropriate learning strategies.

In the traditional classroom students are more willing to pay attention to the teacher lecture. In contrast, at the laboratory, according with Huang 2000 the student-teacher communication seemed to be blocked to some extent by the layout of the multimedia lab. Physically, the multimedia lab is larger than the traditional classroom. The physical distance enlarged the psychological distance. It has the tendency that the two-way communication between the teacher and the students turned to be the one-way teacher to student communication.

The role of the teachers and the learners are influenced by interpersonal factors and task-related factors:

Interpersonal Factors:

Status and Position

Teachers and learners are accorded a social status depending on what we value in their performances. The relative positions are usually fixed, although types of teaching and learning situations differ a great deal.

A power relationship exists between teachers and learners in which power is not shared equally. This fact, combined with perceptions of status, gives rise to social distance.

Attitudes, beliefs

While teachers have a set of professional attitudes, personal attitudes and beliefs are likely to differ considerably between teachers and learners. The attitudes may be towards teaching and learning, the ‘content’ of learning, or each other as people.


All individuals bring their personalities into social encounters. Indeed, social life is a major factor in shaping personality. In the intimacy of the teaching/learning situation, it is extremely likely that personalities will be modified. An additional complication arises in the situation where learners are trying to cope with a foreign language. The internalization of the new language may bring about changes in the personality of the learner.

So far, we have pointed out the various factors which influence the way teachers interpret their roles in the classroom. Our aim in this section is to find out what teachers and learners actually do in the classroom; our focus is on the teacher and learner role behavior.

Essentially, teachers have two major roles in the classroom:

1 To create the conditions under which learning can take place: the social side of teaching.

2 To impart, by a variety of means, knowledge to their learners: the task-oriented side of teaching.

The first is termed the ‘enabling’ or management function and the second the instructional function. They complement each other ; the latter would be more or less impossible without the former. In practice, it is very difficult to separate the two and often one act in the classroom can perform both functions simultaneously.

In relation to the instructional role of the teacher, it can be scrutinized from three broad perspectives:

1 Modes of instruction

2 Instructional material and resources

3 The management of the knowledge

  • Modes of Instruction

A teacher can persue his/her instructional goal in a variety of modes. It is rare for a classroom language teacher to stick to only one mode during the course of a lesson. Based on this, some possible instructional modes can be found, like :


The teacher expounds at length on a topic. Learners listen and may take notes. The lecture can be interrupted by questions from the learners, but these normally occur at the end of the lecture.

A ‘mini-lecture’ is also used quite frequently, to explain what appears to be a misunderstood concept, for example, ‘explaining’ is often a form of mini-lecture.


Teachers probe learners through close questioning in order to bring previously acquired knowledge to the surface. In this way teachers either clarify that knowledge or get learners to say or do something with the knowledge as a prelude to embarking on new knowledge.


The means by which teachers assess what the learners already know or have learnt as a result of the new language having been presented through question and answer routines.


It is the most relevant to this study. The means by which teachers introduce the fundamentals of a multimedia software program. The teacher expounds at length on a navigation system. Learners listen and may take notes. The demonstration can be interrupted by questions from the learners, but these normally occur at the end of the demonstration.

Lockstep Activities

The teacher leads the class through a tightly controlled sequence of activities centered on a new language point. All the learners work at the same pace under the direction of the teacher.

Learners Role

The social climate of the classroom depends, to a great extent, on the strength of each individual’s contributions. It is how, the role of the learner in the context of a group activity will be dynamic or receptive depending on role teacher takes whereas the roles these learners -looking at them as individual subjects- will be determined by their personalities.


Four main types of learners are distinguished in this analysis. Individuals could can differ according to the degree of the tendency towards being of any one type, the types are as follows:

1 The enthusiast : This type of learner has the teacher as the point of reference but at the same time is concerned with the goals of the learning group.

2 The oracula: Once again this learner centers on the teacher ; however, s/he is much more oriented towards the satisfaction of personal learning goals.

3 The participator: Focuses attention both on group goals and on group solidarity.

4 The rebel: Leans towards the learning group for his or her point of reference but is mainly concerned with the satisfaction of his own goals. (Wright, 1991).

The above mentioned kinds of learners are taken into account when analyzing the roles of the learners during the laboratory classroom interaction.



There are multiple orientations for doing research. There is not simply a finite number of these orientations, nor is there a simple dichotomy between qualitative and quantitative approaches. Indeed, there is an off-cited division in the SLA field between those researchers who favor qualitative methodologies and those who prefer quantitative ones. The prototypical qualitative methodology is an ethnographical study in which the researchers do not set out to test hypotheses, but rather to observe what is present concerning their focus, and consequently, the data are free to vary during the course of observation.

The ethnographic methods which characterize qualitative research were initially developed by social anthropologists to study the cultures of different social groups, they have been used since the late 19th century, and have become increasingly popular amongst educational researchers during the last quarter of the 20th century. Qualitative research methods have been describe by a number of authors such as Patton (1980).

Type of Study

This research thesis is presented as a qualitative case study. A qualitative research is a study that serves as a foundation for the understanding of the participants worlds and the meaning of shared experiences between the participants in a given social context. Because the subjects will be observed behaving in a natural manner at their computer laboratory setting, then this study has a qualitative orientation.

The qualitative research gives an important role to participants, it allows researchers to listen to their ideas, and to incorporate them into the research, it has a strong commitment towards the values of the fieldwork. Merriam (1988) states that a qualitative case study is "an intensive, holistic description and analysis of a single instance, phenomenon, or social unit" (p-9). Following Merriam statement, the objective of this research is to qualitatively examine the nature of the oral interaction within the laboratory setting in relation to the teaching-learning processes.

Research Questions

The following questions were used to guide this research

Main question

What type of interaction happens when students construct understanding using multimedia learning software in an English as foreign language setting?


What are the most common interaction arrangements between students, teacher and computers while using multimedia software? Distribution

What type of interaction appears at the lab from the allocation of students, teacher and computers’ while using multimedia software?

What is the most common oral interaction that takes place while using multimedia software?

What are the most common roles learners and teachers assume in a multimedia class?


The instruments to observe the classes and see to what extent the communication within the computer laboratory fosters oral interaction are an observation scheme, transcripts done by means of video taping the classes and questionnaires during ten classes. Also, a semi-structured interview was carried out with the same group of students. A technique such as transcribing classes by means of videotaping them was used in order to gather data in relation to laboratory class interaction since these transcripts are the closest or the truest probes of every single situation that actually will occur during the class sessions.

Research Setting

This case study was carried out in one specific context - at Gran Colombia University Languages Center a private university located in Bogotá. The present study was conducted in the first semester and second semester of 2002. The study took place in the setting of the students "Mutimedia Practice" laboratory. All the subjects that participated in the research are students from Gran Colombia University Languages Center which offers fifteen different English courses. The aim of the courses during first and second semester was to further expand students' English oral skills to a more communicative competence. The teacher and students met for one 1 hour session every week. Most of the students graduated from secondary school. Eighth subjects for the study were randomly chosen for the research aim.

Students were familiar with the basic operation of computers such as saving and retrieving files because most of them took a required computer introductory course at secondary school and meanwhile were taking an optional basic computer science course. The instructor did not instruct and guide the English conversation practice in a classroom merely equipped with only desks, chairs, and a large blackboard. Instead, the course was carried out in a multimedia computer language laboratory.

There are sixty Pentium class personal computers in the lab. They are all networked. Two computers are set for instructor use only. The multimedia lab shares some features with the traditional audio-lingual language lab. The teacher can broadcast the teaching materials by playing audio tapes, video-tapes, or CDs. Students practice with each other in pairs by themselves.

The multimedia lab has some features that traditional language lab cannot compete. First, a traditional language lab does not have the function of video on demand. Students can choose an English teaching program they are interested in and learn on their pace of learning. The English learning program will just serve the student's desired goal of learning. In one sense, students easily get the individual attention from the computer. Second, the function of a multimedia lab is multiple. It can not only assume the role of a traditional language lab, but also offer teachers more powerful teaching tools with the aid of modern computer technology. For instance, the Internet projects and electronic hyperstories can be created y designed.


The participants for this project were a group of 8 English students of the extension program of English with Emphasis on Teaching English as a Foreign Language. They ranged in age from about 14 to 40 years old. Six students were female and 2 were male. Students received 10 hours of English per week. From these 10 hours, students met for 1 hour in the multimedia laboratory, which had installed the Discoveries network version. This group of students was selected at random from a group of 20 students. These criteria were pertinent in order to be coherent with the characteristics of the project.

The abovementioned criteria, as well as the requirements are shown in the following section: the instructional design. Since I was the 1 hour multimedia English instructor for this group of students, I had the possibility to implement the research project at the laboratory. All of the points mentioned above were logically connected with the dynamics and the intended results of the multimedia interaction project.

Procedures and Instruments for Data Collection

The information collected for this study was obtained from various sources: teacher journal, videotaped classes, students’ questionnaire and observations made by the teacher during the laboratory sessions. Also, a semi-structured interview was carried out with the same group of students. Patton as cited in Merriam (1988) states that "qualitative data consist of detail descriptions of situations, events, people, interactions and observed behaviors, experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and thoughts; and excerpts or entire passages from documents, correspondence, records, and case histories" (p-23).

During 10 months, in agreement with the proposed methodology, data was collected and presented in a qualitative form. A student’s questionnaire was administered and classes were videotaped to collect data. Annex No. 1 is a copy of the questionnaire. The ultimate purpose of the questionnaire was to understand how students feel and communicate their experiences at the level of language behavior in the computer lab. Transcripts excerpts illustrate the interpretations and have been chosen as representative episodes.

During the two semesters (40 weeks), we had 40 sessions in the laboratory. The students had their first multimedia session on February, and the project was formally completed on the last week of November. During that period I wrote down the teacher journal entries, videotaped the classes and conducted both the questionnaire and the interview. During all the laboratory sessions, students had the opportunity to interact and comment with their teacher about the activity at hand. This interaction allowed me to observe the whole machine, multimedia software and interlocutors project process very closely.

Piloting the instruments and collecting data, I realized that it was important to conduct an interview with the students in order to confirm some assumptions that were not explicit in the data. During two sessions, I interviewed the students who participated in the multimedia project. The interview was audio taped to facilitate the classification of the information.

To guarantee the validity of this study, a triangulation process was carried out for the data analysis. It was based on the confirmation of the categories through an in depth analysis of the information gathered by different instruments for data collection. The teacher’s journal, videotaped records, students’ questionnaire and the transcription of the interview provided the information in order to illustrate the reflections of students in the nature of pair interaction, oral devices, roles and their social role at the laboratory.

I videotaped students to observe their oral interaction and body language as well. The information was qualitative because they behaved naturally as usual; I videotaped as many classes as possible avoiding that they would have changed their behavior because the feeling of being observed. The information was gathered from students, teacher, and the computer. For the reason that the setting is an EFL and the institutional educative goal, the focus was more on, listening and speaking students' needs. I looked for patterns and commonalties that match the student’s styles; for example, I looked at who was working alone and who was speaking to collaborate and to work in a team.

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