Is the term "Computer Assisted Language Learning" (CALL) obsolete?

In the article on the link below Krashen and Jarvis suggest that the term CALL is obsolete because it focuses on conscious learning, whereas most students use technology to access online resources un-related to conscious language learning and acquire language as a by-product of their browsing. Have a read of it. It's only short - 5 pages - won't take up much of your time.

Jarvis, H. & Krashen, S. 2014. Is CALL obsolete? Language Acquisition and Language Learning Revisited in a Digital Age. TESL-EJ 17(4).

The 2 results in the above paper are:

"Result One: English language acquirers use the Internet a great deal, and much of this use is in English. This is true for both social and informational use of English."


"Result Two: English language acquirers think that non-pedagogical uses of the computer in English are helpful for English language development, and in some cases value them more than they value pedagogical programs."

That's it.

I'd say that the explanation for result 1 basically boils down to this: Much of the internet is in English and many non-English learners of English use English-medium websites, probably because to avoid doing so would limit their access to all sorts of things on the internet such as social media etc.

Result 2 is not that surprising either. Which of these do you prefer? (a) using language-learning webpages (b) doing all sorts of fun things on the internet using social media etc. The fact that students find (b) helpful in acquiring language does not negate the value of (a). And the range of possibilities covered by (a) is huge, isn't it? What do students really understand by "web pages designed for English language learning"? Do students of a FL really know what's best for them anyway?

Note that the paper focuses on English as a foreign language. I'd argue that English is a special case. I imagine these results would be very different if the same survey were conducted among English speaking learners (or acquirers, if you prefer) of other languages.

The paper's conclusion that CALL is dead seems to hinge on the use of the words "computer" and "learning" in the acronym, and the notion that CALL focuses on conscious learning. So if we change this to "technology" and "acquisition", does that really make any difference? Is TALA a better acronym than CALL? Does any of this matter?

Whatever the acronym, the use of digital media for language learning and/or acquisition -- specifically using tools and materials whose aim is to facilitate this learning / acquisition -- is most definitely not dead.

Scaffolding output based on comprehensible input

This is an output activity that can be used by comprehensible input teachers, no? (See my reasoning below if you're not convinced)

(NB: It's based on chapter 1 of "Brandon Brown veut un chien", which I added to textivate a while back with permission from Carol Gaab.)

Here you have:

  • English text to refer to so that meaning is clear
  • First letter of each word provided
  • Option to just gap every 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th word to make the activity easier (and to increase the input)
  • An activity which, if used after the students have read the text, provides a template for retelling the story correctly
  • Something which DOES NOT HAVE TO BE TYPED - you can use the combination of the English translation and the initial letters as a basis for students re-telling (re-building) the text ORALLY in class.
  • Linked to the above point, you as the teacher can type in the text as students read it out (re-tell it orally), confirming the spellings etc so that they can see the text appear as they speak, or you can help them with tricky bits by typing in the letters.

What do you think?

Comment tu vas à l'école?

This post demonstrates a textivate resource based on a short text AND matching items.

The text contains all parts of "aller" in the present tense.

The matching items are based on the parts of "aller" as well as other vocab from the text, matching English to French.

The post features 8 embedded activities based on the one resource. (The resource actually has around 60 activities to choose from).

NB. To see the complete resource, open one of the activities below, then click on the "" link at the top left of the activity. This will take you to the textivate home page, and the text that you see inside the text box is the full text for this resource.

Positive feedback regarding a recent blogpost :0)

I just wanted to share this with readers of this blog, because it made me smile :)

Following my blog post yesterday about creating a sequence of several (mostly sequencing) activities based on the same short story, with the activities gradually increasing in difficulty, and with the focus on speed AND accuracy... today I received the following email on the moretprs yahoo group email, from Ann Schroeder of Cincinnati, Ohio:

"I have been playing with the Moggin sequence that you sent ( I teach German and know just enough Spanish (from TPRS conferences, of course!) to impress the students. I don't really know enough to actually read that text (maybe 60-70%). I tried the activities to see how much my German kids really have to *know* in order to complete the work (versus using quotes and punctuation to guess.) 

"The first couple were easy for me. Now, on the 3x5, I'm challenged, but I've seen the text enough times that it feels do-able. It's forcing me to look at the text more closely, distinguish between what the boy says and what the girl says, and understand the smaller words that I was originally able to ignore.

"IT'S BEAUTIFUL!!! It's exactly what I want to happen with my students! I can't say enough great things about textivate. And if you already subscribe, don't forget to browse the blog every once in a while for ideas like this. Fantastic!"

And then a little later, this:

"And an update: I just went to the Spanish teacher and retold a truncated version in Spanish during lunch! Yay!"

Really made my day :0)

Making a reading resource with multiple choice matching to check / reinforce comprehension.

This link opens the activity shown in the image above:

This is a cool way of checking and reinforcing understanding of key elements of a text. In this case it is a very short text, but the same principle could easily apply to any text.

What we have here is essentially a reading activity with a multiple choice matching activity. Note the following:

Reading activities with a time challenge?

Below is a link to a sequence of Spanish reading activities which start easy and get progressively harder. Each activity has to be passed with a fairly high score. All of the activities are based on the SAME text, so the content is repeated over and over.

The overall score and total time spent are recorded by textivate if you are logged in as a student and you submit the sequence results at the end of the sequence, but you can just close the log-in box to try out the sequence. 

The point is that you could ask students to compete to complete the sequence in the quickest time - but ojo: if they don't complete an activity with a high enough score, they have to do it again, and this adds to their overall time.

Note that these particular activities have a parallel English text to help with the sequencing (and to reinforce the meaning of the text) - available by clicking the little text icon at the top-right of the screen.

If you think that this isn't a particularly stimulating story, I'd agree, but hopefully you get the idea about how you can do this sort of thing with your own stories - even with embedded readings. 

You can easily set these sorts of activities for class work if you have access to tech in class, or for homework (which you can easily make optional if you don't want to force students to do this or if you're concerned about access to tech at home).

(BTW - this resource was put together using the "multiple-resource sequence" procedure outlined here: - this allows you to put together a sequence based on several textivate resources, although all of the activities in the above sequence are taken from the same resource.)

Add "Find the French" (or Spanish etc) to your Text+Match resource

If you create a textivate resource which includes a text plus matching - as outlined in this blog post - it's dead easy to add a "Find the French" (or Spanish, German, Italian, Latin or whatever) activity, with just a couple of clicks.

So if you have a Text + Match activity such as this... on the extras tab...

...and select the check box to include the main text - i.e. your resource text - along with the matching activities:

Automatic word clouds in textivate (Sort of)

You may have come across this blog post based on using an image of a wordcloud to support a textivate resource.

Well I think that, essentially, the main benefit of a wordcloud is that it provides the student with a record of all of the words in the text, so that they have a reference for spelling, and so that if they are doing an activity such as the one shown in the above image, they can look at the list if they are stuck on a particular word.

Then this got me thinking that it would be even better if the list was in alphabetical order...