Final Exam of ICT in Language Learning

Universitas Muhammadiyah Prof. Dr. Hamka

The Study of Using Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) for Making Decision in Choosing Best Learning Tool

By:  H a r i a n i

Submitted to fulfill the FINAL EXAM of ICT in LANGUAGE TEACHING

Lecturer: Hartoyo, MA., Ph.D

1. Introduction

Using Computers and the Internet today have become so widespread and have expanded so dramatically. The computer has brought a revolution in education. The computers play significant role in the learning process. Teaching English for a second-language learner can take benefit from using a computer. Indeed, a computer is a tool and medium that facilitates people in learning a language, although the effectiveness of learning depends totally on the users (Hartoyo 2008, 11).

Nowadays,   the numbers of English teachers using Computer Assisted-Learning language (CALL) has increased markedly. In addition, many articles have been written about the role of it in English learning. Although the potential of the Internet for educational use has not been fully explored yet and the average school still makes limited use of computers for some reasons , it is obvious that we have entered a new information age in which the links between ICT and EFL have already been established. This paper focuses on the educational role of computer in learning a Foreign Language and  discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the use of computer-assisted language learning (CALL). By knowing well the advantages and disadvantages the teachers, learners and all of stakeholders could be able to determine and chose the best tool that will be used in teaching and learning language.

2. Objective

This paper is aimed at discussing what CALL is and what advantages and disadvantages CALL offers so as we know its strength and weaknesses in their usage for teaching English for ESL students. By knowing well the advantages and disadvantages of using CALL, it will be very useful to help  teachers, learners and all stakeholders to make decision in choosing the best learning tool.

3. Review and Related Literature


CALL originates from CAI (Computer-Accelerated Instruction), a term that was first viewed as an aid for teachers. The philosophy of CALL puts a strong emphasis on student-centered lessons that allow the learners to learn on their own using structured and/or unstructured interactive lessons. These lessons carry 2 important features: bidirectional (interactive) learning and individualized learning. CALL is not a method. It is a tool that helps teachers to facilitate language learning process. CALL can be used to reinforce what has been learned in the classrooms. It can also be used as remedial to help learners with limited language proficiency.( From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Advantages of CALL

Ahmad et al (1985) evaluating the pedagogical contribution of computer admits that the feelings of enthusiasm and enjoyment that the learners who use CALL programs experience, create a positive attitude to the activity of learning and to the subject matters.

According to the same writer  the advantages of computer fall into three types: those which “are part of inherent nature,” those which “benefit the teacher,” and those which “benefit the learner” (Ahmat et al 1985:4). Because of its inherent nature computer can handle a much wider range of activities, and much more powerfully, than other technological aids. More than just this, the computer can offer interactive learning by conducting a two-way learning session with the student. It is much more than a mere programmed textbook, whose powers of interaction are virtually limited to an ability to reveal the correct answer.

The computer can work accurately and precisely. It does not tire, and its attention does not alter. It can repeat an activity with none of the errors which easily arise from repetition by humans. “It can handle a very large volume of interaction and can deliver to students feedback of some subtlety, at more frequent intervals than would be possible for a human teacher in all but individual tuition session.” (Ahmat et al 1985:4)

Another potentiality of the computer is its ability to create highly motivating microworlds. Computers can create small worlds that students explore freely. For example, a student can rearrange reading topics to suit personal needs. He can even become one of the characters in a story and directly influence its outcome.

The computer can also provide privacy to students who can “work freely without being too concerned by possible errors whereas in the classroom they would hold back” (Demaiziere 1983 11-12 in Ahmad et al 1985: 115).

From the point of view of the teacher, the computer presents aspects of a particular promise. Prominent among these is the versatility in handling different kinds of materials. The simplest is the one way presentation of information, in the form of text, graphic, audio and video. “The computer can take the drudgery out of teaching by doing all the boring, repetitive work, leaving to the human teacher the more creative aspects of the job. The computer is an obedient beast and will readily take on the role of drudge if required to.” (Higgins & Johns 1984:9). It can keep score and display the score, records results, errors, success rates, the time spent, and much more information for the teacher to view at a later time. Thus, the teacher can examine students’ errors and scores and other information and decide about the students’ progress and the efficiency of CALL materials. Therefore, the teacher has the possibility to modify easily the exercises and materials he prepares and at the same time the teacher can have access to detail information on his pupils strengths, weaknesses, and progress, which helps them to assess individual learners. So, the computer offers the opportunity to teachers to make better use of their time and expertise and allows them to spend more time on preparation and on activities such as discussion, simulation or project work (Kenning and Kenning 1983). By providing a means of usefully occupying part of the class, it opens up the possibility of small group activities. So in a way computers contribute to a creative and imaginative teaching method in those parts of the course where teacher-student contact is more necessary.

The teacher who uses the computer in his/her teaching should give up the concept of a teacher who is the “knower” giving  his students the opportunity to share in his knowledge. Ager (1986: 103-104) seems to share that concept when he admits that  “Language teaching has always suffered from the necessity for teachers to play God” The new role of teacher is no longer to disseminate knowledge as such, but how to help students get access and aquire information so that knowledge is succeeded.

For students the computer offers many advantages because of flexibility of time and the variety of educational courses it offers to students who may choose when and how long to spend on studying particular topics. More than this, the computer can also allow students to take courses, or parts of courses, at a distance.

Whatever the factors of time and distance, the computer retains its potential for personalized instruction. The computer can be made sensitive to the learner’s pace, pattern of response, and so on, and can adjust the linguistic material to meet the individual. The fact that the computer provides student with an immediate reply after his/her response is very motivating and keeps his/her interest to continue. While working with the computer the student has the computer’s full attention and can work at the speed best suited to the individual. Experience has shown that learning with a computer is rated high by students. “There is a novelty of working with the computer, together with its diversity and sophistication. And there is an element of competition. Students like ‘talking on computer’ and trying to beat it”. (Ahmad et al 1985:6).

According to Kuang We Lee, the advantages of using CALL are :

Experiential Learning

In learning activities, the students often feel bored. They need something different in methodology of learning to fresh their mind. Using CALL can be experienced as a good methodology of learning. They found different in learning activities because they found the newest things. Using computer is as experiential learning because it can make them familiar with the computer. The students can explore their competence in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Besides, CALL is also can fresh their mind to choose which topic that they want. The World Wide Web makes it possible for students to tackle a huge amount of human experience. In such a way, they can learn by doing things themselves. They become the creators not just the receivers of knowledge. As the way information is presented is not linear, users develop thinking skills and choose what to explore.


Computer can motivate them to learn foreign language because the students will find an interesting picture in the screen. Their motivation will be increased in learning foreign language and it influences their understanding in mastering the materials. Computers are also most popular among students either because they are associated with fun and games or because they are considered to be fashionable. Student motivation is therefore increased, especially whenever a variety of activities are offered, which make them feel more independent. Their motivation will be more developed when they feel successful in using, operate and practice the computer in the daily life.

Enhanced Student Achievement

Computer assists the teacher to teach foreign language to the students. The teacher can achieve the students by using computer immediately. The teacher know the students’ competence and he/she build and develop their competence to be confidence. If they master in using computer, they will be confident to communicate and share each others. Network-based instruction can help pupils strengthen their linguistic skills by positively affecting their learning attitude and by helping them build self-instruction strategies and promote their self-confidence.

Authentic Materials for Study

Sometimes, we have difficult in searching materials but by using computer, we can easily search materials. The students can browse and download any information which they want in computer. All students can use various resources of authentic reading materials either at school or from their home. Those materials can be accessed 24 hours a day at a relatively low cost. When they learning, they can choose which material they want. The source from computer is authentic when the email address is complete and clear.

Greater Interaction

Actually, computer is a thing but the students can find everything inside it. The students can also interact with people around the world via computer. It is a great tool to enhance the students’ speaking skill. The students try to practice and communicate with the people they never met. Random access to Web pages breaks the linear flow of instruction. By sending E-mail and joining newsgroups, EFL students can communicate with people they have never met. They can also interact with their own classmates. Furthermore, some Internet activities give students positive and negative feedback by automatically correcting their on-line exercises.


In CALL learning activities, the students will always interact with the computer. The teacher prompts to avoid the individualization by giving group working to discuss or solve the problem given. Although the students use the computer as assistant but they will always interact and play with their friends in learning.

Shy or inhibited students can be greatly benefited by individualized, student-centered collaborative learning. High fliers can also realize their full potential without preventing their peers from working at their own pace.

Independence from a Single Source of Information

Although students can still use their books, they are given the chance to escape from canned knowledge and discover thousands of information sources. They can get any sources from the computer. They also free to choose and browse the topic of information. As a result, their education fulfils the need for interdisciplinary learning in a multicultural world.

Global Understanding

A foreign language is studied in a cultural context. In a world where the use of the Internet becomes more and more widespread, an English Language teacher’s duty is to facilitate students’ access to the web and make them feel citizens of a global classroom, practicing communication on a global level. They will know and understand the real global by interacting and communicating with the computer. They won’t be left out with the development of global world.

Disadvantages of CALL

A number of factors have contributed to growing acceptance of the potential role of the computer in the language teaching curriculum. Some of the objections referring to CALL involve general philosophical notions about language as a humanities subject to which a mechanical device such as the computer can make no contribution. Some of the computer criticisms are related to the nature of the computer itself, while others to the present state of CALL. According to Thomas “the prospect of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) has worried teachers even more, since it unites all the anxieties-greater success, exploitation of mysterious and secret technologies, and eventually, the replacement of the teacher his/ herself. (Thomas 1986:113).The same writer evaluating the use of computer in Language Learning dares an “ideological” criticism claiming that the ready- made programs seem to impose the curriculum and teaching materials on the teacher, mainly on those who lack authoring skills.”

The fact that most of the computer programs are rather “importable” is considered as a drawback by Ahmad et al (1985) since they need modification, which is not always possible and surely it is time-consuming.

There is in addition, the question of the range of activities to which the computer can contribute. Computers are not suited to all activities that go on in the classroom. The kind of exercises which lends itself best to computerization is one in which there is only a small set of acceptable answers to each question and in which it is fairly easy to predict where the learner may go wrong.

While the computer is able to accommodate a substantial range of learning styles, it is certainly not a complete substitute for the teacher: “The material which can usefully be handled by the computer represents at best a tiny fraction of the linguistic knowledge which a teacher brings to bear in language class”. (Ahmad et al 1985:7) Kenning and Kenning (1983:4) denote that the computer “operates in a predetermined fashion and cannot cope with the unexpected.” It cannot effectively conduct an ‘open-ended’ dialogue with the student because it has neither the vocabulary, nor the ability, to understand the enormous range of utterances possible in any human language. The computer cannot handle ambiguity with any confidence. It can ‘learn’ only in a restricted sense.

Types of activities which require spoken production are not suited to CALL because the computer cannot understand the spoken input from the learner. It can only respond to students if it is programmed. The computer does not work well in tasks which demand rapid extensive reading from the screen of language texts. Books do the job better. Computer activities which involve rebuilding or rearranging texts have proved their value.

The development of CALL, according to Ahmad et al (1985: 8) requires knowledge of three fields: “competence in the target subject area,” “pedagogical skills”, and “computing expertise”. (Ahmad et al 1985: 8) In language teaching it is seldom the case that any one individual  has a sufficient competence in all these  skills from the beginning. The solution to the problem is given by Ahamad et al (1985) who suggest cooperation between computing and language experts and a serious effort from the language teacher to learn a programming or an author language.

Many experts have asserted that the computer can enhance linguistic competence but it can do nothing to develop communicative competence. However, through properly designed activities, the student can have “feeling” for how the forms of a foreign language are used in communication. This is what the project carried out at Concordia University tried to do. Its orientation was “to develop more communicative and discourse -oriented material that was the computer’s preeminent ability as an interactive partner” (Wyatt 1984: 36).

A considerable disadvantage of the use of computer in Language Learning is that it cannot-yet-operate in the same way as the human brain, taking imaginative leaps and cutting through a tangled web of argument to arrive at new insights. Underwood (1984:45 ) adds another drawback of CALL programs when he denotes that the computer miss “anything resembling what we do when we use language, any semblance of communication, even so much as the ‘feel’ of conversation language.

4. Analysis

Computer mediated learning has more strength compared to previous methods. One of the strength is the interactivity. When utilizing computer for language learning, user are presented with materials on computer program which they can select or skip depending on whether the material meet the users need or not. Unlike the existing previous method that requires learners to learn on the same pace, CALL accommodate both fast and slow learners to learn effectively. The fast learners can keep moving from one material to another material when they feel that they have mastered it, without being restrained by slow learners. On the other hand, slow learners can review the material for several times without being distracted by negative comments from their friends who are faster. This way slow learners won’t feel discourage but more motivated instead. Hop, et al (1984:16) argues that:

good program can offer , in this way, individualized attention and can allow students to work at their own pace. Students can work in privacy without fear of reprisal or ridicule regardless of how slow they might be or how often they give incorrect answer . immediate diagnosis saves time and frustration and help students weed out their errors. Computer possesses the quality of infinite patience. They treat any students in the same way without favoritism. They are also very consistent in their response, regardless of how many hours they have been working. Even the best teachers can’t show the same level of enthusiasm , interest, and energy

Compared to other methods for language learning which should be done at the same the time and place, computer give opportunity for learners who have different time availability. This is possible because computer is flexible that utilization doesn’t require users to be in the same time and at the same place.

How ever teachers should consider the following guidelines when utilizing CALL, which conform to some pedagogical principles :

a. Goals. Once the aims are specified, appropriate, task and activities can be designed.

b.  Integration. Computer based task should be integrated into course of curriculum as a whole.

c.  Technical Support. Although many students are quite knowledge able about the computer, sufficient support should be provided to avoid problem of technical nature.

d.  Learners Center Teaching. As much as possible, T should involve learners throughout the entire instructional process.

Computer as media for language learning can be utilized in many ways to improve learners language skill. First, with CD program, user can practice grammar, vocabularies, listening, reading, even speaking. The program present various material that can pull skill learners need. Second, computer which is equipped with network – internet enable user to learn the language through various activities since there’s a big number of website providing various material. Users can sharpen their listening skill by accessing dialog carried out by native speaker. They can even communicate either written or orally with their for ready through but the world. Worschaver & Whittaker : 2002. States that there are skubal reason for using the internet in language teaching. One rationale is found in the belief that the linguistic nature of online communication is desirable for promoting language learning.


Based on the results of the study, the advantages of CALL can be outlined as providing motivation and autonomy for learner, compatible and time flexible learning, immediate and detailed feedback, error analysis, and a process syllabus. Some considerations must be given to the disadvantages of CALL, such as less handy equipment, high cost of education, lack of trained teachers and of CALL programs of perfect quality, and limited capacity of computers to handle unexpected situations. Looking at the  related literature and analysis above the writer conclude that computer as mediated-language learning can be one of prefered and selected media to learn language effectivelly. It is costly enough for some people, but it is worth to have the effectiveness of CALL it self.

Bibliographical References

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