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Checklist

Running head: CALL EVALUATION PROJECT

CALL Evaluation Project


Joel Grove
E634
Colorado State University

Checklist

CALL Evaluation Project


Scenario/Values/Support for Values
For this assignment, I imagined being a teacher of an intermediate level of students from
multiple cultural backgrounds. Therefore, I chose to evaluate CALL materials that would be
appropriate for intermediate levels, but would not be specifically targeted toward a particular
culture. I tried to find a variety of materials in terms of skills targeted so as to best equip
students to meet the varied challenge offered by real world experience. Even though ideally, a
site would incorporate all four targeted skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) in one allencompassing mega-site, the reality is most sites can only adequately cover a couple of the skills.
With this reality in mind, I chose to diversify the types of sites I targeted, trying to locate
ones focusing on each of the four skills. There are more sites evaluated that focus on listening
and reading than those that focus on speaking and writing. This is mostly due to the fact that
sites focusing on listening and reading are much more prolific than those that focus on speaking
and writing.
As I went to evaluate sites, I also that it was harder to find free sites that focused on
writing and speaking. For myself as an instructor as well as for my students as learners, free is
preferred. Obviously there are a lot of fantastic materials and the quality only seems to increase
as price goes up, but that is not always the case. I believe if one looks hard enough, cheaper
alternatives can almost always be found. Therefore, I chose to evaluate only sites that were free
to access. The one exception here is with My English Lab. The reason I chose this is because it
is in fact free to me this semester as an INTO GTA and also would be free for any INTO student
in the class.

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Categories Included/Excluded
Included. As a teacher who wants to effectively incorporate CALL materials to help
assist language development in the classroom, I found it imperative to first begin my CALL
evaluation based upon the language learning categories that were most important to me. Since I
believe the student comes, it therefore made sense to me to begin with Learner Fit.
Learner fit. I begin analyzing learner fit with appropriateness in regard to content and
appropriateness in regard to language level. Because students are unique and each brings a
unique personality, intelligibility, and set of skills to the classroom, I believe it is important to
seek to implement materials that would appeal to a variety of learner needs. That is why the next
part of my Learner Fit evaluation had to do with developing multiple language skills and at the
same time targeting a variety of intelligences so as to assist as many learners as possible toward
the learning needs they each individually have. Of course, teaching a course, I will naturally
have goals and objectives for the course and it is critical that the CALL materials align with these
same goals and objectives which is why I included this as part of the evaluation.
Language learning potential. Since we are focusing on the acquisition of a second
language, it is also very important that the CALL materials target researched acquisition
strategies in their implementation. Strategies such as activating prior background knowledge,
scaffolding for learners of varying levels of performance, using authentic materials, these have
all been researched and all the research points to the fact that language is learned better when
these strategies are applied. Therefore, I took those strategies that assist learners in acquiring a
language and made sure that my checklist accounted for their presence. Obviously some
instructors may feel more strongly about certain strategies than others and so this checklist leaves

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room for personalizing preferences for the instructors. It is unlikely one piece of software will
encompass all these language learning strategies. So the teacher, in evaluating the site, has the
freedom to target those materials that will focus on a specified language learning strategy.
Language content. The functionality of accessing the right materials needs to be in
place. Therefore, in Language Content I included such categories as directions and examples
and the clarity each provides. I also looked at the variety of language exercises provided and
how well those activities were prefaced with proper grammar/spelling/punctuation etc. All of
these were targeted in hopes of giving the learners the best chance of succeeding based on clarity
of language.
Assessment. It is critical that we are assessing students to track their progress. Ideally,
students will be assessed not only in terms of summative assessments but that they are also being
assessed as they go by progress assessments. In this section, I targeted types of assessments and
also materials that may help the learners along the way, for example, providing help buttons and
tips in addition to chances to go back and re-learn difficult materials.
User friendliness. I included this category as it seems very relevant to the task of
assisting learners in the acquisition of language. They are learning an entire new language, a
very difficult thing to do. My goal as a teacher would not be to add on top of that the difficulty
of navigating a poorly designed website in that second language. Therefore, I targeted items of
user friendliness asking for example if the welcome/home page gave initial direction for the
learners such as ease of navigation and inclusion of helpful links.
General/features/aesthetics. Finally, the last feature I targeted was general features and
aesthetics. This area is not nearly as important as actual learning strategies and content, which is

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why I placed it last on the checklist; but, I do believe it is still important. Students are drawn in
or pushed away by first impressions. If a site looks daunting or childish, odds are the students
will not be as prone to be excited to utilize it. I therefore looked at layout and color scheme as
well as other visuals and outlets for multi-media believing that capturing and keeping students
attention is helpful in teaching them to be successful learners.
Excluded. There were also categories that, for differing reasons, I chose not to include in
my evaluation. Even though Jamieson and Chappelle (2010) may have evaluated their CALL
materials differently based upon what they stated should be included in CALL evaluation across
multiple contexts.
Postive impact. I do believe there is room for evaluating positive effects of CALL
materials within the classroom; however, it seemed that enough other categories I had included
gave me an overall idea of the positive impact the CALL material was having. By seeing the
overall ratings of the checklist, I believe I would have adequate information to properly identify
the impact the site is having. Surely, more categories would only improve the checklist,
however, with limited space, this was one category I chose to omit.
Practicality. Another category I chose to omit was practicality. Understand, I originally
included practicality and even had it listed first, assuming that if the site did not load or work or
was unmanageable by the students, it was essentially worthless. Although I still believe this to
be true, the fact is, I would not have much of a site to evaluate should the site not function in the
first place. Therefore, I assumed practicality as a given. If the site was not adequate in providing
enough for the students to even begin to engage in the learning process, it was not worth
evaluating and would not be researched any further.

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Evaluation of My Checklist
I believe my checklist was useful in highlighting those areas that were most important to
me in terms of using CALL materials to support language development within the classroom.
Most of the categories were able draw out exactly what I was targeting. There were several
categories that, as I began implementing, I found were not as useful or I discovered categories I
wish I had included. For example, the category of compatibility with different browsers or
operating systems did not prove very useful in my evaluation because all the sites were
compatible with the most common browsers and operating systems.
As far as items I would have wished to include, there were many features I would
discover on sites that were useful that I wish I had included a specific question for, for example
the gloss found on Voice of America. Though I could fit the idea of the gloss within some of the
parameters I had developed, there were a few key features that I wish I had made separate
categories for because of their usefulness. Also, my evaluation does not align with my learnercentered goals nor the advice from our class readings to include students in the evaluation
processes. Should I do it again, I would have included a specific section for the opinions of
students to be taken into account for determining the benefits of using a particular CALL
software program. That said, overall, I believe this to have been a very beneficial activity,
providing me with resources for teaching and also other teachers a hopefully beneficial resource
for evaluating CALL materials on their own.

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References
Jamieson, J., & Chapelle, C. (2010). Evaluating CALL use across multiple contexts. Science
Direct, 38(3), 357-369. Retrieved December 1, 2015, from
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0346251X10000801

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Appendix One
List of websites reviewed

Name of Site

URL

Storybird

http://storybird.com/

TOPICS

http://topics-mag.com/index.html

English Vocabulary Exercises

http://www.englishvocabularyexercises.com/

Study Zone

http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/elc/studyzone/

My English Lab

http://myenglishlab.com/

Randalls ESL Cyber Listening Lab

http://esl-lab.com/

ESL Radio and TV

http://eslradioandtv.com/

Real English

http://real-english.com/

ELLLO

http://elllo.org/

Voice of America: Learning English

http://learningenglish.voanews.com/