You are on page 1of 3

Review: The Use of Technology for Second Language Learning and

Teaching: A Retrospective
This review will examine the article written by Salaberry (2001). Salaberrys
article reflects back on the technological and pedagogical approaches that were
published in the Modern Language Journal since 1916. Salaberry claims that
looking back on past studies in the area of technology based language
instruction is useful for future studies.
The article is divided into six sections, each one discussing the significant
elements of technology based tools. The first section examines the use of audiovisual tools, such as the phonograph, radio, video and telephone. Studies
showed that the telephone could provide language learners with real-life
situations and meaningful language interactions. Film and video programmes
were considered an inexpensive and versatile pedagogical tool. Borras and
Lafayette (1994) found that subtitles in the target language can help learners of
a second language to associate written and aural forms of words more efficiently
that videos without subtitles.
Section two provides a critical analysis of conventional and unconventional
teaching tools. Pond (1963) examined the potential of the blackboard and
overhead projector. The overhead projector was described by Pond (1963) as a
long overlooked visual aid which allowed teachers to prepare material in advance
and due to their technological simplicity, they are not inclined to malfunction.
Other technology based language tools that were examined in this section
include audio-active voice reflectors which can aid pronunciation and the
dormiphonics technique. The dormiphonics technique entailed the language
learner listening to recordings before sleeping and before waking up which raised
questions about unconscious learning. Section two details language laboratories,
which were very popular during the 1960s and 70s. The popularity is partly due
to legislative support and federal funding in the case of the United States.
Keatings study in 1963 reported that non laboratory users performed better than
laboratory users. Flaws were later revealed in Keatings study by a number of
subsequent researchers.
Section four and five detail claims about computer assisted instruction (CAI) and
computer-mediated communication (CMC). CAI appeared and the use of
language labs decreased. CAI offered digital dictionaries that were useful to
language learners because they were efficient and provided a vast range of
grammatical information. Another advantage of CAI was the instant feedback
and corrections of assessments. Some disadvantages as presented by Dunkel
(1987) were the start -up costs, a lack of quality courseware and the scepticism
of the effectiveness of using CAI. An alternative to CAI was found in the
Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) approach. CALL compared
students responses to computer stored correct responses and pre-recorded
feedback is presented to the student. Intelligent CALL incorporates a natural
language processor which enables analysis of students responses. It compares
them to an analysis of the target language grammar rules and can identify
problematic areas. Kern (1995) investigated differences in face to face
classroom discussions versus electronic environments. Kerns study found that
electronic environments offered more opportunities for participation as well as
ELAINE KINCAID

reduced anxiety and increased motivation among other benefits. This study had
some limitations, for example in the area of generalisability, but it provided a
model for other studies in this area.
Finally section six of this article looks at the evidence in favour of pedagogical
effectiveness and sound pedagogical rationale for technology assisted language
learning. Deficiencies in the previous studies of technology based language
learning tools which rely on the analysis of students and teachers perspectives,
imply that caution should be exercised. It is also important for the objective of
technology based instruction to be considered by practitioners. Salabeer (2001)
considers the pedagogical effectiveness of the technological resource in relation
to the following four question, which have been rephrased to demonstrate my
understanding:
1. Will the technological resource related to an increase in the effectiveness
in achieving the learning objective?
2. What characteristics of new technologies will render it useful for
pedagogical purposes?
3. How can new technologies be integrated successfully into the curriculum?
4. Are new technologies efficient in their use of human and material
resources?
This article has provided a useful insight into the historical development of
technology based language instruction. I believe it will certainly influence my
judgement of technological resources as an educator in the future and I will
examine their potential with a critical thinking perspective on how choosing the
most efficient and effective resource to help students achieve their learning
targets.

ELAINE KINCAID

Reference List:
Salaberry, M. (2001). The Use of Technology for Second Language Learning and Teaching: A
Retrospective. The Modern Language Journal, 85(1), pp.39-56.

ELAINE KINCAID