Computer-assisted language learning is currently experiencing a come-back. Many schools are setting up computer laboratories for language teaching purposes and not only for technical subjects, and attractive multimedia programs with sound and video clips are competing on the market. Nevertheless, there seems to be little discussion of relevant language teaching methodology. After their debates in the 1980s, proponents and opponents of this new medium seem to have lost their appetite for argument.
In this chapter, I will discuss first the technical prerequisites of the computers and, briefly, the corresponding programs. The effect which the arrangement of computers in the classroom has on possible social forms of foreign language teaching will then be discussed. Several programs and their use are introduced in the main part of the chapter, where it becomes apparent that different programs can be suitable depending on the learner’s age and competence level. Special emphasis is laid on authoring tools with which teachers and learners can employ the computer as a tool in order to investigate the language and to use it for the purpose of communicating. In this context, the linking of learners through the pedagogical network and the so-called ‘electronic blackboard’ play an important part in the realization of new forms of group work.
Technical prerequisites and didactic concepts
There is hardly a medium that seems as high-tech as a computer. The information appears virtually on the screen, it cannot be handled (apart from on paper printouts) and it disappears again when the computer is switched off. People who are not computer literate frequently ask where a certain piece of information is actually stored, as the information on a disc is not accessible without technological aids. The lack of concreteness which characterizes computer-assisted information processing seems also to have led to computers