Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Technology-Mediated Learning 10 Years Later: Emphasizing Pedagogical or Utilitarian Applications?

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Technology-Mediated Learning 10 Years Later: Emphasizing Pedagogical or Utilitarian Applications?

Article excerpt


In recent years, educational technology has come a long way. Technological advancements and significant investments in computer equipment and training have opened new opportunities for foreign language teachers. In addition, instructional technology (IT) is now an accepted component of teacher training and foreign language teaching. This study addresses the question how IT actually is being used for foreign language learning in higher education. It reports the findings of an online survey, which was completed by 173 college foreign language teachers. Results suggest that the vast majority of participants do use computer technology for their teaching, but at a very basic level. Teachers' IT use seems to be motivated largely by utilitarian reasons, followed by a variety of pedagogical benefits.

Key words: computer-assisted language learning, foreign language teaching, higher education, instructional technology

Language: Relevant to all languages


In 1995, an investigation into the state of technology-mediated learning at U.S. colleges and universities concluded with a rather bleak assessment of the situation at the time, but provided a rosy prognosis for the future (Cotton, 1995). Over a decade later, it is time to reassess the use of instructional technology (IT): How far has IT come in the last 10 years?

This article is based on this fundamental question and investigates how computer technology is used in higher education for foreign language learning. It reports the findings of an online survey, which was completed by 173 foreign language teaching assistants (TAs), lecturers, adjuncts, and faculty at multiple universities in the southeastern United States. The study's results provide insights into the use of various computer applications in different kinds of foreign language courses and sheds light on why teachers decide for or against the use of IT.

Review of the Literature

Educational Technology and Its Place in Foreign Language Teaching

Not only is technology now regarded as deserving a place in foreign language teaching, it is often considered a vital component. The INTASC (Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium) Standards (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2002), for example, mention technology in connection with several of its nine standards for licensing new teachers: in principle 4: instructional strategies, principle 6: communication, and principle 9: reflective practice and professional development. These standards reflect the belief that technology should play an important role in foreign language teaching, which means that language teachers are expected to remain up to date with IT in order to enhance their teaching with appropriate educational applications.

There are similar expectations in higher education, where many institutions consider IT a high priority (Zemsky & Massy, 2004) and search committees often look for an applicant's ability to incorporate new technologies into his or her teaching (Broughton & Conlogue, 2001; Glew, 2000). Among other things, administrators and faculty value IT because students and parents have come to expect the use of technology in college classes (Goldfield, 2001; Lea, clayton, Draude, & Barlow, 2001; Young, 2004).

Foreign language departments in particular seem to place a lot of importance on technology because it offers unique opportunities to enhance instruction (e.g., by exposing students to authentic language and cultural materials). In a 2002 document, the Modern Language Association stated that "information technology is critical to fulfilling the educational and research missions of modern language departments" (2002b, paragraph 1). Such expectations are also reflected in the checklist for self-study for departments created by the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages (ADFL, 2001). Compiled in 2001, one criterion for evaluating departments of foreign languages and literatures is the extent to which they are involved in computer-assisted instruction. …

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