Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Instructors' Integration of Computer Technology: Examining the Role of Interaction

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Instructors' Integration of Computer Technology: Examining the Role of Interaction

Article excerpt


Computer technology has the potential to provide rich resources for language teaching and learning. However, it continues to be underutilized, even though its availability, familiarity, and sophistication are steadily increasing. This case study explored the way in which three language instructors' beliefs about language teaching and learning affected their use of computers in teaching in a postsecondary context. Data consisted of six weeks of observations of classrooms and computer labs and interviews with the three instructors. The findings suggest that the instructors' beliefs about interaction affected their use of computers significantly more than their technological expertise, and imply that for computers to be used more widely, teacher preparation needs to take into consideration instructors' beliefs and approaches to language teaching.

Key words: Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), instructional technology, instructors' beliefs, teacher preparation

Language: Relevant to all languages


As computer technology has advanced and become more user-friendly, greater attention has been paid to its potential benefits in second language classrooms. However, the instructor's role in using technology in new ways frequently is overlooked or undervalued. Teaching assistants, who are novices to the profession, as well as experienced instructors unfamiliar with the use of technology in second language teaching, often are encouraged to use technology with little introduction or support from subject-matter experts. In contexts such as these, new technologies applied to language learning often fall short of expectations (Davies, 2002). The realization of the critical role of instructors in effective use of technology naturally leads us to consider pedagogical issues in integrating computers in language teaching (Zhao, 2003).

Awareness of the impact of instructors' beliefs about teaching and learning on their implementation of curricula and their instructional approaches (Clark, 1988; Clark & Peterson, 1986; Hofer & Pintrich, 1997; Howard, McGee, Schwartz, & Percell, 2000; Pajares, 1992; Prawat, 1992) has increased in recent years. Several researchers claim that instructors' beliefs are the most essential determining factor in their adoption of computer use in instruction (Becker, 1991; Campoy, 1992; Ertmer, Addison, Lane, Ross, & Woods, 1999; Hariva & Lesgold, 1996). Although it is limited to three cases of instructors of writing, Warschauers study (2002) reveals the significant impact of language instructors' approaches and methodology on their use of computers. His findings suggest that it is necessary to examine instructors' beliefs about the nature of what they are teaching, in this case academic writing, in order to better understand their integration of computer use into classroom practice. Indeed, the results of the present study reconfirm the importance of instructors' beliefs as a major factor in the initiation of computer use.

Background of the Study

Meaningful and authentic interaction is an essential factor in language learning (Ellis, 1985a; Gass, 1997; Gass, Mackey, & Pica, 1998; Hall & Verplaetse, 2000). An assumption underlying the use of computers in a language classroom is that they will create an environment for promoting interaction among students, and will provide access to authentic outside sources (Warschauer, 1996). In order to understand how computers can support and promote high-quality interaction, it is necessary to examine the theoretical background of second language teaching from a pedagogical practice perspective and to look at views of the role of interaction in second language acquisition theory (e.g., Gass, 1997; Long, 1983; Pica, 1994; Swain, 1995).

Communication in Language Teaching

Since the advent of communicative language teaching in the 1970s, meaningful interaction has been a central element in second language pedagogy. …

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