Computer Assisted Language Learning or CALL, relates to the creation, use, and study of software that is specifically designed to allow for the use of a computer in the teaching and learning of a new language (Jarvis, 2013). Most commonly this is done for people learning English, but it can, theoretically, be used for any language learning process. There are a wide range of communication and information technologies that are embraced by CALL, as well, because approaches and applications that address teaching and learning of foreign languages are changing (Davies, 2002). The drill and practice methods that were so common in the 1960s and 1970s have been amended to provide a more interactive environment and a better opportunity for people to learn what they need to know in order to speak, read, and write another language more easily and more fluently (Jarvis, 2013).
The philosophy that CALL currently employs has a strong focus on materials that are student-centred and that encourage people to work on their own (Marriott, Torres, & Lupion, 2009). Some of these materials are very structured in nature, and others are much less structured. However, both options provide both individualised and interactive learning options. When CALL is used properly, it is an excellent tool to help teachers make the language learning process faster and easier, so students can see more success (Egbert, 2005). It works well as a reinforcement tool to help students remember and expand upon what they have learned in the classroom, and it is also very effective at ensuring that students who need remedial help are offered that help so they are able to catch up to their peers and continue to learn a second language (Jarvis, 2013). By focusing on the methodology and pedagogy of language learning, CALL can help students move forward and can provide them with different and valuable ways to learn.
All too often, CALL is narrowly perceived as being an approach to learning and teaching a language where a computer is used as a presentation aide, as reinforcement of what has already been learned, and as an assessment of the learning of the material (Jarvis, 2013). However, the value of CALL is much more than that, and the encompassing of the study of applications for the use of computers in language learning and the search for more of them is an important consideration when understanding what all CALL can really offer (Levy & Stockwell, 2006). The majority of teachers who use CALL today, and those who study and continue to develop it for teaching and learning applications, agree with the more comprehensive view of what it is, what it does, and all that it can offer to those who teach and those who want to learn. In order to really understand what CALL can do, however, it is important to understand some of its history. Knowing where it came from can provide more knowledge of where it is headed and the value it has provided to others on their learning journey.
The original use of CALL was primarily at universities, on large mainframe computers (Sharma & Barrett, 2007). The personal computer changed that, and brought CALL to the classroom more easily. It also brought CALL to the home, as more people began to own personal computers and the price for them came down. Once the internet grew in popularity, there was even more to be considered when addressing ways to handle CALL and how it could be developed even further to encompass the needs of a larger number of language learners (Warschauer & Kern, 2000). With the advancements seen in CALL in recent years, it has become not only a tool for teaching and learning language, but also an important research area within the higher education field (Jarvis, 2013). The traditional programs that were created under CALL provided a stimulus, and the learner then provided a response to that stimulus. While helpful, it was not enough to make learning a new language significantly easier than before (Jarvis, 2013).
As CALL became more web-based and offered more options for both teaching and learning, the effects of it became more obvious when it came to how learners were handling the material with which they were presented and how it was affecting the relationship between the instructor and the learners. This indicated how limited the traditional frameworks were for understanding CALL (Jarvis, 2013). New thinking is clearly needed, some of which is already occurring. It is generally the Asian learners who are driving this thinking, as well, because they look at learning in a different and sometimes far more dedicated way than other groups of learners (Jarvis, 2013). Some of this comes from the demands that are statistically higher for Asian people when it comes to learning, and some of it comes from simply using different ways of looking at things where learning is concerned (Jarvis, 2013). Articulating the value of these frameworks and how they are changing with respect to CALL is vital to keeping the technology moving in the right direction.
Jarvis (2013) examined non-native speakers of English who worked in independent study in an effort to determine what Asian learners need and how they are changing CALL. He determined that Mobile Assisted Language Use (MALU), combined with connectivism as an educational theory, may provide a stronger framework for the examination of technology (Jarvis, 2013). That argument is being mostly driven by the way Asian learners use CALL and how they go about learning languages. The value to them is not the same, statistically, as the value to other groups of language learners, and this is important to note. It can affect the future of CALL and can bring some positive light to the ways in which teaching and learning might be adjusted in order to help both teachers and students have more success in and out of the classroom (Jarvis, 2013).
It is important, however, to consider both students and instructors when it comes to the benefits of technologies and how attitudes are affected by those benefits. Studies into this area have indicated discrepancies between the awareness the students have regarding the goals of the instructor and the importance the instructors actually place on using CALL (Weibe & Kabata, 2010). Data collected by Weibe & Kabata (2010) indicated that there was also a disparity between how (and how much) students used CALL and how (and how much) the instructors thought the students were using CALL. The types of technologies instructors deemed useful and the technologies that were used by the students with the highest level of success were different, as well (Weibe & Kabata, 2010). That is a clear indication that CALL may work, but that the way in which it works and how valuable each piece of it actually is may be very different based on whose perception one is considering. In order to collect their information, Weibe & Kabata (2010) looked at how long students spent on CALL activities per week, and compared the daily journals of the instructors to see if the instructors' behaviours affected student CALL use patterns. That helped to fill a significant gap in the literature.
The learning of a second language is very challenging, and CALL proponents have been touting the merits of their software for a considerable period of time. Research into the software as it was being developed and throughout its evolution has shown that CALL does have value for those who are learning a language (Bush, 2008). However, one of the downfalls of CALL is that a number of teachers do not rely on it even when it comes with the textbook (Bush, 2008). Many textbooks for language learning come with CDs or with a web-based log on that can be used to help the learner master the language more quickly. When these extra options are not used, it becomes very difficult to determine how much of an affect CALL is really having on language learners (Bush, 2008).
Many researchers are astounded to the lack of concern a significant number of teachers of a foreign language display when it comes to using CALL options that come with the textbooks that are provided to students (Bush, 2008). There are many advanced software and hardware delivery systems available today, making it incredibly easy for students and teachers to use CALL to their advantage. When they avoid doing so, however, one has to question whether the overall implementation of CALL when it comes to language learning going to be one of success, or whether it will ultimately fail due to seeming lack of interest and a resistance to change on the part of foreign language instructors (Bush, 2008). Current issues in implementation of CALL seem to be mostly based on a lack of teaching interest and dedication to using the hardware and software necessary to provide CALL to students (Bush, 2008). With some changes made in that area, CALL could become much more valuable in learning a second language or even learning…