Computer Aided Learning (CAL): What are the issues?

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A. Presentation of the Issue

The  applications  of  computers  are  growing  rapidly,  and  expectations  of  this  technology  are growing at the same rate. One of the newest branches of computer application is Computer Aided Learning or CAL.

Although  computers  and  educational  packages  are  generally  in  use  today,  Computer  Aided Learning in the future will be even more essential and important. Today computers are used as a big,  fast encyclopedia or data book, a  tape  recorder,  type writer or video, but  in  the  future CAL systems will contain smart adaptive trainers that will adapt  themselves to learners’ features and propose  the  best  method  of  teaching.  Again,  we  will  have  more  remote  learning  and  video conferencing instead of today’s traditional classes. CAL now is a new idea, but as time goes by, it will become very important and wide-spread.

B. The IT Background of the Issue

In this part we shall look at the various types of  CALL and where they might be employed in a typical lesson, turn to look at the major types of CALL software and how they might best be used in the class.

Most class lessons in language learning follow a pattern on the lines of:

  1. Introduction - outline of lesson and indication of the points to be learned.
  2. Presentation - presentation of the learning material.
  3. Practice - firstly controlled practice with a teacher, then free practice without the leading of the teacher.
  4. Summary - review of main points and pointer to next lesson.

There are four main types of CALL: tutorial, drill, simulation/micro-world, tool. These, once again constitute a spectrum of possible systems.

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The first type, tutorial systems, are generally closed in their teaching and learning approach and tend to present and practice material.

The second type, Drill systems, are systems which teach by repeatedly presenting an item of knowledge and waiting for a particular response (e.g., for vocabulary learning).

Simulations and micro-worlds are programs in which real world scenarios are re-created in a computer environment in a convincing, life-like way the simulation program behaves exactly as the real thing. A micro-world is a simplified simulation in which some of the real world complexity has been removed to make it easier for the students to ...

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