Using Computers in the Language Classroom

Computer Assisted Language Learning Lesson Plans

If you are a language teacher who is interested in applying technology to your teaching methodology, you may want to consider Computer-Assisted Language Learning, also known as CALL. While it is true that computers don’t just magically solve all the issues of teaching that you are likely to run into a language-learning program, the right implementation of computers can really be a help in creating some novel approaches to interaction in your classroom. 

As an aside, although most technology you would be using these days is a computer in one way or another, more generalized terms for the same pedagogical technique are Technology-Mediated Language Learning (TMLL) or Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC). Feel free to use whichever one works for you, and keep in mind how similar they are when cross-referencing ideas for technology use in the classroom.

It should go without saying that all these ideas and computer assisted language learning lesson plans are simply tools, and should be used to support your educational goals, not supplant them. Remember, use technology when it benefits your students’ learning of the target language, not merely their ability to use the technology. One of the bigger drawbacks you might experience when introducing computers to the classroom is the difficulty some students have to quickly adapting to a new technology. For that reason, be sure to have a backup plan if either the students face frustration at using the technology, or the tech just fails outright (we’ve all seen it happen!). For example, if any of your students are having trouble with their computers, being able to describe their problems in the target language would be an effective use of class time.

1. E-mail

This one is simple, and a good way to gauge your students’ technological capabilities. Having students send you an e-mail in the target language is the absolute easiest project that you could do with computers. If they get the hang of that pretty quick, you might have your class interact with each other in a chat room environment. For assignments to be done outside of the classroom, consider having students create e-mail exchanges with pen pals in the target language.

2. Blogs

Students can set up a blog using a free hosting service, and use the format to keep a log of any topic they are interested in the target language. This is a good way to use a specific format to encourage creativity among your students, and they can also quickly interact with each others’ blogs with comments and trackback links.

3. Podcasts

Here’s an idea that focuses more on verbal communication. Again, using a topic that they are interested in as a springboard, students can record an mp3 conversation of themselves speaking in the target language. You’ll want to keep these shorter than typical podcasts. Consider letting groups of two or three students record seven to ten minutes of audio each, otherwise listening to every podcast in full could become too burdensome.

4. Games

There are a variety of language game software options available, many of which focus on practicing verbs, locatives, and tenses. Even simple electronic versions of popular word games like Hangman and Scrabble show that any game that adds a fun graphical interface can be a  good substitute for mechanical drilling straight out of a textbook. Simply put, don't sell games short when putting together computer assisted language learning lesson plans.

5. Multimedia Presentations

For students studying a target language such as English for business-related reasons, the necessity of being able to give a successful presentation in PowerPoint is a given. However, it is again important to note that the students’ familiarity with PowerPoint or any other presentation software should be something developed on their own, and that the focus in a language classroom should be on the goal of communicating effectively in the target language.

These are just a few of the ways you can implement CALL in your classroom. For a more meta approach, lesson plans centered around technology can focus on discussing the terminology of computers and some of the more noteworthy idioms in that category (spam, twitter, social networking, etc.) Focus on what works best for your class to communicate effectively in the target language, and have fun doing it!