Learning Languages through Technology

Book Review
Learning Languages through Technology
Elizabeth, Hanson-Smith and Sarah, Rilling (Ed.). Virginia: TESOL, Inc. 2006. Pp. iv + 332.

Reviewed by Lisa Cheung
University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Written for both academic and general readership, Learning languages through technology will enlighten any reader who is fond of integrating technology into language learning classrooms.With contributors being experienced computer-assisted language learning (CALL) practitioners from many regions of the world, this is an excellent all-in-one reader for pre- and in-service teachers to explore the role of technology in language learning.

The text contains 19 chapters separated into an introductory chapter and four sections which coverLanguage Development Online: Skill Building through Technology, Content-Based and Task-Based Learning: Collaborative CALL, Authentic Audience in a Web-Based World, and Constructivism in Professional Development.
Each section begins with a preview of the three to five chapters it contains, offers the chapters themselves, and concludes with follow-up questions and activities. Each chapter is also organized in a similar way: Each begins with ideas to think about before reading and then offers material that will help readers understand its foci.
The introductory chapter, Using technology in teaching languages, opens with a preview on fundamental technological tools in educational contexts and CALL research over the last two decades. Followed by this is the first section, Language Development Online: Skill Building through Technology. This section comprises five chapters that examine how technology can be creatively used to enhance learners four skill areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening. Various technology-enhanced approaches (p. 9) are considered in this section: namely, off-time communication (Chapter 2, Using synchronous communication collaboratively in ESP ), web concordance (Chapter 3, Problems of time and exposure in vocabulary acquisition ), online writing (Chapter 4, Using online academic writing modules in an IEP environment ), and web-based listening course (Chapter 5, Developing a web-based listening course ). The section then concludes with a chapter that discusses the issue of student autonomy with some recommendations to encourage autonomous learning (Chapter 6, CALL and the nonautonomous learner ).
The second section, Content-based and Task-based Learning: Collaborative CALL, explores diverse applications of the Internet in promoting collaborative learning. The section falls into five chapters, each of which proposes interesting technologies as a means to invent new ways of using resources (p.81), including group-based project (Chapter 7, Making content connections online via the GLOBE program ), learning writing through the Internet (Chapter 8, CALL and content-area teaching ), digital video and editing (Chapter 9, Meaningful tasks with video in the ESOL classroom ), and online writing laboratory (Chapter 10, An ESL OWL takes flight ). The last chapter, Mismatch or missed opportunity , addresses the issue of student expectations about technology and offers pedagogical suggestions for instructor practice.
The third section, Authentic audience in a web-based world, starts with three chapters that investigate the use of conventional computers (Chapter 12, First steps in experimenting with computers ), Weblogs (Chapter 13, Real-world contexts, skills and service learning ), and Web pages in blended (on- and off- campus) courses (Chapter 14, Redefining the blog: From composition class to flexible learning ). The section then concludes with a chapter on The teacher s critical role in effective online courses , which discusses the issue of teacher role with tips and suggestions to guide teachers to develop online courses.
The last four chapters in section four, together, address the issues related to the title of the section Constructivism in Professional development. Self-reflection as one of the important aspects of constructivist learning is explored in Chapter 16, Virtual basegroup: E-mentoring in a reflective electronic support network. How technology can enhance such reflective practices in teacher education is also discussed in the chapter. The other two chapters deal with the issues of moving towards collaboration in an online Teacher Education Course (Chapter 17, Reinvention of an online teacher education course ) and implementing a fully online degree program for teachers (Chapter 18, Implementing an online ESL teacher education program ). The final chapter, Tools for online teacher communities of practice, discusses how educators keep in touch with the changing world of technology through computer-supported communities of practice.
Learning languages through technology is a fascinating and comprehensive contribution to our current knowledge of technology use in language teaching. Reading this volume, any reader, particularly the teacher educator, will be impressed by its portrait of language learning in a technology-rich environment to develop a renowned passion for integrating technology into language pedagogy. All in all, this volume is a compelling read and practical resource for any teacher educator who wishes to captivate the imagination of learners through technology (p. 2).