ICT IN THE LEARNING OF
ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Hartoyo, M.A., Ph.D.
Education is one of the fundamental and vital aspects of life as it has a very important role that influences other aspects of life. Consequently, the educational management requires a serious attention and priority from all educational stakeholders, not only government’s responsibility. The matter was emphasized by the President of the Republic of Indonesia in his speech on the opening of National Conference on Educational Revitalization on 6-9 August 2006. In step with The President, the Vice President on the same occasion also emphasized that it is not only important in preparing a reliable, professional and competitive human resource; education also has a positive contribution to the economic condition of a nation. It means, if the education in a nation gains a promising progress, so does the economy. Therefore, there is no choice except to improve the educational management with an orientation to the increasing of educational quality. One of the efforts to improve the educational management is trough the utilization of information and communication technology (ICT).
The use of ICT in education, including the learning of English as a Foreign Language (EFL), is a positive respons to the rapid development of the Information and Communication Technology in the third millennium. Therefore, the use of ICT in supporting the learning of EFL is a must, not only to improve the effectiveness and quality of the learning of EFL, but more importantly to enhance the mastery of ICT for teacher and student as a life skill in the era of rapidly changing and progressing technology.
In EFL learning context, the utilization and application of ICT based media, including multimedia, can improve learning effectiveness and efficiency, which is expected to provide more satisfactory learning services to the public by properly addressing the need of each students and providing a better service to meet the expected goal and standard. There used to be an idea that the use of ICT in language learning in not too necessary, but presently, the use of ICT is unavoidable. It concerns with the increasing purpose and function of language as a means of communication in technology era.
This paper will address some matters related to the utilization of ICT in the learning of EFL along with its’ advantages and disadvantages.
2. Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the technology used to handle information and aid communication. The phrase was coined by Stevenson in his 1997 report to the UK government and promoted by the new National Curriculum documents for the UK in 2000 (dictionary.babylon.com).
ICT refers to hardware, software, networks and media for collection, storage, processing, transmission and presentation of information in the formats of voice, data, text and images”. The devinition is expanded even further in the IICD booklet which states that “clearly, ICT encompasses a wide range of elements that include hardware and software, content generation, knowledge management as well as institutional and management processes” (WorldBank, 2002, IICD, 2006 as cited in Thomas, 2009).
Information and communications technologies (ICT) in education refers to the computing and communications facilities and features that variously support teaching, learning and a range of activities in education (Kent. 2004).
ICT is sometimes refered to as Information technology (IT), which as defined by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), is “the study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems, particularly software applications and computer hardware.” IT deals with the use of electronic computers and computer software to convert, store, protect, process, transmit and retrieve information, securely (wikipedia.org). Information technology (IT) comprises the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to employ information and communications technologies appropriately, securely and fruitfully in learning, employment and everyday life (Kent. 2004).
Hence, information and communication technology (ICT) may be defined as technology, including knowledge, skills and understanding, as well as computing and communications facilities and features functioning to support the process of conveying information and communication.
There are some kinds of technologies classified into information and communication technology as follows.
1) Interactive multimedia
It is a technology which helps to accommodate two or more medias as text, graphic, audio, moving video, static video or animation to become a computer based application. Multimedia is commonly used in website. It comprises a computer with microprocessor, high resolution color monitor, big capacity hard disc, CD-ROM disc drive (flash disc) and stereo speaker (London at al. 1995: 158-161).
Television revers to an electronic device for receiving and reproducing the images and sounds of a combined audio and video signal (Encarta)
It is an electronic data processor: an electronic device that accepts, processes, stores, and outputs data at high speeds according to programmed instructions (Encarta). It consist of CPU, monitor and some other apparatus such as floppy disc, USB flash disc et cetera.
4) Sound system
At present, almost all computers are equipped with sound system in its sales package, including speaker and soundcard. Currently, computer speaker has “subwoofer” or additional speaker designed for bass sound. An advanced computer has built in soundcard on its motherboard (on board).
5) Musical instrument digital interface (midi)
The use of MIDI interface enables the user to access the synthesizer in computer. In doing so, we need a software (a compatible MIDI music recording with editing program) and hardware (soundcard MIDI and MIDI cable to connect the synthesizer).
6) Social interface
This media provides facility or example of interaction between human and computer. People will have more interaction with computer in a more intuitive way and with less effort-trough writing, voice, touch, eye movements, and other gestures. This technology serves as the milestone of the recent development of interactive multimedia, audio-graphic computer teleconference, and interactive television via satellite (National Broadband of Employment, Education and Training, 1993:5). Similarly with telematics or telemedia which utilize a series of technology flourished in late 1980s. At first, telematics connects audio network (audio conference, hands-free phone), document network (fax), and visual or graphic (computer with modem and phone line). Present day telematics includes television, interactive television and video conference (National Broadband of Employment, Education and Training, 1993:41).
7) Internet and Website
Internet refers to a computer-based global information system, consisting of many interconnected computer networks. Each networks may have tens, hundreds, or even thousands of computer linked together, enabling them to share and process information in just a click of a mouse. Whereas website is a collection of related web pages, images, videos or other digital assets which are addressed with a common domain name or IP address in an Internet Protocol-based network. Nowadays, regardless of peoples’ interest, internet and website is inseparable as the use of website will require an internet connection and internet connection will mean nothing without a interesting website to browse.
Along with the development of technology, ICT supported by computer system and network enables people to communicate face to face and hear the voice directly, although the people involved in the communication process are not the same place or room. Understanding its vital role in ICT, people generally identified, although not wholly correct, ICT with computer. This is understandable as computer is indeed the main part in supporting ICT operation.
3. The Use of ICT in the learning of EFL
ICT generally defined as technology functioning to support the process of conveying information and communication. In global era, the processes of conveying information doesn’t have to be carried out by direct interaction between the communicator and the communicant. With the development of ICT, the communicator and communicant can communicate and interact trough telephone, internet, e-mail, satellite, television, video conference, and the like. The same case applies also in the learning of EFL; in the learning of EFL, there is a communication process between teacher and student. However, the process of learning doesn’t have to be done only by subjecting teacher and students in the same room or a certain place directly. If the teacher or students can not come to the class, the learning process can still be done by means of ICT. For example, a teacher can use ICT trough video conference, which enables him or her to teach or monitor students in their learning process, by seeing and communicating directly although he is not present in the same place as his students. Teacher can also use internet as a means to give lessons, assignments, or other information to students, so students who are absent can get an access to the lesson or information from the teacher via internet.
Form the explained example, it can be inferred that in the context of language learning, ICT serves as the ‘media’ bridging and enabling the learning process, or even direct communication between students and teacher although they are not in the same room or place.
In certain context, ICT (computer and other supporting equipments) can also serve as ‘teacher’ or ‘tutor’. By utilizing specific software such as multimedia program or using countless sourcess in education-based website, language learning program (such as ‘tutorial’) can be created to enable students to learn the lessons with guidance, instruction, information or further explanation for specific terms merged on the program. In language learning, especially in the learning of EFL, most people think that teaching grammar is a waste of time, and even a boring activity. The use of ICT – computer as a mean in supporting grammar teaching, provides comforts both for students and teacher. After designing the program, it is not necessary for teacher to explain and answer the questions related to certain grammatical problems all the time as students can learn grammar trough language learning program from computer according to their own interest, need and time availability, without always come face to face with the teacher; without being afraid or embarrassed when making mistake in answering questions and they can re-learn lessons or re-do practices they haven’t understood or mastered.
Another advantage of ICT-computer is that it can be an inseparable ‘reference book’. Computer can store unlimited lessons or reference, which can be accessed anytime promptly and accurately. Besides, computer-based reference book connected to internet can be accessed by a lot of people in the same time, so it is more efficient comparing to other common books.
If combined with other media, such as video or education-based website, ICT-computer can serve as a peer for students in playing educational games, or as source of learning material, which can give illustration for verbally difficult to explain concepts as well as other interactive and attractive illustration (Kenning et al, 1984). Parallel to previous statement, Ahmad et al (1985) also states that:
“It (computer) may communicate with student visually by displaying text, graphics (diagrams, graphs, line drawings) or video images on a screen; it may also present sound, in the form of speech, music, or other audio output…”
The forms of ICT application in language learning will be addressed in following part.
4. ICT application in the learning of EFL
Below are examples of ICT application which are commonly applied in supporting learning, including the learning of English as a Foreign Language (EFL).
1) Computer-Assisted Language Learning Program
Rapid development of ICT has influenced computer application in supporting the learning of EFL, which are commonly referred as Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL). Computer as medium, used to help learners in learning process, as in language learning. However, “it (computer) is powerless and totally depends on the users” (Hartoyo, 2006:11).
Apart from computer as medium, if it is used correctly and effectively, computer can provide some advantages for students in EFL learning process. One of the advantages is that computer can be more interactive compare to other medium such as tape recorder, film projector, or other traditional media in learning such as chalk and blackboard. Besides, EFL learning program developed with ICT-computer is more flexible and efficient, as students can start learning the lesson from any part or topic they like, without having to start from the beginning of it; if they have understood, and don’t think they should start from the beginning, they can jump to the next lesson, which they believe important. They can even directly do the exercises, when they have understood the lesson. Another advantage is students can learn it quite according to their time and responsibilities. Thus, the learning of English as a Foreign language using CALL will be more confinient, effective and efficient.
2) Information Hubs
Internet as one of ICT’s applications can function as information hub which supports language learning. Trough internet, teacher can upload as well as download syllabus, lessons, reading materials, assignments, announcements, and multimedia learning sources. It can also be a showroom for interactive learning programs. In so doing, students or even everyone can get information related to language learning trough internet, which is accessible from anywhere and anytime.
3) Publication Forum
ICT can be used as publication forum for teachers and students. Trough website, students can publish their essays, reports, articles, and ideas so their teacher or other people can read, comment or appreciate, or contact the student (the one who publish it) for further interest. Teacher can also do the same thing to students or colleagues, to share their ideas, experiences, and give comments in publication forum trough listservs web publication.
4) Medium to converse or correspond
As explained in previous section, ICT can function as medium to converse or correspond. By video conference, teacher and students can converse although they are not in the same place. Teacher and students who are in the same place can invite other party to join, an expert in certain field for example, and discuss trough video conference. With video conference via internet, teacher and students do not have to meet certain expert in other area or country to get information or assistance concerning their education or other interests, so it is more efficient in time, effort, or cost.
Video conference also enables someone to give presentation or comments to the presentation. For example, when students are observing or conducting a research far from school and intend to give temporary report about it, they can do it via video conference.
5) Intercultural Communications
It is common for teenage-students to have intercultural communication among friends in a school, area, country, or even between countries. Intercultural communication indirectly influences the language in communication. Trough electronic mail (E-mail), MOO chat group, MIRC, and the recent phenomena; facebook, people can easily have an intercultural chat or communication.
Moreover, they can exchange digital information or files, as well as visual contact.
6) Research Support
Language learning, including EFL learning, require a continuous improvement both in material and method. Such improvement will need a scientific based proof, which can be provided by a research.
Conducting a research needs a sufficient support of theoretical, empirical or pragmatic information and data source. Internet can be a supporting source of a research by displaying bibliography of a certain field, provide links of relevant websites, or theories and empiric research results of language learning and a medium to collect data via online survey or questionnaire.
7) Online education
The advancement of ICT especially internet and website have made it easier for everyone to pursue their interests and needs including learning a foreign language. Recently, it is easier for students to access websites dedicated to assist them, or everyone, in learning english. A lot of materials have been arranged and displayed in an interactive way as to make the learning environment enjoyable and anouraging for them.
Some institutions, colleges and universities, even offer online courses for those willing to pursue a higher level of education with certain quality but has limitation in time, distance or money. Studies, such as conducted by Ebiefung (2000) shows that online education via internet can profide students with (1) Motivating Factor: The Internet can act as a motivating tool for many students, (2) Fast Communication: The Internet promotes fast communication across geographical barriers. (3) Access to Information: The Net allows easy access to information all over the world. It complements the library. (4) Interactive Activities: There are many interactive activities on the Internet for students of all ages. (5) Cooperative Learning: The Internet facilitates cooperative learning, encourages dialogue, and creates a more engaging classroom. (6) Research Materials: Apart from communication, research is what takes many people to the Internet. There are many more resources on the Internet than the school library can provide. (7) Varied Writing Skills: If students are required to publish their work on the Internet, they have to develop hypertext skills. These skills help students gain experience in non-sequential writings. and (8) The Work Environment: Many businesses have Web sites and some require computer skills for employment.
5. Possibilities of utilizing ICT in the learning of EFL
One of the main problems of language learning is issue related to language learning method. Seen from the history of language learning development, there are a lot of efforts to provide a better learning method. This effort stems from criticism upon the inadequacy found in the previous method. For instance, grammar translation method which emphasize on reading, grammar and vocabulary is considered ineffective in providing students with communication skill. Based on this critic, other method such as Direct Method, which emphasizes on the use of target language in communication, emerged. Direct method was also criticized, which stimulates the exploration of other “promising” methods, from Audio-Lingual Method, the Silent Way, Suggestopedia, Community Language, Communicative Approach to Total Physical Response. After its emergence, Total Physical Response was also criticized. Along with the development of ICT, there has been an idea of developing Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL)-Multimedia.
Since the last two decades, the language learning methods using ICT-computer (Computer-Assisted Language Learning) gives positive opportunity in helping students and teachers in language learning. Scientific reports (Nichols, 1995; Cumming, Sussex and Cropp, 1994; Dewey, Jones, and Fox, 1995; Ruhlman, 1995, Renie and Chanier, 1995; Thiery, 1996) show a positive impact from CALL, in terms of the appropriateness, effectiveness, interaction, and flexibility side.
6. The Utilization of CALL to enhance the learning of English grammar
The current issue regarding grammar instruction is how grammar instruction can be effectively delivered. A number of efforts have been made to seek a better and more effective way of teaching grammar. As far as the effectiveness of instruction is concerned, it has been assumed that computers may possibly be utilized to facilitate the delivery of the teaching and learning of explicit grammar. This assumption however, requires further empirical evidence. The following is a discussion related to some considerations underlying the utilization of a self-access, computer-assisted language learning programs and their relationship to explicit language instruction, specifically instruction in grammar.
The impact of information and communication technology (ICT) development on language education has been widely countenanced. Ballenden (1984) points out that computer technology will increasingly penetrate all areas of life, including education. Maddison (1983) maintains that the technology of education and the technology of communication are two sides of the same coin. The development of information technology that has followed the development of computer technology has stimulated people especially those who work in the field of education, such as teachers, curriculum planners and media designers, to endeavour to carry out experiments and studies on the possibilities of utilizing computers for educational purposes. This endeavour has increased with the development of so-called hypertext [hypermedia] computer interfaces. Interest in the computer as a means of enhancing the teaching and learning process, known as CAI/CBI or CALL, is gradually developing. The beneficial advantages, such as its interactive capability (Brandl, 1991; Hartoyo, 1993:25, 1994; Petermandle, 1990) and flexibility (Davis,1993) have been discussed. The unique properties of the computer as a medium for education are its ability to interact with the student (Nelson,1980) and its flexibility that enables students to move in whatever direction interests them and navigate through both texts and graphical information (Smith,1988:33-40), as well as video clips with the choice of live sound or narration on the topic they choose (Ahmad,1985:2-3). Moreover, the computer can be utilized to enhance language learning, and can also be used to generate examples to illustrate certain operations, or to stimulate conversation (Kenning, 1984). This integrated combination of features can help students with clear explanations and descriptions, as well as illustrations.
Despite these apparent advantages, the application of computer-assisted language learning does not seem to exert a common influence on learner performance. On the one hand, various studies examining the effectiveness of computer-assisted language learning programs have revealed that there are significant differences in favour of computers between the language learning achievement attained by students from computer-assisted language learning groups and non-computer ones (e.g., Gila, 1992; Atkinson, 1992; Borras, 1993; Sanne, 1993; Underwood, 1993; Welch and Hodges, 1990; Hartoyo, 1993). The same results can be seen in recent studies on the effectiveness of computer-mediated language instruction in stimulating learners’ language outcomes in terms of conversational skills. Studies such as those by Hawkins, Sheingold, Gearhart, and Berger (1982); Piper (1986); Cumming, Sussex, and Cropp (1994a, 1994b); Young (1986); Windeatt (1986); Doughty (1987); Dunkel (1991); Abraham and Liu (1991); Meskill (1993); Crook (1994); Wegerif and Mercer (1985); Johnson, (1991); Mohan (1992); Walker (1994); Nicholls (1995); Davey, Jones, and Fox (1995); Ruhlman (1995); Schroeder and Grabowski (1995); Renie and Chanier (1995); and Thierry (1996) show that there is indeed an advantage in using computers in instruction.
Hartoyo’s (1998) study investigating the effectiveness of CALL to improve students’ mastery of English grammar reveals that the scores of the students improved in all aspects of grammar highlighted in the CALL program. The scores they achieved in the tests after undergoing the treatment are considerably higher compared to the scores they gained prior to having the treatment. The improvement not only appears in the test administered immediately after the treatment, but also in the following tests.
Based on the review of theories and empirical studies, and also the results of my study, it can be argued that the students did benefit from a self-access CALL program.
7. Key to a successful utilization of ICT in the learning of EFL
Learning of EFL via information and communiation technology does not guarantee to achieving a curriculum objectives. Hulme and E.Locosto (2004) emphasized that every successful classroom technology achieved success precisely because it addressed a need of the educational culture, and not because it possessed some ephemeral quality of uniqueness or novelty. In another word, an appropriate technology will ensure a good learning environment and a better learning process.
Another issue worth highlighting is how ICT is actually used in EFL classroom. There are some factors which are essential for the successful use of the ICT for language teaching and learning, especially in EFL as explained by Ebiefung (2000) below:
1. Knowledge and usage of ICT
2. Training on a continual basis
3. Availability of equipment and technical assisstance
4. Supportive administration
5. Collaboration with other teachers
6. Advanced planning
7. Efficient use of technology
8. Using ICT as a tool
9. Responsible use of ICT
10. Proper provision of ICT
11. Adoption of an acceptable use policy
12. Appropriate and exciting projects
13. Genuine interest in the process
14. Good reward system
15. Evaluation method
8. Implication and recommendations
1) It has always been argued that teaching English, particularly grammar, is time consuming. The time allocated for classroom contact is limited and therefore English teachers often ask the students to study grammar by themselves and the teachers concentrate on the other skills, such as speaking, listening, and reading. To cope with this dilemma, a self-access CALL program may be an appropriate and promising solution. This is due to a number of advantages offered by this medium which may not be found in any other instructional media. Most importantly, a self-access CALL program can be utilized to support individual learning environments which enables students to learn materials based on their own personality, style, strategy, interest, and capability. Having such a self-access learning program, students can improve their knowledge of grammar along with their communicative skills, without having to create more blocks of time within a busy syllabus. Due to the development of information technology, it is now possible to provide a self-access CALL program on the Internet so that the access is not limited by time or location.
2) Apart from the benefit of a self-access CALL program, a number of issues should be considered in developing such an instructional program. This include considering the cost of purchasing equipment, choosing suitable software, selecting materials, determining objectives, choosing the type of intended program, and designing the layout of the screens. More importantly, CALL designers or developers should understand clearly the principles of creating the program such as ‘interactivity’, ‘flexibility’, ‘accessibility’ and ‘appropriateness’.
3) It has been argued in previous section that there is no single best method appropriate for all students, levels, lessons, contexts or situations. This also applies to the utilization of a CALL program to enhance the learning of English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Despite the fact that, overall, the self-access CALL program may be said to have been beneficial and effective, the degree of its effectiveness in delivering the teaching of the diverse target language is not the same.
4) Overall the study has shown that explicit grammar teaching via a self-access CALL programs can improve conscious knowledge of the grammar features selected and to an improvement in the L2 production of the subjects as measured by their writing skills. While it may be claimed by some that such an improvement in writing as a result of explicit instruction was merely the result of monitoring of language performance by the students.
Best efforts will fail without high commitment, coordination, communication, and synergy between all stakeholders. Consequently, it requires a good cooperation and synergy in utilizing ICT to enhance and support language learning. Besides, it needs proper and thorough planning before actually developing language learning using ICT, known as CALL, as states by Davies and Ellison (1992) “those who do not plan, plan to fail”.
Besides planning, there are, at least, three main components required, namely (1) the hardware, (2) the software, and (3) the brainware (human resource and system). Indonesian way of thinking such as “able to buy, unable to maintain” or “easier to buy than to maintain” should be changed into “able to buy and maintain” and “easy to buy and maintain”. Hence, all stakeholders responsible for the utilization of ICT need to highlight the maintenance as well as the change of mindset of the relevant human resources.
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