Technological advancement and cultural change have always gone hand in hand. As a corollary to this, technology has revolutionized the field of education and research, particularly the field of language learning. Ideally, innovation in technology should enhance the teacher’s expertise as well as the student’s learning. Therefore, teachers and researchers continually strive to find new ways in which to use technology in language learning.
The book under review is a compilation of nine essays written by “emergent researchers” who are currently working in the field of CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning). The papers in this e-book (freely available on the internet) are written by researchers who have either recently completed their PhD or are on the verge of completing it. They belong to diverse cultural groups spread across Canada, Finland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Ireland, with each culture throwing up new challenges in the process of language learning.
The introduction by Sylvie Thouesny and Linda Bradley defines the scope of the book. They draw an interesting distinction between learning with technology and learning from technology. While the former indicates active involvement of the learner, the latter signifies a passive learner. They posit that the use of technology should necessarily encourage more interaction between the teacher and the student where the learner is an active participant.
In the first chapter titled “Personal Learning Environments in Higher Education Language Courses: An Informal and Learner-Centred Approach”, Ilona Laakkonen focuses on conceptualizing, creating and implementing new personal learning environments. Her findings indicate that learners are not passive consumers of knowledge; they actively choose, deconstruct and also create new knowledge. According to her, in the 21st century, personal learning environments conducive to optimum learning need to be created with the assistance of technology.
Another insightful chapter by Peter Wood from Saskatchewan, Canada, titled, “Quick Assist: Reading and Learning Vocabulary Independently with the Help of CALL and NLP Technologies” asserts that technology can be used to facilitate higher student enrolment rate and can also help to minimize the cost of teachers. However both these positives come with a caveat each. Language learning software needs to be upgraded regularly for it to remain relevant. The licensing fee for the software has to be paid periodically, and it is always expensive. The second “objection” is that no matter how advanced the technology, human intervention becomes essential as the learner’s competence increases.
Out of all the papers, perhaps the most relevant in the Indian context is that of Agnieszka Palalas titled, “Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL): Designing for Your Students”. This paper is the outcome of a two-year project that was conducted at the George Brown College, Toronto. In India especially, mobile technology is accessible from the highest to the lowest strata of society. As per the findings of Agnieszka’s study, MALL is amenable to time as well as location. It is both flexible and convenient. However, it is not cost effective and there are always connectivity problems.
The papers in the book are well researched and nuanced. The researchers have studied technology and language learning from varying perspectives. The book is specifically meant for students, researchers and teachers specializing in socio-linguistics. However, at times the book becomes a tedious read because of the countless acronyms that are more often than not needlessly used. Barring this shortcoming, the book is not only meticulously edited but also very relevant.
Kamal Deep Kaur teaches at the Department of English, Post-Graduate Government College for Girls, Sector 11, Chandigarh. Her areas of interest are Post-Colonial Theory and Literature.