The Internet TESL Journal
CALL: Its Scope and Limits
A speech by Frank Berberich at the Toyohashi JALT chapter meeting
April 21, 1996
Reported by Lawrence Hunter
President/program chair, Kochi JALT
Frank Berberich stood large over the console of the wonderful CALL lab put
together by Kaz Nozawa at Toyohashi Gikadai as he led a curiosity-filled group
through his current thinking about CALL software. The setting for the chapter
meeting of Toyohashi JALT was well-chosen: the lab is designed for teaching both
language and CALL software construction.
Berberich's projected scenarios for CALL
Frank's work at Tsukuba's University of Library and Information Science has led
him to some grounded and broad attempts to characterize what is being done and
what might optimally be done in CALL in general and in Japan in particular.
First Frank laid out his three imagined scenarios for CALL, the Star Trek
scenario, where the target language is instantly integrated into one's mind; the
2001 scenario, where the machine is a fully human conversationalist and tutor;
and the Now scenario, the current state of the art (in in the non- ideal sense of
the term) scenario, where interaction is via keyboard/screen and audio/visual
multimedia are basic.
Berberich's dimensions of CALL
Reaching far beyond other researchers' difficult-to-use qualitative lists of CALL
activity types, Frank has created a proposed list of dimensions of CALL, a set of
continua which make characterizing individual CALL objects (e.g. software) simple
and revealing. A couple of examples of these continua: User Memory Load, the
degree to which the user's memory is exercised; Data Access, the extent of the
system's database; System Layering, the complexity of the system in terms of how
much it is doing with the user data. These terms were demystified as Frank led
the audience through a series of demonstrations of the design of a number of
pieces of CALL software, both programs and CDROMS, and showed how each would rate
on his dimensions.
The current state of CALL software
Some basic views underlying Frank's talk: current CALL software is limited,
perhaps disappointing, since most items are either slick programmer productions
which miss much of the wisdom that educators have to offer, or are educator
produced and lack the stimulating interface that a programmer could provide.
Computer Adaptive Testing
All this suggests a need for "layered systems that can deal with flexible input
and output, freely branch within and access a large base of tasks and data,
depending onuser inputs, and can collect and process multiple user inputs for
ongoing refinement of the system." For a hint of such a system, readers are
directed to Frank's article,
Berberich, F. (1995). Computer Adaptive Testing and its extension to a
teaching model in CALL. "CAELL Journal" 6 (2), 11-18.
Nozawa home page
So much information, so many sources, all laid out in a brief meeting. And there
were distractions: the audience sat at computers linked to the web, and many had
a good browse of Kaz Nozawa's home page, an excellent springboard for those
seeking some map of what, where and how in CALL. The wise observer would merely
note Kaz' URL http://www.lc.tut.ac.jp/nozawa/nozawa.html
and browse it later, but warm and generous environment proved irresistible for
many of us.
Toyohashi JALT are to be commended for putting together an event worthy of
giving up a beautiful sunny Sunday.
The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. II, No. 6, June 1996