Perceptions of interaction in an integrated CALL context : Analysing the learning experience from an Activity Theory perspective
The search for a framework guiding the effective use of computers to improve conditions for language learning continues to occupy CALL researchers. Bax (2003, 2011), in addressing the issue of the true role of the computer in the classroom, suggests that the focus of any effective CALL environment should ultimately be on the "normalisation" of the computer so that it is fully integrated among other artefacts. In this way, the computer would be an invisible, but complementary part of the classroom ‘system’, mediating language learning as pupils interact with each other and with and around the computer. It is against this backdrop that the central focus of this research (that of identifying perceptions and moments of interaction within a ‘limited’ technology environment which bear characteristics, as defined in the literature, of effective language learning), was conceptualised. This focus was established in order to shed further light on the role of the computer in its social function within a carefully balanced activity system (based on Engeström’s Activity Theory), in promoting the kind of interaction which, rather than being technology focused, places the learner and the learning objective at the center of the language learning process. Using a qualitative emic and etic approach to data collection, the research project examined pupils' perceptions of the interaction they experienced with and around the computer. The data were collected mainly through semi-structured (stimulated recall) interviews and observation notes based on video clips of the interaction in select one-computer classrooms. The research revealed that there is value to be had in deliberately limiting the number of computers in the classroom as this does offer greater facility to "normalise" the computer in its role as an everyday artefact, and can, consequently, promote more learner-centered as opposed to techno-centric interaction – as ascertained based on the perceptions of the learners themselves. There is also evidence to suggest that the computer, in this way, can be seen as assuming a certain ‘agency’ as it forms part of an ‘active’ triadic constellation of the one-computer activity system. Bax, S. (2003). CALL – past, present, and future. System, 31, 13-28. Bax, S. (2011). Normalisation revisited: The effective use of technology in language education. International Journal of Computer-Assisted Language Learning and Teaching, 1(2), 1-15
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