Multimedia CALL and
Evaluation of CALL
4.1 Introduction to Multimedia and MPC
4.2 Comparing Early CALL and Modern
4.3 Pros and Cons of Multimedia CALL
4.4 Evaluating Multimedia CALL Software
4.5 Exploring CALL CD-ROMs
4.1 Introduction to Multimedia and MPC
"Nowadays multimedia refers to computer-based materials
designed to be used on a computer that can display and print text
and high-quality graphics, play pre-recorded audio and
video material, and create new audio and video recordings."
Two types of multimedia:
- Web-based multimedia
- Multimedia on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM
Because of its capacity of combining text, images, animation, sound,
in a variety of activities, multimedia offers many exciting
opportunities for language learning and helps to integrate the
learning of four language skills - listening, speaking, reading, and
Comparison of the two types of multimedia:
Web-based multimedia is rapidly growing but it has not yet
replaced CD-ROM or DVD-ROM technology. Web-based multimedia may
offer more in terms of presentation rather than
interaction (e.g., In a web environment, it is not easy to
record and playback one's own voice, and it is not always smooth
to deliver/play sound and video), while CD-ROM /DVD-ROM can
provide more spontaneous human-machine interaction.
The use of web-based multimedia often requires more technical
preparation (e.g., Users need to ensure that they have
installed up-to-date plug-ins and have broadband access to view
webpages more easily and successfully). Moreover, some website
may become congested at peak time, thus causing difficulty to
access them. This problem won't occur when using multimedia on
CD-ROM or DVD-ROM.
However, web-based multimedia materials are usually free
and can be accessed by every web user. Also, the
materials can be updated or modified by the author at any time.
Multimedia materials on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM are usually commercial
products and once they are produced, no information can be
Web-based multimedia can offer computer-mediated
communication (CMC), such as emailing, online
chatting, and online discussion, which helps to foster an online
learning community. This is what multimedia on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM
An MPC (multimedia computer) is basically the same as a standard PC,
with the following additions:
- a soundcard
- speakers or headphones
- a microphone
- a CD-ROM (or DVD-ROM) drive
4.2 Comparing Early CALL and Modern CALL
- individualized drills
- viewing language as discrete
- emphasizing the importance of control
- giving extrinsic feedback
- communicative and integrative
- task-based, collaborative activities
- providing alternatives to learners
- viewing language as a whole
- emphasizing the importance of guidance
- giving both extrinsic and intrinsic feedback
There is a close relationship between the use of different types of CALL
programs and the stages of language acquisition (Butler-Pascoe
and Wiburg, 2003, p. 9):
- In the pre-production stage: The behavioristic
approach is more emphasized. CALL software is used to provide
comprehensible input and ask learners to give limited responses
through controlled exercises.
- In the more advanced stage: The communicative and
integrative approach is more emphasized. Telecommunications
activities and interactive video and simulation programs of
real-life experiences that foster critical thinking and problem
solving are more needed. Learners are encouraged to manipulate
technology to complete tasks or communicate with real audiences
around the world.
4.3 Pros and Cons of Multimedia CALL
Before discussing the following questions with your group members,
read the twelve attributes considered essential to the success of
technology-enhanced language learning environments
(Butler-Pascoe and Wiburg, 2003, pp. 15-19): Such environments
provide interaction, communicative
activities, and real audience
supply comprehensible input
support development of cognitive abilities
utilize task-based and problem-solving
provide sheltering techniques to support
language and academic development
are student-centered and promote student
facilitate focused development of English
use multiple modalities to support various
learning styles and strategies
support collaborative learning
meet affective needs of students
foster understanding and appreciations of
the target and native cultures
provide appropriate feedback and
Based on your
language learning experience with CALL software/website,
please discuss pros and cons of multimedia CALL with your
group members. Think about what you like and what you do not
like when using
CALL software/website to learn English or other languages. Then come up with
a list and examples.
Many multimedia CALL software packages claim their high level of
interactivity. What does "interactivity" mean to you? Do
you think they are truly interactive? Please give some examples
to explain your opinion.
In the first article you read about "Some Pros and Cons" (ICT4LT
Module2.2), the author, Davies, writes, "There is a danger,
however, of relying too much on the computer's ability to process
the learner's input" and then he cites Levy's (1998) words to support
"Where the student is generally working alone without the
teacher, the computer has to reliably give the student the right
kind of guidance and advice every time the program is used; there is
no second wave of feedback that can come with a teacher's presence
to act as backup. [...] The success, therefore, of the computer
the tutorial role, hinges on how reliably the program
manages the student's learning and on how timely, accurate
and appropriate is the feedback, help and advice given." (Levy
Do you agree with this point? Discuss this issue with your group
members. Can you further elaborate this "danger" with examples?
Davies also points out that many designers of CALL-based
programs were "more interested in control rather than
guidance". Do you agree? Can you give some examples to
support or refute this points?
At the end of this section, Davies makes a final comment on
"Technology is racing ahead of pedagogy
and, unfortunately, often driving the pedagogy. Above all,
there is a need for further research into how language students
learn. We still know relatively little about the learning
process, but what little we know is often disregarded by multimedia
Based on your own learning experience with CALL software, did you
find some that involve a high level of technology but
provide little help to language learning? Or did you find some
that involve simple technology but are really helpful to
4.4 Evaluating Multimedia CALL
Many multimedia language learning programs rely on what may be
called the "point-and-click-let's-move-on-quick" approach. It is
also too easy to be deceived by flashy presentations. Therefore, we
need to make a critical evaluation of multimedia CALL software
before using it.
In the first article you read about "Evaluating multimedia" (ICT4LT
Module2.2), Davis (2004) suggests that we ask ourselves the
following questions when examining a new multimedia program. Do
you find some of the questions are more important than others in
choosing CALL software? Why?
Is the level of language that
the program offers clearly indicated?
Is the user interface easy to
understand? For example, are there ambiguous icons that cause
Is it easy to navigate through
the program? Is it clear what point the learner has reached?
What kind of feedback is the
learner offered if he/she gets something wrong? Is the feedback
intrinsic or extrinsic?
If the learner gets something right
without understanding why, can he/she seek an explanation?
Can the learner seek help, e.g.
on grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, cultural content?
Does the program branch to remedial
Can the learner easily quit
something that is beyond his/her ability?
Does the learner have to
mentally process the language that he/she sees and
hears? Or does the program offer a range of point-and-click
activities that can be worked through with the minimum of
If the program includes pictures,
are they (a) relevant, (b) an aid to understanding?
If the program includes sound
recordings, are they of an adequate standard? Are they (a)
relevant, (b) an aid to understanding? Is there a good mix of
male and female voices and regional variations?
Can the learner record his/her
own voice? Can the learner hear the playback clearly?
Does the program make use of Automatic Speech Recognition
(ASR)? Is it effective?
If the program includes video
sequences, are they of an adequate standard? Are they (a)
relevant, (b) an aid to understanding?
Does the program include scoring?
Does the scoring system make sense? Does it encourage the
Also read the following three evaluation checklists/forms of CALL
software and compare their criteria. Do you think those criteria
are equally important?
- Three key components to consider in CALL evaluation:
a) the nature of the materials/software
b) the nature of the teaching/learning situation
c) the suitability of rating criteria
- Three evaluation criteria:
b) program design
c) pedagogically relevant features
- Five evaluation criteria:
b) media content
c) quality of linguistic/cultural content
e) exploitation and outcomes
*Note: MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for learning
and Online Teaching) is a free and open resource designed primarily
for faculty and students of higher education. It collects links
to online learning materials along with brief annotations and
peer reviews/member comments.
a) Quality of Content
b) Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching-Learning Tool
c) Ease of Use
Develop your own CALL software evaluation criteria with your
group members and explain why the criteria you choose are
Choose a CALL software package or a website and evaluate it
together with your group members. Then write your evaluation in
the message board and give an oral presentation to the class
* Note: If you don't know which
ESL/EFL website to choose for evaluation, you can go to the MERLOT
(Multimedia Educational Resource for learning and Online Teaching)
and enter 'ESL' in the Search Materials Box <http://www.merlot.org/>
and take a look at how others reviewed or commented on those
* Please do
Exercise 4 Multimedia CALL and Evaluation of CALL
4.5 Exploring CALL CD-ROMs
Explore the following CALL CD-ROM examples with your group members.
Find out what features and functions each of them has in
terms of both presentation and interaction. Take notes
while exploring them.
CD-ROMs as reference tools
CD-ROMs for children
Engphonics - English pronunciation and spelling courseware
Sesame Street Reading Basics
Let's go read
Reader Rabbit first grade learning adventure
Curriculum Alive - English
CD-ROMs for adults
CD-ROMs for test preparation
CD-ROMs incorporating Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR)