Chun’s (1994) study suggests that computer networking can be used to improve the interactive ability of language learners, especially those beginners. The main theme is that “using CACD (Computer-assisted Class Discussion) would provide students with the opportunity to generate and initiate different kinds of discourse structures or speech acts” (p.20).
Chun investigates her students who study German as their target language. She informs students about the discussion topics before the session begins. Every time she types in the specific questions of each topic, students begin to discuss it on the computer. The software they use is the InterChange function of the Daedalus Intergrated Writing Environment software, which allows the students to have real-time, synchronous conversations.The topics are various and chosen from real life. And the transcripts of what they said are printed for data analysis.
The overall findings are as follows:
- The most active participants in computer discussion are quiet male students in the class.
- Students tend to use simple sentences rather than complex ones, but the ratio of simple to complex sentences decreases for second-semester students.
- When students meet unfamiliar words, they will use their first language instead of paraphrasing them in the target language.
- When students request clarification, they use appropriate rhetorical devices and discourse strategies.
- Male students write more than females, and ask more general, open-ended questions to the whole group than female students do.
- Most of the conversations are participants’ replies to teachers’ questions.
- The second greatest number of entries are questions of specific peers rather than of the entire group or the instructor.
- The third most common type of entries are statements such as expanding on a topic.
- Compared to traditional classroom discourse, students have more liberty to manage the discourse and to choose their partners with the help of CACD.
We think CACD can give students more autonomy to express themselves. CACD offers a great platform for students who are afraid of face-to-face interaction without being afraid of making mistakes. Students’ language skills, especially writing, can be largely improved.
Apart from writing skills, how can CACD be applied to foster other kinds of language skills (reading, listening, speaking)?
- Sullivan, N., & Pratt, E. (1996). A comparative study of two ESL writing environments: A computer-assisted classroom and a traditional oral classroom. System, 24(4), 491-501. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0346251X96000449
- Lee, S. (2003). Computer-assisted classroom discussion in three esl classrooms: a case study of the experiences of a teacher and her students (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=997696
- Beauvois, M. H. (1994). E-Talk: Attitudes and motivation in computer-assisted classroom discussion. Computers and the Humanities, 28 (3), 177-190. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/30204580