Computer Assisted Language Learning in the Middle East

Glossary

  • CALL – Computer Assisted Language Learning
  • ENS – English Native Speakers
  • EFL – English as a Foreign Language
  • TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • IT – Information Technology
  • ICT – Information and Communications Technology

Overview

The main objective of this paper is to give a comprehensive report of a professional project formulated to explore the impacts of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) in the day to day learning the routine of the intermediate -prep schools in the Middle East countries. The research proposal was driven by the hypothesis that it was useful for intermediate -prep school EFL teachers to incorporate CALL in their everyday classroom activities. The research was carried out in Tharhima intermediate -prep school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The main methodologies of the research included literature reviews, observations, and personal reflection from journals. The collected data was analyzed and conclusions are drawn from the findings. According to the evidence from the reviews as well as the reflection journals, incorporating CALL in their everyday learning of the intermediate -prep schools has many advantages especially in learning languages hence very useful.

Introduction

We live in a world characterized by tremendous improvements in technology and scientific innovations. These new technologies have brought about new approaches to various aspects of life including teaching and learning, resulting in a complete reformation in the teaching fraternity. Even though the core traditional teaching methods (reading, listening, writing, class discussions among others) remain the most favorable methods worldwide, significant attention has been shifted to ‘e-learning’ which seeks to incorporate computer technology in learning. Various researches have revealed that e-learning is the way to go in the present diverse world. A good number of education experts state that integrating technology into our education systems will not only improve students’ performance but also make their learning experience a lovelier one especially for small children aged between five and thirteen (Dinev & Mullen, 2008). Various nations have heeded this call of reformations and invested in e-learning in their education systems. Good examples include the United States and China. This has been attributed to the growing concerns of producing students to fit enough to face the increasing challenges of the 21st century.

Numerous efforts and worldwide campaigns of integrating e-learning in our schools have been based on the notion that incorporating technology in our learning institutions has numerous positive impacts. The research proposal of this paper thus examined one aspect of this e-learning i.e. Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) and its impacts on the day to the day learning process of the intermediate -prep schools. The proposal was driven by the research questions which were aimed at finding out whether it is useful for intermediate -prep school teachers to incorporate CALL in their classroom activities.

The advantages of CALL in intermediate -prep school have not been adequately researched in the Middle East. It is an aspect of e-learning that has not been adequately embraced in the region as compared to other regions. Several researchers argue that this situation is due to the unique culture and history of the Middle East. However, the region is committed to a population that has a high education level and proficiency in global languages like English. As such, with the present struggles the region is going through in the effort of becoming global citizens, it is wise to research whether CALL can be useful in intermediate -prep schools in the Middle East.

The research project was therefore based on Tharhima School in Saudi Arabia. It is located in Riyadh, the capital city of the country. It is among the best intermediate -prep schools in the country with a population of about 500 children and teaches several international languages including Arabic, English, French, Spanish, and Germany. The majority of the pupils in the school are from middle-class families with a few from relatively poor families who are in school on scholarship programs. The school has employed up to 50 staff personnel. These comprise of both qualified education experts with vast experiences as well as other graduates with noneducational degrees who are employed on contract programs. The big student and teacher population as well as offering a variety of international languages were the main reasons I chose Tharhima School for my study. In my view, I concluded that Tharhima School was a success-oriented school with an innovative and hardworking staff. This was evident from the dedication to our day to day duties at the school. My role as an EFL teacher at the school was to share the experience of integrating CALL in intermediate -prep schools which was the main objective of my project. I had to research the impacts of the whole process as well as highlight how the technology could be adopted.

My observations as a research methodology involved interaction with several staff as well as pupils. Through my interaction with some of the teachers, I noticed that the school had a dedicated team that was ready to embrace technology. The students were disciplined, humble, and hungry for technological knowledge. Another vital characteristic I noticed with the staff at the school was self-motivation. For instance, Mrs. Zane Noor, the deputy principal of the school was one motivated and loving lady who was keen to listen. She was very helpful in my project.

Rationale

There are several factors that I considered in making decisions for my research. I needed to do extensive research that could answer all of my research questions and prove my hypotheses. As such, the availability of data was a key consideration for the case study. This was the main reason I settled on exploring a case study that was entirely in my workplace, Tharhima School. Having chosen a case study in my workplace, I had the advantage of quality and readily available data from various sources that I was familiar with and they were in the line of professional practice. Another key consideration was my experience and knowledge in the field of educational technology. This would help me in choosing the right literature articles to be reviewed. It would also be of help in the observations and other methodologies. With the experience, I would easily relate and interact with target people in my research and especially during data collection and analysis. In the research, I had to use various strategies and actions in the project investigation. The action research cycle included the stages of planning, acting, observing, and reflecting (Marshall & Bannon, 1986).

The main purpose of my project is to explore the usefulness of intermediate -prep school EFL teachers incorporating CALL in their day to day classroom activities in Middle Eastern settings. According to the literature and my own experience, the project was guided by the following research questions;

  • How would intermediate foreign language learners benefit from incorporating CALL in class?
  • Are there any limitations of incorporating CALL in TEFL daily activities for intermediate students?

Review of related literatureFrom the above questions, I decided to direct my main focus on learners’ (intermediate -prep students aged 11-13) and teachers’ attitudes towards CALL in the Middle East.

Various research reports have been made on CALL and its’ impacts on learning English in intermediate -prep schools. Most of the scholars sight numerous advantages that come with integrating this aspect of e-learning in our schools. There are several approaches used by scholars. However, most of them reach a consensus that indeed CALL will help improve the language learning experience. This is desirable especially in the case of small children aged between nine and fourteen years. Most of their arguments are based on their professional experiences and resources collected during their studies.

In his article; The Effect of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) on United Arab Emirates English as foreign language (EFL) school students’ achievements and attitudes, Abdurrahman (2006) states that CALL as an asset of e-learning has numerous programs that would greatly improve students’ performance. For instance, CALL has language tutor programs developed specifically to enhance learners’ pronunciation skills. The program also helps improve their grammatical skills. This is stated by various scholars as a major advantage of CALL in intermediate -prep schools. The approach of CALL is more efficient and attractive as compared to the traditional teaching methods (listening, writing, class discussion among others) that are largely used in countries in the Middle East. Pennington (1996) is keen to state that language tutor programs have had tremendous impacts, especially in the United States for learners who studied hard foreign languages such as Chinese and Japanese.

On the other hand, in their article; Computer Assisted Language Learning, Grace and Kabata (2010) note that the introduction of CALL in EFL will bring along internet applications that are very important and meaningful in learning the language. Not only do these applications make the learning experience lovelier, but also enhance distance learning. The use of the internet enables students to link up with their fellow students all over the world and thus can exchange ideas and share various learning experiences. This has been the main reason why a good number of parents have invested a lot in computer technology to enrich their children’s quality language learning experience.

Another advantage of CALL as stated by several scholars including Picciano (1994) and Rose (1984) is that its programs reduce most of the paperwork that is associated with traditional teaching methods. There have been issues raised with these traditional methods such as learners’ handwritings that some teachers find unreadable. As such, integrating CALL would put an end to such issues. Woodrow (1991) also states that CALL programs and applications help prepare the student for the current diverse world by making them global citizens who embrace technology. All these advantages were useful in answering my main research question.

However, even with all the above merits, CALL faces a lot of challenges in the Middle East. Most of the challenges have proved to be difficult for the ongoing campaigns on the need of integrating CALL in the learning institutions. For instance, there are ethical issues related to the approach. As stated by several scholars, the Middle East has a richly unique culture. There have been various ethical issues raised in concerns with computer technology such as abuse of the technology, privacy matter, and confidentiality among others. Another limitation for the integration of the technology is the general inadequate knowledge of the technology by the local people. There is little familiarity with the technology among students and teachers. Teachers lack the required training on CALL. In addition to this, there are inadequate facilities to cater for incorporating the technology in all the schools.

Another major blow to technology is the governments in the Middle East. Most of their legislatures, laws, guidelines, and regulations do not favor free use of technology and media especially the internet. Internet usage in the area is greatly controlled with major applications and websites being banned for cultural, religious, or political reasons. This has deemed the Middle East governments as enemies of technology, a factor that discourages CALL integration in classrooms.

In the article; The use of Technology for Second Language Learning and Teaching: A Retrospective, Rafael (2001) states that inadequate knowledge on CALL is the main obstacle to the efforts of incorporating the technology in various learning institutions worldwide. According to him, the Middle East has had a major blow due to the lack of CALL experience among teachers. Most teachers in the region get to learn about CALL from informal sources and in most cases it is always their effort. This is due to the lack of enough training programs in the Middle East. And the few ones available use outdated technologies that are not adequate to equip them with solid CALL knowledge. As a result, most teachers in the Middle East have held the perception that CALL education has been neglected in the region to make them equipped with CALL knowledge and necessary experience when using the advanced technology in language classrooms (Vodanovich & Piotrowski, 2004).

Despite this, researches reveal that there has been a growing interest in CALL technology in the region in the past 10 years. A good number of teachers now show a positive attitude towards technology. However, there are still a few cases where teachers who are ready to adopt the technology effectively are in most cases deterred from doing so by institutional barriers. However, on a general view teachers have welcomed cyberspace technology and most of them have faith that the tool will assist learners to achieve foreign language competence. Students also appreciate the use of CALL in language learning and are willing to embrace it. All this information was of great importance in my research especially in answering the research questions and testing the hypotheses (State Board of Education, 1991).

Methodology

Data collection was a vital process for my project. For quality and effectiveness, I incorporated the two commonly accepted approaches to this research; the qualitative and the quantitative approach. There are many ways of distinguishing between these two approaches, which can also overlap or complement each other, as in mixed methods designs. However, the main reason for the inclusion of the two approaches was because data collection in such a study had to consist of primary data and secondary data with more secondary data. Every objective of the project used up different proportions of each form of data (Scott, 1996). My sources for secondary data included various reviews ranging from journals, publications, books, other forms of literature, and from the internet. My main focus was on all the studies that had been done on the subject in the past ten years. The decided studies were recorded in a literature review content analysis table (appendix A). This was important to highlight the themes identified by the various authors.

The observation was another methodology that I employed for the project. The main reason for the methodology was to capture a large amount of data. This is because the project had a time target to beat and thus making observations was the most appropriate methodology as compared to other ways such as interviews. It also provided a wide range of primary data from the various closed and open-ended questions. These questions were grouped into two sections; one on the impacts of CALL on the school and the other on personal thoughts and views on the technology. Appendix B presents a sample of questions I used. This structuring of questions was to obtain both qualitative and quantitative data. My target respondents included all my fellow language teachers at Tharhima School for example Mrs. Noor, 20 students who took foreign languages as well as the managing team at the school. Because of ethical issues, I have used pseudonyms for the names of participants in my project to protect their privacy.

The sampling strategies I used during the study included careful biased sampling. This targeted materials from the library, internet, and related research reports. My personal teaching experience was important in determining personal diaries and reflection journals, national curriculum archive and kindergarten’s daily activity schedule, and children language progress report that I could consider as sources of data to be used. The language reports from the kindergarten were to give a clear indication of the present situation at the school then.

It was necessary to analyze the collected data for the evaluation and testing of hypotheses. Data analysis involved analyzing collected documents through document content analysis. Among the documentation analyzed included teachers’ reflective journals (for example appendix G), CALL policies as well as CALL related role descriptions. The analysis helped study the historic advancements of CALL in the region. Data analysis on the other hand was done in consideration of the research question. Frequency distribution was used to evaluate the Likert-type Scale questions. This approach grouped the data in groups ready for evaluation to test the themes identified in the literature review.

Findings

There were several finding I made during the project. Through the observations, I found out that indeed Tharhima School was one of the schools in Saudi Arabia that were committed to change. The school had made remarkable steps to integrate computer technology into its system. This was to go beyond office use. According to Mrs. Noor, the deputy school teacher, the school had ordered 50 more computers from China to add to the 14 computers that were present in the school’s computer lab at the time of the study. Also, the school had invested in the latest technology going by the quality of computers present in the lab, and the details of the ordered computers. Appendix C gives details of the IT assets I found in the Tharhima School computer lab as well as those ordered from China. The school management had heard of CALL and had taken the initiative to incorporate it in their language teaching programs hence the investment. The computers were also to be used in other fields of study such as science and agricultural subjects.

The school had used CALL in language learning but on small scale. The technology had proved useful. However, due to a lack of sufficient funds to facilitate the buying of appropriate assets for the technology, the school had derailed its full integration. However, it had now embarked on the technology as the project for the year 2009. A substantial amount of finances had been set aside in the school’s annual budget to acquire the assets. As observed in her conversations, Mrs. Noor, the deputy school principal was keen to note;

We have tried incorporating CALL in our learning system and it has worked perfectly for our students who take foreign languages. It has always been the desire of the school to have our systems using the latest technology and we thank God that this year we have made tremendous efforts in acquiring these computers that we believe are going to be very instrumental in our teaching approaches and a good experience for the students as well. (Appendix D)

She also noted that the drive for change was a collective effort including us teachers, parents as well as students. This led to the setting of the mission to make the school a technology embracing institution.

The school management also took up the challenge of incorporating CALL in their day to the day learning experience to cope with the growing competition from the international schools that were using the technology. The technology had worked for these schools especially in attracting new students whose parents considered the technology as an added advantage (MacArthur & Malouf, 1991). In taking up the challenge, the school hired four ICT technicians to be in charge of the computer lab and all related fields (appendix G). The technicians were obligated to ensure that students acquired the help necessary when operating the computer. They also ensured that computers and any other IT assets were in good operating conditions and readily available to the students. Another recommendable effort was the hiring of teachers who knew CALL. For instance, Mr. Abdhuraman and Mrs. Raisa had been hired to head our language departments. Their CALL experience was the main target for the job. From the conversation, Mrs. Noor stated that when the school will have the desired assets and the computer lab is ready to accommodate students it intends to send language teachers to train on CALL. This was to be done during the coming holidays (Appendix D).

However, the school suffered a blow of high literacy level on CALL among parents. A good number of them were not readily willing to take part in the transformation. Most of them especially those from humble social backgrounds could not relate to the technology. As such, it was hard convincing them that indeed integrating CALL was a panacea to problems of teaching, for instance, inadequate chances for real-life communication, student motivation, as well as the provision of authentic input (Hall & Hord, 1987). The outcome of this was that such parents were reluctant to offer a financial contribution to the project (appendix G). Most of them argued that their children did not need technology. They had performed without it and would still perform with or without CALL. However, they were challenged by proves of improved performance among some pupils who had gone through the system before. Also, when accessed, the majority of the teaching staff was for the idea, a situation that was similarly reflected among the students.

Reflective Discussion

Incorporating CALL in the day to day learning activities in intermediate -prep schools in the Middle East is an issue that has been researched by various scholars. However, in my research, I found several facts, some of which concur with some of the research findings that have already been done. My project aimed at answering several questions concerning the countries in the Middle East and the CALL technology in language learning. The main purpose of my project was to explore the usefulness of intermediate -prep school EFL teachers incorporating CALL in their day to day classroom activities in Middle Eastern settings. In trying to answer this major question, the project was guided by research questions such as; how would intermediate -prep foreign language learners benefit from incorporating CALL in class and are intermediate -prep schools in middle eastern countries suited with the necessary facilities, teaching materials, and equipment for incorporating CALL in class? I also aimed at answering if FL intermediate -prep students and teachers as well were ready and well prepared to use CALL, in their daily activities, and what are their attitudes towards it? In the end, I was also supposed to explore if there were any limitations of incorporating the technology in the learning institutions in these countries.

From a careful examination of the literature reviews as well as question responses I noted there were individuals’ willingness to adopt the technology. This ran across students, us teachers as well as the parents. For instance, the students had expressed much interest in computer technology as noted by the school deputy principal. Teachers also noted that a good number of students were so active in topics related to computer technology by asking a lot of questions. The computer lab in the school was one busy area that had students streaming in ad out of the lab whenever it was opened. Teachers on our hand had expressed the willingness to adopt CALL technology through individual researches on the subject matter to equip ourselves with the knowledge that we would later share with the students who were always asking questions. For instance, on the day of my research, Mr. Hassan, a colleague, and an English teacher had made short notes on CALL to use them to enlighten the students on language learning and CALL. Appendix E shows a copy of the short note by Mr. Hassan. This general willingness among students and teachers pushed the parents into cooperating with the institution in the project of acquiring computers to stepping up its computer lab to facilitate e-learning programs.

With such a motivated staff and students, it meant that the project had an attitude advantage from the stakeholders. This positive attitude and willingness to adopt new technology saw the school embark on the project with a clear mission and vision of making the school a technology destination. According to Mrs. Noor, the school’s main goal for adopting the technology was to produce quality students who would fit in the current diverse world as global citizens. The school had a good reputation for being among the best schools in the country in language teaching. The reputation had been natural since its establishment in 1984. It boasted of producing students that had proceeded to be key people in the country and internationally. From the statements I observed from her conversations, Mrs. Noor stated;

Pharma has always been a wonderful school. We are among the best schools in Saudi Arabia bearing in mind that we have never gone below rank five country-wide for the past seven years. Our linguistic students have had a good reception in the world out there and that is something we are proud of. We would love to remain at the top and we believe incorporating CALL in our language learning experience will impact the school positively and this is why we are both in this project. (Appendix D)

Several advantages have been related to CALL in language learning. Most of these advantages were stated as some of the main drivers for the need for change. More than 80% of the students responded stating that incorporating CALL could effectively improve their learning experience. The same was echoed by the teachers. Most of them stated that CALL could expose the students to numerous e-learning programs that would greatly improve their performance. Examples of these programs are document, word processing, and language tutor programs. Language tutor programs are developed specifically to enhance learners’ pronunciation skills. The program also helps improve their grammatical skills (Sheingold & Hadley, 1990). As such, such an application would help break the norms of traditional teaching methods of listening, reading, writing, and group discussions. That was desirable especially to attract more students to take foreign languages. It also made language learning a good experience hence helped build a positive attitude among the students especially those aged between eight and fourteen. This concept has been applicable in several countries including the United States (Teh & Fraser, 1995). In these countries, language tutor programs have largely been used in teaching relatively difficult foreign languages such as Chinese and Japanese.

Another remarkable advantage of CALL is that e-learning incorporates several internet applications. These applications are what Mrs. Noor stated that the students would find very important and meaningful. From the observations from her conversations she said;

A good computer lab will open up our students to the world. We intend to fix the lab with a Wi-Fi connection so that the students can access the internet. This will improve their learning experience, especially senior students. It will increase their research base. They can make researches on the internet; get to read what other students have written as well as what they learn in their schools. (Appendix D)

In the article; Computer Assisted Language Learning, Grace and Kabata (2010) state that e-learning and the internet greatly increase sources of knowledge for learners through providing a wide range of options. Teachers also echoed this saying that the internet would provide more options more than what the teacher provides and that that is available in the school library. It will also ease work for teachers who may as well do their researches online without having to struggle with books. Similarly, e-learning, through the internet, could encourage inter-school competitions through its cheap and effective ways of sharing data. Students could communicate and share educational knowledge with their colleagues abroad through e-mails and social networks (Rafael, 2001).

Another advantage of CALL as stated by several scholars including Vodanovich & Piotrowski (2004) and Fukutake & Matsubara (1992) is that CALL programs reduce most of the paperwork that is associated with the traditional teaching methods. Traditional methods call for more involvement from students inform of too much writing. This has made a good number of them develop a negative attitude towards learning especially in mathematics and languages. There have also been issues raised with these traditional methods such as learners’ handwritings that some teachers find unreadable. As such, integrating CALL would put an end to such issues. Makino, Hatasa & Hatasa (1998) also state that CALL programs and applications help prepare the student for the current diverse world by making them global citizens who embrace technology. There can relate to major issues of the current world. In his article; Formal and Informal CALL Preparation and Teacher Attitude towards Technology, Kessler (2007) states that with the present advanced technology and scientific innovations, computer technology has become a household asset and should be embraced by everyone. Incorporating e-learning, therefore, plays a key role in preparing the students for the corporate world upon finishing their courses.

All the above advantages as obtained from both the literature review and the observations greatly helped me answer my research questions. For instance, the main purpose of my project was to explore the usefulness of intermediate -prep school EFL teachers incorporating CALL in their day-to-day classroom activities in Middle Eastern settings. In trying to find how useful the technology would be, I had to answer the research question; how intermediate -prep foreign language learners benefit from incorporating CALL in class. All merits of CALL clearly show how students such as those at Tharhima School could benefit from this technology. Benefits such as improving the learning experience, internet applications, and language tutor programs are the ones that motivated several schools including Tharhima School to invest in the technology as it was useful.

However, even with the numerous advantages, most schools in the Middle East did not have the necessary facilities, teaching materials, and equipment for incorporating CALL in their day to day class activities. From my study I found out that a good number of them had not fully adopted the technology yet, my school Tharhima School being one of them, a fact that helped me answer the research question which required me to find out whether intermediate -prep schools in middle eastern countries were suited with the necessary facilities, teaching materials, and equipment for incorporating CALL in class.

One of the reasons why most of the schools in the Middle East did not have the necessary facilities, teaching materials, and equipment for incorporating CALL in their day to day class activities was the lack of adequate information on CALL and e-learning. As it was revealed during my project, there were low levels of computer literacy, especially among parents. Tharhima parents were at first reluctant to acknowledge the usefulness of incorporating CALL in language learning for their students. Most of them were not for the idea of adopting the new technology and had to be enlightened on the positive impacts CALL would have on their students. Similarly, not all teachers were familiar with e-learning. All these acted as a major limitation to the efforts of various institutions like Tharhima to adopt the new technology.

Another major limitation of the adoption of CALL by schools in countries in the Middle East was the lack of adequate funds. In their article; Development and Validation of an Instrument for Assessing The Psychological Environment of Computer-Assisted Learning Classrooms, Teh & Fraser (1995) state that effective e-learning requires modern IT assets. These assets include desktop computers, laptops, pads, and internet gadgets among others. Most of these assets are very costly to acquire from trusted manufacturers. Appendix F shows a price list for some of the assets. Also, most of them need close supervision and frequent maintenance. Running and maintaining assets like laptops and computers may involve huge sums of money. Saudi Arabia is a developing country. As such, the lack of enough capital to put up CALL in its school has become a major challenge. For the case of Tharhima School, it took the efforts of all the parents as well as teachers to set up the computer, a project that Mrs. Noor state was very challenging. It required personal willingness and dedication, qualities that may lack in other schools who may wish to set up a similar project.

The governments in the Middle East have not stepped in to help schools adopt this technology. In fact, according to Al-Hajri (2008), governments in the Middle East have been deemed to be ‘enemies’ of technology use. Most of their legislatures, laws, guidelines, and regulations do not favor the free use of technology and media. Most legislation provides close control on internet usage and its applications in schools. As a result, most legislation discourages CALL application in classrooms (Dinev, & Mullen, 2008). Similarly, because of the governments’ unwillingness to support technology, most of the institutions have ended up placing laws and policies that do not encourage CALL applications. This has killed the morale to embrace technology, a fact that has been a major blow to numerous campaigns done in the region to harmonize people on the need for new technology, especially in learning institutions. A school such as Tharhima School has gone that extra mile to impose these technological advancements on their own.

On the other hand, the culture of the people in the Middle East is relatively reluctant to change. As stated earlier the region has rich cultural and religious beliefs that date back to the 1800s. People in the Middle East are very protective of their culture and religion and for one reason or the other are unwilling to embrace new technology that according to them seems to contradict their culture. The issue of the internet has been a large debate in the region and a large number of people are not for the idea of adopting computer technology in the learning institutions especially primary schools and kindergartens. This has resulted in fewer institutions for training teachers for CALL. Recent studies have indicated that there is inadequate CALL presence in the programs dealing with teacher preparation in the Middle East. Also, teachers get to know about CALL from their researches or sources that are informal. Most graduates are never satisfied with the limited preparations that they receive during their studies. The perception of teachers is that CALL education has been neglected in the Middle East to make them equipped with CALL knowledge and necessary experience when using the advanced technology in language classrooms. I observed her comments from her conversations where she noted;

Generally, Saudi Arabia people are lovers of change. I think we have been overwhelmed with our culture that we can not think beyond what our culture of religion has to offer. We are aware that the internet has its negative influences especially on our growing children but the advantages of the internet are so many that we cannot overlook them. So I think what matters here is the way we welcome these technologies and the way we pass them over to our children that matters most. (Appendix D)

By the end of carrying out my research, I was also supposed to explore if there were any limitations to incorporating the technology in the learning institutions in Middle East countries to answer my final research questions. From the above obstacles to the adoption of CALL in the Middle East it is evident that indeed the schools had to endure several limitations. Tharhima School for instance had to put up with the general lack of familiarity with CALL among its staff as well as its supportive parents. It also had to face the challenge of lack of enough funds for buying the necessary facilities, teaching materials, and equipment for incorporating CALL in class. However, this was overcome through the help of its dedicated parents and loyal teachers. The issue of culture was also a limiting factor. Mrs. Noor noted that the school had to engage in some heated debates in the efforts of explaining to some cultural parents who were adamant to support the school project. The same case was encountered with the government officials during the process of acquiring a permit to import the IT assets from China (appendix G). This was majorly due to the ‘enemy of technology’ notion of the government.

There were slight changes I made on my initiate professional project. As stated in the methodology section, the research did not include interviewing as a method of collecting data. However, during my actual study, I decided to make keen observations in my conversation with Mrs. Noor, the deputy school principal of our school. This was necessary because the lady had vital information that could be meaningful for my research. Being deputy to the principal (who was not in during my study) she was best placed to help me with the information I need.

Limitations

It is important to acknowledge that this study has its limitations. For instance, the research for this project is only based on one school in Saudi Arabia. As such the research may not be appropriate for generalization purposes. One cannot base on the research finding as a representation of the situation across the Middle East region. Different schools may have different experiences and approaches. Therefore, there is still a need for more researches done in different locations and contexts to make conclusions on the usefulness of incorporating CALL in learning institutions in countries in the Middle East. Similarly, the method used to collect data is mostly from a secondary source. There are higher chances that the gathered information might be biased and outdated. Another limitation is that because technology changes every day, it poses a threat because what might be brought out by the study might not adequately reflect what will happen shortly.

Conclusion

The project highlighted several advantages that come with intermediate -prep school EFL teachers incorporating CALL in their day to day classroom activities in Middle Eastern settings. It acknowledges that indeed adopting CALL in the learning institutions is beneficial especially in improving students’ performance and their learning experience as well. CALL is an example of e-learning technology that is set to be of great help in preparing students to be better global citizens tomorrow. However, the study also recognizes various challenges faced by schools in countries in the Middle East regarding incorporating CALL in their classroom activities. These challenges can be summarized into;

  • Lack of adequate knowledge of CALL among most of the stakeholders.
  • A culture that does not embrace technological change.
  • A government that is reluctant to facilitate technological change.
  • Lack of enough funds to acquire the required ICT facilities to facilitate e-learning and incorporation of CALL.

The study however highlights that despite all the challenges, CALL should be adopted on a large scale in the Middle East so that the students can benefit from the technology in their language learning. Tharhima would benefit from further study and additional researches on the nature of CALL and the benefits of e-learning. This project thus highlights a need for further research and offers suggestions for areas of further investigation in form of challenges as listed above.

To summarize it all, any school wishing to offer the best experience to its students in learning a language should understand and apply pedagogical principles to develop a technology-enriched learning environment that embraces e-learning inform of incorporating computer-assisted language learning technology. However, it should be noted that incorporating CALL in the day-to-day learning activities in schools in the Middle East country should be a collective responsibility. Every stakeholder should take part in the process as the success of the whole project entirely depend on everyone involved. In this context, the stakeholders include the school management, the students, teachers, parents, the government, and the society at large.

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Picciano, A. (1994). Computers in the schools, a guide to planning and administration. New York: Merrill, MacMillan Publishing Company.

Rafael, M. (2001). The use of Technology for Second Language Learning and Teaching: A Restrospective. Research on Computing in Education, 23, 475- 497.

Rose, M. (1984). Writer’s block: The cognitive dimension. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Scott, V.M. (1996). Rethinking foreign language writing. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Sheingold, K., & Hadley, M. (1990). Accomplished teachers: Integrating computers into classroom practices. New York: Bank Street College of Education, Center for Technology in Education.

State Board of Education. (1991). North Carolina Test of Computer Skills. Raleigh, NC: State Board of Education.

Teh, G., & Fraser, B. (1995). Development and Validation of an Instrument for Assessing The Psychological Environment of Computer-Assisted Learning Classrooms. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 12(1), 177-193.

Vodanovich, S., & Piotrowski, C. (2004). Faculty Attitudes towards Web-Based Instructions May Not BE enough: limited use and obstacles to implementation. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 33(1), 309-318

Woodrow, J. (1991). Teachers’ perceptions of computer needs. Journal of Special Education, 25(2), 44-72.

Appendix A

Literature review Content analysis table.

Availability resources Teacher knowledge in CALL Student attitude towards CALL Advantages of CALL Limitations of e-learning Government influence Technical Support (IT assets) Teacher attitude towards CALL
Abdurrahman (2006)
Kessler (2007)
Rafael (2001)
Scott (1996)
Woodrow (1991)
Rose (1984)
Pennington (1996)

Appendix B

Sample of questions I used

Section I

  1. Have you ever heard of Computer Assisted Language Learning?
  2. Have you ever experienced language learning with CALL?
  3. Do you think it is good technology that should be started here?
  4. How do you think the technology will affect you?
  5. Will it have significant effect in students’ performance? If yes, how?
  6. How will it affect the teachers and their day to day activities?

Section II

  1. What is your personal feel about CALL?
  2. Do you think you need it in learning/teaching language?
  3. If at all CALL is good technology why is it not applied here?
  4. What are some of the reason as to why the technology is not full adopted here?
  5. What are the challenges facing incorporation of CALL in classrooms in this school?
  6. How can some of these challenges be addressed?
  7. In conclusion what else can you say about CALL and Tharhima School?

Appendix C

Details of the ordered computers accessories

50 HP desktop with the following features.

Type Intel Pentium Dual core E5300 processor
Cache 2 MB L2 cache
Motherboard 800 MHZ
Memory 3 GB
Floppy drive 3.5” 1.44MB floppy disk

10 Laptops.

Type Intel core 2Duo P8700
Cache 3 MB L2 cache
Motherboard 1066MHZ
Graphic card Discrete nVidia FX 370M
Memory 2 GB
Hard disk 320 GB
Floppy Drive 3.5” 1.44 MB floppy disk

Scanners

The recommended specifications of scanners is listed below.

Scanner Specifications
Scanner Type Universal Workgroup Scanner
Scanner Element CCD (2)
Light Source CCFL
Features Border Removal, Custom Color Dropout / Enhance Color, Deskew, Double Feed Detection, Punch Hole Removal, Skip Blank Page, Text Orientation Recognition
Max. Resolutions Optical: 1200dpi
Scanning Speed: Feeder Capacity: 20 pages per minute, 40 images per minute
50 sheets
Scanning Mode Simplex, Duplex, Skip Blank Page, Color, Grayscale, Black and White, Error Diffusion, Advanced Text Enhancement (Two Types)
Max. Document Size 8.5″ x 14″
Interface Hi-Speed USB 2.0
Dimensions (W x D x H) 17.3″ x 15.7″ x 7.1″
Weight 15.2 lb.
OS Compatibility Has Drivers for Windows 7 (32/64), Vista (32/64)
Software Canon CaptureOnTouch, Canon CapturePerfect, Adobe Acrobat Standard, NewSoft Presto! BizCard, Nuance OmniPage SE, Nuance PaperPort Standard
Max. Power Consumption 33W or less (Energy Saving Mode: 3.7W or less)
Warranty Six-Year Advanced Exchange
Scanner Device Driver ISIS, TWAIN

Printers

Speed / monthly volume
Print speed, black (normal quality mode) Up to 31 ppm
Print speed, black (best quality mode) Up to 31 ppm
Print speed, color (normal quality mode) Up to 31 ppm
Print speed, color (best quality mode) Up to 31 ppm
First page out, black Less than 10 sec
First page out, color Less than 10 sec
Processor speed 533 MHz
Recommended monthly volume, maximum Up to 100000
Print quality / technology
Print technology Laser
Print quality, black Up to 600 x 600 dpi
Print quality, color Up to 600 x 600 dpi
Paper handling / media
Paper trays, max. 6
Input capacity, max. Up to 2600
Standard envelope capacity Up to 20
Envelope feeder No
Media sizes, std. Letter, legal, statement, executive, envelopes (No. 10, Monarch)
Media sizes, custom Multipurpose tray: 3 x 5 to 8.5 x 14 in; 500-sheet input trays: 5.8 x 8.3 to 8.5 x 14 in
Media weight, recommended Multipurpose tray: 16 to 58 lb bond; 500-sheet input trays: 16 to 32 lb bond
Media types Multipurpose tray: paper (plain, glossy, colored, preprinted, letterhead, recycled, HP tough and high-gloss laser), envelopes, transparencies, labels, cardstock; 500-sheet input trays: paper (plain, glossy, colored, preprinted, letterhead, recycled, HP tough and high-gloss laser), transparencies, labels
Memory / print languages
Memory, max. 544 MB (512 MB DDR SDRAM, 32 MB Flash memory on the formatter)
Memory slots Two 200-pin DDR DIMM slots, two Flash memory card slots
Print languages, std. HP PCL 6, HP PCL 5c, HP PostScript Level 3 emulation, HP-GL/2
Typefaces 93 internal TrueType fonts scalable in HP PCL and HP Postscript Level 3 emulation; additional font solutions available via Flash memory
Connectivity
Connectivity, std. IEEE 1284C-compliant bidirectional parallel port, USB 2.0 Hi-Speed port (compatible with USB 2.0 specifications), 2 open EIO slots, foreign interface port, accessory port for third-party solutions
Connectivity, opt. HP Jetdirect internal and external print servers, HP wireless print servers, Bluetooth wireless printer adapter
Macintosh compatible Yes
Dimensions / weight / warranty
Dimensions (w x d x h) 20.5 x 37.4 x 22.9 in (with paper tray extended)
Warranty, std. One-year, next-day, onsite warranty

Appendix D

Notes on a conversation with Mrs. Noor (Deputy School Principal)

When asked had heard of CALL? Yah she had heard of CALL in fact had the chance to acquire some knowledge on the technology way back in her university years. However, she had not had the opportunity to train as a fully CALL expert.

In her view Computer technology is very important in learning. As such the school had tried incorporating CALL in learning system and it had worked perfect for the students who take foreign languages. It had always been the desire of the school to have its systems using the latest technology and that year it had made tremendous efforts in acquiring the computers that were going to be very instrumental in the teaching approaches and a good experience for the students.

Because of this the school decided that it wanted change. It has a dedicated management team and has also talked to the parents who were very supportive so they set up a project of putting up a computer lab this year. They intend to accommodate at least 50 students in the lab per single session.

They intended to add fifty more computers to the ones they already had. In fact the school had already ordered for the computers from China, and was expecting them mid next month. It had also hired four IT experts who are going to be in charge of the lab and attend to the students. When the school had the desired assets and the computer lab is ready to accommodate our students they intend to send EFL teachers and all other language teachers to train on CALL. This was to done during these coming holidays.

According to Mrs. Noor Tharhima School has always been a center of excellence and was among the best schools in Saudi Arabia bearing in mind that it had never gone below rank five country-wide in the past seven years. its linguistic students have had a good reception in the world out there and that is something the school is proud of. It would love to remain at the top and it believes with incorporating CALL in its language learning experience will impact the school positively and the grades of the students will improve. The school will also attract more students from within and abroad who are looking for quality education But basically that is why everyone at the school is in this project both teachers, the management, parents, everybody.

It is believed that a good computer lab will open up students to the world. The school intends to fix the lab with Wi-Fi connection so that the students can access the internet. This would really improve their learning experience especially senior students. It will increase their research base. They can make researches on the internet; get to read what other students have written as well as what they learn in their schools.

On challenges Mrs. Noor noted that Generally Saudi Arabia people are slow to change. She thinks the society if has been overwhelmed with culture that it can not think beyond what the culture or religion has to offer. She is aware that the internet has its own negative influences especially to our growing children but the advantages of the internet are so many that people cannot overlook them. So personally according to her, what really matters is the way people welcome these technologies and the way they pass them over to their children.

Appendix E

Short note on CALL prepared by Mr. Hassan

Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) is modern technology used in e-learning Instructors may use CALL in the classroom for different purposes. For instance, Chapelle (1990) exemplified CALL activities as ‘to provide out-of class practice in grammar and reading skills, problem solving, group work, and writing’ (p. 199).

As technical capabilities and human imaginations expand, additional uses for computers in ESL will emerge.

In effect, more sophisticated CALL activities were included in discussions of a tutor-tool framework. For instance, as tutoring systems, a contemporary role for the computer is being an intelligent tutor.

CALL is used to deliver these types of activities, Students will have better control of the pace and even the sequence of learning

Appendix F

Price list for some IT assets

KRW Digital ships an open source software bundle with all new computers. This bundle includes the latest versions of the Mandriva Linux operating system, the OpenOffice.org productivity software suite, the Mozilla Firefox web browser and the Mozilla Thunderbird email client. KRW Digital can also supply the following titles:

Vista Business Operating system $190.00
Microsoft Windows XP Home $185.00
Microsoft Windows XP Pro $289.00
Microsoft Office 2003 Basic $299.00
Microsoft Office 2003 Pro $499.00
F-Secure Internet Security $120.00
Laptop (Intel core 2Duo P8700 with 2 GB RAM) $110.00
HP Desktops with 800MHZ $80.00
AutoCAD 2008 $50.00

At your request, we can also source other titles to fulfill your needs. Don’t forget that if you need custom software to support your business, KRW Digital offers specialist software development services. If you’d prefer that we refrained from loading any software at all, please mention this when ordering your computer.

Appendix G

Reflect Journal extracts

Reflections May 2009 – beginning of term 2

It feels like we achieved some good things last term, but not some of the things I see as fundamental.

The school has really tried. Like we have some constructions going on, there are a few structures coming up. More classes are coming up. And also there is a computer lab being constructed so al say it’s not bad as such. Infrastructure: at least this show’s management commitment to the future we are building, but I am not sure staffs see it. They see the cracks in the ceiling, but not how much work goes in to laying the concrete to have these buildings up and running.

There is still big problem with getting the whole staff support this whole CALL thing. There is really a big issue with familiarity with computer technology. I am still not sure I have managed to get the team to understand the importance of their role in supporting innovation and the whole CALL thing. But I can note a lot of campaigns for the project have been done. At least 3 quarters of my colleagues are at home with the project.

Computer assisted language learning technology was approved in principal but unfortunately that is where it has stopped. Had been him honestly am not sure how to spear head this. Even though there are much in preparation for the lab and importing the right IT assets, one thing I know this is going to be a bit tricky. But whichever the case am so optimistic with the whole project and am sue it is going to be a success at the long run.

Reflections from meetings July 2009 – following e-learning and CALL strategy meetings with Heads of Departments (HOD’s)

From the meetings outcome I am confident that we are heading somewhere. Last term was not such a disappointment as far as integrating CALL in our language teaching system is concerned. There is a lot that was done in the past term. For instance, the attitude to new technology has been overwhelming. This is probably due to the numerous harmonization campaigns we did last term. This seems to pay of especially with the parents who at one time proved really difficult. But I am glad now they are very supportive and dedicated to the project.

In the meeting there were a number of people highlighting lack of resources as an issue appears to have reduced due to the big push to get the technologies that teachers need, e.g. computer assets. There were worries expressed over managing to acquire and actually run these assets bearing in mind how expensive they are. On there side parents stressed on the need to work with time. They had come to a consensus to support the project and they wanted up as soon as possible. What lay in front now was standardizing the present computer lab at an estimated price of $25000. Teachers noted that using to technology to deliver content would assist them in providing extra time for practice. It would also completely change student’s learning experience especially in language. This was echoed by Mrs. Noor who noted keenly that CALL will attract more students to take foreign languages. She was so much behind the project. in fact, getting her to drive the projects will hopefully speed up its progress. She had amazing leadership qualities and with no doubt was the right person for the job. She had done it before and definitely she could do it again. Our mission is to fully incorporate CALL in our classrooms and we hope this will work.

It’s really interesting to uncover what the HOD’s thought their depts. capabilities were. Self assessments showed that there were some significant efforts in all departments which were really positive. Especially in the language department, teachers were really psyched for e-learning and had made tremendous individual efforts that could be seen in their dedication. Lots of them think they are doing really well, but I wonder how they come up with that. Self-assessing is something to review further, we may need to come up with standards that assist teachers/depts to measure. Using the meetings gave us the opportunity to relay with other depts were doing.

In the meeting the HODs also acknowledged that there are a number of challenges we were bound to face in the whole project. However I really appreciated their willingness to work together to see this whole thing a success for the school, for the parents who had put in so much and for the students who would greatly benefit from the project. There were expressed concerns of encouraging teamwork and support amongst ourselves that I saw a positive idea.

Overall, it is a really good exercise to go through. It will be really important that HOD’s all see action from this. Formalizing and communicating this across the school, will help to put some peer pressure on and show everyone that we are serious about this. I am really excited about the prospects of our Pd day now.

Reflections August 2009 – Progress so far

So far I notice significant progress and as a gentleman I will give credit where due. Mrs. Noor for instance has so much been involved fin this project. if we could have all the stakeholders giving in that mush, this whole project would be up and running now. But on a general view everyone is for the project. There is positive attitude which is really vital. However, I am still not sure what it is we should be measuring and how we do that to see if we are successfully integrating CALL technology and the whole ICT thing. But slowly we are moving towards a technology oriented school which is really a good feeling

Reflection on Personal Learning

It was indeed a good experience carrying out the project. Through the project I got to prove a lot of learning experience that I had acquired in class. During the collection of data I realized that personal experience is of great help in carrying out a research project. Having the professional experience, it was ease for me to relate with a lot of things. This was so because the research was within my line of profession. As such, I had a clue prior to the actual study. This clue helped me formulate hypotheses that greatly guided me through out my project. Another advantage I came to realize with personal experience is that one has an easy time deciding on the right literature articles to be reviewed. In my case I found it a relatively easy task deciding on the seven articles I used for my review. The experience was also helpful in determining the quality of each article. This was desirable as the success of the project entirely depended on these articles. As such I had to use the best articles available.

Another factor I learnt from the project is that with professional projects, even if you are having the project plan and research proposal at hand, one should not limit himself to the research plan. There is need of one to be flexible and make adjustments according to the situation as he finds it on the field of study. This is important so as to acquire as more data as possible. I found it necessary and meaningful to make some adjustments in my approaches of data collection. Initially, in my project plan I was to use mostly secondary data. However, in my observations at Tharhima School I found it necessary to include primary data collection methods. For instance, I decided to take notes of my conversation with Mrs. Noor which turned out to be of great help in my project. She had great knowledge in the area of my study and was ready to share it with me. I used the information she shared in answering my research questions and proving the themes that emerged from the literature review.

My filling as a learner are that professional projects are challenging and too involving. For instance this project took me close to three months to complete it. This is a long period of time filled with hard work of travelling and making observations and other project activities. There are also a number of challenges that I met on the way. For example, there were issues of language barrier with some students who could not talk fluent English. I happened to only understand English as the only foreign language I knew. Carrying out a research in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia to be exact meant that I was to encounter a lot of Arabic. In some instances lack of communication between me and my respondents forced me to limit my research to only those who understood English. As such, anybody intending to carry out a comprehensive research should be prepared to deal with these challenges.