EUROCALL 2014

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Are we there yet? Normalising CALL in the context of primary languages in England.

The origins of CALL research date back to 1960s. As Egbert (2008) claims, CALL nowadays is not restricted to one setting but takes place in a variety of social, cultural or linguistic realms. Research to date, highly related to English as a Foreign Language (EFL) settings, does not address those context specific differences well (Egbert, 2008).

Primary modern language (ML) setting in England offers an interesting insight in relation to CALL. While with EFL context there is no need for discussion about the importance of the subject, the place of ML in the primary curriculum has been unstable due to its non mandatory status. This lack of stability impacts provision, i.e. lack of agreement as to what languages are taught (if any), how often and who delivers them - specialist or non specialist (generalist) teachers. On the other hand, the Whiteboard Expansion Project was the catalyst for technology integration (Somekh, 2007). The cross curricular nature of ICT as a subject made that integration present and embedded within teachers’ everyday practice also in ML education (Wade, 2009). However the common problem of focusing on technology rather than pedagogy that Scott Thornbury (2009) pointed out in EFL also applies here (O’Hara 2008). According to Macrory et al (2009) this is especially true within primary MFL being a relatively new field for primary teachers who feel uneasy about their new roles.

With the growing importance of ICT in language education the term normalisation (Bax, 2003) has been appearing more and more in the CALL literature (Levy and Stockwell, 2006; Almy and Hample, 2007; Spencer-Oatey, 2007; Hansoon, 2008) but also outside of CALL (Kirk, 2011). Normalisation has been defined by Bax (2003) as a stage when technology becomes so integrated into teaching practice that it becomes unnoticed. The current project researches the concept of normalisation of CALL applying it to a new context of primary languages. The research draws largely on previous normalisation studies (Bax 2003; Chambers and Bax 2006; Ward 2007) with context specific characteristics coming from wider research on primary language learning and ICT integration.

The researcher’s philosophical position pushed the research towards an interpretive ethnographic in nature case study. The methods used included participant and non participant observations, interviews with the pupils’ staff and stakeholders, a diary and audio recording of chosen lessons.
The research in the first instance redefined the term normalisation to include the characteristics of the new context, secondly provided insight into the factors which impede normalisation in primary language learning and finally focused on examining pedagogical practices for both specialist and non specialist teachers. Based on that a model for normalised primary CALL was produced which points to essential types of knowledge both types of teachers need to possess and emphasises integrating technology on three levels - whole class, group and autonomous/ independent.


Author(s):

Monika Pazio    
IRED
University of Bedfordshire
United Kingdom

- part time PhD student at the University of Bedfordshire (researching CALL in primary modern foreign languages)
- currently working for the University of Greenwich on two projects - Language Connect (facilitating language support for international students, working in cooperation with Language Centre and native speaker students) and Greenwich Connect - implementing e-learning strategy across the faculties

 

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