Scholarly article on topic 'The impact of computer-based activities on Iranian high-school students’ attitudes towards computer-assisted language learning'

The impact of computer-based activities on Iranian high-school students’ attitudes towards computer-assisted language learning Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Procedia Computer Science
OECD Field of science
{CALL / Attitudes / "Computer-based activities" / "English as a foreign language" / "High-school students"}

Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Mehrak Rahimi, S. Fatemeh Hosseini K.

Abstract The aim of this study was to assess Iranian high-school students’ attitudes towards learning English as a foreign language in CALL environment before and after experiencing some computer-based activities. Forty-two Iranian high-school students took part in the study. They completed attitudes towards CALL (A-CALL) questionnaire prior to the experiment. Then they were asked to do some computer-based activities designed by the teacher for one lesson of their English book. At the end of the experiment, their attitudes towards CALL were reassessed using A-CALL questionnaire. The results revealed a significant difference between students’ attitudes before and after the experiment.

Academic research paper on topic "The impact of computer-based activities on Iranian high-school students’ attitudes towards computer-assisted language learning"

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Procedía Computer Science 3 (2011) 183-190

Procedía Computer Science


The impact of computer-based activities on Iranian high-school students' attitudes towards computer-assisted language learning

Mehrak Rahimi a *, S. Fatemeh Hosseini K.a

aEnglish Department, Faculty of Humanities, ShahidRajaee Teacher Training University, Lavizan, Tehran, 1678815811, Iran


The aim of this study was to assess Iranian high-school students' attitudes towards learning English as a foreign language in CALL environment before and after experiencing some computer-based activities. Forty-two Iranian high-school students took part in the study. They completed attitudes towards CALL (A-CALL) questionnaire prior to the experiment. Then they were asked to do some computer-based activities designed by the teacher for one lesson of their English book. At the end of the experiment, their attitudes towards CALL were reassessed using A-CALL questionnaire. The results revealed a significant difference between students' attitudes before and after the experiment.

© 2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of the Guest Editor. Keywords: CALL, attitudes; computer-based activities; English as a foreign language; high-school students

1. Introduction

The convergence of a variety of technological, instrumental, and pedagogical developments in recent decades has dramatically altered the process of teaching and learning of almost all high-school and university subjects across the world [1]; [2]. As English teachers have been the pioneers of using technology in the process of language teaching and learning [3], their classes have widely been influenced by the pervasiveness of software, local area networks, and the internet. It is believed that in language teaching, things will never be the same again with computer-based materials finding their way into coursebook packages, self-access centres, and classrooms everywhere [4]. The question of whether it is possible to use computer for language learning and teaching in 80s changed into the inquiry of why to integrate computers into language classes in 90s, and now the general issue in this regard is how to implement computers in language education [5]. Research shows that the issue of how to use computers in language classes is highly related to language learners' individual differences.

Among these personal factors computer attitudes are a major factor that affect human-computer interaction. There is evidence in the literature that individuals' positive attitudes towards computer-based instruction influence their willingness to sustain using computers for learning [6]. In spite of a wide and rapidly expanding literature on computer attitudes and their relationship with personal variables [7], only a few studies focused on users' attitudes towards CALL [8] and even smaller number of research has dealt with CALL attitudes of students in pre-university education. Regarding the importance of attitudes towards CALL and their contribution to students' success in

* Mehrak Rahimi. Tel: +982122970035 ; fax: +9821 22970033 E-mail address:;

1877-0509 © 2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.procs.2010.12.031

computer-based learning environment, the present study aimed at investigating students' attitudes towards CALL before and after experiencing some computer-based activities in Iran where English is a foreign language.

1.1. CALL research

During the last three decades, CALL has gained a boost from developments in technology, psychology, and education and its literature abounds with studies that scrutinized the role of computer in language classes as "a significant tool for language teaching and learning" [9], p. 107. CALL studies cover a broad spectrum of topics related to the learning opportunities technology affords for language learning [10]. The findings of this stream of research, known as CALL effectiveness [8], indicate that technology has profound implications in teaching and learning language [11]; [12]; [13]; [14]. It is believed that during three phases of its development [15], CALL research has focused mainly on three types of research: software, the learning task or task pedagogy, and the learners [16].

Historical development of CALL [15] reveals that in the first phase of CALL (50s-70s), Behaviourist CALL, the main research focused on system and software design, discussion on the role of computers in language learning, and comparison of traditional and computer-enhanced classes [9]; [16]. The second phase or communicative CALL (70s-80s) developed under the influence of cognitive psychology and its research focused both on software design and task development [17]. However, the roles of teachers and students in the environment of CALL attracted researchers' attention [9]. The third phase, namely the integrative CALL, started at the closing decade of the 20th century and is based on multimedia and the internet. This new approach incorporates many aspects of constructivism that contributed to the extension of research started in the previous phases such as skill acquisition and added some new directions to CALL studies including works on computer as a research tool (corpus analysis) [18] and investigating learners' motivation and needs in CALL environment [9]. Although CALL effectiveness has a 40-year history of software and task design, the studies that have focused on learners' differences and the kind of behaviour they show under the influence of these individual characteristics such as motivation, attitude, and anxiety have been starting to boom only recently.

1.2. Attitudes towards CALL

Under the influence of humanistic, communicative, and constructivist approaches, learners' needs, individual differences, experience, and feelings received considerable attention in education. According to humanism, learners' feelings are as important as their mental or cognitive abilities. It is believed that learners' active involvement in the process of learning depends largely on their attitudes. It is this attitude towards computers and related technology that can determine the patterns of users' performance in technology-based learning environments, and the satisfaction they draw from that experience [19]. Woodrow [20] believes that students' attitudes towards computers are among critical issues in computer-based curricula and should continuously be monitored if the computer is to be used as a teaching and learning tool. Numerous studies point to a relationship between positive attitudes towards computers and learners' success in both the subject matter learned and the use of communication technologies [21]; [22]; [23]; [24]. Similarly, it has been found that a negative attitude may lead to computer resistance [25], a phenomenon that can be found among experienced as well as inexperienced users.

In line with the widespread use of computers in teaching and learning languages, a string of research has started to grow in CALL research that focuses on students' attitudes towards learning language with computers. In an early study on this issue, Chapelle and Jamieson [26] investigated the use of computer in English as a second language classes and found that students who worked harder at learning English spent a lot of time using computers for their learning and had a more positive attitude toward it. Similarly, Ayres [27] did a research in English as a second language setting and reported positive attitudes towards CALL among language learners and that they "appreciate and value the learning that they do using the computers" p. 247. However, his findings showed that students' attitudes towards CALL were not different considering their age, gender and nationality.

Akbulut [28] assessed the attitudes of Turkish university students with a high level of proficiency in English towards CALL and found that learners had positive attitudes towards CALL due to computers' potential to sustain independence learning, collaboration, instrumental benefits, empowerment, comfort and communication. The

findings also showed that gender and age did not have an effect on CALL attitudes, whereas PC ownership, PC time, and experience with the internet were found to be related to students' attitudes towards CALL.

Mahfouz and Ihmeideh [29] did a study on Jordanian university students' attitudes towards online chat with native speakers of English. They found that students with different areas of specification (scientific faculties' students vs. social sciences students) had different attitudes towards using online chat and video chat with native speakers of English for the purpose of improving their oral fluency skills and writing skills. Similar findings were also reported by other studies on the relationship between synchronous interactions and the improvement of learners' four language skills (speaking, writing, reading and listening) [30].

Yun-hong [31] did a study on university students in China and assessed their attitudes towards CALL. His finding also revealed that students had positive attitudes towards using computers to learn English as a foreign language. However, their attitudes were related to the type of software used for CALL, teachers' role, access to the internet, and computer literacy. Similarly, Rahimi and Yadollahi [32] investigated Iranian students' attitudes towards CALL across levels of education and reported general positive attitudes towards CALL among their sample. However, CALL attitudes and computer accessibility at home or educational centre, students' level of education, and age were not found to be related. A significant relationship between attitudes towards CALL and computer use was found.

As much of the attitudinal studies have been done in university context and inquiries on high school students' attitudes towards CALL are very limited, this study investigated Iranian high-school students' attitudes towards CALL considering the following research questions:

1. What are Iranian students' attitudes towards CALL before experiencing computer-based activities for learning English?

2. What are Iranian students' attitudes towards CALL after experiencing computer-based activities for learning English?

3. Do computer-based activities influence Iranian students' attitudes towards CALL? 2. Method

2.1. Participants

Participants of this study were 42 female junior high-school students that were selected according to convenient sampling. The sample was selected according to the availability of computer labs and internet access in their school.

2.2. Instruments

In order to assess students' attitudes towards CALL, attitudes towards CALL (A-CALL) questionnaire validated by Vandewaetere and Desmet [8] was used. A-CALL is a 20-item questionnaire that examines EFL learners' attitudes towards CALL. Each item is rated on a seven-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (totally disagree), over 4 (neutral) to 7 (totally agree). All items except items 2-5 and 19-20 have been written in a positive direction. A-CALL consists of four subsets of items: Factor 1 (effectiveness of CALL vs. non-CALL) has four items (2-5), factor 2 (surplus value of CALL) has 10 items (1, 6-12, 16-17), factor 3 (teacher influence) has three items (13-15) and factor 4 (degree of exhibition to CALL) consists of four items (18-20).

In order to establish construct validity of the instrument, Vandewaetere and Desmet [8] used an exploratory factor analysis to determine the number of factors underlying the 20 questions. This technique resulted in four factors that explained 54.25% of the total variance. To estimate A-CALL's reliability, they used internal consistency technique and Cronbach's alpha of four subscales reported to be: 0.74, 0.80, 0.86, and 0.91 respectively.

A-CALL has been translated into Persian and its psychometric characteristics have been calculated [32]. The construct validity of the Persian version has been estimated by factor analysis, revealing six underlying factors for the instrument that explain more than 57% of the total variance. The reliability of the instrument has also been

reported to be 0.75 using the internal consistency method. The Cronbach's alpha of A-CALL for the first and the second administrations in this study were found to be 0.71 and 0.69 respectively.

2.3. Procedure

The experiment started with asking students to complete A-CALL questionnaire. At the beginning, the goal of the questionnaire and its items were explained thoroughly to students for the sake of clarity and full collaboration. Following that, students had an orientation session on how to use computers considering the fact that there might be students who were not familiar with using computers and to reduce their fear of computer-based learning environment. Then, the CALL-based language activities designed for lesson 7 of students' English textbook- the lesson on the topic of 'greeting'- were presented. At first, students were asked to work on new words they learned in the lesson using COBUILD dictionary on CD-ROM [33] and LONGMAN Dictionary of Contemporary English [34] at their computers. They looked up the definition of words, played their pronunciation, recorded their own voices, checked word concordances and collocations, made sentences using new words, and saved them on 'my dictionary' part of these software.

Following that, the grammar and reading part of the lesson were presented through 'PowerPoint' slides and students were asked to do some exercises related to these parts in Quiz Maker 2.5.0 software [35] prepared beforehand by the teacher. Students' submitted answers were corrected and their incorrect answers with their scores were determined. Afterwards, students were asked to write a paragraph. The first part of the writing process (planning) was done in the computer lab using the internet to find appropriate topics. Then, students were asked to prepare and send their first drafts to the teachers' e-mail box within a short time lapse after the English class. The teacher then revised the first draft and returned it to the sender in the same vein. Finally, the students were asked to e-mail the final piece of writing to the teacher and to receive the feedback via that service. The students were taught how to use an e-mail service beforehand. They were also guided on how to use the word processor's spelling and grammar checkers as well as its thesaurus.

Also, for the sake of pleasure and making the learning more interactive, students were asked to go through the internet, find some greeting cards, personalize them, and email them to their peers. Peers were supposed to open the files and provide the senders with thank-you notes. The mentioned activities were done in four 90-minute sessions within a month. At the end of the experiment A-CALL questionnaire was administered again. The results of both questionnaires were then compared using descriptive statistics and repeated measure (matched) t-test.

3. Results

3.1. Attitudes towards CALL before the experiment

As table 1 illustrates, the respondents had moderate positive attitudes towards CALL before the experiment considering most items of the questionnaire. However, they had negative attitudes towards item 9 (computerassisted language learning can stand alone) and item 17 (I have faith in computer-based language tests).

3.2. Attitudes towards CALL after the experiment

As table 1 illustrates, the participants had reported higher positive attitudes towards CALL on all items (except item 13) after the experiment. Although they showed less negative attitudes towards item 9 after the experiment, they still did not accept CALL as a replacement for traditional teaching. The highest mean differences (towards positive direction) gained in the following items: 8, 16, 1, 10, 17, and 2.

Table 1. Descriptive statistics of A-CALL before and after the experiment

Before After Mean


Items of the questionnaire Mean SD Mean SD

1. My language learning will proceed more when this is assisted by a computer. 4.57 1.57 5.85 1.33 1.01

*2. Learning a foreign language assisted by computer is not as good as learning it by oral practice 4.38 1.89 3.54 1.69 -0.84

*3. Computer-based language tests can never be as good as paper and-pencil tests 3.92 2.01 3.50 1.86 -0.42

*4. Computer-assisted language learning is less adequate as the traditional language learning. 3.73 1.79 3.42 1.86 -0.31

*5. People who learn a language by computer-assisted learning are less proficient than traditional language learners 3.66 1.49 3.54 1.78 -0.12

6. Computer-assisted language learning is a valuable extension of the classical learning methods. 5.00 1.46 5.71 1.23 -0.71

7. Computer-assisted language learning gives more flexibility to language learning 5.07 1.56 5.73 1.39 0.66

8. Computer-assisted language learning is as valuable as traditional language learning. 4.42 1.61 6.88 11.18 2.46

9. Computer-assisted language learning can stand alone. 1.80 1.29 2.57 1.57 0.77

10. Learning a foreign language by computer constitutes a more relaxed and stress free atmosphere 4.59 1.76 5.52 1.51 0.93

11. Learning a foreign language by computer enhances your intelligence 4.71 1.74 5.45 1.38 0.74

12. I (would) like learning a new language by computer. 5.42 1.61 5.90 1.12 0.48

13. Teacher's attitude towards CALL largely defines my attitude towards the use of computers in language learning. 4.38 1.92 4.26 1.79 -0.12

14. Teacher's enthusiasm towards CALL largely defines my motivation for using computers in language learning. 5.30 1.21 5.64 1.28 0.34

15. Teacher's proficiency of using computers in language learning largely defines my attitude towards computer use in language learning. 5.04 1.62 5.59 1.16 0.55

16. I have faith in computer-based language tests 3.90 1.21 4.95 1.28 1.05

17. I have faith in computer-based language exercises 4.26 1.38 5.11 1.36 0.85

18. I feel less inhibited when communicating in the foreign language via computer (chat) than in a face-to-face situation. 5.11 1.68 5.45 1.51 0.34

*19. In a face-to-face learning situation (classroom) I often experience anxiety when speaking in the foreign language. 5.40 2.09 4.97 2.16 -0.43

*20. For me, the threshold to start a face-to-face conversation is bigger than starting a virtual (computer-assisted) conversation 5.42 1.76 5.38 1.80 -0.04

* reverse items

3.3. The influence of experiment on attitudes towards CALL

In order to find the influence of experiment on students' attitudes towards CALL, a repeated measure t-test (matched t-test) was used (table 1).

Table 2. The result of matched /-test (n=42)

Pairs Mean SD Mean difference t df Sig.

A-CALL before experiment A-CALL after experiment 90.19 99.04 11.46 16.14 -8.85 -3.55 41 0.001

As table 2 illustrates, there is a significant difference between students' attitudes towards CALL before and after the experiment. The higher mean of A-CALL after the experiment (99.04) shows that computer-based exercises improved students' attitudes towards CALL.

4. Discussions

The aim of this study was to investigate Iranian high-school students' attitudes towards CALL after experiencing it for learning English as a foreign language in their classes. The findings before the experiment showed that students had moderate positive attitudes towards CALL. This is in agreement with other studies that reported general positive attitudes towards CALL where English is taught and learned as a foreign or second language [28]; [29]; [30]; [31]; [32]. This supports the fact that due to the ubiquity of technological tools in people's life in general and in learning context in particular, positive attitudes towards using computers in learning have taken shape.

However, students had strong negative attitudes towards using computer-assisted language learning alone as a replacement for the teacher and even after the experiment, they did not believe that computer can take the place of traditional teaching. This shows that Iranian students do not accept computers as a replacement for traditional teaching and they prefer blended learning [32]. In line with this, Scrinicariello[36] set forth that a technology is used as another tool in the process of language learning and learners view it as a helping tool that must be integrated into the learning curriculum not to replace their classroom-based instruction. In a similar vein, Ayres [27] believes that CALL has high face validity with learners while they do not see it as a worthwhile replacement for classroom-based learning but as an important part of the course. Furthermore, the participants did not show much faith in computer assisted testing before the experiment. The reason can be attributed to lack of experience, familiarity or self-efficacy in computer-based activities and tests [7] that improved after the experiment.

The findings also revealed that students' attitudes towards CALL improved generally under the influence of computer-based instruction. After the experience, they showed much more positive attitudes towards using computers for their language learning, value and benefits of computer-assisted instruction, its stress-free atmosphere, and computer-based exercises and tests. This is in agreement with other studies that have reported that computer experience and use correlate with positive computer attitudes and lower levels of computer anxiety [37]; [38]; [39]. There is also evidence in the literature that more experience with computers increases the degree of self-confidence and self-efficacy in using computers and ultimately eradicates negative attitudes towards computer [26]; [32].

Furthermore, in-depth analysis of the items of the questionnaire showed that students' attitudes towards CALL improved in all items except item 13. The decrease in positive attitudes of students toward item 13 can be attributed to the role of the teacher during the course of experiment. While before the experiment students thought that their attitudes were dependent on teachers' attitudes, after the experiment, they felt to be a little bit more independent of the teacher's attitudes. This supports the fact that teachers' role is important in improving students' autonomy in computer-based instructions [8]; [40].


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