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Moving towards normalising CALL: A case study from Timor-Leste

It is now widely understood that teachers are the main decision makers in the classroom, so when an innovation is introduced into a teaching and learning setting it seems that teachers‟ beliefs and attitudes may be a major determinant in the success or otherwise of that investment. This case study examines the process of a Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) application being introduced into a university setting. Bax (2003) posited that a new technology is „normalised‟ when it is invisible and fully integrated, just as pens and books have been, into everyday classroom use. To gain further insights into the process of an innovatory CALL application moving „towards normalisation‟ (Chambers & Bax 2006), the present study solicited university teachers‟ opinions and impressions towards the innovation over a period of five months. The innovation is a software application developed in the Computer Science Department at the University of Waikato (http://flax.nzdl.org/greenstone3/flax). The Flexible Language Acquisition Device (FLAX) uses digitalised libraries to provide language learning tasks for students, both texts and tasks being written by teachers or more able students. The English Department at the National University of Timor-Leste (UNTL) was the setting selected for the study, as the researcher had spent fourteen months there as a volunteer teacher in 2005-6. The case study is framed within a wider (2006-2011) collaborative curriculum project between UNTL and the University of Waikato. It was decided to collect oral, rather than written, data in order to align with the oral traditions of Timor-Leste. Thus, oral reflective journals captured participants‟ perceptions in audio-recorded discussions with a peer over three occasions. Focus groups of participants reflected on key issues at entry and exit points, and the researcher wrote her own daily reflective journal. The findings showed that the participants moved from a position of excitement tinged with concern to a position of confidence and readiness to implement FLAX during the reseacher‟s visit, indicating a positive move towards normalisation. A powerful insight gained by the researcher was that teachers were able to co-construct a range of ways of using the programme with their students in terms of autonomous learning, peer scaffolding and the importance of the affective domain in language learning. These findings reinforced the notion that the introduction of technologies is a social construct, not just a technological one (Bax, 2011). A further lens of investigation of the innovation was provided by Activity Theory, (Engeström 1987), which showed that the process of curricular normalisation is influenced by activity outside the classrom, and may strengthen or reduce the object of activity, in this case improved learning outcomes. The implications of the case study may have resonance in relatable settings. It seems that encouraging a collaborative approach may enable teachers to envision and ideate new ways to teach and learn, and incorporate new technologies into their own settings. This study may also have implications for external change agents as they contemplate assisting learning communities to normalise curriculum innovation.
Type of thesis
Field, J. (2012). Moving towards normalising CALL: A case study from Timor-Leste (Thesis, Master of Philosophy (MPhil)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/6440
University of Waikato
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