Teaching and Researching Computer-assisted Language Learning: K. Beatty; Applied Linguistics in Action Series; Longman, London, 2003, xii+259 pages

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  • articles) that tackles both the teaching and researching of L1/L2 listening, and is therst such book that I am aware of since Rost (1990). It covers most of the majorareas (including some that you will not have thought about before) and provides aplethora of jumping-o points that should set the inquisitive reader thinking abouttheir own teaching of listening. Budding teacher-researchers in particular will ndthe research questions and project plans really useful in generating ideas forexploratory and action researchin other words, in motivating informed teachingand research in listening.

    Richard PembertonLanguage Centre, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

    Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong KongE-mail address: lcrpem@ust.hk


    Teaching and Researching Computer-assisted Language LearningK. Beatty; Applied Linguistics in Action Series; Longman, London, 2003, xii+259pages

    Although there is no explicit statement to that eect, the audience of Ken Beattysbook appears to be anyone interested in carrying out research in the eld of CALLwho is not actually doing so yet. That is the conclusion to be drawn from the con-tents and the tone of the book. In terms of contents, Teaching and ResearchingComputer-assisted Language Learning can best be described as an introductorytextbook and its style is didactic rather than analytical. The readership picture thisconjures up is one of postgraduate students (perhaps preparing for a dissertation onwell in some. As I write it is the only recent book (as opposed to a collection oftried to access it. Another source of further information is of course the biblio-graphy. It is dicult to avoid one or two bibliographic errors, but there are severalin this case. For example, Phil Benson, whose Teaching and Researching Auton-omy in Language Learning appeared in 2001 in the same Longman series (but isomitted from the bibliography in this book), is incorrectly cited four times on fourpages and is ascribed a quotation which seems to have come from a pre-publicationdraft. These are relatively minor matters but they can be o-putting for those whoare trying to chase up references and suggest that the nal stages of proofreadingwere somewhat rushed.The comments and suggestions I have made are possibly those of someone look-

    ing for the impossible: the perfect bookcomprehensive, thought-provoking, theo-retical but practical, outward-looking and linking, well laid out and clearlyorganised, easy to read, easy on the eye, painstakingly proofread and editedandpacked into a mere 300 pages! This book does pretty well in most regards and very

    128 Book reviews / System 32 (2004) 121131the topic) and teachers engaged in action research.

  • The structure of Teaching and Researching Computer-assisted Language Learningbroadly follows that of other volumes in the series (cf. Dornyei, Teaching andResearching Motivation and Benson, Teaching and Researching Autonomy in Lan-guage Learning). There are four sections of which the rst provides an introduction,the second puts the topic in a pedagogical context, the third is concerned withresearch and the last is a guide to resources. There is also a bibliography and anindex.Section 1 (Key concepts) consists of four chapters that respectively introduce the

    area, give a brief history, discuss specic features and illustrate eight specic appli-cations. The introductory chapter gives a broad denition of CALL: any process inwhich a learner uses a computer and, as a result, improves his or her language (p.7). The surprising thing about this is not its breadth, which is acknowledged as beingseemingly unworkably large, but the absence of any further discussion or delinea-tion. At this early stage of the book Beatty does not say explicitly that he is con-cerned with second/foreign language learning. The chapter highlights the strongrelation between CALL and the (rapid) development of technology, and thedeclining interest in direct comparisons between CALL and traditional learning interms of eectiveness (p. 13).Chapter 2 sketches the history of CALL and chapter 3 explains the powers of

    hypertext and multimedia. The latter starts o with a useful overview of the dier-ence between the various terms (hypertext, hypermedia, multimedia) but then goeso at a tangent featuring Gutenberg, Middlemarch and a section headed Sciencection and CALL. The chapter ends with an interesting but far too brief discussionof the advantages of multimedia to language learning.Chapter 4, which concludes the introductory section, briey discusses eight appli-

    cations of CALL, viz. word processing, games, literature, corpus linguistics, com-puter-mediated communication, WWW resources, adapting other materials forCALL, and Personal Digital Assistants. This chapter is probably quite enlighteningfor the novice CALL researcher whose rst acquaintance with the topic may havebeen restricted to such staples as the cloze exercise, hangman or a crossword (herediscussed under the heading games). However, just as students can engage in lan-guage learning outside the language class, any aspect of computer technology, whe-ther specically designed for the job or not, can be used for the purpose. Thischapter illustrates a weakness in the design of this book (and perhaps the series,because these features occur in other volumes in the series too): the frequent occur-rence of text boxes for Concepts, Examples and Quotes. Judicious use of these fea-tures can be enlightening but in this book they appear too frequently and at timestake over the authors proper descriptive and analytical role. Thus, section 4.7,which discusses Adapting other materials for CALL (pp. 7072), consists of threebrief paragraphs and a one-page example (Example 4.7), half of which is a screenshot. Beatty here misses an opportunity to enrich his text with detailed examples andalso to analyse the advantages and disadvantages of such adaptations. A moreextreme illustration of the overuse of this feature comes from chapter 7, whichdenes a model for CALL. The justication for such a model is outlined in section

    Book reviews / System 32 (2004) 121131 1297.2 (The need for a CALL model), which consists of an introductory paragraph, a

  • lengthy (and quite frankly less than illuminating) quote (confusingly numberedQuote 7.1) in a text box, and a short paragraph linking this section to the actualmodel described in the rest of the chapter. The reader is left without a real justica-tion for the CALL model.Section 2 (The place of CALL in research and teaching) locates CALL in

    relation to various theories of second language acquisition, denes a model for itand outlines problem areas. Its opening chapter is a review of various theoriesof second-language acquisition, divided between behaviourism and con-structivism. Their discussion is straightforward and balanced but eventuallyBeatty makes clear his preference for constructivist approaches because con-structivism supports key concepts of CALL, collaboration and negotiation ofmeaning (p. 94). Nevertheless, he points out on at least two occasions thatbehaviourist routines and programs also frequently lead to collaborative beha-viour in front of a computer.Chapter 6 discusses the issue of collaboration in much more detail. This is the best

    chapter in the book because it is concerned with both theory and the practicalaspects of research. Collaboration, Beatty argues, is largely a matter of negotiatingmeaning. This is what happens when several students work at a computer. Ofcourse such collaboration is not without its problems but most of these can beovercome by training. The chapter closes with a practical discussion of discourse anddiscourse analysis techniques, which are useful for the budding researcher. My onlyquibble here is the focus on the language classroom and the frequent occurrence of thecomputer-as-teacher metaphor. Beatty is well aware of the pitfalls of this metaphor,witness its sensitive discussion on p. 151. But the classroom focus means that thesolitary student, and hence the distance learner, is largely left out of the picture.The model of CALL proposed in Chapter 7 is an adaptation of a model of class-

    room teaching developed by Dunkin (misspelt Duncan on pp. 135 and 146) andBiddle in 1974. Dunkin and Biddles model is one for teaching in general and theresulting CALL model remains a model for instruction, not for learning. Never-theless, the chapter considers the input of materials developers and the issue ofcontrol. There is a link between a high measure of learner control over the computerand a constructivist approach to learning and teaching, and a low measure of controland a behaviourist approach.The nal chapter in this section deals with theoretical and pedagogical con-

    cerns of CALL. Some of these concerns are very profound and touch on suchthings as the computer-as-teacher metaphor, the need for training and studentsdierent learning styles. Other concerns border on the political and raise seriousquestions about, for example, the digital divide. But there are also more mundaneproblems, such as plagiarism, viruses and online safety. The wide variety of theseproblems means that their discussion often remains supercial. Surely, the centralconcern for a book like this would be to concentrate on the educational concerns,however worthy the other problems might be, and hammer home the need forsound pedagogy.The third section (Researching CALL) rst outlines current research interests

    130 Book reviews / System 32 (2004) 121131(chapter 9) and then discusses eight dierent research contexts in the nal chapter.

  • Chapter 9 is based on an analysis of 145 recent research papers representing aninteresting array of research problems. They are analysed in terms of the languagesand the skills taught, the processes involved, the technologies applie