integrating new technologies into the modern languages curriculum

integrating new technologies into the modern languages curriculum




Gé Stoks, Institute for Curriculum Development, SLO

Enschede, The Netherlands

Less than ten years ago computers were introduced in secondary education. Many

initiatives were taken to promote the use of the new technologies, also in the area of

language learning. The introduction of the new technologies in the regular school

system has not been very successful. It is claimed that this is mainly due to the lack of

sound curricular integration. Proposals for courseware development that will better fit

into the modern languages curriculum are put forward in this paper.


To begin with, I should like to make clear the perspective from which I shall argue in

this paper. I am a curriculum developer with an interest in the contribution that modern

technology can make towards the improvement of language learning in schools. I am

not directly involved in software development myself, but I have some experience

using Duke University's CALIS and was involved in setting up an in-service teacher

training course called "New Technologies and Modern Language Learning" some six

years ago (Koenraad 1989). My interest is how we can use technology to improve

language learning in schools, not in private language schools, not in universities, but in

regular secondary education: pupils between the ages ofroughlyl2andl8. I am interested

in how we can bridge the gap between new technologies and language learning in

school, in how we can integrate technology into the curriculum so that those pupils

learn something extra. I look for the added value of information technology.

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 76

One of the differences of which I only became aware when I spent a few months at

Duke University in 1991, was that, compared to most countries in Europe, in the United

States language learning mainly takes place at college level, whereas in a country like

The Netherlands, it is assumed that you have learned the language sufficiently well

when you go to college. No more time is spent on foreign language learning outside the

actual studies of modern languages at university level. Some language learning takes

place in a few colleges of higher education, particularly in the economic, business and

administrative areas. Languages are a key area in the secondary school curriculum,

where we currently teach English to all students, and French and German to a

substantial portion of them. Spanish and Russian are only taught in a few schools.

Obviously languages like Japanese, Portuguese, etc., can be studied at university level.

So the bulk of language learning takes place in the regular school system, by the 12 to 18

year-olds. In my department, the department of modern languages of the Institute for

Curriculum Development (SLO), we are currently working on curricula for both lower

and upper secondary education. Next to this, I would like to emphasize the interest in

language learning by less able students. It is generally felt that in a Europe without

national borders, mastery of modern languages is a requisite for all citizens. I believe

this is also a difference with the US, where, at least at college level, one usually finds the

more gifted students, who, by the time they are 18 years old, have already found their

own learning styles and are less dependent on a particular methodology. In the

secondary school system, however, less able students might benefit from a particular

methodology. The consequences for technology then are, that we should try to find

ways of using that technology to help the less able students learn modern languages.


I will now first look back at the developments in the area of computers and language

learning. Some six years ago, in 1987, 1 was involved in setting up a government

sponsored training course "Technology and Language Learning." I will analyze the

developments and point at some mistakes that were made, and will suggest a few

directions for future applications of technology, which I believe have a better chance of

success than many others in use right now.

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 77

During the eighties, governments in Europe suddenly felt their education system Tan

the risk of lagging behind developments in other countries and of losing its

competitiveness. The remedy for this, it was thought, was equipping schools with a

number of computers. Industry co-sponsored the hardware and each school was given

about 16 computers, which were usually installed in a computer lab. Several

(government sponsored) projects were set up to familiarize teachers with the new

technology and software development was undertaken.

Teachers went to courses, but at the time, there was little software for direct use in their

lessons. Each school could send two teachers to a general introduction course. These

courses consisted of general applications (database, word processing, spreadsheet). Few

teachers were really satisfied with these courses because there were few subject specific

applications. For many, though, this course was a first introduction to word processing,,

which, I believe is still the most significant computer application, especially as a tool for

the teacher. It has made creating exercises and tests a lot easier and has really

contributed to more efficiency.

Then subject specific courses were introduced, one of which I have just ' mentioned,

which dealt with modern languages. That course still does not seem too outdated, even

six years after it was developed. These were the topics:

• Databases

• Computers and Writing

• Computers and Reading

• Designing your own content (authoring programs)

• Vocabulary learning

• Grammar

• Contexts for communication (adventures)

• Concordances

• Courseware evaluation

• Future trends

We taught the course to teacher trainers, who afterwards offered it to their course

participants (secondary school teachers of mainly English, French and German) and

wrote a series of booklets on the topics mentioned above.

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 78

Many ideas that we put into that course were valuable and still are; some elements I

would include now, are multimedia, online writing tools and E-mail, although E-mail

was briefly mentioned in the course. In planning the course we tried to find a

compromise between catering for the immediate needs of the teachers and offering new

insights, giving teachers instruments and ideas for the improvement of their current

teaching practice and showing how technology can support modern insights into

language learning. The dual innovation, needed on the one hand (why else should you

introduce new technologies), would prove too much in practice.

Of all the topics mentioned above very few have been implemented. Lf we look at the

courseware available now for modem languages, we see the following (based on the

1992 educational software guide, published by the National Information Centre on

Learning Materials, NTCL.)

German French English

Grammar 7 11 8

Vocabulary 3 5 6

Reading Strategies 2


4 2 3


Writing tools 1 1 2

Adventure 3

A few remarks:

• These are software packages available through educational publishers, only.

• Author programs for modern languages include CALIS and V.T. C.A.L.T. versions

for German, French, English.

• Some programs offer exercises for both vocabulary and grammar practice in one


• The programs are of varying sizes: the Discatext series (reading comprehension) is a

huge package, whereas there are also packages with which e.g. French pronouns

may be practiced.

It will be obvious that the majority of these programs are very traditional. There may be

an obvious commercial reason for this. After all, a balance must be struck between

catering to the needs of the marketplace and pedagogical innovations: many teachers

still emphasize grammar although a more communicatively oriented approach to

language learning has been promoted for years now.

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 79

Among the author programs available are CALIS, the program developed at Duke

University, which SLO was licensed to distribute in the Netherlands. SLO made the

program available to many teachers on the condition that they make the lessons

available for free. Thus over two hundred CALIS-lessons were created and

redistributed through the Dutch CALIS-manual. This process was repeated when

CALIS 2.22 was released and would have been repeated with WinCALIS if there had

been a market. However most schools still have their antiquated XT-machines and

hardly anybody can run Windows on their computers in schools. We now have a

CALIS-area on our institute's bulletin board, where teachers may upload and download


(dial + 31 53 34 16 34).

As to the content of the lessons created, though, the majority of the lessons were again

of a very traditional grammar practice type: practicing verb forms and tenses in English,

case-endings for German, pronouns for French. Some of these contain rather good

feedback for the students. However an intern we had to do practical training at SLO,

analyzed the feedback, looked at the available research and came to the conclusion that

pupils between 12 and 16 years old, for whom most of the programs were meant,

hardly read feedback (Stok, 1989). Their strategy is the trial and error method. Some

teachers, though, do report that their students concentrate better when they work

behind computers than they would be during ordinary lessons. Besides, it is believed

that practicing on the computer may make time available for oral practice in small

groups. Generally speaking, though, the programs are very traditional, the structures

are not practised in a communicative context and the effects of yet another exercise

practicing French verbal phrases or English tenses are doubtful. I have no systematic

information, but I do not have the impression that these programs are used on a wide

scale and have contributed towards better mastery of grammar.

Other applications of computers in language learning, which we dealt with in our inservice

course, were of a too incidental nature. There was no proper integration into the

curriculum. There were lots of ideas and teachers may have tried out a few, but because

of the missing integration into the curriculum, the effects were not felt. You could offer

your students one of the text reconstruction exercises, which were so popular a few

years ago, but, although these may play a role in a reading course, it will be hard to find

any effects of one or two text reconstruction exercises. With many of these, it was by no

means clear what exactly the students learned. At the time we analyze d one of them;

the claim was made that it might contribute to better predictive reading. The course

participants finally concluded that it would be good practice for dyslexic children.

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 80

Another example was a concordance. Although you can think of many applications in

the classroom, the hardware was so limited that no serious applications were possible.

We indexed a whole corpus of French texts, which we thought we might use for an

upper secondary reading course. We used Wordcruncher; with over 50,000 words there

was still little we could do. I don't want to say that concordances cannot play a role in

language learning, but we could not find a means of incorporating them.

I think that a lot of programs offer plenty of possibilities to let students do an exercise or

two, but that it is very hard for the teacher to integrate these activities into the

curriculum in a meaningful way. That is also the case with many programs, with which

exercises like doze tests or gap-filling exercises can be created. Only seldom will these

exercises play a significant role in the learning process.

I might easily continue with a few other examples.

With this retrospective of the developments of the last few years I think I may conclude

that the role of the computer in modern language instruction in schools is still very

limited. Of all the possible applications, which we introduced in the eighties, only a few

have been accepted by teachers and are applied on a limited scale. Looking at the

programs, mainly the vocabulary and grammar ones, we notice that certain

methodological innovations, such as teaching functional grammar in communicative

contexts is seldom practised in the programs available. Programs for reading often

consist of previous examination papers with multiple choice questions, although there

are some with which reading strategies are taught.

In some respects the conclusion may be justified that some computer programs would

actually be regressive with respect to new developments in methodology. Elsewhere, in

a reflection on the contribution of CALIS for the modem languages curriculum, I have

ventured the hypothesis, that the two-fold innovation, technological and pedagogical,

might have been too much at the same time (Stoks, 1990). Judging from the lessons

produced during the SLO CALIS-project, I noticed that the technologically

sophisticated lessons were often rather mediocre with respect to pedagogical content.

Although there are a few notable exceptions. CALIS authors seem to be more interested

in technology than in pedagogy; people interested in pedagogy take little interest in


That brings me to the central argument of this paper. I believe that we now almost have

the situation for which Higgins (1986) and others since him have warned since the very

beginning of the introduction of personal computers in the modern languages

classroom: after language labs computer labs will be discarded by the language teacher,


CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 81

A. we succeed in showing the added value of this technology; software must make a

real contribution to better language learning;

B. as a corollary: software applications must be well embedded into the curriculum.

If these conditions are not met, language teachers will not even gain access to the

computer lab, because teachers of other subjects will have better applications.

After years of incidental experiments we must now show what students really learn

while using the computer. Do they learn something which they otherwise would not be

able to learn equally well? We should show how computer programs can be integrated

into the curriculum; they should be introduced after a careful analysis of the


Finally, hardware facilities should be better. More powerful computers are needed, but

I also believe that computer labs should become media resource centers instead of

rooms where you take all the pupils at the same time.

I will now go into these points in more detail and show a few areas of the curriculum in

which computer applications may be successful.



For the reform of the first few years of our secondary school system a common core

curriculum of fifteen subjects has recently been adopted. It will be implemented within

the next few years. The core objectives for modern languages 12-15 reflect some current

trends in language learning in schools. The committee in charge of the development of

these proposals was chaired by professor Van Ek, who is also one of the authors of the

New Threshold Level, published by the Modern Languages Project of the Council of

Europe (Van Ek and Trim 1991). These innovations have a wider application than just a

Dutch one: they reflect current trends and developments in several European countries.

Let's first have a look at these core objectives. They apply equally to English, German

and French and should be attained by the pupils after two, three or four years. This will

usually depend on the pupil's intellectual abilities.

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 82

These are the characteristics:

• Emphasis on real communication tasks in reading, listening, writing and speaking.

• Implications: students must, even after a short period of time, be able to read

authentic materials, listen to authentic texts, write a personal letter and to make it

parallel with native speakers of the target language.

• Grammar plays a role, but correctness is considered less important in oral

proficiency. For writing, models may be used and correctness is marginally

important for all, though demands to be made on brighter students may be higher.

• Promotion of learner autonomy: developing reference skills, Strategic competence

"compensation strategies," reading and listening strategies.

• Aspects of sociocultural competence.

In curriculum proposals that show how these core objectives may be attained SLO has

proposed a task-based syllabus. The question now is: how can new technologies

contribute to the attainment of these objectives?


First the emphasis on the development of skills, e.g. reading skills. In the teaching of

reading there is a growing awareness that the systematic teaching of reading strategies

might be more conducive to the development of reading skills in both the mother

tongue and the foreign language than just learning lots of words and doing reading

comprehension exercises, which in this country often consist of letting students do

previous multiple choice examination papers. Particularly less able students, whose

reading behavior is not efficient, who in other words are not good readers, may benefit

from a systematic teaching of these skills. Incidentally better students are likely to profit

from them as well, as provisional experience in our upper secondary project for French

has shown (Mulder,1991).

SLO has developed courseware for the development of reading skills (Stoks, 1992). We

first made an analysis of the core objectives and selected a number of reading strategies.

These may be divided into three categories:

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 83

1. predicting and verifying predictions;

mobilizing prior knowledge,

recognizing text types,

using titles and pictures,

2. structuring information in the text;

making a diagram of the information in the text,

inserting paragraph titles in the text,

3. understanding relevant details and guessing strategies.

We looked for exercises with which these strategies might be practised. This resulted in

a whole list of exercises. We then looked which exercises could be practised on the

computer and thus planned a partial curriculum for reading, in which the computer

exercises are included. For each language 12 to 14 lessons were written in CALIS. For

some of them additional work sheets were made. The authors were teachers, and the

project coordinator is an expert in reading skills.

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to integrate these lessons in a textbook, which is

of course the best way of integrating new technologies. Especially in lower secondary

education, teachers tend to adhere rather rigidly to their textbooks. SLO never makes

complete textbooks, but only models or examples. In this case we had hoped that

educational publishers would take these examples and develop more lessons, within

the framework of their new textbooks. Due to the introduction of the new core

curriculum many publishers are putting new textbooks on the market. Publishers were

interested but finally backed out: reading strategies are relatively new and so are

computers. Besides, the costs of software development, even with an authoring system,

are relatively high and there is much competition in a small market.

The lessons have been field-tested, but only on a limited scale, and the effects have not

been measured. However, here is an attempt to really add something to the traditional

teaching, link up with current methodology and show the added value of the use of


CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 84

Finally to give you some idea of the type of lessons we developed, I'll give a few


Prediction exercises: predicting the meaning of a word, the contents of a text, the

answer to a question; (gap-filling exercise, matching exercise)

Structuring exercise: structure information; (ordering/sequencing exercise)

Gap-filling exercises: Guessing unknown words.

An important element here is that the students are guided through a series of questions

that will help them find the right answer. They will learn how to use a certain approach.

If they guessed the wrong meaning of a Word, they are guided through a Process of

several steps that will help them find the answer. We actually recommend that the

students should work in pairs. It is believed that students learn from discussions with

partners when they are forced to make their choices and strategies explicit.

The added value of the computer is that students get specific help when they try to

solve the problem. The students are forced to follow a specific procedure. We more or

less impose a particular strategy in the program. It must be admitted that this

sometimes causes irritation with better students, who are inclined to take shortcuts or

who wish to just have another guess. I will come back to the aspect of prescribed

learning routes in a minute.

We believe that this approach will be successful in the long run. Now, relatively few

teachers are familiar with reading exercises, but within the context of the new core

curriculum, in-service training will take place and it is hoped that these lessons will

contribute to making language teachers better acquainted with these strategies.


Another area in which new technologies may be well integrated is the teaching of

listening comprehension. This is still mainly done by means of audio-cassettes. Video in

this country has never been used on a large scale, and it is obvious that the use of video

in the classroom is less easy than audio. It remains an anachronism though, that our

students learn to listen in a foreign language mainly by means of tapes. Few students

would listen to a French radio broadcast in real life. The combination of sound and

images is far more natural. They can see that everyday on cable television, if they like.

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 85

With new multimedia productions at hand, listening comprehension can be practised

by means of true-to-life materials. My department is elaborating a strategic approach to

the teaching of listening Comprehension for upper secondary French.

I am aware of the fact that a systematic approach to the teaching of listening

Comprehension is More controversial than such an approach to the teaching of reading,

where the advantages of teaching reading strategies are now widely

accepted(Anceaux,1990). As a curriculum developer I believe it is worth experimenting

to determine whether systematic training of listening strategies is more effective than

just listening a lot. We believe that especially less able students may benefit from such

an approach to listening in the foreign language. We chose French because that is the

hardest foreign language, as far as listening comprehension goes. There a-re hardly any

problems for Dutch students listening to English and German. Therefore, we will start a

project in collaboration with the Linguistic and Cultural Bureau of the French Embassy

in The Hague. In this project we will develop a series of exercises, very much along the

lines described for the development of reading skills, with which listening ability is

developed. We hope to include multimedia (videodisc) elements in this syllabus, so that

students can acquire listening skills by means of media, with which they will be

acquainted in their out-of-school lives as well. The idea is to design a listening syllabus,

which is already there in a draft form, and then create exercises and gradually

implement the visual elements. I am aware of the practical problems involved in using

visual elements, such as television programs. In 1992, we were granted permission by

the BBC to use and distribute parts of their news program for children, called

Newsround. By cooperating with the French embassy we hope that French television

will make news programs available for our purposes as well. Later the ideas will be

elaborated for lower secondary education as well.

In designing multimedia lessons, we shall emphasize the development of listening skills

along a preset learning route. What one often sees in recent multimedia productions,

among which is CD-1, is that the user can browse freely through the Program. I believe

that under the heading learner autonomy, or learner controlled environment, the lack of

an instructional Strategy is often camouflaged. There are lots of multimedia

productions, in which students have lots of options at their disposal: they may ask for a

translation, replay the tape at a slower speed, ask f or phonetic transcriptions,

vocabulary lists, etc. It is often quite easy to get to know what was said on the tape.

However, the question is, what has the student learned when he asks for the translation

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 86

of the fragment he has just seen, but not fully understood? Wouldn’t it have been much

better if the student had been given a cue and had listened again? I don't believe in a

totally free browse mode with all options that are technically feasible available at all

times. This maybe fine for a CD-1, showing the exhibits of a museum, where you

browse through quickly to see what you are interested in, but with a program to teach

listening Comprehension you'd want to have become a better listener after having

worked through the disk!

The design of a syllabus with accompanying exercises, with which the listening skill is

developed, is the key element in our project.

The obvious question will be on which platform these materials will be developed. That

is still uncertain. Above I showed that schools have no modern hardware and as yet it is

unclear if CD-I is going to be a success. This means that we will develop the listening

course with and without multimedia. Schools without the necessary hardware must be

able to use this syllabus, but those who have or will have the required hardware will be

able to use it. As yet, the project is very much conceived of as a pilot.

Again I hope to have shown that in this design integration into a partial curriculum (for

listening) is the key element. The multimedia elements will have a specific place in the

syllabus. In this respect it differs from a project like Paris en Video, a French videodisc,

developed a few years ago for the Macintosh platform. It was a well-conceived program

but very much ad-hoc — easy to use as something extra, but not well integrated into the



The next curricular area in which technology may be used is that of writing. In Dutch

secondary education we have no tradition of essay writing in the foreign language,

something which is very common in the English speaking world. In the examination

syllabuses, writing a letter for personal purposes is the general requirement. At the

lowest level, things like filling in forms also occur, but filling in a form requires more

reading ability than writing.

The requirement that students should be able to write a letter is often seen as the

justification for a lot of formal grammar instruction. A survey published a couple of

years ago, however, showed that secretaries, who had completed senior vocational

education (16-19), in which much grammar was emphasized in view of letter writing,

hardly ever consulted grammar books, but used so-called letter books: they modified

existing letters for their own purposes. With the rise of word processing, in particular

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 87

"building block correspondence" and the use of macros, letter writing has become a lot


I believe that the curriculum for writing should be reconsidered. It is generally felt that

too much time is spent on formal grammar and that the results of that grammar practice

are unsatisfactory. When less time is spent on grammar, other techniques must be

taught to help students learn to write in the foreign language. Students may learn to

read and modify existing letters and write answers to model letters, thereby making use

of information and linguistic Structures in the original letter. Who of us does not use

these techniques when having to write a letter in a foreign language, even though as

linguists we might be more inclined to consult a grammar book than the ordinary


Reading existing letters and modifying them should be an important part of the writing

curriculum, especially in lower secondary education.

Students should also learn to use the writing tools available with most word processors:

the spelling checker and the thesaurus. However, these tools require a higher level of

metalinguistic awareness. Beginning writers will probably not be able to choose from

the options presented to them when a specific word is not recognized by the program.

In order to make a selection from a list of synonyms, one has to know the denotative

and connotative meanings of the words. However, the receptive vocabulary is always

much larger than the productive one, so even at intermediate stages, students may learn

how to employ these aids.

On-line dictionaries are also available now and students may learn how to use them.

The language learning Profession has hardly begun to consider the consequences of

palmtop dictionaries and grammars, which are available or will be readily available

very soon. Pedagogy in arithmetic has changed dramatically under the influence of

pocket calculators. The same will happen with reference tools for languages. Should

students really learn the entire French verb system, when they can look up a specific

form in a computer program? But how much should they learn? There must be a certain

basis. Now we may be inclined not to deal with certain verbal forms in French, because

we know the students will hardly master them. We are also inclined to reduce

metalinguistic knowledge about e.g., the verb system. However, if a student should be

able to look up a phrase or a verb form, he should know where to look. Does this mean

a renewed emphasis on formal grammar and syntax?

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 88

The tools that I know are of various practicability: for English the WordPerfect spelling

checker is very useful, for French and German they are only suitable to check the

orthography of individual words in their most simple, singular forms. Just try spellchecking

a German text with the WordPerfect spell checker for German!

Another tool is the grammar/style checker. Last year I analyzed some of these for

English (Stoks, 1991). I looked at Grammatík IV in more detail. This tool has been

designed for mother tongue speakers of English. Most of the suggestions relate to

usage, but the program does notice irregular subject-verb agreement and incomplete

sentences. It is possible to write your own rules and the impression may easily arise that

the program may be geared to the needs of EFL students. However, having used the

program myself for some time, I have come to the conclusion that such important

elements as tense errors in English are not detected and that false flags prevail, even

after ample modifications of the program. I checked this text with Grammatík IV and

was told it contained over 250 errors. I followed 15 suggestions for improvement, which

mainly had to do with long-winded phrases, sentence length, etc.!

Far more useful is a French grammar checker, called HUGO, developed in Canada.

French is morphologically more complex and HUGO warns if the wrong article is used,

finds instances of irregular noun-adjective agreement and subject-verb agreement. It

also has the full French verb system and a dictionary on-line. I have found this program

to improve my French texts a lot.

To conclude, how can writing tools be used to improve writing for communicative

purposes? I believe that a curriculum for writing should make ample use of word

processing facilities, whereby students start by modifying existing letters, adapting

these to their own preferences or purposes suggested by the teacher. Practical exercises

in the use of the thesaurus or the spell checker may be included. On-line dictionaries

may be used. These dictionaries will improve over the years, particularly when CD-

ROM is more widely available. Then thesaurus-like dictionaries, possibly combined

with concordance-like elements, maybe included.

As for grammar checkers, it seems to depend on the language in question whether

grammar checkers are of any use. I don't know any commercially available grammar

checker for German, although at the 1991 CALICO conference in Atlanta I was told that

IBM had one. The one I know for French may be useful for higher levels of French and

the English ones need to be geared to the needs of non-native students.

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 89

As to the precise rôle of these tools in the writing curriculum, more research and

experience is required. It seems obvious, though, that these tools may contribute to

more learner autonomy, especially at the more advanced stages.


A specific aspect of writing is the use of E-mail. Sometimes the impression is given that

E-mail is something entirely new in language learning. However, there have always

been classroom correspondence projects, in which students exchanged letters. Of course

E-mail is faster, but classroom organization also requires time to plan a lesson, in which

letters may be answered. There is not a real difference with letters through the mail. It

only goes faster and the letters are available in digital format. Students may correct each

other's letters, as has been the case with an exchange between a school in northern

France where Dutch is taught and a school in the Netherlands, where students learn

French. Exchanges by means of E-mail or by post are beneficial. Students get first hand

sociocultural information about the target culture and their letter writing has a real

communicative purpose. However, this is not enough: an extra dimension is needed,

otherwise the classroom correspondence comes to an untimely end after one or two

letters, when students have told their pen friend about their pets, hobbies, holidays and

sports. For correspondence projects, it is important to focus on content: exchange

information about life at school, about the environment, where the pupils live, about

books they read or films they watched. This may lead to meaningful exchanges,

integration into the curriculum is possible and students have an opportunity to

compare life at home with fife in the target culture, as seen and experienced through the

eyes of their peers. It thus contributes to a greater sociocultural awareness.

Next year the SLO-lijn bulletin board will appoint a pupil as moderator of a

communication area; this pupil will suggest topics and ideas for meaningful exchanges.


Although oral proficiency is an important aspect of almost any modern languages

curriculum, I do not believe that the computer, at this stage, can contribute very much

to its development. It has been suggested that adventure games provide contexts for

communication, because of the interaction in pairs when students play the game. This

interaction, as has been shown, is usually of a highly restricted nature(Piper,1986).

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 90

Especially, multimedia productions may provide good models of speech, provide

relevant sociocultural information, which the students may use, when they have to use

the target language productively themselves. In interaction, however, I believe pair and

group work without the computer is more efficient.


At present most schools have just one computer lab. Teachers normally take a whole

class into that room and let the students work there for the entire hour. Sometimes, a

class is split in two: the teacher does oral practice with half the group, while the other

half works on grammar exercises in the computer lab. The computer applications I have

just suggested can nearly all be carried out in such a computer lab, but in the long run I

think that for languages it would be better not to take a whole class to the computer lab

but to use the lab as a media resource center where students can go to carry out

different tasks. Examples of such labs maybe found in some well-equipped private

language schools (Eurocentres). Especially with multimedia applications one or two

students can go and watch a multimedia production and work at it. But also with word

processors, teachers may devise tasks and ask students to carry them out in the media

center. Students may do remedial work for grammar, but seldom does a whole class

need remedial grammar at the same time.


In recent years secondary schools have been equipped with computers, but for modern

language learning the implementation of the new technology has not been very

successful. If software is used, it is the more traditional grammar and vocabulary

practice. In this respect, the software may even have slowed down pedagogical

innovations. The software has, so far, hardly contributed to better language learning.

This situation may improve when the software is better integrated into the curriculum

and the added value becomes apparent. I have suggested some concrete ideas for the

secondary school modern languages curriculum: teaching reading strategies,

developing a strategic approach to listening comprehension including multimedia and

a new approach to the teaching of writing, including more purposeful E-mail projects. If

the language teaching profession can show the advantages of computer applications,

publishers maybe more inclined to develop software integrated in their textbooks. That

is, ultimately, the best way of integrating the technology into the school curriculum.

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 91


Anceaux, H.,(1990). Luisteren en Lezen, Leiden

Ek, J. A. and J. Trim, (1991). Threshold Level 1990, Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

Higgins, J. and T. Johns, (1984). Computers and Language Learning, London.

Koenraad, T, T. van Maanen en G. Stoks, (1989). "Lesgeven met de Computer."

Modulereeks Moderne Vreemde Talen, Zeist.

Mulder, H., (I 991). "Foreign Language Syllabus Planning and Sequencing in Upper

Secondary Education.” Report on Benelux Workshop 1A, Strasbourg: Council of


______, (1992). Lire, c’est la clé, a Curriculum Proposal for Upper Secondary French. SLO:


NICL, (1992). Educative Software 1992, SLO/NICL: Enschede.

Piper, A., (1986). "Conversation and the Computer: A Study of the Conversational Spinoff

Generated Among Learners of English as a Foreign Language Working in

Groups." System, 14, 2.

Stok, B., (1989). Aanbevelingen voor Feedback in Onderwijsprogramma's voor de Moderne

Vreemde Talen, Groningen.

Stoks, G. (ed.), (1990). Handboek CALIS 2.22, SLO: Enschede.

_____,(1991). "Elektronisch Schrijfgereedschap: Hulpmiddelen voor het Moderne

Vreemde Talenonderwijs." Levende Talen, 464.

______ (ed.),(1992). Leesstrategieën op de Computer. Lesvoorbeelden Frans, Duits en Engels

voor de Basisvorming, SLO: Enschede.

______, (1990). "Courseware-ontwikkeling met een Auteurssysteem: CALIS," in: Kamer,

A. (ed.) SLO-jaarboek, SLO: Enschede.

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 92


Gé Stoks is head of the Modern Languages Department of the National Institute for

Curriculum Development (SLO) in Enschede, The Netherlands. Special interests include

curriculum development for advanced levels of foreign language learning, foreign

language pedagogy and applications of information technology to foreign language


He coordinates an international research and development program on curriculum

development for modern languages in upper secondary general, technical and

vocational education that is carried out within the framework of the Council of Europe's

Modem Languages Project.

In 1991 he was a Charles E. Culpeper visiting scholar at the Humanities Computing

Facility at Duke University, Durham, NC.


Institute for Curriculum Development, SLO

P.O. Box 2041

7500 CA Enschede

The Netherlands

Phone: + 31 53 840 840

Fax: + 31 53 307 692

CALICO Journal, Volume 11 Number 1 93

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines