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Computer-enhanced grammar teaching: using computer technology to teach first years


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Title: Computer-enhanced grammar teaching: using computer technology to teach first years

Computer-enhanced grammar teaching using
computer technology to teach first years
  • David Barr
  • University of Ulster

  • The transition between school and university can
    be difficult students often require a period of
    readjustment and training to encourage them to
    become more active, constructivist learners (Fry
    and Ketteridge, 199937).
  • An explosion in packages that teach grammar
  • BUT Engel Myles (199610) point towards the
    decline in the standards of grammar among
    students entering higher education.
  • Studies looking at the use of computer-based
    grammar packages often compare the use of a
    computer-based approach to a traditional
    teacher-directed approach to determine whether
    one is better than the other. (Nutta 1998)
  • Student attitudes towards learning grammar

Background (2)
Project stages
  • The completion of computerised diagnostic tests
    to identify strengths and weaknesses in the area
    of grammar early in semester.
  • To change the environment in which grammar
    classes take place by moving teaching from
    seminar/lecture rooms to multimedia learning
  • Encouraging students to use CALL exercises online
    outside class in an effort to strengthen key
    grammar concepts.
  • Repeating the computerised diagnostic tests at
    the end of semester.

Results of Diagnostics Tests
Class Format
  • Classes took place in multimedia learning labs.
  • Divided into two parts
  • Theoretical explanations
  • Opportunity for practice, using CALL software,
    including CETL Materials developed Hot Potatoes
  • Support notes uploaded to VLE (WebCT)

Student Performance
Performance on each question
Quantitative findings
  • Generally, students performed better in the
    second test, although there was some degree of
    variability depending on the question BUT
  • General improvement would be expected as these
    areas of grammar studied in class between tests 1
    and 2
  • Short test period (one semester)
  • Performance did not improve in every question

Reaction of students
  • Initially, some concerns about how students would
    react to the technology
  • Students not enthused by grammar classes
  • Would technology help? Danger of psychological

Reaction of students (2)
  • BUT Feedback positive at end of semester
  • 70 of respondents felt technology made positive
    contribution to learning grammar
  • Students wanted more exercises, especially those
    available online
  • Motivational Value. Students appreciate why they
    studied the areas they did as the diagnostics
    test revealed their weaknesses.

Reaction of students (3)
  • I think that Hot Potatoes was an excellent way
    to learn main grammar points
  • I think Hot Potatoes is a really good way of
    practicing grammar points
  • I liked it, was clear and helpful and easy to
    use and interesting
  • like the way you have to keep working before
    you are given a clue or answer

Evaluation Why positive?
  • Importance of looking at student reaction to use
    of technology in LL The value of the technology
    is not necessarily measured on its technological
    excellence or astounding quality (Thornbury et
    al, 199619)
  • Technology not too drastic a culture shock
  • Students use technology when they feel it makes a
    difference. Rapid feedback/practice
  • Technology not taking them to too far outside
    their comfort zone
  • Technology as a means of supporting NOT replacing
    the teacher
  • Use of a multi-faceted approach. Retains
  • Affective benefits of technology (Stepp Greenay,
    2002 and Beauvois, 1998)

Maximising the potential future developments
  • Use of data from this year group to inform
    planning of next years grammar classes
  • Creation of a database to enable tutor to track
    student performance quickly

  • Quantitatively, it is very difficult to say with
    any conviction whether the technology made any
    significant difference to student performance
  • BUT The technology motivated the students
  • Students need their comfort zone
  • Students still need teacher to have a central
    role in grammar, especially in Year 1

  • Beauvois, M (1998). Conversations in Slow
    Motion Computer-mediated Communication in the
    Foreign Language Classroom In Canadian Modern
    Language Review 54 (2) Retrieved from the World
    Wide Web on 20 January 2006 http//www.utpjournal
  • Engel, D and Myles, F (1996). Grammar Teaching
    The Major Concerns. In D Engel and F Myles
    (eds.) Teaching Grammar Perspective in Higher
    Education London Association for French Language
    Studies and Centre for Information on Language
    Teaching and Research, 9 19
  • Fry, H, Ketteridge, S and Marshal, S (1999).
    Understanding Student Learning. In H Fry, S
    Ketteridge and S Marshall (Eds.), A Handbook for
    Teaching and Learning in Higher Education,
    London, Kogan Page, 21 40

References (2)
  • Nutta, J (1998). Is computer-based grammar
    instruction as effective as teacher-directed
    grammar instruction for teaching L2 structures?
    In CALICO, 16(1) 4962
  • Stepp-Greany, J (2002). Student perceptions on
    language learning in a technological environment
    Implications for the new millennium. Language
    Learning and Technology, 6 (1) 165 180
  • Thornbury H., Elder M., Crowe D., Bennett P.
    Belton V. (1996). Suggestions for successful
    integration. In Active Learning, 4, 18-23.

For more information
  • Please visit the Centre for Excellence in
    Multimedia Language Learning website at
  • http//