LINGUIST List 32.1360

Fri Apr 16 2021

Review: Applied Linguistics: Blake, Guillén (2020)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

Date: 28-Oct-2020
Subject: Brave New Digital Classroom
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Robert J. Blake
AUTHOR: Gabriel A. Guillén
TITLE: Brave New Digital Classroom
SUBTITLE: Technology and Foreign Language Learning, Third Edition
PUBLISHER: Georgetown University Press
YEAR: 2020

REVIEWER: ZEYNEP ERDIL-MOODY, University of South Florida


Robert Blake, with Gabriel Guillén in this third edition, offers a comprehensive overview of how new digital technologies revitalize foreign/second language (L2) curriculum and how interactionist and sociocultural approaches to L2 teaching enhance language task design and interaction in digital learning environments. Brave New Digital Classroom addresses computer assisted language learning (CALL) practitioners and both experienced and novice teachers in technology-enhanced L2 teaching. In this revised edition, authors’ choice of organizational pattern – learners’ inherent qualities as humans pertinent to L2 learning – places the locus on the language learner. Therefore, the book is organized into six chapters, each devoted to one of these inherent qualities: students and teachers as language speakers, conscious and intuitive analyzers, social beings, tool users, game players, and storytellers. Based on these learner qualities, the authors discuss which digital tools and affordances best fit how students learn an L2 and how teachers can integrate them into their teaching effectively for the optimal learning outcomes.

This fully updated third edition synthesizes some of the content in earlier editions into fewer chapters, reducing the chapter number to six, and includes a new chapter on digital literacy and L2 identity. With its discussion questions, suggested reading lists in each chapter, and a glossary of italicized words throughout the text, this revised book is a comprehensive and insightful handbook for a wide range of audiences, L2 instructors, L2 teacher educators and their graduate students, administrators, and other decision-making bodies in L2 programs/institutions. The evolution of digital technologies and its increasingly mediating role in education, everyday life, and communication across the globe has made it inevitable for educators to be innovative in the twenty-first-century L2 classroom, especially with the recent pandemic-forced shift to online education. This makes the book a very timely useful resource book for all L2 teaching communities, discussing why some specific technological tools should be incorporated into the L2 curriculum, their potential benefits for L2 learning, and contributions to any L2 program.

Chapter 1 revolves around the fundamental question: Can CALL help L2 learning? The essence of this chapter and the book overall is how teachers can utilize digital technologies effectively in their L2 curriculum to foster learner engagement with each other, the content, and the target language. Grounded in the second language acquisition (SLA) theories and notion of learners as language speakers, the authors discuss in this chapter differences between L1 and L2 acquisition, primarily focusing on the nature, function, and amount of input and interaction. Bridging the L2 classroom pedagogy, SLA theories, and CALL right from the beginning in this first chapter provides a solid foundation for the subsequent discussions, especially for readers new to the SLA field. The authors emphasize that shortcomings of formal L2 teaching are generally attributed to insufficient and/or inauthentic input in L2 curricula and books due to their inadequate opportunities for negotiation and output. Employed wisely, however, digital technologies can offer more language practice and enriched input to enhance L2 development. Enabling telecollaboration within L2 learner communities and with native speakers, virtual L2 learning environments cultivate students’ attention and interest, extend class discussions outside of class time, and enhance intercultural competence by integrating L2 culture into learners’ virtual exchanges. During these exchanges, learners are given opportunities to notice the gap between what they know and what they should know in the L2, engage in meaningful interactions, and negotiate for meaning – an advantage especially for the less commonly taught languages.

Discussing tutorial and social CALL and explaining misconceptions about language learning and technology, the authors raise awareness that technology is not the panacea teachers seek for language teaching woes, nor the panacea administrators need to reduce their budgets. However, educational technology certainly complements and facilitates L2 teaching when implemented using effective pedagogies informed by SLA theories, which evidently indicates instructors’ paramount role in the new digital L2 classroom as much as in face-to-face classrooms.

Chapter 2 focuses on the inherent quality of both students and teachers as conscious and intuitive analyzers in the process of CALL evaluation to identify appropriate digital technologies for L2 learning. The authors provide a brief overview of CALL evaluation checklists/frameworks (e.g.; Rosell-Aguilar, 2017) and recommend CALICO journal’s checklist as an elaborate framework synthesizing Hubbard’s (2006) methodological and Chapelle’s (2001) interactionist approach to CALL evaluation. The criterion they highlight for evaluations is the appropriateness for teachers’ instructional approach, learner profile, interests, activity types, and computer infrastructure and interface features.

Supporting the interactionist and sociocultural approach to SLA, the authors argue that the best way to integrate today’s digital affordances into L2 teaching is to engage students with real-life interactions for meaningful and communicative purposes. They discuss language learning social networks’ critical role to not only expose learners to the authentic language use but also give them abundant opportunities to negotiate for meaning and genuinely interact with L2 speakers, especially in foreign language contexts where learners have no access to target language speakers. Task-based (TBLT) and content-based (CBLT) language teaching, and tandem, online, and autonomous learning stand out as the most appropriate approaches in their discussion to instigate noticing, negotiation for meaning, and scaffolding, all of which promote L2 development; yet they believe tutorial CALL’s grammar driven multimedia activities can still help outside the classroom.

Addressing how the digital world shapes our social interactions, Chapter 3 focuses on the high level of interactivity of social CALL and computer-mediated communication (CMC) tools. Learners’ inherent quality as social beings and their predisposition to make and maintain connections with others either in person or via telecollaboration makes CMC tools an integral part of today’s digital L2 classroom. To stimulate L2 learning and intercultural competence, the authors discuss advantages of asynchronous CMC (ACMC) and synchronous CMC (SCMC) tools, language learning social networks (LLSNs), and cooperative online intercultural exchange (OIE) – also known as etandem learning, telecollaboration, or virtual exchange. These collaborative writing and interaction spaces facilitate language development, learner autonomy, and collaborative project-based L2 learning by empowering learners to exercise their own voice and produce multimedia materials.

Chapter 3 discusses how LLSN affordances can be effectively used for telecollaboration in L2 classrooms. Designed for L2 learning, these affordances lower anxiety, enhance motivation, intercultural awareness, linguistic self-confidence, L2 fluency, and autonomy, while giving learners more opportunities to collaborate, negotiate for meaning, undertake self-initiated repairs, and notice their mistakes and gaps in their interlanguage. The authors also highlight that time lag, lack of physical clues, and learners’ low intercultural pragmatics during these telecollaborative exchanges cause communication breakdowns and require training. Hence, the authors emphasize that instructors’ role is vital in guiding students’ participation in online intercultural exchanges.

Chapter 4 is a review of the best digital tools for L2 learning that do not require programming skills and it focuses on students and teachers’ inherent quality as tool users. The authors describe three stages of CALL – structural, communicative, integrative CALL –and argue how augmented reality and integrative CALL increase learners’ autonomy and ‘agency’ (Kern & Warschauer, 2000) in L2 learning by providing multimedia, content-based instruction, and authentic discourse. Recommended useful tools include digital dictionaries (Duolingo, Langbot), concordances (Linguee), collaborative digital storytelling (VoiceThread), and other tools that enhance language skills in general (iSpraak – L2 pronunciation; forvo vocab; Evernote – dictation). L2 teachers might find the tools that allow annotations on any web page or YouTube videos very inspiring as they turn internet materials into interactive lessons (e.g., Edpuzzle; InsertLearning). The rest of the chapter discusses L2-related advantages of automatic speech recognition, learning management systems (LMS), online feedback, authoring tools (e.g.; Adobe Spark, Softchalk, WordPress, Wix), and sophisticated homegrown CALL materials created by L2 instructors. They also recommend incorporating such authoring tools into the LMS shell to supplement course content and collaborative writing spaces/bulletin boards such as Padlet for telecollaboration. Finally, the authors underline the necessity of instructors’ pedagogical approach, careful planning, and task design for any of these tools to promote L2 development and lead to comprehended input, intake, uptake, and eventually, output. It is noteworthy to mention that the discussion on authoring tools from the earliest computer software predating World Wide Web is a bit distracting and could be instead devoted to recent affordances.

Focusing on students as game players, Chapter 5 discusses the benefits of gaming in L2 teaching and how to effectively incorporate collaborative games into the L2 classrooms, which was added to the book in its second edition and updated in the current one. Blake and Guillén provide an overview of current trends in gameful learning, e.g.; ImmerseMe or Forgotten World virtual reality (VR) games for L2 learning. They then elaborate on their potential benefits, when pedagogically well-designed based on SLA theories, such as motivating learners, engaging them meaningfully in task-based interactions with native speakers, and giving them opportunities to both engage in language socialization and develop autonomy and intercultural competence. Similarly, they also state that role-play games (e.g.; Second Life) shape learners’ verbal performance via their digital presence and help them become independent problem-solvers to collaboratively complete a given task. These games expand learners’ identity in their journey as an emerging multilingual speaker (Ortega, 2017). Discussing pedagogical properties of good L2 games (Gee, 2007), Chapter 5 outlines lists of guiding principles for effective language games. The chapter’s documentation of developing effective game-enhanced pedagogy (Sykes & Reinhardt, 2012) presents a practical guide for both novice and experienced teachers. It, however, also stresses that not all games are for L2 learning, nor do they all go beyond explicit language exercises that resemble games, so they should be thoroughly evaluated first for pedagogical appropriateness and practicality for the new digital L2 classroom.

New to this third edition, Chapter 6 focuses on L2 learners as storytellers and discusses how CALL fosters learners’ digital writing and literacy skills and emerging bi/multilingual identities. The authors first provide an overview of writing support/correction tools (e.g.; Grammarly), digital collaborative writing tools (e.g.; Google docs, blogs), storytelling tools (e.g.; iMovie; FinalCut), and social reading tools (e.g.; ecomma). Grounded within the interactionist and sociocultural theories, they argue that these tools provide multimodality during digital collaborative writing/speaking via synchronous chats (textual, audio, audio-video) and increase learner motivation, willingness to explore and communicate, critical thinking, and presentational competence. They then mention some relevant studies on how multimodality in writing collaborations help learners build a community of support, trigger dynamic and dialogic exchanges that foster intercultural competence, reflective communication, and collaborative learning (Blin & Appel, 2011; Blyth, 2014). Needless to say, these multimodal digital storytelling technologies give L2 learners many opportunities to reflect on and represent their emerging bilingual identities, have their voices heard, and shape their own textual voices and social roles. Summarizing transnational projects like the Cultura Project (Bauer, et al., 2006; Furstenberg, et al., 2001), the authors highlight how critical it is for L2 teachers to train learners for effective cross-linguistic/cultural interactions.


The pandemic that shifted the modality of not only instruction but also our interactions to online platforms worldwide in the early days of 2020, shows this book as a very timely one! Brave New Digital Classroom is concise but comprehensive, well-written, and an insightful book with a survey of today’s digital technologies that offer many opportunities for L2 development. This book is a must-read for L2 teachers, L2 teacher educators, and even administrators and other decision-making stakeholders, helping them to choose appropriate digital instructional technologies in which to invest, based on their local context, institutional goals, pedagogical approach, and learners’ profiles. The book is well positioned to address the gap between language learning research and CALL – social, intelligent, and tutorial CALL, and virtual reality games. It is a useful textbook for a graduate course, for instance, about technology-enhanced language teaching, in a TESOL, SLA, L2 teaching certificate or a professional development program; but it is noteworthy to underscore that it will be easier with a solid comprehension of SLA theories to understand the connections made throughout the book. One of the strengths of this book is its breadth of discussion in synthesizing the pedagogy of network-based language teaching (e.g.; LLSNs) with the fundamental SLA theories for successful L2 learning such as sociocultural and interactionist approaches to L2 teaching –the zone of proximal development, forced output, negotiation for meaning, and linguistic scaffolding (Long, 1996; Swain, 1985; Vygotsky, 1978). Thus, CALL researchers and educators new to digital technologies in L2 learning/teaching will find in this book useful references to relevant and up-to-date research on effective pedagogy of integrating digital tools into the L2 curriculum and design of pedagogically sound online intercultural exchanges (telecollaboration) based on SLA theories.

Addressing the misconceptions among teachers that CALL is the solution to all L2 learning woes, the authors set up more reasonable expectations from integrating CALL in L2 teaching. One essential take-away from this book is that the key to optimal learning outcomes in digital L2 teaching platforms is the solid pedagogical design of language tasks for collaborative exchanges with other L2 learners and L2 speaker communities – telecollaboration – and engaging learners with real-life activities that bridge the conceptual knowledge within the curriculum with the real life situations in which they are used, all grounded in SLA theories.

Brave New Digital Classroom is also commendable for how successfully it situates its discussion of the intertwined relationship between L2 digital literacy and learners’ intercultural competence as well as bi/multilingual identities within the interactionist and sociocultural approaches to L2 teaching. The authors highlight that today’s technology serves to meet the needs of multilingual learners to cultivate their bi/multilingual identity in a multicultural world that is in a way both independent and dependent of their L1 and L2 identities by engendering student-directed curricula and real-time communication via SCMC (telecollaboration). These insightful discussions will help educators in their transformation as most institutions have already converted to fully online courses.

Blake and Guillén accomplish their goal in this edition to motivate L2 teachers to effectively integrate interactive digital technologies into their teaching to promote learners’ language development and competence in intercultural pragmatics. For the intrinsic flux of educational technologies and the challenges they cause, the authors’ solution is college-wide continuous long-term institutional support, especially as more L2 teachers embrace online teaching. If this book were used for a course on CALL and game-based L2 learning, one recommendation would be to supplement course materials with studies showing effective implementation of gaming in the L2 classroom. Furthermore, it would enhance the book to include narratives from teachers and students regarding the implementation of gaming tools/software in the L2 curriculum, some of the challenges they experience, or even perhaps sample lesson plans, activities, or tasks.


Bauer, B., de Benedette, L., Furstenberg, G., Levet, S., & Waryn, S. 2006. Internet-mediated intercultural foreign language education: The Cultura project. In J. A. Belz & S. L. Thorne (Eds.), Internet-mediated intercultural foreign language education, 31-62. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Blin, F., & Appel, C. 2011. Computer supported collaborative writing in practice: An activity theoretical study. CALICO Journal, 28(2), 473-497.

Blyth, C. 2014. Exploring the affordances of digital social reading for L2 literacy: The case of eComma. In J. Guikema & L. Williams (Eds.), Digital literacies in foreign and second language education, 201–226. San Marcos, TX: CALICO.

Chapelle, C. 2001. Computer Applications in Second Language Acquisition: Foundation for teaching, testing, and research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Doi:10.1017/CBO9781139524681

Furstenberg, G., Levet, S., English, K., & Maillet, K. 2001. Giving a virtual voice to the silent language of culture: The CULTURA project. Language Learning & Technology, 5(1), 55-102. Doi:10125/25113

Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hubbard, P. 2006. Evaluating CALL software. In L. Ducate & N. Arnolds (Eds.), Calling on call: From theory and research to new directions in foreign language teaching, 313-334. San Marcos, TX: CALICO

Kern, R., & Warschauer, M. 2000. Introduction: Theory and practice of network-based language teaching. In M. Warschauer & R. Kern (Eds.), Network-Based Language Teaching: Concepts and Practice: Concepts and Practice, 1-19. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Doi:10.1017/CBO9781139524735.003

Long, M. H. 1996. The role of the linguistic environment in second language acquisition. In W. C. Ritchie, & T. K. Bhatia (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition, 413-468. New York: Academic Press.

Ortega, L. 2017. New CALL-SLA research interfaces for the 21st century: Towards equitable multilingualism. CALICO journal, 34(3), 285-316. Doi:10.1558/cj.33855

Rosell-Aguilar, F. 2017. State of the app: A taxonomy and framework for evaluating language learning mobile applications. CALICO Journal, 34(2), 243–258. Doi: 10.1558/cj.27623

Sykes, J. E. & Reinhardt, J. 2012. Language at play: Digital games in second and foreign language teaching and learning. Boston: Pearson–Prentice Hall.

Swain, M. 1985. Communicative competence: Some roles of comprehensible input and comprehensible output in its development. In S. M. Gass & C. G. Madden (Eds.), Input in second language acquisition, 235-253. Rowley, MA: Newbury House

Vygotsky, L.S. 1978. Mind and Society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Zeynep Erdil-Moody is an applied linguist, independent researcher, and a language teacher educator with a PhD in Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology from University of South Florida and an MA in TESOL from California State University–Sacramento. She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in applied linguistics, foreign/second language pedagogy, and ESOL, as well as a wide range of EAP, ESL, and EFL courses in the U.S. and abroad. Her research focuses on language learning motivation, individual differences in SLA, L2 teacher education, brain-based language teaching approaches, higher education pedagogy, and qualitative interviews.

Page Updated: 16-Apr-2021