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Review of  WorldCALL

Reviewer: Pejman Habibie
Book Title: WorldCALL
Book Author: Ana María Gimeno Sanz Mike Levy Françoise Blin David Barr
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Computational Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 28.556

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Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


“WordCALL: Sustainability and Computer-Assisted Language Learning” edited by Ana Gimeno, Mike Levy, Francoise Blin, and David Barr, which brings together selected papers originally presented at the 4th international WordCALL conference themed “Sustainability and Computer-Assisted language Learning” held at the Scottish Exhibition Centre in Glasgow, Scotland (UK) in July 2013. The volume consists of an introduction, eighteen chapters that are grouped into five thematic sections: “Teacher Education and CALL,” “Normalization of CALL,” “CALL Systems,” “Mobile-Assisted Language Learning,” and “Innovation in CALL,” and a conclusion. Sustainability in different aspects of CALL is the underlying theme of the studies presented and the focal point of the book.

The book begins with an introduction where Mark Levy et al., present Cathy Gunn’s (2010) definition of the concept of sustainability in light of the broader area of eLearning innovations. The authors draw upon this definition as a conceptual framework in order to provide an overview of how the constituent chapters of the book address different aspects of the idea of sustainability and their applications in relation to CALL.

Part One, “Teacher Education and CALL”, consists of five chapters. In Chapter One, “Learning for the long haul,” Karen Haines outlines a study that aimed at exploring in-service language teachers’ perceptions of the specific types of affordances of new computer-mediated communication tools over time. The data were collected through interviews with sixteen tertiary language teachers in five institutions in Australia and New Zealand, as well as one of the participants’ reflective journal. The participants identified a number of learning affordances that technology offered them and their students.

In Chapter Two, “Challenges and opportunities for developing sustainable digitally based language pedagogies,” Lucas Moreira dos Anjos and Vera Lucia Lopes Cristovao address some of the roles of digital technologies in language teacher education and programs. They explain how they designed a didactic sequence where teachers were involved in developing and using podcasts during an eight-hour workshop in Brazil. Analyzing the formative didactic sequence, they also explore the extent to which such an experience contributes to sustainable integration of technology into teachers’ pedagogical practices and professional lives.

In Chapter Three, “Creating pedagogical knowledge through electronic materials,” Marcin Kleban and M» Camino Bueno-Alastuey examine the role of tele-collaboration in scaffolding in-service teachers’ professional knowledge development including their general pedagogical skills (e.g., lesson planning and evaluation and material selection) and techno-pedagogical expertise (e.g., using online (a)synchronous technologies to promote collaboration in educational projects). In this mixed-methods study, the participants included two groups of Spanish and Polish teacher trainees and the data were collected through Skype conversations, lesson plans and teaching materials, a survey, and reflection reports. The findings indicate that the project enhanced students’ understanding of the benefits and limitations of tele-collaboration as well as their knowledge of techno-pedagogical solutions.

In Chapter Four, “Promoting student collaborative reflective interaction,” Sabrina Priego outlines an eight-week research project that investigated the role of Wikis and VoiceThreads in improving learners’ collaborative reflexive interaction when involved in a collaborative meaning construction process with distant peers. The project participants consisted of a group of twenty five students in a Bachelor of Education program in Teaching English as a Second Language who were paired with another group of twenty five Canadian university students who attended an ESL course. The data were collected through Wiki pages and students’ discussions on VoiceThreads and a questionnaire. The findings highlight the significance of an ongoing process of experimentation, evaluation, and enhancement for supporting the sustainability of CALL projects.

In Chapter Five, “How language teachers become effective users of CALL,” Sandra Morales and Scott Windeatt report on a study that investigated the experiences of seven in-service English teachers from Chile and Easter Island in an eight-week online teacher training course delivered on Moodle. Adopting a social-constructivist epistemological framework and a case study methodological design, the study aimed at exploring how the participants developed their technical and pedagogical understanding and expertise for online language instruction. The findings highlight the significance of attention to methodological design for developing CALL teacher training courses.

Part Two “Normalization of CALL”, consists of three chapters. In Chapter Six, “Factors that determine CALL integration,” Claidia Beatriz M.J. Martins and Herivelto Moreira talk about a quantitative study that investigated factors that predict CALL integration into university and college classrooms in a state in Brazil. The theoretical framework of the study considered technology use as a multi-faceted construct rather than a unitary one and was informed by Hing (2009). The study involved foreign language (FL) teachers from thirty three Modern Language courses. The data were collected through a survey questionnaire distributed to 270 FL teachers. The findings underline individual and contextual factors as the two key determiners in CALL integration.

In Chapter Seven, “Sustainable interaction-based research in CALL,” Francoise Blin et al., present a critical reflection on interaction-based research, especially data and elicitation methods, within a sustainable ergonomic context. The chapter underlines the key role of well-grounded conceptual frameworks for developing sustainable CALL research methods, data, and tools. Giving an overview of underlying principles of Complexity Theory, Activity Theory, and Theory of Affordances, it focuses on the significance of CALL ergonomics for interaction-based research and provision of a learner-centred, learning-focused research framework, exploring the opportunities and possibilities involved.

In Chapter Eight, “Factors in sustainable CALL,” Monica Ward discusses the key factors that predict the success of a CALL project and sustainability of CALL. The chapter highlights open educational resources, sustainable software, and sustainable CALL as the constituent components of the concept of sustainability. It enumerates a lack of understanding of the learner’s needs and the deployment context, a lack of institutional support and teacher and learner training, as well as software design and usability issues as the determining factors that can hinder CALL sustainability. It also presents a hybrid or agile software development paradigm as an approach that can inform needs analysis process, support the development and delivery of CALL materials to the target audience in real-life context, and enhance institutional support.

Part Three, “CALL systems,” consists of three chapters. In Chapter Nine, “From a vision to reality,” Emerita Banados reports on the creation and sustainability of an English as a foreign language (EFL) blended-learning environment and online community over a ten-year period. In this technology-supported program, the faculty were encouraged to explore the potential of information communication technology for improving language learning processes within a Chilean academic context. The program demonstrates a combination of independent learning within an interactive multimedia platform, online and face-to-face tutoring and monitoring by EFL teachers and native speakers, web-based interaction with an international audience, and oral and online assessment and evaluation. The author highlights the key role of attention to learners’ needs, contextual requirements, and specification of the roles of teachers, learners, and technology in the sustainability of such programs.

In Chapter Ten, “Building and sustaining online communities of practice,” Jonathan White discusses the economization processes of English in computer-mediated communication, the formation of learner discourse communities based on such processes, and the role of interaction in language learning and in sustainability of such communities. The corpus for this study included text chat-logs from twenty eight learners of English as a second language in a distance MA program in English linguistics in Sweden. The author argues that norm-setting practices of the participants in terms of using reduced forms and the interactive nature and function of elliptical contributions are indicative of a functioning and sustainable online community of practice.

In Chapter Eleven, “A student self-evaluation system,” Ishikawa et al., report on a two-phase research project in a Japanese university The researchers investigated the role of online learning activities and materials provided in a blended learning environment in improving students’ learning English as a second or foreign language, developing self-regulated learning skills, and sustained use of such materials beyond the classroom context. The participants were twenty nine EFL students enrolled in a blended learning course called English for Certified Tests. The findings underline the significance of evaluation systems, including e-monitoring and student self-evaluation for sustainable engagement of students and their use of online materials.

Part Four “Mobile-assisted language learning”, consists of four chapters. Chapter Twelve concerns an evidence-based study of mobile-assisted language learning (MALL) in an Asian higher education context. Highlighting a few emerging trends and issues in MALL, Qing Ma presents a case study exploring how a group of twenty five university students from various educational and linguistic backgrounds in Hong Kong were engaged in a personalized informal language learning experience using their mobile technologies. Questionnaires, interviews, guided self reflections, and student-provided learning evidence constituted data collection methods in this study. The findings point out that laptops and smartphones are the most popular and useful technologies for learning English among the participants.

In Chapter Thirteen, Caroline Steel adopts a constructivist theoretical framework and draws on the notion of collaborative co-inquiry to investigate students’ perspectives on the affordances and limitations of mobile technologies and applications for language learning. The data for this chapter were drawn from two research projects. The first project was a large-scale survey conducted in an Australian university which among other things investigated what technologies foreign language students used to support their language learning within and beyond classroom. The second project involved a more in-depth investigation of students’ perceptions and understanding of the benefits and constraints of various technologies in the same higher education context. The findings indicate a number of general and language-specific affordances as well as practical and pedagogical constraints in using mobile technologies.

In Chapter Fourteen, “Mobile app design for individual and sustainable MALL,” Heyoung Kim presents qualitative research that draws on empirical data from twenty two Korean college students who have used mobile apps individually for second language learning over a fifteen-week period. The data comes from a pre-survey, interviewing the participants, and analyzing their weekly mobile logs; it aims at shedding light on the participants’ selection and use patterns, factors that help sustain or impede their mobile practices, and their preferences regarding contents and functions of smartphone apps. The findings highlight the significance of mobile design and learner factor for continuous use of mobile learning.

In Chapter Fifteen, “Improving learners’ reading skills through instant short messages,” Mar Gutierrez-Colon Plana et al., report on a twelve-week project that explored the affordances and constraints of using WhatsApp as an instant short messaging system to enhance language learners’ reading comprehension skills including vocabulary, attention, and retention in ESP. The participants were ninety five students studying English as a component of their degree at a university in Spain. The data were collected through an initial questionnaire that elicited information about the participants’ reading habits in English, students’ responses to different exercises, and a final survey that measured the participants’ satisfaction. The findings indicate that the patricians reported improvement, positive attitudes, and an increase in their motivation to read in English and in their reading comprehension at the end of the project.

Part Five “Innovation in CALL”, consists of three chapters. In Chapter Sixteen, “Eye tracking in CALL,” Breffni O’Rourke et al., address current and future trends and applications of eye tracking in CALL research. Using the general advantage of eye tracking in capturing Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) as the point of departure, Breffni O’Rourke et al., focus on the relatively recent application of eye tracking to synchronous computer-mediated communication research and how eye tracking can provide an enhanced picture of learners’ attentional focus in synchronous online language learning. They also discuss how the triangulation of eye tracking with other data collection methods can enable learners and teachers to reflect on their learning and provide researchers with a better understanding of learning processes and ultimately enhance online pedagogy.

In Chapter Seventeen, “Using text analyzers,” Erifili Roubou reports on a study which examined the effects of task complexity on academic L2 writing. The study had two major objectives: first, to examine the effects of the participants’ proficiency level on cognitive constructs in tasks with different levels of difficulty; second, to examine the relationship between the cognitive demands of tasks and participants’ performance on those constructs in written production. The participants were twenty three first-year university students. The data were collected through a proficiency test and two writing tasks completed under different conditions in terms of complexity and cognitive load. The findings indicate that proficiency level can significantly affect syntactic complexity and readability when task complexity is increased.

In Chapter Eighteen, “How to tell digital stories with handcrafted video clips,” Eva Wilden and Frauke Matz argue that digital storytelling as a sustainable approach scaffolds the pedagogy of multi-literacies and supports learners’ development into becoming creators and designers of their futures. The chapter also presents various samples of different projects that have used this approach. Finally, the authors put forward a number of suggestions and implications for using and adapting this approach in different contexts across the world.

In the conclusion section, Francoise Blin et al., outline the significant conceptual and methodological contributions, conclusions, and implications of the studies presented in the book, highlight how the constituent chapters have addressed the core issues in the development of sustainable CALL, and foreground the new avenues of research in this domain towards which the findings of the book point.


“WordCALL: Sustainability and Computer-Assisted Language Learning” presupposes a knowledge base and expertise in CALL research and education. It is addressed to novice and established members of the CALL discourse community who want to professionally develop themselves regarding the state of the art research and future avenues of inquiry in this domain.

The volume is an invaluable resource for CALL practitioners in a number of respects. It is the result of the collaborative work of high-caliber CALL editors and researchers such as Mike Levy whose pioneering perspectives and invaluable contributions have always furthered and enriched CALL knowledge repertoire. The focus on key disciplinary discussions including sustainability, CALL normalization (Bax, 2003), and mobile-assisted language learning, selection of international cutting-edge studies, as well as thematic organization of the chapters are all indicative of the comprehensive knowledge of the editors of the current conversations and concerns in this domain. These informed decisions and quality editing are the factors that distinguish this volume from merely ordinary conference proceedings volumes which are generally developed after academic conferences. Moreover, this interesting volume projects a multi-faceted picture of the concept of sustainability, examining it from the perspectives of different stakeholders including learners, teachers, researchers, and academic institutions. It also provides invaluable implications and suggestions for both policy and practice for sustainable CALL practice. Furthermore, the research reported in this volume enjoys a wide and colourful array of conceptual and theoretical frameworks, innovative methodological designs and approaches, and contextual diversities and variations in examining the hot topic of sustainability; this make this volume a must-read for CALL practitioners globally.

Overall, this book is a very a timely and welcome contribution to research on the concept of sustainability in CALL. Any comments on what more could have been included or addressed seem difficult, as the nature and focus of the papers presented at the conference, and the editors’ subjective criteria for selection are not known. However, based on the current content, the book could have done more justice to sustainability in other key areas such as technology-assisted task-based language learning, gamification, and culture learning (Levy, 2007).


Bax, S. (2003). CALL - Past, Present and Future. System 31(1), 13-28.

Levy, M. (2007). Culture, culture learning and new technologies: Towards a pedagogical
framework. Language Learning & Technology: A Refereed Journal for Second and Foreign
Language Educators, 11(2), 104-127.
Pejman Habibie holds a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics and is an assistant professor at The University of Western Ontario. He has university teaching experience in undergraduate & graduate levels in Canada, Mexico, and Iran. He has published in refereed international journals and presented at inter/national conferences. His research interests include technology-enhanced language teaching & learning, academic literacies, English for research publication purposes, academic writing, and academic genres.

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