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Review of  The Handbook of Technology and Second Language Teaching and Learning


Reviewer: Roman Lesnov
Book Title: The Handbook of Technology and Second Language Teaching and Learning
Book Author: Carol A. Chapelle Shannon Sauro
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
General Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 29.4114

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Review:
SUMMARY

Carol A. Chapelle and Shannon Sauro defined the goal of The Handbook of Technology and Second Language Teaching and Learning as follows: “to communicate to a broad range of readers, within the field and beyond, the shape and texture of the technology-rich environments that language learners inhabit today as well as the relevance of these environments for second language teaching and learning” (p. 1). To accomplish this goal, the editors of the volume have collected the insights from 39 acclaimed scholars from the United States and beyond. The chapters of the volume shed light on four main topics, namely language teaching and learning through technology (Part I), innovation at the technology-pedagogy interface (Part II), technology for second language assessment (Part III), and research and development of technology for language learning (Part IV). There are 28 mainstream chapters in the volume, bracketed by the introduction (Chapter 1) and the conclusion (Chapter 30) from the editors.

Part I of the volume takes the reader on a 8-chapter journey into technology and language pedagogy (i.e., Chapters 2 through 9). This journey starts in Chapter 2 where Sue Otto provides a comprehensive historical overview of how the role of technology in language learning and teaching has progressed from the early 1900s to the present day. Sue connects the progressive role of technology to the evolution of language teaching methods, all the while giving relevant examples of former and current technological tools for second language classrooms. Chapters 3-10 further explore practices with technology for the following areas, or skills, of second language pedagogy: grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, listening, speaking, and intercultural competence. The chapter on grammar discusses sophisticated computer-assisted language learning applications, corpora, and computer-mediated communication tools. It also synthesizes research into feedback- and autonomy-driven aspects of technology-assisted grammar instruction. The remaining chapters are organized in a similar way. Most of the chapters begin with the contemporary conceptualization of the skill, thereby providing a theoretical basis for the discussed technological applications. The technological tools and applications are then described in terms of their potential to support the teaching and learning of the skill. This is normally followed by a summary and a discussion of future research directions.

Part II of the volume presents another 10 chapters on the issues that have emerged at the intersection of technology and second language pedagogy. The first six chapters address the following configurations for technology-assisted second language teaching: distance language teaching, blended language learning, telecollaboration, virtual worlds, digital gaming, and mobile technologies. The authors provide definitions of and theoretical underpinnings for using these technologies and summarize existing research into the corresponding pedagogical approaches. In Chapter 13, for instance, Randal Sadler defines virtual worlds and chronicles signposts of their evolution. Using a classification of virtual worlds based on age, game, socialization levels, education focus, and technical requirements, he gives an overview of several modern-day virtual worlds. Randal then summarizes the existing research into the effects of virtual worlds on language teaching and learning, including the effects on language learners’ collaboration, anxiety, and beliefs, and discusses the future pedagogical directions of using virtual worlds for language learning. The remaining Chapters 16 through 19 explore the affordances of modern technology for four areas, namely task-based language teaching, language-for-specific-purposes teaching, development of new literacies in a second language classroom, and teacher education. Each chapter situates the respective area in the contemporary literature, summarizes the research-based knowledge about the role of technology in the area, and discusses burning challenges and future research agendas for the area. For example, in Chapter 18, Paige Ware introduces the reader to the origins, theoretical bases, and affordances of new literacies. Ware further synthesizes research on new literacies, showing how they contribute to the construction of learners’ identities, development of classroom-based language instruction, and development of learners’ intercultural competence. A number of challenges are then discussed, including a digital divide and assessment-related issues.

Part III of the volume explores current trends in the use of technology for second language assessment. Three chapters in this part are devoted to the role of technology in low-stakes instructional assessments, high-stakes second language tests, and validation of tests. In Chapter 20, Joan Jamieson and Matteo Musumeci review twelve online second language learning programs’ and thirty-six language textbooks’ online assessments to see how well they match with the contents of the corresponding marketed courses, what feedback is provided, and how effective this feedback is for learners’ understanding. The authors conclude the chapter by discussing possible ways to improve online instructional assessments. In Chapter 21, Jonathan Schmidgall and Donald Powers describe the use of technology in three stages of high-stakes language testing, namely test development and administration, scoring, and security. Relying on knowledge and findings from previous research, the authors provide specific suggestions on how to facilitate each of the stages. Current challenges and suggestions for future research close the chapter. Building on the work by Jonathan Schmidgall and Donald Powers, Yoo-Ree Chung in Chapter 22 points to the need for looming adjustments for the argument-based approach of validating technology-enhanced second language tests. You-Ree provides specific questions for evaluating each of the validity inferences in the most recent version of the argument-based validation framework (Kane, 2006; Messick, 1989; Bachman & Palmer, 2010; Chapelle, Enright, & Jamieson, 2008).

Part IV of the volume zeroes in on two aspects of using technology for language learning – research and development. Chapter 23 by Robert Godwin-Jones opens this section by discussing the role of authoring courseware in language learning. Robert provides a definition and a brief historical overview of courseware in computer-assisted language learning, followed by the discussion of specific software tools that fall in one of the four categories: multimedia courseware, intelligent language tutors, commercial courseware or open educational resources, and web-delivered courseware. Chapters 24 through 29 are more research-oriented, with the foci on the following: empirical investigations through the improvement of the design of a technological tool (Chapter 24 by Julio Rodriguez), research methods supporting different argument-based approaches to evaluating technologies for language learning (Chapter 25 by Carol Chapelle), research methods for investigating effects of technology on various facets of language ability, namely grammar and vocabulary, reading and writing, listening and speaking, and pragmatics (Chapter 26 by Dorothy Chun), procedures for conducting meta-analyses and for researching transparency of the existing meta-analyses in the field of computer-assisted language learning (Chapter 27 by Hsien-Chin Liou and Hui-Fen Lin), theoretical and methodological considerations for researching technology-mediated multimodality in language education (Chapter 28 by Thierry Chanier and Marie-Noëlle Lamy), and approaches to conducting research, including specific data collection methods, in the field of second language acquisition (Chapter 29 by Bryan Smith).

In Chapter 30, Shannon Sauro and Carol Chapelle draw a conclusion about the status and role of technology in the field of second language learning and teaching. Synthesizing the discussions in the previous chapters of the volume, the authors identify three fundamental themes that could guide the field of computer-assisted language learning and teaching: the multimodal nature of language abilities, “diffusion of innovation” (p. 463) in second language classrooms, and the relationship between research and practice. The authors conclude the chapter and the volume by discussing burning issues for the future of technology-assisted language learning and teaching.

EVALUATION

The authors of the present volume have successfully described “the shape and texture of the technology-rich environments that language learners inhabit today as well as the relevance of these environments for second language teaching and learning” (p. 1). As part of this overarching goal, the volume has accumulated theoretical underpinnings for understanding and solving issues in the field of technology-assisted language learning. Each technology (e.g., application or software) was discussed through the lens of the related theory and/or history. This strong theoretical basis supported the authors’ interpretations of research on the effects of the technology on language teaching and learning, strengthening the authors’ arguments. The practical value of this volume lies in the extensive implications of specific technological tools for teaching various facets of language abilities. Modern tools and applications are discussed throughout the book in terms of their effects on language learning and instruction, which can guide novice and experienced teachers and researchers in the field. Articulated by some of the best scholars in the assessment field, the volume is, thus, a valuable source of contemporary theory, research, applications, and ideas about using technology for language learning.

The final chapter is particularly appreciated as it presents a comprehensive synthesis of the major issues discussed in the handbook. Often, editors of similar professional collections overlook the need for a concluding chapter that would bring home to the reader the overall underlying message of the volume. Shannon Sauro and Carol Chapelle did a great job bringing together the myriads of issues discussed by the authors of the preceding chapters and shedding light on directions future researchers may want to follow. This effective closure, along with the detailed introduction and professionally crafted chapters, make this handbook one of the most comprehensive in the domain of technology-assisted language learning.

The excellent writing of this volume’s editors and authors leaves the reviewer with very little criticism. One weakness of the volume might be the coverage of issues related to technology-assisted second language assessment. Relative to other issues, this topic seems to have been paid little attention. Focused discussions of cutting-edge assessment topics by language skill area (e.g., reading and writing, listening and speaking, English for specific purposes) might be a desirable addition to future volumes on technology and language learning. Some notes on the handbook’s organization can also be made. The table of contents could be broken down into four parts rather than having all the thirty chapters in an undivided array. Also, the handbook seems to have a few typos and slips in formatting heading levels. Fixing these minor issues would have further improved the navigation through and the readability of the prose.

REFERENCES

Bachman, L., & Palmer, A. (2010). Language Assessment in practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chapelle, C., Enright, M., & Jamieson, J. (Eds.). (2008). Building a validity argument for the Test of English as a Foreign Language. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kane, M. (2006). Validation. In R. Brennan (Ed.), Educational measurement (4th ed). (pp. 17–64), Westport, CT: American Council on Education and Praeger.

Messick, S. (1989). Validity. In R. Linn (Ed.), Educational measurement (3rd ed.) (pp. 13-103). New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Roman Lesnov received his Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from Northern Arizona University. His research interests include second language assessment and statistical methods in applied linguistics.