The computer literacy recursion in instrumental CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning).

NERA-1991 North Eastern Research Association

In the design of agentive CALL (Computer-Assisted Language Learning) materials, the focus is almost exclusively on the teaching functions of the machine and the pedagogical content to be transmitted. Every effort is made to make the operation of the machine transparent and the programs user-friendly. The learner's efforts are directed towards subject matters and the development of skills to adequately manipulate the programmed object of learning. In contrast in an instrumental mode the applications are void of subject matter. There is an operational level in computer use that invokes a recursion of learning and teaching tasks in the larger learning and teaching cycle. To use an analogy from Soviet Activity Theory the process is similar to the novice car driver who initially invests conscious effot into learning how to shift gears before s/he can think of the car solely for the purpose of getting some place. Similarly, the novice computer user invests effort into learning how to operate instrumental computer technology before the instrumentality of the operations are grasped, integrated and used for higher functions in the activity system. In instrumental CALL then, there is a taken for granted knowledge that is acquired in the form of cultural capital. This knowledge is computer literacy and it is acquired as an instrumentality in a recursion of learning and teaching tasks occuring at the operational level of tool use. Further, as "forgotten" knowledge that functions to empower learners towards higher levels of activity, it is likely to function as a spurious variable in studies of the writing process. In this paper, findings of an action research study of instrumental CALL in a third/fourth grade classroom are reported where the dynamics and forms of this computer literacy recursion in language learning and teaching tasks are made explicit.

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