Are ESL/EFL Software Programs Effective for Language Learning?
This study investigated the extent to which ESL/EFL software programs available on the market develop language skills according to the principles of Communicative Teaching and an interactive approach to computer use for language learning. A software evaluation instrument was used to evaluate fifteen ESL/EFL software programs available on the market for the technological, pedagogical and individualization features that would account for the incorporation of Communicative Language Teaching principles and an interactive approach to computer use in language teaching. Results indicated that only three programs incorporated more than seventy-five percent of the technological features, four programs incorporated more than seventy percent of the pedagogical features, and only one program contained more than seventy percent of the features that allow for individualization of instruction. Overall, only two programs incorporated more than seventy percent of the technological, pedagogical and individualizing features and created environments that developed language skills according to the principles of Communicative Language Teaching and an interactive approach to computer use for language learning. The analysis of the programs provided evidence that the key differentiating factor in ESL software programs lies not only in their pedagogical orientation, but also in how and the extent to which they incorporate Communicative Language Teaching principles and an interactive language learning approach into their design. Although all programs claimed to incorporate communicative theories of language learning into their elaboration, they had to a lesser or greater degree difficulty in elaborating activities that would develop language skills according to this approach.
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