The University of Arizona

CALL in Context: A Brief Historical and Theoretical Perspective

Mustafa Polat


Computers have been used for language teaching since the 1960s (Warschauer & Healey, 1998), and several recent studies suggest that there is still a strong need to experiment with technology and digital tools in both education and language learning (Godwin-Jones, 2012; Goertler, 2009; Levy, 2009; Reinhardt & Ryu, 2013; Zhao, 2003).  Because of the speed of technology, there have been drastic changes in every field in which technology is used as a medium. Each time that a society has developed a new medium for the transmission of knowledge, there have been profound consequences for language and language pedagogy (Wright, 2006). In fact, Rankin (2010) admits that the information shift is as drastic as the move from handwritten texts to books from the printing press (as cited in Fargo, 2012). Fargo further points out that information and knowledge are no longer held by the few in select repositories waiting to be disseminated to the masses by a master teacher. Information, both accurate and inaccurate, is free and available for use instantly over the Internet. Due to this and several other innovations and renovations in educational methods, there is a strong need to elaborate on educational technology tools grounded within a historical framework and to reflect on both constraints and affordances of new technologies. Therefore, this article is a partial response to this need; it both draws a map of the current state of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) and positions this map within an existing theoretical and historical view of how technology has been used in education and language pedagogy.


Computer Assisted Language Acquisition; CALL; L2; pedagogy; educational technology

Full Text:



Ally, M. (2008). Foundations of educational theory for online learning. In Anderson, T. and Elloumi, F. (eds.) Theory and practice of online learning. Athabasca, AB: Athabasca University. Retrieved from:

Fargo, J. (2012). Emerging technologies and their application to middle school classrooms. [Web log comment] Retrieved from

Godwin-Jones, R. (2012). Emerging technologies. Challenging hegemonies in online learning. Language Learning & Technology, 16 (2), 4-13. Retrieved from:

Goertler, S. (2009). Using computer-mediated communication (CMC) in language teaching. Die Unterrichtspraxis/Teaching German, 42(1), 74-84.

Jarvis, H., & Achilleos, M. (2013). From computer assisted language learning (CALL) to mobile assisted language use (MALU). TESL-EJ: Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, 16(4).

Levy, M. (1997). CALL in context I: A historical perspective. In M. Levy. Computer-Assisted Language Learning: Context and Conceptualization (pp. 13-46). Oxford University Press: New York, NY.

Levy, M. (2009). Technologies in use for second language learning. The Modern Language Journal, 93(Supplement), 769-782. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2009.00972.x

Reinhardt, J. and Ryu, J. (2013). Using social network-mediated bridging activities to develop socio-pragmatic awareness in elementary Korean. International Journal of Computer Assisted Language Learning and Teaching 3(3), 18-33.

Sparrow, B., Liu, J., & Wegner, D. M. (2011). Google effects on memory: Cognitive consequences of having information at our fingertips. Science, 333(6043), 776-778.

VanSlyke, T. (2003). Digital natives, digital immigrants: Some thoughts from the generation gap. The technolog17y source, 7(3).

Warschauer, M., & Healey, D. (1998). Computers and language learning: An overview. Language Teaching, 31(02), 57-71.

Webster, L and Murphy, D. (2008). Enhancing learning through technology: challenges and responses. In Kwan, R., Fox, R., Chan F.T. & Tsang, P (Eds). Enhancing learning through technology: research on emerging technologies and pedagogies (pp. 1-16). New Jersey: World Scientific.

Wright, S. (2006). Language and the internet. Sociolinguistica, 20(20), 166-182.

Zhao, Y. (2003). Recent developments in technology and language learning: A literature review and meta-analysis. CALICO Journal, 21(1), 7-27.


  • There are currently no refbacks.