EUROCALL 2001 Conference Report

Reseña EUROCALL 2001

 

Universidad Católoca de Nimega, Holanda

29 de agosto a 1 de septiembre de 2001

Introduction

The International Conference Eurocall 2001 was held from 29 August to 1 September 2001 at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, Netherlands. The conference attracted more than 350 participants from all over the world. Nijmegen, adjacent to the river de Waal, is one of the oldest historic towns of Holland. As a student town it offers lots of lively cafés and bars, which were frequently used by attendees in their free time.

The conference was very well organised by the hosts. The main organisers Everhard Ditters, Jacqueline Berns and Tom Ammerlaan were on hand at all times and there were also friendly helpers to give information or to solve any problems. The three university buildings, where the conference events took place were well situated, just a few minutes walking distance from each other. Transport was provided between the university campus and the hotels where participants stayed. Detailed online information was available before the conference, as well as printed material at the conference itself.

Pre-conference events and exhibition

As in other years there were pre-conference meetings arranged separately from the actual conference. These meetings included workshops and seminars where participants could get a practical insight into some of the latest technical improvements such as new software, telelearning or assessment procedures.

Throughout the conference week participants were able to attend a related exhibition set up by Philippe Delcloque with the title "An Illustrated History of Speech Technology in Language Learning"

Conference events

Participants met in five keynote speeches, one panel discussion and eight parallel sessions to listen to presentations addressing the conference main theme: "E-learning: language learning and language technology". To pay specific attention to some selected sub-themes the Conference Papers, Show and Tell Demonstrations and Poster Sessions were centered around seven main streams:

1. Design of software for interactive language learning
2. Assessment of the effectiveness of Computer-Assisted and Web-Enhanced Language Learning
3. Learners' Appreciation and Assessment of ICT-exploitation in Language Learning
4. Learner strategies in CALL
5. Pedagogical and didactic constraints on CALL
6. Computer-Assisted Proficiency Testing
7. New human-machine interfaces

Keynotes

Mike Levy (Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia) presented an overview about the theoretical orientations considering the optimal language learning environments. After introducing different computer-mediated environments for language learning he focused on Web-design established especially for the use in language teaching / learning. With the help of several practical examples in Web-design-projects he showed us the importance of adequate designing and he put great emphasis on the role of metaphors.

Rodolfo Delmonte (Universitŕ Ca' Foscari, Venezia, Italy) explained briefly the importance of appropriate feedback to the learner in the language learning process and he dealt with the difficulties of a computer-mediated learning environment. The problems we have to face when trying to give adequate feedback are mainly caused by the complexity of the language learning task. In his speech the presenter pointed out that improvements in speech and natural language processing technologies urgently needed to be integrated into CALL applications, while there was also a close relation to the linguistic content of communication-simulations. Some examples were given as the possible future ways to solve the presented difficulties.

Manfred Pienemann (University of Paderborn, Germany) summarised the history of intelligent testing and profiling methods, which in their present stage enable us to establish what our learners can learn. He focused on the cardinal importance of testing for teachers: the language acquisition level tells teachers what they can teach next. In the second part of his lecture a method for language acquisition testing called Rapid Profile was introduced and its procedural and conceptual aspects were described in detail.

Gabrielle Hogan-Brun (University of Bristol, UK) talked about some important questions requiring more research in the context of e-learning. We have to pay more attention to surveying learners' needs, as the key issue in the effective implementation of new technologies. The usability and relevance of e-learning to wider communities of learners in a global age was also mentioned as a further important research field.

Since Steve Molyneux (University of Wolverhampton, UK) could not attend the conference, Philippe Delcloque shared with the audience the material Steve had forwarded. The talk explored some significant changes in the field of education, especially concerning open and distance learning. The important role of technology, its growing influence on education and training was stressed.

In the Panel Discussion researchers from four continents, Carol A. Chapelle (University of Illinois, USA), Marie-Noëlle Lamy (Open University, UK), Hsien-Chin Liou (National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan), Mike Levy (Griffith University, Australia) discussed the needs and possible ways of fruitful CALL research. Questions about sensible technical and financial investments along with questions and comments from the audience were also debated.

Closing session and post-conference activity

In the very nice closing session the president of EuroCALL, Bernd Rüschoff, summarised the annual meeting and expressed his thanks on behalf of all the attendees to the organisers and to the helpers for the successful conference. Then Peppi Taalas, the organiser of the 10th EuroCALL-Conference provided us with some information about next year's meeting. In 2002 the conference will be held between 14-17 August in Jyväskylä, Finland. Further details will be posted on the conference website. As a post conference activity a great excursion was offered for all the participants to the Kröller-Muller Museum in Arnhem on Saturday afternoon. This Museum can be found amidst amazingly beautiful natural surroundings and houses a world famous collection of fine art, mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries. The focal points of the museum are the extensive range of works by Vincent van Gogh and the sculpture garden. All in all this outing was a worthy closing activity for the 9th EuroCALL conference in the Netherlands.

Ida Dringó-Horváth
University ELTE of Budapest
Holder of the János Kohn Scholarship, 2001