3.3. Data Analysis
5. Discussion & Conclusion
The use of technology in language learning and teaching programs is very essential. The present study was set out to investigate the effects of E-mail writing on improving EFL learners' written communication and autonomy. The participants of the study were 44 female and male sophomore students, by the age of 18-21 who were randomly assigned to the two groups of experimental and control. Each group consisted of 22 participants. The course lasted for 5 months, and was held in one of the universities in Urmia, Iran. The first group (experimental group) sent their assignments through emails in addition to the traditional class activities but the second group (control group) had the traditional class and assignments were handed in hard copies. For measuring the written communication, a pre-test and post-test was administered to both groups. The pre- and post-tests were criterion reference tests (recognition tests and productive writing activities), based on the materials covered in the class. The pre- and post-tests were parallel recognition tests and productive writing tasks. In order to measure the participants' level of autonomy, the Learner Autonomy Questionnaire, developed by Kashefian (2002), with 40 items in a five-point Likert scale was given to them. The obtained data was analyzed through the SPSS software. The results of this study will be useful for language teachers, learners, administrators and material developers.
Keywords: Computer assisted language learning (CALL); electronic mail (E-mail); written communication; learner autonomy
Until quite recently, "computer-assisted language learning (CALL) was a topic of relevance mostly to those with a special interest in that area. Recently, though, computers have become so widespread in schools and homes and their uses have expanded so dramatically that the majority of language teachers must now begin to think about the implications of computers for language learning" (p. 1)1. As cited by Toyoda (2001), Learner autonomy has been widely discussed in L2 research2,3,4."Increasingly, the use of modern technology, such as email, the Internet, HTML editors, is coupled with cooperative approaches to and the positive effects of technology on language learning in general has been demonstrated" (p. 1)2. A careful analysis of the literature illustrates how little is known about how technology affects the exercise of learner autonomy. It is envisaged that the success of autonomous learning would be greatly influenced by learners' computer literacy and their beliefs in technology-incorporated learning2.
Language existed long before writing, emerging maybe simultaneously with sagacity, abstract thought and genus of human beings. With the advent of computers into academic classrooms, many changes happened in writing process. For example, Costanzol (1994), for the effectiveness of writing via computer commented that "computers serve as enactive models. They offer physical analogies to the mental and perceptual activities of writing and give inexperienced writers access to alternatives that might otherwise remain invisible" (p. 17)5. Since 1960s, CALL programs in USA were designed to evaluate the efficacy of CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction) on the basis of experimental issues with relation to traditional instructional modes6. In these days, exercises included grammar and syntax drills, translation and dictation. But it has grown from research projects to the effectiveness of application of CALL to class instructional programs7. In the 1970s, with the introduction of language laboratories which were influenced by Audio Lingual Method (ALM), a new room to CALL work stations was opened8. Before using of CALL, the term CALI (Computer Assisted Language Instruction) was used, which gets its origin from
CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction)8. Warshauer (1996), defined CALL as acronym for Computer Assisted Language learning and it is related to the use of computer for language teaching and learning1. Warschauer (1996) and Warschauer & Healey (1998), identified three historical phases of CALL, classified as their pedagogical and methodological approaches1,9:
1. Structural CALL: Conceived in the 1950s and implemented in the 1970s and 1980s.
2. Communicative CALL: Become prominent in the 1980s to 1990s.
3. Integrative CALL: Embracing Multimedia and the Internet from 2000 onwards.
Table.l. Warschauer^ three stages of CALL
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CMC (Computer Mediated Communication) has existed in primitive form since the 1960s. It is the single computer application to date with the greatest impact on language teaching and it has only become wide-spread in the last 20 years1. E-mail is one of the ways of sending a message or written essay or letter from one computer to another via Internet. Today, use of e-mail is very common in language learning. It is about 4 decades that computers are used in language learning. So that, this is one of the most important of human invention, in which learners can communicate with speakers and other learners of the target language during 24 hours in a day without any limitation, from anywhere that they want such as school, home work and etc. There are two types of communication via internet:
1. Synchronous or real time communication, in which people can have a simultaneous conversation by typing at their keyboard by using special programs such as Moos And Chat rooms. It allows for interaction between teacher and student outside the class situation, or between small or large groups as an interactional discussion.
2. Asynchronous (not simultaneous) communication, in which by using tools such as electronic mail (E-mail), which allows everyone to make their own messages and convey their own feelings and desires at their time and pace. They can also use the web to find authentic materials such as newspapers, articles, and magazines and search millions of fields around the world.
On the other hand, learner autonomy has been a buzz word in foreign language education in the past decades which has modified traditional learning drills and by developing selfaccess language centers around the world, language teaching is now seen as language learning and it has placed the learner at the centre of language learning education4. There is a tremendous attention to learner autonomy, self-directed learning, self-access systems, individualized or independent learning in language learning during the last 2 decades. The Council of Europe (COE) established a Modern Language Project in 1971 and one of the results of this project was the establishment of the Centre de Researches et ď Applications en Languages (CRAPEL) at University of Nancy, France. CRAPEL project was based on providing adults with opportunities for life-long learning. The founder of it was Yves Chalan, whom by many is considered to be the father of autonomy in language learning.
But as he died in 1972, he could not document his field and Henry Holec, became the leader of CRAPEL. So that, Holec's project reported to COE is considered as a key early document on autonomy in language learning. As a consequence, the term "learner autonomy" was first defined by Henri Holec in 1981 and after that time, he was known as the father of learner autonomy. Holec (1981), defined learner autonomy as "the ability to take charge of one's own learning which is not inborn but must be acquired either by natural means or formal learning, i.e. in a systematic, deliberate way and also to take charge of one's learning is to have the responsibility for all the decisions concerning all aspects of this learning" (p. 1)4. "Students, who trust in their technological tools, are able to make full use of the tools to support their autonomous learning" (p. 3)2.
In Iran, because native language is Farsi and English is as a foreign language and also because of the lack of access to native speakers in educational settings, CALL can help learners to compensate this lack and help them to practice English by watching films, listening to music or pronunciation of native speakers and learning individually. Especially, learning through CALL is useful for those who are shy or feel threatened in class or who are introverts and do not have opportunity to show themselves in academic situations. Although, a number of attempts have been made to learn about academic writing tasks across the college curriculum, relatively few studies have focused on computer-based writing activities and reaching autonomy2. Accordingly, there are researches which have investigated Iranian students' foreign language learning attitudes, attitude towards CALL and relationship between these variables10. But in Iran there is a gap in area like learning writing through CALL in universities or in institutes and schools and also the effect of technology on learners' autonomy. So the purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of E-mail on the improvement of EFL learners' written communication and autonomy which attempts to address that gap.
This study was conducted with the students at Urmia University. In both experimental and control groups there were 22 female and male students, by the age of 18-21, who were sophomore students. The time of the class of group 1 was from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. and for group 2 the time was from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the same day. Duration of the course was 5 months in Urmia University, Iran. Students in each group were native speakers of Turkish, Kurdish and Persian.
In order to determine the role of e-mail on the development of written communication and autonomy of students, a test of language proficiency (Oxford Placement Test) was administered among 55 young sophomore learners out of whom those whose scores lie between one SD below and above the mean were selected for the study. Two EFL groups were chosen randomly. The participants of the study were included forty-four sophomore learners in Urmia University. In order to determine their level of proficiency, Oxford Placement Test was used. Each test consisted of two sub-tests and contained 100 questions of grammatical structures, which administered in the form of multiple-choice items. The Marking Kit with Users' Guide and Diagnostic Key contained a separate marking overlay for each page of the test, which was scored objectively. Subtotals for each student added up, to give total scores and the tests were placed in rank order. For measuring the written communication, a pre-test and post-test was used and for measuring learners' autonomy, a questionnaire was given to students. The T-test was used in both groups. Both groups took pre-test. After the pre-test, learners were received the instruction based on the materials covered in the class. The first group (experimental group) had the chance to work with emails and send their assignments through e-mails in addition to the traditional class activities but the second group (control group) did not have this opportunity and just had the traditional class. The learners were involved in a parallel test and productive writing task at the end of the treatment (used as post-test).
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