A. Alresheed1, M. Leask2

1Bedfordshire University / Majmaah University (UNITED KINGDOM)
2Bedfordshire University (UNITED KINGDOM)
Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) technology and pedagogy have gained recognition globally for their success in supporting second language acquisition (SLA). In Saudi Arabia the government aims to provide most educational institutions with computers and networking for integrating CALL into classrooms. However, the recognition of CALL’s efficacy does not translate into easy acceptance and integration in English as a Second Language or English as a Foreign Language (ESL/EFL) classrooms in Saudi schools particularly where teaching of both English language, and information and communication technologies (ICT) is subject to religious and cultural constraints. There are ranges of other barriers that impede native Arabic speakers from learning English. Accordingly, the research question addressed in this paper is an exploration of the overt and covert factors that affect CALL use and integration in Saudi Arabian secondary schools. A case study approach using mixed methods was employed to interview and observe a sample of teachers and school inspectors in urban and rural secondary schools. Results were supplemented with an online questionnaire and analysed using both descriptive statistics and thematic analysis.

Previous research has identified the objective of CALL as ‘normalisation’ or complete integration of computers into everyday classroom life where they are used routinely by language students and teachers in the same manner as other learning tools. This concept is used as a standard by which to identify the material and non-material factors that impede SLA along with the technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) model and the technology acceptance model (TAM) (Alsofyani, bin Aris, Eynon, & Abdul Majid 2012) created to improve and understand the use of technology acceptance in classrooms. Ostensibly, the fact that young learners are already familiar with blogging, online chatting and gaming, iPods, smartphones and instant messaging should enhance the efficacy and ease of introducing digital technologies into the classroom. Yet despite teachers and students having access to a variety of ICT in a personal capacity, the analysis of results suggests that they are unable to integrate CALL effectively because of both overt and material constraints to do with access, training and resources on the one hand, and less tangible cultural and religious reasons that affect motivation and attitudes on the other. Urban and rural schools experience these factors differently. While constraints are not directly linked to lack of funding, or interest at the policy level, where the Ministry of Education has an express commitment to improve English language teaching, the results suggest some ambivalence about policy implementation.

The conclusion draws on the findings to recommend a model, emerging from the analysis, which proposes to address the covert and overt issues the study identifies, and provide systematic support for integrating CALL into Saudi Arabian English language classrooms.