Two Argentine educators who attended the WorldCALL 2008 Conference in Fukuoka returned home to establish ARCALL, an organization to support Argentine language teachers who are interested in computer-assisted learning. These two founders, Nelba Quintana and Jennifer Verschoor, are interviewed via email by Mary Hillis, an assistant professor of TEFL at Kansai Gaidai University.
From World CALL to…
The WorldCALL 2008 Conference: CALL Bridges the World was held at the Fukuoka International Conference Center so that participants and presenters could gather and share information related to computer-assisted language teaching and learning. Scholarships to attend the conference were awarded to people from developing countries who "have been active in CALL... as evidenced by recent publications, presentations, or ongoing projects" and have "a plan to disseminate the knowledge so gained upon their return home," according to Thomas Robb, chair of the conference scholarship committee (2008, para. 1). From a list of 125 applicants, Nelba Quintana and Jennifer Verschoor of Argentina were among the 13 finalists selected to be WorldCALL 2008 scholarship recipients.
…ARCALL: Computer Assisted Language Learning in Argentina
I had the opportunity to meet Nelba and Jennifer through the online community, Learning with Computers and Webheads. We participated in collaborative projects related to blogs and social media. Nelba and Jennifer are educational professionals who are committed to learning and sharing through educational technology. After attending the WorldCALL conference in Japan, they returned to Argentina and founded ARCALL, an organization to support Argentine language teachers who are interested in computer-assisted learning. It is impressive to note that ARCALL is not sponsored by any other organization and is completely the result of grassroots efforts by Nelba and Jennifer.
ARCALL has the following aims (ARCALL, 2008, para. 1):
- to increase the use of educational technology in EFL teaching
- to collaborate in the integration of ICT in Argentina in ways that are effective and appropriate
- to assist teachers in integrating ICT into their daily practices and as a means of developing themselves professionally
- to train teachers on using computers and the Internet in English language teaching
- to develop a research area to further apply new ideas into the classroom
Mary: What is your job? Could you briefly describe your teaching context in Argentina?
Nelba: Actually I am working as a blog content developer for the School of Languages of the National University of La Plata, Argentina. These blogs are the first steps of the School into the use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology). In addition, I am also working as website content developer for ICAB http://www.elbritanico.com. This work is really challenging because it is not related to teaching, but to technology and communication, so I have learned a lot about how to communicate on the net, such as the kinds of language, information, and images you are supposed to use in order to catch web surfers’ attention.
Jennifer: At the moment I am working in several companies teaching business English. I am also director of Teachnet, an ICT firm, and I am a senior teacher trainer at Intel.
Mary: In general, what role does technology have in the teaching of English in Argentina? What are some of the obstacles Argentine teachers face in using technology?
Nelba: Unfortunately, technology has never played an important role in our education system for several reasons. In general, authorities associate technology with entertainment but, in my humble opinion, the main reason is lack of organization. You cannot expect teachers to use a tool without the corresponding teacher training. A school may be very well equipped with technology but, unless teachers know what to do with it, all the money invested on that material is useless. In most of the other cases, schools do not have access to technology.
Jennifer: In many companies, even though all students have computers, they can’t view all the websites because some, like YouTube, are restricted. At schools it is very difficult to use technology because most schools lack equipment. Other obstacles include lack of training at schools, resistance from department heads, and old computers.
Mary: How did your experience as a WorldCALL 2008 scholarship recipient inspire you to create a CALL organization in Argentina and what is the mission of ARCALL?
Nelba: ARCALL was the result of our participation in WorldCALL 2008—an extraordinary experience. Jennifer and I were inspired and influenced by the CALL groups of other countries, especially Venezuela. So, when we came back to our country, we decided to start a group which gathers innovative language teaching professionals in Argentina.
Jennifer: WorldCALL has been the source of inspiration for ARCALL. We had the chance to observe what other countries were doing and everybody was really supportive and collaborated in sharing with us their experience with different CALL centers.
Mary: I would like to thank Nelba and Jennifer for taking their time to share their experiences.
To learn more about their work, consult Nelba Quintana’s blog post about WorldCALL at <englishvirtualcommunity.blogspot.com/2008/08/worldcall-2008-fukuoka-japan.html>and Jennifer Verschoor’s blog post about ARCALL at<jenverschoor.wordpress.com/2008/10/02/arcall/>
ARCALL. (2008, Sept. 17). Retrieved 2008, Dec. 12 from http://arcall.pbwiki.com/ARCALL-English-version
Robb, T. (2008). Announcing the 2008 World Call Scholarship Awardees. Retrieved 2008, Dec. 12 from http://wc3scholar.info/