Agora World: A Glimpse into the Future of Technology in Language Teaching and Learning

Cowin, J. (2023) Agora World: A Glimpse into the Future of Technology in Language Teaching and Learning. NYS TESOL Journal 10 (1), 51-58.

This article provides an intriguing “glimpse” into the future of language learning and the potential of virtual reality (VR) and multimedia technologies to transform language education. Through a materials review of Agora World  a code-free, drag and drop platform which allows users to fairly easily build immersive experiences, the author explores its potential to enable language instructors to create virtual worlds and immersive experiences in which learners can engage in meaningful tasks and activities to support and enhance their language learning. “Agora World holds the promise of content-based, project-based, or task-based language learning, making it possible for language teachers to construct original virtual worlds, gallery walks, and learning pathways for L2 learners to master language production.”.

These tasks and activities could include gallery walks in which learners can practice conversations, quests in which learners can carry out assigned tasks , including solving a problem together, and experiment with new vocabulary.  In each case instructors can  review and monitor progress and participation. Learners can also create stories and media boards to show language concepts learned, and these can be included in portfolios for assessment.

The author notes that while VR and immersive technologies hold much promise for language learning, the role of the instructor will be crucial in  designing and creating and curating appropriate and meaningful immersive content to support language learners.

Agora World provides a free version with most of the functionality of a subscription version which enables users to explore and evaluate the potential for teaching and learning.

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Emerging technologies and language learning: mining the past to transform the future

Hubbard, Philip. (2023) Emerging technologies and language learning: mining the past to transform the future.  Journal of China Computer-Assisted Language Learning, 2-19.

This article is a personal reflection on the lessons the author, has learned over four decades of teaching and research in Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL).

In the article, Dr. Hubbard begins by offering a simple model of technology-mediated language learning, developed through his experiences and reflection on using technology as an instructor.  This model illustrates what he describes as the elements of a technology mediation system, and how interactions through technology are influenced by that technology, and how technology can support and indeed sometimes impede language learning. He concludes, “… teachers, researchers and developers need to go beyond surface affordances and do what they can to take into account the potential elements of the technology mediation system on the learners as they engage in interactions.”

He then goes on to review seven experiences from his work in CALL, beginning in the 1980’s, which ultimately shaped his teaching, research and professional activities. These include software evaluation, computer games for language learning, learner training and using MALL.

Finally, he offers for consideration a set of guiding principles based on his own learning and insights gained over several decades as a language instructor and researcher as follows :

  1. Consider the mediational properties of the technology you want to use and how they relate to the learning goals.
  2. Be sure to understand how an application or technology-based task works before judging its value. When you do judge it, consider it from the perspective of how it fits both you and your students.
  3. Avoid hype—be especially skeptical of unsupported claims about emerging technologies.
  4. Seek out relevant research and practice literature but read it critically.
  5. Teach reflectively with technology. Plan thoughtfully, monitor what is happening with your students while they are using technology, and especially reflect afterwards. Encourage your students to do the same to improve their use of that technology for future learning.
  6. Take time and make the effort to train your students to use technology more effectively for language learning.

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Exploring the Needs, Practices, and Attitudes Toward Technology Integration of Community College ESOL Instructors

Cunningham, C., and Kolski, T. 2021. Exploring the Needs, Practices, and Attitudes Toward Technology Integration of Community College ESOL Instructors. In Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT):Annual Proceedings, V. 2. Selected Papers on the Practice of Educational Communications and Technology. Chicago, 2021. pp.370-382.

This short, accessible article reports on a study examining the professional development needs of adult ESL instructors in relation to the effective integration of technology. Based on classroom observations, instructor interviews, a focus group interview and a researcher journal this study explored the experiences, practices and attitudes of instructors in using technology in their classrooms and their technology related professional development needs and priorities. The researchers identify key actions that would support instructors to extend their use of technology and strengthen the integration of technology to support teaching and learning.

Participants reported that while they are using technology frequently in their classrooms, largely driven by the needs and interests of their students, and that they recognise the importance of technology to support language use in the real world using authentic materials found on the internet, they could be using technology more extensively and effectively.

Instructors identified strategies that would enhance their professional learning and support more effective use of technology for teaching and learning. These include having a technology lead, a person who could identify useful and suitable websites for students and provide instructors with student handouts containing links and information to enable students to locate and navigate learning materials. They also suggested the creation of an online space for instructors to share resources and experiences on an ongoing basis and a regular schedule of moderated meetings in which they can share ideas and resources.

Based on this input from instructors and an extensive review of the literature on professional development to support the effective integration of technology the researchers identify three key strategies to support technology integration to address the specific needs of instructors.   

Technology mentor/coach, a peer instructor experienced in the use of technology for teaching and learning to support less experienced colleagues.

The development of a professional learning community or community of practice in which instructors can meet, on a regular basis, to share ideas and resources and support each others’ learning.

Peer-observation as part of an action research cycle whereby instructors have an opportunity to learn from their peers and to engage in intentional study of how technology can affect learning.

Although the context is ESL in a community college there are interesting and useful pointers for conducting needs assessments and providing practical and productive professional development for adult ESL instructors in other settings.

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Taking Teaching beyond the Classroom

Davila, S., Taking Teaching beyond the Classroom, “Language Teaching” (blog), 21 May, 2021.

This short article provides a very useful description of immersive Virtual Reality (VR)) in the language classroom. Virtual reality (VR) is a new technological frontier for many language instructors, however it is one that holds promise for enhancing and extending language learning. There are early indications, in recent research, that VR can be an engaging and helpful tool for language learners, particularly in building confidence and in supporting retention and motivation.

The article offers an accessible overview of VR devices and possible applications in the language classroom, as well as introductory guidance on how to plan for the use of VR; choosing appropriate applications for the language classroom; managing the VR classroom, and the following set of questions for language instructors to consider as they begin to explore VR.

  • What does this application do that I cannot currently do with my online classroom?
  • How does this application improve or enhance the teaching and learning experience?
  • What changes and adjustments will I need to make to my lesson to ensure it is a productive learning experience?
  • How will the application provide new and exciting extensions of my current learning experiences?

Following this review of VR, the author concludes,

Using VR provides numerous opportunities for language educators to support all the needs of language learners. From initial introduction to concepts to creative fluent production with peers, the VR classroom is perfect for language learning.”

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Lotze, N. Goodbye to classroom teaching? Artificial Intelligence in Language Learning. (2018). Magazin Sprache. May.

This article offers a critical response to claims that are made about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can profoundly alter the ways in which languages can be taught and learned, i.e.,  without the necessity for classroom teaching and learning.

The author makes a succinct and quite compelling argument that such technological innovation actually provides quite a limited range of potential for language learning. For example digital exercises, although they may appear innovative, are actually replications of what can be found in traditional exercise books, the usefulness of learning language apps with a chatbot, (Duolingo for example) is limited, in that such systems depend on simple, defined interactions and predictable dialogues.

The author concludes that learning language systems based on AI are useful when it may be difficult or impossible for students to attend language classes, and are best suited for beginning language learners to supplement classroom learning with a human teacher.

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Engagement, Technology, and Language Tasks: Optimizing Student Learning

Egbert, J.(2020). Engagement, Technology, and Language Tasks: Optimizing Student Learning. International Journal of TESOL Studies, 2 (4) 110-118.  

This paper presents six engagement facilitators that promote increased learner achievement and demonstrates how technology can be used to help with implementing the facilitators. Two examples of these facilitators are authenticity, i.e., that the task is relevant to learners’ lives; and the level of difficulty or challenge in a task, i.e., the perception that a task is doable but requires some effort. The author elaborates on each one of these. A model of language task engagement is accompanied by the suggestion that instructors start with one or more of the facilitators in their planning. The author also provides suggestions for creating tasks and using the facilitators in classroom settings.

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Current and Future Directions in TELL

Chun, D.M. (2019). Current and Future Directions in TELL. Educational Technology & Society,  Vol.22(2), pp.14-25.

This  article provides a brief overview of the history, and an in-depth review of likely future trends in technology-enhanced language  learning (TELL).

The author, an experienced teacher and researcher and the Editor in Chief of the journal Language Learning and Technology, suggests that TELL should be understood as Technology Enhanced Languaculture Learning because of a growing emphasis on the link between language and culture.

The article offers an overview of the history of technology-enhanced language learning in four overlapping periods: 1970s-1980s, Structural CALL; 1980s-1990s, Communicative CALL; 2000s, Integrative CALL; 2010s Ecological CALL.

The wide-ranging review of likely future trends in the area of technology-enhanced language learning is based on topics and themes that have appeared in Language Learning and Technology Journal and at TELL conferences throughout the decade of the 2010’s.

The article offers a timely perspective of developments in the use of digital technologies in language learning and a compelling discussion of potential future directions. Upcoming special issues of the journal will focus on pragmatics, big data in language education and research and emerging technologies.

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Language Teachers and Their Trajectories Across Technology-Enhanced Language Teaching: Needs and Beliefs of ESL/EFL Teachers

Karamifar, B., Germain-Rutherford, A., Heiser, S., Emke, M., Hopkins, J., Ernest, P., Stickler, U., & Hampel, R. (2019). Language Teachers and Their Trajectories Across Technology-Enhanced Language Teaching: Needs and Beliefs of ESL/EFL Teachers. TESL Canada Journal/Revue TESL du Canada,  Vol.36(3), pp.55 – 81.
This article presents the initial results of an International Research Network  survey exploring the current perceptions of ESL/EFL instructors in relation to their training needs to enable more robust integration of technology in their instruction.
An online survey was conducted in summer 2018 through national and international networks and Facebook and Twitter social media platforms. Of a total of 285 respondents, (28% from Canada), 250 self-identified as language educators, (55% English language instructors) and the majority of whom worked in universities.
Analysis of the survey responses indicate overall satisfaction with existing training but educators noted a need for post-training follow-up. Educators are also interested in training on “learning task design” and in learning management software such as Moodle. In addition the survey investigated the respondents’ perception of an ideal language teacher and, interestingly, findings indicate that technology was not identified as a general characteristic or skill of an ideal teacher.
While the majority of respondents teach at the university level the survey provides a useful insight into the current and perceived training needs of language educators in relation to technology and should be of interest to educators and teacher-trainers across the second language field.


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ESL Teachers’ Self-efficacy toward Pedagogical Use of Digital Technologies: An Exploratory Case Study in the Ontario Context

Chen, Aide, “ESL Teachers’ Self-efficacy toward Pedagogical Use of Digital Technologies: An Exploratory Case Study in the Ontario Context” (2019). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 6422.


A small-scale study exploring  how  some EAP instructors  in Ontario  perceive their own abilities in using digital technologies in daily life and in their teaching practice and how such perceptions influence their use of technology in the classroom.  Using surveys and semi-structured interviews, the researcher focused on the role of teacher self-efficacy, defined as,  “people’s beliefs of the extent to which they are able to accomplish certain behaviors”(p.14) to explore  why and how these instructors were actually using technology in their classroom and the challenges they encountered, both in using technological tools and in effectively integrating technology in teaching.

Based on the findings the researcher proposes the need for further research on the role of  teacher self-efficacy, and on professional development which focuses on combining training on specific technology tools with pedagogy.  As  participants in the study noted, “teachers should have backup plans, even for presentations. It requires abilities to improvise. It may be unfair to say that technology itself poses this challenge. The actualized technology use is dependent on how flexible we are. You need to be able to develop your skills and make wise use of it.” (p.43)  and, “we need to carefully plan technology-enhanced teaching practices rather than just using them for the sake of being fashionable” (p.52).

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Empowering English Language Learners through Digital Literacies: Research, Complexities, and Implications


Chang,Y., Wang, L. & Eagle, J. (2019). Empowering English Language Learners through Digital Literacies: Research, Complexities, and Implications. Media and Communication. Vol 7(2).128-136.

This article provides an accessible overview of issues related to the digital literacies of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the U.S. The article highlights issues that are of increasing importance for adult settlement language learning in Canada and includes a description of evolving definitions of digital literacies and fluency and a short review of literature focusing on language teaching practices that support the development of digital literacies.
The authors argue that digital literacies and digital fluency can support language learner autonomy and provide authentic language learning experiences that meaningfully reflect the daily lives of the learners. The inclusion of digital literacies as part of the language learning process in the language classroom not only provides opportunities for authentic learning in the classroom but also supports learners to extend their language learning beyond the classroom. Furthermore, in an increasingly digitized society, digital literacies are essential for employment and ongoing learning and communication in day-to-day life. In order to effectively incorporate digital literacies as part of language teaching practice the authors highlight the need to support language instructors to engage in ongoing professional development in relation to the use of digital tools for teaching and learning.

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The Evolution and Impact of Technology in Language Education

John, C.,(2018). The Evolution and Impact of Technology in Language Education. In Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2018. Edited by Rob Power. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

This short chapter provides a very accessible review of the history and development of Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL). Included is a fairly comprehensive overview of the technologies used and the second language acquisition theoretical background and teaching approaches that have shaped CALL over the years,as well as a brief look at some of the inherent opportunities and challenges.

The chapter also discusses two very recent developments in this area, Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL) and Robot-Assisted Language Learning (RALL) and provides examples of how particular technologies are currently used in language teaching and learning.

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Evaluating normalisation: An argument-based approach

Yoon, S. J., & Gruba, P., (2019) Evaluating normalisation: An argument-based approach, System, May 2019.

Normalisation, the idea that technology would “grow and disappear” in the language learning curriculum, was articulated in the seminal work of Prof. Stephen Bax in his articles: CALL—Past, Present and Future (2003) and Normalisation Revisited: The Effective Use of Technology in Language Education (2011)

This article, drawing on the work of Prof. Bax,  reports on the process and results of an evaluation of the level of normalisation achieved in blended language courses at the University of Melbourne. The researchers found that minimal normalization had been achieved in these courses, and go on to discuss several factors that may inhibit its full achievement. The research points to the importance of addressing the digital literacy needs of both instructors and students, the need to move away from an over-emphasis on technology tools to a focus on technology for pedagogical purposes. Such a re-focus would support instructors to enhance their ability to apply pedagogical principles in planning for  and in implementing technology in their teaching practice.

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Enhancing Beginners’ Second language learning through an informal online environment

Chakowa, J. (2018). Enhancing Beginners’ Second language learning through an informal online environment. Journal of Educators Online, 15 (1).

This research report describes the use of four online tools, VoiceThread ; Padlet ;  Voki and Quizlet  to encourage beginning language learners to communicate and collaborate in the target language.

It offers a very clear and comprehensive description of how these tools were used, including a detailed account of student experience and reaction to using the tools and how they supported motivation, participation and persistence.

Although context for this study is a French beginner’s course at Monash University in Australia it provides very useful insights into how the use of multiple online tools in combination can be used to support student motivation and participation even at early levels of language learning, no matter the target language.

Overall the results of the study reveal several key features that will be useful to language instructors as they work to incorporate online tools and to encourage participation and motivation for their students. These include:

  • the importance of face-to-face orientation to the online environment and tools that will be used
  • introducing students to each other so they feel connected before they begin to work online
  • using multiple online tools, in combination so that all students have options to participate
  • strategies to maintain motivation (including providing blended learning, i.e., a combination of face-to-face and online activities)
  • focus on pedagogy rather than technology
  • activities that are not overly focused on linguistic accuracy, but include elements of cultural awareness so that students of all language learning levels can be included and encouraged.

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Chasing the butterfly effect: Informal language learning online as a complex system

Godwin-Jones, R. (2018). Chasing the butterfly effect: Informal language learning online as a complex system. Language Learning & Technology, 22(2), 8–27

This intriguing and thought provoking article provides a comprehensive review of how the multiple opportunities for students to engage in informal language learning, outside of the classroom or institutional settings, using digital technologies and social media platforms  has the potential to impact second-language (L2) development.   The author discusses the efficacy of a complexity- theory perspective in developing our understanding of the many variables at play in second language learning, and that of a learning systems perspective  in recognizing  the classroom, and the formal language learning environment are only one “learning space” in a learners “personal learning system” as they pursue second-language learning.

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When at Crossroads of L2 Tasks and Technology: A Critical Review of Implementing Technology-mediated Task-Based Language Teaching

Jaramillo Cherrez, N. (2018). When at Crossroads of L2 Tasks and Technology: A Critical Review of Implementing Technology-mediated Task-Based Language Teaching. In E. Langran & J. Borup (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 876-882). Washington, D.C., United States: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE)

This article focuses on the interconnections between Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) and Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) through a critical review of the relevant literature. The review examines how second language instructors currently use technology in the TBLT environment.  While the literature indicates that there are clear benefits for language learners in implementing technology mediated task-based language teaching there are potential implications and  challenges that need to be addressed in relation to access to technology, professional development, and identifying learner needs and capacity in relation to the use of technology. The article offers a useful starting point for instructors and program designers in the second-language sector as they consider, plan and work to maximize the potential of impact of  technology mediated TBLT in their programming and teaching.


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Choosing Technology Tools to Meet Pronunciation Teaching and Learning Goals


Tritch Yoshida, M. (2018). Choosing Technology Tools to Meet Pronunciation Teaching and Learning Goals. The CATESOL Journal,  30(1), 195–212

This article evaluates a range of technology tools and sites to support the teaching, learning and development of pronunciation.  The comprehensive evaluations are based on research and classroom practice and examine each of the tools based on the following criteria: Quality and accuracy; Practicality of use; Ease of use and Cost.

The article offers a practical review of technology tools and sites for computers, laptops and smartphones from the perspective of language instructor and also offers a model of technology tool evaluation that could be very useful in other areas of language teaching and learning.

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Informal and deliberate learning with new technologies

Trinder, R. (2017). Informal and deliberate learning with new technologies. ELT Journal, 71(4),402-412.

This article is based on an empirical study exploring Austrian university students’ perceptions and practices related to the usefulness of online informal and incidental learning of English when they are using digital technologies in their daily lives. By and large the students indicated a preference for media (films and television), email, online dictionaries as being most useful for their language learning.

Although the study was conducted in a university setting the findings are applicable to a range of language learning settings. Given the ubiquity of digital technologies it is likely that students are accessing information and using technology for communication in daily life. As the author concludes, knowing more about how language students actually use digital technologies to support their learning outside the classroom can help instructors to incorporate the preferred technologies in instruction, where feasible, to validate informal language learning and to support students to evaluate digital tools to support their language learning outside the classroom.

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Using action research to explore technology in language teaching: international perspectives

Burns, A. & Kurtoğlu-Hooton, N. Using action research to explore technology in language teaching: international perspectives. British Council. (2016).

This publication is an extensive report of a virtual action research project undertaken by the British Council in 2015-16. The project was designed to introduce international language teachers to action research, to investigate the teachers’ experience of an action research approach, and to collect and disseminate insights for the effective use of technology based on the action research projects undertaken by the teachers.
In all, 12 English language teachers, with the support of academic researchers conducted small action research projects examining the use of specific technology tools in their programs and classrooms. Each of the participants produced research summaries outlining their experiences. These are included in the report.
Although the focus of this project is English language teaching internationally, it provides an interesting model for virtual action research on technology use for language teaching that could be applied in settlement language programs. Such a virtual action research project could support valuable collaborative learning and information sharing for language instructors.

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Enhancing the Digital Skills of English Language Learners Studying at a Distance

Vanek J.  & Johnston, J. (2015).  Enhancing the Digital Skills of English Language Learners Studying at a Distance. AEIS Newsletter March 2015.

Based on interviews with instructors  who work within the IDEAL consortium the article  outlines the components of a successful distance learning program for second language learners.  The authors argue that given the ubiquity of digital technologies and the multiple demands on learners to use digital technology in the workplace, distance learning instruction should not be limited to the academic content typically found in online distance learning curricula. Rather, learners need to have access and exposure to a range of digital technologies for learning and problem solving facilitated by an instructor.

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Technology and the Four Skills

Blake, R. (2016). Technology and the four skills. Language Learning & Technology, 20(2), 129-142.

The report looks at technology-mediated task-based language learning’s ability to integrate the four skills while recognizing that evaluation of language proficiency has not reached the same level of complexity and  continues to evaluate the four skills in isolation.

The author provides examples of asynchronous and synchronous tools that provide opportunities to move between skills while working on tasks. One example of this is an app that transcribes learners’ speech into the second language; whenever there is an error in the written transcription, the learner knows their pronunciation has deviated from the norm and can analyze the transcription and correct the original utterance so that it transcribes correctly. The author emphasizes the importance of planning activities such as these, including pre-activities, making sure all students know what is expected of them, providing instructions for any digital tools required and balancing conflicting needs where necessary. He also presents some of the concerns about how computers and computer screens affect communications and urges readers to be aware of possible miscommunication that may occur.

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