NOTE: The article below is mirrored from the TESL-EJ website.

TESL-EJ Vol. 3. No. 2. March 1998. R-7.

Book Review

Multimedia Language Teaching

Sandra Fotos (Ed.) (1996)
Tokyo and San Francisco: Logos International
Pp. xvi + 202
ISBN 4-947561-04-1

Multimedia Language Teaching is a collection of eleven essays about recent and long-standing uses of computer, Internet, video, audiotape, and videodisk technologies in EFL contexts. The book could be useful for foreign language teachers starting to use multimedia, especially if they work in Japan and use a Macintosh. However, the three essays that focus on Apple software set up to handle Japanese characters will have little relevance for those working in other environments, or using standard IBM-compatible computers or PCs that don't handle Japanese.

"the only valid niche this book seems to fill is for language teachers who aren't online, who are in Japan, and are just starting to use multimedia."
This work ambitiously strives to describe a wide range of multimedia, yet lacks cohesion and depth. For example, the Introduction defines multimedia as "a combination of various media (video, sound, graphics, photography, text, and animation) within a single computer program" (p. xiii), yet at least three of the subsequent essays deal with applications outside of this parameter.

The opening essay by Mark Warschauer describes how computers are being used in language classrooms. Despite their potential, Warschauer points out multimedia has yet to have a major impact on most language classes.

David Kluge then describes the components of a successful CALL program, listing factors to consider before implementing a CALL program. Kluge also points out what can happen if these criteria are not adequately considered, emphasizing that a number of fundamental issues must be well thought out to make a CALL program successful.

In the third essay, Anthea Tillyer offers a basic explanation of what the Internet is, how it arose, and how to use online discussion forums. The major points covered in this chapter can be found in two on-line articles: Eric Meyer's "Computer Jargon: Fitting the Pieces Together" and Kitao & Kitao's "Using TESL-L for Research and Teaching English."

The next two essays highlight various Macintosh Hypercard programs. Noboyuki Aoki describes the advantages of Hypercard and Masatoshi Sugiura and Shuji Ozeki describe a program that contains digitalized movie clips. After this, Hiroaki Sato outlines a multimedia database program known as 4th Dimension which indexes film clips and scripts. The corpi generated by this program can be used for phonological studies, speech act analysis, and pragmatic research.


The next essay describes ways that writing skills are fostered by word processing. Martha Pennington states, "the effects of word processing go far beyond the simple automation of typing and revision that it was designed to accomplish. In making writing a less burdensome and less self-conscious task, word processing lowers potentially negative affect while enhancing positive affect" (p. 108). Pennington's article in the Autumn, 1991 issue of System covers essentially the same points.

In the next essay, Kim Kamel considers why and how songs should be used in language classes. A November, 1997 article in the JALT Journal by Kamel explores this theme, while also introducing an interesting study about how songs promote listening skills.

The next essay by Robert Gray provides a lucid description of the role of language laboratories (LLs) in future CALL classrooms. Gray asserts "the LL can be purposefully and usefully integrated into communicative, multiskills approaches to teaching" (p. 151). He then outlines how modern LLs differ from those of a generation ago. Modern labs often include equipment permitting students to control what they hear; some also include audio technologies to optimize brain wave activity. Gray suggests that a marriage of CALL and LL technologies is now taking place. Future LLs, he suggests, are likely to have more VCRs, computers, and camcorders.

After this, Susan Miller describes how student-produced videos can be of value to foreign language students. Asserting that student- produced videos "increase student involvement in the learning process," she maintains they are a good way to "direct students toward independent learning" (p. 166). Miller emphasizes that the goal of student videos is to empower learners and that the production process is more important than product quality.

A final essay by Charles LeBeau argues that presentations should have more visual components. Noting that standard presentations are speech-driven, he argues for an entire shift in the way presentations are made. "Instead of a 'speaker/listener' model borrowed from linguistics," he adds, "we need a 'presenter/viewer' model designed to spotlight the visual message" (p. 191). LeBeau emphasizes that foreign language teachers should help students learn how to create visual charts to compensate for their weaker verbal skills. He does not, however, mention any specific ways to accomplish this.

Advocating the value of multimedia and the Internet, this work is something of an irony. Most of the information in this book is already available on the Internet. Descriptions of ongoing multimedia projects can be found at sites such as Douglas Mills' "Approaches to Web Use for ESL" or the discussion list FLTeach. Extensive information about various Hypercard programs is available at Glass Cat Inc.'s Hypercard Resource Page. Further multimedia references are available at In short, the only valid niche this book seems to fill is for language teachers who aren't online, who are in Japan, and are just starting to use multimedia. Admittedly, it is difficult for any paper essay to vividly convey multimedia's potential. At a time when it is increasingly easy to get online and also use multimedia computer applications, however, there is something distinctly anachronistic about this work.

- Reviewed by Tim Newfields and Randall Davis


Kamel, K. (1997). Teaching with music: A comparison of conventional listening exercises with pop song gap-fill exercises. JALT Journal 19 (2), 217-234.

Kitao, K., & Kitao, S. K. (No date). Using TESL-L for research and teaching English. [Online]. Available: [Expired Link] [1997, Dec. 20].

Glass Cat Communication, Inc. (No date). Hypercard resource page. [Online]. Available: [Expired Link] [1997, Dec. 25].

Meyer E. (No date). Computer jargon: Fitting the pieces together. [Online]. Available: [Expired Link] [1997, Dec. 24].

Mills, D. (1997). Approaches to Web use for ESL. Paper presented at TESOL '97, Orlando, FL. [Online]. Available: [Expired Link] [1997, Dec. 28].

Pennington, M. (1991). Positive and negative potential of word processing for ESL writers. System 19 (3) 265-75. doi: 10.1016/0346-251X(91)90051-P

Warschauer, M. (No date). Computer-assisted language learning: An introduction. [Online]. Available: [Expired Link] [1997, Dec. 25].

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