The Efficacy of Computer-Activated Tasks (CATs) for
Teaching E-Literacy in the ESOL Context

Burrell, M. (2005) The Efficacy of Computer-Activated Tasks (CATs) for
Teaching E-Literacy in the ESOL Context. Journal of eLiteracy 2(1).

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This paper introduces Computer-Activated Tasks (CATs), a type of task the author designs for teaching e-literacy as means of solving the problem of ‘digital divide’. It also justifies their use in the ESOL/ESL context and describes a method of evaluating CATs through measuring their Language Learning Potential (LLP). For this, the author employs Chapelle’s (2001) framework for evaluating Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) activities and Skehan’s (1998) cognitive approach to Task-Based Instruction.

The author’s empirical study presented here is supported by a small-scale but longitudinal research in intact ESOL+ICT classes. The research reveals that the CAT key feature - the interplay between its language and ICT structural components - beneficially affects CAT LLP and promotes acquisition of e-literacy. The latter is viewed as a convergence of computer skills with traditional and other types of literacy within the pedagogy of multiliteracies. The CAT LLP is operationalised through measuring accuracy and complexity of learner output during CAT performance and the results of e-literacy and English proficiency exams in the experimental and control groups. The study provides some evidence that, alongside teaching ICT skills, CATs are efficacious for improving oral as well as written performance of ESOL/ESL learners at the elementary as well as at the intermediate level, which could be applied for teaching e-literacy in a variety of contexts.