Untele 2005

Expanding the Repertory of CALL Exercise Types: the Potential of Drag'n'drop 

 David Brett, University of Sassari, Italy

Dragging’n’dropping is one of the most intuitive forms of human-computer interaction as a result of its strong parallels with the manipulation of objects in the physical world, which in turn is a reflection of cognitive processes. As such it is a mainstay of the  graphic user interfaces (GUIs) of all the major operating systems. The extent to which this function has been incorporated into the creation of CALL materials is negligible in comparison to its potential.

In the majority of CALL materials currently available, drag’n’drop exercises entail matching text with text, or at the very most, text to images. The possibility of exploiting the function to take advantage of the non-linear nature of digital sound has yet to be extensively explored, even though such material can be created with several authoring tools currently available.    

Drag’n’drop is of particular relevance to the creation of task based language teaching (TBLT) materials where other forms of input, such as gap-filling, are generally less effective. For instance, its application to listening exercises dealing with street directions, in which symbols and/or text are to be placed on a map, is particularly suitable. A tactic that can be adopted to increase the authenticity of the task is that of dividing input and interaction, i.e. learners cannot listen and interact contemporarily. Consequently, the learner is forced to store input in the short term memory before being able to complete the task.

This presentation will illustrate the following drag'n'drop exercise types created using Macromedia Flash MX 2004, all of which incorporate sound:

 1)  labelling pictures

 2)  dragging objects into two/three groups

 3)  matching objects by dragging dots that create curvy lines

 4)  re-ordering: items shuffle as they are dragged (“jigsaw listening”)

 5)  dragging images onto a background image (e.g. a map). 

While the energy and technical knowledge needed to create these exercises from scratch are far from negligible,  an authoring tool that is currently being developed at the University of Sassari, Italy, renders this process extremely swift and user-friendly: authoring is conducted in a WYSIWYG modality, sidestepping completely the need to edit code.