Making the Case: Technology for Asynchronous Language Learning

Nowadays technological developments have affected our lives, how we communicate, how we learn and, of course, our way of teaching. Indeed, it is almost impossible to find a language class that does not use some technological support. Computer assisted language learning has changed the practice of teaching (Chapelle & Voss, 2016).

Technology in Language Learning

Technology has been used to both assist and enhance language learning, which can happen not only in class, but everywhere, all the time and on every possible topic. Research has shown that even if technology can have an important role in assisting and improving language learning, its effective use in the classroom context depends on a qualified language teacher who understands the language learning classroom and includes it in a well-planned curriculum (ACTFL, 2017; Weasenforth, Biesenbach-Lucas, & Meloni, C., 2002). Unfortunately, however, some school and university administrators have substituted technology to a teacher lead curriculum and have even used it to replace certified language teachers.

Technology as an Instructional Aid

On the other side, language technology companies have made claims not supported by research regarding their products' possibilities to favor language learning, thus causing administrators to choose these technologies as effective cost-cutting measure. Because of that, there is currently not enough research that indicates that students learn a second language effectively only through technology without the interaction and guidance from a teacher. Instead, there is research that proves that technology can be used as a tool to support and enhance language learning (Rahma & Salah, 2014). In all these scenarios, teachers are responsible to incorporate and manage the implementation of technology so that it effectively supports and develop a learner-centered experience, providing a personalized instruction and creating focused activities and homework tasks.

The Case for Asynchronous Learning

Technology can also support supervised distance learning programs to fill a need of asynchronous learning.

Recent uses of asynchronous technology in the classroom context regards mostly assessment (Chapelle &Voss, 2016). Although most technologies used in assessment refer to listening and writing testing, a new series of tools have been developed to assess oral language. Researchers (Kasper and Rose,2003) Have noticed that the classroom setting usually do not offer social opportunities to develop appropriate pragmatic competence in oral production and interaction. Thus, technology has been used to improve language learner’s oral production and interaction allowing them to develop pragmatic aspects of the language (Thorne ,2003).

The Case for Extempore

In our personal teaching experience, the use of technological tools, such as Extempore, can enhance students’ oral production lowering the stress due to producing language in the classroom in front of other students. Our goal in using Extempore was to engage students as much as we could in producing oral language while having the opportunity to assess their production skills in a less stressful environment than the classroom. Thus, we thought to offer them opportunities to develop Italian oral production through Extempore. Being aware that many students expect technology to be an integral part of their education and that all of them own technological devices, we thought to give them the opportunity to use Extempore to produce blogs, podcasts, or other tasks, to develop content and language objectives.

When we started using Extempore, we found it very student-friendly, easy and practical to use. It allows students to express their opinions about a specific topic, or to share their thoughts in a virtual class. It gives the opportunity to an instructor to better know and understand students’ needs, to assist their language learning through meaningful and interesting experiences and specific classroom activities. This app is used by the teacher according to the objectives of a lesson or unit of instruction and can be used for effective oral assessment. When students feel they are able to be language producers, they feel more motivated to use the language even in classroom context! And this is the key of a meaningful and successful learning experience.

Extempore as a Language Lab Alternative

Since it has the functionality of a traditional language lab and is completely cloud-based, Extempore is considered as a language lab alternative. One of the main benefits of Extempore is that it can be used on any device, which makes implementation a very straight forward process. Interested in learning more? See how the University of North Georgia updated their outdated language lab through the use of Extempore!

This post is courtesy of Loretta Fernandez and Cinzia Delfini. Dr. Fernandez is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh where she teaches courses in the area foreign languages as well as English as a second language pedagogy and assessment. Her research focuses in foreign language pedagogy, sociocultural theory, concept-based instruction, technology in FL, Systemic Functional Linguistics and qualitative research methods. She is an experienced teacher of foreign languages (Spanish, English and Italian) with over 20 years of experience among several public high schools in Palermo Italy, University of Palermo, and Duquesne University.

Cinzia Delfini, a graduate of the Masters Program of Italian at the University of Pittsburgh in December of 2017. She previously received her degree in Russian and English Languages and Literature at the University of Verona, Italy in 1996. After moving to Pittsburgh six years ago, she decided to reinvent herself and go back to school. She is interested in pedagogy of teaching languages and cultures through literature. She is currently working on a translation project of a young adult adaptation of Dante’s Inferno, a project which started from her graduation research. In addition, her interests include content-based instructional approaches, especially those centered on contemporary socio-political issues, to enhance her students’ speaking and interactive skills. At present she is a visiting instructor at the University of Pittsburgh and teaches Italian language.



Blattner, G. & Fiori, M. (2009). Facebook in the Language Classroom: Promises and Possibilities, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 6 (1). Article 3

Chapelle, C. A., & Voss, E. (2016). 20 years of technology and language assessment in Language Learning & Technology. Language Learning & Technology, 20(2), 116–128. Retrieved from

Kasper, G., & Rose, K. (2003). Pragmatics development in a second language. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Rahma, A. M. & Salah, T., (2014). Using Technology in Foreign Language Teaching. New Castle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Thorne, S. L. (2003). Artifacts and cultures-of-use in intercultural communication. Language Learning & Technology, 7(2), 38–67.

Weasenforth, D., Biesenbach-Lucas, S., Meloni, C. (2002). Realizing constructivist objectives through collaborative technologies: Threaded discussions. Language Learning & Technology, 6(3), 58-86.

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