Home K12 Language Education How Teachers Are Using Technology for Language Learning: A Research Review

How Teachers Are Using Technology for Language Learning: A Research Review

by Rosetta Stone

Despite the ubiquity of technology—and EdTech—there is a relatively limited amount of research examining the effectiveness of EdTech when used specifically for language learning (also known as computer-assisted language learning, or CALL).

In their journal article CALL in the K–12 Context: Language Learning Outcomes and Opportunities (2014), Paige Ware and Emily Hellmich discuss the reasons for this, explaining that research on the use of technology for language learning in grades K–12 often gets folded into larger discussions about literacy learning. They also point to a limited research base from which to pull—a declining number of foreign language classes and a severe lack of technology-related professional development opportunities for teachers. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, most public-school teachers receive fewer than 8 hours of technology training each year (Ware & Hellmich, 2014).

In spite of these limitations, Ware and Hellmich assess what’s currently out there, offering two frameworks with which to examine the use of technology for language learning in K–12 settings.

The learning outcomes approach

The learning outcomes approach views technology as a means for improving established, conventional curriculum-based goals and promoting cost-effective and efficient paths for learning (Ware & Hellmich, 2014). In other words, how can technology help language learners reach well-established milestones? 

Ware and Hellmich cite a number of studies that support the effectiveness of using different technologies—from animated videos to web-based programs—to improve reading levels, writing skills, and listening and speaking skills (Ware & Hellmich, 2014).

The learning opportunities approach

The learning opportunities approach, on the other hand, asks how we can use technologies to rethink which goals are targeted and which assessments are adjusted. This approach views technology as a way to transform traditional learning—uniform to customized learning, learning by assimilation to learning by doing. Technology is seen as a “lever in creating new learning opportunities for language instruction” (Ware & Hellmich, 2014).

Studies have shown that online spaces and tools help language learners position themselves positively within the target language community, supporting positive identity. Research has looked at how teachers have brought out-of-school technology into the classroom, including blogs, graphic novels, and instant messaging (Ware & Hellmich, 2014). 

The use of these multimodal tools has proven effective for language learning, promoting learner agency, project-based learning, and better student engagement. And interactive writing in online spaces has been shown to give language learners the opportunity to hone their understanding and enhance their skills (Ware & Hellmich, 2014).

Looking ahead to new research approaches

Ware and Hellmich identify three areas in particular where future research is needed (Ware & Hellmich, 2014).

  1. Assessment—assessment data can help persuade stakeholders that changes are needed in order to “institutionalize the integration of language learning technologies at a large scale.”
  2. Professional development—there is a “documented gap in how resources are allocated to help language teachers adopt new technologies and assess new types of student learning.”
  3. Teachers’ perspectives/attitudes—research is also needed to “identify how educators’ underlying theoretical perspectives of language learning are intertwined with technology use.”

Technology solutions for learning outcomes and opportunities

As more research is conducted to demonstrate the effectiveness of technology for language learning, Rosetta Stone offers adaptive blended learning solutions to support educators and their emergent bilingual students.

And we offer numerous resources for teachers, such as:

For more information, reach out today, and a Rosetta Stone sales representative will be in touch.


Ware, P. & Hellmich, E. (2014). CALL in the K–12 context: language learning outcomes and opportunities. CALICO Journal. 31(2):140-157.

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