Diane Larsen-Freeman delivered a keynote address remotely at the WorldCALL (computer-assisted language learning) convention in Glasgow in July. Her address was entitled "On the Links between New Technologies and Language as a Complex Dynamic System."
I have been attracted to the new technologies in language learning and teaching due to their potential for democratizing education, customizing instruction, transforming student identities, promoting autonomy, assessing learning, compiling and analyzing corpora, facilitating authentic interaction, and for other functions that this audience knows better than I do. However, more germane to my current theoretical commitment to Complexity Theory and to the central premise of my talk is my attraction to CALL for the obvious link between CALL and a complex dynamic systems view of language. I will begin by disambiguating “dynamic.” I will make a three-way distinction in the way dynamic is used as applied to language, and I will point out that CALL has a role to play in all three. I will also discuss other qualities of complex dynamic systems, such as that they are adaptive, iterative, and feedback sensitive, qualities which also seem to me to align well with CALL. My final point will be that if CALL is to be sustainable in the long run, it must also address "embodied dynamicism," a key concept in one approach to self-organizing dynamic systems. This link may be less easy to comprehend, but it is imperative to make if sustainability is the goal.