Voices from LLT

A podcast series highlighting stories from the community
Jul 14 2022 (21 Minutes)
About the Language Learning & Technology Journal
Reinders, H. (Host). (2022, July 14). About the Language Learning & Technology Journal (No. 1) [Audio podcast episode]. National Foreign Language Resource Center. https://hdl.handle.net/10125/102124


About the Language Learning & Technology Journal (Transcript)

Host [H]: Welcome, all you lovely language and terrific technology people, to a very, very special first episode of Language Learning and Technology, our first ever podcast with two very, very special guests, Dorothy Chun and Trude Heift. Dorothy and Trude, welcome.

Dorothy Chun [DC]: Hello.

Trude Heift [TH]: Hello.

H: How are you both doing? You're good?

TH: Good. Thank you.

DC: Doing very well. Thanks.

H: Excellent, excellent. So today we're going to learn a little bit about this wonderful journal that you both edit. We're going to learn a little bit about the history, its aspirations. But before we do all of that, Dorothy, I'm gonna start with you. Just very briefly, where did your interest in technology and language education come from?

DC: Well, you know, I've actually always liked gadgets. I loved the IBM Selectric typewriter when it first came out. My PhD is actually in historical Germanic linguistics.

H: Wow.

DC: But I knew early on that I really wanted to do more applied linguistics. So my dissertation was about intonation in German, Chinese and English. And I did lots of recordings of learners of Chinese and learners of German. And I had a trusty little cassette tape recorder, I would have to play, stop, rewind, play, stop, rewind, trying to listen to the tones and the intonation in the pitches. And I realized, I need better technology for this. So that was my first need that got me interested in using technology for language learning. And then I had to write this dissertation. And I know I'm dating myself, but I wrote it on an Apple II computer. And I needed 40 floppy disks for my dissertation. And I again thought, there has got to be a better way than this. So from the very beginning, I've always wanted to learn about the newest technologies to make my life easier, to make my career in applied linguistics easier.

H: Wow, that's a lovely story. My supervisor in Holland, when I was a master's student there, told me that she used a computer back in the 70s. I suppose that you still had to use kind of paper cards that you inserted into them. I never actually used one of them. She was telling me that she was riding home on her bicycle–I mean, this is Holland, after all–and that a big gust of wind came and threw all of her computer cards and everything out over the road and she lost her dissertation there. So yeah, good reason. All right. Trude, how about you?

TH: I actually ended up in computational linguistics for my master's degree already and then found a wonderful supervisor with whom I did my PhD focusing on computational linguistics and applied linguistics by designing programs for language learning.

H: Wow.

TH: And when you talk about years ago, so my supervisor, he graduated with his PhD in the early 80s. Naturally, computational linguistics involves parsing, and he told me that in the 80s, they would submit a sentence in the evening and then could pick up the parse the next morning. That tells you how computer speed and volume have increased over the decades.

H: Yes, indeed. Yeah. And it's having a massive impact on so many and so many levels, hasn't it? Right. Okay, Dorothy. I'm sure our readers are interested to hear a little bit about the background of this journal. Where did it come from?

DC: Well, Language Learning and Technology was founded in 1997 by Mark Warschauer. He was actually a graduate student at the time, but he had the foresight and the courage to begin this completely open access, fully online journal. And it was the first fully online journal for CALL. It has remained completely open access and fully online. It has been supported by three different National Language Resource Centers. One that has been the ongoing center is the one at the University of Hawaii. And they have been a sponsor for the 25+ years that LLT has been in existence. The other two centers are one at MSU, Michigan State, and most recently, University of Texas at Austin. The bulk of the funding from these Centers is really for a graduate student who is the editorial assistant or the managing editor, whatever you want to call that person, and for a webmaster. One of the, I think, key features of our journal is that authors always retain copyright of their work. So unlike the commercial journals where the journal owns the copyright, our authors own their own copyright. Since 2020, though, we've switched to a Creative Commons license for all the work published in LLT. If you want more of the gory details, Trude and I wrote a chapter for Carl Blyth and Joshua Thoms' open access book. The title of that book is Open Education and Second Language Learning and Teaching. We will provide a link for that book in which our chapter appears on the LLT website. And if there's a way to link it to this podcast, we will also do that.

H: That's great. Great. You've mentioned open access, and the journal being the first in our field to provide open access. You've also mentioned the Creative Commons. Trude, can you tell us a little bit more about this because not all listeners may know what these terms exactly entail.

TH: When you look at open access, a journal like that has huge advantages over articles being published by a journal. So one of them is, for instance, broad dissemination, meaning that the works that are published are not only accessible by developed countries but also by developing countries, and therefore you have a huge distribution without having them require huge subscription fees. For the journal itself, there are advantages such as you can track readership, quantitatively and geographically. You can actually see where your readers come from. Naturally like with any online environment, you have ease of hyperlinks, content that can be linked within an article. You have an unlimited virtual space. And LLT lately has implemented a rollout model, meaning that unlike a print journal, where you have to wait until the next issue comes out, LLT now publishes articles as they are processed without waiting two years for an article to come out. And that naturally is a huge advantage for authors. So we just started that in January and are basically still working on a backlog. But we are catching up. And these articles are now appearing as they get processed.

DC: I just wanted to add one point about open access. There are journals today that will say, okay, these articles are open access, but they require APCs, or author processing charges. And that is very different from our journal, which has no author charges. So it's free to the authors, and it's free to the readers. And that's different from some of the models of publishers that will charge these APCs, allow the readers to read it for free, but the authors are actually paying a fee.

H: Exactly, which potentially excludes a large number of people from publishing their work in widely read journals like LLT. So that's a really important point about this journal. Dorothy, there are different types of submissions that authors can make to the journal, different types of articles that get published. Can you just briefly talk us through what they are?

DC: Yes, well, the bulk of the items are, of course, the research articles, and they are first processed by our managing editor, who at the moment is Skyler Smela. These submissions are then vetted by the two editors-in-chief, namely Trude and myself. And then if they pass the initial review and we think they're worthy of an external review, we assign them to one of the eight associate editors, and our associate editors at present are Philip Hubbard, Meei-Ling Liaw, Lara Lomicka Anderson, yourself–Hayo Reinders, Jonathon Reinhardt, Jim Ranalli, Shannon Sauro, and Nina Vyatkina. So in addition to these regular articles, we also publish special issues on cutting-edge topics. And these special issues are guest-edited by experts on these particular topics. They are also fully vetted research articles. In addition to the research articles, we have book and multimedia reviews, currently edited by Ruslan Suvorov. We also have an emerging technologies column, and this is edited by Bob Godwin-Jones. His articles historically have been the most popular and the most downloaded of all of the pieces in LLT, and they deal with the cutting-edge technologies. And he also reports on emerging research on these technologies. Obviously, they're not fully expanded research articles, but he gives a flavor of what is to come and the important things to be thinking about. We also have forums. There's a forum on language teaching and technology. There's also a newish forum on language teacher education and technology. The former is edited by Greg Kessler, and the one on teacher education is edited by Mimi Li. These are shorter, more teacher-focused articles. And so those are the main types of pieces that we publish in LLT.

H: Brilliant. Okay, that's very helpful. So I guess the next question is the one that some of our listeners have been desperately waiting for. And we're going to ask you, Trude, how do I get my work published in this journal? What is the secret advice you can give me as editors?

TH: Well, there are a few tips I can give potential authors. Frst of all, I think what applies to every journal is you gotta select an appropriate journal, meaning we sometimes get submissions that do not include technology. They naturally get rejected because our journal is all about language learning and technology. With regards to writing the actual article, draft an introduction by focusing on: What is the problem? What is the question I want to answer? Then sometimes we get articles with very lengthy literature reviews. Well, provide a focused literature review that basically focuses on: What do we already know? What is your contribution? And then list or define your succinct research questions. What does this article actually want to answer? And they should be really precise and, at the same time, comprehensive. Then comes the methodology. Describe it in detail. Who are the participants? How were the data collected? And then describe the methods. Provide details of the materials, instruments and interventions, and especially how learning was measured. Because in the end, we are interested in getting a contribution that empirically measures how these learning outcomes were achieved. Then we report on the results. Provide the actual data, what was in the pretest, post tests and so on–you may include it as an appendix–and then you report on the results. And naturally, very important, you have to contextualize those results with regards to previous findings. How do the results you obtained actually fit in the existing literature? Is there something new we found? Or is it in contradiction to previous results? Focus on that one, and then conclude with your contribution. And the very last step is you would write an abstract. We often get submissions, and they might be rejected, or at least authors will be asked to have it proofread by somebody familiar with academic prose. Because naturally, we don't want to send out an article to reviewers which is not polished because reviewers really don't appreciate that. And stick to the word limits we are providing on our submission guidelines. Again, a reviewer doesn't want to read an article with 15,000 words if the word limit is 8,500. And that's basically all what authors should pay attention to. We have a few slides also on our website which outline this in some detail and which authors could consult.

H: Very nice. And we'll make sure to include that in the show notes, and people can can look that up. I think that's a very helpful set of guidelines. Now, despite the fact that a lot of authors do follow those guidelines, more or less, Dorothy, we have, as a journal, a really quite low acceptance rate. So leaving aside issues with somebody submitting an article that is really outside of the scope of the journal and so on, what are some of the reasons for that low acceptance rate?

DC: Well, one of the key requirements of LLT is that articles have to include empirical research that focuses on learning outcomes. And we have this in our guidelines for contributors, but not everyone reads this or takes it to heart because we receive many articles that present the results of surveys or questionnaires, for example, questionnaires about teacher or learner attitudes about using a particular technology, did they think it helps them to learn, and that is actually not empirical data that focuses on learning outcomes. And so that is one of the most common reasons that we reject articles and do not even send them for external review. We also do not accept descriptions of, you know, using technology in the classroom, or if they don't include learning outcomes. So it's not enough to describe this great online course that you just did during the pandemic or whatever it was. But if you don't focus on measuring actual learning outcomes, that is another reason that we would reject it initially and not even send it for external review. Trude mentioned that sometimes the literature review is too long and unfocused. Well, sometimes it's often too short and it doesn't contain CALL references to CALL articles. You'd be surprised how many articles we get where authors have not cited relevant literature from CALL journals. Another reason for rejecting articles often in the initial phase is that they don't have a solid research methodology. Some don't have a control group, for example, or they haven't controlled for relevant variables. And this is something that, in this day and age, is a little bit surprising. Also, in this day and age, you know, we're not so much trying to compare using technology with not using technology, we've gone way beyond that, to the point where we are looking for what are the particular affordances of a given technology for learning. And we're not trying to compare using paper and pencil versus using VR, for example. That's just a sort of gross example. Another reason that I often will reject a submission outright is that they focus so heavily on the statistics, pages and pages of this statistic and that statistic, but they haven't really defined the instruments and they haven't really analyzed what these statistics are telling us about the kind of learning that took place. And then finally, well, two more things. One is that, you know, because of all these statistics, they are not analyzing deeply enough. And so maybe that was redundant, maybe I just said that. Then the final item is that some submissions lack a discussion of the pedagogical implications. So they're so heavily focused on the statistics that they fail to help the readers understand. Okay, this is what these statistics have told us about learning. And this is how we're going to implement this in our teaching practices, in our classroom instruction, or out of classroom instruction for that matter.

H: Yeah, that's a good final point, perhaps to emphasize. That's also something that I know I myself and colleagues on the editorial board look for is the answer to the question: So what? What is this article actually trying to say? What does it mean? What are the implications or interpretations that can be drawn from this? Has it been put into a broader context and so on? And I think that's worth emphasizing to the listeners. I think between the two of you, you've given some really good guidelines. Now just looking towards the future. Trude, what is on the horizon for the journal? Any exciting new developments that we need to know about?

TH: Well, LLT never stops thinking. And this is just due to the wonderful team we have. Hardly a week goes by without getting suggestions from someone, be it an associate editor, be it our managing editor or our sponsors. We are really pleased about our new rollout model, which we have now in place. But I think what we are looking at currently is how to improve our presence on social media. How can we put LLT out there even more than it is already at this point? So one of these is, for instance, the wonderful podcast you're doing with us because this is one way of reaching out, and in another way, than just providing a paragraph on what we are doing. The podcasts and also maybe some interviews with current authors publishing their work in LLT, or we have our wonderful special issues editors who report on a particular topic by including articles. So it would be nice to actually include some videos there where we interview our special issues editors and give us a little bit of insight on where that particular topic is currently at. So these are some ideas. Naturally, mostly we are all volunteers and our time is limited. We try and move forward as we can. But with a big team like LLT, it is certainly possible to always innovate, what I think we have been doing in the past.

H: Wonderful, yes. And I think this is a good place as any to invite our listeners and the readers of the journal to also send us their ideas. You know, where would you like to see us be more present is, you know, is it on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram? Or, you know, where do you consume your academic information? And how can we play a role in that? And also let us know what you think about this podcast? Is it helpful? Is it interesting? Should we do something else? We'd love to hear from you. Thank you both so much for making the time to join this podcast, Dorothy and Trude, and most importantly, thank you both so much for your hard work because as you've said, and you didn't say it about yourself, so I will. A lot of the work that we do, a lot of the work that you do, is volunteer work, and it's really thanks to contributions like the ones that you make that we can have this wonderful community, this resource for teachers and researchers and students around the world. So thank you both very much for joining and for your hard work.

Dorothy Chun & Trude Heift, Editors
Published by the National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC) with additional support by the NFLRC and the Center for Language & Technology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) at the University of Texas at Austin
Impact Factor


The latest ISI Journal Citation Reports® Ranking for 2021 showed that LLT had an Impact Factor of 4.694, placing it 10th out of 194 Linguistics journals and 31st out of 267 Education and Educational Research journals.

Read more about our rankings here.

Best Paper Award

News & Announcements

Voices from LLT

Volunteer to Copy Edit