The conventional classroom is not an ideal environment for second language acquisition. There are too many students per class, and never enough time in the day. Under pressure to keep the class progressing according to schedule, students’ individual needs and questions can be neglected. Thus, the learning gap between high achievers and low achievers can widen as the course progresses, and at the higher levels, achievement gaps can lead to proficiency gaps. There is no single solution to this problem, but technology offers a way to address some of the inherent weaknesses of the classroom language teaching format.
In 2006, CLEAR launched its “Rich Internet Applications for Language Learning” initiative. Web-based tools were designed to offer functionality that is beneficial to language learning, while exploring how technology can enhance language teaching. This article discusses the design principles behind the RIA initiative, explains how the tools are intended to be used, and shares some examples of classroom use.