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Supporting Langua-technocultural Competence through Virtual Exchange

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Virtual exchange, a teaching practice that incorporates online communication technologies to link remotely located partner classes for interaction and collaboration, is a rich site for fostering second language development, intercultural competence, and digital skills (EVALUATE report, 2019). A crucial component in virtual exchange is the role of the teacher as a pedagogical mentor to support students’ learning during these rich and often complex intercultural projects (O’Dowd, Sauro & Spector-Cohen, under review) where the continually shifting nature of communication technologies mediates the linguistic and cultural competences demanded of learners, also referred to as langua-technocultural competence (Sauro & Chapelle, 2017).

Accordingly, in this paper, we explore how pedagogical mentoring during a three-country virtual exchange for foreign language teacher candidates supported the langua-technocultural competence of participants by examining three incidents illustrative of the following themes: (1) resolving conflict around the selection of digital communication tools whose use and accessibility varied in the respective partner countries, (2) disambiguating the different culturally-situated meanings ascribed to emojis, (3) fostering awareness of different cultural norms regarding code-switching.

The EVALUATE Group (2019). Evaluating the Impact of Virtual Exchange on Initial Teacher Education: A European Policy Experiment. Available from: https://www.evaluateproject.eu/

O’Dowd, R., Sauro, S., & Spector-Cohen, E. (under review). The role of pedagogical mentoring in virtual exchange.

Sauro, S., & Chapelle, C.A. (2017). Toward langua-technocultural competences. In C.A. Chapelle & S. Sauro (Eds.), The handbook of technology and second language teaching and learning (pp. 459-472). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

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Supporting Langua-technocultural Competence through Virtual Exchange

  1. 1. Supporting Langua- technocultural Competence through Virtual Exchange Shannon Sauro, Elana Spector- Cohen & Robert O'Dowd Language and Society Conference Tel Aviv June 24, 2019
  2. 2. What is Virtual Exchange (VE) "Virtual exchange, or telecollaboration, are terms used to refer to the sustained engagement of groups of learners in online intercultural interaction and collaboration projects with partners from other cultural contexts or geographical locations as an integrated part of their education programmes"...under the guidance of teachers or facilitators. (O’Dowd, Sauro & Spector-Cohen, under review)
  3. 3. For this Virtual Exchange
  4. 4. Why VE in Higher Education? ● VE develops students’ intercultural, digital-pedagogical, and linguistic competences. ● Most effective when it forces learners/teachers to step away from their accustomed learning/teaching approaches and brings them to engage in...experiences which they would not usually be confronted with in their day-to-day learning. (EVALUATE Group, 2019)
  5. 5. Teacher Mentoring and Langua-Technocultural Competence "...teachers of virtual exchanges must be prepared to mentor students in the development of what Sauro and Chapelle (2017) refer to as langua-technocultural competence, the complex intersection of linguistic and cultural competences mediated by technology and the digital spaces and platforms where contact and interaction occur." (O'Dowd, Sauro & Spector-Cohen, under review)
  6. 6. Langua-Technocultural Competence ● Languaculture, the inseparability of language and culture (Agar, 1994) ● The necessary inclusion of culture in the study of languages (Diaz, 2013) ● The technology-mediated nature of many learners' second language learning experiences Langua-Technocultural Competence
  7. 7. Teacher Guidance: Langua-Technocultural Competence ● What digital tools and digital practices might best help communicate intended meaning? ● How can digital tools and digital practices mediate (either enhance or undermine) intended meaning? ● How does the preferred use of digital tools and digital practices vary in different countries/contexts or among users of different languages?
  8. 8. Pedagogical Mentoring in VE (O'Dowd, Sauro & Spector-Cohen, under review)
  9. 9. Methods: The Three Partners Israel ● 17 students in International MA TESOL programme at Tel Aviv University (some are Israeli) ● Training to teach English in diverse settings around globe ● Data: Teacher emails and reflection portfolios from 4 students. Spain ● 31 students in MA programme in Secondary School Education at the University of León ● Training to teach English in Spanish secondary schools ● Data: Teacher emails and reflection portfolios from 31 students. Sweden ● 15 students in MA programme at Malmö University ● Training to teach English at the upper secondary level in Sweden ● Data: Teacher emails and reflection portfolios from 8 students.
  10. 10. Critical Incident “...a communication situation, [in] which the participants (or one participant) consider as problematic and confusing, even amusing. Critical incidents are occasions that stay in mind. Typically, critical incidents consist of examples of cultural clash events - situations where unexpected behavior occurs - with suggestions on how to solve these situations.” (Work Group, University of Jyväskylä) https://www.jyu.fi/viesti/verkkotuotanto/kp/ci/introduction.shtml
  11. 11. The Three Critical Incidents 1. The Tale of the Kiss Emoji 2. What's with All the Code-Switching 3. All Aboard the Hot Mess Express
  12. 12. 1. The Tale of the Kiss Emoji "One evening, a member of one of the other classes closed out an interaction with one of my students on whatsapp with a kiss emoji. Suddenly my student was stressed because she was faced with a difficult dilemma. Did she have to kiss her back? My student says she only sends kisses to close friends, but this was a group member and this whatsapp chat was more professional. However, if she didn't send a kiss back, what other emoji could she send? A basic smiley? What if that made her group member sad to get just a basic smiley in response to a kiss?" (email, instructor from Sweden to other instructors)
  13. 13. Languaculturally Situated Meanings Ascribed to Emojis "Brilliant story. Spanish kiss on WhatsApp all the time. It comes from “un beso” which is a common way of saying goodbye." (email reply, instructor from Spain) "After she related this tale to the whole class, one of the other students exclaimed: 'I only kiss after the third task!'" (email, instructor from Sweden) VS
  14. 14. 2. What's with all the codeswitching? "This led to a conversation about language norms...I asked if they had considered that things might be different in Spain or Israel or the other countries students are from." (email, instructor from Sweden) "There isn’t much code switching in León at all. People are very Spanish in the sense that they use Spanish all the time. There is very little use of English here on a day to day basis." (email, instructor from Spain) "There’s a lot of [code switching] going on in Israel...When I think about it being such a multilingual country it’s just not an issue to hear different languages around you." (email, instructor from Israel)
  15. 15. Culturally Embedded Norms for Code-Switching “...there was a moment in which him [Osama] and Marwan started to talk in their own language during a few minutes. We did not want to be rude and tell them to change to English, but maybe we should have done it in a polite way.” (portfolio, student from group 2 from Spain) “They also spoke to each other in Spanish quite a few times during the call, which frankly seemed unnecessary since they all know English, and it is a little bit rude since we could all hear them speaking but were unable to understand them.” (portfolio, student from group 7 from Sweden)
  16. 16. 3. When Pedagogical Mentoring Failed: The Beginning (sort of) "I wake up every single day, since Saturday, to find I have received one or two emails from her, and I receive more emails as each day goes by. I feel like she has been putting too much pressure on me….and she has been saying that we have left the Israeli group out of the activities, that we do not want to count with them to do the tasks, and that have made me feel really bad." (email from student from Spain, Group 1)
  17. 17. The Attempted Solution: A Technology Compromise "From what I've gathered, members from Sweden and Spain are opposed to using What'sApp because they dislike the idea of sharing their cellphone number…. Naturally, I also understand that the members from Israel are opposed to using Facebook, due to Facebook being a personal social platform, etc, which is completely understandable. However, what I do, and I do so strongly, oppose myself to, is this tug-of-war, instead of actually trying to find a solution together. " (Discussion forum post, student from Group 1 from Sweden)
  18. 18. In Retrospect: More Details Emerge "Our group felt left out and excluded. The other 2 groups chose a time and proceeded to meet without waiting to hear if we could meet them. It would have been understandable if one or two of us couldn't make the zoom call. However, they all spoke and set a time, not caring if we were part of the discussion or not." (Portfolio, student from Group 1 from Israel) (Portfolio, student from Group 1 from Spain)
  19. 19. Missing the Bigger Picture: Addressing other Aspects of LTC "This [facilitated discussion] task was designed to show us that you cannot judge a situation until you have all the facts .... We then began discussing the issues that some groups were facing. It was a bit troubling to hear one of the individuals talk about their group, without empathy or understanding, which was the topic of conversation. He stated that at the beginning of the project everyone except for the Tel Aviv students were communicating and that “they would join when they wanted to”. He hadn’t seemed to consider that maybe there was a problem with the overall communication if all three students from one university were not present and instead based it on their personality." (Portfolio, student from Group 8 from Israel)
  20. 20. In the End: Lessons Learned? "From these experiences, I’ve also learnt that telecollaboration might be far too demanding to be justified. The practical aspects of a telecollaboration, at least in our case, might be somewhat unrealistic for it to result in a truly meaningful learning experience. There was simply too much frustration on many ends, that took away focus from what was important." (Portfolio, Student from Group 1 Sweden)
  21. 21. Where Pedagogical Mentoring Went Wrong 1. Lack of information on the origin of the conflict. 2. An over-emphasis on the technology - directing students to understand and negotiate the different culturally mediated digital practices of the group members. ○ Fear or uncertainty of how to introduce broader socio-political issues that may have mediated the responses of different group members. ○ Down-playing one group's fear that they were being excluded deliberately.
  22. 22. Recommendations for Pedagogical Mentoring during VE: 1. Greater attention must be paid to how teachers can promote not only their students’ langua-technocultural competence but their own as well. 2. Teachers in VE need to push through their own reticence to delve into the moments of greatest conflict. 3. Self-awareness, learning and langua-technocultural competence may emerge well after the partnership has ended when distance is achieved.
  23. 23. References Agar, M. (1994) Language shock: Understanding the culture of conversation. New York: William Morrow and Company. Cunningham, J. (2016). Request modification in synchronous computer-mediated communication: The role of focused instruction. The Modern Language Journal, 100(2), 484-507. DOI: 10.1111/modl.12332 Diaz, A. (2013). Developing critical languaculture pedagogies in higher education: Theory and practice. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters. EVALUATE Group. (2019). Evaluating the impact of virtual exchange on initial teacher education: A European policy experiment. Research Publishing.Net. https://www.evaluateproject.eu/evlt- data/uploads/2019/03/EVALUATE_EPE_2019.pdf Furstenberg, G., Levet, S., English, K., & Maillet, K. (2001). Giving a virtual voice to the silent language of culture: the culture project. Language Learning & Technology, 5(1), 55-102. http://www.lltjournal.org/item/2342 Helm, F. (2016). Facilitated dialogue in online intercultural exchange. In O'Dowd, R & Lewis, T. (Eds.), Online intercultural exchange: Policy, pedagogy, practice (pp. 150–172). New York: Routledge. Müller-Hartmann, A., & O’Dowd, R. (2017). A Training Manual on Telecollaboration for Teacher trainers. https://www.evaluateproject.eu/evlt-data/uploads/2017/09/Training-Manual_EVALUATE.pdf
  24. 24. References continued... O'Dowd, R., Sauro, S., & Spector-Cohen, E. (under review). The role of pedagogical mentoring in virtual exchange. Sauro, S., & Chapelle, C. A. (2017). Toward langua-technocultural competence. In C. A. Chapelle & S. Sauro (Eds.), The handbook of technology and second language teaching and learning (pp. 459-472). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. Vyatkina, N., & Belz, J.A. (2006). A learner corpus-driven intervention for the development of L2 pragmatic competence. In K. Bardovi-Harlig, J.C. Fe´lix-Brasdefer, & A. Omar (Eds.), Pragmatics and language learning (pp. 315–357). Honolulu: National Foreign Language Resource Center, University of Hawai’i. Ware, P. (2013). Teaching comments: Intercultural communication skills in the digital age. Intercultural Education, 24(4), 315-326. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2013.809249 Work Group, University of Jyväskylä https://www.jyu.fi/viesti/verkkotuotanto/kp/ci/introduction.shtml