"This comment was removed" The challenges of harnessing “ Web 2.0 for language and intercultural learning Francesca Helm – University of Padova, ItalyWeb 2.0 and Language Learning Conference University of Limerick, 1 June 2012.
Where I’m coming from Teach English at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Padova, Italy.
Don’t mention the war! Foreign language education, in particular ELT, has tended to avoid the discussion of ‘sensitive topics’ Savignon and Sysoyev’s “taxonomy of socio-cultural strategies” includes: “using diplomacy for the purpose of maintaining a dialogue of cultures in the spirit of peace and mutual understanding; redirecting a discussion to a more neutral topic; dissimulate[ing] personal views to avoid potential conflict” (Savignon & Sysoyey 2002, p. 513) Intercultural training has also focused on avoiding disagreement and conflict
Intercultural dialogue Response to the growing trend of xenophobia in numerous European countries in the first years of the 21st century “forward looking model for managing cultural diversity” Intercultural dialogue requires the freedom and ability to express oneself, as well as the willingness and capacity to listen to the views of others. (White paper on Intercultural Dialogue 2008: 17)
Educator attitudes Intent project – financed by LLP Survey of 210 European educators about telecollaboration, above all foreign language educators or teacher trainers from 142 universities in 22 European countries 102 of these educators HAD experience of telecollaboration 108 had no experience
Disagreement and ‘sensitive’ topics Experienced telecollaborators Educators with no experience of telecollaboration
“Intercultural communcationin the wild… situated in arenas of social activity that are less controllable than classroom or organized online intercultural exchanges might be, but which present interesting, and perhaps even compelling, opportunities for intercultural exchange, agentive action and meaning making”. (Thorne 2010) massively multiplayer online games Internet interest communities ( Thorne et al. 2009), public Internet discussion forums (Hanna and de Nooy 2009) YouTube cultures of contribution and participation
Far from the utopia of the borderless world, the Internet offers easy opportunities for fortifying frontiers, for reinforcing stereotypes, for galvanizing racist hostility. This is particularly true of online discussion, which offers opportunities to stage intercultural battles. With its rapid, largely anonymous exchanges, its capacity for faceless interaction between strangers without means of redress (Sproull & Kiesler, 1986, 1991) and the dominance of an adversarial communication style in postings (Herring 1996) Internet discussion lends itself to volatile disputes, and never more so than when race and culture are in question” (Hanna & de Nooy 2009, p.137).
Characteristics of CMC “The many instantiations of CMC technology can have a profound impact on the discourse patterns and communicative behaviours of its participants” Temporality: Asynchronous/Synchronous Anonymity: Low/High Modality: Oral/Written/Visual Spatiality: Low/High (Smith et al. 2003)
Contextual factors Who are the participants? How many are there? Length and nature of relationship Topic of discussion Public or private, Moderated or unmoderated, Participation rules General attitude to discussion (adapted from Thurlow et al. 2004)
Potential disadvantages ofIC in the wild Trolling, flaming, exposing students to offensive or inappropriate language Time intensive Finding appropriate sites Effort required to negotiate inclusion Supporting learners More time spent on language analysis and receptive skills than on language production
A ‘safe’ intercultural exchange
Contextual factors 6-9 participants from universities in US, Europe and MENA 8 weeks of 2-hour synchronous multimodal discussion and personal blog Do not know each other before discussion, are registered in program by uni professors Topic – relationship between the ‘West’ and the predominantly Arab and Muslim world Private, moderated by 2 trained facilitators, Group established ground rules Some participate as part of course, others genuinely interested
Soliya group Discussion Ground Rules 1. We will take care when we talk about groups in absolutes. 2. We will use the phrases “Arab and Muslim World” and “Western Societies”. 3. We will listen with an open mind, not a closed mind. 4. We will respect others by listening to their point of view. 5. We will understand and accept that others have differences in backgrounds and ideas. 6. We will share with the group if any of us feels insulted. 7. We will be honest while being careful to select our words. 8. We will ask why and ask questions to go deeper into conversations. 9. We will be okay with silence as it allows us to create a well thought-out response or statement.
Facilitator roles Structuring dialogue sessions Transcribing/summarising oral discussion Facilitating and checking understanding Engaging all participants in discussion Pushing conversations deeper Mirroring, framing, summarising Modelling Developing students’ media literacy skills Fostering group ownership of the dialogue process.
How do contextual and technical features interact to promote intercultural dialogue? Handout Excerpts from 560 lines of text chat from one 2-hour multimodal synchronous session of the Soliya Connect Program
Multimodality and participationText chat is used: to get turn in spoken dialogue, 18. MME higab is part from religion show active listening and acknowledge others’ contributions without interrupting flow 31. FMA: thanks FTM! 35. MLA: clear! Thanks to share links and informationVisual cues can be used to gauge reaction and prompt participation 48. Fac1: Fac2: i can see FTM smiling – reaction? 49. Fac1: FTM: totally disagrees
Synchronicity/asynchronicity –duration of exchange90 Fac2: FTM: after our talk last week91 Fac2: I went online and did some research about that masssacre92 Fac2: and I realised that he killed 3 jews and that Muslims were among the people he killed too…126 MLA: ok i will do some research127 Fac2: do some research about it128 Fac2: Fac1: could you say what you think about in Islam129 Fac2: what would be considered a radical130 MLA: We will discuss next monday after i do research….225 Fac2: FTM: I agree too, I think todays sesion was good, each week we get more and more used to each other226 Fac2: and I hope that not next week but the week after227 Fac2: will be even better!
Evidence of listening, checkingunderstanding19. Fac1: FMA: thanks, so it sounds like its considered oppressive when its an obligation and not a choice20. Fac1: perhaps it was basd on a western perspective21. Fac1: perhaps people who wear it in the west may feel profiled22. Fac1: MLA: agrees, thinks that in his perspective its oppressive when its an obligation and its not a choice23. Fac1: MLA: didnt know that you can choose24. FMA: would you agree with what weve said, FTM?
We will ask why and ask questions to godeeper into conversations43. Fac1: FMA: MME, who made that rule?44. Fac1: why is it best?54. Fac1: FTM: this is the biggest conflict right now between muslims55. Fac1: FTM: dont ask me more details because its one of the biggest issues bewteen muslims56 Fac1: MME; wants to say to FTM that we must to follow religion - we take orders to work57 Fac1: FTM: doesnt want to speak about this for now58. Fac1: FMA: question for MME - regarding the niqab and hijab, is that written or cultural or in traditional law? how did this come to be part of the religion?
Learning from disagreeing!207 Fac2: Fac1: Any thoughts about today, about the discussion and dynamics208 Fac2: FTM: next week I cant be here with you…..218 Fac2: Fac1: any further thoughts219 Fac2: MLA - today we discussed a lot of interesting things220 Fac2: even though there were only few of us221 Fac2: but I hope next week we can have everyone here to talk about these issues222 Fac2: have a good week223 Fac2: MWA: agrees today went really well - ironically think we have a better conversation224 Fac2: wehn we dont agree with each other225 Fac2: FTM: I agree too, I think todays sesion was good, each week we get more and more used to each other226 Fac2: and I hope that not next week but the week after227 Fac2: will be even better!228 MWA: thanks so much229 FTM: bye230 MWA: see you monday231 Fac2: byee
“If you haven’t fought with each other you do not know each other” Chinese proverbWhile Web 2.0 does offer many opportunities for sharing interests, working towards a common goal as in the case of gaming, for instance, but when it comes to discussing intercultural or sensitive issues perhaps a ‘safe space’ is needed for conflict to become transformative and educational.