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  • 1. Volume 15 Number 2June 2011Articles ColumnsComprehending News Videotexts: The Tribute to Irene ThompsonInfluence of the Visual Content Article PDFAbstract | Article PDF by Dorothy ChunJeremy Cross, Nanyang Technological p. 1Universitypp. 44–68 Emerging Technologies Mobile Apps for Language LearningDivergent Perceptions of Article PDFTellecollaborative Language Learning by Robert Godwin-JonesTasks: Task-as-Workplan vs. Task-as- pp. 2–11ProcessAbstract | Article PDF Action ResearchMelinda Dooly, Universitat Autònoma de Edited by Fernando NaiditchBarcelona Using Wordles to Teach Foreign Language Writingpp. 69–91 Article PDF by Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and MarieOnline Domains of Language Use: SelvandinSecond Language Learners’ pp. 12–22Experiences of Virtual Community andForeignness AnnouncementsAbstract | Article PDF News From Sponsoring OrganizationsSarah Pasfield-Neofitou, Monash Article PDFUniversity pp. 23–26pp. 92–108 Reviews Edited by Paige Ware Moodle 2.0 Article PDF Reviewed by Tsun-Ju Lin pp. 27–33 Teaching Literature and Language Online Ian Lancashire (Ed.) Article PDF Reviewed by David Malinowski pp. 34–38 Contact: Editors or Managing Editor Copyright © 2011 Language Learning & Technology, ISSN 1094-3501. Articles are copyrighted by their respective authors.
  • 2. Teaching English Language Learners through Technology Tony Erben, Ruth Ban, and Martha Castañeda Article PDF Reviewed by Jesús García Laborda and Mary Frances Litzler pp. 39–41 Corpus-Based Contrastive Studies of English and Chinese Richard Xiao and Tony McEnery Article PDF Reviewed by Zhang Xiaojun pp. 42–43 Contact: Editors or Managing EditorCopyright © 2011 Language Learning & Technology, ISSN 1094-3501. Articles are copyrighted by their respective authors.
  • 3. About Language Learning & TechnologyLanguage Learning & Technology is a refereed journal which began publication in July 1997. The journalseeks to disseminate research to foreign and second language educators in the US and around the worldon issues related to technology and language education. • Language Learning & Technology is sponsored and funded by the University of Hawaii National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC) and the Michigan State University Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR), and is co-sponsored by the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL). • Language Learning & Technology is a fully refereed journal with an editorial board of scholars in the fields of second language acquisition and computer-assisted language learning. The focus of the publication is not technology per se, but rather issues related to language learning and language teaching, and how they are affected or enhanced by the use of technologies. • Language Learning & Technology is published exclusively on the World Wide Web. In this way, the journal seeks to (a) reach a broad audience in a timely manner, (b) provide a multimedia format which can more fully illustrate the technologies under discussion, and (c) provide hypermedia links to related background information. • Beginning with Volume 7, Number 1, Language Learning & Technology is indexed in the exclusive Institute for Scientific Informations (ISI) Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), ISI Alerting Services, Social Scisearch, and Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences. • Language Learning & Technology is currently published three times per year (February, June, and October). Copyright © 2011 Language Learning & Technology, ISSN 1094-3501. Articles are copyrighted by their respective authors.
  • 4. Sponsors, Board, and Editorial Staff Volume 15, Number 2SPONSORS University of Hawai‘i National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC) Michigan State University Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR)CO-SPONSOR Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)ADVISORY AND EDITORIAL BOARDSAdvisory BoardSusan Gass Michigan State UniversityRichard Schmidt University of Hawai‘i at ManoaEditorial BoardSigrun Biesenbach-Lucas Georgetown UniversityKlaus Brandl University of WashingtonThierry Chanier Universite Blaise PascalTracey Derwing University of AlbertaRobert Godwin-Jones Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRegine Hampel The Open UniversityPhilip Hubbard Stanford UniversityClaire Kennedy Griffith University, BrisbaneMarkus Kötter University of MünsterMarie-Noelle Lamy The Open UniversityLina Lee University of New HampshireMeei-Ling Liaw National Taichung UniversityLara Lomicka University of South CarolinaJill Pellettieri Santa Clara UniversityBryan Smith Arizona State UniversityPatrick Snellings University of AmsterdamMaggie Sokolik University of California BerkeleySusana Sotillo Montclair State UniversityPaige Ware Southern Methodist UniversityMark Warschauer University of California, Irvine
  • 5. Editorial StaffEditors Dorothy Chun University of CA, Santa Barbara Irene Thompson The George Washington University (Emerita)Associate Editors Trude Heift Simon Fraser University Carla Meskill State University of New York- AlbanyManaging Editors Daniel Jackson University of Hawai‘i at ManoaWeb Production Editor Carol Wilson-Duffy Michigan State UniversityBook & Multimedia Review Paige Ware Southern Methodist UniversityEditorEmerging Technologies Editor Robert Godwin-Jones Virginia Commonwealth UniversityCopy Editors Rebecca Estes University of California, Davis Daniel Jackson University of Hawai‘i at Manoa Dennis Koyama Kanda University of International Studies Copyright © 2011 Language Learning & Technology, ISSN 1094-3501.The contents of this publication were developed under a grant from the Department of Education (CFDA 84.229,P229A60012-96 and P229A6007). However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Departmentof Education, and one should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
  • 6. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2 p. 1 TRIBUTE TO IRENE THOMPSON In July 1997, Mark Warschauer realized his vision of an open access journal for emerging research in the field of computer-assisted language learning as the founding Editor of Language Learning & Technology. A year later, in July 1998, Lucinda Hart- González joined as a Co-Editor (serving for two years in that position), and in January 1999, Irene Thompson came on board as the third Editor. Thirteen years and 37 issues later, Irene is stepping down at the end of August 2011. I have had the great privilege and pleasure to work with Irene for the last 12 years since 2000 and would like to offer a tribute to her for helping to bring LLT to the tremendous heights it has reached. In 1998, LLT had more than 1,000 readers worldwide. In 2010, there were 18,214 official subscribers, and the journal’s Website has an average of 1,513 visitors per day, with over 552,000 visitors during the year. Since 2003, LLT has been indexed in the exclusive Institute for Scientific Information’s (ISI) Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), ISI Alerting Services, Social SciSearch, and Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences, and in 2009 was ranked 3rd in Linguistics journals (out of 93) and 3rd in Education journals (out of 139). ISI Journal Citation Reports® Ranking: Year Impact Factor 5 Year Linguistics Education 2009 2.53 3.575 3 out of 93 3 out of 139 2008 1.70 2.067 11 out of 68 9 out of 113 2007 1.22 No Data 13 out of 55 14 out of 105 A study by Smith and Lafford (2009) that appeared in The Modern Language Journal surveyed expert researchers in language education and technology. These experts ranked Language Learning & Technology highest in quality in a list of 19 academic journals. LLT was also ranked first in terms of these scholars’ preferences for publishing their own research and in having benefit for tenure/promotion. All of the above successes are due in large measure to Irene Thompson’s expertise, dedication, thoroughness, attention to detail and unwavering commitment to excellence. She has worked tirelessly on all aspects of the journal, from the layout and design of the Website to the copyediting of individual articles and reviews, from performing internal reviews of the 150+ yearly submissions during the last several years to working closely with authors to craft publishable articles. During the time of her editorship, the journal has received over 1,300 submissions! Although we are on opposite ends of the continent, working with Irene these past 12 years has been seamless, enjoyable, and immensely rewarding. My heartfelt gratitude to her professionally and personally, and my very best wishes for her well deserved retirement. Despite the sadness of Irene Thompson’s departure, the journal seems to have come full circle as we welcome Mark Warschauer back as Co-Editor. LLT will no doubt continue to thrive and benefit from Mark’s visionary leadership. Aloha and mahalo to Irene and welcome back, Mark! Sincerely, Dorothy Chun Editor-in-ChiefCopyright © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 1
  • 7. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2 pp. 2–11 EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES MOBILE APPS FOR LANGUAGE LEARNINGRobert Godwin-JonesVirginia Commonwealth UniversityIt wasn’t that long ago that the most exciting thing you could so with your new mobile phone was todownload a ringtone. Today, new iPhone or Android phone users face the quandary of which of thehundreds of thousands of apps (applications) they should choose. It seems that everyone from federalgovernment agencies to your local bakery has an app available. This phenomenon, not surprisingly hasled to tremendous interest among educators. Mobile learning (often “m-learning”) is in itself not new, butnew devices with enhanced capabilities have dramatically increased the interest level, including amonglanguage educators. The Apple iPad and other new tablet computers are adding to the mobile app frenzy.In this column we will explore the state of language learning apps, the devices they run on, and how theyare developed.THE CHANGING MOBILE ENVIRONMENTAs long as there have been portable audio-video and computing devices, there has been interest inexploring their use in language learning. As portable cassette players yielded to iPods and other MP3players, the new capabilities of the hardware led to enhanced use of audio-based learning such aslanguage podcasts with integrated transcripts. As PDA’s (personal digital assistants) became morewidespread with the advent of the Palm Pilot and its successors, language dictionaries, e-book grammars,and flashcard programs began to appear. Palm also was the producer of some of the first smartphones,which integrated PDA functions with new capabilities including SMS messaging, built-in cameras, andvoice recording. With a small internal grant, I was able in 2002 to purchase smartphones for each of theparticipants in a study abroad program in Austria. The picture taking, text messaging, and dual-languagedictionaries proved to be very useful, but the main point of having the phones—for the students to writetravel diaries—proved to be problematic as the text input system (T9 keyboard) was too slow and error-prone for writing longer texts efficiently. This kind of issue was not unusual at the time. Five years ago inLLT, George Chinnery (2006) surveyed the state of mobile language learning. He reported on projectsusing mobile phones for vocabulary practice, quiz delivery, live tutoring, and email lesson contentdelivery, and on other projects using PDA’s for file sharing, video playback and stylus text entry. In manyof these instances, Chinnery reported that technical problems arose due to the limitations inherent in thedevices, in particular small, low-resolution screens (problematic for image/video display or even goodtext reading), poor audio quality (both in phoning and audio playback), awkward text entry, limitedstorage/memory and slow Internet connectivity. Many of the language learning projects were seriouslyhampered by these issues. Moreover, the predominant operating systems (OS) for phones and PDA’s atthe time, namely Palm OS, Windows Mobile, and Nokia Symbian, offered limited features andexpandability. All did allow, however, apps to be loaded onto devices, but they were few in number andlimited in functionality. Web browsing was constrained and slow; Web navigation using a mini-joystickor a stylus was awkward and error-prone.A huge step up in functionality arrived with the Apple iPhone in 2007. It is not only the iPhone’s ownadvanced features which have proven to be a game-changer in the mobile area, but also the fact that itssuccess has led competitors to create other equally capable devices. With the iPhone, Android devices,and Windows Phone 7 products, what used to be phones with added-on computing capabilities havemorphed into mini-computers which can also make phone calls. These devices go a long ways towardssolving the issues arising from early efforts in mobile assisted language learning. Screens areconsiderably larger, with higher resolution and clarity, and capable—through more powerful processors—Copyright © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 2
  • 8. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learningof playing back high-resolution video smoothly. Almost all smartphones today feature a responsive touchscreen which makes Web navigation much easier. Text entry is enhanced through a relatively large virtualkeyboard or a full physical mini-keyboard. Many phones are capable not only of video capture, but ofvideo (and image) editing as well as of voice recognition. Most of the new generation of smartphoneshave faster 3G or 4G cellular connectivity along with even faster Wi-Fi. Built-in storage is greatlyenlarged, with flash memory having in recent years become cheaper, smaller, and higher capacity. Someof the functionality of current smartphones even surpasses in some ways what is available on laptops, asmany include GPS chips, accelerometers, compasses, high-resolution cameras, and proximity sensors.Most incorporate Bluetooth and USB connections as well. Clearly having such powerful devices availableanytime, anyplace provides tremendous opportunities for educational use. However, it is not just—oreven primarily—hardware enhancements of the iPhone generation devices that hold the most promise foruse in language learning. Equally important is the software and the new opportunities that arise frommobile application development.APPS ON THE RISEOne of the significant software enhancements of the iPhone when first released in 2007 was the muchgreater usability of its Web browser, Mobile Safari. Coupled with a larger, high-resolution screen, a morepowerful processor, more internal (RAM) memory, and faster Internet connectivity, Mobile Safari wasable for the first time on a device its size to access and display the “full” Web. Previous phone browsersused either text only browsing, server-based on the fly re-formatting (Opera Mini), or reliance on WAP(Wireless Application Protocol), a way to rewrite HTML for display on phones. Web browsing on aphone did not deliver the same Web experience as desktop browsers. Web pages on the iPhone, bycontrast, are not dumbed down in any way, but are displayed as they would appear in a normal Webbrowser on a desktop computer. The smaller screen size effects the readability of full-page display, butthe iPhone introduced touch actions such as double tap and two-finger zoom to allow smaller text to beread. Other smartphones have similar browsers. In fact, most are based on the WebKit rendering enginedeveloped by Apple for use in Safari. Apple has made Webkit an open source project. Another significantdevelopment with Mobile Safari was robust JavaScript support, the language that supplies much of theinteractivity on the Web. Also supported was CSS 2 (cascading style sheets), which not only is importantfor formatting Web pages but also plays a key role in structuring the page’s “document object model”(DOM), an essential element in being able to change dynamically and programmatically elements of apage. At the same time, Apple introduced extensions to HTML and CSS which enhance the Web displayon iPhones. As WebKit is used now across smartphone platforms, these tags are commonly supportedand, in fact, are making their way into the specifications of HTML 5, the new version of the Webformatting language, not yet finalized, but already largely supported in many browsers. A majorcomponent of current Web publishing is, however, not supported on iPhones or on other mobile Appledevices, Adobe’s Flash; Apple believes that HTML 5 will gradually replace the use of Flash. Thatremains to be seen.Given the enhanced capability of mobile Safari, Apple initially encouraged developers to addfunctionality to the iPhone by creating Web apps, that is, HTML-based programs which used JavaScriptand CSS to provide interactivity. Developers, however, were not satisfied with this approach, which didnot provide full access to the capabilities of the iPhone, and in 2008 Apple announced that it would allow3rd party native applications for the iPhone. Subsequently, a SDK (software development kit) wasreleased for development of iPhone apps, built into Apple’s programming environment, XCode. At thesame time Apple created a curated environment for distributing the new apps, the Apple App Store,integrated into the iTunes Store. The App Store has proven to be wildly successful, with some 400,000apps to date. Other smartphone OS’s have implemented similar systems, although in general without thestrict scrutiny apps submitted to the Apple store undergo. Google’s Android OS, in particular, has gainedsignificantly in the past year in both users and number of apps. There are predictions that the number ofLanguage Learning & Technology 3
  • 9. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language LearningAndroid apps will soon surpass those for Apple devices.Among these iPhone and Android apps are a good number supporting language learning. Claire Siskinhas provided a nice list of apps for language learning, and others have listed and reviewed apps for alllanguages, or for specific languages such as Japanese, French, and ESL. Many of these apps are of similarkind to those available for some time on phones, including flashcard programs, dual languagedictionaries, and phrase books. Not all are of the highest quality. In some instances, newer hardware andsoftware have allowed for enhanced functionality. Phrase books, for instance, can now hold much morecontent, including video as well as audio, and integrate with online sites. Some travel guides such as theLonely Planet apps feature advanced features such as drag-and-drop trip planners, audio phrase books,and even augmented reality, which uses phone camera views to overlay local site information.Vocabulary development programs have become more sophisticated and powerful. One I have been usingfor studying Chinese is eStroke. Its primary purpose is to help in learning stroke order for writing Chinesecharacters, but it also includes an extensive dual-language dictionary, features excellent animations, andincludes personal library and quizzing functions. Another popular app for Chinese is Pleco, which startsout as a free app, but adds functionality through a large number of paid add-ons such as specializeddictionaries, enhanced handwriting recognition, and optical character recognition. ChinesePod has anicely designed app which offers a variety of tools to work with lesson podcasts and theirvocabulary/phrases. The app also automatically syncs the user’s learning status on the app with that onthe Web site and allows lesson content to be downloaded for off-line study, one of the benefits of appsover the live Web. Another nice feature new smartphones offer Chinese learners, and anyone else using anon-Latin writing system, is the ease with which one can switch the virtual keyboard’s text input system,making it possible on the iPhone, for example, to enter Chinese characters by drawing them with one’sfinger or switching to pinyin text entry with then the corresponding character equivalents displayed forselection.Flashcard programs have also become more powerful. A popular program of this type is Anki, a spacedrepetition vocabulary study program (discussed in the LLT 14/2 column). The mobile version offersessentially the same powerful functionality as the desktop version, including deck and individual cardediting, audio support, and customizable review options. It also syncs with the desktop and Web versions.The popular Quizlet flashcard system also offers a mobile app, which has an interesting auto-definefunction when adding new items, which allows the user to see/choose definitions that other Quizlet usershave entered for that term.’s app links to language discussion forums that referencethe term searched. Conjugation Nation offers apps in a variety of languages for drilling verb forms.Linking a mobile app to Web services or an online database is being used more and more in languagelearning apps, in particular in commercial products such as Rosetta Stone or Transparent Language’sByki, as well as in online services such as or hello-hello, all of which have mobile appswhich sync mobile and desktop versions. Complete language courses, such as Living Language forFrench, are now also being offered as apps. An interesting approach to leveraging the client-serverrelationship on mobile devices is the Cloudbank project described by Pemberton, Winter, and Fallahkhair(2009). It uses crowdsourcing to build a database of informal English language usage, featuring anAndroid app communicating with a database through Web services. It also uses RSS feeds to keep usersinformed of new content added.Cloudbank leverages not only the ability of a smartphone to exchange information with an onlinedatabase; it also makes use of a peer-to-peer network. In fact, with the rise of social networking, we areseeing more language learning apps that take advantage of this trend. The Byki app for example, allowsusers to search for use of terms within Twitter messages. The Micromandarin project uses the locationaware program Foursquare to provide contextually relevant content for language practice. The app usesGPS to determine a user’s location and supplies vocabulary information and practice appropriate to thatlocation: food and drink vocabulary, for instance, if the user is in a restaurant. The CLUE project makesLanguage Learning & Technology 4
  • 10. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learningsimilar use of GPS to supply location appropriate content and adds another dimension through taggingobjects with RFID tags (radio frequency identification), whose information then can be retrieved on thesmartphone. Beaudin, Intille, Tapia, Rockinson and Morris (2007) describe a similar project forvocabulary learning, using objects in the home with stick-on sensors. It seems likely that we will see appdevelopment in the future take greater advantage of some of the hardware features of new smartphonesbeyond the GPS chip. The accelerometer, for example, used extensively in mobile game applications,could be used in language learning games as well.Claire Siskin’s list of apps for language learning includes a category called “repurposed apps,” whichdiscusses general purpose apps that could be used in language learning, including voice search, voiceemail, postcard creation, audio recording, and children’s games. Integrating audio capabilities adds acrucial component of language use and learning. A good many e-books are becoming available, especiallyfor the iPad, which combine text, images, and audio in an attractive way. Some also include games. Manyof these, such as the Town Musicians of Bremen, are designed for children, but clearly would be ofinterest for language learning. Google Translate for Android offers an interesting experimental featureusing voice. “Conversation mode” lets users translate an utterance into the target language, which is thenread aloud. One’s conversation partner can then speak in the target language and have in turn thatresponse be translated and read aloud. Another Android voice translation app is Talk to Me, which hasgotten positive reviews. While newer smartphones include voice recognition, including in some cases forlanguages other than English, this feature does not yet appear to have worked its way into apps.DEVELOPING FOR MOBILE DELIVERYIn order to take full advantage of the hardware and OS capabilities of a mobile device, developers need tocreate an app using an approach consistent with that device’s programming environment. For Apple iOSdevices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), that means using Objective-C and Apple’s XCode developers’ tool.However, such apps will not run on Android devices, for which apps are written in Java running on aversion of Linux. iOS apps are available exclusively from the Apple App Store (unless the iPhone is“jailbroken,” i.e., unlocked for open access), while Android apps are more widely available, from theofficial Android Market, Amazon’s Appstore for Android, Handango, and other repositories. As is thecase with iOS apps, Android apps are free or available for a price, usually under ten US dollars. Someapps are considerably more expensive—buying all the add-ons to Pleco costs US $149. Apps are usuallyavailable in English only, few are localized for other languages. Other smartphone environments(Blackberry, WebOS [Palm/HP], Windows Phone 7) use different programming environments, allmutually incompatible. All of the different smartphone software companies make development toolsavailable, which typically include a desktop phone simulator. Most are free, or available for a modestcost. Except for iOS development, which is Mac OS only, app development can be done on Windows orMacintosh machines, and, in some instances, on Linux.App development is currently progressing at a feverish pace, and app developers are in high demand.However, for language learning purposes, native app development may not be the best choice. Not onlyare the programming environments different, each also involves knowing or learning a programminglanguage such as Objective-C or Java. Moreover, there is little carryover from developing an app in oneenvironment to re-creating that app for a different platform. Obviously, the fundamental functionality anduser interface design could be the same, but the programming will be altogether different and done usingdifferent tools. For educational use, as things stand now, it would seem that one at the least would want tohave an iOS and Android version of an app, probably a Windows Phone 7 app as well, and possiblyWebOS or Blackberry versions, depending on one’s user base and the market rise and fall of the variouscompanies’ products. This could prove to be a time-consuming and expensive development process.An alternative to developing native apps is to create instead a Web app. This involves using more familiarand easier-to-learn HTML, JavaScript and CSS. All are scripting rather than programming languages,Language Learning & Technology 5
  • 11. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learninghence do not involve compilation into byte-code. The only tool needed is a text editor. Web apps will runand perform similarly in most smartphone environments, particularly as all but Microsoft now useWebKit. The look and feel can be quite similar to built-in apps, particularly if one uses relatively newHTML/CSS tags such as the “viewport” meta tag and CSS “webkit-border” rules. Icons/shortcuts to theWeb app on the home screen allow it to be launched in a similar way to native apps. Distribution for Webapps is through a Web server, rather than from an app store. What does one sacrifice creating a Web apprather than “going native”? Execution speed is likely to be slower and the user interface not as slick.There will also be more limited access to the device hardware, including its camera, audio player or GPS.These considerations may or may not be of consequence, depending on the nature of the application. Theymay be outweighed by the advantage of creating one app which can be universally deployed. My secondyear German students have been using for the past year a simple flashcard Web app I created, which islinked both from the Blackboard course Web site and from an open, mobile-friendly link. This allows thestudents to use the app both from desktop browsers and mobile devices, something not doable with nativeiPhone or Android apps.Another possibility is to create a “hybrid app,” a Web app which is then ported through a tool such asPhoneGap to the native environment of the smartphone. This facilitates linking to some hardware featuresof the device. It also allows for possible distribution through one of the app stores. A number of Web appscreated with PhoneGap are available from the various app stories. Creating a Web app for mobiledistribution through PhoneGap or similar tools such as Appcelerator Titanium can be much easier throughusing templates such as those available from Mobile Boilerplate or by using a mobile-oriented JavaScriptlibrary. Among the latter is jQuery Mobile, an extension to the popular and free jQuery library. UsingjQuery Mobile makes it easy to create parts of a Web app such as navigation, form elements, and pagetransition effects without having to write the JavaScript oneself. It supports most smartphone platforms(but not yet Windows Phone 7) and features progressive enhancement, meaning that its advanced featuresdegrade gracefully if not supported in a given mobile browser, while maintaining across all browsers thesame essential content and functionality. If not supported, for example, page transitions such as fading,flipping or sliding will simply not appear, but the new page will still be displayed.Another kind of mixed environment approach that is getting wide usage is the creation of Web-basedcontent that automatically re-formats itself for display on a small screen. This approach uses a feature ofCSS 3 called CSS media queries, which is widely supported on both mobile and desktop browsers. Thisinvolves adding a tag to the HTML header to direct a Web browser to use a size appropriate CSS style, asin the following example: <link media=“only screen and (max-device-width: 480px)” href=“mobile.css” type=“text/css” rel=“stylesheet” />In this case the page formatting will be determined by the “mobile.css” style, rather than the main CSSlinked in the header of the page, if the device being used has a maximum width of 480 pixels. A similarprocess has been possible for some time to enable optimization of a print copy of a Web page. What isnew here is the ability to specify a screen width to be used in connection with a particular style. A mock-up of an online journal page from the Web design site “A List Apart” demonstrates this and displaysdifferently depending on screen width, with the pictures either displayed in 2 columns on a phone (480pixels wide or less), 4 columns on a typical monitor (480 to 600 pixels) or 6 columns on a widescreenmonitor (wider than 600 pixels). The navigation buttons also change location depending on the screensize, namely moving to the top for a small screen. While this approach has a number of devotees, othersadvocate creating separate HTML pages for mobile devices. It is a trade-off between more complex codewhich adjusts automatically to different screen size or simpler code which must be maintained and syncedin different file locations.One approach that many language developers have used in the past in creating Web-based interactivity isLanguage Learning & Technology 6
  • 12. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learningproblematic in the mobile sphere, namely Flash. Traditionally, Flash has been used for video streaming,animation, and for general interactivity. Flash is not likely to ever be supported on iOS devices, but itdoes run on other mobile devices. Android 3.0 and some 2.x versions support Flash. However, Flashperformance on mobile devices is not as robust as it is on desktop platforms. It tends to run more slowlyand occasionally crashes the system on some devices, due mostly to memory issues. Adobe has beenworking on better performance on mobile devices, and it seems likely performance will improve in thenear future. However, if it’s possible to use HTML 5 rather than Flash—which may or may not bepossible—that is advisable for the widest possible compatibility.OUTLOOK: TABLETS ALSO ON THE RISEComplicating app development even more is the arrival of touchscreen tablets. The iPad, introduced in2010, has been a phenomenal success for Apple, with sales far exceeding most expectations and eclipsingsales of earlier tablet computers, which never caught on except in narrow niche markets. Apps developedfor the iPhone will also run on the iOS-based iPad but to take advantage of the larger screen need to bemodified, which may entail a revamping of the user interface. One of the first commercial languagelearning apps designed specially for the iPad was the heavily marketed hello-hello app, available forseveral different languages. Meanwhile, tablets from other manufacturers are becoming available, manyusing the Android OS. The Android tablets vary in sizes, most either 7 or 10 inches, with likely morevariation in future models. Given this scenario, it seems all the more advisable for developers to considercreating a Web app with a fluid grid that adjusts automatically to different environments. It looks likelythat tablets will be a popular product in the near future, so having language learning applications thatwork in that environment seems highly desirable. Of course, a special use case may make creation of anative app more appropriate, especially if the target audience has a marked predominance of oneplatform, or if hardware linkage is an important part of the project. It’s unfortunate that today in mobilesoftware development, we seem to have gone back to the days when developers had to make a choice thatexcluded a large part of their possible market, as in deciding between Mac-based HyperCard or Windowsonly Toolbook. The Web has been an environment which has brought peace to the platform religion warsbut we are starting to see a new war of words being waged between iOS and Android partisans.As recently as 2007, a comprehensive review of mobile assisted language learning by Agnes Kukukska-Hulme and Lesley Shield found that for the most part uses of mobile devices were pedestrian, uncreative,and repetitive and did not take advantage of the mobility, peer connectivity, or advanced communicationfeatures of mobile devices. Most activities were teacher-led and scheduled, not leveraging the anytime,anyplace mobile environment. Oral interactions and learner collaboration were infrequently used. Theproblem is less one of hardware/software shortcomings and more in developers’ conceptualization of howlanguage learning could be enhanced in new, innovative ways with the assistance of mobile devices. Thenew mobile computing environment ushered in by the arrival of the iPhone gives us even more capabilityof which to take advantage. It would be a shame to fall into only the same use patterns as in the past. In arecent post to his mobile ESL blog, David Read describes what he would like to see in a language app. Heenvisions a photo translation function that would make use of the built-in camera as a scanner to read in,recognize, and translate items from menus, posters, or other realia, similar to how that works now in theSnaPanda program (Android). He would also like to see new approaches to accessing language corporaon small screens as well as ways to look up and display items simultaneously from a variety of onlinedictionaries, with the added ability to add items from all these sources—scanning, look-up, corpora—to apersonal word bank. It would be interesting to see such functions combined as well with an intelligenttutoring system (ITS). A step in that direction is the TenseITS project (Cui & Bull, 2004) which featureda mobile ITS using context and location of the user to determine which verbs to use in drill exercises. ThePDAs used in the project were hampered by limited memory capacity; the new generation of mobiledevices could make mobile ITS a more doable proposition. Chen and Li (2010) describe a project whichcombines context/location awareness with a rudimentary kind of ITS, with content delivered based on aLanguage Learning & Technology 7
  • 13. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learninguser’s profile/learning history and current location. In this case location was determined by nodes in awide-area network, but GPS could also be used. With the good connectivity now available on mobiledevices, adding a social dimension to location-aware learning apps would be beneficial, allowing users toshare context-specific learning experiences.It is not just the mobility, enhanced hardware, and better software of new mobile devices that shouldencourage new thinking. The devices in and of themselves encourage a new kind of relationship betweenuser and machine. The responsive touchscreen interface seems to create a more personal, even intimateconnection, becoming part of one’s personal identity. According to a recent report on creating mobileapps from Forrester Research, the emotional bond often created is something to keep in mind whendeveloping mobile apps. The devices are more personal also in the sense that they are individually highlycustomizable and small enough to be always within reach. It’s also the case that both smartphones andtablets tend to focus the attention more on one task at a time than is the case with regular computers.Although multi-tasking to one degree or another is available on these devices, the screen size and touchinterface tend to invite users to focus exclusively on the program running in the foreground. Foreducational uses, this may present a welcome opportunity to capture, at least for a short time, the fullattention of the learner. Desktop and laptop computers will continue to be used, but as mobile devicesproliferate, their use may change. Apple devices are still tied to using a computer for storage and syncing,but the predominant movement these days is towards over-the-air syncing and resources residing “in thecloud” rather than on a personal computer. With faster Internet connections, client-user interactionsthrough Ajax (JavaScript-based server interactions) or other means work faster and smoother, making itpossible to draw data more efficiently from online sources for smoother interactions in an ITS or otherprogram involving heavy data usage.As personal devices, smartphones are ideal for individualized informal learning. The user determineswhich apps to acquire and how to use them. As language educators, we should encourage and assist thelearner autonomy this enables and provide means for learners to combine formal and informal learning.Song and Fox (2008) describe a project which features an open-ended, student-oriented approach tovocabulary learning in which EFL students were provided access to and guidance on using a variety ofvocabulary building tools. The article describes the considerable variety of tools and approacheseventually chosen by the students. This kind of activity becomes even more powerful when coupled withthe ability for students to show or discuss their methods and findings with their peers. The photo bloggingproject described by Wong, Chin, Tan, and Liu (2010) involved students using iPhones to take photos toillustrate Chinese idioms being studied and to share their photos and comments with the class through awiki. Students were encouraged to take photos based on their daily lives using their immediatesurroundings. This use of the student’s actual environment improves upon similar projects that have usedan artificial space such as a lab (Stockwell, 2008) or a classroom (Liu, 2009). We know that learningbecomes more real and permanent when tied to learners’ lives outside the academic environment. Mobiledevices are a great way to achieve that goal. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that we are far fromseeing universal ownership of smartphones—they are still too expensive for many budgets. Designingexclusively for smartphone usage will necessarily exclude many users. Smartphone penetration will likelygain worldwide in coming years, but not at the same pace everywhere. At the same time, phone and tabletmodels—both hardware and software—will evolve from their current state. Given how competitive andprofitable that market has become, the pace of innovation is likely to be rapid. As mobile devices becomeeven more powerful and versatile, we are likely to see more users make them their primary, perhaps theirsole computing devices. This is not a trend language educators can ignore.Language Learning & Technology 8
  • 14. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language LearningREFERENCESBeaudin, J. S., Intille, S. S., Tapia, E. M., Rockinson, R., & Morris, M. E. (2007). Context-sensitivemicrolearning of foreign language vocabulary on a mobile device. In B. Schiele, A. K. Dey, H. Gellersen,B. de Ruyter, M. Tscheligi, R. Wichert, E. Aarts, & A. Buchmann. (Eds.), Ambient intelligence (pp. 55–72). (Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science). Volume 4794/2007. Berlin: Springer.Chen, C-M., & Li, Y-L. (2010). Personalized context-aware ubiquitous learning system for supportingeffective English vocabulary learning. Interactive Learning Environments, 18(4), 341–364.Chinnery, G. M. (2006). Going to the MALL: Mobile assisted language learning. Language Learning &Technology, 10(1), 9–16. Retrieved from, Y., & Bull, S. (2005). Context and learner modelling for the mobile foreign language learner. System,33, 353–367.Kukulska-Hulme, A., & Shield, L. (2007). An overview of mobile assisted language learning: Can mobiledevices support collaborative practice in speaking and listening? Paper presented at EuroCALL 2007,Conference Virtual Strand, September, 2007., T.-Y. (2009). A context-aware ubiquitous learning environment for language listening and speaking.Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(6), 515–527.Pemberton, L., Winter, M., & Fallahkhair, S. (2009). A user created content approach to mobileknowledge sharing for advanced language learners. Proceedings of mLearn 2009, Orlando, Florida, 184–187.Song, Y., & Fox, R. (2008). Using PDA for undergraduate student incidental vocabulary testing.European Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning, 20(3), 290–314.Stockwell, G. (2008). Investigating learner preparedness for and usage patterns of mobile learning.ReCALL, 20(3), 253–270.Wong, L.-H., Chin, C.-K., Tan, C.-L., & Liu, M. (2010). Students’ personal and social meaning makingin a Chinese idiom mobile learning environment. Educational Technology & Society, 13(4), 15–26.RESOURCE LISTLanguage Learning and Mobile Apps• Language Learning Applications for Smartphones, or Small Can Be Beautiful – Clair Siskin’s list• Brief Review of Language Learning Apps – HRC Blog• Learnosity Blog : Mobile Applications for Language Learning• Move Over, Rosetta Stone: Mobile Language Apps Make Learning Fun• Mobile Application for Language Learning – MALL Research Project Report from the schools online initiative• Cool Apps for Language Learning• 50 iPhone Apps to Help You Learn a New Language• How I’m using my iPad to learn languagesLanguage Learning & Technology 9
  • 15. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learning• Google Docs gets Android, iPhone editing in 44 languages• Mobile Language Learning: Learn Japanese on the Go• Mobile ESL: My perfect language learning mobile app• TOTALe Companion – For Rosetta Stone• Byki Mobile App• Quizlet – App• Conjugation Nation – Verb form app• app• CloudBank Project – Crowd-sourcing project with Android appApp Development• Mobile application development – Good introduction from Wikipedia• Mobile app development trends - what languages should you be learning? – Nice overview of different platforms• Mobile App Design Best Practices - Forrester Research – Comprehensive but expensive• What is Android? | Android Developers – Good starting point• iOS Development Center – Starting point from Apple for developing iPhone and iPad apps• BlackBerry Developer Zone• WebOS Developer Center• Introduction to Windows Phone 7 Development)• How To Port an iPhone Application to the iPad• Green’s Opinion: From iPhone to iPad: Creating a Universal ApplicationWeb Apps and Mobile-friendly Web Publishing• Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 – From the W3• ADL Mobile - Mobile Learning Research• Designing Web Sites for Phone Browsers – Microsoft• New to Mobile? Welcome to the One Web Debate• Mobile Application Development: Web vs. Native - ACM Queue• Responsive Web Design or Separate Mobile Site? Eh. It Depends• A List Apart: Articles: Responsive Web Design• A Flexible Grid• jQTouch - jQuery plugin for mobile Web development• Sencha - Desktop and Mobile JavaScript Frameworks• PhoneGap• Baker Ebook FrameworkLanguage Learning & Technology 10
  • 16. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learning• jQuery Mobile | jQuery Mobile• Nuance Mobile Developer Program: Dragon Mobile SDK• Need a Mobile Web App Template? Mobile Boilerplate 1.0 is Here• CSS3 Media Queries• css3-mediaqueries-js – Library to use css media queries in supported browsersLanguage Learning & Technology 11
  • 17. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2 pp. 12–22 ACTION RESEARCH USING WORDLES TO TEACH FOREIGN LANGUAGE WRITINGMelissa Baralt, Florida International UniversitySusan Pennestri, Georgetown UniversityMarie Selvandin, Georgetown University This paper introduces readers to Wordle, a data visualization tool, and describes how word clouds, or wordles generated by Wordle, were used in an action research project designed to facilitate the teaching of foreign language (FL) writing within a dual coding theoretical framework. Over the course of one semester, students in a third-semester university FL Spanish course submitted drafts of their compositions electronically to create wordles (word clouds). The wordles were then used as visual tools to discuss students writing development, writing strategies, and lexical acquisition. Word frequency counts along with wordles also contributed to student-centered discussions about writing. The paper concludes with a discussion of ways in which instructors can incorporate wordles into their FL classrooms to facilitate the teaching of L2 writing, as well as use them as tools to promote vocabulary development and communicative task-based teaching and learning.USING WORDLES TO TEACH FOREIGN LANGUAGE WRITINGData visualization tools have recently generated increased interest in multiple disciplines due to theirability to present and summarize data in ways that appeal to different types of learners. One type of datavisualization, word clouds, assists in accentuating the main points of text-based information. In a matterof a few seconds, a word cloud highlights the main ideas by presenting words used in a text in the shapeof a cloud, with the biggest words being those that were most frequently employed in the text. Whilenumerous ideas exist for the potential of word clouds, there is relatively little research on whether andhow they can facilitate the teaching and learning of vocabulary. No study exists to date that explores theirpotential in the FL classroom. In examining one type of data visualization tool for word clouds, Wordle,the present paper aims to fill this gap by carrying out an action research project during which “wordles”were incorporated into a Spanish foreign language (FL) classroom. The project had two goals: to facilitatethe teaching of writing in class and to improve students’ writing in the FL.The first part of the paper that reports on this project contains a brief discussion of data visualization as alearning tool by specifically examining word clouds and how they have been used in previous research.The second part describes an action research project conducted by the authors using Wordle. The finalsection discusses the outcome of the project and provides suggestions for incorporating word clouds intothe FL classroom. Throughout the paper, the term wordle is used to refer to a word cloud in general, whilethe capitalized term Wordle refers to the specific application tool created by Jonathan Feinberg (2009).Data VisualizationData visualization refers to the use of tools for representing data in the form of charts, maps, tag clouds,animation, or any graphical means that make content easier to understand (Barret, 2010). It serves as away to communicate information clearly and effectively through visual representation, sometimes evenvia animated multimedia (see Friendly, 2008, for an excellent review of the history of data visualizationthrough the centuries). Over the past few years, the use of data visualizations has increased rapidly inacademia and in other contexts. These tools can help facilitate the understanding of complex events orphenomena because they present data in a multimodal way, incorporating visual, phonological, textual,and even animated input. For example, data visualization was used to report on the 2010 midtermelections in the United States (see CNN© video at © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 12
  • 18. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesWordleIt is only recently that data visualization has become more accessible to the general public. Using widelyavailable Web 2.0 tools, users can now easily create data visualizations without needing to know thetechnology used to create word cloud output. Creating data visualizations is now as easy as pastinginformation into a browser’s window and choosing an output style, thanks to the many Websites thatprovide these tools for free to the public.Word clouds are one of the most popular forms of data visualization. A word cloud, also called text cloudor tag cloud, is a visual representation of word frequency. The size of each word in a cloud depends onhow many times it appears throughout the text. As the frequency of the word increases, the size of theword in the cloud becomes larger as well. The importance of a word is thus visualized in the cloudaccording to its font size. A number of free word cloud tools are available, such as Tagxedo, Tagul,Wordsift, and Tag Crowd. One of the most popular word cloud generators is Wordle, created by IBMdeveloper Jonathan Feinberg. Feinberg also built Word-Cloud Generator (WCG), the tool found in thewidely-known interactive data visualization site called Many Eyes ( by Feinberg as a “toy,” Wordle is used by many for its simplicity and its visually appealingresults. Users simply need to copy text from any source and paste it into Wordle, which performsstatistical analyses of the text and organizes it by word frequency. Users can then change the font, shapeand color scheme of the resulting image, remove any unwanted words, and view the total word frequencycounts in a separate chart. Figure 1 below shows a word cloud created by the authors using Wordle.Figure 1. Example word cloud from (created by the authors).Word Clouds in ResearchOnly a small number of studies (Cidell, 2010; McNaught & Lam, 2010; Pendergast, 2010; Ramsden &Bate, 2008) has conducted research with word clouds, all within the last four years. Pendergast (2010)used “tag clouds” to perform an analysis of the most commonly used terms from documents published bythe American Association for Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), creating what she referred to as a“folksonomy” of texts (p. 292-3). She showed that the clouds revealed a visual hierarchy of text, andconcluded by suggesting that tag clouds be included on Websites next to the published documents.Pendergast argued that doing so would appeal to multiple generations, including the “millennials,” who,according to her, are multiliterate and tend to prefer visual over textual information (p. 297).Language Learning & Technology 13
  • 19. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesCidell (2010) suggested that “content clouds” may serve as a form of exploratory qualitative data analysis(p. 516). She carried out a study with geographical data from public meeting transcripts and newspaperarticles about “green” buildings. Using both visual content clouds and word frequency reports to carry outtwo case studies, Cidell showed visually how the same environmental issues are understood in differentways across the country. McNaught and Lam (2010) also supported the use of word clouds, arguing thatthey can be used as supplementary research tools for the triangulation of data (i.e., using multiplemethods and data sources to obtain a more reliable picture of the phenomenon being explored). Theycarried out a study in which transcripts from two student focus groups, Chinese secondary school sciencestudents and second year law students, were analyzed. The researchers used Wordle to assess students’blog entries about their educational experiences as well as the use of ebooks. They were able todemonstrate the vast differences among student experiences, as well as to qualitatively corroborate theirquantitative findings about students’ perception of the value of both the focus groups and ebooks. Finally,Ramsden and Bate (2008) discussed the potential for word clouds to contribute to the field of education.They described how word clouds can be used to examine teacher responses to a survey about podcastingin educational contexts. The authors concluded by suggesting other uses for wordles (e.g., gatheringinformal feedback during large group instruction), as well as considerations teachers should take intoaccount when creating word clouds, for example, the selection of software, data preparation, and how tointerpret a word cloud.Word Clouds in EducationTo our knowledge, there is currently no research on the implementation of word clouds in the classroom.Rather, there are resources and suggestions for teachers on how to use word clouds. For example, Mehta(2007) created a Website that uses word clouds to analyze the speeches of U.S. presidents called U.S.Presidential Speeches Tag Clouds. Users can drag a timeline cursor to compare the frequency and trendsof word use by all of the presidents. Another example is the Website, which has asection entirely dedicated to materials for teachers, such as the data visualization graph of wealth andhealth of nations. Not surprisingly, most literature on ways that teachers might incorporate word clouds isavailable on the Internet, typically in the form of blogs. One of the most detailed blogs with ideas forteachers is the Website The Clever Sheep, maintained by a Canadian high school teacher Rodd Lucierwho proposes a number of educational uses for word clouds (Lucier, 2008).Dual Coding HypothesisThe theoretical framework for using wordles in the classroom is based on the dual coding hypothesis(Paivio, 1986). Engaging in class-based discussion about the meaning of words while simultaneouslybeing able to look at them in a wordle, thus presenting learners with visual and auditory inputconcurrently, may help them to process and to retain vocabulary more effectively. According to Paivio’sDual Coding Theory, as well as to recent empirical findings about the way in which human brains processinformation (see Sousa, 2006, for a review), both verbal and nonverbal knowledge contribute to lexicalrepresentation of words in the mind. In reviewing what brain research tells us about second languagelearning, Genesee (2000) explains that “as connections are formed among adjacent neurons to formcircuits, connections also begin to form with neurons in other regions of the brain that are associated withvisual, tactile, and even olfactory information related to the sounds of words” (p. 2). Using multimedia-based input in class such as wordles should facilitate learners’ ability to make meaningful connectionsamong written, oral, and visual information, since the dual coding theory postulates that the mindprocesses and encodes information in multiple ways. There is clearly a need, then, for studies that showwhether and if so, how, word clouds can enhance teaching and learning. The present study sought toaddress this need by carrying out an action research project exploring the potential of word clouds in a FLclassroom context.Language Learning & Technology 14
  • 20. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesTHE PRESENT STUDYTo investigate the potential of word clouds in a FL classroom, an action research project was designedusing Wordle to enhance essay-writing skills in an intermediate-level FL Spanish class. The steps used inthe present project were adapted from Mackey and Gass’s (2005) explanation of action research,specifically to (a) incorporate “wordles” in the FL classroom to facilitate the teaching of writing inSpanish and (b) improve students’ FL writing. To follow is a description of the classroom context andeach step taken during the research project.Classroom ContextWordles were incorporated into an Intermediate-level Spanish FL class at a private research university. Ina class of 18 students, which met for 50 minutes three times a week, students were assignedcommunicative tasks to perform with their peers in order to practice newly learned vocabulary andgrammar. Students were also regularly assessed in speaking, reading, listening and writing.For the writing component, students wrote four compositions throughout the semester, each with twodrafts. Some days of instruction were designated for in-class writing workshops that served as anopportunity for discussing the writing process and writing strategies, and also for receiving instructor andpeer feedback. The writing workshops were conducted as a class and were typically divided into twoparts. During the first half of the workshop (25 minutes), the instructor discussed with students how towrite in different genres such as narration, argumentation, and presentation in Spanish. Spanish transitionwords, such as paragraph markers, were presented, as well as writing techniques and formats that studentscould employ in their essays. The instructor also dedicated time to review common intermediate-levelerrors in writing. During the second half of the workshop (25 minutes), students worked in pairs todevelop and discuss their essay topics, work on outlines, and ask questions. The writing workshops wereconducted in Spanish.All four composition topics covered cultural themes introduced in the course. Students were expected tobe able to: present information formally with an introduction, supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion;use accurate grammar; and incorporate the instructor’s feedback into their writing. These expectationswere clearly communicated to the students.Action Research Stage 1: Identification of the Problem and HypothesisThe instructor observed two main issues in students’ writing, which served as the foci of the currentproject: (1) continuous repetition of errors in students’ essays, and (2) students’ reliance on highfrequency words, without trying to incorporate new ones into their writing. In other words, students rarelyemployed new vocabulary, relying instead on the same words. Below are some examples from studentcompositions. Pienso que estereotipos no están basados en la realidad por muchos razones. Primero, un estereotipo que pienso que no es cierto es el estereotipo que atletas son brutos y no son inteligentes. Un otro estereotipo es que personas gordas son gordas porque no hacen ejercicio; este también es falso por muchas razones. Muchas personas piensan que ... “I think that stereotypes are not based on reality for many reasons. First, a stereotype that I think is not certain is the stereotype that athletes are dumb and are not intelligent. One other stereotype is that fat people are fat because they do not do exercise; this is also false for many reasons. Many people think that …”Note that the verb pensar “to think” is used three times; the adjective mucho “many” three times, and theun otro “one other” is used instead of otro “another,” a common error. Despite class discussions about theuse of new lexical items, students often relied on words with which they were most comfortable. Theinstructor therefore wanted to develop a more student-centered way to promote more lexical creativityLanguage Learning & Technology 15
  • 21. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordlesand grammatical accuracy. In consultation with the instructional technology staff, the instructor decidedto use wordles as a teaching tool during the writing workshops. Because wordles are used for visualizingthe text and could be based on the students’ own compositions, the instructor hypothesized that their usecould have a positive effect on student writing.Action Research Stage 2: Data CollectionData collection for this action research project came from three sources. First, at each draft stage, theinstructor used Wordle to create one whole-class-based wordle as well as a word frequency count from allof the students’ compositions. Second, after each writing workshop, the instructor wrote a teachingreflection about the class discussion and how students responded to the wordles. Lastly, at the end of thesemester, the instructor asked students about their own perceptions of the use of Wordle for the writingprocess.For the second composition, students were asked to submit their first draft to the instructor electronically.Using Wordle, the instructor then created a single wordle based on all the students’ compositions. Duringthe next class meeting and writing workshop, the instructor showed the resulting wordle to the class.Figure 2. Students’ first wordle for draft one of composition two.Figure 3. Students’ wordle for the second draft of composition two.Language Learning & Technology 16
  • 22. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesAs can be seen in the wordle in Figure 2, the largest words were those most frequently used in thestudents’ writing. Using the wordle, the students and the instructor engaged in a dialogue aboutvocabulary items they had used, the different tenses, and even themes that their peers had written about.The class discussion during the workshop was therefore focused entirely on the students’ own use ofwords. By examining the wordle in Figure 2 as a visual representation of the students’ own writing, theinstructor addressed issues in writing in a way that was based primarily on the students’ writtenproduction instead of the teacher’s feedback. Together, the class then came up with the goal of havingstudents use five new vocabulary words in their second composition draft. For the next writing workshop,students again sent their second draft electronically to the instructor. Figure 3 shows the wordle from thesecond draft of the second composition.This wordle showed that more words were used in the second draft than in the first one. To provideadditional evidence, the instructor used the “show word counts” tool on the Wordle Website to create acorpus count of every word used in all 18 student compositions (Figure 4). While the total number ofword types that students as a class used in their first draft was 1,134, the second draft word count was 1,258. Furthermore, in addition to showing the total number of word types used by the students, theinstructor showed them the frequency of each word. For example, in the first draft, the high frequencyword mucho “many” was used 48 times across students’ compositions. In the second draft, it was usedonly 21 times, meaning that students were using different adjectives in their writing. Both tools alsoshowed students how many tenses they had produced, the different uses of adjectives, and how theyshowed grammatical agreement. The word frequency list also allowed the class to discuss topics inorthography: in scrolling down the word count list, a student pointed out that observaciones“observations” was listed twice. A closer examination revealed that across all 18 compositions, there weretwo uses of observaciones and two uses of observaciónes with an accent mark on the penultimatesyllable. Students then inquired about which was correct, noticing their equal frequency. The instructorinvited students to brainstorm about syllabification rules in groups. As a class, the students concluded thatthe single form observación has an accent, but maybe the plural form does not need one. This allowed theinstructor to briefly discuss accentuation in a way that was based on the students’ own writing. Toconclude workshop 2, students established further goals for their next composition: a continuedincorporation of new vocabulary words as well as the use of tenses besides only the present and past. Onestudent also reminded the class to think about accent marks when an extra syllable is added to the word.Goals, therefore, were student-generated for the next composition and writing workshop.In the third composition, students’ writing continued to improve in the areas of grammatical complexity,accuracy, and use of new vocabulary, as indicated by an improvement in the average composition gradecalculated with a rubric in these three areas, among others. Anecdotally, students reported to the instructorthat they enjoyed the Wordle tool and looked forward to seeing the class wordle getting bigger with eachsuccessive draft. By the third composition, the whole-class wordle contained 1,476 word types. Somestudents used new vocabulary that had specifically come up during the class discussions of their writing.There was also a notable decrease in the use of commonly used words, such as mucho “many,” pienso que“I think that,” and personas “persons”. The wordle helped to discourage use of common words, becausestudents knew that they would show up in the class wordles. The end goal of seeing the wordle growpromoted the incorporation of new lexical items in their FL writing.Language Learning & Technology 17
  • 23. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesFigure 4. Excerpt from word frequency count (produced by the same Wordle tool).One incident that took place during a conversation about the students’ third composition was particularlyrevealing. The name Bob was present in the second wordle (composition 3, draft 2). During the followingwriting workshop, the instructor asked students to identify any words they did not recognize in thewordle, and then invited the authors who had used those words to define them in class. A student raisedhis hand and asked “¿Quién es Bob?” (“Who is Bob?”). After much laughter from the class, the studentwho had written about Bob explained that Bob was his uncle who had dressed up as a clown one year forhis birthday. Notably, this excerpt had an error in it: the student’s first draft contained the erroneous formvestió, “dressed,” which the instructor corrected to se vistió (irregular spelling and reflexive form). Thestudent, while telling the class about Bob, produced the correct form (se vistió) and went on to explainthat this irregular verb had been corrected in his first composition, but that he had remembered the correctform. The humorous conversation about Bob turned into a form-focused incident during which thestudent himself drew attention to a linguistic form in front of the whole class. Thus, a student’sobservation resulted in another student’s consideration of grammatical accuracy, while sharing ameaningful story. This moment in class illustrated how opportunities to talk about the writing process,grammar, and feedback, namely, the instructor’s corrections of students’ compositions, were facilitated bythe use of wordles.By the fourth composition, the wordle for students’ compositions had grown by another 50 words, as canbe seen in Figure 5. Not only were students using more vocabulary in their writing, they also wereemploying and trying out new grammatical tenses, as demonstrated by both the wordle and corpus wordfrequency count.Language Learning & Technology 18
  • 24. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesFigure 5. Students’ wordle for final composition.For example, the first wordle and word frequency count showed that students employed only the presentand past tense; however, by the fourth composition, they were using the present, past, future, perfecttenses, and even the present subjunctive. Though the addition of these tenses and moods was a function ofnew grammar learned during the semester, the wordles helped to show how much students had learnedand how much they could express in writing by the end of the semester. It is important to point out thatthe very mechanisms of their writing served as the focal points of their own class discussions about thewriting process.Action Research Stage 3: Qualitative Evaluation of the Effects of WordleAt the end of the semester, the instructor asked students to share their thoughts about the use of Wordleand whether or not they thought it was an effective tool to learn about writing in Spanish. Students wereasked to write their opinions anonymously. 100% of the students thought that the use of Wordle wasworthwhile and that it was a valuable tool to help them improve their writing. Many credited the wordleswith making the writing workshops much more enjoyable and interesting than traditional ones. Studentsalso made reference to the visual component of wordles. Below are some student comments: “I really like the wordles. They were fun and different. They also were interesting in that they showed me what everyone else was writing about. I got to know my classmates a little better.” “The wordles definitely helped me in my writing. I especially liked that [the instructor] actually showed us how many more words we were writing with, how our grammar was improving … for me, having something visual just helps me more.” “Using wordles for me was better because it made the writing workshop days more interesting. I normally hate writing workshop days! The visual of what everyone was writing about made it more interesting.” “… What I liked was that it was a way of making art from our class’ compositions. It made me more interested in writing, and I can honestly say I learned some words by studying the wordles.”These student comments corroborated perceptions expressed in the teaching reflection journal kept by theinstructor. After the first writing workshop, the instructor reflected on how she felt and how studentsseemed to respond: Today I felt like I really was able to get them interested in writing in Spanish! They seemed to come alive when I showed them the wordle and explained that it was made up of every one of their compositions. For the first time I felt like I wasn’t up there in front of the class lecturing aboutLanguage Learning & Technology 19
  • 25. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordles writing. Writing workshops are sometimes difficult for me in that sense, because it’s hard to make the very topic of writing be student-centered and communicative. They seemed so interested and so much more willing to talk about their compositions, and I was able to use the wordle to get them to initiate the discussion. This definitely started by talking about the vocabulary they used, asking which words they recognized and which they didn’t. I think the word frequency count will help too—I’m going to try that next time and see how they react to it. The best part of today though, was the fact that the students came up with goals to improve the next round of compositions. This made me ecstatic, because I wasn’t telling them what to do—they thought of the ideas themselves.By the end of the semester, the instructor wrote the following as a conclusion to the action researchproject: … I feel like I have finally found something to really enhance my teaching about writing. The wordles were an excellent way to help me teach more effectively this semester, because I felt that I was connecting with my students better. As I’ve taught this class before, I definitely feel that wordles assisted in obtaining better writing on behalf of the students too. They were fun, were visual, and were created from the students’ work … they helped me to motivate my students about writing.The instructor’s impression of the use of wordles to assist in teaching about FL writing was very similarto that of the students: effective, novel, and enjoyable. Not only did the class discussions and workshopdays become more student-centered, students also improved in their writing by incorporating newvocabulary into their essays, using grammar more accurately, and incorporating more content in theirwriting. Both the instructor and students had positive perceptions of wordles, confirming the instructor’shypothesis that wordles could be an effective tool for improving student writing.DISCUSSIONThis action research project was designed to address problems in students’ FL writing as identified by theinstructor, as well as to improve instruction in writing workshops. The incorporation of wordles into theclassroom as an instructional tool resulted in the students using more varied vocabulary, more verb tenses,and more accurate grammar in their writing. In addition, feedback on students’ perceptions of wordle as atool to help them improve their writing was very positive. From the instructor’s perspective, wordlesenhanced the teaching of writing workshops and made them more effective and student-centered.Other Uses of Word Clouds in the FL ClassroomThe action research project described above demonstrated how word clouds can be used to facilitate theteaching of FL writing. However, they can certainly be employed as well for other languages, purposes,and for different types of tasks in FL instruction. For example, the Wordle application also supportsCyrillic, Devanagari, Hebrew, Arabic, and Greek scripts, and therefore can be used for many otherforeign languages. To conclude, we would like to propose further suggestions for FL instructors such as:Vocabulary DevelopmentInstructors can create wordles from a text and have students learn and be tested on new words. Forexample, instructors can create a word cloud from a news article and use it to start an in-classconversation about current events. Students can use the word cloud visual to ask questions about wordsthey might not know and/or as a means of input when discussing current events.Pre-communicative Task PhaseInstructors can use word clouds during the pre-task phase of communicative tasks for which students arerequired to use new vocabulary. Students can be given a few minutes to study the word cloud and askquestions; they can then continue to refer to it as a visual means of vocabulary assistance while engagingin conversational interaction.Language Learning & Technology 20
  • 26. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesPre-reading ActivityStudents can engage in discussions using key words produced in a word cloud and make predictionsabout the content before reading the actual text.BrainstormingStudents can use word clouds to generate ideas for new writing topics and/or themes.ReflectionStudents can use Wordle as a reflective tool for writing projects. For example, a wordle can be created foreach essay that a class writes; wordles could be displayed as art forms illustrating the different genres andtopics the class wrote about.AssessmentInstructors can create word clouds from students’ individual essays and use them for self-assessmentpurposes. Similar to the present study, the resulting word clouds as well as word frequency counts canshow students’ individual progress towards improving their vocabulary. The source of text could derivefrom blog posts as opposed to essays; this could be especially relevant for online classes.Define Main IdeasStudents can use Wordle to make a word cloud out of a speech or newspaper article in the target languageto discover and highlight the main ideas.CONCLUSION, LIMITATIONS, AND SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCHIn this action research project, wordles helped the instructor to foster more student-centered discussion ofwriting in class. In addition, they helped students to improve their writing. This study also aimed tocontribute to the body of literature on emerging technology, in this case, wordles as data visualizationtools.A limitation of this study is its possible lack of generalizability. Findings in action research projects aretypically relevant to the specific class under investigation, its students, and its own unique characteristics.While the use of wordles was successful in the current project, it may yield different results in otherclassrooms, contexts, and even languages. In addition, any instructor who wants to use Wordle must havea Java-enabled Web browser. If the in-class computer does not have java applets, the instructor may needto take a screen shot of the wordle before class. Finally, the algorithm used by Wordle automaticallyeliminates “common words” unless the instructor turns off this option. It is possible that “commonwords” are treated differently across languages.While this study is classroom-specific, our goal is to share the results of the project with other FLinstructors so that they too can consider the implementation of word clouds as well as other forms of datavisualization tools in their classrooms. Further empirical studies, action research projects, and evenclassroom tasks are needed so that we learn more about how data visualization tools afford opportunitiesfor teaching and learning in a variety of contexts and languages.ABOUT THE AUTHORSMelissa Baralt is an Assistant Professor of Spanish Applied Linguistics at Florida International Universityin Miami, Florida. She does research in second language acquisition, bilingualism, and task-basedlanguage learning that involves technology.E-mail: mbaralt@fiu.eduLanguage Learning & Technology 21
  • 27. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesSusan Pennestri is an Instructional Technologist at the Center for New Designs in Learning andScholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She works with faculty across alldisciplines to enhance instruction through the use of technology in ways that are pedagogicallyappropriate.E-mail: sqp@georgetown.eduMarie Selvanadin is a Web Application Developer at the Center for New Designs in Learning andScholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She designs and develops Webapplications that meet the pedagogical needs of faculty members, as well as research on new Webapplications.E-mail: mks49@georgetown.eduREFERENCESBarret, T. (2010). Forty-five interesting ways* to use Wordle in the classroom [Slideshare slides].Retrieved from, J. (2010). Content clouds as exploratory qualitative data analysis. AREA, 42, 514–23.Educause (2009). 7 things you should know about…Data Visualization II. Retrieved from, J. (2009). Wordle. Retrieved from, M. (2008). A brief history of data visualization. In C.-H. Chen, W. K. Härdle, & A. Unwin(Eds.), Handbook of computational statistics: Data visualization (pp. 15–56). New York: Springer.Genesee, F. (2000). Brain research: Implications for second language learning. Eric Digest, EDO-FL-00012, 1–2. Retrieved from, R. (2008). Top 20 uses for Wordle. Retrieved from, A., & Gass, S. M. (2005). Second language research: Methodology and design. Mahwah, NJ:Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Mehta, C. (2007). US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud. Retrieved from, C., & Lam, P. (2010). Using Wordle as a supplementary research tool. The Qualitative Report,15(3), 630–643. Retrieved from, A. (1986). Mental representation: A dual-coding approach. New York: Cambridge UniversityPress.Pendergast, D. (2010). Connecting with Millennials: Using tag clouds to build a folksonomy from keyhome economics documents. Family & Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 38, 289–302.Ramsden, A., & Bate, A. (2008). Using word clouds in teaching and learning. Retrieved from, D. A. (2006). How the brain learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Language Learning & Technology 22
  • 28. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2 pp. 23–26 NEWS FROM SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONSSponsorsUniversity of Hawai‘i National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC)Michigan State University Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR)Co-SponsorCenter for Applied Linguistics (CAL)University of Hawai‘i National Foreign Language ResourceCenter (NFLRC)The University of Hawai‘i National Foreign Language Resource Center engages in research and materialsdevelopment projects and conducts workshops and conferences for language professionals among itsmany activities.PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENTOur 2011 Summer Institute on Online Learning Communities for Less Commonly TaughtLanguages will bring together faculty from participating institutions to build language-specific onlinecafés. Participants will structure thematic café content rubrics, participate in training sessions on research-based pedagogical best practices for facilitating online learning communities, and practice technical skillsneeded to host cafés on the BRIX courseware system and to deploy tag cloud technology, skills that willenable them to fashion online learning communities to achieve a variety of specific purposes.The Chinese, Korean, and Russian Flagship Cafés will combine Flagship students at domestic sites andstudy abroad sites, allowing second-year students to act as mentors for first-year students preparing fortheir upcoming international experience, further improving their language and networking skills. TheInternational Teacher Development Café for Samoan Educators will facilitate the sharing of ideas,research, and materials among teachers across the Pacific in the US, Samoa, and New Zealand. TheJapanese for International Business Café will serve as a virtual support group and networking venue forMBA students conducting their overseas internships throughout Japan. Each café will serve as a modelfor developing similar cafés in the future.Interested in finding out more about online cafés or creating your own? Visit our Online Cafés resourceWebsite.STAY IN TOUCH WITH SOCIAL MEDIADid you know that the NFLRC has its own Facebook page? It’s one of the best ways to hear about thelatest news, publications, conferences, workshops, and resources we offer. Just click on the “Like” buttonto become a fan. For those who prefer getting up-to-the-minute “tweets,” you can follow us on ourTwitter page. Finally, NFLRC has its own YouTube channel with a growing collection of free languagelearning and teaching videos for your perusal. Subscribe today!Language Learning & Technology 23
  • 29. News from Our Sponsoring OrganizationsNEW NFLRC PUBLICATIONS‘O Fāiā Fa‘atūmua o Sāmoa mai Tala o le Vavau by ‘Aumua Mata‘itusi Simanu More so than most other Polynesian languages, the Samoan language is highly stratified. The common spoken form of Samoan used among friends and peers, for example, would be inappropriate for public speaking at both traditional and non-traditional gatherings. At these kinds of events, Gagana Fa‘aaloalo (Respect Language) and Gagana Fa‘afailāuga (Chiefly Language/Oratory) are used. Both of these speech registers interweave into the language references to Samoan history, genealogies, and, more recently, the Christian bible. The first book in this series, ‘O si Manu a Ali‘i, was written primarily to provide linguistic background for these registers. This second book, ‘O Fāiā Fa‘atūmua o Sāmoa mai Tala o le Vavau, provides the core knowledge necessary to understand thehigh level of interplay in Samoan oratory between language and history.Check out our many other publications.OUR ONLINE JOURNALS SOLICIT SUBMISSIONS Language Learning & Technology is a refereed online journal, jointly sponsored by the University of Hawai‘i NFLRC and the Michigan State University Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR). LLT focuses on issues related to technology and language education. For more information on submission guidelines, visit the LLT submissions page. Language Documentation & Conservation is a fully refereed, open-access journal sponsored by NFLRC and published exclusively in electronic form by the University of Hawai‘i Press. LD&C publishes papers on all topics related to language documentation and conservation. For more information on submission guidelines, visit the LD&C submissions page. Reading in a Foreign Language is a refereed online journal, jointly sponsored by the University of Hawai‘i NFLRC and the Department of Second Language Studies. RFL serves as an excellent source for the latest developments in the field, both theoretical and pedagogic, including improving standards for foreign language reading. For more information onsubmission guidelines, visit the RFL submissions page.Michigan State University Center for Language Educationand Research (CLEAR)CLEAR’s mission is to promote the teaching and learning of foreign languages in the United States.Projects focus on materials development, professional development training, and foreign languageresearch.PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENTFour professional development workshops are slated for July 2011. The application deadline is June 1, sohurry to choose your courses: • Rich Internet Applications for Language Learning: Introductory Techniques • Adding Variety to Reading and Vocabulary Lessons • Project-Based Learning in the Language Classroom • Using Video to Promote Language Development in the ClassroomLanguage Learning & Technology 24
  • 30. News from Our Sponsoring OrganizationsDetailed information on all workshops can be found on our Web site.NEW PRODUCTWe have recently released our new Introductory Business Chinese CD-ROM. The software is intendedmainly for use by those who have little or no knowledge of the Chinese language but who, for anynumber of different reasons, wish to learn more about business and economics in the Chineseenvironment.MATERIALS DEVELOPMENTCLEAR is developing several new products during our fifth funding cycle. Check our Web site forupdates on new products and services. Some of our upcoming projects include: • Professional development webinars on diverse topics • Online videos for language teaching techniques • Online listening and speaking tests for LCTLs • Applications for language learning on mobile devicesCONFERENCESCLEAR exhibits at local and national conferences year-round. We hope to see you at ACTFL, CALICO,MIWLA, Central States, and other conferences.NEWSLETTERCLEAR News is a free bi-yearly publication covering FL teaching techniques, research, and materials.Download PDFs of back issues and subscribe at Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)The Center for Applied Linguistics is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes and improves theteaching and learning of languages, identifies and solves problems related to language and culture, andserves as a resource for information about language and culture. CAL carries out a wide range ofactivities in the fields of English as a second language, foreign languages, cultural education, andlinguistics.Featured Resources: • Language Policy Research Network (LPREN) CAL is pleased to host the Language Policy Research Network (LPREN), created in 2006 by the Research Networks committee of the Association Internationale de Linguistique Appliquée, (International Association of Applied Linguistics). Visit the LPREN Web site to learn more or to join the e-mail discussion group. • CAL News CAL News is our electronic newsletter created to provide periodic updates about our projects and research as well as information about new publications, online resources, products, and services of interest to our readers. Visit our Web site to sign up.Language Learning & Technology 25
  • 31. News from Our Sponsoring Organizations • Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages Visit the Alliance Web site to browse the Heritage Language Program Profiles, view the Heritage Voices Collection, and sign up to receive the quarterly electronic newsletter, Alliance News Flash. • Center for Research on the Educational Achievement and Teaching of English Language Learners (CREATE) Visit the CREATE Web site to learn more about CREATE, its research, free resources, and upcoming November 2011 conference. • CAL SIOP Professional Development Services CAL works with schools, states, and districts to design and deliver high-quality, client-centered professional development services on the SIOP Model. • CAL Solutions: Adult ESL Education This new Web site provides access to evidence-based resources and practical tools for practitioners working with the growing population of adult English language learners throughout the United States. • CAL Solutions: PreK-12 ELL Education CAL provides a variety of professional development and technical assistance services related to language education and assessment needs. In order to meet the growing demand from K-8 educators for training material on teaching reading to English language learners, CAL continues to offer its successful series of institutes in Washington, DC, in June and July 2011.Featured Publications: • Connecting Diverse Cultures: A Video Guide for A New Day and Be Who You Are • Improving Education for English Language Learners: Research-Based Approaches • Education for Adult English Language Learners in the United States: Trends, Research, and Promising Practices • Foreign Language Teaching in U.S. Schools: Results of a National Survey • Realizing the Vision of Two-Way Immersion: Fostering Effective Programs and Classrooms • Using the SIOP Model: Professional Development Manual for Sheltered Instruction • What’s Different About Teaching Reading to Students Learning English?Visit CAL’s Website to learn more about our projects, resources, and services.Language Learning & Technology 26
  • 32. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2http:/ pp. 27–33 REVIEW OF MOODLE 2.0Title Moodle 2.0Platform Mac OS X, Windows, LinuxMinimum hardware Disk Space: 160MB free (min)requirements Memory: 256MB (min), 1GB (recommended)Publisher (with contact http://moodle.orginformation)Support offered Context help, Moodle Docs, Moodle Tracker, Forum, Moodle Partners, self-help tutorials, and Moodle on social network sitesTarget language Multiple languages (more than 70 languages)Target audience Any level of studentsPrice FreeReview by Tsun-Ju Lin, Washington State UniversityINTRODUCTIONWith the rapid increase of digital technologies and the popularity of the Internet in recent years, a newdefinition of literacy has emerged. “New literacies” extend beyond traditionally held views of literacy asthe ability to read and write to include an expanded definition, which includes a wide range of skills: theability to locate and evaluate information effectively and efficiently; facility with making meaning byaligning new information with prior knowledge; and an ability to synthesize, critically analyze, and createnew information within the context of larger social practices (Coiro, 2003; Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, &Leu, 2008; Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009). In order to help students acquire new literacies, it isessential to engage learners in developing deep cognitive processing, to activate their prior knowledge, topromote collaborative inquiry, and to encourage creativity in all language skills (Cummins, Brown, &Sayers, 2007). This review evaluates the potential of Moodle 2.0 for helping students master such a widerange of abilities and competencies by examining Moodle 2.0 using the following guiding criteria adaptedfrom Cummins and his colleagues (2007): 1. Providing cognitive challenges and opportunities for deep processing of meaning 2. Relating instruction to prior knowledge and experiences 3. Promoting active self-regulated collaborative inquiry 4. Encouraging extensive involvement in all language skills 5. Developing multiple strategies for effective language learning 6. Promoting identity investmentWHAT IS MOODLE 2.0 ABOUT?Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) is a free and open-source coursemanagement system based on the social constructionist model of pedagogy. The design of Moodleemphasizes creating collaborative interaction and student-centered online learning environments. Theopen network allows any interested users to contribute their ideas, information, and support, and also tocreate additional modules and features that allow unlimited innovation. Moodle has been described assoftware “created through participation rather than via publishing” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006, p. 45).Due to the involvement of the community, a newer version of Moodle (Moodle 2.0) was released in 2010,and this revised version includes many new features. Although itemizing every change is beyond thescope of this review, the new features have resulted in a management system that is more personalizedCopyright © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 27
  • 33. Tsun-Ju Lin Review of Moodle 2.0(e.g., my private files, and an improved My Moodle page); more user-friendly (e.g., portfolio support,repository support file picker, and a new HTML editor); more organized (e.g., themes, quiz navigation,flagging questions, question bank, tagging, and blocks); more educationally challenging (e.g., coursecompletion and prerequisites, rewritten Wiki and workshop modules, and enablement of conditionalactivities); and more collaborative (e.g., comments, ratings, and community hubs).EVALUATION OF MOODLE DESIGNExamining Moodle 2.0 with the six principles proposed by Cummins et al. (2007) reveals several positivestrengths and some potential challenges.Providing Cognitive Challenges and Opportunities for Deep Processing of Meaning.Opportunities for cognitively challenging activities can be provided in different Moodle modules andplug-ins that instruct language learners to think about and represent particular topics in multiple ways. Totake just one example, the glossary module gives opportunities for participants to create and organize alist of definitions, such as an online word library. Individuals can determine how the information isorganized (e.g., keywords and categories) and represented in post-typographic formats (e.g., videos,graphics, audios, texts, etc.) in order to make a shared sense or meaning for the community (see Figure 1for an example of a glossary module). With Moodle 2.0, multiple glossary definitions can be rated andcommented on by users to negotiate and evaluate each other’s work. The active and in-depth processingof new or unfamiliar vocabulary promotes both “higher-order thinking” and “lower-order thinking”(Cummins et al., 2007). This instruction of vocabulary via the learners arguably helps them develop depthand breadth of vocabulary knowledge.Figure 1. Example of a glossary module used in a Spanish class.In another example, a forum module is a useful space for stimulating discussion by using post-typographical formats. The main contribution of this module is that learners get to decide the flow of thecontent, while the role of the instructor can be as facilitator rather than as primary information giver. Thismodule can enable learners to bring different perspectives and knowledge to a theme, thus promoting theabilities of meaning negotiation and critical thinking.Additionally, instructors can also have learners create questions to assess each other’s comprehension byutilizing a quiz module, including a variety of question types (e.g., multiple-choice, matching, shortanswer, ordering, true/false, and more). The process of student creation provides an opportunity forLanguage Learning & Technology 28
  • 34. Tsun-Ju Lin Review of Moodle 2.0students to synthesize, critically analyze, and create new ways of transforming information. Notably, theactivity not only allows students to decide what is important but also can potentially empower them aslearners and thinkers by offering opportunity for greater autonomy. However, to create such a meaningfulproblem-solving activity is complicated, time-consuming, and may require technical support (e.g., basicHTML knowledge).Relating Instruction to Prior Knowledge and Experiences.Tools such as the mindmap module and questionnaire module can facilitate student brainstorming andprediction of content as students build background knowledge in a new area. A mindmap module is a typeof mapping/graphic organizer that can be used by teachers to create warm-up activities for students to linknew information with prior knowledge and for instructors to determine what additional knowledge needsto be developed before introducing the main topic. For example, the teacher may have students developideas relevant to Alzheimer’s and then provide articles that discuss perspectives not/rarely mentioned inthe activity. Instructors can also create a survey activity by utilizing the questionnaire module to set upspecific connections for students to activate their prior knowledge (see Figure 2 for an example of aquestionnaire module).The examples above illustrate a reliance on the teachers’ ability to provide clear instructions and to beaware of prior knowledge held by learners. A major challenge for Moodle 2.0 might be the extra effortrequired by course designers to provide appropriate instructions, although Moodle 2.0 offers a space forteachers to develop meaningful activities. The majority of participants in MoodleDocs are developers,administrators, or/and teachers. However, little support is designed specifically for language learners toask related questions. Features that would enhance the learners’ experience might include a list offrequently asked questions, technical support for students, or a set of instructions for various basicactivities such as participating in a module, uploading files, or importing/exporting files from othersources.Figure 2. Example of a questionnaire module.In short, Moodle contains several useful tools for teachers to evaluate students’ prior knowledge andexperiences but the effort to provide clear instructions needs further consideration.Promoting Active Self-regulated Collaborative InquiryCollaboration and social interaction can be embedded in almost every module and block via chat (e.g.,Language Learning & Technology 29
  • 35. Tsun-Ju Lin Review of Moodle 2.0chat room), discussion (e.g., forum and comment functions), or work with peers to get ideas (e.g., Wiki).The new Wiki module now is more consistent with other Wiki formats such as Wikipedia. It providesmore administrative options to enable instructors to easily and effectively provide a “knowledge-building” environment for students to develop, create, and share information together while online(Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006) (see Figure 3 for an example of an interactive Wiki module). Theparticular challenge for the Wiki type of tool is that it requires users to maintain it properly and forteachers to build a learning environment which recognizes it as a valuable source.Figure 3. Example of a Wiki module.Encouraging Extensive Involvement in All Language SkillsAccording to Cummins et al. (2007), involvement is the key to the development of proficiency. Designthat encourages active involvement in all language skills is elaborated in Moodle 2.0. For instance, theRSS feeds block enables instructors to link to authentic reading materials (e.g., online newspapers andarticles) from external Websites. The voice device NanoGong (not yet compatible with Moodle 2.0) canbe embedded in almost every module. Another audio and video recording device PoodLL LanguageLaboratory package (will be compatible with Moodle 2.0 soon) includes two assignments, two activitiesand three questions types. This means that listening and speaking activities can be created anywhere toencourage practice of these language skills. Besides, with the new repository support in Moodle 2.0,authentic resources such as YouTube and Flickr can be easily integrated into a Moodle site. Writingopportunities can also be created in any of the following modules: assignment module, lesson module,personal profile, journal module, blog module, and forum module. All these features not only encouragestudents to practice language skills but also to make language learning happen in more “real-world”settings. Additionally, creating activities by incorporating different modules can be easily achieved, sodifferent language skills can be linked; for example, a chat session transcript can be analyzed for grammarand spelling errors in a Wiki or forum module.Developing Multiple Strategies for Effective Language LearningLanguage learners need to know how to use a range of strategies before, during, and after learning, suchas self-management, self and peer evaluation, and the use of post-typographic materials to fit a variety oflearning styles. Moodle 2.0 provides multiple opportunities for teachers to develop tasks during whichstudents can practice such skills.Language Learning & Technology 30
  • 36. Tsun-Ju Lin Review of Moodle 2.0OrganizationThe first feature that allows users to practice organizing effective information is page layout. A Moodlepage is organized in blocks to enable users to track important information. In Moodle 2.0, however, allblocks are consistently implemented in every page and can be customized by users. Another change inMoodle 2.0 from Moodle 1.9 is in two settings of its interface: navigation block and setting block. Anavigation block helps users quickly and easily access items, such as site pages, courses, my profile,etcetera. With the setting block, users can directly locate items they have permission to edit across theMoodle site. Second, the new development of My Private File provides opportunities for users tointegrate personal or external documents and media (initial plug-ins include: Alfresco, Flickr,GoogleDocs, Picasa, and YouTube) (see Figure 4 for a sample of My Private File). In My Private File,students can easily arrange the appropriate materials to effectively represent information through post-typographic materials.Evaluation StrategiesMoodle 2.0 supports a wide variety of evaluation strategies, providing built-in comment boxes forinstructors to provide feedback, user ratings, a quiz module, and a workshop module.Figure 4. Sample of My Private File.The workshop module has been completely redesigned for Moodle 2.0 and emphasizes peer assessmentactivities. It contains multiple types of assessment forms and allows the learner, peers, and instructors toevaluate the quality of one’s work. The quiz module allows users to design a variety of question types andstore these in a question bank to be re-used or modified for multiple quizzes. It also includes quiz reportsand statistics to give students instant feedback, so they can compare results to their own goals. Anothermajor improvement from Moodle 1.9 in the module is the possibility of flagging questions during a quizattempt (see Figure 5 for the flagging example). This function allows students to go back to reviewanswers they are unsure of. Thus, users can monitor what needs to be further understood. These functionsallow easy access to both qualitative and quantitative assessments. With this function, users can easilytrack or arrange important or interesting information. According to this criterion, teachers can utilizeMoodle 2.0 to facilitate students’ development of multiple learning strategies.Language Learning & Technology 31
  • 37. Tsun-Ju Lin Review of Moodle 2.0Figure 5. Example of flagging in a Chinese course.Promoting Identity InvestmentTools to support involvement and identity are available in several blocks on Moodle. Cummins et al.(2007) state that it is critical to carry out “identity texts insofar as students invest their identities in thesetexts (written, spoken, visual, musical, or combination in multimodal form) that then hold a mirror up tostudents in which their identities are reflected back in a positive light” (p. 219). The My Moodle pageoutlines learner profiles, activity reports, tags, notes, and their private files, as well as records the user’sway of thinking, responding, and acting in each task. Also, Moodle 2.0 allows student identity to berepresented in multiple ways, including visual or iconic images, letter identification, voice, videos, or acombination of these.CONCLUSIONMoodle 2.0 is a powerful software package that can be used for language learning. Its primary strengthlies in its technical features. It is important to note here that the tools mentioned above are just some ofMoodle 2.0’s capabilities, and more modules, blocks, and plug-ins can be added. Many of the technicalissues mentioned in this review in need of improvement will undoubtedly become part of the next set ofissues addressed by the many Moodle developers and users (often called “Moodlers”). In its currentiteration, however, Moodle 2.0 has strong pedagogical potential and allows instructors flexibility increating activities based on the perceived needs, intentions, cognitive traits, and learning strategies oftheir students. Moodle 2.0 has the power to enhance efforts by teachers to provide carefully designedlearning environments so that their students can be successful.ABOUT THE REVIEWERTsun-Ju Lin is a doctoral student in Language and Literacy Education in the Department of Teaching andLearning at Washington State University. While pursuing her degree, she is working as an onlinelanguage course developer and education technology consultant in the Department of Foreign Languagesand Cultures at WSU. Her research interest is supporting learner engagement in technology to facilitateFLLs’ language competence.E-mail: tsunjulin@gmail.comLanguage Learning & Technology 32
  • 38. Tsun-Ju Lin Review of Moodle 2.0REFERENCESCoiro, J. (2003). Reading comprehension on the Internet: Expanding our understanding of readingcomprehension to encompass new literacies. The Reading Teacher, 56(5), 458–464.Coiro, J., Knobel, M., Lankshear, C., & Leu, D. (2008). Central issues in new literacies and new literaciesresearch. In J. Coiro, M. Knobel, C. Lankshear, & D. J. Leu (Eds.), Handbook of new literacies research(pp. 1–22). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Cummins, J., Brown, K., & Sayers, D. (2007). Literacy, technology, and diversity: Teaching for successin changing times. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson.Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., & Hughes, J. (2009). Web 2.0 and classroom research: What path should wetake? Educational Researcher, 38(4), 246–259. doi:10.3102/0013189x09336671Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2006). New literacies: Everyday practices and classroom learning (2nded). London: Open University Press.Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In K.Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of learning sciences (pp. 97–118). Cambridge, UK: CambridgeUniversity Press.Language Learning & Technology 33
  • 39. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2http:/ pp. 34–38 REVIEW OF TEACHING LITERATURE AND LANGUAGE ONLINETeaching Literature and Language OnlineIan Lancashire (Ed.)2009ISBN-10: 9781603290579US $40.00 (hardcover)$25.00 (paperback)460 pp.Modern Language AssociationNew YorkReview by David Malinowski, University of California, BerkeleyAs Ian Lancashire points out in the Introduction to this most recent entry in the Modern LanguageAssociation’s Options for Teaching series, blended and fully online learning models are in wide andgrowing use. Writing in 2009, he notes that in the fall 2006 term, almost 3.5 million students and 20% ofall higher education students in the U.S. took an online course (p. 2). The Sloan Consortium’s most recent(2010) report on the state of online learning in the U.S. indicates that as of fall 2009, these numbers hadincreased to 5.6 million and almost 30% of higher education students, with 63% of 2,500 colleges anduniversities surveyed saying that online learning “was a critical part of their institution’s long termstrategy” (Allen & Seaman, 2010, p. 2). Considering the frequent and varied use of technology in blendedonline and offline foreign and second language classes (see, for example, Blake, 2008), and the growingtendency in this direction for university literature courses as well (Introduction, p. 17), Lancashire’svolume is a timely and welcome contribution. And, in light of the release of the MLA’s own reportquestioning the governance structures that keep university language and literature curricula separate(MLA 2007, p. 2), Teaching literature and language online can be read as a discussion point in this widerconversation.With close to thirty chapters written from the perspectives of teachers in university language andliterature departments in the U.S. and Canada, this volume speaks both to beginning instructors and toinstructors beginning to contemplate teaching courses partly or wholly online. In his introductionLancashire recommends that, in part because of the many approaches to online education and variedcontexts in which it takes place, teachers should make themselves part of professional communities ofpractice and, through exploration and judicious selection of practices and tools, develop their own unique“signature pedagogy” (p. 11). In this sense, Teaching literature and language online represents a step inthis direction: after a series of chapters in Part I (“Overview”) orienting the reader to issues andapproaches in online education “for MLA disciplines” (p. 3), Parts II and III present collections of casestudies that speak to a range of experiences in language and literature classes, respectively. Together, thediversity of courses and projects narrated bear witness to Lancashire’s contention that, while teaching anonline course can require more work than teaching face-to-face (e.g., p. 14), it provides an invaluableextension of the mission of higher education.Following Lancashire’s Introduction, Robert Blake presents data comparing proficiency gains intraditional Spanish classrooms and distance and blended courses, finding that distance education is aCopyright © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 34
  • 40. David Malinowski Review of Teaching Literature and Language Online“reasonable and responsible option” (p. 34) for teaching linguistic proficiency and oral skills, especiallyfor beginning learners and in less commonly taught languages. In the next chapter, Kristine Blair drawson Lee Shulman (2005)’s concept of “signature pedagogies” and Chickering and Gamson (1987)’s“Seven Principles for Undergraduate Education,” arguing for the need for the writing and compositionprofession to take up a measured debate about principles and best practices for online education, whilealso focusing upon the contentious but often under-represented issue of instructors’ labor conditions.Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, meanwhile, provides guidelines for teachers of ESOL (ESL and EFL) tointegrate technology into their teaching of language through literature; she presents evidence that “morestudent interaction, both with the instructor and with peers, can take place online than in class” (p. 55) anddiscusses integrated classroom environments like Moodle and Blackboard, literature-based content onProject Gutenberg and other sites, and tools for oral and written communication as they enable project-based and group-centered learning. In the following chapter, “Teaching World Languages Online,” MaryAnn Lyman-Hager reviews developments in language teaching beliefs and practices in the latter half ofthe 20th century, beginning with the audiolingual (Army) method of the postwar period. Pointing toWarschauer and Kern (2000)’s periodization of language learning technologies, then, she suggests thatthe most recent sociocognitive paradigm is particularly apt for intercultural e-learning environments thatconnect communities and foster collaborative tasks. In “Humane Studies in Digital Space,” JeromeMcGann is likewise concerned with mapping an historical evolution; his interest, however, is with thetransition from a book-based to a digitally-based culture of critical inquiry in the face of thecommercialization of knowledge. Noting that inherent in the mission of the university today is “the self-conscious understanding that culture and critical reflection are shared activities and social acts” (p. 101),McGann introduces three digital tools (IVANHOE, Juxta, and Collex) designed to lead students to criticalengagement with texts. Rounding out Part I, Stéfan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell bring an interest inthe use of tools for digital textual analysis so as to combine “both linguistic and literary sensibilities” (p.104). They note that CALL applications, in particular, have often missed the opportunity to allowstudents to do just the kind of nuanced interpretation that McGann and others advocate, and introduceseveral text analysis techniques useful for the language and literature classroom.Part II comprises five essays under the title “Case Studies in Language”. The first, by Stephen Tschudi,David Hiple, and Dorothy Chun, investigates cohesion in dialog and community formation through theuse of online forums in an advanced Chinese writing class. While one feels hard-pressed to accept thatstudents in this study shared feelings of “belonging” and “commitment” on the basis of the evidencepresented, the reference to Halliday and Hasan’s (1976) notion of students’ dialogic cohesion as the“creation of a single text” (p. 124) in an online context was helpful. Also pursuing questions ofcommunity formation online, Diane Formo and Kimberly Robinson Neary present success stories fromthe use of Online Response Groups (ORGs) in the second language writing classroom. Making theanalogy to the peer-to-peer writing center, they suggest several ways for instructors to use ORGs to helpstudents organize their writing processes and give “honest” feedback and assistance. Next, Nike Arnolddescribes a “literacy-based curriculum in a foreign language class” (p. 165) through which she had her3rd year German composition and conversation class interact online in relatively unstructured writtenexchange with native speaker guests. She writes that student survey results indicated that this exchangerealized the literacy principles of situated practice, overt instruction, critical framing, and transformedpractice (cf. New London Group, 1996); a lack of evidence in the chapter makes this claim difficult tovalidate. Following this essay are two chapters that describe the development of learning resources that,once online, assumed multiple and at times unpredicted functions. Gillian Lord’s essay on Aymara on theInternet is noteworthy for its descriptions of the innovations required to bring a communicative approachto the rote grammar exercises of a decades-old language textbook, usable both by language learners andlinguists interested in documentation and revitalization. Meanwhile, Douglas Morgenstern’s chapterdescribes the history and use of MITUPV, an open online environment for Spanish-English cultural andlinguistic exchange. Unlike an online textbook, MITUPV was not designed with pre-given learningLanguage Learning & Technology 35
  • 41. David Malinowski Review of Teaching Literature and Language Onlineoutcomes in mind; Morgenstern notes that open registration and user-generated content have led to apedagogical orientation that is “decidedly bottom-up” (p. 191), where content generation and evencommunity formation become benchmarks for success (ibid.). A tension underlying this and other studiesof online, open social sites for language learning is how the use of such environments articulates with thegoals and structures of the classroom; with Morgenstern stating that “all required class-related projects aresomewhat coercive and artificial” (p. 199) while Websites like MITUPV “[approximate] the serendipitousnature of authentic language immersion” (p. 198), the task of the classroom teacher seems monolithic.Part III, “Case Studies in Literatures”, comprises 16 chapters; here I depart from the order of the originaltext in favor of four thematic groupings of chapters. First, and noticeable as well in previous sections ofthe book, is the visibility of an array of innovative tools developed to foster new forms of textual analysisand linguistic proficiency. Seemingly a holdout from Part II of the book, Noriko Nagata’s study(appearing near the end of the volume) outlines the functioning and impact of Robo-Sensei, an onlineJapanese textbook using natural language processing to analyze beginning students’ written input on thesentence level, while generating feedback and instruction tailored to their structural errors. Meanwhile,Gerald Lucas describes the evolution of digital tools tried out over years of teaching his online worldliterature course World.Lit. Discussing the merits of using student and teacher blogs, a wiki, a discussionforum, and a content management system for aggregating these tools together, Lucas foregrounds theneed for literature instructors online to engage students in discussions about course expectations andprocedures, while explicitly teaching computer literacy. In another chapter introducing a novel tooldeveloped on-site, Haun Saussy describes his detailed selections, re-orderings and annotations of theclassical Chinese text Shang Shu, incorporated into a late-1990s hybrid Introduction to the Humanitiescourse in order to lead students to deeper textual analysis and comparison. Finally, introducing the open-access networked resource Decameron Web, Papio and Riva present a vision of the ‘outmoding’ andevolution of a now 17-year-old tool for teaching and researching late medieval and early modern Italianstudies. The authors convey a fundamental tension between the hierarchical concerns of the academiccommunity (where research and publication are protected domains) and “virtual collaborative space[s]where multiple activities can take place simultaneously, in an ongoing and self-enriching dialogue” (p.353).Of course, reading this collection of essays in the 2010s, many people may feel that the ‘home-grown’sites in the studies above simply offer features that have become commonplace in the corporate-ownedand often freely available blogs, wikis, online games, virtual worlds and other online media (for a review,see Thorne & Black, 2007). Indeed, several chapters in Part III address the benefits offered andconstraints imposed by such tools in the online literature classroom. Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s contribution,“The literary machine: Blogging the literature course,” is a narrative of the successes and failures that sheexperienced using blogging in a 2003 literature class; she finds that “the open-endedness of the blog” (p.211) is among the reasons why literature instructors need to make their expectations clear, provide modelposts, give guidelines for comments, and otherwise structure student blogging. Kathy Cawsey and IanLancashire’s essay reports on the success of the chat medium in an online Reading Poetry class as itencouraged distally located students to discover and explore subtle meanings in the texts at hand; drawingfrom an extended chat transcript on Seamus Heaney’s poem “Punishment”, they argue that “theinteraction among committed students and their teachers improves markedly in a virtual classroom (chatroom, bulletin board, e-mail) over what is possible in a physical classroom” (p. 311). In “Seeking the bestof both worlds: Online and off-line Shakespeare”, Michael Best draws from his experience using theresource Website Shakespeare’s Life and Times and a variety of online media in his classroom teaching,arguing that together, they enact “a method of communication that is both effective and democratic” (p.266)—this despite the challenges of dealing with plagiarism, development costs, and technologicalchange while paying greater attention to the critical evaluation of sources and materials.Several chapters in this volume demonstrate that, together with the introduction and use of new tools inLanguage Learning & Technology 36
  • 42. David Malinowski Review of Teaching Literature and Language Onlinethe online classroom, the very technologies of the online literature classroom—the changing ecologies ofpedagogical structures, procedures, and relationships—are in flux. In his chapter, “Old English online atthe University of Calgary”, Murray McGillivray writes that his mandate in creating an entirely onlinecourse was to improve on what he terms the “humiliation” students undergo in class when called upon todo direct grammar translation, and out-of-class when reading source texts and their annotations; he arguesthat teachers online need to make explicit the structures for students’ participation, performance andevaluation that are often left implicit (or absent) in the face-to-face classroom. In an essay on teachingundergraduate and graduate online courses on Shakespeare, James Fitzmaurice presents a seemingcontradiction in that a preponderance of “highly motivated students in the virtual classroom” might bemotivated in part because they feel “deprived” at not being able to be physically in the face-to-faceclassroom (pp. 275–276). Meanwhile, Martha Wescott Driver, in a chapter on her multimedia coursebridging Middle English readings and text interpretation with student multimedia projects, relays herstudents’ singing praises of the online medium and surmises that the fact of their sense of “expandedaudiences” for online work pushes them to collaborate and focus in new ways. Finally, KathrynGrossman, an instructor of both language and literature courses, echoes the interest of authors from Part IIin the formation of classroom communities online. In moving from the offline medium to onlineinstruction, she finds that “students working collaboratively in my hybrid course submitted much betterand more writing overall” (p. 337); she concludes by offering numerous recommendations for literatureand language instructors to use collaborative work to heighten student involvement, while simultaneouslyreducing the teacher’s workload.The last strand of chapters I note in Part III is one that opens up questions of textuality, representation,and teaching online to greater and greater degrees of self-scrutiny and doubt. Laura Bush’s chapter“Solitary confinement: Managing relational angst in an online classroom,” for example, seems to doublebackwards and begin to question the very humanity of the humanities online. Where she spends the firstpart of her essay pragmatically outlining “four distinct areas” of competence necessary for faculty toteach literature effectively online, in the second part she describes a pervasive sense of isolation thatbesets online teachers and students who lack the robust social presence of the face-to-face classroom.Devoid of angst but marveling nonetheless at human transformations amidst changed knowledge relationsonline, Ian Lancashire’s “The open-source English teacher” describes the fate of the online instructor. The“open-source teacher,” he says as creator and editor of the Web-based archive Representative PoetryOnline, makes the fruits of her or his intellectual labor available to the general public through Websites,interactive databases, and other online resources, and so enters into an asynchronous and unstructuredrelationship with faceless students who are only occasionally made visible through the impromptu email(p. 418). As with Representative Poetry Online, in her two chapters Martha Nell Smith reflects on newmodalities of knowledge and collaboration engendered by humanist research and instruction with theDickinson Electronic Archives and other large-scale projects. With respect to the Archive in particular,she highlights the textual indeterminacies and creative processes that are, she says, frequently hiddenwithin the legacy technology of the book. The online medium, on the other hand, allows the learner tomaintain a processual orientation to textual meaning—the very approach that she claims Dickinsonherself took toward her own writing (p. 281). Lastly, in “Hybrid world literature: Literary culture and thenew machine”, William Kuskin reflects on his WebCT-delivered “Hybrid English” course that was, on thesurface, successful in “delivering record student credit hours” (p. 359). However, the problem of onlinecourses, and the challenge that online instructors must work against, Kuskin says, is that online coursessuch as his “[reduce] the problems of online and traditional learning to the single issue of informationmanagement” (p. 359), a discourse of control already present in the notion of “record student credithours”. The fundamental challenge of the online teacher of literature, Kuskin contends, is rather to leadstudents to an awareness of a fundamental contradiction that runs through their humanistic inquiry online:that while the realm of the literary is traditionally understood to be figural and never fixed, he writes(invoking imagery from the science fiction hit The Matrix), “the logic implied by digitization, by theLanguage Learning & Technology 37
  • 43. David Malinowski Review of Teaching Literature and Language Onlinegreen veil of computer code, by the various downloads and uploads that constitute the curriculum, wasthat literary knowledge can be entirely encased in computer technology” (p. 361).Overall, the chapters from this and the first two parts of Teaching literature and language online presentmany useful lessons, while provoking thought about the pedagogical and institutional challenges thatarise with the use of technology; they are well worth reading individually with these practical goals inmind. Taken together, however, I found that they give occasion to an urgent question of an altogetherdifferent nature. As Kuskin reminds us, language and literature teachers alike ought to share a concernwith what it means to be human online: The future of online education for the humanities, therefore, involves not only the implementation of online teaching but also our understanding of the process of symbolic production of ourselves as human in the history of textual technology (p. 360).ABOUT THE REVIEWERDavid Malinowski is a doctoral candidate in Education in Language, Literacy, Society and Culture at theUniversity of California, Berkeley, and a research assistant with the Berkeley Language Center. Hisresearch interests include distance and blended learning in foreign language education, multimodalliteracies, and semiotic landscapes.E-mail: daveski@berkeley.eduREFERENCESAllen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2010). Class difference$: Online education in the United States, 2010. Sloan-C. Retrieved from, R. (2008). Brave new digital classroom: Technology and foreign language learning. Washington,DC: Georgetown University Press.Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduateeducation. AAHE Bulletin, 39, 3–7.Halliday, M. A. K., & Hasan, R. (1976). Cohesion in English. London: Longman.MLA (Modern Language Association; Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages). (2007). Foreignlanguages and higher education: New structures for a changed world. New York: Modern LanguageAssociation. Retrieved from London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. HarvardEducational Review, 66(1), 60–92.Shulman, L. S. (2005). Pedagogies of uncertainty. Liberal Education, 91(2), 18–25.Thorne, S. L., & Black, R. W. (2007). Language and literacy development in computer-mediated contextsand communities. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 27, 133–160.Warschauer, M., & Kern, R. (Eds.). (2000). Network-based language teaching: Concepts and practice.New York: Cambridge University Press.Language Learning & Technology 38
  • 44. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2http:/ pp. 39– 41 REVIEW OF TEACHING ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS THROUGH TECHNOLOGYTeaching English Language Learners throughTechnologyTony Erben, Ruth Ban & Martha Castañeda2009ISBN: 978-0-415-95768-7US $36.95240 pp.RoutledgeNew York, USAReview by Jesús García Laborda & Mary Frances Litzler, Universidad de Alcalá (Madrid, Spain)Teaching English Language Learners through Technology is contextualized in the U.S. Americaneducational system, but as will be discussed in this review, many of the concepts can easily be usedbeyond these geographical boundaries. The authors themselves state in the introduction that the book isintended for practitioners in all content areas, and the book includes explicit links among theoreticalbackground information, recent research, and case studies to illustrate how the pedagogical implicationscan extend beyond just the U.S. context.An early indication of the U.S. context is in the use of the term English Language Learner (ELL), whichis frequently used in discussions among educators at the elementary and secondary levels in the UnitedStates. The term is often viewed as interchangeable with English as a Second Language, in that it refers tolearners who are geographically located in a place where English is the dominant language, in contrast toEnglish as a Foreign Language. However, the omission of “second” indicates an acknowledgement thatEnglish may well be a second, third or new language for immigrant students. A second indication that theU.S. context is the primary audience for the book is in the intended audience of pre-service and in-serviceelementary and secondary (Kindergarten through grade 12) teachers. These teachers often do not haveformal training as language teachers, but they must learn to teach language as part of their profession astheir classrooms become more linguistically diverse.This reader-friendly book is divided into three parts. Part 1 presents an overview of ELL teaching andlearning in order to provide “guidance for the informed use of instructional strategies in the teaching ofELLs” (p. 7); part 2 provides empirical evidence for the use of technology in differentiated instructionwhile also emphasizing the role of social constructivism; and part 3 addresses the use of technology insideand outside the classroom through examples and also suggests strategies and exercise plans for the use oftechnology in differentiated instruction.Part 1 is divided into eight chapters preceded by a general introduction, which explains ethical values, theaim of the book, the target audience, and an extensive description of five principles for integratingtechnology. These principles focus on creating effective second language learning environments aroundwhich learning should happen: (a) ELLs must be given many and varied opportunities to read, write,listen to and discuss oral and written English; (b) attention should be drawn to English language structuralCopyright © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 39
  • 45. Jesús García Laborda & Mary Frances Litzler Review of Teaching English Language Learners through Technologypatterns; (c) students should be given classroom time to practice their English usage productively; (d)opportunities need to be offered for ELLs to notice their errors and correct their English; and (e)maximum opportunities should be provided for ELLs to interact with others in English.Part 1 continues by covering a wide range of issues that provide a backdrop for the rest of the book.Issues of equal opportunity and recent U.S. educational legislation are addressed and call for ELLs toreceive adequate resources and individual attention from educators. Other aspects include an overview ofprinciples of second language acquisition and theoretical applications of the five principles listed above,descriptions of ELL programs, developmental stages in acquisition, specific intercultural developmentalstages, the parents’ role, and applications and models of ELL instruction for ELLs with special cognitiveand socio-cultural needs.Part 2 introduces the intersection of technology and ELL instruction. It emphasizes the role of socialconstructivism in the teaching of ELLs. For example, it presents the application of Vygotsky’s theory(1962, 1978) on the student’s zone of proximal development (ZPD) as well as the role of regulation inlanguage learning for the classroom. Classroom applications are provided by discussing differentiatedinstruction, project-based learning, and constructivist pedagogy principles. The next three chaptersillustrate ways to integrate and accommodate technology into lessons and discuss principles that shouldguide the use of technology in the classroom.Part 3 is the most practical part of the book. The authors describe activities for middle and high schoolstudents with a view towards putting into practice the principles from the first two parts of the book. Theactivities are divided into four levels (Preproduction, Early Production, Speech Emergence andIntermediate Fluency), which correspond to common categories used to describe ELLs language skilllevels. The activities are presented in the form of lesson plans, learning activities, and Web-basedresources. Also included are special sections entitled “Teaching Tips,” “Classroom Implications,” and“Teaching Help” boxes. As in the rest of the book, most of the activities do not require the teacher to beexperienced in the use of technology, to have computer labs, or to teach in classrooms with highlysophisticated technology. Instead, the existence of one or two computers with a minimal capacity canserve in many cases. For instance, Chapter 3.2 introduces what the authors call E-creation tools and self-made computer-based resources, such as podcasts, Power Point, moviemakers, audiomakers, and Webpublishing, all of which permit students to develop their creativity with limited resources. In describingand suggesting tools, the authors use easily accessible and often free resources such as Hot Potatoes (p.102), Audacity (p. 106), and a range of communicative facilitating e-tools such as e-mail, instantmessaging, and listservs.The final sections are devoted to improving ELLs’ literacy in the four skills areas through creativeactivities such as using the whiteboard, creating wikis, and using and designing blogs, webquests,podcasts, and audioblogs. This section includes what we believe to be the most interesting part of thebook because it covers informal performance-based assessments that serve both formative and summativepurposes. In this highly practical section, the authors suggest the use of e-portfolios, e-surveys, e-quizzes,and e-rubrics. The authors also provide a brief foray into virtual learning environments such as Nicenet.The book concludes with an extensive, well-annotated list of resources, which makes it valuable forCALL-intensive environments, as well as for classrooms that are in the early phases of technologyintegration. It also has a very clear and useful glossary, a student grouping chart for the classroom, and awell-organized list of references.FINAL COMMENTSSome parts of this book are similar to other volumes (cf., Dudeney & Hockly, 2007; Sharma & Barret,2007), but it appears to be more practical. While the first two parts are more theoretically than practicallybased, the theory can be of benefit to those teachers who have limited knowledge or experience withLanguage Learning & Technology 40
  • 46. Jesús García Laborda & Mary Frances Litzler Review of Teaching English Language Learners through TechnologyELLs, and it is well-illustrated by case studies and real-life examples. In fact, the theory is presented in anaccessible way; for instance, readers may not want to miss the excellent synthesis of the natural approach(Krashen & Terrell, 1983). Another asset of this book is that it introduces emotional perspectives, whichare less frequently discussed in language texts, through exemplified cases and also considers educationalstakeholders such as the parents.To conclude, although this book is aimed at practitioners working with ELLs, its applications and uses arealso valid in general ESL and EFL courses, given the quality and variety of the resources described. Itspedagogical approach makes it especially useful as a textbook for educational technology for both generaland bilingual education. For a broader, international context, the book may be attractive for contentteachers working in Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). Teachers who may lack knowledge inlanguage learning but need to integrate second (or subsequent) language learning into their content willlikely find that the theoretical underpinnings and practical recommendations will facilitate their work. Allin all, this is an accessible volume that integrates theory and practice.ABOUT THE REVIEWERSJesús García Laborda, PhD & EdD, is an associate professor at Universidad de Alcalá (Madrid, Spain).His main interests are educational technology, low-stakes language testing and English for SpecificPurposes. He has published broadly in all three areas in such journals as Computers & Education andEducational Technology & Society. As a reviewer, his works have been included in many educationaljournals including Language Learning & Technology.E-mail: jesus.garcialaborda@uah.esMary Frances Litzler has taught English to adults for some 25 years. She currently works at Universidadde Alcalá (Madrid, Spain) and the British Council (Madrid, Spain), but she also has experience workingin the United States, Japan and France. Her research interests are CALL and medieval text editing. Shewill defend a PhD thesis on medieval medical prologues in June 2011.E-mail: mf.litz@uah.esREFERENCESDudeney, G., & Hockly, N. (2007). How to teach English with technology (with CD-Rom). Cambridge:Pearson Longman.Krashen, S. D., & Terrell, T. D. (1983). The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom.London: Prentice Hall Europe.Sharma, P., & Barrett, B. (2007). Blended learning: Using technology in and beyond the languageclassroom. Cambridge, UK: Macmillan.Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge,MA: Harvard University Press.Language Learning & Technology 41
  • 47. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2http:/ pp. 42–43 REVIEW OF CORPUS-BASED CONTRASTIVE STUDIES OF ENGLISH AND CHINESECorpus-Based Contrastive Studies of English andChinese (Routledge Advances in Corpus Linguistics)Richard Xiao and Tony McEnery2010ISBN: 978-0415992459US $117.57 (hardcover)201 pp.RoutledgeLondon & New YorkReview by Zhang Xiaojun, Shaanxi Normal UniversityContrastive research of English and Chinese, particularly in mainland China, has attracted great attentionsince the late 1970s. Corpus-Based Contrastive Studies of English and Chinese makes an importantcontribution to this body of work. Richard Xiao and Tony McEnery provide an examination of a numberof grammatical categories, including aspect markers, temporal adverbials, quantifiers, passives, andnegation structures in English and Chinese. The book is organized into six main chapters framed by anintroductory and summary chapter.The corpora used in this book are introduced in Chapter 1 and include the Freiburg-LOB corpus (FLOB),the Lancaster Corpus of Mandarin Chinese (LCMC), and the Freiburg-Brown corpus (Frown). FLOB isan update of LOB (Johansson, Leech, & Goodluck, 1978) which sampled texts published in 1991–1992.LCMC was designed as a Chinese match for FLOB, representing written Chinese published in China inthe early 1990s (McEnery, Xiao, & Mo, 2003).The first of the chapters in the main text, “Aspect Marking in English and Chinese,” provides acontrastive study of aspect marking in English and Chinese and concludes that while Chinese and Englishare typologically different, aspect markers in the two languages show a strikingly similar distributionpattern. The authors counted and contrasted the frequencies of perfective and imperfective aspect markersin English and Chinese corpora. In Chinese, they found that the particles ‘-le, -guo, zai, and -zhe’ areregarded as aspect markers, of which the first two markers represent the perfective aspect and the othertwo refer to the imperfective aspect. In English, perfective meaning is “most commonly expressed by thesimple past, though the perfect can also mark perfectivity” (p.14). Comparing the frequencies ofperfective and imperfective aspect markers in different languages is a feasible way to set up suchcontrastive language studies.Chapter 4, “Quantifying Constructions in English and Chinese,” shows that Chinese employs numeral-classifier constructions obligatorily in quantification, whereas in English a classifier is only required whennon-count nouns are quantified. Classifiers are motivated cognitively, pragmatically, and conventionallyin both English and Chinese. Normally, Chinese is recognized as a classifier language while English isnot, but the two languages show striking similarities in their classifier systems in spite of the differentterms used and in spite of several quantitative differences. The authors found that a cross-linguisticdifference exists because Chinese is a non-inflectional language, whereas nouns in English inflect forCopyright © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 42
  • 48. Zhang Xiaojun Review of Corpus-Based Contrastive Studies of English and Chineseplurality morphologically. The authors illustrate eight semantic categories of classifiers that exist in bothChinese and English and point out that classifiers in the two languages differ in a number of ways. Forexample, classifiers are significantly more common in Chinese; unit classifiers and verbal classifiers arecharacteristic of Chinese while collective classifiers are more diversified in English.Chapter 5, “Passives in English and Chinese,” is concerned with passive constructions in English andChinese. The authors indicate that while passive constructions in English and Chinese express a basicpassive meaning, they also show a range of differences in terms of overall frequencies, syntactic featuresand functions, semantic properties, and distributions across genres. By statistically contrasting these,several conclusions were drawn. First, passive constructions are nearly ten times as frequent in English asin Chinese. Also, a major distinction between passive constructions in the two languages is that Chinesepassives are more frequently used with an inflictive meaning than English passives. There are clearlygenre variations in the distribution of passive variants in both languages, and the passive is primarily usedto mark an impersonal, objective and formal style in English, whereas it is typically an “inflictive voice”in Chinese.The next two chapters each examine negation structure: “Negation in English and Chinese: Variants andVariations” (Chapter 6) and “Negation in English and Chinese: Special Usages” (Chapter 7). Thediscussion in Chapter 6 provides various negative forms and their language-specific features in Englishand in Chinese and focuses on the differences and similarities of explicit not and no-negation structures inEnglish as well as bu and mei negations in Chinese. Chapter 7 discusses the scope and focus of negationand also contrasts special usages such as transferred negation, double negation, and redundant negation.In conclusion, this book seeks to provide a systematic account of several grammatical categories inEnglish and Chinese on the basis of written and spoken corpus data of the two languages. In the finalchapter, “Challenge and Promise, and the Way Forward,” the authors construct a model of contrastivecorpus linguistics that helps bring together the strengths of contrastive analysis and corpus analysis. Thissynergy expands the field of corpus linguistics, translation studies, and second language acquisitionresearch by providing a bridge that links all of these research areas.ABOUT THE REVIEWERZhang Xiaojun is an associate professor in computational linguistics at the School of Foreign Languagesof Shaanxi Normal University, China. He is an academic visitor at the Center of Translation andIntercultural Studies (CTIS), University of Manchester, from September 2010 to August 2011. Hispublished work includes Semantic Combination and Machine Translation (in Chinese) and ‘The FuzzyIntegrated Evaluate Method of Translation Quality’. Address for correspondence: Zhang Xiaojun, No.199 South Chang’an Road, School of Foreign Languages, Shaanxi Normal University, 710062 Xi’an,China (P.R.C.).E-mail: andy_zxj@126.comREFERENCESJohansson, S., Leech, G., & Goodluck, H. (1978). Manual of information to accompany the Lancaster-Oslo/Bergen Corpus of British English for Use with Digital Computers. Oslo: University of Oslo.McEnery, T., Xiao, R., & Mo, L. (2003). Aspect marking in English and Chinese: Using the LancasterCorpus of Mandarin Chinese for contrastive language study. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 18(4),361–378.Language Learning & Technology 43
  • 49. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2 pp. 44–68 COMPREHENDING NEWS VIDEOTEXTS: THE INFLUENCE OF THE VISUAL CONTENTJeremy CrossNanyang Technological University Informed by dual coding theory, this study explores the role of the visual content in L2 listeners’ comprehension of news videotexts. L1 research into the visual characteristics and comprehension of news videotexts is outlined, subsequently informing the quantitative analysis of audiovisual correspondence in the news videotexts used. In each of five lessons, ten pairs of Japanese EFL learners participated in a sequence of tasks in which they listened to, and discussed various facets of their comprehension of news videotexts. The pairs’ dialogue acted as the unit of analysis for exploring the effect of visual information on their comprehension. The qualitative analysis illustrated that various attributes of the visual content, such as audiovisual correspondence, impacted on comprehension. Moreover, other influences of the visual content found were its general utility in facilitating comprehension, inhibiting of attention to, and processing of audio information, and stimulation of learners’ expectations and inferencing of content. Based on these findings, learner variability aspects and several implications for related L2 listening pedagogy are discussed.INTRODUCTIONAdvances in satellite, digital video and broadband technology mean that news videotext services arereadily available to viewers across the globe. L2 users form a large part of the world-wide audience, withnews videotexts providing them with an authentic sociocultural, linguistic and educational resource whichcan be exploited for language learning inside and outside the classroom. However, the intrinsicaudiovisual nature of news videotexts means that L2 users not only have to deal with the challenges tolistening comprehension1 that they typically encounter which are associated with the audio channel (e.g.,unfamiliar vocabulary, speech rates, prosody and syntactic structures), but also need to cope with thevagaries of content presented in the accompanying visual channel if they are to process, understand, andrespond to the message news videotexts are crafted to convey. A number of publications point to thecorrespondence between audio and visual information as one potentially important factor affecting L2learners’ comprehension (Meinhof, 1994, 1998). However, while such intuitions regarding the influenceof visual elements seem valid, there is very little empirical research which is informative in such respects.Moreover, apart from Gruba’s (2004, 2006) studies, little is known about how L2 listeners strategicallyexploit visual content in news videotexts to facilitate comprehension. Given that the use of newsvideotexts in second and foreign language classrooms and self-access centres is increasingly commonpractice (particularly with more advanced listeners), there is a need for related research which promotesunderstanding of the influence of the visual content in L2 listeners’ comprehension of this videotextgenre. This paper reports on a study which draws on relevant L1 and L2 theory and empirical research toaddress this issue.BACKGROUNDAudiovisual ProcessingIn line with L1 research into the processing of audiovisual information in multimedia (Mayer &Anderson, 1991; Mayer & Sims, 1994) and in news videotexts in particular (Walma van der Molen &Van der Voort, 2000; Walma van der Molen, 2001), the theoretical perspective underpinning this study isdual coding theory. In his seminal work, Paivio (1971, 1990, 2007) proposes dual coding theory as aCopyright © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 44
  • 50. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotextstheory of cognition, which is distinguished from other common-coding theories of cognition (e.g.,propositional representation) by its modality-specific nature. That is, it provides a coherent account ofhow separate verbal and nonverbal mental representations are collectively processed. The basic premisesof dual coding theory most recently presented by Paivio (2007), which builds on his own early work andalso research in association with several colleagues (Clark & Paivio, 1991; Sadoski & Paivio, 2001), are: • Both verbal and nonverbal systems are specialized and distinct, and mental representations associated with each system preserve the properties of the sensorimotor events which trigger them; • The verbal system encompasses written, auditory, and articulatory verbal codes; • The nonverbal system includes images for environmental sounds, activities, and events; • While written, aural and articulatory input is each typically processed sequentially by the verbal system, the nonverbal system processes information simultaneously as a whole, for a single mental image comprises a multitude of details; • The verbal and nonverbal systems are joined by referential connections as part of a complex associative network (e.g., imagery may evoke word representations and vice versa); • Associative connections are another type of link within each of the verbal and non verbal systems (e.g., a word or an image may activate associated words or images, to create complex configurations of mental representations); • The activation of mental representations in either system may or may not be a conscious experience; • Patterns of connection activation are influenced by contextual factors (e.g., a particular task such as showing pictures may prime the nonverbal system and promote the production of mental images); • Verbal and nonverbal mental representations and their interconnections differ for each individual due to their diverse past experiences; • And, nonverbal processing is affected by an individual’s propensity and capability to use imagery.As a hypothetical example of dual coding theory in the context of this study, a visual scene/shot and itsaccompanying audio content in a news videotext would activate, depending on the individual’s capacity,corresponding mental representations in both verbal and nonverbal systems, some of which are conscious.Spreading activation through associative and referential connections would occur within and between thetwo systems generating an intricate and idiosyncratic pattern of mental representations which need to befiltered to formulate a correct interpretation. Extending this hypothesis further, verbal and imageryrepresentations activated by complementary stimuli would potentially generate relatively less complexmental patterns than when incongruence is evident, with associated positive and negative consequencesfor cognitive loading, respectively.VideotextsA videotext is broadly defined here as a multimodal text consisting of contiguous, dynamic, andinterwoven sounds (verbal, musical and/or background) and visual images (still, moving, text and/orgraphic) which can be presented using a range of media. Movies, game and talk shows, dramas, musicvideos, documentaries, and news are all prevalent genres of videotexts, and are representative of themultitude of such material which is accessible around the world in many languages, through both satelliteand terrestrial television and the Internet, to an increasingly visually-oriented populace (Meinhof, 1998).Language Learning & Technology 45
  • 51. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News VideotextsVideotext genres differ in the extent to which they aim to entertain and/or inform an audience. Broadlyspeaking, for example, movies and music videos are primarily entertainment focused, whereasdocumentaries and news are essentially purveyors of factual information. Videotexts also vary in theirdegree of structure. For instance, movies and music videos are at the less-structured end of the continuum,while news, talk shows, and soap operas are notably tightly structured in contrast (Meinhof, 1998). Also,while there are format similarities in the more-structured videotexts mentioned, their production andconstruction reflects the sociocultural values and norms of the country or region from which they emanate(Meinhof, 1998).In terms of language teaching and learning, the exploitation of videotexts is commonplace. Reasons forusing videotexts are that the visual channel provides learners with opportunities to see and hear the targetlanguage in use and shows many aspects (e.g., landscapes, locations, fashion, food, gestures, way of life)of the target culture and society, both of which can raise learners’ interest levels (Harmer, 2001; Sherman,2003). In addition, videotexts have ecological validity, as learners are highly likely to listen to anotherlanguage through this multimodal medium (Guichon & McLornan, 2008).As with other major genres of videotexts, news videotexts (both authentic and non-authentic) are avaluable and widely used resource for advancing language learners’ listening abilities, and a growingnumber of publications continue to offer suggestions for exploiting this material in the classroom (Gruba,2005; Harmer, 2001; Lynch, 2009; Meinhof, 1998; Sherman, 2003). Nonetheless, despite the utility andprevalence of news videotexts in foreign and second language learning contexts, it is only recently that L2researchers have again, following an early study by Brinton and Gaskill (1978), begun to empiricallyinvestigate ways to facilitate learners comprehension of this genre (Cross, 2009; Rivens Mompean &Guichon, 2009). As yet, however, little research has concentrated on understanding the influence on L2learners’ news videotext comprehension of the associated visual content, which is a central element of themessage this genre is fashioned to communicate, but one which is often dismissed as less important thanthe aural content (Graddol, 1994). Prior to exploring related L2 research, L1 research informative to thisstudy is presented.The Visual Content of News VideotextsL1 ResearchIn one of the first publications to cover news videotext comprehension, Gunter (1987) states that thereasons behind inserting visual content (rather than just including a newscaster) in news production arethat it increases the overall impact of the news broadcast, serves to emphasize specific aspects of thenarrative (e.g., who was involved and where the story occurred), gives the audience the impression theyare being allowed to witness the reported events first-hand as they unfold, and triggers an emotionalreaction. Gunter (1987) reviewed early studies from the 1960s to 1980s on the influence of the visualchannel. Generally, findings from the studies presented did not offer conclusive support for visual contentin enhancing information assimilation and retention in news videotexts, but the degree of redundancybetween the content of the two channels was identified as an important variable in informationprocessing.In subsequent research, Brosius, Donsbach, and Birk (1996) suggest that the visual content of newsvideotexts largely consists of ‘standard scenes’, that is, shots of buildings, shoppers strolling in the street,or employees at work, which typically carry little information, and merely have a thematiccorrespondence with the audio content. Brosius, et al. (1996) investigated the effect of such standardscenes on the quality of information recalled by L1 users, representing how well the content had beenconveyed, compared to three other conditions: (a) audiovisual correspondence, (b) audio content only,and (c) audiovisual divergence. The researchers found that the uptake of information was highest foraudiovisual correspondence, followed by standard scenes and audio only, which both had similar recallquality. Audiovisual divergence hindered uptake the most. This outcome highlights that visual content hasLanguage Learning & Technology 46
  • 52. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotextsthe potential to facilitate news videotext comprehension when it is convergent with the audio information(see also Reese, 1984; Walma van der Molen & Van der Voort, 2000), but seems to be detrimental whenthere is some degree of divergence.A more recent L1 study by Walma van der Molen (2001) also considered audiovisual correspondence interms of introducing and applying a coding scheme to enable a more systematic analysis of this attributethan provided by general judgments of correspondence across whole news videotexts in previous studies.Walma van der Molen evaluated audiovisual correspondence of information presented in ‘shots’, that is,the visual content between ‘edits’ (a change to a similar scene) and ‘cuts’ (a change to a different visualscene), within news videotexts. Informed by earlier related research (Brosius et al., 1996; Lang, 1995),she developed four categories to establish and code the degree of semantic overlap between audio andvisual channels in shots. Three of these categories are classified on a correspondence continuum rangingfrom Direct, through Indirect, to Divergent. In accordance with Walma van der Molen (2001), the Directcategory is used to classify audio and visual content which both express the same propositional meaning(i.e., information in the two modalities is essentially semantically redundant); the Indirect category is usedto classify audio and visual content which is only partly related (as in standard scenes); and the Divergentcategory is used to classify audio and visual content which is not related or even contradictory. The fourthcategory, Talking head, refers to a scene in which typically only the top half of a newsreader, reporter, orinterviewee is shown as they speak, and is considered a separate category as it neither reflects conflictingaudio and visual content, nor transparent semantic relatedness between the two. However, a Talking headis categorized as one of the other three categories when additional visual information is available in thebackground, for example, behind an interviewee. Examples of each category from a BBC news videotextabout UK forces in Iraq entitled Basra Deaths are presented in Table 1 for clarification.Walma van der Molen (2001) utilized her coding system to good effect in examining a sample of Dutchnews videotexts. She summarized in writing the visual content of shots and the concurrent verbal content,and noted the duration in seconds for each shot. Two coders then used the four-category scheme to codeaudiovisual correspondence using the written information as well as the actual news videotexts. Walmavan der Molen reported a very strong inter-rater reliability (Cohen’s Kappa was .81) for the two coders,which suggests her coding system is a valid and reliable method for determining the level of audiovisualcorrespondence in news videotexts. Her taxonomy was used in this study for the analysis of the newsvideotexts.Other related L1 news videotext research has focused on graphics, such as computer-generated texts(CGTs) and computer-generated animations (CGAs). These are features which are typically used topresent numerical details, and are utilized to facilitate understanding of complicated events or processes.Fox, Lang, Chung, Lee, Schwartz, and Potter (2003) investigated the comparative amount ofcomprehension for seven science-related news videotexts in three modified versions which contained aCGA, a CGT, or no graphics. The researchers reported that comprehension was worst for the no graphicsversion, though there was little difference between the CGA and CGT versions. Moreover, when theperceived complexity of the news videotext was included as a factor, comprehension was not affected foreasier or harder content by the presence of a CGA or CGT, but more difficult content resulted insignificantly less comprehension when no graphics were included.In summary, this discussion illustrates that variations in audiovisual correspondence can impact on theprocessing of news videotexts by skilled L1 users. For L2 listeners, it seems safe to hypothesize that suchfactors will also be influential, as well as be potentially compounded due to linguistic deficiencies,working memory constraints, and a lack of familiarity with the culture-bound visual content, style, andconventions of news videotexts geared to the L1 audience (Meinhof, 1994).Language Learning & Technology 47
  • 53. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News VideotextsTable 1. Examples of the Four Coding Categories in Basra Deaths Verbal content Visual content Talking head The death of two British soldiers in a roadside bombing in Iraq has raised further questions about the level of equipment used by British troops and whether it’s enough to fight insurgents with their increasingly sophisticated weaponry. From Iraq, David Lauren reports now. Direct This Land Rover was hit… Divergent …as British troops were escorting construction workers north of Basra this morning. Direct Wreckage was strewn across the road… Indirect …in an area where there have been similar attacks before.L2 ResearchRegarding L2 learning, there is a growing body of research which has investigated the influence of thevisual content in videotexts primarily in terms of the role of kinesic cues (e.g., hand gestures and lipmovements), and still images in lectures, and to a lesser degree dialogues, in an academic listeningcontext (see Ginther, 2002; Ockey, 2007; Sueyoshi & Hardison, 2005; Wagner, 2007, 2008, 2010a,2010b). The general findings of these studies were that kinesic and contextual visual cues appeared toeither facilitate or inhibit understanding, and that variability was apparent in learners’ orientation to, andLanguage Learning & Technology 48
  • 54. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotextsperceived usefulness of, such visual cues. In many of the studies cited, the authors could only offerintuitive insights based on test items and responses, questionnaires, and interviews to suggest how visualcontent might have affected learners’ comprehension. However, Ockey (2007) and Wagner (2008)specifically focused on eliciting learners’ online processing of audiovisual information through verbalreports to determine the influence of the visual content on understanding in tests of academic listeningability. Ockey’s study involved 6 ESL test takers who were asked to report their use of visual cues, andthe impact those cues had on their comprehension during pauses inserted at essentially regular intervals intwo lecture videotexts, one containing moving images, and the other still images. Five of the six testtakers used hand and body gestures or facial cues in the videotext with moving images to facilitatecomprehension. Few of the test takers found the still images in the lecture distracting, and all were rarelyfound to observe the still images in any case. There was a fairly even split between test takers whobroadly found visual content either helpful, both helpful and distracting, or primarily distracting. Overall,Ockey found limited use of the still images by test takers in that version of the videotext, and that therewas considerable variability in the videotext with moving images in how test takers reported utilizing thevisual content, or generally considered it to be helpful or distracting.Wagner also collected verbal reports using a pause insertion methodology. Eight ESL learners verbalizedtheir comprehension processes at predesignated pauses as they worked through an academic dialogue anda lecture videotext, and completed the corresponding tests. Most learners reported using hand gestures inthe lecture to interpret relevant parts of the videotext. In addition, several learners mentioned utilizing thebody language of the speakers in the academic dialogue to help develop their interpretations of itscontent. Furthermore, some of the learners exploited contextual information in the academic dialogue todiscern who the speakers were, and to monitor and interpret what the speakers were doing at the start ofthe dialogue. Similar to Ockey (2007), Wagner concluded that learners vary widely in how they attend toand exploit visual content to understand videotexts.Although there has been comparatively less research with news videotexts than with academic lecturevideotexts, it is an area that has been, and continues to be, the focus of interest for L2 researchers. Forexample, in several publications aimed at informing classroom practice, Meinhof (1994, 1998) describesand exemplifies the interrelations between visual and audio content in news broadcasts in terms ofOverlap, Displacement, and Dichotomy. These three categories are analogous to the Direct, Indirect andDivergence categories, respectively, proposed by Walma van der Molen (2001). As in the present study,Meinhof (1994) adopts the view that by understanding how L1 users process, and are influenced by,vagaries in audiovisual content, we can come to understand their potential effects on L2 users’comprehension.In empirical terms, Guichon and McLornan (2008) investigated aspects of multimodality (i.e., audio only,audio and visual, and the addition of L1 or L2 subtitles) in a BBC news videotext. The authors countedsemantic units in learners’ written summaries as a measure of what they had comprehended. In attemptingto account for the differences in comprehension that were evident across the modality conditions of visualcontent with or without subtitles, the authors suggested that learners’ comprehension may have beennegatively affected at times due to a ‘split-attention’ effect (Chandler & Sweller, 1992), that is, thedivision of attention to different modes of input which increases the working memory load and reducesunderstanding. Importantly, and perhaps counterintuitively, a ‘redundancy’ effect has also been noted byChandler and Sweller (1991), whereby the processing of simultaneous audio and visual content which iscongruous has potentially negative consequences for understanding. This occurs because an increase inworking memory load is associated with processing two simultaneous sources of information andattempting to establish if they are related (Sweller, 2002).In a more extensive study of how visual content affects L2 listeners’ comprehension of news videotext,Gruba (2004) investigated the ways in which learners utilized the visual content of Japanese newsvideotexts. Through examining the retrospective verbal reports of twelve tertiary learners of Japanese,Language Learning & Technology 49
  • 55. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News VideotextsGruba (2004, p. 63) identified seven aspects related to the role of visual information during newsvideotext comprehension: • Listeners utilize visual elements to identify text type; • Listeners may utilize decoded written text to form an initial macrostructure; • Listeners may utilize visual elements to generate a number of tentative hypotheses; • Listeners may utilize visual elements to confirm an emerging interpretation; • The presence of a visual element may help listeners narrow an interpretation from amongst other plausible meanings; • Visual elements may confuse or hinder interpretation; • At times, visual elements add little to the development of a macrostructure.Gruba (2006) also explored learners’ verbal reports and semi-structured interview responses related tolistening to Japanese news videotexts from a media literacy perspective, and again illustrated theinfluence of the visual content on listening. Regarding aspects relevant to this study, Gruba reported acase study of one learner, Abby, who was given the opportunity to replay sections of the news videotextsto create and build her understanding of content. Abby reported using visual elements to determinesignposts (key visual content) and boundaries (segmentation) as a means of facilitating her search forcomprehension. In addition, she became aware that aural and visual elements did not necessarilycorrespond. Where discrepancies existed, she attended to the audio content and ignored the visualinformation. When the two content sources matched, she was able to exploit this to realize greaterunderstanding. Other learners in the study also commented in their interviews that the visual contenthelped reduce their anxiety, heightened motivation, and gave them a sense of connectedness with thecultural context represented on-screen.Given this rather small body of research into news videotexts, and that only Gruba (2004, 2006) has thusfar provided tangible insights into the way visual elements are processed and how they function in newsvideotext comprehension, there appears a need for further investigation to inform conceptualunderstanding and pedagogical practice, as well as generally broaden our knowledge of the influence ofthis key aspect of videotexts on language learners’ comprehension. Thus, the research question for thisstudy was: What is the influence of visual content on L2 listeners’ comprehension of news videotexts?THE STUDYOverviewThis research was part of a broader study examining the listening processes of twenty EFL learnersstudying at a language school in central Japan. Five BBC news videotexts were examined using Walmavan der Molen’s (2001) four-category coding system, and their audiovisual characteristics wereaccordingly quantified. A different news videotext was then utilized in each of five 90-minute lessonsover five weeks. The news videotexts were edited into segments, and learners worked in pairs to completea sequence of tasks in a pedagogical cycle for each segment (six per news videotext) at their own paceguided by a prompt sheet. The pairs did not receive any prior training in discussing their comprehensionprocesses, nor did they receive any input from the researcher throughout the study to avoid manipulatingthe direction and content of their dialogue. The researcher’s role was only to ensure that the pairs adheredto the task sequence and to control the playing of the news videotexts. All interaction between learnerswas carried out in English, reflecting the requisite use of the L2 in their regular lessons. Each pair’sdialogue was audio recorded, transcribed, and acted as the unit of qualitative analysis.Language Learning & Technology 50
  • 56. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News VideotextsParticipantsThe twenty volunteers were Japanese females aged between 22 and 55. All were attending an advanced-level English language course. A comparison of course level versus IELTS band scales using thelanguage centre’s approximation table indicated that participants were at approximately IELTS band scale7.0. All names are pseudonyms.Materials Preparation and AnalysisThe five news videotexts used in the study were drawn from free-to-air televised BBC news broadcasts.The initial criterion for choosing the news videotexts was that they were under two minutes in length toensure that the amount of preparation time required for editing each of the news videotexts into segmentswas not overly excessive. In addition, among the news videotexts selected, a range of common tradecraftfeatures, such as interviews with members of the general public, CGTs, and CGAs, should be representedto expose learners to the typical components of this type of videotext. Furthermore, news videotextsconsisting of a sequence of short segments were preferred, with each segment consisting of one or a seriesof images of the same scene plus accompanying audio and well-defined visual cuts between segments.This provided for ease of editing and consistency of material through the study. Each news videotext wasedited into short segments according to visual scene change and shift in audio content focus, a naturaldiscourse boundary in news videotext (see Appendix). Due to lesson time constraints, only the first sixsegments of each news videotext were presented in the ‘classroom’ phase of the study. The length ofsegments ranged from 6 to 22 seconds, with the average length being 14 seconds. The order ofpresentation and content of the five news videotexts examined in the study are summarized in Table 2.Table 2. Overview of the Titles, Topics and Lengths of the Five News Videotexts News Item Title Topic Length (seconds) Term-time Holidays School holidays in the UK 126.1 Green Grocer Food packaging in the UK 124.5 Elderly Abuse Aged-care in the UK 129.9 Job Losses Unemployment in the UK 118.3 Basra Deaths UK forces in Iraq 130.5To explore the nature of the information presented in these five news videotexts, verbal and visual contentin each videotext for all segments was analyzed according to the four categories suggested by Walma vander Molen (2001)—Direct, Indirect, Divergent, and Talking head. The coding method employed wassimilar to Walma van der Molen’s. A coding form was prepared in which the verbal script was givenalongside images of associated shots and a brief written statement describing the shots. During theanalysis, one of the four coding categories was selected and noted on the coding form for the givenaudiovisual information. However, Walma van der Molen used shot duration to calculate the time foreach category. Instead, in this study, the time for a category was calculated based on the duration of theutterances accompanying associated shots. Pauses before and after utterances were excluded, as onlyvisual content was being presented. Measurements were made using Praat Version 4.3.22( A colleague acted as a second coder for coding agreement checks. Aninter-coder reliability analysis using the Kappa statistic was performed with SPSS Version 18.0( Inter-coder reliability was .79. Differences in coding were then resolved bydiscussion to enable the analysis of the prevalence of each of the four categories.Elicitation and Analysis of DialogueTo provide the framework for eliciting learners’ dialogue for subsequent analysis based on the first sixLanguage Learning & Technology 51
  • 57. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotextssegments of each news videotext, a pedagogical cycle proposed by Vandergrift (2007) was used (seeCross, in press, for details). Pairs watched a segment on a TV set, and then made notes after the segmentfinished. Next, learners shared their understanding of the segment, discussed how they had tried tounderstand the content, and considered ways to understand more of the segment. Specific written promptswere provided to elicit learners’ responses, such as, “What strategies did you use to try to understand thesegment?” The learners discussed their comprehension processes at designated pauses inserted in thenews videotext, akin to the manner in which Ockey (2007) and Wagner (2008) collected verbal protocols.The same segment was then replayed, learners added to their notes, shared their understanding, andreported on how they had tried to understand the segment. Following this, learners worked together toproduce a written summary of main ideas they had jointly comprehended. On average, they spentapproximately fifteen minutes working on each segment. On finishing a segment’s summary, the learnerssignaled to the researcher to play the next segment.The qualitative analysis by the author of each pair’s ‘dialogic recalls’ (Cross, 2011) using QSR NVivoVersion 8 ( aimed to establish the influence of the visual content ontheir comprehension of the given news videotexts. Excerpts in which a learner’s report referred to thevisual content were firstly identified and grouped for each news videotext. These excerpts of dialoguewere then individually cross-referenced to the coding form (see previous section) to establish the categoryof the relationship (i.e., Talking head, Direct, Indirect, and Divergent) of the audiovisual content that hadbeen the focus of learners’ dialogue. Excerpts of dialogue related to the visual content in the newsvideotexts which were more general in nature and could not be linked to any of Walma van der Molen’sfour coding categories, were collated and given provisional labels for each pair. Excerpts with relatedlabels were then matched across the ten pairs, and the categories iteratively consolidated. Isolatedexcerpts which could not be cross-matched were excluded from further consideration. A colleague againacted as a second coder, and was asked to use the categories established (i.e., positive or negative effect,inferencing, and predicting) to code the excerpts which did not relate to the coding form content. Aninter-coder reliability analysis using the Kappa statistic was conducted with SPSS. Inter-coder reliabilitywas .83. Coding differences were subsequently resolved by discussion.FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONThe initial concern of this study was to draw on L1 research to establish the nature of the audiovisualcontent in the BBC news videotexts utilized. Using Walma van der Molen’s (2001) audiovisual codingsystem, all of the segments in each of the five news videotexts used in this study were analyzed and theamount of time in seconds and as a percentage of the total time for each of the four categories wasquantified. Table 3 shows the findings of the analysis for each of the news videotexts.Table 3 highlights that the Talking head category was the most common, with each news videotextcontaining two or three of such segments. Overall, the majority of the audio and visual content for each ofthe five news videotexts was classified as Indirect or Divergent. This supports the generally held viewthat redundancy between audio and visual modes in news videotexts is rare (Meinhof, 1998; Walma vander Molen, 2001). Two of the news videotexts contained a CGT segment (Elderly Abuse and Job Losses)and one a CGA segment (Basra Deaths), and these segments exhibited a notable level of audiovisualcorrespondence. Hence the higher percentages for the Direct category compared to the other two newsvideotexts (i.e., Term-time Holidays and Green Grocer). The implication for the L2 listeners in this studywas that the prevalence of at least partial audiovisual discrepancy in the five BBC news videotexts clearlyhad the potential to create comprehension difficulties, much as it had affected uptake in the L1 study byBrosius, et al. (1996) discussed above.To examine the manner of influence of the audiovisual content on learners’ comprehension, excerpts ofdialogue from each pair were cross-referenced to the relevant shots they were referring to in theirdialogue, and the coding of those shots as Talking head, Direct, Indirect or Divergent. The influence ofLanguage Learning & Technology 52
  • 58. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotextsthe visual content on learners’ comprehension is now discussed in terms of each of these four audiovisualcorrespondence categories.Table 3. The Types of Visual Content and Their Distribution in Seconds and as a Percentage for Each ofthe Five News Videotexts News Item Title Types of visual content Distribution of visual content (seconds) (%) Term-time Holidays Talking head 41.7 37 Direct 2.9 3 Indirect 30.0 26 Divergent 38.8 34 Total 113.4 100 Green Grocer Talking head 39.0 35 Direct 0.0 0 Indirect 33.2 30 Divergent 39.6 35 Total 111.8 100 Elderly Abuse Talking head 44.9 41 Direct 15.7 14 Indirect 20.8 20 Divergent 27.0 25 Total 108.4 100 Job Losses Talking head 35.9 33 Direct 19.9 18 Indirect 17.3 16 Divergent 35.3 32 Total 108.4 100 Basra Deaths Talking head 24.6 24 Direct 20.6 20 Indirect 36.0 34 Divergent 23.4 22 Total 104.6 100Note: Pauses in audio content, which meant only visual content was presented, were excluded from time calculations in eachcategory.Talking HeadThis category refers to close-up shots of the head and upper body of newscasters, reporters, andinterviewees which did not contain background scenes of semantic significance. In this study, each of thenews videotexts began with a Talking head segment in which the newscaster can be seen introducing thenews story. Four of these segments also included a caption identifying the title and, therefore, the themeLanguage Learning & Technology 53
  • 59. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotextsof the news videotext (see Appendix, Segment 1). In addition, three of the news videotexts includedTalking head segments in which an interviewee offered their views. Each interviewee was identified witha caption (see Appendix, Segment 3). None of the learners’ reports contained comments about theTalking head shots of the newscasters. Thirteen learners (in ten excerpts) mentioned the visual content insegments with Talking head shots of interviewees. Three learners reported just focusing on the audiocontent as the visual content in the Talking head segment was not felt to be semantically informative. Forinstance, Nao reported that the Talking head shot merely showed the woman talking (see Appendix,Segment 3), and so she had concentrated on what the interviewee was saying. Nao: uhm about for the visual points Midori: mm Nao: a woman is just talking about Midori: mm mm Nao: just talking, so I concentrated on the words Midori: mm Nao: I I I can catchHowever, two learners reported using the captions identifying an interviewee to orientate themselves towho the actual speaker was. Interestingly, three learners also reported not noticing the captions, despitetheir appearance on screen for most of the duration of the given segments. An excerpt from Azusa andYoko’s dialogue with respect to the female interviewee (see Appendix, Segment 3) illustrates both ofthese aspects, with Yoko mentioning she used the caption, whereas Azusa reported not seeing it. Yoko: ah I first of all who is speaking Azusa: uhuh Yoko: the head teacher Azusa: eh eh how did you know she’s the head teacher Yoko: the subtitles subtitles Azusa: [ah you saw the subtitles I didn’t see that point Yoko: and ah this is the head teacherIn summary, several learners’ reports reflected that they felt visual content in Talking head shots providedlittle of semantic value to facilitate their understanding, and thus they tended to direct their attention to thecontiguous aural content. The captions identifying interviewees did help to orientate a few learners to thename/position of the speaker, but this feature could also go unnoticed.Direct CategoryThis category describes instances in which there was a high degree of semantic equivalence between auraland visual information. Apart from excerpts linked to the CGT and CGA segments, there was one excerpteach from the dialogue of four pairs in which learners discussed the influence of audiovisual contentclassified in this category. All of the learners mentioned that the visual content had supported theirunderstanding of audio content in relation to a scene from Basra Deaths in which parts of a vehicledestroyed in an explosion are seen on the road (see Table 1). For example, Jun mentions that seeing thewreckage on the road had facilitated her understanding of this part of the segment.Language Learning & Technology 54
  • 60. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts Jun: uhm if ah when I saw the pic- erh the image of erh the wreckage parts are strew- strewn around across the road Kaori: [uhuh [ah yes yes Jun: that was very helpful to understand the the what’s happening Kaori [mm yes mm Jun: at that time Kaori: yes on the roadThis part of the segment was notably short (1.9 seconds), yet the audiovisual correspondence appeared tobe particularly apparent to several of the learners, and drew comment. It is unclear as to why no otherexcerpts were related to audiovisual content in the Direct category (other than for the CGT and CGAsegments). It may be that the brief duration of each example of such content in general (the average timeof audiovisual content in the Direct category was 2.6 seconds), or that just under half of the exampleswere only a partial component of a proposition (e.g., see the two examples of the Direct category in Table1), made it difficult for learners to recognize and exploit the semantic overlap in the audio and visualcontent. Alternatively, audiovisual redundancy may not have been recalled as associated content wasunconsciously processed, or because it was one small part of the complex process of comprehending asegment’s propositional content (typically each segment contained three propositions).The CGT and CGA segments contained audiovisual content which exhibited redundancy. The CGTsegment in Elderly Abuse consisted of a sequence of numbers and on-screen text, and around half of thissegment’s content exhibited semantic overlap. Table 4 shows the content which was categorized asDirect.Table 4. Examples of the Direct Category in the CGT from Elderly Abuse Verbal content Visual content In more than two hundred cases the person was abused in their own home. There have been just five prosecutions.Seven pairs commented on the effect on their comprehension of the CGT visual content in ten excerpts.This was primarily regarding facilitating understanding of numerical details which is typically difficultfor L2 listeners. For example, Yoko reported using the number graphic, recognizing it was linked to theaudio content, and thus being able to comprehend the information presented. Yoko: I tried to follow the numbers appearing on the screen Azusa: [mm uhuh Yoko: and the sound is connected with that number Azusa: uhuhLanguage Learning & Technology 55
  • 61. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts Yoko: so I could understand what this number is whatThe CGA in Basra Deaths, shown in Table 5, also contained audiovisual content which was redundant.This segment primarily portrayed an explosive attack on a vehicle, with the voiceover describing howsuch an attack proceeds.Table 5. Examples of the Direct Category in the CGA from Basra Deaths Verbal content Visual content But shaped bombs are designed to focus the force of the explosive into a small area, forcing a hard projectile through the light armour of a Snatch Land Rover.Excerpts of dialogue from seven pairs illustrated that this CGA appeared to have either a positive ornegative influence on learners’ comprehension. Of eighteen related excerpts, ten were positive. Forinstance, both Emi and Kana reported that their understanding of the military technology shown in thesegment had been facilitated by the animation. Emi: yes in my case I I watched the illustration that something weapons attacked to the land rover mm:: so I think it helps me to understand the weapons how weapons how sophisticated the weapon mm Kana: mm yeah erh well in my case I uhm thanks for the clear illustration illustrations I thought I could understand the basic concepts of the weaponsHowever, Masako and Satsuki were among the learners who reported the CGA had inhibited or impairedtheir comprehension irrespective of audiovisual correspondence because of the nature and amount ofinformation it contained. Satsuki reported being absorbed in the visual content and forgetting to attend tothe audio content, while Masako stated that her attempts to exploit more of the visual content had led toincreased confusion. Satsuki: I was I was I was so so attracted by the scene Masako: mm Satsuki: the truck land rover and the explanation and illu- and illus- illustration Masako: mm mm mm Satsuki: and and so I forgot to listen to erh what announcer said Masako: [oh:: mmLanguage Learning & Technology 56
  • 62. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts mm mm mm Satsuki: so Masako: ok so I I tried to get more information Satsuki: mm Masako: from screen Satsuki: mm Masako: but ah:: mm:: it made me more confused confusedOverall, there was a fairly even split between the number of learners who reported that the graphics in theCGA had been beneficial to their comprehension or had impaired it. The difficulty for learners seemed tobe in concurrently coordinating their attention, decoding and integration of the on-screen animation andthe details presented aurally. This was a procedure which possibly overwhelmed their cognitive resources.Therefore, it seems that despite redundancy between audio and visual content, the sheer volume ofinformation from different sources (i.e., written text, audio, animated visual scenes) in CGAs, which isdesigned to assist L1 users’ understanding of complicated events or processes in news videotexts, couldpossibly confuse some L2 listeners and make it difficult for them to build connections between audio andvisual sources of information. Alternatively, learners’ cognitive resources could have been overloaded asthey tried to establish that correspondence existed between the multiple sources (i.e., a ‘redundancy’effect, see Chandler & Sweller, 1991; Sweller, 2002). This did not appear to be as problematic with theCGT as the visual content consisted only of written text accompanied by redundant audio information, soit may be that the ‘moving picture’ aspect of CGAs adds an extra element of complexity for learners.Indirect CategoryThis category refers to audio and visual content which has partial semantic redundancy. One example ofthis type of audiovisual correspondence was when a reporter was seen using hand gestures andsimultaneously referring to on-screen items or locations. This use of gestures by a reporter occurred intwo of the five news videotexts. For instance, in a segment from the Green Grocer news videotext shownin Table 6, the reporter is seen holding and gesturing towards some packaging and a plastic bag as he istalking about them.Table 6. Examples of the Hand Gestures from Green Grocer Verbal content Visual content Sainsbury’s argue that the natural products in this packaging will break down very quickly in compost… …whereas the degradable plastic used by some rivals is still oil-based and will take a couple of years to break down completely.Four pairs discussed the visual information in this segment. For example, Tomoko reported on the way inwhich the visual content influenced her understanding. She stated how the reporter had explicitly drawnLanguage Learning & Technology 57
  • 63. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotextsattention to objects using his hands, and how this had helped her to recognize that he was making acomparison between objects. Tomoko: when they did some comparison between sainsbury’s and other retailers rivals like when he talked about the sainsbury’s products he used I I think he Nami: mm:: uhuh Tomoko: drew up our attention to the sainsbury’s products and when he talked about plastic bags or biodegradable bags by other retailers he hold the bags visually we could notice that he was comparising Nami: mm:: Tomoko: huh comparising comparing sorry comparing something with somethingThis representative example illustrates that the semantic overlap achieved through the use of handgestures for comparing and contrasting by the reporter helped to orientate some of the learners to, andfacilitate their understanding of, the aural content2. This is in line with Wagner’s (2008) findings thathand gestures can help learners to interpret information in videotexts, and supports the perceptions of thelearners in Coniam’s (2001), Ockey’s (2007) and Sueyoshi and Hardison’s (2005) studies regarding theusefulness of a speaker’s gestures in aiding listening comprehension.Visual content in the Indirect category in the form of standard scenes (i.e., visual content which has athematic correspondence with the audio content) informed learners’ contextual/thematic orientation. Allten pairs commented on this aspect in relation to various segments of each videotext, and there were thirtythree associated excerpts in their dialogues. For instance, in Job Losses, the visual content showsemployees at work in a call-centre in India, as shown in Table 7, and the audio information is about officejobs being shifted to India.Table 7. Example of the Standard Scene from Job Losses Verbal content Visual content Indian workers able to do the same office jobs more cheaply.Manami and Keiko discussed this visual content, and their dialogue illustrates that it had enabled Manamito achieve situational orientation. She reported she was able to notice the disparity in the visual scene andthis had helped her recognize the related context of the information being presented in the segment. Manami: the first thing I noticed is that the the visual was very parallel to to the one we saw in the segment four Keiko: parallelLanguage Learning & Technology 58
  • 64. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts Manami: it was similar but different to the one taken in britain Keiko: mm Manami: it was the similar office Keiko: mm mm mm mm Manami: but something was different Keiko: mm Manami: people were different the partition and the configuration were was different so in a way it helped me that to to to notice that this is the situation in India or the uhm the exported situationIn summary, excerpts related to the reporter’s use of hand gestures indicated that this aspect helped toorientate several learners to items or locations being depicted. In addition, the presence of standard scenesappeared to have a positive influence on some learners’ comprehension through activating and informingcontextual/thematic orientation and helping them to refine their interpretations of the given newsvideotexts as they formed and developed a macrostructure representation (Gruba, 2004).Divergent CategoryWith respect to this category, which refers to audio and visual content which is unrelated or possiblycontradictory, there were only four related excerpts evident in the pairs’ dialogues. Two pairs commentedon audiovisual divergence when it was patently apparent. A segment in Term-time Holidays, shown inTable 8, contains visual content of children running around a gym mostly showing their legs, while theaudio information is an explanation of a court case.Table 8. Examples of the Divergent Category from Term-time Holidays Verbal content Visual content The issue has been brought to the fore again because of a court case involving a mother from Kent. She was prosecuted after taking her children on holiday twice without their schools permission. After a legal battle, the High Court ruled that she’d broken the law.One example illustrates Azusa mentioning to Yoko how the divergent visual and audio informationaffected her ability to concentrate and listen, and how she felt the visual content of the children runningaround had hindered her concentration and comprehension. Azusa: I think I watched very concentratedly con- co- concentrate on the tv soLanguage Learning & Technology 59
  • 65. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts Yoko: [mm Azusa: that’s why I couldn’t catch a lot Yoko: mm:: Azusa: because I wh- while I was listening I always thought what is what are those why are they running running so that bothered my concentration and listeningThis representative excerpt illustrates that when the audio and visual content is particularly incongruousand also, in this case, peculiar in terms of the camera technique, it becomes apparent to some learners andcan create confusion. A possible reason for why few excerpts of dialogue related to content classified asDivergent is that, although other segments contained disparate audio and visual content, the storyline ofthe audio and the associated visual images (excluding Talking head shots) were related to previoussegments in the news videotext, and it is possible that learners were able to orientate themselves to thecontinuing thread of the storyline as their tentative macrostructure of the news videotext evolved (Gruba,2004). This was not the case for the segment content in Table 8, and may have been why learners felt itwas problematic.Other InfluencesIn the qualitative analysis of each pair’s dialogue, a number of other general influences related to thevisual content emerged across a number of pairs. Firstly, in twenty three excerpts, learners in all pairsmentioned in broad terms that they found that visual content had facilitated their comprehension at somestage, as in this example: Satsuki: we:: this time uhm the visual points helped us very much I think Masako: [mm [mm:: ah yes Satsuki: mm:: and erh I think uhm we we cou- we have got a lot of information Masako: mm Satsuki: erh from the visual points Masako: [mm mm mm yes yesHowever, this needs to be qualified, as there were eighteen excerpts in the dialogue of seven of the pairswhich illustrated that when they attended to the visual content in a segment, it impaired their ability toattend to the accompanying audio content. For instance, Hiromi stated that she recognized that herattention to the visual information had inhibited processing of the concurrent audio input. Hiromi: mm:: mm:: I tried concentrate only on the screen so actually sound did not enter Naoko: really Hiromi: [my brain Naoko: ah::Another interesting aspect was that the initial scene in a segment (i.e., the post-cut shot) was used bylearners to generate expectations about possible audio content. There were fourteen excerpts related tothis in the dialogue of five pairs. For example, Manami reported that the initial image of a child in asegment from Term-time Holidays (see Appendix, Segment 2) had created an expectation regarding thecontext, which she felt had assisted her comprehension.Language Learning & Technology 60
  • 66. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts Manami: ah:: but you know when I first see I first saw the head of of a child I I immediately Keiko: [mm Manami: knew they were going to talk about the classroom and it helped me Keiko: [mm:: ah::A further influence of the visual content was that it aided inferencing by learners of a segment’sinformation. There were thirteen related excerpts among six pairs. One example shows Emi reporting thatthe visual scene had been the stimulus for guessing the content. She mentioned concentrating on thevisual content and seeing parts of a vehicle on the road in Basra Deaths (see Table 1), and using thisinformation to conclude that the vehicle had exploded. Emi: erh I watched on the screen carefully and yes I I saw a car Kana: [uhuh mm Emi: and some metal things such as coil Kana: [mm mm Emi: and the metal plate on on the on the place so I I guessed the cars Kana: [mm:: Emi: exploded exploded and mm::In summary, learners considered that visual content could both promote and impede their understandingof the accompanying verbal material. Other studies have also found in broad terms that visual content canbe both helpful and distracting. Regarding the latter, as with a number of the participants in Coniam’s(2001) and Ockey’s (2007) studies, the visual content seemed to exclusively absorb learners’ attention attimes, causing them to fail to allocate resources to processing the simultaneous audio information. Inaddition, using the initial visual content of a segment helped learners to predict or create expectationsabout the possible information presented in that segment. Although this could be a risky strategy, justover half of post-cut shots were good indicators of the focus of segment content. A further strategylearners felt had facilitated their comprehension was inferencing based on the visual content (see alsoGruba, 2004). The visual content possibly provided a tentative frame of reference which learners used toorganize the parts of the audio content they could comprehend and create coherent propositions. Ofcourse, this does not imply that their inferences were necessarily always correct, especially as there was ahigh proportion of content in the news videotexts that lacked audiovisual redundancy.Learner VariabilityOckey (2007), Sueyoshi and Hardison (2005), and Wagner (2008) have commented that the influence ofthe visual content on comprehension of videotexts is notably variable for each learner, and the findings ofthis study also illustrate that this is so. While L2 listening comprehension is primarily an idiosyncraticprocess and, as such, one would expect differences to be evident among learners regarding theirfrequency and degree of use of visual content in videotexts (as reflected in their verbal reports), it isinformative to account for how such variability possibly arises. Wagner (2008) suggests that one reasonfor the variability is because visual content tends to be automatically processed, so learners are notconscious of doing so. Hence, it is not available for reporting by the given learner. However, it isdebatable that the socioculturally-bound visual content in videotexts requires little conscious effort on thepart of L2 learners to extract the semantic notions being conveyed. Rather, the analysis of each pair’sLanguage Learning & Technology 61
  • 67. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotextsdialogue in this study revealed that some variability can be more plausibly explained from a dual codingtheory perspective, which advocates distinct verbal and nonverbal systems (Paivio, 2007). Given that themultimodality of news videotexts places excessive demands on an individual’s limited short-termmemory capacity (Lang, 1995), a number of learners appeared to employ a coping mechanism in whichthey intentionally directed their attention to either the visual content or the audio content, with theincumbent loss of information presented in the non-attended content source. Moreover, eight learnersreported deliberately switching their attention across the two listenings to each segment, primarilyattending to the visual content in the first listening to a segment, and focusing on the audio content in thesecond listening. As such, these learners were likely to comment on the visual content following the firstlistening only, particularly when they did not find the visual content initially useful. For example, Masakoreported that the visual information had not aided her understanding during the first listening so she haddecided to attend to the audio content in the second opportunity to listen. Masako: mm:: on the screen there is no there’s no tips I mean Satsuki: yeah Masako: hints Satsuki: yeah mm Masako: so it’s quite difficult to Satsuki: mm Masako: mm to guess from the visual in the part Satsuki: [yeah mm yeah Masako: so next time I’m going to concentrate on erh the the listening Satsuki: mm::Similarly, in the following excerpt, whereas Manami mentioned using visual information in the secondlistening to a segment, Keiko reported that she had consciously not attended to the visual content thesecond time she listened to the segment and had focused on the audio content. Manami: this time I tried to use the visual Keiko: mm mm mm and I yeah I this time I ignored the visual Manami: [right yeah Keiko: and concentrate to hearGruba (2004) also noted the tendency of learners to primarily attend to the visual content in the firstlistening to formulate an initial impression, and then develop a more complete understanding by attendingto the aural content as they listened again. Therefore, it appears that conscious attention to either, but notsimultaneously to both, the audio or visual content is a way learners attempt to overcome processingissues they encounter, such as when a ‘split attention’ or ‘redundancy’ effect overwhelms their short-termmemory resources.In relation to learners focusing their attention on either source of content, there was evidence that whileall learners were observed to ‘look’ at the screen when listening, this was, at times, possibly a ‘blankstare’—an unfocused look that does not involve the processing of what is seen (Garland-Thomson, 2009).The visual information in the news videotext was not necessarily being utilized, and learners concentratedon processing the audio content alone. For example, the following excerpt illustrates that Naoko adoptedthis type of behavior.Language Learning & Technology 62
  • 68. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts Naoko: so some sometimes I I point my eyes on the screen but not exactly focus on Hiromi: ah:: blankly you look at ok Naoko: yeah so nextThese findings have implications for studies in which researchers have measured the time learners spentobserving the visual content (e.g., Ockey, 2007; Wagner, 2007, 2010a). Although learners are seen to beorienting to the screen, this study shows that it does not necessarily mean they are attending to andexploiting (consciously or unconsciously) the visual elements displayed.Overall, then, it appears that the visual content in news videotexts, irrespective of the degree ofaudiovisual correspondence, creates a further significant strain on learners’ limited cognitive resources.Learners may try to deal with this issue through directing their attention at different times to informationfrom only one source in preference to the other. This may depend on which source the individual learnerfeels can best be effectively exploited to interpret and ascertain meaning in the news videotext, and seemsto be one important reason for why variability in the use of visual content exits across learners3.IMPLICATIONS FOR PEDAGOGYDespite a number of limitations of this study, including the participants being a rather homogenous group,the news videotext segmentation possibly distorting normal discourse processing, and potential issueswith using dialogic recalls as verbal reports (see Cross, 2011), several implications for L2 listeningpedagogy arise from the findings. Firstly, it was evident that not all learners recognized congruence anddiscrepancies between the aural and visual elements as they strove for understanding. This suggests thatsuch aspects need to be made explicit to learners if they are to better deal with the audiovisual vagaries ofnews videotexts. One technique for achieving this is to present learners with a range of segments and askthem to compare the transcript of the aural content with the visuals they see, and determine and discussthe extent of audiovisual correspondence. Another approach is to have learners predict the kind of visualcontent they think corresponds to the transcript of the audio content of a news videotext, and then askthem watch the videotext and reflect on the degree of audiovisual correspondence that was evident. Inparticular, it seems apposite to raise learners’ awareness of the utility of hand gestures used by reporters,and the potentially facilitative effect of numbers and/or captions presented in Talking head, CGT andCGA segments. Furthermore, several studies have shown the facilitative nature of speakers’ lipmovements and facial expressions for understanding (Ockey, 2007; Sueyoshi & Hardison, 2005). Talkinghead segments are a common element of news videotexts, and it would be useful to draw learners’attention to such features with respect to newscasters and interviewees.In addition, from a media literacy standpoint, Gruba (2006) points to the importance of learners beingable to identify segment boundaries using visual elements. This skill helps listeners to keep pace withshifts in content focus as the news videotext progresses. For this study, boundaries were predetermined toenable separate segments of the news videotexts to be presented one-by-one. However, in a classroomcontext, learners could initially be introduced to the notion of segmentation through visuals in newsvideotexts and how it operates. A complete news videotext could then be presented (with or withoutsound) and learners asked to discuss and justify the number of segments they feel it contains. This couldbe facilitated by asking them to mark segment boundaries on a transcript of the news videotext. Drawinglearners’ attention to the regularity of the generic macrostructure of news videotexts (Meinhof, 1998) isalso important for developing media literacy. In the BBC news videotexts used in this study, we first seethe anchor in the studio, and this is followed by a sequence of short multimodal segments. Viewpointspresented are supported through interviews with ‘stakeholders’ (i.e., members of the general public,politicians, victims), and the final segment often shows the correspondent at the scene or contains thecorrespondent’s voiceover indicating current consequences and future directions. Of course, it isimportant to note that the macrostructure and content of BBC news videotexts are culture-bound. InLanguage Learning & Technology 63
  • 69. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotextscontrast, Japan’s NHK news, for example, has a different macrostructure and content (see Botting, 2003).In addition to raising awareness of the macrostructure, learners’ knowledge of the defining features ofnews videotexts according to particular themes (e.g., politics, war, crime) may be enhanced by usingworksheets to guide and maximize their listening experience (see Lynch, 2009). Furthermore, as Gruba(2005) suggests, learners can predict the meaning of the visual content in a news videotext and comparetheir ideas. Through doing so, they can become aware that visual content may have ‘polysemic’interpretations (i.e., an array of diverse meanings, Gruba, 2005).CONCLUSIONThis study identified and examined the various audiovisual characteristics of (BBC) news videotextsusing a four-category system and coding method developed by Walma van der Molen (2001). It wasevident that audiovisual correspondence in the news videotexts was non-equivalent to varying degrees.Subsequent analysis focused on learners’ dialogue to explore the effect the four different categories ofshot types had on learners’ listening comprehension. Talking head visual content seemed to have littleinfluence on comprehension, though captions did help with speaker identification. The effect of the visualcontent classified as Direct was typically facilitative of comprehension, but the multimodality ofcontiguous information in CGAs could be detrimental to understanding. Indirect audiovisualcorrespondence, as reflected in the hand gestures of the reporter and in standard scenes, influencedcomprehension positively, whereas Divergent audio and visual content seemed particularly problematicwhen it was notably incongruous with the evolving news videotext storyline.In addition, the analysis revealed other influences of the visual content on comprehension such as its rolein facilitating comprehension; inhibiting of attention to, and processing of, audio content; and triggeringof learners’ expectations and inferencing of content. Dual coding theory provided a useful perspective forexplaining possible reasons for why there is notable variability among learners in the degree to whichthey report exploiting the visual content in news videotexts, and it is hoped the implications for L2listening pedagogy presented offer a way forward for practitioners using news videotexts (or other typesof videotexts) in their listening lessons.NOTES1. Listening comprehension is defined here as “an active process in which listeners select and interpretinformation which comes from auditory and visual [this author’s italics] clues” (Rubin, 1995, p. 7).2. The audiovisual correspondence was coded as Indirect as the visual information presented includes thesupermarket interior, the shopping aisle, and items in a trolley.3. Other potential reason for learner variability in reports of their use of visual content include thetendency for this information to evoke polysemic interpretations (Gruba, 2005), and the disparate visualliteracy, spatial ability, and background knowledge of learners (Chun & Plass, 1997).Language Learning & Technology 64
  • 70. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News VideotextsAPPENDIX. Example of a segmented news videotext Segment verbal content Segment visual content Segment 1 Now, if you think you could save a tidy sum by taking your kids on holiday in term time, you could be in for a nasty surprise. In a test case, the High Court has a backed the law which says it’s schools who decide if these trips are OK. So, what exactly are parents allowed to do? Judith Morris has been finding out. Segment 2 These children at school in Manchester are all present and correct, but that’s not the case everywhere. Most teachers marking the register have had the experience of pupils taking time off to go on holiday. It can be a tug of war between parents and schools. Segment 3 It’s escalating in the number of families that are actually taking children out of school. Parents now …erh… expect to take probably more than one holiday a year. I do have a sympathy with parents because the guidelines are not clear. And it’s left too much onto head teachers.ACKNOWLEDGMENTI wish to acknowledge Major Matthew Bacon, who is mentioned in the Basra Deaths news videotext usedin this study, and who lost his life on 11th September, 2005 while serving in Iraq.Language Learning & Technology 65
  • 71. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News VideotextsABOUT THE AUTHORJeremy Cross is an Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics at the National Institute of Education,Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His primary research interest is L2 listening. He mainlyteaches postgraduate courses on ELT methodology for listening and speaking.E-mail: jertzy7@hotmail.comREFERENCESBotting, G. (2003, February 18). Japan’s TV news in a world of its own. The Japan Times Online.Retrieved from, D., & Gaskill, W. (1978) Using news broadcasts in the ESL/EFL classroom. TESOL Quarterly,12(4), 403–414.Brosius, H-B., Donsbach, W., & Birk, M. (1996). How do text-picture relations affect the informationaleffectiveness of television newscasts? Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 40, 180–195.Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (1991). Cognitive load theory and the format of instruction. Cognition andInstruction, 8, 293–332.Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (1992). The split-attention effect as a factor in the design of instruction.British Journal of Educational Psychology, 62, 233–246.Chun, D., & Plass, J. (1997). Research on text comprehension in multimedia environments. LanguageLearning & Technology, 1(1), 60–81. Retrieved from, J., & Paivio, A. (1991). Dual coding theory and education. Educational Psychology Review, 3(3),149-210.Coniam, D. (2001). The use of audio or video comprehension as an assessment instrument in thecertification of English language teachers: A case study. System, 29, 1–14.Cross, J. (2009). Effects of listening strategy instruction on news videotext comprehension. LanguageTeaching Research, 13(2), 151-176.Cross, J. (2011). Utilizing dialogic recalls to determine L2 listeners’ strategy use. Innovation in LanguageLearning and Teaching, 5(1), 81–100.Cross, J. (in press). Metacognitive instruction for helping less-skilled listeners. ELT Journal.Fox, J., Lang, A., Chung, Y., Lee, S., Schwartz, N., & Potter, D. (2003). Picture this: Effects of graphicson the processing of television news. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 48(4), 646–674.Garland-Thomson, R. (2009). Staring: How we look. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Ginther, A. (2002). Context and content visuals and performance on listening comprehension stimuli.Language Testing, 19(2), 133–167.Graddol, D. (1994). The visual accomplishment of factuality. In D. Graddol & O. Boyd-Barrett (Eds.),Media texts: Authors and readers (pp. 136–59). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.Gruba, P. (2004). Understanding digitized second language videotext. Computer Assisted LanguageLearning, 17(1), 51–82.Gruba, P. (2005). Developing media literacy in the L2 classroom. Sydney: Macquarie University,Language Learning & Technology 66
  • 72. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News VideotextsNational Centre for English Teaching and Research.Gruba, P. (2006). Playing the videotext: A media literacy perspective on video-mediated L2 listening.Language Learning & Technology, 10(2), 77–92. Retrieved from, N., & McLornan, S. (2008). The effects of multimodality on L2 learners: Implications forCALL resource design. System, 36(1), 85–93.Gunter, B. (1987). Poor reception: Misunderstanding and forgetting broadcast news. Hillsdale, NJ:Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Harmer, J. (2001). The practice of English language teaching. Essex, UK: Longman.Lang, A. (1995). Defining audio/video redundancy from a limited-capacity information processingperspective. Communication Research, 22, 86–115.Lynch, T. (2009). Teaching second language listening. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Mayer, R. E., & Anderson, R. B. (1991). Animations need narrations: An experimental test of a dual-coding hypothesis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 484–490.Mayer, R. E., & Sims, V. K. (1994). For whom is a picture worth a thousand words? Extensions of adual-coding theory of multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 389–401.Meinhof, U. (1994). Double talk in news broadcasts: A cross-cultural comparison of pictures and texts intelevision news. In D. Graddol & O. Boyd-Barrett (Eds.), Media texts: Authors and readers (pp. 212–223). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Meinhof, U. (1998). Language learning in the age of satellite television. Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress.Ockey, G. (2007). Construct implications of including still image or video in computer-based listeningtests. Language Testing, 24(4), 517–537.Paivio, A. (1971). Imagery and verbal processes. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Paivio, A. (1990). Mental representations: A dual coding approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Paivio, A. (2007). Mind and its evolution: A dual coding theoretical interpretation, Mahwah, NJ:Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Reese, S. (1984). Visual-verbal redundancy effects on TV news learning. Journal of Broadcasting, 28,79–87.Rivens-Monpean, A., & Guichon, N. (2009). Assessing the use of aids for a computer-mediated task:Taking notes while listening. JALT CALL Journal, 5(2), 45–60.Rubin, J. (1995). An overview to A guide for the teaching of second language listening. In D.Mendelsohn & J. Rubin (Eds.), A Guide for the teaching of second language listening (pp. 7–11). SanDiego, CA: Dominie Press.Sadoski, M., & Paivio, A. (2001). Imagery and text: A dual coding theory of reading and writing.Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Sherman, J. (2003). Using authentic video in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress.Sueyoshi, A., & Hardison, D. (2005). The role of gestures and facial cues in second language listeningcomprehension. Language Learning, 55, 661–699.Language Learning & Technology 67
  • 73. Jeremy Cross Comprehending News VideotextsSweller, J. (2002). Visualisation and instructional design. Workshop paper for the IWM KnowledgeMedia Research Center. Retrieved from, L. (2007). Recent developments in second and foreign language listening comprehensionresearch. Language Teaching, 40, 191–210.Wagner, E. (2007). Are they watching? An investigation of test-taker viewing behavior during an L2video listening test. Language Learning & Technology, 11(1), 67–86. Retrieved from, E. (2008). Video listening tests: What are they measuring? Language Assessment Quarterly, 5,218-243.Wagner, E. (2010a). Test-takers’ interaction with an L2 video listening test. System, 38(2), 280–291.Wagner, E. (2010b). How does the use of video texts affect ESL listening test-taker performance?Language Testing, 27(4), 493–510.Walma van der Molen, J. (2001). Assessing text-picture correspondence in television news: Thedevelopment of a new coding scheme. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 45(3), 483–498.Walma van der Molen, J., & Van der Voort, T. (2000). The impact of television, print, and audio onchildren’s recall of the news: A study of three alternative explanations for the dual-coding hypothesis.Human Communication Research, 26(1), 3–26.Language Learning & Technology 68
  • 74. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2 pp. 69–91 DIVERGENT PERCEPTIONS OF TELECOLLABORATIVE LANGUAGE LEARNING TASKS: TASK-AS-WORKPLAN VS. TASK-AS-PROCESSMelinda Dooly, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona The use of computer-supported collaborative learning is more and more commonplace in language learning classrooms; this has given rise to the need for more research on roles and processes of telecollaboration in language teaching and learning and how online interactions are integrated with face-to-face classroom activities. Using a data-driven, qualitative approach to provide snapshots of a telecollaborative language learning project, this article examines participants’ modes of language use beginning with the task-as- workplan (Breen, 1987, 1989) and then examining episodes (both F2F and online) and outcomes of the task-in-process. By pinpointing specific moments of emerging language knowledge in the telecollaborative process, the article aims to delineate salient factors involved in this type of language learning context.INTRODUCTIONDespite being a fairly new educational mode, there is a considerable and growing body of research ontelecollaboration in language learning, and definitions and uses of telecollaboration have gone throughmany transformations. Generally, telecollaboration in language learning contexts is seen as an Internet-based exchange aimed at developing both language skills and intercultural communicative competence(Guth & Helm, 2010). In this article the label Telecollaborative Language Learning (henceforth TlcLL)1will be employed.Language educators know well that communicative-based environments do not guarantee that languagelearning takes place. The task design and its implementation are key elements for efficient languagelearning to develop—a carefully designed task or activity that requires off- and online co-construction ofknowledge not only provides opportunities for target language practice, it also helps integrate languageuse as the means for shared knowledge-building, thus further enhancing purposeful communication. (Foran in-depth overview of “the growing awareness of the centrality of tasks in CMC [computer-mediatedcommunication] learning environments” (p. 19) and subsequent research into task-based languageteaching in CMC, see Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-v. Ditfurth, 2008).Several researchers of TlcLL have called for more focus on what it means to efficiently design acommunicative venue for online interaction in the target language (Levy & Stockwell, 2006; Mangenot,2008). Hermeneutic views of the more common task typology used in telecollaboration can be found inrecent literature (see Harris, 2002; O’Dowd & Ware, 2009), however research into what occurs during thelearning process in TlcLL is still lagging behind. Arguably, this is even more so in the case of TlcLL inprimary education, where there are far fewer studies. Along these lines, this article aims to explore thediscourse space between online and F2F language learning talk that takes place in a fifth grade classroomin Catalonia, Spain. The learners in the study participated in a yearlong telecollaborative project with apartner class in the Czech Republic. By considering data from specific episodes during the learningprocess (both on- and offline), the text outlines the anatomy of the language-in-action in these differentmodes of communication, all of which were essential, interlocking components to the overall projectdesign. Considering that the use of telecollaboration in language classrooms is becoming more common, amicro-analysis of divergent perceptions of telecollaborative language learning tasks of the participantsinvolved (learners and teachers) may provide useful insight into the learning process, along withunderstanding of potential gaps between task plans and actions (and final output). The environment isunderstood as a blended learning environment2 therefore data from off- and online contexts are taken intoCopyright © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 69
  • 75. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative Learningaccount.Contextual and conversational analysis begins with the task-as-workplan (in the classroom) and thenexamines different episodes (both F2F and online) of the task-in-process (Breen, 1987, 1989) to discernwhether student uses of different resources are legitimized by the teacher as part of the emergent languagelearning in the TlcLL project. The conjunction of different, segmented data, collocated within the“network of activity” (Barab, Hay, & Yamagata-Lynch, 2001) that constitutes the yearlongtelecollaborative project provide the foci for the driving questions of this descriptive study: • Is a relationship between learner repertoires, tasks, and output discernable in the described episodes (snapshots)? • Are there indicators of language learning in these described episodes (snapshots)? • Are these indicators recognised and acknowledged in the teaching process? • Are there divergences between task plans and participant actions?LITERATURE REVIEWLamy and Hampel (2007) provide an overview of the history of computer-supported language acquisition,describing it in three broad phases: behaviouristic CALL, communicative CALL and integrative CALL(p. 9). In the first phase, computers principally were used for individual drill-type exercises. In thecommunicative phase, targeted language practice included speaking and listening albeit via machine-learner interaction. The integrative phase (beginning in the 1990s) involves multimedia network-basedinteraction, which usually mediates human-human interaction and is often group-based. Second LanguageAcquisition (SLA) theories have generally guided studies of language learning online (Levy, 1998).Chapelle (2001) provides a comprehensive overview of the connections between SLA and computer-supported learning.There are two broad paradigms which have been quite influential in SLA (Lamy & Hampel, 2007):cognitive and sociocultural (although these can be further categorised into different theoretical branchesand research areas). “Cognitive SLA is an applied psycholinguistic discipline oriented towards thecognitive processes involved in the learning and the use of language” (Lamy & Hampel, 2007, p. 19).(For a very thorough description of the debate between the two fields of inquiry in SLA, see Zuengler &Miller, 2006). Cognitivism focuses principally on the individual, with the notion of the single languagelearner processing linguistic input and output (based on the metaphor of the brain as a computer).Recently however, SLA research has received criticism for holding an imbalanced focus on the fourlinguistic competencies (listening, reading, writing and speaking), based on mostly empirical research thatmainly considers form and accuracy (with idealised images of native-speaker performance) and with littleconsideration of language as a process and a communicative means for use in socially and culturallyembedded cultural activities (see Firth & Wagner, 1997, 2007).Sociocultural theories aim to put more emphasis on the importance of interaction for language learningand in turn highlight situated, learner-centred social practices as part of the learning process. In recentyears, there have been a number of studies that propose the importance of the sociocultural base oflanguage learning (see Firth & Wagner, 1997, 2007; Lantolf, 2000; Mondada & Pekarek-Doehler, 2004).Roberts (2001), Kanno and Norton (2003), and Norton and Kamal (2003) have even argued that learninglinguistic competences is in itself a socialising process in which the individual deploys and negotiatesnew identities as a member of the target language community. This sociocultural perspective can be foundin CMC research as well: [T]he role of technology in education has increasingly been studied through the lens of learning theories and models that mark a departure from cognitive approaches, by locating knowledge not onlyLanguage Learning & Technology 70
  • 76. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative Learning in the mind of individual learners but also in the history, culture and communities that provide the context in which learning is taking place. (Blin, 2005, p. 5)Applying an even more critical stance to early SLA research, Hall, Cheng, and Carlson (2006) assert thatmuch of the research in SLA relies on three assumptions that have underlying theoretical flaws. Theseare: 1. The assumption of homogeneity of language knowledge across speakers and contexts; 2. A view of L1 and L2 language knowledge as distinct systems; and 3. The presumption of a qualitative distinction between multi-competence and mono-competence (Hall, Cheng, & Carlson, 2006, p. 220).These authors contend that speakers’ language knowledge should not be considered as homogeneous;they argue that language knowledge is “not composed of a-contextual, stable system components” (Hallet al., 2006, p. 230). This is predicated on the fact that an individual’s use of language is not static, evenin the case of native speakers; levels of accuracy and fluency will vary, according to everyday contexts.Someone writing an article for an academic journal, for instance, will pay more attention to form andaccuracy of language than he or she might when writing an e-mail to a colleague or sending an SMSmessage (which are often purposefully composed of lexical, syntactical and spelling errors). Byacknowledging these “varying shapes and substance of individuals’ language use” (Hall et al., 2006, p.233) we can have better insight into the way in which learners’ develop their language knowledgeaccording to the context in which they are interacting and make comparisons of individual use acrossdifferent episodes and communicative events.The other two “flawed assumptions” stem from an idea that language learning processes are sequentialand monolingual (based on the notion that learners are principally monolingual speakers learning otherlanguages as separate systems). Given that many telecollaborative language learning processes take placewithin blended-learning environments in which at least one (and often times more than one) otherlanguage is available as a communicative resource (apart from the target language), this assumption begsreconsideration. In most cases, the task design does indeed aim to elicit a monolingual product (output) atthe end of a learning process. However, the process of generating the product itself, especially amonglower level (multilingual) learners, is not always a monolingual process, despite the best intentions ofstudents or the admonitions of teachers to use the target language.Research indicates that multilingual practices can contribute to the eventual construction of a finalmonolingual output. It has been put forth that plurilingual-hybrid practices often scaffold cognitive andcommunicative activities which eventually allow speakers to participate in monolingual activities at theend of the process (Borràs, Canals, Dooly, Moore, & Nussbaum, 2009). Recent research with multilinguallanguage learners working towards monolingual task accomplishment shows that they tend to shiftbetween different types (or stages) of L1 and target language use (Borràs et al., 2009; Masats, Nussbaum,& Unamuno, 2007). Their code-switching allows them to overcome communicative obstacles, facilitatingan eventual stage where the learner can maximise use of the target language for task management, taskfulfilment, and other communicative events (e.g., side-sequences).This suggests that research must adopt a learner-centred focus that looks at how learners use their variouslinguistic resources to acquire communicative expertise in the target language (Kasper, 2004), and in thisparticular case how this process follows a path that starts with multilingual practices (the simultaneouspresence of more than one language) to reach voluntary monolingual practices (the use of only onelanguage at will) through both off- and online interaction. Furthermore, by viewing the multilinguallanguage learner as having an integrated system of different languages that “constitute a repertoire”(Canagarajah, 2009, p. 5), the idea of competences (often based on native versus non-native idealisedstandards) must be interrogated.Language Learning & Technology 71
  • 77. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative LearningInterrogating the idea of competences inevitably foregrounds the question of what is evidence of languagelearning. Recent work critiques the dominant view of language assessment, arguing for a more contextsensitive model of dynamic assessment (see Rea-Dickins & Gardner, 2000; Poehner & Lantolf, 2005).Gardner and Rea-Dickins (2002) propose using language sampling (recordings of what learners say anddo during a task and analysing this later) in order to gain more insight into learners’ needs and abilities.According to Rea-Dickins (2006, 2007, December), there are a number of potential clues that can be usedas an indication of a child’s learning. These include when a learner is able to extend a concept; is able torelate the activity to own experience; use the targeted learning concepts in different contexts and provideevidence of engagement and persistence on a task (among others). This is consistent with languagelearning research that focuses on the socially constructed nature of learning interaction over time.This in turn, brings up the question of what constitutes research data for language learning. It is becomingmore common to find classroom interaction presented as a means of study for language learningprocesses, although this type of reduced data has also been critiqued (see Stubbs, 1981) due to the factthat it is the researcher who selects and then interprets the data. Nonetheless, an interactional view seesthe language input and output of the classroom as inextricably linked and therefore a micro-perspective ofdifferent learning episodes can provide insight into this learning process (see key studies of classroominteraction analysis by Sinclair & Coulthard, 1975; Mondada & Pekarek-Doehler, 2004; Seedhouse,2004). This type of analysis, in large part based on social research methods, is traditionally grounded inrepeated study of collections of examples of human interaction as a means of gaining insight into specificmoments of very complex, situated practices, as is the case of language teaching and learning.Attempting to cover the complexity of interaction in language learning situations implies inherentdifficulties in classroom research. The approach adopted here focuses on segmented chunks (referred tohere as snapshots) of the language learners’ actions as the unit of analysis in order to encapsulate thelanguage learner as a social and cultural participant engaged in linguistic interaction. At the same time,endeavouring to delineate what constitutes interrelated nodes of actions within a classroom is difficultsince any one pedagogical activity is inevitably embedded in many other activities and often times theactivity itself is intersected by many other factors.Barab et al. (2001), for example, underscore the highly complex interrelations that make up an activitysystem in the learning process, suggesting that a methodological approach based on situated cognitionmust necessarily try to “[track] knowing in the making as the course unfolds” (p. 64). While theseepisodes do not provide a full picture of learning processes, they do offer chunks (or nodes) of segmenteddata that provide insight into the relationship between the nodes that represent the “historicaldevelopment” (Barab et al., p. 69) of the learner. Similarly, finding a way to map the density of a yearlonglanguage learning course in which the activities and outcomes were integrated into both online and face-to-face contexts can be problematic. Therefore, the analysis traces the interaction patterns in both F2F andonline activities through these snapshots (interrelated episodes of data segments) in order to discern howvarying activities promote or hinder opportunities for learners to use the target language productively andthus gain insight into the effect of specific tasks on students’ language production and, over time, on theirlanguage development.The complexity of this blended-learning interaction is further exacerbated by the difficulties of definingtask within a SLA or foreign language learning situation. Seedhouse (2005) argues for the need for moreclarification of the notions of task from the perspective of task-as-workplan (which deals with intentionsand expectations of the task) and task-in-process (or what “actually happens”, p. 535) and task-as-outcomes (Seedhouse & Almutairi, 2009, p. 312). This underscores the notion that learners, as activeagents in learning processes, can modify activities according to their own intentions—modificationswhich may or may not be in direct accordance with the initial intentions of that task-as-workplan.As for the off- and online dimensions of learning processes, Kitade (2008) states that most previousLanguage Learning & Technology 72
  • 78. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative Learningstudies “have examined only online interactions….without addressing the role of offline interactions orthe learners’ engagement in combined online and offline interactions” (p. 67). The author posits that “inorder to fully understand how learners implement a task….and the potential of this task with regard to L2learning” it is necessary to integrate a sociocultural perspective that examines and reveals “how each typeof interaction—online, offline, or combined interactions—can provide learners with opportunities forcollaborative learning” (p. 67).PARTICIPANTS AND CONTEXTThe data come from a yearlong telecollaborative, cross-disciplinary project that focused on both contentand language. While it was not formally labelled as a Content Language and Integrated Learning (CLIL)project, the project was designed and implemented by an English specialist and the social science teacherand dealt with environmental issues. The project was carried out across the full academic year with YearFive students (ten-to-eleven year old students) in a Spanish primary school (in the Barcelona area, thusthe principal school language of instruction is Catalan). The partner school was located in the CzechRepublic (in the Vychodocesky State); the school language was Czech. There were twenty-six students inthe Barcelona group (twelve girls, fourteen boys) and twenty-eight students in the Czech group (fifteengirls and thirteen boys). The focus of this inquiry is on the Catalan students. The project aims were for thestudents to make initial contact, form work groups to exchange information and opinions about differenttypes of pollution (paying special attention to locally-specific issues), and to form work groups made upof local and national pairs to compile ideas for contributing to a shared wiki about environmentalproblems. The teachers took charge of posting the negotiated information to the wiki.The data were compiled by a student teacher working at the Spanish primary school while completing agraduate degree in research in language and literature teaching methods; her research advisor helpedrecord and collect the initial data. The teacher and research advisor were not directly involved in theplanning but the student teacher did take part in the implementation and the research advisor was anobserver. Class sessions that were related to the telecollaborative work were recorded throughout the yearusing one recorder per working group. These were transcribed using the language archiving technologycalled Transana (transcription key in Appendix A).Permission to audio record the face-to-face exchanges was obtained from the Spanish students’ parents,however due to strict regulations in the school the exchanges could not be videotaped. The teacher alsoreceived permission from both the Spanish and the Czech participants for full access to the data online(forums, e-mails, wiki).MATERIALSThe project activities consisted of face-to-face work (whole class activities, group work activities, pairwork and individual work) and online work with international partners in the Czech Republic (primarilypair work and group work). The English specialist was in charge of implementing the exchange, includingthe preparatory work leading up to the online collaboration. Some of the online activities involved: • Participating in a forum about environmental issues in which the students explained different topics and concepts related to the environment that were relevant to their countries (e.g., water conservation was important to the students in Spain following a drought in 2008). The pupils were asked to post comments, links, and images. • Comparing and contrasting different issues that were important to each community and how they were dealt with. • Based on the previously shared information, preparing a collaborative environment alert wiki.Overall, the data collected during the year are the teacher’s work plans (handwritten in a notebook; sevenLanguage Learning & Technology 73
  • 79. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative Learningrecorded F2F class sessions, screenshots of forum interactions during the year (breakdown of interactionscan be found in Appendix B) and the final wiki. The data presented here consist of: 1. Teachers’ workplans (Spanish EFL teacher: Laura) 2. Student-teacher’s field notes 3. F2F pair work interaction (one extract) - Participants: two female students (Berta, Clara) and one female teacher (Laura) 4. Forum entries - Three students (Maria, Berta, and Clara) - Two teachers (Laura, Agnieska)The names of the participants have been changed.ANALYSIS FRAMEWORK: DATA SELECTION AND MANAGEMENTSince task is understood here as something in progress—in a constant state of negotiation andconstruction (Breen, 1987, 1989)—these data extracts are seen as snapshots of interaction, allowingglimpses into moments of specific language learning events taking place during the overall exchange, andnot just as end-products. Taking the position that language learning is dynamic, non-linear, andcontingent upon multiple, non-isolatable factors, then language use and learning can be seen to emerge innested patterns. “These patterns are not predicted but ‘retrodicted’ or described post priori, sinceinterrelationships are so complex that causation in the traditional sense is untenable” (Reinhardt, in press).Furthermore, within an interactional research framework, data analysis actually begins with the datacompilation and segmentation. The analytical approach follows the premise posed by Barab et al. (2001)that methodological approaches aiming to capture learning processes from a situated-cognitionperspective must try to describe the rich contexts “of knowing about [knowledge-construction] that are sofundamental to situative or distributed conceptions of cognition” (p. 67). These authors propose a meansof representing the learning process “as a network of activity—a network that allows for the inclusion(capturing) of material, conceptual, and social components” (Barab et al., 2001, p. 67). They apply amethod of identifying relevant data through three steps. “[E]xperiences are (a) sectioned into action-relevant episodes (AREs), (b) parsed down to codes in a database, and (c) then represented as nodes in anetwork so that the historical development of the particular phenomenon of interest can be traced” (Barabet al., 2001, p. 63).A similar approach is taken here, however, rather than using AREs, snapshots (captured data segments)revolving around chosen language use are employed. “It is important to note that the boundaries of whatconstitutes a chunk are determined by the needs of the study and not some ontological truth” (Barab et al.,2001, p. 66). The snapshots in this study focus principally on one pair (girl-girl) in different stages of thetask-as-process. The pair also interacts with others but the focus is on the language use by these two girls.The timeline shown in Figure 1 helps underscore the complexity of describing the interrelatedness oftasks and activities over a long-term period. For instance, snapshot 2, time wise, falls after snapshots 3, 4and 5, but it is clearly linked to the snapshots that come before and after it. This will be described in moredetail in the analysis.Language Learning & Technology 74
  • 80. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative LearningFigure 1. Mapping the network of activities.Before determining which data segments were of interest, multiple listening sessions were arranged(twice for the transcriptions done by the student teacher and researcher) and once for triangulation by anonparticipant. Following that, data sessions3 were arranged to (a) select relevant data segments(snapshots) for further analysis, and (b) revise and analyse the selected data. Due to the nature of thetelecollaborative situation, these sessions dealt with more than the recorded transcripts; thus written andonline data were also included (teachers’ workplans; student teacher’s field notes; F2F pair workinteraction; forum entries).Taking Rea-Dickins’ (2006, 2007, December) indicators of language learning as a preliminary basis fordata selection (extension of a concept; relating an activity to own experience; use of targeted learningconcepts in different contexts; evidence of engagement and persistence on a task), the data sessionparticipants incorporated van Lier’s notion of being “on the lookout for patterns and regularities” in thedata (1988, p.16). This article focuses on snapshots that showed recurring patterns of use of new lexicalitems in the students’ L2 repertoire: noise and annoy. (The reasons for this selection are illustrated furtheron.) Researchers are not unmotivated by the theoretical frames in which they move, thus the way in whichthe data were selected and managed is considered part of the analysis cycle, as illustrated in Figure 2.Following the data segmentation related to the chosen features to be analysed (episodic snapshots relatedto the words noise and annoy), the interactions—both face-to-face and online—are examined through theparameters applied to the study of talk-in-interaction. The interactions are analysed in terms of “theorder/organization/orderliness of social action, particularly, those social actions that are located ineveryday interaction, in discursive practices, in the sayings/tellings/doings of members of society”(Psathas, 1995, p. 2).The snapshots of interaction are then placed in conjunction with the original task-as-workplan (network ofactivities) to highlight convergences and divergences between the task plans and actions. As Markee(2000) argues, a social-interactionist approach that closely examines the learners’ talk can help identifyLanguage Learning & Technology 75
  • 81. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative Learningsuccessful and unsuccessful learning behaviours as well as show how meaning is constructed by theparticipants (students and teacher) in the learning situation.Figure 2. The analysis cycle.Inevitably, the fact that these exchanges take place within a wider context of the classroom implies thatthere is a different speech exchange system than other types of talk-in-interaction (McHoul, 1978). AsMeskill (2005) puts it, school discourse is made up of “those ways of talking that have becomeinstitutionally sanctioned or ‘normal’” (p. 46). In this study, the importance of unequal roles of teacherand student within this school discourse emerges as an important feature determining the talk-in-interaction in both the face-to-face and online interaction.ANALYSISThe first data segment consists of written text while the second data segment is a short F2F extract of in-class pair work. However the content of both data segments relate to online interaction that will take placelater on in the network of activities. The analysis illustrates a mismatch between the intended task plan (asunderstood by the teacher) and the learners’ actions. This mismatch carries implications that will bediscussed further on.Language Learning & Technology 76
  • 82. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative LearningSnapshots 1 and 2: F2F classroom interactionThe first snapshot deals with the teacher’s plans (see network of activity, Figure 1, above). According tothe teacher, the underlying plan of the overall exchange was to provide opportunities for the students touse the target language in their F2F and online work (stated intentions were collected in student-teachers’field notes). The workplan focused on the use of F2F work for language planning (metalinguistic focus)—the students first consider carefully about how they should phrase their interaction with their partners.This was intended to lead into their exchange between the online partners. The focus of the workplan ison specific target language that should take place during the online work. - Brainstorm words associated with environment/contamination in class - Make pairs & match with partner - Pairs suggest topics in the forum for the project (2 wks) - Pairs use forum/chat to negotiate topic (in computer lab) - Pairwork in class: make suggestions of images, words for the online mural (topics already decided) […]Figure 3. The teacher’s first workplan (transcribed next to the original notes).The workplan indicates that sub-tasks leading up to the online interaction centred on vocabulary(beginning with the oral elicitation of possible topics in the brainstorming) and structures needed formaking introductions and suggestions (about the topics). The first brainstorming produced the followinglexical items: • Ozone layer holes • Ecology • Al Gore • Global heat [warming] • Factories • Too much traffic • Cutting down trees in the Amazon • Dead fish • Cow farts • Golf courses in AlmeríaLanguage Learning & Technology 77
  • 83. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative Learning • Greenhouse effect (list comes from the student-teachers’ field notes)Following this, the teacher presented short dialogues as models for the online exchange. According to thefield notes, the teacher used the F2F sessions as a means of a priori language practice of the modeledstructures. At this point in the task plan, the teacher’s focus is on presenting, practicing, and producingdiscrete, previously selected target language (how to introduce themselves and make suggestions fortopics). This is to then be transferred to the online exchange.The next snapshot proceeds from the F2F exchange (audio recording) of a pair of students discussing inCatalan what topic they are interested in working on with their online partners. According to the workplan(Figure 4), the students should first make their introductions online, mention local environmentalproblems, read the Czech students’ posts and then make specific project-topic suggestions and wait for aresponse. - Sts post introductions in forum - Read CZ intros - Post 1 reply (min) - Discuss (clss) about ptners - Forum post on local env. prob. (can b in prs) - Find out CZ prob - Post topic suggestionFigure 4. The teacher’s second workplan (transcribed next to the original notes).According to the workplan, the students should not decide a topic beforehand. This becomes an issue inthe following extract.Extract 1. Original Version: Teacher (T), Berta (BER), Clara (CLA) (transcription key in Appendix A) 1. BER: teacher/ (.) el podem fer sobre el soroll oi/_ 2. T: well: have you talked to the Czech partners yet/| 3. BER: no: hem estat pensant molt i volem fer el noise| 4. T: you have to decide with the others| 5. BER: (2) >yes< 6. (T goes to another group) 7. BER: do:ncs (.) que fem/| 8. CLA: fem noise (.) vaig veure unes paraules que molen al fòrum (.) a veure ehm:: ainoi o alguna cosa =similar= 9. BER: =si si= noi-ing com que els nois sempre parlen tant_ 10. (Both Berta & Clara laugh)Language Learning & Technology 78
  • 84. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative LearningExtract 1. Translation (participants’ words that were originally in English are marked in bold; wordscreated by the students are in cursive and underlined) 1. BER: teacher we can work on noise right 2. T: well have you talked to the Czech partners yet 3. BER: no we’ve been thinking a lot and we want to work on noise 4. T: you have to decide with the others 5. BER: (2) >yes< 6. (T goes to another group) 7. BER: so what do we do 8. CLA: let’s do noise I saw some cool words in the forum. let’s see hm ainoi or something =like that= 9. BER: =yeah yeah= noi-ing since it’s boys that are always talking so much 10. (Both Berta & Clara laugh)In the last two lines, the students appear to be making up a word based on annoy in English and noi inCatalan (which means ‘boy’). Both words have similar pronunciations.Following Seedhouse’s (2004, 2005) description of how interactional organisation can transform thepedagogical focus, it is interesting to start by looking at the case of preference organisation in this shortextract. In the first two turns, we can see a dispreferred response by the teacher (turn two), in response tothe students’ request to work on noise as a topic. The teacher does not answer the question directly; rathershe delays the response and answers their question with another question. Looking at the indexicality ofthe teacher’s response, it can be seen that she is referencing the assignment as it was spelled out in theworkplan (Figure 4): the students should decide on the topic after contacting their online partners.This adjacency pair is followed by the students’ own dispreferred response. Despite their direct answer tothe teacher (“no”), Berta immediately uses a pre-positioned alignment “we’ve been thinking a lot” toprevent the teacher from reacting negatively to her additional information and insistence on working withthe topic of noise (even though they have not discussed it with their Czech partners).The teacher continues her focus on the task in line four and, again, the indexicality of what the teacher isreferencing highlights the importance she places on the plans she has in mind. She emphasizes the need tofollow the steps of the task and dismisses the students’ apparent engagement and interest in the overallactivity, signalled by the fact that they have already found a topic. The teacher’s orientation in theinteraction underscores her relevancy on the assignment itself, rather than on the way in which thestudents are negotiating and interpreting the task (task-as-process).After the teacher leaves the pair to go to another group, the students discuss what they should do about thetopic, as seen in turns 7 and 8. 7. BER: so what do we do 8. CLA: let’s do noise I saw some cool words in the forum. let’s see hm ainoi or something =like that= 9. BERT:=yeah yeah= noi-ing since it’s boys that are always talking so much 10. (Both Berta & Clara laugh)Language Learning & Technology 79
  • 85. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative LearningSignificantly, in turn eight, Clara references the forum; this indexicality foregrounds the fact that thestudents are aware of the task, however, their referencing indicates that they are interpreting it in theirown way: going online and browsing through the Czech students’ posts and then using this information todecide on a topic. This was done before posting their general comments about environmental problemsand before discussing possible topics in the F2F classroom.As can be seen in Figure 4, in the network of activities a student named Maria posts her introduction andmentions noise as an environmental problem. This topic is then discussed more in the following threads(these entries are considered in more detail further on). However, the F2F interaction transcribed inextract one took place before Clara or Berta made an entry in the forum (thus there was no physicalevidence of their online participation, see Figure 5). However, the fact that they have clearly referencedthe forum implies that there may be a need to reconsider what membership participation online means.Figure 5. F2F use of noise in network of activities.Furthermore, in their referencing of the forum, Berta and Clara make jokes—creating a new word basedon what they had read in an entry. Belz (2002a, 2002b) shows how language learners may use their L1 asa mediation tool while playing or breaking rules in the target (foreign) language. As Vandergriff andFuchs (2009) point out, playing with language is an authentic and legitimate way to use it and thereforeshould be considered as an element of competency.Returning to the original driving questions, the two snapshots reveal some indicators of language learningbeginning to emerge for the two young students. Taking Rea-Dickins’ parameters (2006, 2007,December), it can be seen that the two students are able to relate a new concept (new lexicon noticed intheir forum reading) to their own experience (making a multilingual joke); both actions indicate somelevel of metalinguistic knowledge, although these dimensions are not always acknowledged by theteacher. She appears to be more concerned with following the workplan (see Figures 1 and 4) thanpotentialising the students’ exploration with the target language and their obvious engagement with theLanguage Learning & Technology 80
  • 86. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative Learningoverall project. Still, it remains to be seen if the students then use the new learning concepts in differentcontexts (and modes) and whether they appear to be engaged in the overall task of language learning.Snapshots 3, 4, and 5: Forum interactionThe following data segments come from the project’s forum. The entries are not only the source for newlexical items for Berta and Clara (they clearly referenced the forum and the word in the F2F interaction);the forums also display relevant student-teacher interaction.In her post (Figure 6 below), Maria starts a new discussion. In the subject, she announces anenvironmental topic (noise); however, in the main body of her message, she does not formally nominatethis topic for the environmental project. Instead, she provides an explanation for why she is taking part inthe forum; the post indicates that she is taking part in the introduction. The opening used (“Teacher saywe”) makes it clear that she is doing what she has been told to do (explaining something about where shelives) and that she is engaged in the negotiation and completion of the task.Figure 6. Screenshot of task-in-action.Similar to the F2F interaction, the roles of teacher and students are marked. Maria calls attention to thefact that she is engaged in the task at hand—just as the students in the F2F interaction did. Moreover, likethe teacher in the F2F interaction, the respondent to the post (who is a teacher, Figure 7), gives adispreferred response by ignoring the main focus of the content of Maria’s intervention (which we couldcall a turn) and instead brings attention to the task-as-workplan.Figure 7. Screenshot of an interruption.Interestingly Maria’s forum entry is actually closer to a conversational turn because she provides anopening for her intervention (naming a new topic) and plainly signals the end of her turn (“Bye”) whereasthe teacher’s turn is rather abrupt and arguably an interruption because the teacher does not align with thecontent of the message nor does she continue the conversational information-exchange tone establishedby Maria in her entry. It is recognised, of course, that an asynchronous interruption is different from asynchronous one and may take place for quite different reasons. Still, at this point, it appears that Maria isfollowing the workplan more closely than the teacher since she is introducing herself (as was practicedorally in a previous class) and explaining an environmental problem (see Figure 8).Language Learning & Technology 81
  • 87. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative LearningThe teacher, on the other hand, is focusing on the next task: proposing a topic. In order to ensure thesuccessful completion of task plans, Van den Branden (2006) suggests that teachers’ interventions mustbe carefully balanced between the teachers’ initiative and that of their learners. The teachers’ mediatingrole can help bring the task to its full potential or it can just as easily stifle the learners’ involvement withthe task. Arguably the teachers’ reply, which indicates a clear focus on the next phase in the workplan(and subsequent interruption) rather than responding to Maria’s conversational tone, suppresses otheropportunities for Maria to continue exploring the online mode of target language use.Figure 8. Student-teacher online interaction in network of activities.These entries are followed by several contributions by different students discussing whether noise is atype of pollution (not shown here) and then the Spanish teacher, Laura, asks if this should be included inthe topic discussion. In response to this, the Czech teacher (Agnieska) answers this question affirmatively(“I definitely think it should be”), thereby ratifying the topic of Maria’s first intervention and guiding thetask as plan.Language Learning & Technology 82
  • 88. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative LearningFigure 9. Screenshot of appearance of lexical feature annoy.Moreover, there is further endorsement of Maria’s discussion about noise pollution—this time contributedby another student (“I agree with Maria”). This is another important node in the network of activity sinceit is the message containing the word annoying which was referenced in the F2F interaction alreadyanalysed above and which is eventually integrated into the two Spanish students’ communicativerepertoire. A relationship between learner repertoires (new concepts) and tasks-as-workplan as well astask-as-process begins to emerge in the network of activities including the interaction with other students(F2F and online) as a potential source for learning. At the same time, there is evidence in both modes ofinteraction that there are divergent perceptions of the TlcLL tasks in regard to the students and teachers.Snapshots 6, 7 and 8: Extension of ConceptsAdditional snapshots of the network of activities illustrate how the participants begin to extend thetargeted concepts (noise and annoy) and integrate them into their own learning process, albeit in adifferent sequence than anticipated in the task-as-workplan. Moreover, looking at Rea-Dickins’ (2006,2007, December) indicators of language learning, it appears that the students are quite engaged with thetask.Figure 10 shows a forum intervention by Berta and Clara. This entry was posted by Berta but implicitlyincluded her partner, Clara.Figure 10. Screenshot of students making a suggestion.At this point, Maria had joined the pair and the students had been assigned to work with Martina andBeata (Czech students). Through negotiation of the teachers (via e-mails, not shown here), the group wasgiven permission to work on noise as an environmental topic. It is important to remember, however, thatit was the students themselves who first highlighted this topic. At the stage shown here, the students weresupposed to exchange ideas (including images and slogans) that they felt would be interesting tocontribute to the final environmental wiki page. (The students did not have to invent their own images;they were allowed to look for images in the Internet.) Figure 11 shows the image that the girls sent in afile to their partners and how it appeared as part of the final output.Language Learning & Technology 83
  • 89. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative LearningFigure 11. Screenshots of the use of annoying and noise.It is worth noting that the image the students sent appears in the final product in the wiki, alongside theword that had first caught their attention (annoying). Furthermore, according to the field notes taken bythe student-teacher/researcher, the students included the same image in their final PowerPointpresentation and in their oral explanation of “what they had learnt” at the end of the year (unfortunatelythese presentations were not recorded).Figure 12. Field notes explanation (e-mail).Language Learning & Technology 84
  • 90. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative LearningAccording to the field notes, the students not only used the words noise and annoying in theirpresentation, but when asked by a classmate about the word annoy Clara responded (perhaps jokingly)that annoy “es cuando algo te toca las narices” (“is when something gets up your nose”).The students have re-organized, expanded and transformed elements of the target language as they“move[d] into different contexts” (Hall et al., 2006, p. 10). They appropriated different linguistic and non-linguistic resources to communicate during different phases of the telecollaboration, combined withprevious knowledge of the target language. At the same time, the two students first noticed new lexicalitems through their online reading and then use.DISCUSSIONThe driving questions of the inquiry were: Is a relationship between learner repertoires, tasks and outputdiscernable in the snapshots? Are there indicators of language learning processes in these snapshots? It isdifficult to verify what learning actually takes place in real teaching contexts especially considering thatinteraction largely depends on the type of task and activity taking place as well as the possibility of matchor mismatch between task-as-workplan and task-in-process: Any framework which attempts to portray task-based interaction in a holistic way will need to track the relationship between these phases as they unfold during the implementation of a task. The relationship may be a linear one, but this is not necessarily the case. In practice, there is sometimes a difference between what is supposed to happen (task-as-workplan) and what actually happens (task- in-process). (Seedhouse & Almutairi, 2009, p. 312)In this particular case, the individuals’ language use indicates the different ways in which these studentshave employed their language knowledge (as well as their limitations), according to the context in whichthey are interacting. This can be seen, for instance, in the initial attention given to a specific lexeme(annoy) while reading (in the forum) in the target language; this lexical knowledge is later developed intocontextualised use in monolingual output (wiki and oral presentation).These episodes are directly related to the next driving questions: Are these indicators recognised andacknowledged in the teaching process? Are there divergences between task plans and participant actions?These questions underscore the significance of connect/disconnect between task plans and actions in thelearning process, and more importantly, how the learners in this study appear to have acquired somelanguage outside of the parameters of the task-as-workplan.Perhaps what most calls one’s attention is the fact that these students were originally evaluated by theirteacher as being mostly off-task (recorded in the graduate student’s field notes). The snapshots of theentire process indicate differently, however. The snapshots indicate that the learners are engagedthroughout the process and that they display persistence (Rea-Dickins, 2006, 2007, December). Theseepisodes highlight the differences between the task-as-workplan, as conceived by the teacher and the task-as-process, as interpreted and put into play by the students.The fact that the activities involved in creating the monolingual product entailed a multilingual processdoes not necessarily imply that the students were off-task and not engaged in the language learningprocess. The snapshots demonstrate that the multilingual language learners accomplished the monolingualtask while passing through various stages of target language use. They use their L1 to manage most of theactivity in the F2F interaction but also generate some utterances in the target language (the topic word;one-word responses to the teacher; the use of the target language to get the teacher’s attention and to starta turn, etc.). They also use a hybrid form of the target language to make a joke related to their chosentopic. In their online, asynchronous interaction, the students use the target language, although there is norecorded data concerning the process leading to this use.Different from the initial words elicited in the initial brainstorming, the students in this case did not useLanguage Learning & Technology 85
  • 91. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative Learningthe focal language that emerged in that session. They are first exposed to and pick up on the lexical itemthat will become their topic through the online activities independent of F2F brainstorming activity. The“focal vocabulary needed for [the] successful task processes” (Meskill & Anthony, 2010, p. 73) was madeavailable by their online partners, not the teacher. At the same time, there are a number of episodes inwhich learner talk is directly related to the performance of the tasks, indicating that they are, generally,engaged in the task-as-process while at times moving outside the bounds of the workplan. Furthermore,the task-as-outcomes do converge with the initial overall planning.While the various comparisons of the different actions of the teachers and students during the wholeprocess highlight the divergences between intentions and expectations of the task (task-as-workplan) andwhat actually happens (task-as-process), it is interesting to note that the task-as-outcomes coincide. Thestudents, as active agents in learning processes, clearly modify the activities according to their ownintentions—modifications which do not appear to be in direct accordance with the teacher’s initialintentions, in particular when the students were dealing with language input from the online activities. Itappears that the students are making use of dialogic opportunities provided by “digital learning objects”(Meskill & Anthony, 2007, p. 81). Different from the way it is planned by the teacher, the “public;malleable; unstable and anarchic” (p. 81) dimensions of technologies provided the students withpossibilities that the teacher was not (at least at first) able to integrate into the task-as-process.LIMITATIONSThis is a study that endeavours to take a micro-analytical, cross-sectional examination of several eventsthat make up a whole—in this case, the design and implementation of a telecollaborative languagelearning project in a blended environment. Inevitably, micro-analysis implies the use of quite limited datasamples; however, at the same time this analysis yields rich description of the complexity of behaviour,including the typology and intensity of the actions of the participants involved. Qualitative observation isgenerally limited to descriptions of what happens in small groups of people, thus limiting the ability togeneralize the results and in this case, the article only draws on the data samples that are specificallylinked to the chosen learning features. It is not the intention of this paper to imply any cause-and-effectrelationships, but rather provide a detailed contextual view of an increasingly common language learningsituation.FINAL WORDSIt can be posited that much research into TlcLL has largely been focused on a-contextual, discreetmoments of online interaction, whereas most TlcLL episodes are actually carried out in blended learningclassroom environments and are embedded in much longer, multiple learning episodes. It is almost atruism to point out the increasing pressure for language teachers to use new technologies in order to teachstudents diverse knowledge (e.g., languages and intercultural competence) associated with the 21stcentury. Inevitably, requiring educators to change long-held concepts of language teaching and learning—which are often influenced by language and teaching concepts developed in the 1980s and 1990s—inorder to accommodate the 21st century literacy practices and context of their students is no walk in thepark. In 1996, Warshauer warned that technology is not a panacea for challenges facing languageteachers. “New technologies will not revolutionize, or even improve, language learning unless they arewell understood and intelligently implemented. The Internet itself is only a tool, albeit a powerful one, inthe hands of good or bad pedagogy” (Warschauer, 1996, p. ix).Meskill and Anthony (2010) propose that the “key to viewing learning as a dynamic, developmentalprocess is the notion of guided participation” (p. 13). Investigating the way in which both learners andteachers interpret and engage with tasks (as plans and as outcomes) may reveal new learningopportunities in these processes, especially as new opportunities such as telecollaboration are introducedinto language teaching.Language Learning & Technology 86
  • 92. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative LearningConsidering the difficulties already inherent to teaching, moving from more common (classroom-bound)teacher-centred strategies into open learner-centred, peer-to-peer strategies such as those facilitated bytelecollaboration requires a closer look into the blueprints teachers use for designing these exchanges. Thetransferral of a language teaching approach (no matter how time-tested and validated in the classroom)into a telecollaborative approach is not foolproof nor is it always easy to carry out. This articleunderscores the need for futher research into the discourse space between online and F2F languagelearning within these learning parameters.APPENDIX A. Transcription keyThe first version of the transcripts were done by the student teacher, who codified the participants’speech, using the standard spelling and a broad key to show some aspects of the actual speech. Thesecond version of the transcripts was carried out by the researcher advisor/author in order to ensure thefidelity of the transcripts. The transcript key is based on the symbology regularly used by the researchgroup Grup de Recerca en Ensenyament i Interacció Plurilingües (GREIP) of the Universitat Autònomade Barcelona (Spain).Capitals at the beginnings of lines indicate the participant’s pseudonyms??? = speaker cannot be identifiedIntonation: descendent ascendent /wh question ?maintenance -| tiny gap|| longer gap<seconds> elapsed time<0> = no gap· elongation of the immediately previous soundOverlaps: =text speaker 1= =text speaker 2=-_ interruptions in text_[text] transcripter’s commentsXXX unable to discern what is saidLanguage Learning & Technology 87
  • 93. Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative LearningAPPENDIX B. Types of interactions in forum Topics Header No. Threads Teacher Intervention Introductions 12 38 4 Personal questions 3 5 0 Topic Suggestion 18 17 14 Request for clarification 5 5 2 New Topic Suggested 2 2 0 Content 34 15 8 Work procedure 4 6 3 Finalising 11 23 4NOTES1. The author is following the terminology and abbreviation used by Lamy and Goodfellow (2010).2. Blended learning refers to the use of F2F and online teaching and learning processes in formalclassroom settings.3. Data sessions are described by the American Sociological Association Section on Ethnomethodologyand Conversation Analysis (EMCA News, 2007, Summer) as a recognised method of data management inethnographic/CA studies. Data sharing is an important element of networks of researchers in which audioand/or video data is presented for observation to a group of researchers several times for observation anddiscussion. Segments of interaction may then be singled out for attention and analysis. Observationsabout the data are shared, followed by discussion.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSI would like to thank my colleagues, Dr. Paul Seedhouse, at Newcastle University (GB), Dr. RandallSadler, at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (USA), and Dr. Carolin Fuchs at TeachersCollege, Columbia University (USA), for their valuable comments at different stages of writing the text.My sincerest gratitude goes to Dr. Carla Meskill for her insight on editing this article and bringing it tofruition.ABOUT THE AUTHORDr. Melinda Dooly specialises in teacher training in EFL at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona(Spain) at the Department of Language Teaching Methodology. She is a member of the research groupGREIP (Research Group on Plurilingual Interaction and Teaching) at the same department.E-mail: melindaann.dooly@uab.catLanguage Learning & Technology 88
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  • 97. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2 pp. 92–108 ONLINE DOMAINS OF LANGUAGE USE: SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNERS’ EXPERIENCES OF VIRTUAL COMMUNITY AND FOREIGNNESSSarah Pasfield-NeofitouMonash University This paper examines the use of CMC in both Japanese and English dominated domains by Australian learners of Japanese. The natural, social online communication of 12 Australian university students with 18 of their Japanese contacts was collected for a period of up to four years, resulting in a corpus of approximately 2,000 instances of blogs, e-mails, SNS interactions, chat conversations, game profiles, and mobile phone communications. To supplement this data, interviews were conducted to further explore participants’ Internet communication and L2 use. These interviews, paired with evidence from the corpus of collected data, are analysed using Sealey and Carter’s (2004) social realism framework in order to explore questions of language selection, identity construction and nationality, as well as what it means to be a foreigner online.INTRODUCTIONSince the early years of the Internet, discussion of virtual communities has been at the forefront of muchresearch (Crook & Light, 2002; Johnston & Johal, 1999; Matei, 2005; Rheingold, 1993; Zorn, 2004).Clodius (1997, January) points out that online, shared interests and self-identification of belonging areviable alternatives to simply defining community on the basis of geography or patterns of residence. Thisof course has important implications for second language (L2) uses of computer-mediated communication(CMC), which may serve as opportunities for immersion in a virtual, target-language-speakingcommunity.It has often been claimed that online, particularly in text-based communication, it is largely optional tosignal one’s ethnicity, gender, age, or mother tongue. One early Internet adopter quoted in Turkle’spioneer research stated: You can be whoever you want to be. You can completely redefine yourself if you want. You don’t have to worry about the slots other people put you in as much. They don’t look at your body and make assumptions. They don’t hear your accent and make assumptions. All they see are your words. (Turkle, 1995, p. 184)Similarly, Sundén (2003) argues that online, we write ourselves into being. This has importantimplications for the L2 user. Do L2 users approach online communication as an opportunity to hide theirbody and accent and appear less foreign? Are all linguistic domains equally accessible to native (NS) andnon-native (NNS) speakers alike? Given the prevalent view of CMC as a useful tool for language practiseoutside the classroom, these questions appear worthy of further exploration. This paper presents someevidence emerging from interviews with L2 learners, and the analysis of their online communication inNS communities, which suggest that although some virtual communities provide a sense of immersion ina certain culture, they may also foster feelings of foreignness. As one participant in the present studycommented, a specific domain may be simultaneously “a place where you can be surrounded by thelanguage” and a place where “you’re always gonna be a JSL (Japanese as a Second Language) student.”As such, participants’ sense of identity was found to be affected in the present study on the basis of thelinguistic domain they inhabited at the time.In the introduction to her influential book, Life on the Screen, Turkle (1995) defined identity in acomputer-mediated environment as multiple, fluid, and constituted in interaction via technology. Yet adecade later, Hewling (2005) argued that CMC research has often taken a narrow, nationality-based viewCopyright © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 92
  • 98. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language Useof culture, and suggests instead that identity or identities be viewed as a site of ongoing negotiation. Suchnegotiation, Hewling states, is visible online in the form of CMC discourse. Thus, analysis of L2 learners’online language use across a variety of domains may provide greater insight into the nature ofconstructing identity via an L2 online, in particular, in terms of ethnicity, nationality, andnativeness/foreignness, and the effects of communicating in certain domains on opportunities forlanguage learning and use.Past Research on CMCMiller and Slater (2000) criticize the first generation of Internet literature for viewing the Internet as agigantic, placeless cyberspace. Much of this early research on CMC tended to view the Internet as amonolithic space that was somehow “more egalitarian, democratic, and liberating than face-to-faceinteractions” (Sproull and Kiesler, 1986; McGuire, Kiesler, & Siegel, 1987; Dubrovsky, Kiesler, &Sethna, 1991; cited in Watt, Lea, & Spears, 2002, p. 63). Simon even described the Internet as having an“inherent support of democracy” (2002, p. 101). Hanna and de Nooy categorize such views as subscribingto the borderless world (2004, p. 259) perception of Internet communication, in which the Internet isdeemed to remove cultural difference. Of course, these perspectives have had an important impact onresearch in the areas of L2 use and acquisition also.Past research on L2 use and acquisition points to a variety of benefits of the online environment. Areduction in anxiety in comparison to face-to-face speech and greater opportunities for languageproduction have been claimed as some of the most important implications of CMC for L2 learners.Itakura and Nakajima (2001) found that the use of CMC assisted language learners in gaining an authenticaudience, provided them with the flexibility to compose e-mails at their leisure, gave them a record ofcommunication, fostered independent learning and provided opportunities for the negotiation of meaning,which can lead to language learning. Yoshimura and Miyazoe-Wong (2005) also found thatcommunication with NSs via CMC could help students to amend stereotypes, and Kano (2004) claimsthat such interactions can expose learners to language variation in the form of popular grammar, slang,and regional dialects.A body of work on young people’s use of CMC for social purposes in a first language setting has beencarried out by boyd1 and others (boyd, 2007; boyd & Ellison, 2007; boyd & Heer, 2006, January), whofound that participation online is increasingly seen as an essential part of teenage social lives. However,online participation is influenced by physical location and (offline) social relationships, with students wholive with roommates or alone more likely to engage in Social Networking Site (SNS) use than those wholive with their parents (Hargittai, 2007). The current study shows that in addition to one’s immediateenvironment (e.g., being physically located at home, school, or in a net café or library), one’s broadersocio-political geographical environment at the national level, and the similar borders manifested online,also influence online participation, especially intercultural communication.Recent studies are beginning to challenge assumptions of the Internet as a monolithic, placeless space,pointing out, for example, the dominance of English, but domains in which languages other than Englishpreside appear neglected. Hanna and de Nooy (2004) also argue that little systematic attention has beenpaid to intercultural online communication. So far, the question of how participation in onlinecommunication affects opportunities for language acquisition, particularly of an Asian language, in anaturalistic setting has not yet been adequately explored, despite the widely accepted benefits of CMC usefor language practise outside of the classroom.The present study utilises a social realist frame to investigate the informal use of CMC by NSs of Englishand Japanese in terms of language choice, identity display, conceptions of nationality and the perceivedownership of online spaces. Importantly, it describes some CMC users who identify themselves online asforeigners, in stark contrast with the idea of the Internet as a placeless space.Language Learning & Technology 93
  • 99. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language UseMETHODIn the present study, 12 Australian university students of Japanese were recruited, who in turn invitedtheir Japanese contacts to participate. In total, data was collected from 30 participants, and some Japaneseparticipants were contacts of more than one Australian participant.Table 1. Australian and Japanese Participants Australian Participant Japanese Contact(s) Cindy Mei Genna Tokio Scott Kieko Lucas Hisayo Zac Fumie Oscar Yoshio Kaylene Chikae, Daishi, Ikuko, Junko, Ruriko, Ukiko, Watako Kaylene & Jacob Kō Ellise Atsuko, Sae Ellise & Alisha Eri Alisha Noriko Hyacinth No current Japanese contacts at time of study Noah No current Japanese contacts at time of studyIn contrast to many previous studies, volunteers were not paired with NSs in order to complete tasks, butinstead data was collected from participants in existing relationships. The collection resulted in over 2,000instances of naturally occurring language use via blogs (including Ameba and Mixi), e-mails (via both PCand mobile phone), SNSs (including Facebook, Mixi, and MySpace), online videos, chat messages, videogame interactions, and Website or forum posts. Data from the social networking sites Mixi and Facebook,as will be further elaborated in the findings section, are focused on in particular as case studies in thecurrent paper.Background interviews were also completed (face-to-face and audio-recorded with the Australianparticipants, and via e-mail with the Japanese participants) to gain insight into participants’ language andcomputing histories. Participants were also invited to take part in a follow-up interview, focusing on theirmost recent interaction, in order to obtain more detailed information about their language use in context.As three of the Australian participants moved to Japan part-way through the data collection period, asmall number of fieldwork focus group sessions were also conducted, which gave the researcher theopportunity to interview both the Japanese and Australian participant in a pair simultaneously. The use ofSealey and Carter’s (2004) social realism framework allowed for a holistic approach to the analysis of theinterviews and CMC data.Sealey and Carter’s approach combines elements of applied linguistics and sociology to facilitate theinvestigation of issues which incorporate both social and language acquisition factors. It places emphasison situated activity (e.g., the act of engaging in CMC), social structure (e.g., the social and other networkspresent, and the differential distribution of life chances within these groups), participantpsychobiographies (i.e., participants’ histories with computer use and language learning), and contextualresources (i.e., the physical, conceptual and linguistic tools made use of). The social realism frameworkhas been successfully applied to a range of applied linguistic and sociolinguistic research, as well as itsLanguage Learning & Technology 94
  • 100. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language Usemore specific use in the analysis of CMC by Belz and others (Belz, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, July, 2005;Belz & Müller-Hartmann, 2003; Belz & Reinhardt, 2004). While Belz’s research concentrates on CMCuse in a formal educational setting, the framework is equally applicable to students’ use of CMC outsideof teacher directed activity.In an investigation of the social dimensions of telecollaborative foreign language study involving e-mail,synchronous chat, and the construction of Websites, Belz (2002) provides a useful summary of the realistposition from both a theoretical and methodological perspective. Theoretically, the social realist positionviews social action as shaped by the interplay of social and systemic phenomena (Archer, 1995, p. 11).Social action is seen as embedded within history (Belz, 2002, p. 61). Methodologically, the social realistapproach reflects the complex and layered nature of the empirical world, relying on an exploratory, multi-strategy approach. Layder summarises the central aim of realism as “an attempt to preserve a ‘scientific’attitude towards social analysis at the same time as recognising the importance of actors’ meanings”(1993, p. 16).While social realism is not tied to a proscriptive methodological program, in order to analyse participants’meanings, both the background and follow-up interviews were coded using the qualitative data analysissoftware package NVivo, in a comparative analysis, according to the methods outlined in GroundedTheory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). This entailed a massive amount of detailed, layered coding, whereindividual nodes were organised under larger concepts. Three levels of coding, as suggested by Richards(2005) were employed, namely descriptive, topic, and analytical: 1. Descriptive Coding – The identification of attributes such as a participants’ age, average hours of computer use daily, and so on which describe a case. 2. Topic Coding – The organization of passages of text by topic, for example, allocating a section of an interview that describes chat usage to a node named chat. Auto Coding – The use of software (such as NVivo) to identify key concepts via a crude analysis of specific words in a text, or by grouping the answers to the same question across a variety of participants to the same node. Only the latter has been employed in the present research. 3. Analytical Coding – Coding that results from interpretation and reflection on meaning—such as, what is this particular passage about? What categorie(s) properly represent that passage? What context should be coded? In Vivo Coding – a term from Grounded Theory which refers to categories named by words the participants themselves use. (Richards, 2005, pp. 90–95)In vivo coding, as described above, preserves the importance of actors’ meanings, as described by Layder(1993), and one particular in vivo coding, that of domains, will be the main focus of the current paper.Participants’ CMC data was analysed at the level of the e-turn, a unit of analysis proposed by Thorne(1999). The e-turn, while based on the turn, does not include the notions of linear sequencing andjuxtaposition, but instead may be defined as a freestanding communicative unit, taking its form from theway the program receives and orders input, and the form and content of the message, as typed by the user.In the analysis of participants’ interaction data, Nishimura’s (1992, 1997) identification of BasicallyEnglish and Basically Japanese varieties also proved useful. Each e-turn was categorized as eitherEnglish (containing no code switching to Japanese), Mostly English: (where borrowings or code switchesoccurred within an English environment, that is, following English grammatical rules), Japanese(containing no switches to English), Mostly Japanese (where borrowings or switches to English occurredwithin a Japanese environment), or Other (including No language where, for example, participants posteda blog containing a photo and no linguistic content, or where languages other than Japanese and EnglishLanguage Learning & Technology 95
  • 101. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language Usewere used). Overall, the Australian participants’ use of Japanese and English with their Japaneseinterlocutors online was fairly balanced. English or Mostly English e-turns accounted for 47% of the e-turns sent by Australian participants, while 48% were composed in Japanese or Mostly Japanese (theremaining 5% were categorized as Other).FINDINGSSecond Language Use According to Linguistic DomainAs mentioned above, participants in the present study made use of a broad range of CMC mediums withtheir contacts. Yet despite often communicating with the same Japanese contacts via a number of differentmediums, participants’ language selection and identity performance differed across mediums. Nowherewas this difference more pronounced than on Mixi and Facebook, two SNSs. Table 2 demonstrates thelarge difference in language choice on these two sites, as well as the proportions of language use on othermediums used by more than one participant.Table 2. Language Choice According to Domain Type of domain Language choice according to participants’ (Mostly) (Mostly) Domain interview comments English Japanese Other Facebook English 84% 16% 0% E-mails Neither 62% 25% 13% MSN Chats Neither 62% 36% 2% Ameba Blogs Japanese 35% 62% 3% Mixi Japanese 25% 63% 12%English, or a Mostly English variety was used on Facebook between the Australian and Japaneseparticipants in 84% of instances of their communication (including both private Facebook messages, andpublic wall comments), while Japanese or a Mostly Japanese variety was used only 16% of the time.Conversely, English or Mostly English was used only 25% of the time on Mixi, while Japanese or aMostly Japanese variety was used in 63% of interactions. A further 12% of interactions on Mixi blogs,messages and comments were categorised as Other.When only messages sent by the Australian participants are considered, the contrast appears even starker.The Australian learners of Japanese used Japanese or Mostly Japanese in only 6% of their privatemessages to Japanese contacts, and in 15% of their wall postings to Japanese contacts on Facebook. OnMixi, however, Japanese or Mostly Japanese was used in 63% of Australian participants’ messages toJapanese contacts and in 82% of their blogs. This clear difference in language choice appears to be aresult of participants viewing these SNSs as discrete linguistic domains2, as will be elaborated in thesection that follows.The two examples of Mixi and Facebook described above will be utilised in the present paper as a casestudy of the ways the linguistic domain in which communication is located was found to affectparticipants’ language use, and identity construction. Mixi was used by half of the Australian participantsin the current study (6/12 participants), while Facebook was used by three-quarters (8/12 participants).Ameba blogs, while also viewed as a Japanese domain and while exhibiting similar patterns of languagechoice, was only used by three participants, and will be addressed later.Language Choice According to DomainLanguage Learning & Technology 96
  • 102. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language UseWhen participants were asked to reflect upon their language selections, the concept of language-specificdomains quickly emerged. Kaylene explained her choice to use a mostly Japanese variety in hercommunication on Mixi, commenting, “I think I always use Japanese on the actual blogs, because it feelslike a Japanese domain, and so I feel like I should.” Ellise said, “I tend to view Mixi as a Japanese forum… most of the people on there, in fact, 99% of people on there can’t actually read English.” Even Sae,one of Ellise’s Japanese contacts, said that she used Japanese with Ellise on Mixi precisely “because it’sMixi.”While Mixi was identified as a Japanese domain, Facebook was conversely viewed as an English domain,in which English language use was the norm for participants. This is evidenced in Zac’s comment thatMixi was the “Japanese version of a Facebook” (Zac Interview 1, 29/07/08), clearly locating Facebook asthe English language equivalent.Interlocutors According to DomainParticipants’ disparate language selections on Mixi and Facebook may in part be explained by Ellise’scomment above, that “most of the people on there, in fact, 99% of people on there can’t actually readEnglish,” (Ellise Interview 2, 10/03/08). Although most of Ellise’s contacts, and the contacts of otherparticipants, had some understanding of English, Japanese was certainly the primary language for the vastmajority of the Australian participants’ Mixi contacts. All 42 of Ellise’s contacts on Mixi were Japanese,as were all 12 of Zac’s contacts. Only Alisha had more non-Japanese than Japanese contacts on Mixi,with the non-Japanese outweighing the Japanese by just one person (3 Japanese, 4 non-Japanese).Overall, 88% (84/95 contacts) of the Australian participants’ contacts on Mixi were Japanese, as Table 3demonstrates.Table 3. The Australian Participants’ Mixi Friends (MyMiku) Participant Total number of Number of % of Japanese contacts on Mixi Japanese contacts Contacts on Mixi on Mixi Noah 11 8 72.7 Ellise 42 42 100.0 Zac 11 11 100.0 Alisha 7 3 42.9 Oscar 13 10 76.9 Kaylene 11 10 90.9 Total 95 84 88.0The demographic makeup of participants’ Facebook networks was almost a mirror image, as shown inTable 4. One participant, Hyacinth, had no Japanese contacts on her Facebook friend list, despite having atotal of 108 contacts. The participant with the highest proportion of Japanese contacts was Kaylene, whonotably worked in Japan during the time of data collection. Even so, Kaylene’s proportion of Japanesecontacts on Facebook (24.2%) is still considerably lower than her total on Mixi (90.9%), and even lowerthan Alisha’s Mixi total (42.9%), which was the lowest proportion of Japanese contacts on Mixi overall.Language Learning & Technology 97
  • 103. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language UseTable 4. The Australian Participants’ Facebook Friends Participant Total number of Number of % of Japanese contacts on Japanese contacts Contacts on Facebook on Facebook Facebook Lucas 1 3 2.1 Ellise 311 41 13.2 Hyacinth 108 0 0.0 Zac 254 12 4.7 Jacob 136 28 20.6 Alisha 38 3 7.9 Oscar 131 3 2.3 Kaylene 33 8 24.2 Total 1152 98 8.5Participants’ perceptions of Mixi and Facebook as Japanese and English domains respectively appears tohave been influenced by the demographic makeup of their social networks on these sites. Theseperceptions, in turn, informed language selection. Kaylene termed Mixi a Japanese forum and stated thatthis influenced her language choice: “I tend to view Mixi as a Japanese forum. I’ve only used Englishhere in the couple of phrases that I wasn’t sure about, and when I was talking about the Englishlanguage.” Indeed, 16 of Kaylene’s total of 17 Mixi blogs were written entirely in Japanese.Importantly, it appears that it was not simply the increased presence of NSs of Japanese on Mixi, but alsothe fact that Mixi was an area of the Internet dominated by and moderated in Japanese that influencedparticipants’ perceptions of Mixi as a virtual L2 community, and their language choice. Taking Alisha’scommunication with her Japanese friend Eri as an example, it is clear that the environment in which amessage was produced had an important impact on the language selected. On Mixi, Alisha composed atotal of five blogs that were collected for the present study, two of which were commented on by Eri. Eritoo wrote a blog which was commented on by Alisha, to which she replied. Finally, Eri also sent Alisha aprivate message, giving a total of 10 instances of data.All five of Alisha’s blogs were in Japanese (4/5 blogs) or Mostly Japanese (1/5 blogs) varieties. Eri’sblog, too, was written in the Mostly Japanese variety, with some Mandarin use. Likewise, all three ofEri’s comments were written in Japanese (2/3 comments) or Mostly Japanese (1/3 comments), andAlisha’s only comment was also in Japanese. Overall, all of Alisha and Eri’s communication on Mixiwas carried out in Japanese or Mostly Japanese.On Facebook, however, although the interlocutors (Alisha and Eri) and topics of discussion (daily life anduniversity) remained the same, their language choice was reversed. Alisha and Eri each commented oneach other’s walls using the Mostly English varieties. Other participants followed a similar pattern oflanguage selection. Ellise, who also communicated with Eri, used Mostly English (3/4 wall posts) onFacebook, but almost exclusively Japanese (9/10 blogs) on Mixi.With the exception of Lucas, whose use of Japanese with his friend Hisayo increased over time, as part ofa determined effort to practise his L2, Japanese proficiency did not appear to be linked to languagechoice. Medium choice, or more importantly, the linguistic domain in which that medium is seen aslocated, the nature of communication, and interpersonal factors, such as relationship and interlocutor’slanguage choice, were found to have a far greater influence.The Benefits of Virtual Community and Language ImmersionLanguage Learning & Technology 98
  • 104. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language UseGiven the popularity of the term virtual community, it was unsurprising that several participants madereference to this concept in the interviews, in relation to linguistic domains. However, not all of theircomments were positive. This section concentrates on Mixi, the medium participants most frequentlyused in Japanese, with some additional illustrations from other data.The Australian learners of Japanese described both positive and negative experiences and perceptions ofJapanese domains. One of Alisha’s comments in particular illustrates the conflicting views of Japanesedomains that she held. Alisha said: [I]n my everyday life, I don’t use the language a lot unless I do it online. It’s a place where you can be surrounded by the language, without being in a place where you’re surrounded by the language! It’s a virtual community …. but when it comes to it, you’re always gonna be a JSL, I guess, a Japanese as a Second Language student, so it’s gonna be a struggle.“A Place Where You Can be Surrounded by the Language”Like Alisha, many other Australian participants saw CMC as a surrogate for face-to-face interaction in thetarget language. Zac stated that he supplemented his eight hours of Japanese classes at university eachweek with participation in a conversation group and online communication, saying “uni doesn’t haveenough hours to study a language.” Kaylene, too, commented that before she moved to Japan, she usedMixi frequently, “as Japanese practise, because I felt like I wasn’t getting enough.” Later, Kayleneremarked: I think I’ve made one post [on Mixi] since I came to Japan, and since then, I’ve sort of slacked off … now I’m working at the museum, and get to talk to people every day in Japanese, I guess it’s not as necessary.Even though most participants’ main goal in communicating with their Japanese contacts was socialrather than educational, use of CMC for Japanese practise among the Australian participants was verycommon. Participation in Japanese domains such as Mixi, and other, less frequently used domains likeAmeba (a blogging site) and WebKare (or Web Boyfriend, an online game) providedparticipants with not only increased opportunities to communicate with NSs of Japanese (due to thehigher proportion of Japanese users of these sites), but also the opportunity to be surrounded by thelanguage, as Alisha describes. Sites which are moderated in Japanese require the user to actively navigatethe site using the language, and those that are sponsored by Japanese companies provide opportunities forexposure to authentic advertising.The Australian participants were also able to view messages posted to their Japanese contacts by otherJapanese users of the sites, and to gain admission to other online spaces via their membership of thesecommunities. Alisha accessed Japanese Websites advertised on Mixi, and Cindy, Genna and Hyacinthobtained information on their favourite Japanese pop stars by reading their blogs on Ameba. Asmentioned above, the immersion-like effect of being surrounded by one’s target language also motivatedthe Australian participants to read and write more using their L2. Yet although entering a Japanesedomain may have had numerous positive effects, validating Itakura and Nakajima’s (2001) claimsregarding the importance of an authentic audience for language learning, some participants nonethelessretained a strong sense of being an outsider.“You’re Always Gonna be a JSL”In one of her interviews, Ameba and WebKare user Hyacinth commented that she had heard “a lot ofnegative feedback from people who weren’t Japanese” about certain Japanese domains. Based onfeedback from other NNSs of Japanese on the blog site LiveJournal, Hyacinth became wary of attemptinga number of online activities, such as a blogging tool that focused on drawing, one of her main interests.In the interview, Hyacinth said that she had wanted to try using this blog until she heard negativefeedback from non-Japanese who were ostracized from “the Japanese online circles [and] communities.”Language Learning & Technology 99
  • 105. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language UseHyacinth also heard similar reactions to a video site that she described as being “for Japanese people.”She said: I remember them [non-Japanese posters on a forum] saying one person posted a video of them self, and they were mocked to the ends of the earth, and felt really ashamed, because they weren’t Japanese. I think there’s a kind of pride that comes with them [being Japanese], especially online.Hyacinth was also warned off 2chan, a very popular Japanese Internet forum famous for its distinctivevocabulary and appearance in the film Densha Otoko, saying that she thought it was “dangerous to try asa non-Japanese speaker.” Again, she had heard that “if you say one word out of line, something wrong, noone will look at you or respect you or anything.”Although it is important not to over-emphasize the benefits of the Internet at the expense of ignoring theless positive aspects, Hyacinth’s experiences were by no means representative of the group as a whole,and her reluctance to participate online seems to have at least in part been affected by her own self-consciousness and lack of confidence in her Japanese. Even though communicating with one’s universityteachers in Japanese was common practice among the Australian participants in general, Hyacinth statedthat she never emailed any of her teachers in Japanese, and was frightened of doing so. Nevertheless, itmust be remembered that such negative experiences do occur, and while Hyacinth’s reports were notrepresentative of the group, this may be because the others have not ventured into the various onlinespaces she did.A final example of a negative experience for Hyacinth occurred on the forum of an online game. Almosttwo months after her final interview, Hyacinth contacted the researcher to describe an experience, thistime, on a medium she had decided to attempt using, called WebKare, an online dating simulator with aforum attached. While Hyacinth read the forum postings often, she decided not to contribute due to theabusive nature of some posts. Although a large number of Japanese users were welcoming and helpful toJapanese learners, some were dissatisfied about the use of other languages, particularly Chinese andKorean, or the poor use of Japanese on the Website. While it is difficult to find examples of the moreabusive posts as the moderators have been vigilant about censoring as many as possible, hostility towardslanguage variation on the WebKare forum is evident, for example, in the following post from ananonymous user written in Japanese, which Hyacinth pointed out as typical of the debate:Extract 1. Japanese WebKare Posting Example 日本語で書きなさい。 ここは日本人のためのサービスです。 日本語が理解できないなら日本のサービスを受ける資格はありません。 中国だの韓国だのそれぞれの国で勝手に暴れなさい。 (Write in Japanese. This is a service for Japanese people. If you cannot understand Japanese you have no right to use Japanese services. Whether you’re from China or Korea, go act like savages in your own country.) (Anon. 20/09/2008)Despite its aggressive wording, Hyacinth showed some sympathy to this writer’s point of view, statingthat she did not understand why people would use a Japanese site “if you only want to talk in anotherlanguage.” She said, “some Japanese users mentioned that some foreign users use ‘I don’t understandLanguage Learning & Technology 100
  • 106. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language UseJapanese/I’m foreign’ as an excuse to avoid confrontation.”After such dissatisfaction among some users about the use of languages other than Japanese on the forum,the moderators announced a split, segregating the forum into two separate boards, Oekaki Japanese andScribble International. (The announcement is viewable at: this move may have appeased a number of users who wanted a Japanese-only forum,dissatisfaction is still obvious among users of the international board, which was developed with anEnglish interface, although the majority of posts appear to be in Chinese. As another anonymous usercommented in English on the newly-formed international board:Extract 2. English WebKare Posting Example First of all; WEB-KAREs oekaki [the Japanese forum] is good so why people wont use it? ;o; Second; Chinese is over-rated! Lets use English too so that us non-asian people can also understand! (to tell the truth, I like more being in JP BBS since at least I can UNDERSTAND that. >__>) (Anon. 29/09/2008)It is evident from this user’s comment that despite her desire to use Japanese, the new forum setting didnot facilitate this desire, and furthermore, the introduction of a new international board has not gone far toalleviate tensions over the use of Chinese. For Hyacinth, an Australian-Chinese-background learner ofJapanese, hostility towards Chinese affected her motivation to engage in interaction on the forums.Even so, Hyacinth saw the reaction of the hostile Japanese as symptomatic of their online space beinginvaded: “I think the frustrations are the invasion of a domain that [is] mostly Japanese.” When askedwhat made the Website a Japanese domain, Hyacinth responded “Generally, the Website beingcompletely in Japanese to me suggests that a level of Japanese is required to play it…especially withinstructions in Japanese.” Thus, in addition to the nationality of users, the language of moderation appearsto contribute to perceptions of linguistic domains also.It is important to note that most of the conversation on the forum regarding the use of WebKare inlanguages other than Japanese was carried out by anonymous users who, as in the two messages above,chose not to attach their name or avatar. Levy and Stockwell (2006) state that while anonymity in CMCcan have positive effects such as giving L2 speakers more confidence to participate than they may have inface-to-face communication (as noted by Shibanai, 2007), negative effects, such as the flaming (hostile orinsulting comments) seen above, are also fostered by the affordance of anonymity.As mentioned earlier, the sense of anonymity afforded by some types of online communication has alsoled to claims that, so long as language use does not indicate otherwise, the signaling of race, ethnicity,sex, gender, or indeed any other aspect of identity online appears to be at the user’s discretion (Burkhalter1999; Herring 2003). Despite this commonly held view, none of the Australian participants in the currentstudy attempted to hide or disguise their nationality, or their self-selected identity as language learners.On the contrary, participants took pains to emphasise their L2 identities online.Language “Learners?” “Users?” “Foreigners?”Rather than hiding their L2 learner or L2 user identities, the Australian participants in the present studyinstead brought them to the fore, through the use of both linguistic and visual means. In some cases,participants even identified themselves as foreigners, in stark contrast with the idea of the Internet as aplaceless space, and instead, highlighting the extent to which participants viewed Japanese domains asJapanese-owned spaces.Language Learning & Technology 101
  • 107. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language UseCritics of traditional applied linguistics research have problematised the distinction that has been madebetween native- and non-native speakers, as if these were given, absolute categories. Perhaps the mostfamous call for consideration of these terms was made by Firth and Wagner (1997), arguing thatmainstream theory skews our view of language learners/users by focusing on them as NNSs who strive toreach NS-like competence. In this view, other social identities of individuals are in danger of beingoverlooked.Sealey and Carter (2004), too, have highlighted the danger of selective measurement whereby theresearcher makes use of a preconceived concept, such as NNS or learner, already infused with theoreticalnotions. Sealey and Carter outline their approach to social categories by identifying two types: thoseconstituted by involuntaristic characteristics, and those characterised by a degree of choice on the part oftheir members, emphasising that “actors’ understandings are a central element in the theoreticaldescription of social collectives” (2001, p. 7).Rather than the researcher imposing the categories of learner or native-speaker, in the present study,participants identified themselves as learners or native-speakers, as is evidenced in their interview data,and sometimes, in their online interactions themselves. However, as identity is fluid, Firth and Wagner’s(1997) point that these identities may not always be the most relevant in a given interaction, is taken intoconsideration. Drawing on the case studies of participants’ Facebook and Mixi use, this section willexamine the fluidity of participants’ identities across different language domains online through ananalysis of SNS profiles.As previously outlined, half of the Australian participants in the current study (Alisha, Ellise, Kaylene,Noah, Oscar, and Zac) were members of Mixi, and for five of them, Mixi was their most commonly usedCMC medium in Japanese. Mixi profiles typically consist of a display photo, a list of basic information, aself-introduction, and a list of likes and interests, all of which are optional to complete.All six participants who were members of Mixi clearly stated in their profiles that they were not Japanese,or that they were studying Japanese. All listed 海外オーストラリア(Overseas: Australia) as their currentaddress. This is a set expression included in a list on the site, in which countries other than Japan areautomatically prefixed Overseas. Yet, of course, providing one’s current country of residence alone doesnot differentiate a student of Japanese as a foreign language from a NS from Japan currently livingoverseas, for example. So in addition to this, Noah and Oscar also added Australia as their birthplace.Furthermore, Alisha, Ellise, and Zac all explicitly stated their nationality in the body of their profiles. Thisinformation often took precedence over other biographic details or participants’ interests.Alisha’s profile opened with the statement 「オーストラリア人だ」 (I am Australian). Ellise’s profilealso started with a statement of nationality: 「私はオーストラリア人とイギリ ス人ですけれども今オーストラリアに住んでいます!」 (I am Australian and English, however I am living in Australia atthe moment!). Zac’s profile read 「ザックです。オーストラリア人 で23歳です」 (I’m Zac. I amAustralian and 23 years old). Kaylene’s approach was a little less direct, simply implying her foreignnessby stating 「この日記は、きっと下手で外国人 っぽいな日本語か「ケイリー語」になっちゃうごめんね」(I’m sorry, this blog will probably end up being very badly written and the Japanese is that of aforeigner, or even Kaylese), referring to herself as a foreigner, and her own idiolect as Kaylese (ケイリー語).Furthermore, some participants were also careful to emphasise the fact that they are still studyingJapanese. Ellise’s second line was 「今は大学で日本語を勉強しています」 (I am studying JapaneseLanguage Learning & Technology 102
  • 108. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language Useat university at the moment). Similarly, Oscar stated 「今、日本語と中国語を勉強しています」(Atthe moment, I am studying Japanese and Chinese). Noah included a lengthy description of his languagelearning history, excerpted below.Extract 3. Noah’s Mixi Profile 私は2006年から今まで日本語を勉強しています。最初はR大学で日本語の勉強を始ま ったんですが後八ヶ月に卒業しました。短いコースでしたけどすごく楽しくて興味深った。 今はM大学で勉強しています。もちろん日本語の勉強を続けています。 (I have been studying Japanese since 2006 up to now. At first, I began studying Japanese at R University, but I graduated after eight months. It was a short course, but a lot of fun and I was very interested. Now, I am studying at M University. Of course, I am continuing with my Japanese study.)Finally, several participants also used the Interests section to further focus on language. Four out of sixparticipants, Ellise, Noah, Oscar, and Zac, all listed 「語学」 (language study) as a hobby.Although a major theme of all six profiles, it would be erroneous to presume that being a foreigner /language learner was the only identity at the forefront of participants’ profile construction. Anotherobservable pattern concerns interest in Japanese culture, something all participants took pains toemphasise. Four of the six participants used Japan-related photographs for their display picture; Alisha, aphoto of herself in the snow in Japan, Zac, likewise, a photo of himself with a snow sculpture in Japan.Ellise used a purikura (Print Club photo sticker) of herself and a Japanese friend, complete with Japanesegraffiti, and Oscar’s profile photo was a snapshot of the neighborhood he lived in while on exchange inJapan.All six also listed Japanese-related likes and interests. This may appear unsurprising, given that an interestin Japanese culture is hardly remarkable among students of Japanese, or even among the youth populationof Australia more generally, as Larson (2003) notes. However, interesting comparisons can be drawnbetween participants’ English domain SNS profiles (in this case, Facebook), and their Japanese domain(Mixi) profiles. None of the participants mentioned any of the Japanese-specific interests that theydisplayed on Mixi (Japanese television dramas, karaoke, anime cartoons, manga comics, shogi chess,Japanese alcohol and foods, or even language learning), in their English Facebook profiles. Thisdemonstrates the context-specifity of participants’ identity displays as shown in Table 5.Lastly, although all six participants went to great lengths to foreground their non-native status, andemphasise their interest in Japanese culture, this does not mean that they cast themselves in a whollysubordinate role. This is clearest in the case of Noah, who positioned himself as a learner of Japanese, butan expert in English: 「私は日本で英語の教師にたりたいんです。…feel free to ask me for help with English」 (I want to become a teacher of English in Japan…) Zac also divulged his aspirations to become an English teacher, and offered to speak in English or Japanese with anyone interested: 「私の夢は日本で英語教師になりたいです。そのためにいっぱい日本人の友達を作って、 日本語と英語で話したいです。」(My dream is that I want to become an English teacher in Japan. Therefore I want to make a lot ofJapanese friends, and talk in Japanese and English.)Language Learning & Technology 103
  • 109. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language UseTable 5. Australian Participants’ Interests on Mixi and Facebook Profiles Participant Mixi Interests Facebook Interests Alisha Swimming, Japanese anime and None listed music Ellise Sports, karaoke, band, cooking, sake, Acting, singing, travelling, reading, shopping, driving, language study, talking, shopping Japanese TV dramas and video games, ice skating, AFL, tantanmen noodles, the 300 Yen Bar Kaylene Travel, art, language study, reading, Stuff, music Internet Oscar Movies, sport, food, travel, language None listed study, reading, TV, video games, Internet, Japanese chess Noah Language study, manga No profile Zac Watching movies, sport, watching No profile sport, listening to music, cooking, sake, driving, travel, language study, manga, TV, video games, Internet Lucas No profile Sleeping Eating Video gamingDISCUSSIONIt is apparent from both participants’ interview comments and from the evidence of opportunities forlanguage acquisition (expanded upon in more detail in Pasfield-Neofitou, 2010) that there are a number ofbenefits of participation in Japanese domains for learners of Japanese. One important benefit is greateraccess to the language, as Japanese domains tend to be populated predominantly by NS. The presence ofJapanese NS also leads to opportunities for learners to view NS-NS communication, which can later beused as a model for their own language use. Participation in language-specific virtual communities mayalso act as a springboard for greater access to popular culture and other authentic materials via linksposted by other users and advertising from Website sponsors.Perhaps most importantly though, a sense of virtual immersion and of being in someone else’s space, maydevelop L2 learners’ motivation to use the target language, due to actual or perceived audiencedemographics. However, simultaneously, a feeling of being a foreigner or of trespassing on someoneelse’s space can also result in severe effects on a learner’s desire to attempt communication in their L2.The identification of language-specific domains was based not only on the analytical coding of theinteraction data collected, but also an in vivo coding of interviews with participants. This finding wasparticularly related to interaction spaces aimed at groups such as SNSs, like Facebook and Mixi, and alsoWebsites or forums, rather than typically one-on-one interaction channels such as private e-mail, whichtended to be viewed more neutrally, and have more even language choice patterns3. Thus, in this respect itappears that networks or domains are influenced and continuously sustained by the social interaction ofindividuals.The domain in which any given interaction is perceived as being situated was found to affect participants’situated activity in terms of language choice, and use of contextual resources. A sense of being immersedLanguage Learning & Technology 104
  • 110. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language Usein someone else’s space had both positive and negative effects regarding opportunities for languageacquisition, as summed up in Alisha’s comments. She stated that the Internet environment gave her anopportunity to be surrounded by the language, but also made her feel that she would always be a Japaneseas a second-language speaker. Positive effects included Alisha’s sense of virtual immersion or perceptionof joining a virtual community, and greater exposure to Japanese. This greater exposure led to someparticipants drawing on the communication between NSs they saw as models, and gave them greateraccess to authentic cultural materials, as well as to linguistic assistance from NSs. Some of the negativeeffects documented include intolerance towards other languages or ethnic groups. However, theAustralian participants were also found to create their own Japanese-specific spaces and Japanese-learneridentities via their profiles, of which they had ownership, with social networking profiles constituting animportant site for the ongoing construction of identities.Participants’ self-identification as foreign or non-native may have been beneficial in a number of ways.The main goals participants had for using their L2 online were social and educational. By constructingtheir identities online as learners of the language, they mitigated any potential loss of face due to theirlanguage competency, and by construing themselves as experts in English or as foreigners, they may havemade themselves more attractive to Japanese members who were actively looking for a foreign orEnglish-speaking contact. In fact, at least one participant in the present study met her closest Japanesefriend in this way. Secondly, by describing themselves as learners, they invited correction and other formsof repair, which were surprisingly frequent in the public forum of Mixi in particular, as further describedin Pasfield-Neofitou (2010).Being a part of a virtual community, in particular, gaining access to an authentic audience, was the mostimportant source of motivation for L2 production identified in the present study. A sense of being heardand understood appeared to increase participants’ sense of achievement, and increase the likelihood oftheir continued engagement in L2 use online. This suggests that Blood’s (2002) observations with respectto the importance of an authentic audience in a monolingual first-language blog environment holds true inL2 settings also.Being an L2 learner was also found to be an important identity for many participants in their onlineinteractions, as evidenced in their foregrounding of this aspect in their profiles. Furthermore, theiridentification of themselves as foreigners online is further evidence of their perception of Japanese-ownedand moderated domains such as Mixi as Japanese domains, and themselves as outsiders. This findingchallenges views of Internet communication as neutral, equalising or more democratic, and demonstratesthat it is possible to feel like a foreigner (and to be treated as one) even in what has been viewed as agigantic, placeless cyberspace.NOTES1. danah boyd’s name is spelled in all lowercase in all of her publications; her preferred format has beenretained here.2. The term domain is an in vivo code description which emerged from participant’s observations, and isdistinct from the technical use of the term domain to refer to a component of URLs that indicatesownership or control of a Website or other online resource (although this may be a relevant factor inuser’s perceptions). Mixi, for example, is owned by a Japanese company, and Facebook, an Americancompany, yet the perceived ownership of Facebook extends beyond the national boundary of the US andacross the West.3. Although English use dominated participants’ e-mail communication (62% compared to 25%), thisratio was influenced by the fact that the Australian students’ university e-mail accounts at the time of datacollection did not support Japanese. If the e-mails sent to or from an Australian university e-mail addressLanguage Learning & Technology 105
  • 111. Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language Useare excluded, the figure is much more balanced (54% English or Mostly English, 46% Japanese or MostlyJapanese).ABOUT THE AUTHORSarah Pasfield-Neofitou is a lecturer at Monash University. Her recent doctorate research focuses onJapanese as a second language learners’ social computer medicated communication with native speakers.Her past research projects have examined language use in intercultural chat, and the use of electronic andonline dictionaries and other digital resources.E-mail: sarah.pasfieldneofitou@monash.eduREFERENCESArcher, M. (1995). Realist social theory: The morphogenetic approach. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.Belz, J. A. (2001). Institutional and individual dimensions of transatlantic group work in network-basedlanguage teaching. ReCALL, 13(2), 213–231.Belz, J. A. (2002). Social dimensions of telecollaborative foreign language study. Language Learning &Technology, 6(1), 60–81. Retrieved from, J. A. (2003). Linguistic perspectives on the development of intercultural competence intelecollaboration. Language Learning & Technology, 7(2), 68–99. Retrieved from, J. A. (2004, July). Telecollaborative language study: A personal overview of praxis and research.Paper presented at the National Foreign Language Resource Center Symposium: Distance Education,Distributed Learning, and Language Instruction. Retrieved from, J. A. (2005). Intercultural questioning, discovery and tension in Internet-mediated language learningpartnerships. Language and Intercultural Communication, 5(1), 3–39.Belz, J. A., & Müller-Hartmann, A. (2003). Teachers as intercultural learners: Negotiating German-American telecollaboration along the institutional fault line. The Modern Language Journal, 87(i), 71–89.Belz, J. A., & Reinhardt, J. (2004). Aspects of advanced foreign language proficiency: Internet-mediatedGerman language play. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 14(3), 324–362.Blood, R. (2002). The weblog handbook: Practical advice on creating and maintaining your BLOG.Cambridge: Perseus Publishing.boyd, d. m. (2007). Why youth (heart) social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenagesocial life. In D. Buckingham (Ed.), Youth, identity, and digital media (pp. 119–142). Cambridge, MA:MIT Press.boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal ofComputer-Mediated Communication, 13. Retrieved from, d. m., & Heer, J. (2006, January). Profiles as conversation: Networked identity performance onFriendster. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the Hawai‘i International Conference on SystemSciences (HICSS-39), Kauai, HI.Language Learning & Technology 106
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