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SUBTITLE: Language, Literacies and Intercultural Learning in the 21st Century
SERIES TITLE: Telecollaboration in Education
PUBLISHER: Peter Lang
Judith Bündgens-Kosten, University of Duisburg-Essen
Sarah Guth's and Francesca Helm's book collects papers on telecollaboration for the development of foreign language skills, intercultural learning, and digital literacies. A large number of countries/regions and languages are discussed, with most papers focusing on university students, but some taking school students and adult learners into consideration as well. A wide range of tools is discussed, including tools for text, audio and video chat such as MSN, Adobe Connect and Skype, but also learning management systems such as Moodle and multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs), such as Second Life, in addition to forums, wikis and blogs, e-mail, as well as a number of bespoken systems.
The book contains 20 chapters in three sections. After a general introduction, the first section entitled ''New trends and environments in telecollaboration'' takes up important theoretical and practical questions in the light of current technological trends in its five chapters: ''Telecollaboration with web 2.0 tools'' (Sarah Guth & Michael Thomas), ''The multifarious goals of telecollaboration 2.0: Theoretical and practical implications'' (Francesca Helm & Sarah Guth), ''Telecollaboration and learning 2.0'' (Marie-Noëlle Lamy & Robin Goodfellow), ''The 'intercultural turn' and language learning in the crucible of new media'' (Steven L. Thorne), ''Virtual worlds for language learning and intercultural exchange: Is it for real?'' (Luisa Panichi, Mats Deutschmann & Judith Molka-Danielsen).
The second section, ''Language learner 2.0: new skills and competences'' focuses on the participants of telecollaboration (three chapters), with contributions by Elizabeth M.C. Guerin, Maria Elisabetta Cigognini and Maria Chiara Pettenati (''Learners 2.0''), by Mirjam Hauck (''Telecollaboration: At the interface between multimodal and intercultural communicative competence''), and Jane Hughes (''The multilingual learner'').
It is followed by a section with a focus on the teachers/facilitators in such projects, ''Language educator 2.0: New skills and competences'', with chapters on ''Teacher 2.0'' (Melinda Dooly), ''Integrating telecollaboration into the language classroom: some insights'' (Gilberte Furstenberg & Sabine Levet), and ''Issues in the assessment of online interaction and exchange'' (Robert O'Dowd).
The last section collects seven case studies, ''Virtual Harlem: Building a community'' (Bryan Carter), ''The Italia-Australia Intercultural Project'' (Suzanne Cloke), ''The Intercultural Project'' (Invana Fratter & Francesca Helm), ''The Soliya Connect Program at ENSIMAG, France'' (Ray Genet), ''Close encounters of a new kind: The use of Skype and wiki in telecollaboration'' (Sarah Guth & Nicoletta Marini-Maio), ''An intercontinental video-web communication project between Chile and the Netherlands'' (Kristi Jauregi & Emerita Bañados), ''The CrossCall Project: Cross-sector computer-assisted language learning'' (Terry King), ''Finding language partners in unexpected places: Skype and social networking for USA-Japan telecollaborations'' (Akiko Meguro & Todd Bryant), plus a general introduction to the case studies by Sarah Guth and Francesca Helm.
Hu and Byram (2009) suggest that there are two competing philosophies in the domain of intercultural learning: those with a hermeneutic/cultural sciences background on the one hand, and those with a strong focus on intercultural competence on the other. Most contributions to this volume fall into the second category.
Information about theoretical backgrounds is, of course, provided throughout the book, but practical questions are emphasized. Other works, including those on intercultural learning more generally, such as the edited volume bz Hu & Byram (2009) -- which does not have an emphasis on telecollaboration, but the notions can be easily transferred -- might provide a useful theoretical background.
The case studies discussed here are a useful addition to other practice-focused books on telecollaboration and language learning on the market, such as the volumes edited by Melinda Dooly (2008) or Robert O'Dowd (2007). In the field of telecollaboration, technological change begets pedagogic experimentation. And even if the ''digital gap'' has not been closed, falling prices for hardware and improving infrastructure make telecollaboration possible with partners that might have been excluded for purely technical/infrastructural reasons only a few years ago. While underlying pedagogic principles change more slowly, improved technological opportunitites effect many aspects of telecollaboration projects. The current volume reflects the ongoing change of technological possibilities by including new approaches such as the use of Second Life as a context of telecollaboration, and by taking up the effect of web 2.0 culture on telecollaboration.
Generally, the focus lies on describing how specific technologies have been used with different populations, especially what kind of tasks were used, and how this can be embedded into larger structures such as courses, exchange programs, or degrees. Practitioners will profit from the discussion of potential problems and the different ways other practitioners have reacted to them. The case studies demonstrate how telecollaboration can creatively be integrated into different subjects, e.g. the virtual Harlem project (literature, cf. chapter by Bryan Carter), the Soliya Connect Program (media studies, international relations, and conflict resolution, cf. chapter by Ray Genet), or by bringing together native speaker teacher training students and non-native speaker language students (cf. chapter by Kristi Jauregi, Emerita Bañado). Setting up language exchanges often involves tremendous amounts of work on the side of the organizing teachers. Studies that attempted a more scalable design are therefore especially interesting, e.g. Meguro & Bryant's chapter on social networking tools to find potential telecollaboration partners and to organize meetings, or the Soliya project, which is organized by a non-profit organization instead of a specific university.
This way, the book provides a glimpse into the state of art of telecollaboration for language, literacies and intercultural learning today. It is primarily interesting for e-learning practitioners who either work with a language learning/intercultural learning focus or who would like to better understand the work done in this context.
Hu, Adelheid & Byram, Michael (2009a) Introduction. In Hu, Adelheid & Byram, Michael, (2009), vii-xxv.
Hu, Adelheid & Byram, Michael, eds. (2009b) Interkulturelle Kompetenz und fremdsprachliches Lernen: Modelle, Empirie, Evaluation / Intercultural competence and foreign language learning: Models, empiricism, assessment. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.
Melinda Dooly, ed. (2008) Telecollaborative language learning: A guidebook to moderating intercultural collaboration online. Bern: Peter Lang.
Robert O'Dowd, ed. (2007) Online intercultural exchange: An introduction for foreign language teachers. Clevedon: Multilingual matters.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Judith Bündgens-Kosten received her doctorate degree from RWTH Aachen
University in 2009. Her thesis discusses teachers' attitudes toward AAVE.
She currently works at the University of Duisburg-Essen, focusing on
computer-mediated communication (especially blogging), and its role in