This chapter explores in how far Web 2.0, Weblogs in particular, has changed foreign language learning. It argues that Weblogs, along with Web 2.0, have created new genres for which users need new forms of literacy. A qualitative study on the relationship between the online audience of Web 2.0 and learners’ writing processes is presented and the findings are discussed. The study supports the assumption that learners are aware of the social interaction taking place through weblogs and that this awareness of audience influences the writing process. The author’s intention is to point out that Web 2.0 has created new communities of language practice and that foreign language learning is happening in these discourse communities through social interaction. The challenge in foreign language education is to integrate these communities of practice into the foreign language classroom.
Web 2.0 And The Transformation Of Language Learning
O’Reilly (2005) sees, among others, two key features that distinguish Web 2.0 from Web 1.0: the platform-based usage of the Internet and harnessing collective intelligence of Internet users. The Web is the platform on which users work collaboratively and on which they store and exchange data. Rather than installing and using software on the PC, services are used online to create blogs, documents and wikis. These features can be seen as the basic principle of all social software devices which link users for collaboration and social interaction. However, the phenomenon of collaborative projects, like Wikipedia, and the rapid growth of the blogosphere, to name only two, is not only a consequence of new Web 2.0 technology. As Alby (2007) points out, these phenomena go hand in hand with faster Internet connections via broadband and flat rates that are affordable for the masses.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Blogosphere: The term relates to the perceived network that joins all weblogs on the Internet together in one community.
Sociocultural Approach to Language Learning: This approach derives from sociocultural theory that sees learning as the mediation of higher forms of mental activity through interaction. A central means of mediation is verbal interaction by creating situations in which novices can negotiate meaning and thus participate in their own learning. The expert can function by providing support in order to help the learners reach the next level or understand a certain language structure they need for interaction.
Community of Practice (CoP): A group of individuals who engage in and contribute to the practices of their communities through active participation and therefore share a common identity. The term community of practice was created by Etienne Wenger and Jean Lave in 1991, who positioned learning in the context of social interaction. One substantial part of knowledge acquisition in communities of practice is the construction of knowledge through participation in a community.
Multiliteracies: The term deals with the complexity of language in two major aspects: first, the multimodality of texts through the increasing importance of the written word as part of visual, audio and spatial patterns, and second the cultural and linguistic diversity through global connectedness.
Collective Intelligence: A form of intelligence that emerges from a community of individuals who collaborate together. It is an approach to working on products such as texts, documents, codes, decisions with no centralized hierarchy. One central idea is that the collective product of a community is more than just the sum of the individual parts.
Electronic Literacy: The ability to read and write in an electronic medium and to find, organize and make use of information in the context of a hypertext environment. Electronic literacy combines texts and other media, has a focus on collaboration and includes the use of online sources.
Discourse Community: This term connects the notion of discourse (typically relating to numerous forms of communication) with a group of users, usually on a specific subject or area of interest. A discourse community might be used to describe a particular group where members meet to discuss topics of specific interest to them.