Facebook for Engagement: Telecollaboration Between Finland and New Zealand in German Language Learning

Facebook for Engagement: Telecollaboration Between Finland and New Zealand in German Language Learning

Kirsi Korkealehto, Vera Leier
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2021010101
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This research presents a virtual exchange project between two tertiary institutions in New Zealand and Finland with 26 participants who were intermediate German language students. During the project, the students used a closed Facebook group to post about given topics; the posts combined video, audio, and text that adhered to multimodal meaning-making theory. The theoretical framework was task-based language teaching underpinned by the notion of engagement, social media in language learning, and telecollaboration. Language learning was viewed through a socio-cultural lens. A mixed-methods approach was used to collect data including questionnaires, interviews, and FB-logs. The qualitative data was analysed by content analysis method. The results indicate that the students perceived FB as an applicable tool for community building and they enjoyed the variation it brought to the course. Collaboration, use of communication tools, authenticity, and teachers' support fostered student engagement.
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Literature Review

Due to developments in network communication technologies, foreign language learners can extend their face-to-face classroom learning and gain access to other learners globally to learn a target language together, leading to intercultural communication and, consequently, intercultural competency (Byram, 1997). The extant literature references this approach to language learning as telecollaboration (Belz, 2003; Goodwin-Jones, 2019; Hauck & Young, 2008; Kurek & Müller-Hartmann, 2019; O’Dowd, 2011) or virtual exchanges (O’Dowd, 2018; The EVALUATE Group, 2019)

Traditionally, telecollaborations were email exchanges or situated on an institution’s learning platform (Belz, 2003; O’Dowd, 2011; Sadler & Dooley, 2016) since technology afforded easier and more affordable communication telecollaboration gained a lot of interest in recent years with studies reporting on telecollaboration initiatives between language students (Oskoz & Gimeno-Sanz, 2020), between language teacher students (Ryshina-Pankova, 2018), but also studies about practices and attitudes towards telecollaboration both of teachers and students (Helm, 2015). Telecollaboration projects are predominantly concerned about intercultural competence, either synchronous communication (Ryshina-Pankova, 2018; van der Zwaard & Bannink, 2019) or asynchronous communication using different social Web-tools (Lee, 2018; Oskoz & Gimeno-Sanz, 2020; Ryshina-Pankova, 2018; van der Zwaard & Bannink, 2019). Oskoz & Gimeno-Sanz studied 24 second language learners in the US and Spain over a period of one semester. The students completed collaborative tasks in groups of 3 or 4 using online tools such as Google +, online forums and Skype. Applying the appraisal framework, Martin & White’s (2005) results indicated that students enjoyed creating a close and safe learning environment. Lee (2018) established a Spanish American exchange over one semester using Voicethread, blogs and video chats. The communication was in Spanish and the US learners of Spanish profited of this exchange in particular gaining pragmatic knowledge. Ryshina-Pankova (2018) formed a telecollaboration with 13 teacher students in the US and 13 foreign language teacher students in Germany who communicated via online chat for a period of seven weeks. The topic of their chats was videos on soccer the students had to watch and subsequently discuss with their partners. Van der Zwaard & Bannink (2019) reported on a study between 60 Dutch and Australian students who collaborated for eight weeks on making a digital theatre play using synchronous computer-mediated communication, Skype and instant chat.

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