Identities, Borders, Change: A Case Study of (Trans) Cultural Learning in Mediated Learning Communities

Identities, Borders, Change: A Case Study of (Trans) Cultural Learning in Mediated Learning Communities

Sébastien Dubreil (University of Tennessee – Knoxville, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jvple.2012070104
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Abstract

The purpose of this case study was to examine one learner’s (Keira) personal trajectory in an online, transnational telecollaborative learning environment, focusing on how she negotiated (1) her own sense of identity, (2) her perspective on French and American cultures, and (3) the possibility of a transcultural dialogue. The data (observations, journals, interviews) showed that early on, Keira’s expectations of the class shifted drastically. Consequently, she began to engage her own conception of self and being American through introspection and, ultimately, a redefinition of her own subjectivity. Keira progressively developed her own transcultural stance and reached a point where her sense of the conditions of possibility of culture learning and the transcultural encounter, buttressed by a much deeper and nuanced knowledge of both culture(s), led to a completely new understanding and repositioning of her posture in this encounter, which she called “an opportunity for liberation.” This study supports the effectiveness of technology-mediated learning communities (MLCs) in fostering transcultural learning seen as a developmental process, a dynamic trajectory.
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“If it were possible to define generally the mission of education, it could be said that its fundamental purpose is to ensure that all students benefit from learning in a way that allow them to participate fully in public, community, and economic life.” New London Group (1996, p. 60)

Purpose Of The Study And Research Questions

The purpose of this case study was to examine one learner’s (Keira) personal trajectory in an online, transnational telecollaborative learning environment, focusing on how she negotiated (1) her own sense of identity, (2) her perspective on French and American cultures, and (3) the possibility of a transcultural dialogue.

Since the pioneering work of MIT’s Cultura project (Furstenberg, Levet, English, & Maillet, 2001), numerous institutions – and scholars – have explored the possibilities offered by instructional technologies to establish partnerships and dialogues between students living in different countries. Several of these projects, like Cultura, primarily rely on asynchronous technological tools (see, for example, Magnan, 2008; Belz & Thorne, 2006). Some projects focus on what happens in synchronous telecollaboration (Kern, 2009) by focusing on the impact of the learning environment itself on the nature of the interactions, primarily in terms of spatial and temporal features. This study focuses on the learner experience within the learning environment, in particular on issues of process and identity positioning.

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