Creating a Micro-Immersion Environment Through Telecollaboration

Creating a Micro-Immersion Environment Through Telecollaboration

Tasha N. Lewis (Loyola University Maryland, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0177-0.ch007


This chapter offers an innovative approach for implementing telecollaborative activities in order to enable students to connect with peers in real-time, with the goal of creating a micro-immersion experience called a “Virtual Language Exchange”. This chapter describes and compares two intermediate Spanish classes participating in Virtual Language Exchanges via Skype: one paired with peers from the target language and culture, and one paired with peers from within the class itself. Students from both groups participate in meaningful interactions in the target language in order to complete the assigned task-based activities. The chapter argues that finding new ways to bring the target language to life by using technology, like the Virtual Language Exchange experience described here, can benefit students' foreign language development in multiple ways.
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The use of technology for educational purposes is nothing new nowadays. Technology has become exceedingly commonplace in many educational fields over the years because it has the ability to empower its users in multiple ways. Currently, in the field of foreign language education in particular, Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) technology is frequently expected. CALL affords teachers and students alike an opportunity to directly connect with the target language and culture in new and exciting ways. CALL technology is remarkable because it is quite versatile in its application; it can be used inside as well as outside of the classroom for the benefit of both teachers and students.

This chapter reports the use of an Internet-based videoconferencing software in two separate foreign language classrooms for the purpose of creating an environment in which language learners must use the target language in order to complete an assignment. Although the two classes participating in this study are partnered with different people, (i.e., one group is paired with native speakers of the target language and the other group with peers from within the class itself) so that a comparison can be made, the study offers both teachers and researchers an innovative approach to bringing the target language to life through the use of technology. The information provided in this chapter is twofold. First, it is meant to link current theories of second language acquisition (i.e., the communicative language approach, task-based language learning/teaching and intercultural communicative competence) with the use of technology for language learning purposes, more specifically, the CALL practice of telecollaboration. Second, it is meant to serve as a model for implementing and using telecollaboration in foreign language classrooms in non-traditional ways in order to create an immersion-like environment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Virtual Language Exchange: A synchronous multimodal event that takes place via Skype intended for second language learners to practice the target language with peers (native or non-native speakers).

Skype: A synchronous multimodal video conferencing software.

Intercultural Communicative Competence: The abilities needed to communicate effectively and appropriately about culture with people of a possibly different linguistic and cultural background.

CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning): Computer applications used for language teaching and learning.

Task-Based Activity: An assigned activity that allows second language learners to have meaningful interaction using the target language in order to complete an objective.

Micro-Immersion: An artificial context in which second language learners have direct contact with peers who speak the target language for an extended period of time.

Telecollaboration: An Internet-based intercultural exchange between second language learners with the goal of developing language skills as well as intercultural communicative competence through structured tasks conducted in an institutional context.

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