Web 2.0 Technologies and Foreign Language Teaching

Web 2.0 Technologies and Foreign Language Teaching

Geraldine Blattner
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-068-2.ch008
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This chapter looks at the potential of two Web 2.0 tools: forums and the social networking website Facebook for foreign language learners and educators. It highlights how these technologies provide authentic settings that are dynamic and communicative as they facilitate the cultural enrichment of learners, enhance their socio-pragmatic awareness, as well as develop their multiliteracy skills in a second language. The chapter contains an examination of various recent studies which investigated or underlined how technological inclusion of forums and Facebook complements traditional classroom instruction, and how it allows students to extend their learning experience outside of this typical environment in order to supplement their linguistic abilities and to become autonomous learners.
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Computer use has become and continues to be part of everyday life. Today’s students rely on a variety of Web 2.0 technologies for information gathering, to stay updated on social concerns and national issues, for inter-personal communication, and, of course, as a way to learn. It is not surprising to find a similar trend in the academic world, while none of these technologies were developed to initially support language learning, they have been used, to a certain extent, in the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). The Internet has opened multiple windows for all genres of self-expression and social interaction that support meaningful educational experiences and encourage foreign language acquisition. In the last decade, research has illustrated how communication technology offers second language (L2) learners the opportunity to observe and interact not only in the target language, but also with culture, as they provide a powerful and authentic representation of how languages are embedded in a social context (Belz & Kinginger, 2002, 2003; Blattner & Fiori, 2009; 2011; Chun, 1994; Hanna & De Nooy, 2003 ; Kinginger, 1998; Kramsch & Thorne, 2002; Lord, 2008; McBride, 2009O’Bryan & Hegelheimer, 2007; Stevenson and Liu, 2010 ; Thorne, 2003; Warschauer, 1996).

Web 2.0 tools are more prominent than ever in higher education as they have been recognized as meeting the high connectivity demands that today’s students expect; however, they are still underused in foreign language learning and teaching. Some Web 2.0 media provide language learners with unprecedented opportunities to enrich their learning experience in a more dynamic and communicative environment. Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) technology such as chats, forums, blogs, wikis and various social networking communities (SNCs) can all positively impact foreign language classrooms by offering meaningful social experiences. In this chapter, the pedagogical potential of forums as well as the social networking community Facebook is explored. I highlight how these emerging tools promote the development of multiliteracy skills, socio-pragmatic competence, and cultural enrichment in a foreign language while promoting a sense of community among the learners which, in turn, are essential elements to reach native-like communicative competence in today’s technologically-driven society.

Specifically, this chapter draws attention to the importance of the participation and socialization of foreign language learners in authentic contexts (Hall, Cheng, & Carlson, 2006; Swain & Deters, 2007) through the use of different forums and the social networking site Facebook, and it illustrates how these mediums of communication can be efficiently integrated into foreign language classes to create a dynamic learning environment. Electronic media allows students to observe how learners and native speakers use a foreign language in online contexts and gives them an opportunity to interact and engage in real meaningful communication with a variety of interlocutors that embrace the notion that language learning happens through social interactions. The strenght of Web 2.0 tools is their ability to help language learners understand and use language in different technology-mediated environments that present specific discursive and interactional rules and conventions that are rarely covered by traditional language textbooks or in classrooms (The New London Group, 1996; Kern, 2000; Gonglewski & DuBravac, 2006). Becoming familiarized with new voices and new genres of discourse that are yet to be considered standard language, despite their wide usage, allows L2 learners to gain cultural and linguistic knowledge about electronic language and to become members of online communities. Given the changing nature of the way we communicate, this process is, in the present day, a required step to fully experience language as a social practice and to produce competent speakers of an L2.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Legitimate Peripheral Participation: In the context of community of practice, language learners can observe the way members of a community interact before fully participating themselves. In other words, legitimate peripheral participation is seen as a first step for newcomers to situate themselves and understand the underlying rules of the communication; for instance the discursive and interactional features that a particular community uses and it is a key element leading to full participation.

Third Space: This term refers to a psychological space that learners progressively build when they become increasingly aware of the L2 culture, and develop a broader perspective and openness to different cultural elements, and in the process a more critical perspective of their own culture. When L2 learners find themselves mediating between two languages, two cultures and two worlds, they will have reached this “third place” that is essential to develop sophisticated translingual and transcultural competences.

Socio-Pragmatic Competence: Ability to recognize the effect of context on strings of linguistic events and to use language appropriately in specific social situations. In romance languages a typically difficult socio-pragmatic competence for language learners is to master the pronouns of address (i.e.: tu/vous in French, tu/usted in Spanish)

Facebook: Famous social networking community which was created in 2004 by a Harvard student: M. Zuckerberg. It allows its members to connect with other users through a variety of applications that can also be used in a pedagogically meaningful way in foreign language classes. By observing interactions in a second language learners can understand the authentic discursive and interactional norms of Facebook. This platform can also be used to connect with native speakers of a language and create opportunities for learner to interact in a real context.

Community Of Practice: This term comes from the notion that learning is a social practice and has been used to describe foreign language learners as they will inevitably participate in communities of practitioners where certain rules must be respected for communication to happen.

Multiliteracy: In our technologically saturated society, being literate does not only imply being able to read and write, but also having knowledge of how to interact in a variety of electronic media. In other words technology users must rapidly identify the discursive and interactional norms in a particular medium in order to communicate with other users in an appropriate and expected manner.

Forum: It is an electronic bulletin board where users can discuss various topics with each other, in a central fixed location. The web-based discussion threads are very convenient as people do not have to be connected to the Internet at the same time in order to read each other’s messages. This implies that the time between a message posting and its reply is variable. They are usually organized by themes and/or topics. Some forums are moderated, which implies that one specific person can create new threads. In addition these types of forums require a more standard use of language than others which are not supervised by a moderator.

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