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Volume 15 Number 2

June 2011
Articles Columns
Comprehending News Videotexts: The Tribute to Irene Thompson
Influence of the Visual Content Article PDF
Abstract | Article PDF by Dorothy Chun
Jeremy Cross, Nanyang Technological p. 1
pp. 4468 Emerging Technologies
Mobile Apps for Language Learning
Divergent Perceptions of Article PDF
Tellecollaborative Language Learning by Robert Godwin-Jones
Tasks: Task-as-Workplan vs. Task-as- pp. 211
Abstract | Article PDF Action Research
Melinda Dooly, Universitat Autnoma de Edited by Fernando Naiditch
Barcelona Using Wordles to Teach Foreign Language Writing
pp. 6991 Article PDF
by Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie
Online Domains of Language Use: Selvandin
Second Language Learners pp. 1222
Experiences of Virtual Community and
Foreignness Announcements
Abstract | Article PDF News From Sponsoring Organizations
Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou, Monash Article PDF
University pp. 2326
pp. 92108

Edited by Paige Ware

Moodle 2.0
Article PDF
Reviewed by Tsun-Ju Lin
pp. 2733

Teaching Literature and Language Online

Ian Lancashire (Ed.)
Article PDF
Reviewed by David Malinowski
pp. 3438

Contact: Editors or Managing Editor

Copyright 2011 Language Learning & Technology, ISSN 1094-3501.
Articles are copyrighted by their respective authors.
Teaching English Language Learners through
Tony Erben, Ruth Ban, and Martha Castaeda
Article PDF
Reviewed by Jess Garca Laborda and Mary
Frances Litzler
pp. 3941

Corpus-Based Contrastive Studies of English

and Chinese
Richard Xiao and Tony McEnery
Article PDF
Reviewed by Zhang Xiaojun
pp. 4243

Contact: Editors or Managing Editor

Copyright 2011 Language Learning & Technology, ISSN 1094-3501.
Articles are copyrighted by their respective authors.
About Language Learning & Technology

Language Learning & Technology is a refereed journal which began publication in July 1997. The journal
seeks to disseminate research to foreign and second language educators in the US and around the world
on issues related to technology and language education.
Language Learning & Technology is sponsored and funded by the University of Hawai'i National
Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC) and the Michigan State University Center for
Language Education and Research (CLEAR), and is co-sponsored by the Center for Applied
Linguistics (CAL).
Language Learning & Technology is a fully refereed journal with an editorial board of scholars in
the fields of second language acquisition and computer-assisted language learning. The focus of
the publication is not technology per se, but rather issues related to language learning and
language teaching, and how they are affected or enhanced by the use of technologies.
Language Learning & Technology is published exclusively on the World Wide Web. In this way,
the journal seeks to (a) reach a broad audience in a timely manner, (b) provide a multimedia
format which can more fully illustrate the technologies under discussion, and (c) provide
hypermedia links to related background information.
Beginning with Volume 7, Number 1, Language Learning & Technology is indexed in the
exclusive Institute for Scientific Information's (ISI) Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), ISI
Alerting Services, Social Scisearch, and Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Language Learning & Technology is currently published three times per year (February, June,
and October).

Copyright 2011 Language Learning & Technology, ISSN 1094-3501.

Articles are copyrighted by their respective authors.
Sponsors, Board, and Editorial Staff
Volume 15, Number 2

University of Hawaii National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC)
Michigan State University Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR)
Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)


Advisory Board
Susan Gass Michigan State University
Richard Schmidt University of Hawaii at Manoa

Editorial Board
Sigrun Biesenbach-Lucas Georgetown University
Klaus Brandl University of Washington
Thierry Chanier Universite Blaise Pascal
Tracey Derwing University of Alberta
Robert Godwin-Jones Virginia Commonwealth University
Regine Hampel The Open University
Philip Hubbard Stanford University
Claire Kennedy Griffith University, Brisbane
Markus Ktter University of Mnster
Marie-Noelle Lamy The Open University
Lina Lee University of New Hampshire
Meei-Ling Liaw National Taichung University
Lara Lomicka University of South Carolina
Jill Pellettieri Santa Clara University
Bryan Smith Arizona State University
Patrick Snellings University of Amsterdam
Maggie Sokolik University of California Berkeley
Susana Sotillo Montclair State University
Paige Ware Southern Methodist University
Mark Warschauer University of California, Irvine
Editorial Staff
Editors Dorothy Chun University of CA, Santa Barbara
Irene Thompson The George Washington University
Associate Editors Trude Heift Simon Fraser University
Carla Meskill State University of New York-
Managing Editor Daniel Jackson University of Hawaii at Manoa
Web Production Editor Carol Wilson-Duffy Michigan State University
Book & Multimedia Review Paige Ware Southern Methodist University
Emerging Technologies Editor Robert Godwin-Jones Virginia Commonwealth University
Copy Editors Rebecca Estes University of California, Davis
Daniel Jackson University of Hawaii at Manoa
Dennis Koyama Kanda University of International

Copyright 2011 Language Learning & Technology, ISSN 1094-3501.

The contents of this publication were developed under a grant from the Department of Education (CFDA 84.229,
P229A60012-96 and P229A6007). However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department
of Education, and one should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2
http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2011/tribute.pdf p. 1


In July 1997, Mark Warschauer realized his vision of an open access journal for
emerging research in the field of computer-assisted language learning as the founding
Editor of Language Learning & Technology. A year later, in July 1998, Lucinda Hart-
Gonzlez joined as a Co-Editor (serving for two years in that position), and in January
1999, Irene Thompson came on board as the third Editor. Thirteen years and 37 issues
later, Irene is stepping down at the end of August 2011. I have had the great privilege
and pleasure to work with Irene for the last 12 years since 2000 and would like to offer a
tribute to her for helping to bring LLT to the tremendous heights it has reached.
In 1998, LLT had more than 1,000 readers worldwide. In 2010, there were 18,214
official subscribers, and the journals Website has an average of 1,513 visitors per day,
with over 552,000 visitors during the year. Since 2003, LLT has been indexed in the
exclusive Institute for Scientific Informations (ISI) Social Sciences Citation Index
(SSCI), ISI Alerting Services, Social SciSearch, and Current Contents/Social and
Behavioral Sciences, and in 2009 was ranked 3rd in Linguistics journals (out of 93) and
3rd in Education journals (out of 139).
ISI Journal Citation Reports Ranking:
Year Impact Factor 5 Year Linguistics Education
2009 2.53 3.575 3 out of 93 3 out of 139
2008 1.70 2.067 11 out of 68 9 out of 113
2007 1.22 No Data 13 out of 55 14 out of 105
A study by Smith and Lafford (2009) that appeared in The Modern Language Journal
surveyed expert researchers in language education and technology. These experts ranked
Language Learning & Technology highest in quality in a list of 19 academic journals.
LLT was also ranked first in terms of these scholars preferences for publishing their
own research and in having benefit for tenure/promotion.
All of the above successes are due in large measure to Irene Thompsons expertise,
dedication, thoroughness, attention to detail and unwavering commitment to excellence.
She has worked tirelessly on all aspects of the journal, from the layout and design of the
Website to the copyediting of individual articles and reviews, from performing internal
reviews of the 150+ yearly submissions during the last several years to working closely
with authors to craft publishable articles. During the time of her editorship, the journal
has received over 1,300 submissions! Although we are on opposite ends of the continent,
working with Irene these past 12 years has been seamless, enjoyable, and immensely
rewarding. My heartfelt gratitude to her professionally and personally, and my very best
wishes for her well deserved retirement.
Despite the sadness of Irene Thompsons departure, the journal seems to have come full
circle as we welcome Mark Warschauer back as Co-Editor. LLT will no doubt continue
to thrive and benefit from Marks visionary leadership. Aloha and mahalo to Irene and
welcome back, Mark!
Dorothy Chun

Copyright 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 1

Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2
http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2011/emerging.pdf pp. 211

Robert Godwin-Jones
Virginia Commonwealth University
It wasnt that long ago that the most exciting thing you could so with your new mobile phone was to
download a ringtone. Today, new iPhone or Android phone users face the quandary of which of the
hundreds of thousands of apps (applications) they should choose. It seems that everyone from federal
government agencies to your local bakery has an app available. This phenomenon, not surprisingly has
led to tremendous interest among educators. Mobile learning (often m-learning) is in itself not new, but
new devices with enhanced capabilities have dramatically increased the interest level, including among
language educators. The Apple iPad and other new tablet computers are adding to the mobile app frenzy.
In this column we will explore the state of language learning apps, the devices they run on, and how they
are developed.


As long as there have been portable audio-video and computing devices, there has been interest in
exploring their use in language learning. As portable cassette players yielded to iPods and other MP3
players, the new capabilities of the hardware led to enhanced use of audio-based learning such as
language podcasts with integrated transcripts. As PDAs (personal digital assistants) became more
widespread with the advent of the Palm Pilot and its successors, language dictionaries, e-book grammars,
and flashcard programs began to appear. Palm also was the producer of some of the first smartphones,
which integrated PDA functions with new capabilities including SMS messaging, built-in cameras, and
voice recording. With a small internal grant, I was able in 2002 to purchase smartphones for each of the
participants in a study abroad program in Austria. The picture taking, text messaging, and dual-language
dictionaries proved to be very useful, but the main point of having the phonesfor the students to write
travel diariesproved to be problematic as the text input system (T9 keyboard) was too slow and error-
prone for writing longer texts efficiently. This kind of issue was not unusual at the time. Five years ago in
LLT, George Chinnery (2006) surveyed the state of mobile language learning. He reported on projects
using mobile phones for vocabulary practice, quiz delivery, live tutoring, and email lesson content
delivery, and on other projects using PDAs for file sharing, video playback and stylus text entry. In many
of these instances, Chinnery reported that technical problems arose due to the limitations inherent in the
devices, in particular small, low-resolution screens (problematic for image/video display or even good
text reading), poor audio quality (both in phoning and audio playback), awkward text entry, limited
storage/memory and slow Internet connectivity. Many of the language learning projects were seriously
hampered by these issues. Moreover, the predominant operating systems (OS) for phones and PDAs at
the time, namely Palm OS, Windows Mobile, and Nokia Symbian, offered limited features and
expandability. All did allow, however, apps to be loaded onto devices, but they were few in number and
limited in functionality. Web browsing was constrained and slow; Web navigation using a mini-joystick
or a stylus was awkward and error-prone.
A huge step up in functionality arrived with the Apple iPhone in 2007. It is not only the iPhones own
advanced features which have proven to be a game-changer in the mobile area, but also the fact that its
success has led competitors to create other equally capable devices. With the iPhone, Android devices,
and Windows Phone 7 products, what used to be phones with added-on computing capabilities have
morphed into mini-computers which can also make phone calls. These devices go a long ways towards
solving the issues arising from early efforts in mobile assisted language learning. Screens are
considerably larger, with higher resolution and clarity, and capablethrough more powerful processors

Copyright 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 2

Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learning

of playing back high-resolution video smoothly. Almost all smartphones today feature a responsive touch
screen which makes Web navigation much easier. Text entry is enhanced through a relatively large virtual
keyboard or a full physical mini-keyboard. Many phones are capable not only of video capture, but of
video (and image) editing as well as of voice recognition. Most of the new generation of smartphones
have faster 3G or 4G cellular connectivity along with even faster Wi-Fi. Built-in storage is greatly
enlarged, with flash memory having in recent years become cheaper, smaller, and higher capacity. Some
of the functionality of current smartphones even surpasses in some ways what is available on laptops, as
many include GPS chips, accelerometers, compasses, high-resolution cameras, and proximity sensors.
Most incorporate Bluetooth and USB connections as well. Clearly having such powerful devices available
anytime, anyplace provides tremendous opportunities for educational use. However, it is not justor
even primarilyhardware enhancements of the iPhone generation devices that hold the most promise for
use in language learning. Equally important is the software and the new opportunities that arise from
mobile application development.


One of the significant software enhancements of the iPhone when first released in 2007 was the much
greater usability of its Web browser, Mobile Safari. Coupled with a larger, high-resolution screen, a more
powerful processor, more internal (RAM) memory, and faster Internet connectivity, Mobile Safari was
able for the first time on a device its size to access and display the full Web. Previous phone browsers
used either text only browsing, server-based on the fly re-formatting (Opera Mini), or reliance on WAP
(Wireless Application Protocol), a way to rewrite HTML for display on phones. Web browsing on a
phone did not deliver the same Web experience as desktop browsers. Web pages on the iPhone, by
contrast, are not dumbed down in any way, but are displayed as they would appear in a normal Web
browser on a desktop computer. The smaller screen size effects the readability of full-page display, but
the iPhone introduced touch actions such as double tap and two-finger zoom to allow smaller text to be
read. Other smartphones have similar browsers. In fact, most are based on the WebKit rendering engine
developed by Apple for use in Safari. Apple has made Webkit an open source project. Another significant
development with Mobile Safari was robust JavaScript support, the language that supplies much of the
interactivity on the Web. Also supported was CSS 2 (cascading style sheets), which not only is important
for formatting Web pages but also plays a key role in structuring the pages document object model
(DOM), an essential element in being able to change dynamically and programmatically elements of a
page. At the same time, Apple introduced extensions to HTML and CSS which enhance the Web display
on iPhones. As WebKit is used now across smartphone platforms, these tags are commonly supported
and, in fact, are making their way into the specifications of HTML 5, the new version of the Web
formatting language, not yet finalized, but already largely supported in many browsers. A major
component of current Web publishing is, however, not supported on iPhones or on other mobile Apple
devices, Adobes Flash; Apple believes that HTML 5 will gradually replace the use of Flash. That
remains to be seen.
Given the enhanced capability of mobile Safari, Apple initially encouraged developers to add
functionality to the iPhone by creating Web apps, that is, HTML-based programs which used JavaScript
and CSS to provide interactivity. Developers, however, were not satisfied with this approach, which did
not provide full access to the capabilities of the iPhone, and in 2008 Apple announced that it would allow
3rd party native applications for the iPhone. Subsequently, a SDK (software development kit) was
released for development of iPhone apps, built into Apples programming environment, XCode. At the
same time Apple created a curated environment for distributing the new apps, the Apple App Store,
integrated into the iTunes Store. The App Store has proven to be wildly successful, with some 400,000
apps to date. Other smartphone OSs have implemented similar systems, although in general without the
strict scrutiny apps submitted to the Apple store undergo. Googles Android OS, in particular, has gained
significantly in the past year in both users and number of apps. There are predictions that the number of

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Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learning

Android apps will soon surpass those for Apple devices.

Among these iPhone and Android apps are a good number supporting language learning. Claire Siskin
has provided a nice list of apps for language learning, and others have listed and reviewed apps for all
languages, or for specific languages such as Japanese, French, and ESL. Many of these apps are of similar
kind to those available for some time on phones, including flashcard programs, dual language
dictionaries, and phrase books. Not all are of the highest quality. In some instances, newer hardware and
software have allowed for enhanced functionality. Phrase books, for instance, can now hold much more
content, including video as well as audio, and integrate with online sites. Some travel guides such as the
Lonely Planet apps feature advanced features such as drag-and-drop trip planners, audio phrase books,
and even augmented reality, which uses phone camera views to overlay local site information.
Vocabulary development programs have become more sophisticated and powerful. One I have been using
for studying Chinese is eStroke. Its primary purpose is to help in learning stroke order for writing Chinese
characters, but it also includes an extensive dual-language dictionary, features excellent animations, and
includes personal library and quizzing functions. Another popular app for Chinese is Pleco, which starts
out as a free app, but adds functionality through a large number of paid add-ons such as specialized
dictionaries, enhanced handwriting recognition, and optical character recognition. ChinesePod has a
nicely designed app which offers a variety of tools to work with lesson podcasts and their
vocabulary/phrases. The app also automatically syncs the users learning status on the app with that on
the Web site and allows lesson content to be downloaded for off-line study, one of the benefits of apps
over the live Web. Another nice feature new smartphones offer Chinese learners, and anyone else using a
non-Latin writing system, is the ease with which one can switch the virtual keyboards text input system,
making it possible on the iPhone, for example, to enter Chinese characters by drawing them with ones
finger or switching to pinyin text entry with then the corresponding character equivalents displayed for
Flashcard programs have also become more powerful. A popular program of this type is Anki, a spaced
repetition vocabulary study program (discussed in the LLT 14/2 column). The mobile version offers
essentially the same powerful functionality as the desktop version, including deck and individual card
editing, audio support, and customizable review options. It also syncs with the desktop and Web versions.
The popular Quizlet flashcard system also offers a mobile app, which has an interesting auto-define
function when adding new items, which allows the user to see/choose definitions that other Quizlet users
have entered for that term. Wordreference.coms app links to language discussion forums that reference
the term searched. Conjugation Nation offers apps in a variety of languages for drilling verb forms.
Linking a mobile app to Web services or an online database is being used more and more in language
learning apps, in particular in commercial products such as Rosetta Stone or Transparent Languages
Byki, as well as in online services such as Babbel.com or hello-hello, all of which have mobile apps
which sync mobile and desktop versions. Complete language courses, such as Living Language for
French, are now also being offered as apps. An interesting approach to leveraging the client-server
relationship on mobile devices is the Cloudbank project described by Pemberton, Winter, and Fallahkhair
(2009). It uses crowdsourcing to build a database of informal English language usage, featuring an
Android app communicating with a database through Web services. It also uses RSS feeds to keep users
informed of new content added.
Cloudbank leverages not only the ability of a smartphone to exchange information with an online
database; it also makes use of a peer-to-peer network. In fact, with the rise of social networking, we are
seeing more language learning apps that take advantage of this trend. The Byki app for example, allows
users to search for use of terms within Twitter messages. The Micromandarin project uses the location
aware program Foursquare to provide contextually relevant content for language practice. The app uses
GPS to determine a users location and supplies vocabulary information and practice appropriate to that
location: food and drink vocabulary, for instance, if the user is in a restaurant. The CLUE project makes

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similar use of GPS to supply location appropriate content and adds another dimension through tagging
objects with RFID tags (radio frequency identification), whose information then can be retrieved on the
smartphone. Beaudin, Intille, Tapia, Rockinson and Morris (2007) describe a similar project for
vocabulary learning, using objects in the home with stick-on sensors. It seems likely that we will see app
development in the future take greater advantage of some of the hardware features of new smartphones
beyond the GPS chip. The accelerometer, for example, used extensively in mobile game applications,
could be used in language learning games as well.
Claire Siskins list of apps for language learning includes a category called repurposed apps, which
discusses general purpose apps that could be used in language learning, including voice search, voice
email, postcard creation, audio recording, and childrens games. Integrating audio capabilities adds a
crucial component of language use and learning. A good many e-books are becoming available, especially
for the iPad, which combine text, images, and audio in an attractive way. Some also include games. Many
of these, such as the Town Musicians of Bremen, are designed for children, but clearly would be of
interest for language learning. Google Translate for Android offers an interesting experimental feature
using voice. Conversation mode lets users translate an utterance into the target language, which is then
read aloud. Ones conversation partner can then speak in the target language and have in turn that
response be translated and read aloud. Another Android voice translation app is Talk to Me, which has
gotten positive reviews. While newer smartphones include voice recognition, including in some cases for
languages other than English, this feature does not yet appear to have worked its way into apps.


In order to take full advantage of the hardware and OS capabilities of a mobile device, developers need to
create an app using an approach consistent with that devices programming environment. For Apple iOS
devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), that means using Objective-C and Apples XCode developers tool.
However, such apps will not run on Android devices, for which apps are written in Java running on a
version of Linux. iOS apps are available exclusively from the Apple App Store (unless the iPhone is
jailbroken, i.e., unlocked for open access), while Android apps are more widely available, from the
official Android Market, Amazons Appstore for Android, Handango, and other repositories. As is the
case with iOS apps, Android apps are free or available for a price, usually under ten US dollars. Some
apps are considerably more expensivebuying all the add-ons to Pleco costs US $149. Apps are usually
available in English only, few are localized for other languages. Other smartphone environments
(Blackberry, WebOS [Palm/HP], Windows Phone 7) use different programming environments, all
mutually incompatible. All of the different smartphone software companies make development tools
available, which typically include a desktop phone simulator. Most are free, or available for a modest
cost. Except for iOS development, which is Mac OS only, app development can be done on Windows or
Macintosh machines, and, in some instances, on Linux.
App development is currently progressing at a feverish pace, and app developers are in high demand.
However, for language learning purposes, native app development may not be the best choice. Not only
are the programming environments different, each also involves knowing or learning a programming
language such as Objective-C or Java. Moreover, there is little carryover from developing an app in one
environment to re-creating that app for a different platform. Obviously, the fundamental functionality and
user interface design could be the same, but the programming will be altogether different and done using
different tools. For educational use, as things stand now, it would seem that one at the least would want to
have an iOS and Android version of an app, probably a Windows Phone 7 app as well, and possibly
WebOS or Blackberry versions, depending on ones user base and the market rise and fall of the various
companies products. This could prove to be a time-consuming and expensive development process.
An alternative to developing native apps is to create instead a Web app. This involves using more familiar
and easier-to-learn HTML, JavaScript and CSS. All are scripting rather than programming languages,

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hence do not involve compilation into byte-code. The only tool needed is a text editor. Web apps will run
and perform similarly in most smartphone environments, particularly as all but Microsoft now use
WebKit. The look and feel can be quite similar to built-in apps, particularly if one uses relatively new
HTML/CSS tags such as the viewport meta tag and CSS webkit-border rules. Icons/shortcuts to the
Web app on the home screen allow it to be launched in a similar way to native apps. Distribution for Web
apps is through a Web server, rather than from an app store. What does one sacrifice creating a Web app
rather than going native? Execution speed is likely to be slower and the user interface not as slick.
There will also be more limited access to the device hardware, including its camera, audio player or GPS.
These considerations may or may not be of consequence, depending on the nature of the application. They
may be outweighed by the advantage of creating one app which can be universally deployed. My second
year German students have been using for the past year a simple flashcard Web app I created, which is
linked both from the Blackboard course Web site and from an open, mobile-friendly link. This allows the
students to use the app both from desktop browsers and mobile devices, something not doable with native
iPhone or Android apps.
Another possibility is to create a hybrid app, a Web app which is then ported through a tool such as
PhoneGap to the native environment of the smartphone. This facilitates linking to some hardware features
of the device. It also allows for possible distribution through one of the app stores. A number of Web apps
created with PhoneGap are available from the various app stories. Creating a Web app for mobile
distribution through PhoneGap or similar tools such as Appcelerator Titanium can be much easier through
using templates such as those available from Mobile Boilerplate or by using a mobile-oriented JavaScript
library. Among the latter is jQuery Mobile, an extension to the popular and free jQuery library. Using
jQuery Mobile makes it easy to create parts of a Web app such as navigation, form elements, and page
transition effects without having to write the JavaScript oneself. It supports most smartphone platforms
(but not yet Windows Phone 7) and features progressive enhancement, meaning that its advanced features
degrade gracefully if not supported in a given mobile browser, while maintaining across all browsers the
same essential content and functionality. If not supported, for example, page transitions such as fading,
flipping or sliding will simply not appear, but the new page will still be displayed.
Another kind of mixed environment approach that is getting wide usage is the creation of Web-based
content that automatically re-formats itself for display on a small screen. This approach uses a feature of
CSS 3 called CSS media queries, which is widely supported on both mobile and desktop browsers. This
involves adding a tag to the HTML header to direct a Web browser to use a size appropriate CSS style, as
in the following example:
<link media=only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) href=mobile.css type=text/css
rel=stylesheet />
In this case the page formatting will be determined by the mobile.css style, rather than the main CSS
linked in the header of the page, if the device being used has a maximum width of 480 pixels. A similar
process has been possible for some time to enable optimization of a print copy of a Web page. What is
new here is the ability to specify a screen width to be used in connection with a particular style. A mock-
up of an online journal page from the Web design site A List Apart demonstrates this and displays
differently depending on screen width, with the pictures either displayed in 2 columns on a phone (480
pixels wide or less), 4 columns on a typical monitor (480 to 600 pixels) or 6 columns on a widescreen
monitor (wider than 600 pixels). The navigation buttons also change location depending on the screen
size, namely moving to the top for a small screen. While this approach has a number of devotees, others
advocate creating separate HTML pages for mobile devices. It is a trade-off between more complex code
which adjusts automatically to different screen size or simpler code which must be maintained and synced
in different file locations.
One approach that many language developers have used in the past in creating Web-based interactivity is

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Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learning

problematic in the mobile sphere, namely Flash. Traditionally, Flash has been used for video streaming,
animation, and for general interactivity. Flash is not likely to ever be supported on iOS devices, but it
does run on other mobile devices. Android 3.0 and some 2.x versions support Flash. However, Flash
performance on mobile devices is not as robust as it is on desktop platforms. It tends to run more slowly
and occasionally crashes the system on some devices, due mostly to memory issues. Adobe has been
working on better performance on mobile devices, and it seems likely performance will improve in the
near future. However, if its possible to use HTML 5 rather than Flashwhich may or may not be
possiblethat is advisable for the widest possible compatibility.


Complicating app development even more is the arrival of touchscreen tablets. The iPad, introduced in
2010, has been a phenomenal success for Apple, with sales far exceeding most expectations and eclipsing
sales of earlier tablet computers, which never caught on except in narrow niche markets. Apps developed
for the iPhone will also run on the iOS-based iPad but to take advantage of the larger screen need to be
modified, which may entail a revamping of the user interface. One of the first commercial language
learning apps designed specially for the iPad was the heavily marketed hello-hello app, available for
several different languages. Meanwhile, tablets from other manufacturers are becoming available, many
using the Android OS. The Android tablets vary in sizes, most either 7 or 10 inches, with likely more
variation in future models. Given this scenario, it seems all the more advisable for developers to consider
creating a Web app with a fluid grid that adjusts automatically to different environments. It looks likely
that tablets will be a popular product in the near future, so having language learning applications that
work in that environment seems highly desirable. Of course, a special use case may make creation of a
native app more appropriate, especially if the target audience has a marked predominance of one
platform, or if hardware linkage is an important part of the project. Its unfortunate that today in mobile
software development, we seem to have gone back to the days when developers had to make a choice that
excluded a large part of their possible market, as in deciding between Mac-based HyperCard or Windows
only Toolbook. The Web has been an environment which has brought peace to the platform religion wars
but we are starting to see a new war of words being waged between iOS and Android partisans.
As recently as 2007, a comprehensive review of mobile assisted language learning by Agnes Kukukska-
Hulme and Lesley Shield found that for the most part uses of mobile devices were pedestrian, uncreative,
and repetitive and did not take advantage of the mobility, peer connectivity, or advanced communication
features of mobile devices. Most activities were teacher-led and scheduled, not leveraging the anytime,
anyplace mobile environment. Oral interactions and learner collaboration were infrequently used. The
problem is less one of hardware/software shortcomings and more in developers conceptualization of how
language learning could be enhanced in new, innovative ways with the assistance of mobile devices. The
new mobile computing environment ushered in by the arrival of the iPhone gives us even more capability
of which to take advantage. It would be a shame to fall into only the same use patterns as in the past. In a
recent post to his mobile ESL blog, David Read describes what he would like to see in a language app. He
envisions a photo translation function that would make use of the built-in camera as a scanner to read in,
recognize, and translate items from menus, posters, or other realia, similar to how that works now in the
SnaPanda program (Android). He would also like to see new approaches to accessing language corpora
on small screens as well as ways to look up and display items simultaneously from a variety of online
dictionaries, with the added ability to add items from all these sourcesscanning, look-up, corporato a
personal word bank. It would be interesting to see such functions combined as well with an intelligent
tutoring system (ITS). A step in that direction is the TenseITS project (Cui & Bull, 2004) which featured
a mobile ITS using context and location of the user to determine which verbs to use in drill exercises. The
PDAs used in the project were hampered by limited memory capacity; the new generation of mobile
devices could make mobile ITS a more doable proposition. Chen and Li (2010) describe a project which
combines context/location awareness with a rudimentary kind of ITS, with content delivered based on a

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Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learning

users profile/learning history and current location. In this case location was determined by nodes in a
wide-area network, but GPS could also be used. With the good connectivity now available on mobile
devices, adding a social dimension to location-aware learning apps would be beneficial, allowing users to
share context-specific learning experiences.
It is not just the mobility, enhanced hardware, and better software of new mobile devices that should
encourage new thinking. The devices in and of themselves encourage a new kind of relationship between
user and machine. The responsive touchscreen interface seems to create a more personal, even intimate
connection, becoming part of ones personal identity. According to a recent report on creating mobile
apps from Forrester Research, the emotional bond often created is something to keep in mind when
developing mobile apps. The devices are more personal also in the sense that they are individually highly
customizable and small enough to be always within reach. Its also the case that both smartphones and
tablets tend to focus the attention more on one task at a time than is the case with regular computers.
Although multi-tasking to one degree or another is available on these devices, the screen size and touch
interface tend to invite users to focus exclusively on the program running in the foreground. For
educational uses, this may present a welcome opportunity to capture, at least for a short time, the full
attention of the learner. Desktop and laptop computers will continue to be used, but as mobile devices
proliferate, their use may change. Apple devices are still tied to using a computer for storage and syncing,
but the predominant movement these days is towards over-the-air syncing and resources residing in the
cloud rather than on a personal computer. With faster Internet connections, client-user interactions
through Ajax (JavaScript-based server interactions) or other means work faster and smoother, making it
possible to draw data more efficiently from online sources for smoother interactions in an ITS or other
program involving heavy data usage.
As personal devices, smartphones are ideal for individualized informal learning. The user determines
which apps to acquire and how to use them. As language educators, we should encourage and assist the
learner autonomy this enables and provide means for learners to combine formal and informal learning.
Song and Fox (2008) describe a project which features an open-ended, student-oriented approach to
vocabulary learning in which EFL students were provided access to and guidance on using a variety of
vocabulary building tools. The article describes the considerable variety of tools and approaches
eventually chosen by the students. This kind of activity becomes even more powerful when coupled with
the ability for students to show or discuss their methods and findings with their peers. The photo blogging
project described by Wong, Chin, Tan, and Liu (2010) involved students using iPhones to take photos to
illustrate Chinese idioms being studied and to share their photos and comments with the class through a
wiki. Students were encouraged to take photos based on their daily lives using their immediate
surroundings. This use of the students actual environment improves upon similar projects that have used
an artificial space such as a lab (Stockwell, 2008) or a classroom (Liu, 2009). We know that learning
becomes more real and permanent when tied to learners lives outside the academic environment. Mobile
devices are a great way to achieve that goal. Of course, its important to keep in mind that we are far from
seeing universal ownership of smartphonesthey are still too expensive for many budgets. Designing
exclusively for smartphone usage will necessarily exclude many users. Smartphone penetration will likely
gain worldwide in coming years, but not at the same pace everywhere. At the same time, phone and tablet
modelsboth hardware and softwarewill evolve from their current state. Given how competitive and
profitable that market has become, the pace of innovation is likely to be rapid. As mobile devices become
even more powerful and versatile, we are likely to see more users make them their primary, perhaps their
sole computing devices. This is not a trend language educators can ignore.

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Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learning

Beaudin, J. S., Intille, S. S., Tapia, E. M., Rockinson, R., & Morris, M. E. (2007). Context-sensitive
microlearning of foreign language vocabulary on a mobile device. In B. Schiele, A. K. Dey, H. Gellersen,
B. de Ruyter, M. Tscheligi, R. Wichert, E. Aarts, & A. Buchmann. (Eds.), Ambient intelligence (pp. 55
72). (Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science). Volume 4794/2007. Berlin: Springer.
Chen, C-M., & Li, Y-L. (2010). Personalized context-aware ubiquitous learning system for supporting
effective English vocabulary learning. Interactive Learning Environments, 18(4), 341364.
Chinnery, G. M. (2006). Going to the MALL: Mobile assisted language learning. Language Learning &
Technology, 10(1), 916. Retrieved from http://llt.msu.edu/vol10num1/pdf/emerging.pdf
Cui, Y., & Bull, S. (2005). Context and learner modelling for the mobile foreign language learner. System,
33, 353367.
Kukulska-Hulme, A., & Shield, L. (2007). An overview of mobile assisted language learning: Can mobile
devices support collaborative practice in speaking and listening? Paper presented at EuroCALL 2007,
Conference Virtual Strand, September, 2007. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
Liu, T.-Y. (2009). A context-aware ubiquitous learning environment for language listening and speaking.
Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(6), 515527.
Pemberton, L., Winter, M., & Fallahkhair, S. (2009). A user created content approach to mobile
knowledge sharing for advanced language learners. Proceedings of mLearn 2009, Orlando, Florida, 184
Song, Y., & Fox, R. (2008). Using PDA for undergraduate student incidental vocabulary testing.
European Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning, 20(3), 290314.
Stockwell, G. (2008). Investigating learner preparedness for and usage patterns of mobile learning.
ReCALL, 20(3), 253270.
Wong, L.-H., Chin, C.-K., Tan, C.-L., & Liu, M. (2010). Students personal and social meaning making
in a Chinese idiom mobile learning environment. Educational Technology & Society, 13(4), 1526.

Language Learning and Mobile Apps
Language Learning Applications for Smartphones, or Small Can Be Beautiful Clair Siskins list
Brief Review of Language Learning Apps HRC Blog
Learnosity Blog : Mobile Applications for Language Learning
Move Over, Rosetta Stone: Mobile Language Apps Make Learning Fun
Mobile Application for Language Learning MALL Research Project Report from the schools online
Cool Apps for Language Learning
50 iPhone Apps to Help You Learn a New Language
How Im using my iPad to learn languages

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Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learning

Google Docs gets Android, iPhone editing in 44 languages

Mobile Language Learning: Learn Japanese on the Go
Mobile ESL: My perfect language learning mobile app
TOTALe Companion For Rosetta Stone
Byki Mobile App
Quizlet App
Conjugation Nation Verb form app
WordReference.com app
CloudBank Project Crowd-sourcing project with Android app
App Development
Mobile application development Good introduction from Wikipedia
Mobile app development trends - what languages should you be learning? Nice overview of
different platforms
Mobile App Design Best Practices - Forrester Research Comprehensive but expensive
What is Android? | Android Developers Good starting point
iOS Development Center Starting point from Apple for developing iPhone and iPad apps
BlackBerry Developer Zone
WebOS Developer Center
Introduction to Windows Phone 7 Development)
How To Port an iPhone Application to the iPad
Greens Opinion: From iPhone to iPad: Creating a Universal Application
Web Apps and Mobile-friendly Web Publishing
Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 From the W3
ADL Mobile - Mobile Learning Research
Designing Web Sites for Phone Browsers Microsoft
New to Mobile? Welcome to the One Web Debate
Mobile Application Development: Web vs. Native - ACM Queue
Responsive Web Design or Separate Mobile Site? Eh. It Depends
A List Apart: Articles: Responsive Web Design
A Flexible Grid
jQTouch - jQuery plugin for mobile Web development
Sencha - Desktop and Mobile JavaScript Frameworks
Baker Ebook Framework

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Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learning

jQuery Mobile | jQuery Mobile

Nuance Mobile Developer Program: Dragon Mobile SDK
Need a Mobile Web App Template? Mobile Boilerplate 1.0 is Here
CSS3 Media Queries
css3-mediaqueries-js Library to use css media queries in supported browsers

Language Learning & Technology 11

Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2
http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2011/actionresearch.pdf pp. 1222

Melissa Baralt, Florida International University
Susan Pennestri, Georgetown University
Marie Selvandin, Georgetown University
This paper introduces readers to Wordle, a data visualization tool, and describes how word
clouds, or wordles generated by Wordle, were used in an action research project designed
to facilitate the teaching of foreign language (FL) writing within a dual coding theoretical
framework. Over the course of one semester, students in a third-semester university FL
Spanish course submitted drafts of their compositions electronically to create wordles
(word clouds). The wordles were then used as visual tools to discuss students' writing
development, writing strategies, and lexical acquisition. Word frequency counts along
with wordles also contributed to student-centered discussions about writing. The paper
concludes with a discussion of ways in which instructors can incorporate wordles into
their FL classrooms to facilitate the teaching of L2 writing, as well as use them as tools to
promote vocabulary development and communicative task-based teaching and learning.


Data visualization tools have recently generated increased interest in multiple disciplines due to their
ability to present and summarize data in ways that appeal to different types of learners. One type of data
visualization, word clouds, assists in accentuating the main points of text-based information. In a matter
of a few seconds, a word cloud highlights the main ideas by presenting words used in a text in the shape
of a cloud, with the biggest words being those that were most frequently employed in the text. While
numerous ideas exist for the potential of word clouds, there is relatively little research on whether and
how they can facilitate the teaching and learning of vocabulary. No study exists to date that explores their
potential in the FL classroom. In examining one type of data visualization tool for word clouds, Wordle,
the present paper aims to fill this gap by carrying out an action research project during which wordles
were incorporated into a Spanish foreign language (FL) classroom. The project had two goals: to facilitate
the teaching of writing in class and to improve students writing in the FL.
The first part of the paper that reports on this project contains a brief discussion of data visualization as a
learning tool by specifically examining word clouds and how they have been used in previous research.
The second part describes an action research project conducted by the authors using Wordle. The final
section discusses the outcome of the project and provides suggestions for incorporating word clouds into
the FL classroom. Throughout the paper, the term wordle is used to refer to a word cloud in general, while
the capitalized term Wordle refers to the specific application tool created by Jonathan Feinberg (2009).
Data Visualization
Data visualization refers to the use of tools for representing data in the form of charts, maps, tag clouds,
animation, or any graphical means that make content easier to understand (Barret, 2010). It serves as a
way to communicate information clearly and effectively through visual representation, sometimes even
via animated multimedia (see Friendly, 2008, for an excellent review of the history of data visualization
through the centuries). Over the past few years, the use of data visualizations has increased rapidly in
academia and in other contexts. These tools can help facilitate the understanding of complex events or
phenomena because they present data in a multimodal way, incorporating visual, phonological, textual,
and even animated input. For example, data visualization was used to report on the 2010 midterm
elections in the United States (see CNN video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnPjjAfcIgI).

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Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordles

It is only recently that data visualization has become more accessible to the general public. Using widely
available Web 2.0 tools, users can now easily create data visualizations without needing to know the
technology used to create word cloud output. Creating data visualizations is now as easy as pasting
information into a browsers window and choosing an output style, thanks to the many Websites that
provide these tools for free to the public.
Word clouds are one of the most popular forms of data visualization. A word cloud, also called text cloud
or tag cloud, is a visual representation of word frequency. The size of each word in a cloud depends on
how many times it appears throughout the text. As the frequency of the word increases, the size of the
word in the cloud becomes larger as well. The importance of a word is thus visualized in the cloud
according to its font size. A number of free word cloud tools are available, such as Tagxedo, Tagul,
Wordsift, and Tag Crowd. One of the most popular word cloud generators is Wordle, created by IBM
developer Jonathan Feinberg. Feinberg also built Word-Cloud Generator (WCG), the tool found in the
widely-known interactive data visualization site called Many Eyes (http://www-
Defined by Feinberg as a toy, Wordle is used by many for its simplicity and its visually appealing
results. Users simply need to copy text from any source and paste it into Wordle, which performs
statistical analyses of the text and organizes it by word frequency. Users can then change the font, shape
and color scheme of the resulting image, remove any unwanted words, and view the total word frequency
counts in a separate chart. Figure 1 below shows a word cloud created by the authors using Wordle.

Figure 1. Example word cloud from Wordle.net (created by the authors).

Word Clouds in Research
Only a small number of studies (Cidell, 2010; McNaught & Lam, 2010; Pendergast, 2010; Ramsden &
Bate, 2008) has conducted research with word clouds, all within the last four years. Pendergast (2010)
used tag clouds to perform an analysis of the most commonly used terms from documents published by
the American Association for Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), creating what she referred to as a
folksonomy of texts (p. 292-3). She showed that the clouds revealed a visual hierarchy of text, and
concluded by suggesting that tag clouds be included on Websites next to the published documents.
Pendergast argued that doing so would appeal to multiple generations, including the millennials, who,
according to her, are multiliterate and tend to prefer visual over textual information (p. 297).

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Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordles

Cidell (2010) suggested that content clouds may serve as a form of exploratory qualitative data analysis
(p. 516). She carried out a study with geographical data from public meeting transcripts and newspaper
articles about green buildings. Using both visual content clouds and word frequency reports to carry out
two case studies, Cidell showed visually how the same environmental issues are understood in different
ways across the country. McNaught and Lam (2010) also supported the use of word clouds, arguing that
they can be used as supplementary research tools for the triangulation of data (i.e., using multiple
methods and data sources to obtain a more reliable picture of the phenomenon being explored). They
carried out a study in which transcripts from two student focus groups, Chinese secondary school science
students and second year law students, were analyzed. The researchers used Wordle to assess students
blog entries about their educational experiences as well as the use of ebooks. They were able to
demonstrate the vast differences among student experiences, as well as to qualitatively corroborate their
quantitative findings about students perception of the value of both the focus groups and ebooks. Finally,
Ramsden and Bate (2008) discussed the potential for word clouds to contribute to the field of education.
They described how word clouds can be used to examine teacher responses to a survey about podcasting
in educational contexts. The authors concluded by suggesting other uses for wordles (e.g., gathering
informal feedback during large group instruction), as well as considerations teachers should take into
account when creating word clouds, for example, the selection of software, data preparation, and how to
interpret a word cloud.
Word Clouds in Education
To our knowledge, there is currently no research on the implementation of word clouds in the classroom.
Rather, there are resources and suggestions for teachers on how to use word clouds. For example, Mehta
(2007) created a Website that uses word clouds to analyze the speeches of U.S. presidents called U.S.
Presidential Speeches Tag Clouds. Users can drag a timeline cursor to compare the frequency and trends
of word use by all of the presidents. Another example is the Website www.gapminder.org, which has a
section entirely dedicated to materials for teachers, such as the data visualization graph of wealth and
health of nations. Not surprisingly, most literature on ways that teachers might incorporate word clouds is
available on the Internet, typically in the form of blogs. One of the most detailed blogs with ideas for
teachers is the Website The Clever Sheep, maintained by a Canadian high school teacher Rodd Lucier
who proposes a number of educational uses for word clouds (Lucier, 2008).
Dual Coding Hypothesis
The theoretical framework for using wordles in the classroom is based on the dual coding hypothesis
(Paivio, 1986). Engaging in class-based discussion about the meaning of words while simultaneously
being able to look at them in a wordle, thus presenting learners with visual and auditory input
concurrently, may help them to process and to retain vocabulary more effectively. According to Paivios
Dual Coding Theory, as well as to recent empirical findings about the way in which human brains process
information (see Sousa, 2006, for a review), both verbal and nonverbal knowledge contribute to lexical
representation of words in the mind. In reviewing what brain research tells us about second language
learning, Genesee (2000) explains that as connections are formed among adjacent neurons to form
circuits, connections also begin to form with neurons in other regions of the brain that are associated with
visual, tactile, and even olfactory information related to the sounds of words (p. 2). Using multimedia-
based input in class such as wordles should facilitate learners ability to make meaningful connections
among written, oral, and visual information, since the dual coding theory postulates that the mind
processes and encodes information in multiple ways. There is clearly a need, then, for studies that show
whether and if so, how, word clouds can enhance teaching and learning. The present study sought to
address this need by carrying out an action research project exploring the potential of word clouds in a FL
classroom context.

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Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordles


To investigate the potential of word clouds in a FL classroom, an action research project was designed
using Wordle to enhance essay-writing skills in an intermediate-level FL Spanish class. The steps used in
the present project were adapted from Mackey and Gasss (2005) explanation of action research,
specifically to (a) incorporate wordles in the FL classroom to facilitate the teaching of writing in
Spanish and (b) improve students FL writing. To follow is a description of the classroom context and
each step taken during the research project.
Classroom Context
Wordles were incorporated into an Intermediate-level Spanish FL class at a private research university. In
a class of 18 students, which met for 50 minutes three times a week, students were assigned
communicative tasks to perform with their peers in order to practice newly learned vocabulary and
grammar. Students were also regularly assessed in speaking, reading, listening and writing.
For the writing component, students wrote four compositions throughout the semester, each with two
drafts. Some days of instruction were designated for in-class writing workshops that served as an
opportunity for discussing the writing process and writing strategies, and also for receiving instructor and
peer feedback. The writing workshops were conducted as a class and were typically divided into two
parts. During the first half of the workshop (25 minutes), the instructor discussed with students how to
write in different genres such as narration, argumentation, and presentation in Spanish. Spanish transition
words, such as paragraph markers, were presented, as well as writing techniques and formats that students
could employ in their essays. The instructor also dedicated time to review common intermediate-level
errors in writing. During the second half of the workshop (25 minutes), students worked in pairs to
develop and discuss their essay topics, work on outlines, and ask questions. The writing workshops were
conducted in Spanish.
All four composition topics covered cultural themes introduced in the course. Students were expected to
be able to: present information formally with an introduction, supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion;
use accurate grammar; and incorporate the instructors feedback into their writing. These expectations
were clearly communicated to the students.
Action Research Stage 1: Identification of the Problem and Hypothesis
The instructor observed two main issues in students writing, which served as the foci of the current
project: (1) continuous repetition of errors in students essays, and (2) students reliance on high
frequency words, without trying to incorporate new ones into their writing. In other words, students rarely
employed new vocabulary, relying instead on the same words. Below are some examples from student
Pienso que estereotipos no estn basados en la realidad por muchos razones. Primero, un estereotipo
que pienso que no es cierto es el estereotipo que atletas son brutos y no son inteligentes. Un otro
estereotipo es que personas gordas son gordas porque no hacen ejercicio; este tambin es falso por
muchas razones. Muchas personas piensan que ...
I think that stereotypes are not based on reality for many reasons. First, a stereotype that I think is
not certain is the stereotype that athletes are dumb and are not intelligent. One other stereotype is that
fat people are fat because they do not do exercise; this is also false for many reasons. Many people
think that
Note that the verb pensar to think is used three times; the adjective mucho many three times, and the
un otro one other is used instead of otro another, a common error. Despite class discussions about the
use of new lexical items, students often relied on words with which they were most comfortable. The
instructor therefore wanted to develop a more student-centered way to promote more lexical creativity

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Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordles

and grammatical accuracy. In consultation with the instructional technology staff, the instructor decided
to use wordles as a teaching tool during the writing workshops. Because wordles are used for visualizing
the text and could be based on the students own compositions, the instructor hypothesized that their use
could have a positive effect on student writing.
Action Research Stage 2: Data Collection
Data collection for this action research project came from three sources. First, at each draft stage, the
instructor used Wordle to create one whole-class-based wordle as well as a word frequency count from all
of the students compositions. Second, after each writing workshop, the instructor wrote a teaching
reflection about the class discussion and how students responded to the wordles. Lastly, at the end of the
semester, the instructor asked students about their own perceptions of the use of Wordle for the writing
For the second composition, students were asked to submit their first draft to the instructor electronically.
Using Wordle, the instructor then created a single wordle based on all the students compositions. During
the next class meeting and writing workshop, the instructor showed the resulting wordle to the class.

Figure 2. Students first wordle for draft one of composition two.

Figure 3. Students wordle for the second draft of composition two.

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Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordles

As can be seen in the wordle in Figure 2, the largest words were those most frequently used in the
students writing. Using the wordle, the students and the instructor engaged in a dialogue about
vocabulary items they had used, the different tenses, and even themes that their peers had written about.
The class discussion during the workshop was therefore focused entirely on the students own use of
words. By examining the wordle in Figure 2 as a visual representation of the students own writing, the
instructor addressed issues in writing in a way that was based primarily on the students written
production instead of the teachers feedback. Together, the class then came up with the goal of having
students use five new vocabulary words in their second composition draft. For the next writing workshop,
students again sent their second draft electronically to the instructor. Figure 3 shows the wordle from the
second draft of the second composition.
This wordle showed that more words were used in the second draft than in the first one. To provide
additional evidence, the instructor used the show word counts tool on the Wordle Website to create a
corpus count of every word used in all 18 student compositions (Figure 4). While the total number of
word types that students as a class used in their first draft was 1,134, the second draft word count was 1,
258. Furthermore, in addition to showing the total number of word types used by the students, the
instructor showed them the frequency of each word. For example, in the first draft, the high frequency
word mucho many was used 48 times across students compositions. In the second draft, it was used
only 21 times, meaning that students were using different adjectives in their writing. Both tools also
showed students how many tenses they had produced, the different uses of adjectives, and how they
showed grammatical agreement. The word frequency list also allowed the class to discuss topics in
orthography: in scrolling down the word count list, a student pointed out that observaciones
observations was listed twice. A closer examination revealed that across all 18 compositions, there were
two uses of observaciones and two uses of observacines with an accent mark on the penultimate
syllable. Students then inquired about which was correct, noticing their equal frequency. The instructor
invited students to brainstorm about syllabification rules in groups. As a class, the students concluded that
the single form observacin has an accent, but maybe the plural form does not need one. This allowed the
instructor to briefly discuss accentuation in a way that was based on the students own writing. To
conclude workshop 2, students established further goals for their next composition: a continued
incorporation of new vocabulary words as well as the use of tenses besides only the present and past. One
student also reminded the class to think about accent marks when an extra syllable is added to the word.
Goals, therefore, were student-generated for the next composition and writing workshop.
In the third composition, students writing continued to improve in the areas of grammatical complexity,
accuracy, and use of new vocabulary, as indicated by an improvement in the average composition grade
calculated with a rubric in these three areas, among others. Anecdotally, students reported to the instructor
that they enjoyed the Wordle tool and looked forward to seeing the class wordle getting bigger with each
successive draft. By the third composition, the whole-class wordle contained 1,476 word types. Some
students used new vocabulary that had specifically come up during the class discussions of their writing.
There was also a notable decrease in the use of commonly used words, such as mucho many, pienso que
I think that, and personas persons. The wordle helped to discourage use of common words, because
students knew that they would show up in the class wordles. The end goal of seeing the wordle grow
promoted the incorporation of new lexical items in their FL writing.

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Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordles

Figure 4. Excerpt from word frequency count (produced by the same Wordle tool).
One incident that took place during a conversation about the students third composition was particularly
revealing. The name Bob was present in the second wordle (composition 3, draft 2). During the following
writing workshop, the instructor asked students to identify any words they did not recognize in the
wordle, and then invited the authors who had used those words to define them in class. A student raised
his hand and asked Quin es Bob? (Who is Bob?). After much laughter from the class, the student
who had written about Bob explained that Bob was his uncle who had dressed up as a clown one year for
his birthday. Notably, this excerpt had an error in it: the students first draft contained the erroneous form
vesti, dressed, which the instructor corrected to se visti (irregular spelling and reflexive form). The
student, while telling the class about Bob, produced the correct form (se visti) and went on to explain
that this irregular verb had been corrected in his first composition, but that he had remembered the correct
form. The humorous conversation about Bob turned into a form-focused incident during which the
student himself drew attention to a linguistic form in front of the whole class. Thus, a students
observation resulted in another students consideration of grammatical accuracy, while sharing a
meaningful story. This moment in class illustrated how opportunities to talk about the writing process,
grammar, and feedback, namely, the instructors corrections of students compositions, were facilitated by
the use of wordles.
By the fourth composition, the wordle for students compositions had grown by another 50 words, as can
be seen in Figure 5. Not only were students using more vocabulary in their writing, they also were
employing and trying out new grammatical tenses, as demonstrated by both the wordle and corpus word
frequency count.

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Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordles

Figure 5. Students wordle for final composition.

For example, the first wordle and word frequency count showed that students employed only the present
and past tense; however, by the fourth composition, they were using the present, past, future, perfect
tenses, and even the present subjunctive. Though the addition of these tenses and moods was a function of
new grammar learned during the semester, the wordles helped to show how much students had learned
and how much they could express in writing by the end of the semester. It is important to point out that
the very mechanisms of their writing served as the focal points of their own class discussions about the
writing process.
Action Research Stage 3: Qualitative Evaluation of the Effects of Wordle
At the end of the semester, the instructor asked students to share their thoughts about the use of Wordle
and whether or not they thought it was an effective tool to learn about writing in Spanish. Students were
asked to write their opinions anonymously. 100% of the students thought that the use of Wordle was
worthwhile and that it was a valuable tool to help them improve their writing. Many credited the wordles
with making the writing workshops much more enjoyable and interesting than traditional ones. Students
also made reference to the visual component of wordles. Below are some student comments:
I really like the wordles. They were fun and different. They also were interesting in that they
showed me what everyone else was writing about. I got to know my classmates a little better.
The wordles definitely helped me in my writing. I especially liked that [the instructor] actually
showed us how many more words we were writing with, how our grammar was improving for me,
having something visual just helps me more.
Using wordles for me was better because it made the writing workshop days more interesting. I
normally hate writing workshop days! The visual of what everyone was writing about made it more
What I liked was that it was a way of making art from our class compositions. It made me more
interested in writing, and I can honestly say I learned some words by studying the wordles.
These student comments corroborated perceptions expressed in the teaching reflection journal kept by the
instructor. After the first writing workshop, the instructor reflected on how she felt and how students
seemed to respond:
Today I felt like I really was able to get them interested in writing in Spanish! They seemed to come
alive when I showed them the wordle and explained that it was made up of every one of their
compositions. For the first time I felt like I wasnt up there in front of the class lecturing about

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Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordles

writing. Writing workshops are sometimes difficult for me in that sense, because its hard to make the
very topic of writing be student-centered and communicative. They seemed so interested and so much
more willing to talk about their compositions, and I was able to use the wordle to get them to initiate
the discussion. This definitely started by talking about the vocabulary they used, asking which words
they recognized and which they didnt. I think the word frequency count will help tooIm going to
try that next time and see how they react to it. The best part of today though, was the fact that the
students came up with goals to improve the next round of compositions. This made me ecstatic,
because I wasnt telling them what to dothey thought of the ideas themselves.
By the end of the semester, the instructor wrote the following as a conclusion to the action research
I feel like I have finally found something to really enhance my teaching about writing. The wordles
were an excellent way to help me teach more effectively this semester, because I felt that I was
connecting with my students better. As Ive taught this class before, I definitely feel that wordles
assisted in obtaining better writing on behalf of the students too. They were fun, were visual, and
were created from the students work they helped me to motivate my students about writing.
The instructors impression of the use of wordles to assist in teaching about FL writing was very similar
to that of the students: effective, novel, and enjoyable. Not only did the class discussions and workshop
days become more student-centered, students also improved in their writing by incorporating new
vocabulary into their essays, using grammar more accurately, and incorporating more content in their
writing. Both the instructor and students had positive perceptions of wordles, confirming the instructors
hypothesis that wordles could be an effective tool for improving student writing.

This action research project was designed to address problems in students FL writing as identified by the
instructor, as well as to improve instruction in writing workshops. The incorporation of wordles into the
classroom as an instructional tool resulted in the students using more varied vocabulary, more verb tenses,
and more accurate grammar in their writing. In addition, feedback on students perceptions of wordle as a
tool to help them improve their writing was very positive. From the instructors perspective, wordles
enhanced the teaching of writing workshops and made them more effective and student-centered.
Other Uses of Word Clouds in the FL Classroom
The action research project described above demonstrated how word clouds can be used to facilitate the
teaching of FL writing. However, they can certainly be employed as well for other languages, purposes,
and for different types of tasks in FL instruction. For example, the Wordle application also supports
Cyrillic, Devanagari, Hebrew, Arabic, and Greek scripts, and therefore can be used for many other
foreign languages. To conclude, we would like to propose further suggestions for FL instructors such as:
Vocabulary Development
Instructors can create wordles from a text and have students learn and be tested on new words. For
example, instructors can create a word cloud from a news article and use it to start an in-class
conversation about current events. Students can use the word cloud visual to ask questions about words
they might not know and/or as a means of input when discussing current events.
Pre-communicative Task Phase
Instructors can use word clouds during the pre-task phase of communicative tasks for which students are
required to use new vocabulary. Students can be given a few minutes to study the word cloud and ask
questions; they can then continue to refer to it as a visual means of vocabulary assistance while engaging
in conversational interaction.

Language Learning & Technology 20

Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordles

Pre-reading Activity
Students can engage in discussions using key words produced in a word cloud and make predictions
about the content before reading the actual text.
Students can use word clouds to generate ideas for new writing topics and/or themes.
Students can use Wordle as a reflective tool for writing projects. For example, a wordle can be created for
each essay that a class writes; wordles could be displayed as art forms illustrating the different genres and
topics the class wrote about.
Instructors can create word clouds from students individual essays and use them for self-assessment
purposes. Similar to the present study, the resulting word clouds as well as word frequency counts can
show students individual progress towards improving their vocabulary. The source of text could derive
from blog posts as opposed to essays; this could be especially relevant for online classes.
Define Main Ideas
Students can use Wordle to make a word cloud out of a speech or newspaper article in the target language
to discover and highlight the main ideas.


In this action research project, wordles helped the instructor to foster more student-centered discussion of
writing in class. In addition, they helped students to improve their writing. This study also aimed to
contribute to the body of literature on emerging technology, in this case, wordles as data visualization
A limitation of this study is its possible lack of generalizability. Findings in action research projects are
typically relevant to the specific class under investigation, its students, and its own unique characteristics.
While the use of wordles was successful in the current project, it may yield different results in other
classrooms, contexts, and even languages. In addition, any instructor who wants to use Wordle must have
a Java-enabled Web browser. If the in-class computer does not have java applets, the instructor may need
to take a screen shot of the wordle before class. Finally, the algorithm used by Wordle automatically
eliminates common words unless the instructor turns off this option. It is possible that common
words are treated differently across languages.
While this study is classroom-specific, our goal is to share the results of the project with other FL
instructors so that they too can consider the implementation of word clouds as well as other forms of data
visualization tools in their classrooms. Further empirical studies, action research projects, and even
classroom tasks are needed so that we learn more about how data visualization tools afford opportunities
for teaching and learning in a variety of contexts and languages.


Melissa Baralt is an Assistant Professor of Spanish Applied Linguistics at Florida International University
in Miami, Florida. She does research in second language acquisition, bilingualism, and task-based
language learning that involves technology.
E-mail: mbaralt@fiu.edu

Language Learning & Technology 21

Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordles

Susan Pennestri is an Instructional Technologist at the Center for New Designs in Learning and
Scholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She works with faculty across all
disciplines to enhance instruction through the use of technology in ways that are pedagogically
E-mail: sqp@georgetown.edu
Marie Selvanadin is a Web Application Developer at the Center for New Designs in Learning and
Scholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She designs and develops Web
applications that meet the pedagogical needs of faculty members, as well as research on new Web
E-mail: mks49@georgetown.edu

Barret, T. (2010). Forty-five interesting ways* to use Wordle in the classroom [Slideshare slides].
Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/boazchoi/fortyfive-interesting-ways-to-use-wordle-in-the-
Cidell, J. (2010). Content clouds as exploratory qualitative data analysis. AREA, 42, 51423.
Educause (2009). 7 things you should know aboutData Visualization II. Retrieved from
Feinberg, J. (2009). Wordle. Retrieved from http://www.wordle.net/
Friendly, M. (2008). A brief history of data visualization. In C.-H. Chen, W. K. Hrdle, & A. Unwin
(Eds.), Handbook of computational statistics: Data visualization (pp. 1556). New York: Springer.
Genesee, F. (2000). Brain research: Implications for second language learning. Eric Digest, EDO-FL-
00012, 12. Retrieved from http://www.cal.org/resources/digest/0012brain.html
Lucier, R. (2008). Top 20 uses for Wordle. Retrieved from http://thecleversheep.blogspot.com/
Mackey, A., & Gass, S. M. (2005). Second language research: Methodology and design. Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Mehta, C. (2007). US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud. Retrieved from http://chir.ag/projects/preztags/
McNaught, C., & Lam, P. (2010). Using Wordle as a supplementary research tool. The Qualitative Report,
15(3), 630643. Retrieved from http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/
Paivio, A. (1986). Mental representation: A dual-coding approach. New York: Cambridge University
Pendergast, D. (2010). Connecting with Millennials: Using tag clouds to build a folksonomy from key
home economics documents. Family & Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 38, 289302.
Ramsden, A., & Bate, A. (2008). Using word clouds in teaching and learning. Retrieved from
Sousa, D. A. (2006). How the brain learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Language Learning & Technology 22

Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2
http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2011/news.pdf pp. 2326


University of Hawaii National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC)
Michigan State University Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR)
Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)

University of Hawaii National Foreign Language Resource

Center (NFLRC)

The University of Hawaii National Foreign Language Resource Center engages in research and materials
development projects and conducts workshops and conferences for language professionals among its
many activities.

Our 2011 Summer Institute on Online Learning Communities for Less Commonly Taught
Languages will bring together faculty from participating institutions to build language-specific online
cafs. Participants will structure thematic caf content rubrics, participate in training sessions on research-
based pedagogical best practices for facilitating online learning communities, and practice technical skills
needed to host cafs on the BRIX courseware system and to deploy tag cloud technology, skills that will
enable them to fashion online learning communities to achieve a variety of specific purposes.
The Chinese, Korean, and Russian Flagship Cafs will combine Flagship students at domestic sites and
study abroad sites, allowing second-year students to act as mentors for first-year students preparing for
their upcoming international experience, further improving their language and networking skills. The
International Teacher Development Caf for Samoan Educators will facilitate the sharing of ideas,
research, and materials among teachers across the Pacific in the US, Samoa, and New Zealand. The
Japanese for International Business Caf will serve as a virtual support group and networking venue for
MBA students conducting their overseas internships throughout Japan. Each caf will serve as a model
for developing similar cafs in the future.
Interested in finding out more about online cafs or creating your own? Visit our Online Cafs resource


Did you know that the NFLRC has its own Facebook page? Its one of the best ways to hear about the
latest news, publications, conferences, workshops, and resources we offer. Just click on the Like button
to become a fan. For those who prefer getting up-to-the-minute tweets, you can follow us on our
Twitter page. Finally, NFLRC has its own YouTube channel with a growing collection of free language
learning and teaching videos for your perusal. Subscribe today!

Language Learning & Technology 23

News from Our Sponsoring Organizations


O Fi Faatmua o Smoa mai Tala o le Vavau by Aumua Mataitusi Simanu
More so than most other Polynesian languages, the Samoan language is highly
stratified. The common spoken form of Samoan used among friends and peers,
for example, would be inappropriate for public speaking at both traditional and
non-traditional gatherings. At these kinds of events, Gagana Faaaloalo (Respect
Language) and Gagana Faafailuga (Chiefly Language/Oratory) are used. Both
of these speech registers interweave into the language references to Samoan
history, genealogies, and, more recently, the Christian bible. The first book in
this series, O si Manu a Alii, was written primarily to provide linguistic
background for these registers. This second book, O Fi Faatmua o Smoa
mai Tala o le Vavau, provides the core knowledge necessary to understand the
high level of interplay in Samoan oratory between language and history.
Check out our many other publications.


Language Learning & Technology is a refereed online journal, jointly sponsored by the
University of Hawaii NFLRC and the Michigan State University Center for Language
Education and Research (CLEAR). LLT focuses on issues related to technology and language
education. For more information on submission guidelines, visit the LLT submissions page.
Language Documentation & Conservation is a fully refereed, open-access journal sponsored
by NFLRC and published exclusively in electronic form by the University of Hawaii Press.
LD&C publishes papers on all topics related to language documentation and conservation.
For more information on submission guidelines, visit the LD&C submissions page.
Reading in a Foreign Language is a refereed online journal, jointly sponsored by the
University of Hawaii NFLRC and the Department of Second Language Studies. RFL serves
as an excellent source for the latest developments in the field, both theoretical and pedagogic,
including improving standards for foreign language reading. For more information on
submission guidelines, visit the RFL submissions page.
Michigan State University Center for Language Education
and Research (CLEAR)
CLEARs mission is to promote the teaching and learning of foreign languages in the United States.
Projects focus on materials development, professional development training, and foreign language

Four professional development workshops are slated for July 2011. The application deadline is June 1, so
hurry to choose your courses:
Rich Internet Applications for Language Learning: Introductory Techniques
Adding Variety to Reading and Vocabulary Lessons
Project-Based Learning in the Language Classroom
Using Video to Promote Language Development in the Classroom

Language Learning & Technology 24

News from Our Sponsoring Organizations

Detailed information on all workshops can be found on our Web site.


We have recently released our new Introductory Business Chinese CD-ROM. The software is intended
mainly for use by those who have little or no knowledge of the Chinese language but who, for any
number of different reasons, wish to learn more about business and economics in the Chinese

CLEAR is developing several new products during our fifth funding cycle. Check our Web site for
updates on new products and services. Some of our upcoming projects include:
Professional development webinars on diverse topics
Online videos for language teaching techniques
Online listening and speaking tests for LCTLs
Applications for language learning on mobile devices

CLEAR exhibits at local and national conferences year-round. We hope to see you at ACTFL, CALICO,
MIWLA, Central States, and other conferences.

CLEAR News is a free bi-yearly publication covering FL teaching techniques, research, and materials.
Download PDFs of back issues and subscribe at http://clear.msu.edu/clear/newsletter/.

The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)

The Center for Applied Linguistics is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes and improves the
teaching and learning of languages, identifies and solves problems related to language and culture, and
serves as a resource for information about language and culture. CAL carries out a wide range of
activities in the fields of English as a second language, foreign languages, cultural education, and
Featured Resources:
Language Policy Research Network (LPREN)
CAL is pleased to host the Language Policy Research Network (LPREN), created in 2006 by the
Research Networks committee of the Association Internationale de Linguistique Applique,
(International Association of Applied Linguistics). Visit the LPREN Web site to learn more or to
join the e-mail discussion group.
CAL News
CAL News is our electronic newsletter created to provide periodic updates about our projects and
research as well as information about new publications, online resources, products, and services
of interest to our readers. Visit our Web site to sign up.

Language Learning & Technology 25

News from Our Sponsoring Organizations

Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages

Visit the Alliance Web site to browse the Heritage Language Program Profiles, view the Heritage
Voices Collection, and sign up to receive the quarterly electronic newsletter, Alliance News

Center for Research on the Educational Achievement and Teaching of English Language
Learners (CREATE)
Visit the CREATE Web site to learn more about CREATE, its research, free resources, and
upcoming November 2011 conference.

CAL SIOP Professional Development Services

CAL works with schools, states, and districts to design and deliver high-quality, client-centered
professional development services on the SIOP Model.

CAL Solutions: Adult ESL Education

This new Web site provides access to evidence-based resources and practical tools for
practitioners working with the growing population of adult English language learners throughout
the United States.
CAL Solutions: PreK-12 ELL Education
CAL provides a variety of professional development and technical assistance services related to
language education and assessment needs. In order to meet the growing demand from K-8
educators for training material on teaching reading to English language learners, CAL continues
to offer its successful series of institutes in Washington, DC, in June and July 2011.
Featured Publications:
Connecting Diverse Cultures: A Video Guide for A New Day and Be Who You Are
Improving Education for English Language Learners: Research-Based Approaches
Education for Adult English Language Learners in the United States: Trends, Research, and
Promising Practices
Foreign Language Teaching in U.S. Schools: Results of a National Survey
Realizing the Vision of Two-Way Immersion: Fostering Effective Programs and Classrooms
Using the SIOP Model: Professional Development Manual for Sheltered Instruction
Whats Different About Teaching Reading to Students Learning English?

Visit CALs Website to learn more about our projects, resources, and services.

Language Learning & Technology 26

Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2
http:/llt.msu.edu/vol15num2/review1.pdf pp. 2733


Title Moodle 2.0
Platform Mac OS X, Windows, Linux
Minimum hardware Disk Space: 160MB free (min)
requirements Memory: 256MB (min), 1GB (recommended)
Publisher (with contact http://moodle.org
Support offered Context help, Moodle Docs, Moodle Tracker, Moodle.org Forum, Moodle
Partners, self-help tutorials, and Moodle on social network sites
Target language Multiple languages (more than 70 languages)
Target audience Any level of students
Price Free

Review by Tsun-Ju Lin, Washington State University

With the rapid increase of digital technologies and the popularity of the Internet in recent years, a new
definition of literacy has emerged. New literacies extend beyond traditionally held views of literacy as
the ability to read and write to include an expanded definition, which includes a wide range of skills: the
ability to locate and evaluate information effectively and efficiently; facility with making meaning by
aligning new information with prior knowledge; and an ability to synthesize, critically analyze, and create
new information within the context of larger social practices (Coiro, 2003; Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, &
Leu, 2008; Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009). In order to help students acquire new literacies, it is
essential to engage learners in developing deep cognitive processing, to activate their prior knowledge, to
promote collaborative inquiry, and to encourage creativity in all language skills (Cummins, Brown, &
Sayers, 2007). This review evaluates the potential of Moodle 2.0 for helping students master such a wide
range of abilities and competencies by examining Moodle 2.0 using the following guiding criteria adapted
from Cummins and his colleagues (2007):
1. Providing cognitive challenges and opportunities for deep processing of meaning
2. Relating instruction to prior knowledge and experiences
3. Promoting active self-regulated collaborative inquiry
4. Encouraging extensive involvement in all language skills
5. Developing multiple strategies for effective language learning
6. Promoting identity investment


Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) is a free and open-source course
management system based on the social constructionist model of pedagogy. The design of Moodle
emphasizes creating collaborative interaction and student-centered online learning environments. The
open network allows any interested users to contribute their ideas, information, and support, and also to
create additional modules and features that allow unlimited innovation. Moodle has been described as
software created through participation rather than via publishing (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006, p. 45).
Due to the involvement of the community, a newer version of Moodle (Moodle 2.0) was released in 2010,
and this revised version includes many new features. Although itemizing every change is beyond the
scope of this review, the new features have resulted in a management system that is more personalized

Copyright 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 27

Tsun-Ju Lin Review of Moodle 2.0

(e.g., my private files, and an improved My Moodle page); more user-friendly (e.g., portfolio support,
repository support file picker, and a new HTML editor); more organized (e.g., themes, quiz navigation,
flagging questions, question bank, tagging, and blocks); more educationally challenging (e.g., course
completion and prerequisites, rewritten Wiki and workshop modules, and enablement of conditional
activities); and more collaborative (e.g., comments, ratings, and community hubs).


Examining Moodle 2.0 with the six principles proposed by Cummins et al. (2007) reveals several positive
strengths and some potential challenges.
Providing Cognitive Challenges and Opportunities for Deep Processing of Meaning.
Opportunities for cognitively challenging activities can be provided in different Moodle modules and
plug-ins that instruct language learners to think about and represent particular topics in multiple ways. To
take just one example, the glossary module gives opportunities for participants to create and organize a
list of definitions, such as an online word library. Individuals can determine how the information is
organized (e.g., keywords and categories) and represented in post-typographic formats (e.g., videos,
graphics, audios, texts, etc.) in order to make a shared sense or meaning for the community (see Figure 1
for an example of a glossary module). With Moodle 2.0, multiple glossary definitions can be rated and
commented on by users to negotiate and evaluate each others work. The active and in-depth processing
of new or unfamiliar vocabulary promotes both higher-order thinking and lower-order thinking
(Cummins et al., 2007). This instruction of vocabulary via the learners arguably helps them develop depth
and breadth of vocabulary knowledge.

Figure 1. Example of a glossary module used in a Spanish class.

In another example, a forum module is a useful space for stimulating discussion by using post-
typographical formats. The main contribution of this module is that learners get to decide the flow of the
content, while the role of the instructor can be as facilitator rather than as primary information giver. This
module can enable learners to bring different perspectives and knowledge to a theme, thus promoting the
abilities of meaning negotiation and critical thinking.
Additionally, instructors can also have learners create questions to assess each others comprehension by
utilizing a quiz module, including a variety of question types (e.g., multiple-choice, matching, short
answer, ordering, true/false, and more). The process of student creation provides an opportunity for

Language Learning & Technology 28

Tsun-Ju Lin Review of Moodle 2.0

students to synthesize, critically analyze, and create new ways of transforming information. Notably, the
activity not only allows students to decide what is important but also can potentially empower them as
learners and thinkers by offering opportunity for greater autonomy. However, to create such a meaningful
problem-solving activity is complicated, time-consuming, and may require technical support (e.g., basic
HTML knowledge).
Relating Instruction to Prior Knowledge and Experiences.
Tools such as the mindmap module and questionnaire module can facilitate student brainstorming and
prediction of content as students build background knowledge in a new area. A mindmap module is a type
of mapping/graphic organizer that can be used by teachers to create warm-up activities for students to link
new information with prior knowledge and for instructors to determine what additional knowledge needs
to be developed before introducing the main topic. For example, the teacher may have students develop
ideas relevant to Alzheimers and then provide articles that discuss perspectives not/rarely mentioned in
the activity. Instructors can also create a survey activity by utilizing the questionnaire module to set up
specific connections for students to activate their prior knowledge (see Figure 2 for an example of a
questionnaire module).
The examples above illustrate a reliance on the teachers ability to provide clear instructions and to be
aware of prior knowledge held by learners. A major challenge for Moodle 2.0 might be the extra effort
required by course designers to provide appropriate instructions, although Moodle 2.0 offers a space for
teachers to develop meaningful activities. The majority of participants in MoodleDocs are developers,
administrators, or/and teachers. However, little support is designed specifically for language learners to
ask related questions. Features that would enhance the learners experience might include a list of
frequently asked questions, technical support for students, or a set of instructions for various basic
activities such as participating in a module, uploading files, or importing/exporting files from other

Figure 2. Example of a questionnaire module.

In short, Moodle contains several useful tools for teachers to evaluate students prior knowledge and
experiences but the effort to provide clear instructions needs further consideration.
Promoting Active Self-regulated Collaborative Inquiry
Collaboration and social interaction can be embedded in almost every module and block via chat (e.g.,

Language Learning & Technology 29

Tsun-Ju Lin Review of Moodle 2.0

chat room), discussion (e.g., forum and comment functions), or work with peers to get ideas (e.g., Wiki).
The new Wiki module now is more consistent with other Wiki formats such as Wikipedia. It provides
more administrative options to enable instructors to easily and effectively provide a knowledge-
building environment for students to develop, create, and share information together while online
(Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006) (see Figure 3 for an example of an interactive Wiki module). The
particular challenge for the Wiki type of tool is that it requires users to maintain it properly and for
teachers to build a learning environment which recognizes it as a valuable source.

Figure 3. Example of a Wiki module.

Encouraging Extensive Involvement in All Language Skills
According to Cummins et al. (2007), involvement is the key to the development of proficiency. Design
that encourages active involvement in all language skills is elaborated in Moodle 2.0. For instance, the
RSS feeds block enables instructors to link to authentic reading materials (e.g., online newspapers and
articles) from external Websites. The voice device NanoGong (not yet compatible with Moodle 2.0) can
be embedded in almost every module. Another audio and video recording device PoodLL Language
Laboratory package (will be compatible with Moodle 2.0 soon) includes two assignments, two activities
and three questions types. This means that listening and speaking activities can be created anywhere to
encourage practice of these language skills. Besides, with the new repository support in Moodle 2.0,
authentic resources such as YouTube and Flickr can be easily integrated into a Moodle site. Writing
opportunities can also be created in any of the following modules: assignment module, lesson module,
personal profile, journal module, blog module, and forum module. All these features not only encourage
students to practice language skills but also to make language learning happen in more real-world
settings. Additionally, creating activities by incorporating different modules can be easily achieved, so
different language skills can be linked; for example, a chat session transcript can be analyzed for grammar
and spelling errors in a Wiki or forum module.
Developing Multiple Strategies for Effective Language Learning
Language learners need to know how to use a range of strategies before, during, and after learning, such
as self-management, self and peer evaluation, and the use of post-typographic materials to fit a variety of
learning styles. Moodle 2.0 provides multiple opportunities for teachers to develop tasks during which
students can practice such skills.

Language Learning & Technology 30

Tsun-Ju Lin Review of Moodle 2.0

The first feature that allows users to practice organizing effective information is page layout. A Moodle
page is organized in blocks to enable users to track important information. In Moodle 2.0, however, all
blocks are consistently implemented in every page and can be customized by users. Another change in
Moodle 2.0 from Moodle 1.9 is in two settings of its interface: navigation block and setting block. A
navigation block helps users quickly and easily access items, such as site pages, courses, my profile,
etcetera. With the setting block, users can directly locate items they have permission to edit across the
Moodle site. Second, the new development of My Private File provides opportunities for users to
integrate personal or external documents and media (initial plug-ins include: Alfresco, Flickr,
GoogleDocs, Picasa, and YouTube) (see Figure 4 for a sample of My Private File). In My Private File,
students can easily arrange the appropriate materials to effectively represent information through post-
typographic materials.
Evaluation Strategies
Moodle 2.0 supports a wide variety of evaluation strategies, providing built-in comment boxes for
instructors to provide feedback, user ratings, a quiz module, and a workshop module.

Figure 4. Sample of My Private File.

The workshop module has been completely redesigned for Moodle 2.0 and emphasizes peer assessment
activities. It contains multiple types of assessment forms and allows the learner, peers, and instructors to
evaluate the quality of ones work. The quiz module allows users to design a variety of question types and
store these in a question bank to be re-used or modified for multiple quizzes. It also includes quiz reports
and statistics to give students instant feedback, so they can compare results to their own goals. Another
major improvement from Moodle 1.9 in the module is the possibility of flagging questions during a quiz
attempt (see Figure 5 for the flagging example). This function allows students to go back to review
answers they are unsure of. Thus, users can monitor what needs to be further understood. These functions
allow easy access to both qualitative and quantitative assessments. With this function, users can easily
track or arrange important or interesting information. According to this criterion, teachers can utilize
Moodle 2.0 to facilitate students development of multiple learning strategies.

Language Learning & Technology 31

Tsun-Ju Lin Review of Moodle 2.0

Figure 5. Example of flagging in a Chinese course.

Promoting Identity Investment
Tools to support involvement and identity are available in several blocks on Moodle. Cummins et al.
(2007) state that it is critical to carry out identity texts insofar as students invest their identities in these
texts (written, spoken, visual, musical, or combination in multimodal form) that then hold a mirror up to
students in which their identities are reflected back in a positive light (p. 219). The My Moodle page
outlines learner profiles, activity reports, tags, notes, and their private files, as well as records the users
way of thinking, responding, and acting in each task. Also, Moodle 2.0 allows student identity to be
represented in multiple ways, including visual or iconic images, letter identification, voice, videos, or a
combination of these.

Moodle 2.0 is a powerful software package that can be used for language learning. Its primary strength
lies in its technical features. It is important to note here that the tools mentioned above are just some of
Moodle 2.0s capabilities, and more modules, blocks, and plug-ins can be added. Many of the technical
issues mentioned in this review in need of improvement will undoubtedly become part of the next set of
issues addressed by the many Moodle developers and users (often called Moodlers). In its current
iteration, however, Moodle 2.0 has strong pedagogical potential and allows instructors flexibility in
creating activities based on the perceived needs, intentions, cognitive traits, and learning strategies of
their students. Moodle 2.0 has the power to enhance efforts by teachers to provide carefully designed
learning environments so that their students can be successful.


Tsun-Ju Lin is a doctoral student in Language and Literacy Education in the Department of Teaching and
Learning at Washington State University. While pursuing her degree, she is working as an online
language course developer and education technology consultant in the Department of Foreign Languages
and Cultures at WSU. Her research interest is supporting learner engagement in technology to facilitate
FLLs language competence.
E-mail: tsunjulin@gmail.com

Language Learning & Technology 32

Tsun-Ju Lin Review of Moodle 2.0

Coiro, J. (2003). Reading comprehension on the Internet: Expanding our understanding of reading
comprehension to encompass new literacies. The Reading Teacher, 56(5), 458464.
Coiro, J., Knobel, M., Lankshear, C., & Leu, D. (2008). Central issues in new literacies and new literacies
research. In J. Coiro, M. Knobel, C. Lankshear, & D. J. Leu (Eds.), Handbook of new literacies research
(pp. 122). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Cummins, J., Brown, K., & Sayers, D. (2007). Literacy, technology, and diversity: Teaching for success
in changing times. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson.
Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., & Hughes, J. (2009). Web 2.0 and classroom research: What path should we
take? Educational Researcher, 38(4), 246259. doi:10.3102/0013189x09336671
Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2006). New literacies: Everyday practices and classroom learning (2nd
ed). London: Open University Press.
Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In K.
Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of learning sciences (pp. 97118). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press.

Language Learning & Technology 33

Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2
http:/llt.msu.edu/issues/june2011/review2.pdf pp. 3438


Teaching Literature and Language Online

Ian Lancashire (Ed.)

ISBN-10: 9781603290579
US $40.00 (hardcover)
$25.00 (paperback)
460 pp.

Modern Language Association

New York

Review by David Malinowski, University of California, Berkeley

As Ian Lancashire points out in the Introduction to this most recent entry in the Modern Language
Associations Options for Teaching series, blended and fully online learning models are in wide and
growing use. Writing in 2009, he notes that in the fall 2006 term, almost 3.5 million students and 20% of
all higher education students in the U.S. took an online course (p. 2). The Sloan Consortiums most recent
(2010) report on the state of online learning in the U.S. indicates that as of fall 2009, these numbers had
increased to 5.6 million and almost 30% of higher education students, with 63% of 2,500 colleges and
universities surveyed saying that online learning was a critical part of their institutions long term
strategy (Allen & Seaman, 2010, p. 2). Considering the frequent and varied use of technology in blended
online and offline foreign and second language classes (see, for example, Blake, 2008), and the growing
tendency in this direction for university literature courses as well (Introduction, p. 17), Lancashires
volume is a timely and welcome contribution. And, in light of the release of the MLAs own report
questioning the governance structures that keep university language and literature curricula separate
(MLA 2007, p. 2), Teaching literature and language online can be read as a discussion point in this wider
With close to thirty chapters written from the perspectives of teachers in university language and
literature departments in the U.S. and Canada, this volume speaks both to beginning instructors and to
instructors beginning to contemplate teaching courses partly or wholly online. In his introduction
Lancashire recommends that, in part because of the many approaches to online education and varied
contexts in which it takes place, teachers should make themselves part of professional communities of
practice and, through exploration and judicious selection of practices and tools, develop their own unique
signature pedagogy (p. 11). In this sense, Teaching literature and language online represents a step in
this direction: after a series of chapters in Part I (Overview) orienting the reader to issues and
approaches in online education for MLA disciplines (p. 3), Parts II and III present collections of case
studies that speak to a range of experiences in language and literature classes, respectively. Together, the
diversity of courses and projects narrated bear witness to Lancashires contention that, while teaching an
online course can require more work than teaching face-to-face (e.g., p. 14), it provides an invaluable
extension of the mission of higher education.
Following Lancashires Introduction, Robert Blake presents data comparing proficiency gains in
traditional Spanish classrooms and distance and blended courses, finding that distance education is a

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David Malinowski Review of Teaching Literature and Language Online

reasonable and responsible option (p. 34) for teaching linguistic proficiency and oral skills, especially
for beginning learners and in less commonly taught languages. In the next chapter, Kristine Blair draws
on Lee Shulman (2005)s concept of signature pedagogies and Chickering and Gamson (1987)s
Seven Principles for Undergraduate Education, arguing for the need for the writing and composition
profession to take up a measured debate about principles and best practices for online education, while
also focusing upon the contentious but often under-represented issue of instructors labor conditions.
Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, meanwhile, provides guidelines for teachers of ESOL (ESL and EFL) to
integrate technology into their teaching of language through literature; she presents evidence that more
student interaction, both with the instructor and with peers, can take place online than in class (p. 55) and
discusses integrated classroom environments like Moodle and Blackboard, literature-based content on
Project Gutenberg and other sites, and tools for oral and written communication as they enable project-
based and group-centered learning. In the following chapter, Teaching World Languages Online, Mary
Ann Lyman-Hager reviews developments in language teaching beliefs and practices in the latter half of
the 20th century, beginning with the audiolingual (Army) method of the postwar period. Pointing to
Warschauer and Kern (2000)s periodization of language learning technologies, then, she suggests that
the most recent sociocognitive paradigm is particularly apt for intercultural e-learning environments that
connect communities and foster collaborative tasks. In Humane Studies in Digital Space, Jerome
McGann is likewise concerned with mapping an historical evolution; his interest, however, is with the
transition from a book-based to a digitally-based culture of critical inquiry in the face of the
commercialization of knowledge. Noting that inherent in the mission of the university today is the self-
conscious understanding that culture and critical reflection are shared activities and social acts (p. 101),
McGann introduces three digital tools (IVANHOE, Juxta, and Collex) designed to lead students to critical
engagement with texts. Rounding out Part I, Stfan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell bring an interest in
the use of tools for digital textual analysis so as to combine both linguistic and literary sensibilities (p.
104). They note that CALL applications, in particular, have often missed the opportunity to allow
students to do just the kind of nuanced interpretation that McGann and others advocate, and introduce
several text analysis techniques useful for the language and literature classroom.
Part II comprises five essays under the title Case Studies in Language. The first, by Stephen Tschudi,
David Hiple, and Dorothy Chun, investigates cohesion in dialog and community formation through the
use of online forums in an advanced Chinese writing class. While one feels hard-pressed to accept that
students in this study shared feelings of belonging and commitment on the basis of the evidence
presented, the reference to Halliday and Hasans (1976) notion of students dialogic cohesion as the
creation of a single text (p. 124) in an online context was helpful. Also pursuing questions of
community formation online, Diane Formo and Kimberly Robinson Neary present success stories from
the use of Online Response Groups (ORGs) in the second language writing classroom. Making the
analogy to the peer-to-peer writing center, they suggest several ways for instructors to use ORGs to help
students organize their writing processes and give honest feedback and assistance. Next, Nike Arnold
describes a literacy-based curriculum in a foreign language class (p. 165) through which she had her
3rd year German composition and conversation class interact online in relatively unstructured written
exchange with native speaker guests. She writes that student survey results indicated that this exchange
realized the literacy principles of situated practice, overt instruction, critical framing, and transformed
practice (cf. New London Group, 1996); a lack of evidence in the chapter makes this claim difficult to
validate. Following this essay are two chapters that describe the development of learning resources that,
once online, assumed multiple and at times unpredicted functions. Gillian Lords essay on Aymara on the
Internet is noteworthy for its descriptions of the innovations required to bring a communicative approach
to the rote grammar exercises of a decades-old language textbook, usable both by language learners and
linguists interested in documentation and revitalization. Meanwhile, Douglas Morgensterns chapter
describes the history and use of MITUPV, an open online environment for Spanish-English cultural and
linguistic exchange. Unlike an online textbook, MITUPV was not designed with pre-given learning

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David Malinowski Review of Teaching Literature and Language Online

outcomes in mind; Morgenstern notes that open registration and user-generated content have led to a
pedagogical orientation that is decidedly bottom-up (p. 191), where content generation and even
community formation become benchmarks for success (ibid.). A tension underlying this and other studies
of online, open social sites for language learning is how the use of such environments articulates with the
goals and structures of the classroom; with Morgenstern stating that all required class-related projects are
somewhat coercive and artificial (p. 199) while Websites like MITUPV [approximate] the serendipitous
nature of authentic language immersion (p. 198), the task of the classroom teacher seems monolithic.
Part III, Case Studies in Literatures, comprises 16 chapters; here I depart from the order of the original
text in favor of four thematic groupings of chapters. First, and noticeable as well in previous sections of
the book, is the visibility of an array of innovative tools developed to foster new forms of textual analysis
and linguistic proficiency. Seemingly a holdout from Part II of the book, Noriko Nagatas study
(appearing near the end of the volume) outlines the functioning and impact of Robo-Sensei, an online
Japanese textbook using natural language processing to analyze beginning students written input on the
sentence level, while generating feedback and instruction tailored to their structural errors. Meanwhile,
Gerald Lucas describes the evolution of digital tools tried out over years of teaching his online world
literature course World.Lit. Discussing the merits of using student and teacher blogs, a wiki, a discussion
forum, and a content management system for aggregating these tools together, Lucas foregrounds the
need for literature instructors online to engage students in discussions about course expectations and
procedures, while explicitly teaching computer literacy. In another chapter introducing a novel tool
developed on-site, Haun Saussy describes his detailed selections, re-orderings and annotations of the
classical Chinese text Shang Shu, incorporated into a late-1990s hybrid Introduction to the Humanities
course in order to lead students to deeper textual analysis and comparison. Finally, introducing the open-
access networked resource Decameron Web, Papio and Riva present a vision of the outmoding and
evolution of a now 17-year-old tool for teaching and researching late medieval and early modern Italian
studies. The authors convey a fundamental tension between the hierarchical concerns of the academic
community (where research and publication are protected domains) and virtual collaborative space[s]
where multiple activities can take place simultaneously, in an ongoing and self-enriching dialogue (p.
Of course, reading this collection of essays in the 2010s, many people may feel that the home-grown
sites in the studies above simply offer features that have become commonplace in the corporate-owned
and often freely available blogs, wikis, online games, virtual worlds and other online media (for a review,
see Thorne & Black, 2007). Indeed, several chapters in Part III address the benefits offered and
constraints imposed by such tools in the online literature classroom. Kathleen Fitzpatricks contribution,
The literary machine: Blogging the literature course, is a narrative of the successes and failures that she
experienced using blogging in a 2003 literature class; she finds that the open-endedness of the blog (p.
211) is among the reasons why literature instructors need to make their expectations clear, provide model
posts, give guidelines for comments, and otherwise structure student blogging. Kathy Cawsey and Ian
Lancashires essay reports on the success of the chat medium in an online Reading Poetry class as it
encouraged distally located students to discover and explore subtle meanings in the texts at hand; drawing
from an extended chat transcript on Seamus Heaneys poem Punishment, they argue that the
interaction among committed students and their teachers improves markedly in a virtual classroom (chat
room, bulletin board, e-mail) over what is possible in a physical classroom (p. 311). In Seeking the best
of both worlds: Online and off-line Shakespeare, Michael Best draws from his experience using the
resource Website Shakespeares Life and Times and a variety of online media in his classroom teaching,
arguing that together, they enact a method of communication that is both effective and democratic (p.
266)this despite the challenges of dealing with plagiarism, development costs, and technological
change while paying greater attention to the critical evaluation of sources and materials.
Several chapters in this volume demonstrate that, together with the introduction and use of new tools in

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David Malinowski Review of Teaching Literature and Language Online

the online classroom, the very technologies of the online literature classroomthe changing ecologies of
pedagogical structures, procedures, and relationshipsare in flux. In his chapter, Old English online at
the University of Calgary, Murray McGillivray writes that his mandate in creating an entirely online
course was to improve on what he terms the humiliation students undergo in class when called upon to
do direct grammar translation, and out-of-class when reading source texts and their annotations; he argues
that teachers online need to make explicit the structures for students participation, performance and
evaluation that are often left implicit (or absent) in the face-to-face classroom. In an essay on teaching
undergraduate and graduate online courses on Shakespeare, James Fitzmaurice presents a seeming
contradiction in that a preponderance of highly motivated students in the virtual classroom might be
motivated in part because they feel deprived at not being able to be physically in the face-to-face
classroom (pp. 275276). Meanwhile, Martha Wescott Driver, in a chapter on her multimedia course
bridging Middle English readings and text interpretation with student multimedia projects, relays her
students singing praises of the online medium and surmises that the fact of their sense of expanded
audiences for online work pushes them to collaborate and focus in new ways. Finally, Kathryn
Grossman, an instructor of both language and literature courses, echoes the interest of authors from Part II
in the formation of classroom communities online. In moving from the offline medium to online
instruction, she finds that students working collaboratively in my hybrid course submitted much better
and more writing overall (p. 337); she concludes by offering numerous recommendations for literature
and language instructors to use collaborative work to heighten student involvement, while simultaneously
reducing the teachers workload.
The last strand of chapters I note in Part III is one that opens up questions of textuality, representation,
and teaching online to greater and greater degrees of self-scrutiny and doubt. Laura Bushs chapter
Solitary confinement: Managing relational angst in an online classroom, for example, seems to double
backwards and begin to question the very humanity of the humanities online. Where she spends the first
part of her essay pragmatically outlining four distinct areas of competence necessary for faculty to
teach literature effectively online, in the second part she describes a pervasive sense of isolation that
besets online teachers and students who lack the robust social presence of the face-to-face classroom.
Devoid of angst but marveling nonetheless at human transformations amidst changed knowledge relations
online, Ian Lancashires The open-source English teacher describes the fate of the online instructor. The
open-source teacher, he says as creator and editor of the Web-based archive Representative Poetry
Online, makes the fruits of her or his intellectual labor available to the general public through Websites,
interactive databases, and other online resources, and so enters into an asynchronous and unstructured
relationship with faceless students who are only occasionally made visible through the impromptu email
(p. 418). As with Representative Poetry Online, in her two chapters Martha Nell Smith reflects on new
modalities of knowledge and collaboration engendered by humanist research and instruction with the
Dickinson Electronic Archives and other large-scale projects. With respect to the Archive in particular,
she highlights the textual indeterminacies and creative processes that are, she says, frequently hidden
within the legacy technology of the book. The online medium, on the other hand, allows the learner to
maintain a processual orientation to textual meaningthe very approach that she claims Dickinson
herself took toward her own writing (p. 281). Lastly, in Hybrid world literature: Literary culture and the
new machine, William Kuskin reflects on his WebCT-delivered Hybrid English course that was, on the
surface, successful in delivering record student credit hours (p. 359). However, the problem of online
courses, and the challenge that online instructors must work against, Kuskin says, is that online courses
such as his [reduce] the problems of online and traditional learning to the single issue of information
management (p. 359), a discourse of control already present in the notion of record student credit
hours. The fundamental challenge of the online teacher of literature, Kuskin contends, is rather to lead
students to an awareness of a fundamental contradiction that runs through their humanistic inquiry online:
that while the realm of the literary is traditionally understood to be figural and never fixed, he writes
(invoking imagery from the science fiction hit The Matrix), the logic implied by digitization, by the

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David Malinowski Review of Teaching Literature and Language Online

green veil of computer code, by the various downloads and uploads that constitute the curriculum, was
that literary knowledge can be entirely encased in computer technology (p. 361).
Overall, the chapters from this and the first two parts of Teaching literature and language online present
many useful lessons, while provoking thought about the pedagogical and institutional challenges that
arise with the use of technology; they are well worth reading individually with these practical goals in
mind. Taken together, however, I found that they give occasion to an urgent question of an altogether
different nature. As Kuskin reminds us, language and literature teachers alike ought to share a concern
with what it means to be human online:
The future of online education for the humanities, therefore, involves not only the implementation of
online teaching but also our understanding of the process of symbolic production of ourselves as
human in the history of textual technology (p. 360).


David Malinowski is a doctoral candidate in Education in Language, Literacy, Society and Culture at the
University of California, Berkeley, and a research assistant with the Berkeley Language Center. His
research interests include distance and blended learning in foreign language education, multimodal
literacies, and semiotic landscapes.
E-mail: daveski@berkeley.edu

Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2010). Class difference$: Online education in the United States, 2010. Sloan-
C. Retrieved from http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/class_differences
Blake, R. (2008). Brave new digital classroom: Technology and foreign language learning. Washington,
DC: Georgetown University Press.
Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate
education. AAHE Bulletin, 39, 37.
Halliday, M. A. K., & Hasan, R. (1976). Cohesion in English. London: Longman.
MLA (Modern Language Association; Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages). (2007). Foreign
languages and higher education: New structures for a changed world. New York: Modern Language
Association. Retrieved from http://www.mla.org/flreport
New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard
Educational Review, 66(1), 6092.
Shulman, L. S. (2005). Pedagogies of uncertainty. Liberal Education, 91(2), 1825.
Thorne, S. L., & Black, R. W. (2007). Language and literacy development in computer-mediated contexts
and communities. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 27, 133160.
Warschauer, M., & Kern, R. (Eds.). (2000). Network-based language teaching: Concepts and practice.
New York: Cambridge University Press.

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Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2
http:/llt.msu.edu/issues/june2011/review3.pdf pp. 39 41



Teaching English Language Learners through


Tony Erben, Ruth Ban & Martha Castaeda

ISBN: 978-0-415-95768-7
US $36.95
240 pp.

New York, USA

Review by Jess Garca Laborda & Mary Frances Litzler, Universidad de Alcal (Madrid, Spain)
Teaching English Language Learners through Technology is contextualized in the U.S. American
educational system, but as will be discussed in this review, many of the concepts can easily be used
beyond these geographical boundaries. The authors themselves state in the introduction that the book is
intended for practitioners in all content areas, and the book includes explicit links among theoretical
background information, recent research, and case studies to illustrate how the pedagogical implications
can extend beyond just the U.S. context.
An early indication of the U.S. context is in the use of the term English Language Learner (ELL), which
is frequently used in discussions among educators at the elementary and secondary levels in the United
States. The term is often viewed as interchangeable with English as a Second Language, in that it refers to
learners who are geographically located in a place where English is the dominant language, in contrast to
English as a Foreign Language. However, the omission of second indicates an acknowledgement that
English may well be a second, third or new language for immigrant students. A second indication that the
U.S. context is the primary audience for the book is in the intended audience of pre-service and in-service
elementary and secondary (Kindergarten through grade 12) teachers. These teachers often do not have
formal training as language teachers, but they must learn to teach language as part of their profession as
their classrooms become more linguistically diverse.
This reader-friendly book is divided into three parts. Part 1 presents an overview of ELL teaching and
learning in order to provide guidance for the informed use of instructional strategies in the teaching of
ELLs (p. 7); part 2 provides empirical evidence for the use of technology in differentiated instruction
while also emphasizing the role of social constructivism; and part 3 addresses the use of technology inside
and outside the classroom through examples and also suggests strategies and exercise plans for the use of
technology in differentiated instruction.
Part 1 is divided into eight chapters preceded by a general introduction, which explains ethical values, the
aim of the book, the target audience, and an extensive description of five principles for integrating
technology. These principles focus on creating effective second language learning environments around
which learning should happen: (a) ELLs must be given many and varied opportunities to read, write,
listen to and discuss oral and written English; (b) attention should be drawn to English language structural

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Jess Garca Laborda & Mary Frances Litzler Review of Teaching English Language Learners through Technology

patterns; (c) students should be given classroom time to practice their English usage productively; (d)
opportunities need to be offered for ELLs to notice their errors and correct their English; and (e)
maximum opportunities should be provided for ELLs to interact with others in English.
Part 1 continues by covering a wide range of issues that provide a backdrop for the rest of the book.
Issues of equal opportunity and recent U.S. educational legislation are addressed and call for ELLs to
receive adequate resources and individual attention from educators. Other aspects include an overview of
principles of second language acquisition and theoretical applications of the five principles listed above,
descriptions of ELL programs, developmental stages in acquisition, specific intercultural developmental
stages, the parents role, and applications and models of ELL instruction for ELLs with special cognitive
and socio-cultural needs.
Part 2 introduces the intersection of technology and ELL instruction. It emphasizes the role of social
constructivism in the teaching of ELLs. For example, it presents the application of Vygotskys theory
(1962, 1978) on the students zone of proximal development (ZPD) as well as the role of regulation in
language learning for the classroom. Classroom applications are provided by discussing differentiated
instruction, project-based learning, and constructivist pedagogy principles. The next three chapters
illustrate ways to integrate and accommodate technology into lessons and discuss principles that should
guide the use of technology in the classroom.
Part 3 is the most practical part of the book. The authors describe activities for middle and high school
students with a view towards putting into practice the principles from the first two parts of the book. The
activities are divided into four levels (Preproduction, Early Production, Speech Emergence and
Intermediate Fluency), which correspond to common categories used to describe ELLs language skill
levels. The activities are presented in the form of lesson plans, learning activities, and Web-based
resources. Also included are special sections entitled Teaching Tips, Classroom Implications, and
Teaching Help boxes. As in the rest of the book, most of the activities do not require the teacher to be
experienced in the use of technology, to have computer labs, or to teach in classrooms with highly
sophisticated technology. Instead, the existence of one or two computers with a minimal capacity can
serve in many cases. For instance, Chapter 3.2 introduces what the authors call E-creation tools and self-
made computer-based resources, such as podcasts, Power Point, moviemakers, audiomakers, and Web
publishing, all of which permit students to develop their creativity with limited resources. In describing
and suggesting tools, the authors use easily accessible and often free resources such as Hot Potatoes (p.
102), Audacity (p. 106), and a range of communicative facilitating e-tools such as e-mail, instant
messaging, and listservs.
The final sections are devoted to improving ELLs literacy in the four skills areas through creative
activities such as using the whiteboard, creating wikis, and using and designing blogs, webquests,
podcasts, and audioblogs. This section includes what we believe to be the most interesting part of the
book because it covers informal performance-based assessments that serve both formative and summative
purposes. In this highly practical section, the authors suggest the use of e-portfolios, e-surveys, e-quizzes,
and e-rubrics. The authors also provide a brief foray into virtual learning environments such as Nicenet.
The book concludes with an extensive, well-annotated list of resources, which makes it valuable for
CALL-intensive environments, as well as for classrooms that are in the early phases of technology
integration. It also has a very clear and useful glossary, a student grouping chart for the classroom, and a
well-organized list of references.

Some parts of this book are similar to other volumes (cf., Dudeney & Hockly, 2007; Sharma & Barret,
2007), but it appears to be more practical. While the first two parts are more theoretically than practically
based, the theory can be of benefit to those teachers who have limited knowledge or experience with

Language Learning & Technology 40

Jess Garca Laborda & Mary Frances Litzler Review of Teaching English Language Learners through Technology

ELLs, and it is well-illustrated by case studies and real-life examples. In fact, the theory is presented in an
accessible way; for instance, readers may not want to miss the excellent synthesis of the natural approach
(Krashen & Terrell, 1983). Another asset of this book is that it introduces emotional perspectives, which
are less frequently discussed in language texts, through exemplified cases and also considers educational
stakeholders such as the parents.
To conclude, although this book is aimed at practitioners working with ELLs, its applications and uses are
also valid in general ESL and EFL courses, given the quality and variety of the resources described. Its
pedagogical approach makes it especially useful as a textbook for educational technology for both general
and bilingual education. For a broader, international context, the book may be attractive for content
teachers working in Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). Teachers who may lack knowledge in
language learning but need to integrate second (or subsequent) language learning into their content will
likely find that the theoretical underpinnings and practical recommendations will facilitate their work. All
in all, this is an accessible volume that integrates theory and practice.


Jess Garca Laborda, PhD & EdD, is an associate professor at Universidad de Alcal (Madrid, Spain).
His main interests are educational technology, low-stakes language testing and English for Specific
Purposes. He has published broadly in all three areas in such journals as Computers & Education and
Educational Technology & Society. As a reviewer, his works have been included in many educational
journals including Language Learning & Technology.
E-mail: jesus.garcialaborda@uah.es
Mary Frances Litzler has taught English to adults for some 25 years. She currently works at Universidad
de Alcal (Madrid, Spain) and the British Council (Madrid, Spain), but she also has experience working
in the United States, Japan and France. Her research interests are CALL and medieval text editing. She
will defend a PhD thesis on medieval medical prologues in June 2011.
E-mail: mf.litz@uah.es

Dudeney, G., & Hockly, N. (2007). How to teach English with technology (with CD-Rom). Cambridge:
Pearson Longman.
Krashen, S. D., & Terrell, T. D. (1983). The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom.
London: Prentice Hall Europe.
Sharma, P., & Barrett, B. (2007). Blended learning: Using technology in and beyond the language
classroom. Cambridge, UK: Macmillan.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.

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Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2
http:/llt.msu.edu/issues/june2011/review4.pdf pp. 4243



Corpus-Based Contrastive Studies of English and

Chinese (Routledge Advances in Corpus Linguistics)

Richard Xiao and Tony McEnery

ISBN: 978-0415992459
US $117.57 (hardcover)
201 pp.

London & New York

Review by Zhang Xiaojun, Shaanxi Normal University

Contrastive research of English and Chinese, particularly in mainland China, has attracted great attention
since the late 1970s. Corpus-Based Contrastive Studies of English and Chinese makes an important
contribution to this body of work. Richard Xiao and Tony McEnery provide an examination of a number
of grammatical categories, including aspect markers, temporal adverbials, quantifiers, passives, and
negation structures in English and Chinese. The book is organized into six main chapters framed by an
introductory and summary chapter.
The corpora used in this book are introduced in Chapter 1 and include the Freiburg-LOB corpus (FLOB),
the Lancaster Corpus of Mandarin Chinese (LCMC), and the Freiburg-Brown corpus (Frown). FLOB is
an update of LOB (Johansson, Leech, & Goodluck, 1978) which sampled texts published in 19911992.
LCMC was designed as a Chinese match for FLOB, representing written Chinese published in China in
the early 1990s (McEnery, Xiao, & Mo, 2003).
The first of the chapters in the main text, Aspect Marking in English and Chinese, provides a
contrastive study of aspect marking in English and Chinese and concludes that while Chinese and English
are typologically different, aspect markers in the two languages show a strikingly similar distribution
pattern. The authors counted and contrasted the frequencies of perfective and imperfective aspect markers
in English and Chinese corpora. In Chinese, they found that the particles -le, -guo, zai, and -zhe are
regarded as aspect markers, of which the first two markers represent the perfective aspect and the other
two refer to the imperfective aspect. In English, perfective meaning is most commonly expressed by the
simple past, though the perfect can also mark perfectivity (p.14). Comparing the frequencies of
perfective and imperfective aspect markers in different languages is a feasible way to set up such
contrastive language studies.
Chapter 4, Quantifying Constructions in English and Chinese, shows that Chinese employs numeral-
classifier constructions obligatorily in quantification, whereas in English a classifier is only required when
non-count nouns are quantified. Classifiers are motivated cognitively, pragmatically, and conventionally
in both English and Chinese. Normally, Chinese is recognized as a classifier language while English is
not, but the two languages show striking similarities in their classifier systems in spite of the different
terms used and in spite of several quantitative differences. The authors found that a cross-linguistic
difference exists because Chinese is a non-inflectional language, whereas nouns in English inflect for

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Zhang Xiaojun Review of Corpus-Based Contrastive Studies of English and Chinese

plurality morphologically. The authors illustrate eight semantic categories of classifiers that exist in both
Chinese and English and point out that classifiers in the two languages differ in a number of ways. For
example, classifiers are significantly more common in Chinese; unit classifiers and verbal classifiers are
characteristic of Chinese while collective classifiers are more diversified in English.
Chapter 5, Passives in English and Chinese, is concerned with passive constructions in English and
Chinese. The authors indicate that while passive constructions in English and Chinese express a basic
passive meaning, they also show a range of differences in terms of overall frequencies, syntactic features
and functions, semantic properties, and distributions across genres. By statistically contrasting these,
several conclusions were drawn. First, passive constructions are nearly ten times as frequent in English as
in Chinese. Also, a major distinction between passive constructions in the two languages is that Chinese
passives are more frequently used with an inflictive meaning than English passives. There are clearly
genre variations in the distribution of passive variants in both languages, and the passive is primarily used
to mark an impersonal, objective and formal style in English, whereas it is typically an inflictive voice
in Chinese.
The next two chapters each examine negation structure: Negation in English and Chinese: Variants and
Variations (Chapter 6) and Negation in English and Chinese: Special Usages (Chapter 7). The
discussion in Chapter 6 provides various negative forms and their language-specific features in English
and in Chinese and focuses on the differences and similarities of explicit not and no-negation structures in
English as well as bu and mei negations in Chinese. Chapter 7 discusses the scope and focus of negation
and also contrasts special usages such as transferred negation, double negation, and redundant negation.
In conclusion, this book seeks to provide a systematic account of several grammatical categories in
English and Chinese on the basis of written and spoken corpus data of the two languages. In the final
chapter, Challenge and Promise, and the Way Forward, the authors construct a model of contrastive
corpus linguistics that helps bring together the strengths of contrastive analysis and corpus analysis. This
synergy expands the field of corpus linguistics, translation studies, and second language acquisition
research by providing a bridge that links all of these research areas.


Zhang Xiaojun is an associate professor in computational linguistics at the School of Foreign Languages
of Shaanxi Normal University, China. He is an academic visitor at the Center of Translation and
Intercultural Studies (CTIS), University of Manchester, from September 2010 to August 2011. His
published work includes Semantic Combination and Machine Translation (in Chinese) and The Fuzzy
Integrated Evaluate Method of Translation Quality. Address for correspondence: Zhang Xiaojun, No.
199 South Changan Road, School of Foreign Languages, Shaanxi Normal University, 710062 Xian,
China (P.R.C.).
E-mail: andy_zxj@126.com

Johansson, S., Leech, G., & Goodluck, H. (1978). Manual of information to accompany the Lancaster-
Oslo/Bergen Corpus of British English for Use with Digital Computers. Oslo: University of Oslo.
McEnery, T., Xiao, R., & Mo, L. (2003). Aspect marking in English and Chinese: Using the Lancaster
Corpus of Mandarin Chinese for contrastive language study. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 18(4),

Language Learning & Technology 43

Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2
http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2011/cross.pdf pp. 4468


Jeremy Cross
Nanyang Technological University
Informed by dual coding theory, this study explores the role of the visual content in L2
listeners comprehension of news videotexts. L1 research into the visual characteristics
and comprehension of news videotexts is outlined, subsequently informing the
quantitative analysis of audiovisual correspondence in the news videotexts used. In each of
five lessons, ten pairs of Japanese EFL learners participated in a sequence of tasks in
which they listened to, and discussed various facets of their comprehension of news
videotexts. The pairs dialogue acted as the unit of analysis for exploring the effect of
visual information on their comprehension. The qualitative analysis illustrated that various
attributes of the visual content, such as audiovisual correspondence, impacted on
comprehension. Moreover, other influences of the visual content found were its general
utility in facilitating comprehension, inhibiting of attention to, and processing of audio
information, and stimulation of learners expectations and inferencing of content. Based
on these findings, learner variability aspects and several implications for related L2
listening pedagogy are discussed.

Advances in satellite, digital video and broadband technology mean that news videotext services are
readily available to viewers across the globe. L2 users form a large part of the world-wide audience, with
news videotexts providing them with an authentic sociocultural, linguistic and educational resource which
can be exploited for language learning inside and outside the classroom. However, the intrinsic
audiovisual nature of news videotexts means that L2 users not only have to deal with the challenges to
listening comprehension1 that they typically encounter which are associated with the audio channel (e.g.,
unfamiliar vocabulary, speech rates, prosody and syntactic structures), but also need to cope with the
vagaries of content presented in the accompanying visual channel if they are to process, understand, and
respond to the message news videotexts are crafted to convey. A number of publications point to the
correspondence between audio and visual information as one potentially important factor affecting L2
learners comprehension (Meinhof, 1994, 1998). However, while such intuitions regarding the influence
of visual elements seem valid, there is very little empirical research which is informative in such respects.
Moreover, apart from Grubas (2004, 2006) studies, little is known about how L2 listeners strategically
exploit visual content in news videotexts to facilitate comprehension. Given that the use of news
videotexts in second and foreign language classrooms and self-access centres is increasingly common
practice (particularly with more advanced listeners), there is a need for related research which promotes
understanding of the influence of the visual content in L2 listeners comprehension of this videotext
genre. This paper reports on a study which draws on relevant L1 and L2 theory and empirical research to
address this issue.

Audiovisual Processing
In line with L1 research into the processing of audiovisual information in multimedia (Mayer &
Anderson, 1991; Mayer & Sims, 1994) and in news videotexts in particular (Walma van der Molen &
Van der Voort, 2000; Walma van der Molen, 2001), the theoretical perspective underpinning this study is
dual coding theory. In his seminal work, Paivio (1971, 1990, 2007) proposes dual coding theory as a

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

theory of cognition, which is distinguished from other common-coding theories of cognition (e.g.,
propositional representation) by its modality-specific nature. That is, it provides a coherent account of
how separate verbal and nonverbal mental representations are collectively processed. The basic premises
of dual coding theory most recently presented by Paivio (2007), which builds on his own early work and
also research in association with several colleagues (Clark & Paivio, 1991; Sadoski & Paivio, 2001), are:
Both verbal and nonverbal systems are specialized and distinct, and mental representations
associated with each system preserve the properties of the sensorimotor events which trigger
The verbal system encompasses written, auditory, and articulatory verbal codes;
The nonverbal system includes images for environmental sounds, activities, and events;
While written, aural and articulatory input is each typically processed sequentially by the verbal
system, the nonverbal system processes information simultaneously as a whole, for a single
mental image comprises a multitude of details;
The verbal and nonverbal systems are joined by referential connections as part of a complex
associative network (e.g., imagery may evoke word representations and vice versa);
Associative connections are another type of link within each of the verbal and non verbal systems
(e.g., a word or an image may activate associated words or images, to create complex
configurations of mental representations);
The activation of mental representations in either system may or may not be a conscious
Patterns of connection activation are influenced by contextual factors (e.g., a particular task such
as showing pictures may prime the nonverbal system and promote the production of mental
Verbal and nonverbal mental representations and their interconnections differ for each individual
due to their diverse past experiences;
And, nonverbal processing is affected by an individuals propensity and capability to use
As a hypothetical example of dual coding theory in the context of this study, a visual scene/shot and its
accompanying audio content in a news videotext would activate, depending on the individuals capacity,
corresponding mental representations in both verbal and nonverbal systems, some of which are conscious.
Spreading activation through associative and referential connections would occur within and between the
two systems generating an intricate and idiosyncratic pattern of mental representations which need to be
filtered to formulate a correct interpretation. Extending this hypothesis further, verbal and imagery
representations activated by complementary stimuli would potentially generate relatively less complex
mental patterns than when incongruence is evident, with associated positive and negative consequences
for cognitive loading, respectively.
A videotext is broadly defined here as a multimodal text consisting of contiguous, dynamic, and
interwoven sounds (verbal, musical and/or background) and visual images (still, moving, text and/or
graphic) which can be presented using a range of media. Movies, game and talk shows, dramas, music
videos, documentaries, and news are all prevalent genres of videotexts, and are representative of the
multitude of such material which is accessible around the world in many languages, through both satellite
and terrestrial television and the Internet, to an increasingly visually-oriented populace (Meinhof, 1998).

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

Videotext genres differ in the extent to which they aim to entertain and/or inform an audience. Broadly
speaking, for example, movies and music videos are primarily entertainment focused, whereas
documentaries and news are essentially purveyors of factual information. Videotexts also vary in their
degree of structure. For instance, movies and music videos are at the less-structured end of the continuum,
while news, talk shows, and soap operas are notably tightly structured in contrast (Meinhof, 1998). Also,
while there are format similarities in the more-structured videotexts mentioned, their production and
construction reflects the sociocultural values and norms of the country or region from which they emanate
(Meinhof, 1998).
In terms of language teaching and learning, the exploitation of videotexts is commonplace. Reasons for
using videotexts are that the visual channel provides learners with opportunities to see and hear the target
language in use and shows many aspects (e.g., landscapes, locations, fashion, food, gestures, way of life)
of the target culture and society, both of which can raise learners interest levels (Harmer, 2001; Sherman,
2003). In addition, videotexts have ecological validity, as learners are highly likely to listen to another
language through this multimodal medium (Guichon & McLornan, 2008).
As with other major genres of videotexts, news videotexts (both authentic and non-authentic) are a
valuable and widely used resource for advancing language learners listening abilities, and a growing
number of publications continue to offer suggestions for exploiting this material in the classroom (Gruba,
2005; Harmer, 2001; Lynch, 2009; Meinhof, 1998; Sherman, 2003). Nonetheless, despite the utility and
prevalence of news videotexts in foreign and second language learning contexts, it is only recently that L2
researchers have again, following an early study by Brinton and Gaskill (1978), begun to empirically
investigate ways to facilitate learners comprehension of this genre (Cross, 2009; Rivens Mompean &
Guichon, 2009). As yet, however, little research has concentrated on understanding the influence on L2
learners news videotext comprehension of the associated visual content, which is a central element of the
message this genre is fashioned to communicate, but one which is often dismissed as less important than
the aural content (Graddol, 1994). Prior to exploring related L2 research, L1 research informative to this
study is presented.
The Visual Content of News Videotexts
L1 Research
In one of the first publications to cover news videotext comprehension, Gunter (1987) states that the
reasons behind inserting visual content (rather than just including a newscaster) in news production are
that it increases the overall impact of the news broadcast, serves to emphasize specific aspects of the
narrative (e.g., who was involved and where the story occurred), gives the audience the impression they
are being allowed to witness the reported events first-hand as they unfold, and triggers an emotional
reaction. Gunter (1987) reviewed early studies from the 1960s to 1980s on the influence of the visual
channel. Generally, findings from the studies presented did not offer conclusive support for visual content
in enhancing information assimilation and retention in news videotexts, but the degree of redundancy
between the content of the two channels was identified as an important variable in information
In subsequent research, Brosius, Donsbach, and Birk (1996) suggest that the visual content of news
videotexts largely consists of standard scenes, that is, shots of buildings, shoppers strolling in the street,
or employees at work, which typically carry little information, and merely have a thematic
correspondence with the audio content. Brosius, et al. (1996) investigated the effect of such standard
scenes on the quality of information recalled by L1 users, representing how well the content had been
conveyed, compared to three other conditions: (a) audiovisual correspondence, (b) audio content only,
and (c) audiovisual divergence. The researchers found that the uptake of information was highest for
audiovisual correspondence, followed by standard scenes and audio only, which both had similar recall
quality. Audiovisual divergence hindered uptake the most. This outcome highlights that visual content has

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

the potential to facilitate news videotext comprehension when it is convergent with the audio information
(see also Reese, 1984; Walma van der Molen & Van der Voort, 2000), but seems to be detrimental when
there is some degree of divergence.
A more recent L1 study by Walma van der Molen (2001) also considered audiovisual correspondence in
terms of introducing and applying a coding scheme to enable a more systematic analysis of this attribute
than provided by general judgments of correspondence across whole news videotexts in previous studies.
Walma van der Molen evaluated audiovisual correspondence of information presented in shots, that is,
the visual content between edits (a change to a similar scene) and cuts (a change to a different visual
scene), within news videotexts. Informed by earlier related research (Brosius et al., 1996; Lang, 1995),
she developed four categories to establish and code the degree of semantic overlap between audio and
visual channels in shots. Three of these categories are classified on a correspondence continuum ranging
from Direct, through Indirect, to Divergent. In accordance with Walma van der Molen (2001), the Direct
category is used to classify audio and visual content which both express the same propositional meaning
(i.e., information in the two modalities is essentially semantically redundant); the Indirect category is used
to classify audio and visual content which is only partly related (as in standard scenes); and the Divergent
category is used to classify audio and visual content which is not related or even contradictory. The fourth
category, Talking head, refers to a scene in which typically only the top half of a newsreader, reporter, or
interviewee is shown as they speak, and is considered a separate category as it neither reflects conflicting
audio and visual content, nor transparent semantic relatedness between the two. However, a Talking head
is categorized as one of the other three categories when additional visual information is available in the
background, for example, behind an interviewee. Examples of each category from a BBC news videotext
about UK forces in Iraq entitled Basra Deaths are presented in Table 1 for clarification.

Walma van der Molen (2001) utilized her coding system to good effect in examining a sample of Dutch
news videotexts. She summarized in writing the visual content of shots and the concurrent verbal content,
and noted the duration in seconds for each shot. Two coders then used the four-category scheme to code
audiovisual correspondence using the written information as well as the actual news videotexts. Walma
van der Molen reported a very strong inter-rater reliability (Cohens Kappa was .81) for the two coders,
which suggests her coding system is a valid and reliable method for determining the level of audiovisual
correspondence in news videotexts. Her taxonomy was used in this study for the analysis of the news
Other related L1 news videotext research has focused on graphics, such as computer-generated texts
(CGTs) and computer-generated animations (CGAs). These are features which are typically used to
present numerical details, and are utilized to facilitate understanding of complicated events or processes.
Fox, Lang, Chung, Lee, Schwartz, and Potter (2003) investigated the comparative amount of
comprehension for seven science-related news videotexts in three modified versions which contained a
CGA, a CGT, or no graphics. The researchers reported that comprehension was worst for the no graphics
version, though there was little difference between the CGA and CGT versions. Moreover, when the
perceived complexity of the news videotext was included as a factor, comprehension was not affected for
easier or harder content by the presence of a CGA or CGT, but more difficult content resulted in
significantly less comprehension when no graphics were included.
In summary, this discussion illustrates that variations in audiovisual correspondence can impact on the
processing of news videotexts by skilled L1 users. For L2 listeners, it seems safe to hypothesize that such
factors will also be influential, as well as be potentially compounded due to linguistic deficiencies,
working memory constraints, and a lack of familiarity with the culture-bound visual content, style, and
conventions of news videotexts geared to the L1 audience (Meinhof, 1994).

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

Table 1. Examples of the Four Coding Categories in Basra Deaths

Verbal content Visual content

Talking head
The death of two British soldiers in a roadside
bombing in Iraq has raised further questions about
the level of equipment used by British troops and
whether its enough to fight insurgents with their
increasingly sophisticated weaponry. From Iraq,
David Lauren reports now.

This Land Rover was hit

as British troops were escorting construction
workers north of Basra this morning.

Wreckage was strewn across the road

in an area where there have been similar attacks

L2 Research
Regarding L2 learning, there is a growing body of research which has investigated the influence of the
visual content in videotexts primarily in terms of the role of kinesic cues (e.g., hand gestures and lip
movements), and still images in lectures, and to a lesser degree dialogues, in an academic listening
context (see Ginther, 2002; Ockey, 2007; Sueyoshi & Hardison, 2005; Wagner, 2007, 2008, 2010a,
2010b). The general findings of these studies were that kinesic and contextual visual cues appeared to
either facilitate or inhibit understanding, and that variability was apparent in learners orientation to, and

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

perceived usefulness of, such visual cues. In many of the studies cited, the authors could only offer
intuitive insights based on test items and responses, questionnaires, and interviews to suggest how visual
content might have affected learners comprehension. However, Ockey (2007) and Wagner (2008)
specifically focused on eliciting learners online processing of audiovisual information through verbal
reports to determine the influence of the visual content on understanding in tests of academic listening
ability. Ockeys study involved 6 ESL test takers who were asked to report their use of visual cues, and
the impact those cues had on their comprehension during pauses inserted at essentially regular intervals in
two lecture videotexts, one containing moving images, and the other still images. Five of the six test
takers used hand and body gestures or facial cues in the videotext with moving images to facilitate
comprehension. Few of the test takers found the still images in the lecture distracting, and all were rarely
found to observe the still images in any case. There was a fairly even split between test takers who
broadly found visual content either helpful, both helpful and distracting, or primarily distracting. Overall,
Ockey found limited use of the still images by test takers in that version of the videotext, and that there
was considerable variability in the videotext with moving images in how test takers reported utilizing the
visual content, or generally considered it to be helpful or distracting.
Wagner also collected verbal reports using a pause insertion methodology. Eight ESL learners verbalized
their comprehension processes at predesignated pauses as they worked through an academic dialogue and
a lecture videotext, and completed the corresponding tests. Most learners reported using hand gestures in
the lecture to interpret relevant parts of the videotext. In addition, several learners mentioned utilizing the
body language of the speakers in the academic dialogue to help develop their interpretations of its
content. Furthermore, some of the learners exploited contextual information in the academic dialogue to
discern who the speakers were, and to monitor and interpret what the speakers were doing at the start of
the dialogue. Similar to Ockey (2007), Wagner concluded that learners vary widely in how they attend to
and exploit visual content to understand videotexts.
Although there has been comparatively less research with news videotexts than with academic lecture
videotexts, it is an area that has been, and continues to be, the focus of interest for L2 researchers. For
example, in several publications aimed at informing classroom practice, Meinhof (1994, 1998) describes
and exemplifies the interrelations between visual and audio content in news broadcasts in terms of
Overlap, Displacement, and Dichotomy. These three categories are analogous to the Direct, Indirect and
Divergence categories, respectively, proposed by Walma van der Molen (2001). As in the present study,
Meinhof (1994) adopts the view that by understanding how L1 users process, and are influenced by,
vagaries in audiovisual content, we can come to understand their potential effects on L2 users
In empirical terms, Guichon and McLornan (2008) investigated aspects of multimodality (i.e., audio only,
audio and visual, and the addition of L1 or L2 subtitles) in a BBC news videotext. The authors counted
semantic units in learners written summaries as a measure of what they had comprehended. In attempting
to account for the differences in comprehension that were evident across the modality conditions of visual
content with or without subtitles, the authors suggested that learners comprehension may have been
negatively affected at times due to a split-attention effect (Chandler & Sweller, 1992), that is, the
division of attention to different modes of input which increases the working memory load and reduces
understanding. Importantly, and perhaps counterintuitively, a redundancy effect has also been noted by
Chandler and Sweller (1991), whereby the processing of simultaneous audio and visual content which is
congruous has potentially negative consequences for understanding. This occurs because an increase in
working memory load is associated with processing two simultaneous sources of information and
attempting to establish if they are related (Sweller, 2002).
In a more extensive study of how visual content affects L2 listeners comprehension of news videotext,
Gruba (2004) investigated the ways in which learners utilized the visual content of Japanese news
videotexts. Through examining the retrospective verbal reports of twelve tertiary learners of Japanese,

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

Gruba (2004, p. 63) identified seven aspects related to the role of visual information during news
videotext comprehension:
Listeners utilize visual elements to identify text type;
Listeners may utilize decoded written text to form an initial macrostructure;
Listeners may utilize visual elements to generate a number of tentative hypotheses;
Listeners may utilize visual elements to confirm an emerging interpretation;
The presence of a visual element may help listeners narrow an interpretation from amongst other
plausible meanings;
Visual elements may confuse or hinder interpretation;
At times, visual elements add little to the development of a macrostructure.
Gruba (2006) also explored learners verbal reports and semi-structured interview responses related to
listening to Japanese news videotexts from a media literacy perspective, and again illustrated the
influence of the visual content on listening. Regarding aspects relevant to this study, Gruba reported a
case study of one learner, Abby, who was given the opportunity to replay sections of the news videotexts
to create and build her understanding of content. Abby reported using visual elements to determine
signposts (key visual content) and boundaries (segmentation) as a means of facilitating her search for
comprehension. In addition, she became aware that aural and visual elements did not necessarily
correspond. Where discrepancies existed, she attended to the audio content and ignored the visual
information. When the two content sources matched, she was able to exploit this to realize greater
understanding. Other learners in the study also commented in their interviews that the visual content
helped reduce their anxiety, heightened motivation, and gave them a sense of connectedness with the
cultural context represented on-screen.
Given this rather small body of research into news videotexts, and that only Gruba (2004, 2006) has thus
far provided tangible insights into the way visual elements are processed and how they function in news
videotext comprehension, there appears a need for further investigation to inform conceptual
understanding and pedagogical practice, as well as generally broaden our knowledge of the influence of
this key aspect of videotexts on language learners comprehension. Thus, the research question for this
study was: What is the influence of visual content on L2 listeners comprehension of news videotexts?

This research was part of a broader study examining the listening processes of twenty EFL learners
studying at a language school in central Japan. Five BBC news videotexts were examined using Walma
van der Molens (2001) four-category coding system, and their audiovisual characteristics were
accordingly quantified. A different news videotext was then utilized in each of five 90-minute lessons
over five weeks. The news videotexts were edited into segments, and learners worked in pairs to complete
a sequence of tasks in a pedagogical cycle for each segment (six per news videotext) at their own pace
guided by a prompt sheet. The pairs did not receive any prior training in discussing their comprehension
processes, nor did they receive any input from the researcher throughout the study to avoid manipulating
the direction and content of their dialogue. The researchers role was only to ensure that the pairs adhered
to the task sequence and to control the playing of the news videotexts. All interaction between learners
was carried out in English, reflecting the requisite use of the L2 in their regular lessons. Each pairs
dialogue was audio recorded, transcribed, and acted as the unit of qualitative analysis.

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

The twenty volunteers were Japanese females aged between 22 and 55. All were attending an advanced-
level English language course. A comparison of course level versus IELTS band scales using the
language centres approximation table indicated that participants were at approximately IELTS band scale
7.0. All names are pseudonyms.
Materials Preparation and Analysis
The five news videotexts used in the study were drawn from free-to-air televised BBC news broadcasts.
The initial criterion for choosing the news videotexts was that they were under two minutes in length to
ensure that the amount of preparation time required for editing each of the news videotexts into segments
was not overly excessive. In addition, among the news videotexts selected, a range of common tradecraft
features, such as interviews with members of the general public, CGTs, and CGAs, should be represented
to expose learners to the typical components of this type of videotext. Furthermore, news videotexts
consisting of a sequence of short segments were preferred, with each segment consisting of one or a series
of images of the same scene plus accompanying audio and well-defined visual cuts between segments.
This provided for ease of editing and consistency of material through the study. Each news videotext was
edited into short segments according to visual scene change and shift in audio content focus, a natural
discourse boundary in news videotext (see Appendix). Due to lesson time constraints, only the first six
segments of each news videotext were presented in the classroom phase of the study. The length of
segments ranged from 6 to 22 seconds, with the average length being 14 seconds. The order of
presentation and content of the five news videotexts examined in the study are summarized in Table 2.

Table 2. Overview of the Titles, Topics and Lengths of the Five News Videotexts

News Item Title Topic Length (seconds)

Term-time Holidays School holidays in the UK 126.1
Green Grocer Food packaging in the UK 124.5
Elderly Abuse Aged-care in the UK 129.9
Job Losses Unemployment in the UK 118.3
Basra Deaths UK forces in Iraq 130.5

To explore the nature of the information presented in these five news videotexts, verbal and visual content
in each videotext for all segments was analyzed according to the four categories suggested by Walma van
der Molen (2001)Direct, Indirect, Divergent, and Talking head. The coding method employed was
similar to Walma van der Molens. A coding form was prepared in which the verbal script was given
alongside images of associated shots and a brief written statement describing the shots. During the
analysis, one of the four coding categories was selected and noted on the coding form for the given
audiovisual information. However, Walma van der Molen used shot duration to calculate the time for
each category. Instead, in this study, the time for a category was calculated based on the duration of the
utterances accompanying associated shots. Pauses before and after utterances were excluded, as only
visual content was being presented. Measurements were made using Praat Version 4.3.22
(http://www.fon.hum.uva.nl/praat/). A colleague acted as a second coder for coding agreement checks. An
inter-coder reliability analysis using the Kappa statistic was performed with SPSS Version 18.0
(http://www.spss.com/). Inter-coder reliability was .79. Differences in coding were then resolved by
discussion to enable the analysis of the prevalence of each of the four categories.
Elicitation and Analysis of Dialogue
To provide the framework for eliciting learners dialogue for subsequent analysis based on the first six

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

segments of each news videotext, a pedagogical cycle proposed by Vandergrift (2007) was used (see
Cross, in press, for details). Pairs watched a segment on a TV set, and then made notes after the segment
finished. Next, learners shared their understanding of the segment, discussed how they had tried to
understand the content, and considered ways to understand more of the segment. Specific written prompts
were provided to elicit learners responses, such as, What strategies did you use to try to understand the
segment? The learners discussed their comprehension processes at designated pauses inserted in the
news videotext, akin to the manner in which Ockey (2007) and Wagner (2008) collected verbal protocols.
The same segment was then replayed, learners added to their notes, shared their understanding, and
reported on how they had tried to understand the segment. Following this, learners worked together to
produce a written summary of main ideas they had jointly comprehended. On average, they spent
approximately fifteen minutes working on each segment. On finishing a segments summary, the learners
signaled to the researcher to play the next segment.
The qualitative analysis by the author of each pairs dialogic recalls (Cross, 2011) using QSR NVivo
Version 8 (http://www.qsrinternational.com/) aimed to establish the influence of the visual content on
their comprehension of the given news videotexts. Excerpts in which a learners report referred to the
visual content were firstly identified and grouped for each news videotext. These excerpts of dialogue
were then individually cross-referenced to the coding form (see previous section) to establish the category
of the relationship (i.e., Talking head, Direct, Indirect, and Divergent) of the audiovisual content that had
been the focus of learners dialogue. Excerpts of dialogue related to the visual content in the news
videotexts which were more general in nature and could not be linked to any of Walma van der Molens
four coding categories, were collated and given provisional labels for each pair. Excerpts with related
labels were then matched across the ten pairs, and the categories iteratively consolidated. Isolated
excerpts which could not be cross-matched were excluded from further consideration. A colleague again
acted as a second coder, and was asked to use the categories established (i.e., positive or negative effect,
inferencing, and predicting) to code the excerpts which did not relate to the coding form content. An
inter-coder reliability analysis using the Kappa statistic was conducted with SPSS. Inter-coder reliability
was .83. Coding differences were subsequently resolved by discussion.


The initial concern of this study was to draw on L1 research to establish the nature of the audiovisual
content in the BBC news videotexts utilized. Using Walma van der Molens (2001) audiovisual coding
system, all of the segments in each of the five news videotexts used in this study were analyzed and the
amount of time in seconds and as a percentage of the total time for each of the four categories was
quantified. Table 3 shows the findings of the analysis for each of the news videotexts.
Table 3 highlights that the Talking head category was the most common, with each news videotext
containing two or three of such segments. Overall, the majority of the audio and visual content for each of
the five news videotexts was classified as Indirect or Divergent. This supports the generally held view
that redundancy between audio and visual modes in news videotexts is rare (Meinhof, 1998; Walma van
der Molen, 2001). Two of the news videotexts contained a CGT segment (Elderly Abuse and Job Losses)
and one a CGA segment (Basra Deaths), and these segments exhibited a notable level of audiovisual
correspondence. Hence the higher percentages for the Direct category compared to the other two news
videotexts (i.e., Term-time Holidays and Green Grocer). The implication for the L2 listeners in this study
was that the prevalence of at least partial audiovisual discrepancy in the five BBC news videotexts clearly
had the potential to create comprehension difficulties, much as it had affected uptake in the L1 study by
Brosius, et al. (1996) discussed above.
To examine the manner of influence of the audiovisual content on learners comprehension, excerpts of
dialogue from each pair were cross-referenced to the relevant shots they were referring to in their
dialogue, and the coding of those shots as Talking head, Direct, Indirect or Divergent. The influence of

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

the visual content on learners comprehension is now discussed in terms of each of these four audiovisual
correspondence categories.

Table 3. The Types of Visual Content and Their Distribution in Seconds and as a Percentage for Each of
the Five News Videotexts

News Item Title Types of visual content Distribution of visual content

(seconds) (%)
Term-time Holidays Talking head 41.7 37
Direct 2.9 3
Indirect 30.0 26
Divergent 38.8 34
Total 113.4 100
Green Grocer Talking head 39.0 35
Direct 0.0 0
Indirect 33.2 30
Divergent 39.6 35
Total 111.8 100
Elderly Abuse Talking head 44.9 41
Direct 15.7 14
Indirect 20.8 20
Divergent 27.0 25
Total 108.4 100
Job Losses Talking head 35.9 33
Direct 19.9 18
Indirect 17.3 16
Divergent 35.3 32
Total 108.4 100
Basra Deaths Talking head 24.6 24
Direct 20.6 20
Indirect 36.0 34
Divergent 23.4 22
Total 104.6 100

Note: Pauses in audio content, which meant only visual content was presented, were excluded from time calculations in each

Talking Head
This category refers to close-up shots of the head and upper body of newscasters, reporters, and
interviewees which did not contain background scenes of semantic significance. In this study, each of the
news videotexts began with a Talking head segment in which the newscaster can be seen introducing the
news story. Four of these segments also included a caption identifying the title and, therefore, the theme

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

of the news videotext (see Appendix, Segment 1). In addition, three of the news videotexts included
Talking head segments in which an interviewee offered their views. Each interviewee was identified with
a caption (see Appendix, Segment 3). None of the learners reports contained comments about the
Talking head shots of the newscasters. Thirteen learners (in ten excerpts) mentioned the visual content in
segments with Talking head shots of interviewees. Three learners reported just focusing on the audio
content as the visual content in the Talking head segment was not felt to be semantically informative. For
instance, Nao reported that the Talking head shot merely showed the woman talking (see Appendix,
Segment 3), and so she had concentrated on what the interviewee was saying.
Nao: uhm about for the visual points
Midori: mm
Nao: a woman is just talking about
Midori: mm mm
Nao: just talking, so I concentrated on the words
Midori: mm
Nao: I I I can catch
However, two learners reported using the captions identifying an interviewee to orientate themselves to
who the actual speaker was. Interestingly, three learners also reported not noticing the captions, despite
their appearance on screen for most of the duration of the given segments. An excerpt from Azusa and
Yokos dialogue with respect to the female interviewee (see Appendix, Segment 3) illustrates both of
these aspects, with Yoko mentioning she used the caption, whereas Azusa reported not seeing it.
Yoko: ah I first of all who is speaking
Azusa: uhuh
Yoko: the head teacher
Azusa: eh eh how did you know shes the head teacher
Yoko: the subtitles subtitles
Azusa: [ah you saw the subtitles I didnt see that point
Yoko: and ah this is the head teacher
In summary, several learners reports reflected that they felt visual content in Talking head shots provided
little of semantic value to facilitate their understanding, and thus they tended to direct their attention to the
contiguous aural content. The captions identifying interviewees did help to orientate a few learners to the
name/position of the speaker, but this feature could also go unnoticed.
Direct Category
This category describes instances in which there was a high degree of semantic equivalence between aural
and visual information. Apart from excerpts linked to the CGT and CGA segments, there was one excerpt
each from the dialogue of four pairs in which learners discussed the influence of audiovisual content
classified in this category. All of the learners mentioned that the visual content had supported their
understanding of audio content in relation to a scene from Basra Deaths in which parts of a vehicle
destroyed in an explosion are seen on the road (see Table 1). For example, Jun mentions that seeing the
wreckage on the road had facilitated her understanding of this part of the segment.

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

Jun: uhm if ah when I saw the pic- erh the image of erh the
wreckage parts are strew- strewn around across the road
Kaori: [uhuh [ah yes yes
Jun: that was very helpful to understand the the whats happening
Kaori [mm yes mm
Jun: at that time
Kaori: yes on the road
This part of the segment was notably short (1.9 seconds), yet the audiovisual correspondence appeared to
be particularly apparent to several of the learners, and drew comment. It is unclear as to why no other
excerpts were related to audiovisual content in the Direct category (other than for the CGT and CGA
segments). It may be that the brief duration of each example of such content in general (the average time
of audiovisual content in the Direct category was 2.6 seconds), or that just under half of the examples
were only a partial component of a proposition (e.g., see the two examples of the Direct category in Table
1), made it difficult for learners to recognize and exploit the semantic overlap in the audio and visual
content. Alternatively, audiovisual redundancy may not have been recalled as associated content was
unconsciously processed, or because it was one small part of the complex process of comprehending a
segments propositional content (typically each segment contained three propositions).
The CGT and CGA segments contained audiovisual content which exhibited redundancy. The CGT
segment in Elderly Abuse consisted of a sequence of numbers and on-screen text, and around half of this
segments content exhibited semantic overlap. Table 4 shows the content which was categorized as
Table 4. Examples of the Direct Category in the CGT from Elderly Abuse

Verbal content Visual content

In more than two hundred cases the person was
abused in their own home.

There have been just five prosecutions.

Seven pairs commented on the effect on their comprehension of the CGT visual content in ten excerpts.
This was primarily regarding facilitating understanding of numerical details which is typically difficult
for L2 listeners. For example, Yoko reported using the number graphic, recognizing it was linked to the
audio content, and thus being able to comprehend the information presented.
Yoko: I tried to follow the numbers appearing on the screen
Azusa: [mm uhuh
Yoko: and the sound is connected with that number
Azusa: uhuh

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

Yoko: so I could understand what this number is what

The CGA in Basra Deaths, shown in Table 5, also contained audiovisual content which was redundant.
This segment primarily portrayed an explosive attack on a vehicle, with the voiceover describing how
such an attack proceeds.

Table 5. Examples of the Direct Category in the CGA from Basra Deaths

Verbal content Visual content

But shaped bombs are designed to focus the
force of the explosive into a small area, forcing
a hard projectile through the light armour of a
Snatch Land Rover.

Excerpts of dialogue from seven pairs illustrated that this CGA appeared to have either a positive or
negative influence on learners comprehension. Of eighteen related excerpts, ten were positive. For
instance, both Emi and Kana reported that their understanding of the military technology shown in the
segment had been facilitated by the animation.
Emi: yes in my case I I watched the illustration that something
weapons attacked to the land rover mm:: so I think it helps
me to understand the weapons how weapons how sophisticated
the weapon mm
Kana: mm yeah erh well in my case I uhm thanks for the clear
illustration illustrations I thought I could understand the basic
concepts of the weapons
However, Masako and Satsuki were among the learners who reported the CGA had inhibited or impaired
their comprehension irrespective of audiovisual correspondence because of the nature and amount of
information it contained. Satsuki reported being absorbed in the visual content and forgetting to attend to
the audio content, while Masako stated that her attempts to exploit more of the visual content had led to
increased confusion.
Satsuki: I was I was I was so so attracted by the scene
Masako: mm
Satsuki: the truck land rover and the explanation and illu- and
illus- illustration
Masako: mm mm mm
Satsuki: and and so I forgot to listen to erh what announcer said
Masako: [oh:: mm

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

mm mm mm
Satsuki: so
Masako: ok so I I tried to get more information
Satsuki: mm
Masako: from screen
Satsuki: mm
Masako: but ah:: mm:: it made me more confused confused
Overall, there was a fairly even split between the number of learners who reported that the graphics in the
CGA had been beneficial to their comprehension or had impaired it. The difficulty for learners seemed to
be in concurrently coordinating their attention, decoding and integration of the on-screen animation and
the details presented aurally. This was a procedure which possibly overwhelmed their cognitive resources.
Therefore, it seems that despite redundancy between audio and visual content, the sheer volume of
information from different sources (i.e., written text, audio, animated visual scenes) in CGAs, which is
designed to assist L1 users understanding of complicated events or processes in news videotexts, could
possibly confuse some L2 listeners and make it difficult for them to build connections between audio and
visual sources of information. Alternatively, learners cognitive resources could have been overloaded as
they tried to establish that correspondence existed between the multiple sources (i.e., a redundancy
effect, see Chandler & Sweller, 1991; Sweller, 2002). This did not appear to be as problematic with the
CGT as the visual content consisted only of written text accompanied by redundant audio information, so
it may be that the moving picture aspect of CGAs adds an extra element of complexity for learners.
Indirect Category
This category refers to audio and visual content which has partial semantic redundancy. One example of
this type of audiovisual correspondence was when a reporter was seen using hand gestures and
simultaneously referring to on-screen items or locations. This use of gestures by a reporter occurred in
two of the five news videotexts. For instance, in a segment from the Green Grocer news videotext shown
in Table 6, the reporter is seen holding and gesturing towards some packaging and a plastic bag as he is
talking about them.

Table 6. Examples of the Hand Gestures from Green Grocer

Verbal content Visual content

Sainsburys argue that the natural products in
this packaging will break down very quickly in

whereas the degradable plastic used by some

rivals is still oil-based and will take a couple of
years to break down completely.

Four pairs discussed the visual information in this segment. For example, Tomoko reported on the way in
which the visual content influenced her understanding. She stated how the reporter had explicitly drawn

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

attention to objects using his hands, and how this had helped her to recognize that he was making a
comparison between objects.
Tomoko: when they did some comparison between sainsburys
and other retailers rivals like when he talked about the
sainsburys products he used I I think he
Nami: mm:: uhuh
Tomoko: drew up our attention to the sainsburys products and
when he talked about plastic bags or biodegradable bags
by other retailers he hold the bags visually we could notice
that he was comparising
Nami: mm::
Tomoko: huh comparising comparing sorry comparing something
with something
This representative example illustrates that the semantic overlap achieved through the use of hand
gestures for comparing and contrasting by the reporter helped to orientate some of the learners to, and
facilitate their understanding of, the aural content2. This is in line with Wagners (2008) findings that
hand gestures can help learners to interpret information in videotexts, and supports the perceptions of the
learners in Coniams (2001), Ockeys (2007) and Sueyoshi and Hardisons (2005) studies regarding the
usefulness of a speakers gestures in aiding listening comprehension.
Visual content in the Indirect category in the form of standard scenes (i.e., visual content which has a
thematic correspondence with the audio content) informed learners contextual/thematic orientation. All
ten pairs commented on this aspect in relation to various segments of each videotext, and there were thirty
three associated excerpts in their dialogues. For instance, in Job Losses, the visual content shows
employees at work in a call-centre in India, as shown in Table 7, and the audio information is about office
jobs being shifted to India.

Table 7. Example of the Standard Scene from Job Losses

Verbal content Visual content

Indian workers able to do the same office jobs
more cheaply.

Manami and Keiko discussed this visual content, and their dialogue illustrates that it had enabled Manami
to achieve situational orientation. She reported she was able to notice the disparity in the visual scene and
this had helped her recognize the related context of the information being presented in the segment.
Manami: the first thing I noticed is that the the visual was very
parallel to to the one we saw in the segment four
Keiko: parallel

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

Manami: it was similar but different to the one taken in britain

Keiko: mm
Manami: it was the similar office
Keiko: mm mm mm mm
Manami: but something was different
Keiko: mm
Manami: people were different the partition and the configuration
were was different so in a way it helped me that to to to
notice that this is the situation in India or the uhm the
exported situation
In summary, excerpts related to the reporters use of hand gestures indicated that this aspect helped to
orientate several learners to items or locations being depicted. In addition, the presence of standard scenes
appeared to have a positive influence on some learners comprehension through activating and informing
contextual/thematic orientation and helping them to refine their interpretations of the given news
videotexts as they formed and developed a macrostructure representation (Gruba, 2004).
Divergent Category
With respect to this category, which refers to audio and visual content which is unrelated or possibly
contradictory, there were only four related excerpts evident in the pairs dialogues. Two pairs commented
on audiovisual divergence when it was patently apparent. A segment in Term-time Holidays, shown in
Table 8, contains visual content of children running around a gym mostly showing their legs, while the
audio information is an explanation of a court case.

Table 8. Examples of the Divergent Category from Term-time Holidays

Verbal content Visual content

The issue has been brought to the fore again
because of a court case involving a mother from

She was prosecuted after taking her children on

holiday twice without their schools permission.
After a legal battle, the High Court ruled that
shed broken the law.

One example illustrates Azusa mentioning to Yoko how the divergent visual and audio information
affected her ability to concentrate and listen, and how she felt the visual content of the children running
around had hindered her concentration and comprehension.
Azusa: I think I watched very concentratedly con- co- concentrate
on the tv so

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

Yoko: [mm
Azusa: thats why I couldnt catch a lot
Yoko: mm::
Azusa: because I wh- while I was listening I always thought what is
what are those why are they running running so that bothered
my concentration and listening
This representative excerpt illustrates that when the audio and visual content is particularly incongruous
and also, in this case, peculiar in terms of the camera technique, it becomes apparent to some learners and
can create confusion. A possible reason for why few excerpts of dialogue related to content classified as
Divergent is that, although other segments contained disparate audio and visual content, the storyline of
the audio and the associated visual images (excluding Talking head shots) were related to previous
segments in the news videotext, and it is possible that learners were able to orientate themselves to the
continuing thread of the storyline as their tentative macrostructure of the news videotext evolved (Gruba,
2004). This was not the case for the segment content in Table 8, and may have been why learners felt it
was problematic.
Other Influences
In the qualitative analysis of each pairs dialogue, a number of other general influences related to the
visual content emerged across a number of pairs. Firstly, in twenty three excerpts, learners in all pairs
mentioned in broad terms that they found that visual content had facilitated their comprehension at some
stage, as in this example:
Satsuki: we:: this time uhm the visual points helped us very much I think
Masako: [mm [mm:: ah yes
Satsuki: mm:: and erh I think uhm we we cou- we have got a lot of information
Masako: mm
Satsuki: erh from the visual points
Masako: [mm mm mm yes yes
However, this needs to be qualified, as there were eighteen excerpts in the dialogue of seven of the pairs
which illustrated that when they attended to the visual content in a segment, it impaired their ability to
attend to the accompanying audio content. For instance, Hiromi stated that she recognized that her
attention to the visual information had inhibited processing of the concurrent audio input.
Hiromi: mm:: mm:: I tried concentrate only on the screen so
actually sound did not enter
Naoko: really
Hiromi: [my brain
Naoko: ah::
Another interesting aspect was that the initial scene in a segment (i.e., the post-cut shot) was used by
learners to generate expectations about possible audio content. There were fourteen excerpts related to
this in the dialogue of five pairs. For example, Manami reported that the initial image of a child in a
segment from Term-time Holidays (see Appendix, Segment 2) had created an expectation regarding the
context, which she felt had assisted her comprehension.

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

Manami: ah:: but you know when I first see I first saw the head of
of a child I I immediately
Keiko: [mm
Manami: knew they were going to talk about the classroom and it
helped me
Keiko: [mm:: ah::
A further influence of the visual content was that it aided inferencing by learners of a segments
information. There were thirteen related excerpts among six pairs. One example shows Emi reporting that
the visual scene had been the stimulus for guessing the content. She mentioned concentrating on the
visual content and seeing parts of a vehicle on the road in Basra Deaths (see Table 1), and using this
information to conclude that the vehicle had exploded.
Emi: erh I watched on the screen carefully and yes I I saw a car
Kana: [uhuh mm
Emi: and some metal things such as coil
Kana: [mm mm
Emi: and the metal plate on on the on the place so I I guessed the cars
Kana: [mm::
Emi: exploded exploded and mm::
In summary, learners considered that visual content could both promote and impede their understanding
of the accompanying verbal material. Other studies have also found in broad terms that visual content can
be both helpful and distracting. Regarding the latter, as with a number of the participants in Coniams
(2001) and Ockeys (2007) studies, the visual content seemed to exclusively absorb learners attention at
times, causing them to fail to allocate resources to processing the simultaneous audio information. In
addition, using the initial visual content of a segment helped learners to predict or create expectations
about the possible information presented in that segment. Although this could be a risky strategy, just
over half of post-cut shots were good indicators of the focus of segment content. A further strategy
learners felt had facilitated their comprehension was inferencing based on the visual content (see also
Gruba, 2004). The visual content possibly provided a tentative frame of reference which learners used to
organize the parts of the audio content they could comprehend and create coherent propositions. Of
course, this does not imply that their inferences were necessarily always correct, especially as there was a
high proportion of content in the news videotexts that lacked audiovisual redundancy.
Learner Variability
Ockey (2007), Sueyoshi and Hardison (2005), and Wagner (2008) have commented that the influence of
the visual content on comprehension of videotexts is notably variable for each learner, and the findings of
this study also illustrate that this is so. While L2 listening comprehension is primarily an idiosyncratic
process and, as such, one would expect differences to be evident among learners regarding their
frequency and degree of use of visual content in videotexts (as reflected in their verbal reports), it is
informative to account for how such variability possibly arises. Wagner (2008) suggests that one reason
for the variability is because visual content tends to be automatically processed, so learners are not
conscious of doing so. Hence, it is not available for reporting by the given learner. However, it is
debatable that the socioculturally-bound visual content in videotexts requires little conscious effort on the
part of L2 learners to extract the semantic notions being conveyed. Rather, the analysis of each pairs

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

dialogue in this study revealed that some variability can be more plausibly explained from a dual coding
theory perspective, which advocates distinct verbal and nonverbal systems (Paivio, 2007). Given that the
multimodality of news videotexts places excessive demands on an individuals limited short-term
memory capacity (Lang, 1995), a number of learners appeared to employ a coping mechanism in which
they intentionally directed their attention to either the visual content or the audio content, with the
incumbent loss of information presented in the non-attended content source. Moreover, eight learners
reported deliberately switching their attention across the two listenings to each segment, primarily
attending to the visual content in the first listening to a segment, and focusing on the audio content in the
second listening. As such, these learners were likely to comment on the visual content following the first
listening only, particularly when they did not find the visual content initially useful. For example, Masako
reported that the visual information had not aided her understanding during the first listening so she had
decided to attend to the audio content in the second opportunity to listen.
Masako: mm:: on the screen there is no theres no tips I mean
Satsuki: yeah
Masako: hints
Satsuki: yeah mm
Masako: so its quite difficult to
Satsuki: mm
Masako: mm to guess from the visual in the part
Satsuki: [yeah mm yeah
Masako: so next time Im going to concentrate on erh the the listening
Satsuki: mm::
Similarly, in the following excerpt, whereas Manami mentioned using visual information in the second
listening to a segment, Keiko reported that she had consciously not attended to the visual content the
second time she listened to the segment and had focused on the audio content.
Manami: this time I tried to use the visual
Keiko: mm mm mm and I yeah I this time I ignored the visual
Manami: [right yeah
Keiko: and concentrate to hear
Gruba (2004) also noted the tendency of learners to primarily attend to the visual content in the first
listening to formulate an initial impression, and then develop a more complete understanding by attending
to the aural content as they listened again. Therefore, it appears that conscious attention to either, but not
simultaneously to both, the audio or visual content is a way learners attempt to overcome processing
issues they encounter, such as when a split attention or redundancy effect overwhelms their short-term
memory resources.
In relation to learners focusing their attention on either source of content, there was evidence that while
all learners were observed to look at the screen when listening, this was, at times, possibly a blank
starean unfocused look that does not involve the processing of what is seen (Garland-Thomson, 2009).
The visual information in the news videotext was not necessarily being utilized, and learners concentrated
on processing the audio content alone. For example, the following excerpt illustrates that Naoko adopted
this type of behavior.

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

Naoko: so some sometimes I I point my eyes on the screen but not exactly focus on
Hiromi: ah:: blankly you look at ok
Naoko: yeah so next
These findings have implications for studies in which researchers have measured the time learners spent
observing the visual content (e.g., Ockey, 2007; Wagner, 2007, 2010a). Although learners are seen to be
orienting to the screen, this study shows that it does not necessarily mean they are attending to and
exploiting (consciously or unconsciously) the visual elements displayed.
Overall, then, it appears that the visual content in news videotexts, irrespective of the degree of
audiovisual correspondence, creates a further significant strain on learners limited cognitive resources.
Learners may try to deal with this issue through directing their attention at different times to information
from only one source in preference to the other. This may depend on which source the individual learner
feels can best be effectively exploited to interpret and ascertain meaning in the news videotext, and seems
to be one important reason for why variability in the use of visual content exits across learners3.


Despite a number of limitations of this study, including the participants being a rather homogenous group,
the news videotext segmentation possibly distorting normal discourse processing, and potential issues
with using dialogic recalls as verbal reports (see Cross, 2011), several implications for L2 listening
pedagogy arise from the findings. Firstly, it was evident that not all learners recognized congruence and
discrepancies between the aural and visual elements as they strove for understanding. This suggests that
such aspects need to be made explicit to learners if they are to better deal with the audiovisual vagaries of
news videotexts. One technique for achieving this is to present learners with a range of segments and ask
them to compare the transcript of the aural content with the visuals they see, and determine and discuss
the extent of audiovisual correspondence. Another approach is to have learners predict the kind of visual
content they think corresponds to the transcript of the audio content of a news videotext, and then ask
them watch the videotext and reflect on the degree of audiovisual correspondence that was evident. In
particular, it seems apposite to raise learners awareness of the utility of hand gestures used by reporters,
and the potentially facilitative effect of numbers and/or captions presented in Talking head, CGT and
CGA segments. Furthermore, several studies have shown the facilitative nature of speakers lip
movements and facial expressions for understanding (Ockey, 2007; Sueyoshi & Hardison, 2005). Talking
head segments are a common element of news videotexts, and it would be useful to draw learners
attention to such features with respect to newscasters and interviewees.
In addition, from a media literacy standpoint, Gruba (2006) points to the importance of learners being
able to identify segment boundaries using visual elements. This skill helps listeners to keep pace with
shifts in content focus as the news videotext progresses. For this study, boundaries were predetermined to
enable separate segments of the news videotexts to be presented one-by-one. However, in a classroom
context, learners could initially be introduced to the notion of segmentation through visuals in news
videotexts and how it operates. A complete news videotext could then be presented (with or without
sound) and learners asked to discuss and justify the number of segments they feel it contains. This could
be facilitated by asking them to mark segment boundaries on a transcript of the news videotext. Drawing
learners attention to the regularity of the generic macrostructure of news videotexts (Meinhof, 1998) is
also important for developing media literacy. In the BBC news videotexts used in this study, we first see
the anchor in the studio, and this is followed by a sequence of short multimodal segments. Viewpoints
presented are supported through interviews with stakeholders (i.e., members of the general public,
politicians, victims), and the final segment often shows the correspondent at the scene or contains the
correspondents voiceover indicating current consequences and future directions. Of course, it is
important to note that the macrostructure and content of BBC news videotexts are culture-bound. In

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

contrast, Japans NHK news, for example, has a different macrostructure and content (see Botting, 2003).
In addition to raising awareness of the macrostructure, learners knowledge of the defining features of
news videotexts according to particular themes (e.g., politics, war, crime) may be enhanced by using
worksheets to guide and maximize their listening experience (see Lynch, 2009). Furthermore, as Gruba
(2005) suggests, learners can predict the meaning of the visual content in a news videotext and compare
their ideas. Through doing so, they can become aware that visual content may have polysemic
interpretations (i.e., an array of diverse meanings, Gruba, 2005).

This study identified and examined the various audiovisual characteristics of (BBC) news videotexts
using a four-category system and coding method developed by Walma van der Molen (2001). It was
evident that audiovisual correspondence in the news videotexts was non-equivalent to varying degrees.
Subsequent analysis focused on learners dialogue to explore the effect the four different categories of
shot types had on learners listening comprehension. Talking head visual content seemed to have little
influence on comprehension, though captions did help with speaker identification. The effect of the visual
content classified as Direct was typically facilitative of comprehension, but the multimodality of
contiguous information in CGAs could be detrimental to understanding. Indirect audiovisual
correspondence, as reflected in the hand gestures of the reporter and in standard scenes, influenced
comprehension positively, whereas Divergent audio and visual content seemed particularly problematic
when it was notably incongruous with the evolving news videotext storyline.
In addition, the analysis revealed other influences of the visual content on comprehension such as its role
in facilitating comprehension; inhibiting of attention to, and processing of, audio content; and triggering
of learners expectations and inferencing of content. Dual coding theory provided a useful perspective for
explaining possible reasons for why there is notable variability among learners in the degree to which
they report exploiting the visual content in news videotexts, and it is hoped the implications for L2
listening pedagogy presented offer a way forward for practitioners using news videotexts (or other types
of videotexts) in their listening lessons.

1. Listening comprehension is defined here as an active process in which listeners select and interpret
information which comes from auditory and visual [this authors italics] clues (Rubin, 1995, p. 7).
2. The audiovisual correspondence was coded as Indirect as the visual information presented includes the
supermarket interior, the shopping aisle, and items in a trolley.
3. Other potential reason for learner variability in reports of their use of visual content include the
tendency for this information to evoke polysemic interpretations (Gruba, 2005), and the disparate visual
literacy, spatial ability, and background knowledge of learners (Chun & Plass, 1997).

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts

APPENDIX. Example of a segmented news videotext

Segment verbal content Segment visual content

Segment 1
Now, if you think you could save a tidy sum by
taking your kids on holiday in term time, you
could be in for a nasty surprise. In a test case, the
High Court has a backed the law which says its
schools who decide if these trips are OK. So, what
exactly are parents allowed to do? Judith Morris
has been finding out.

Segment 2
These children at school in Manchester are all
present and correct, but thats not the case
everywhere. Most teachers marking the register
have had the experience of pupils taking time off
to go on holiday. It can be a tug of war between
parents and schools.

Segment 3
Its escalating in the number of families that are
actually taking children out of school. Parents
now erh expect to take probably more than
one holiday a year. I do have a sympathy with
parents because the guidelines are not clear. And
its left too much onto head teachers.


I wish to acknowledge Major Matthew Bacon, who is mentioned in the Basra Deaths news videotext used
in this study, and who lost his life on 11th September, 2005 while serving in Iraq.

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Jeremy Cross Comprehending News Videotexts


Jeremy Cross is an Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics at the National Institute of Education,
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His primary research interest is L2 listening. He mainly
teaches postgraduate courses on ELT methodology for listening and speaking.
E-mail: jertzy7@hotmail.com

Botting, G. (2003, February 18). Japans TV news in a world of its own. The Japan Times Online.
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Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2
http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2011/dooly.pdf pp. 6991



Melinda Dooly, Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona

The use of computer-supported collaborative learning is more and more commonplace in

language learning classrooms; this has given rise to the need for more research on roles
and processes of telecollaboration in language teaching and learning and how online
interactions are integrated with face-to-face classroom activities. Using a data-driven,
qualitative approach to provide snapshots of a telecollaborative language learning project,
this article examines participants modes of language use beginning with the task-as-
workplan (Breen, 1987, 1989) and then examining episodes (both F2F and online) and
outcomes of the task-in-process. By pinpointing specific moments of emerging language
knowledge in the telecollaborative process, the article aims to delineate salient factors
involved in this type of language learning context.

Despite being a fairly new educational mode, there is a considerable and growing body of research on
telecollaboration in language learning, and definitions and uses of telecollaboration have gone through
many transformations. Generally, telecollaboration in language learning contexts is seen as an Internet-
based exchange aimed at developing both language skills and intercultural communicative competence
(Guth & Helm, 2010). In this article the label Telecollaborative Language Learning (henceforth TlcLL)1
will be employed.
Language educators know well that communicative-based environments do not guarantee that language
learning takes place. The task design and its implementation are key elements for efficient language
learning to developa carefully designed task or activity that requires off- and online co-construction of
knowledge not only provides opportunities for target language practice, it also helps integrate language
use as the means for shared knowledge-building, thus further enhancing purposeful communication. (For
an in-depth overview of the growing awareness of the centrality of tasks in CMC [computer-mediated
communication] learning environments (p. 19) and subsequent research into task-based language
teaching in CMC, see Mller-Hartmann & Schocker-v. Ditfurth, 2008).
Several researchers of TlcLL have called for more focus on what it means to efficiently design a
communicative venue for online interaction in the target language (Levy & Stockwell, 2006; Mangenot,
2008). Hermeneutic views of the more common task typology used in telecollaboration can be found in
recent literature (see Harris, 2002; ODowd & Ware, 2009), however research into what occurs during the
learning process in TlcLL is still lagging behind. Arguably, this is even more so in the case of TlcLL in
primary education, where there are far fewer studies. Along these lines, this article aims to explore the
discourse space between online and F2F language learning talk that takes place in a fifth grade classroom
in Catalonia, Spain. The learners in the study participated in a yearlong telecollaborative project with a
partner class in the Czech Republic. By considering data from specific episodes during the learning
process (both on- and offline), the text outlines the anatomy of the language-in-action in these different
modes of communication, all of which were essential, interlocking components to the overall project
design. Considering that the use of telecollaboration in language classrooms is becoming more common, a
micro-analysis of divergent perceptions of telecollaborative language learning tasks of the participants
involved (learners and teachers) may provide useful insight into the learning process, along with
understanding of potential gaps between task plans and actions (and final output). The environment is
understood as a blended learning environment2 therefore data from off- and online contexts are taken into

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Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative Learning

Contextual and conversational analysis begins with the task-as-workplan (in the classroom) and then
examines different episodes (both F2F and online) of the task-in-process (Breen, 1987, 1989) to discern
whether student uses of different resources are legitimized by the teacher as part of the emergent language
learning in the TlcLL project. The conjunction of different, segmented data, collocated within the
network of activity (Barab, Hay, & Yamagata-Lynch, 2001) that constitutes the yearlong
telecollaborative project provide the foci for the driving questions of this descriptive study:
Is a relationship between learner repertoires, tasks, and output discernable in the described
episodes (snapshots)?
Are there indicators of language learning in these described episodes (snapshots)?
Are these indicators recognised and acknowledged in the teaching process?
Are there divergences between task plans and participant actions?

Lamy and Hampel (2007) provide an overview of the history of computer-supported language acquisition,
describing it in three broad phases: behaviouristic CALL, communicative CALL and integrative CALL
(p. 9). In the first phase, computers principally were used for individual drill-type exercises. In the
communicative phase, targeted language practice included speaking and listening albeit via machine-
learner interaction. The integrative phase (beginning in the 1990s) involves multimedia network-based
interaction, which usually mediates human-human interaction and is often group-based. Second Language
Acquisition (SLA) theories have generally guided studies of language learning online (Levy, 1998).
Chapelle (2001) provides a comprehensive overview of the connections between SLA and computer-
supported learning.
There are two broad paradigms which have been quite influential in SLA (Lamy & Hampel, 2007):
cognitive and sociocultural (although these can be further categorised into different theoretical branches
and research areas). Cognitive SLA is an applied psycholinguistic discipline oriented towards the
cognitive processes involved in the learning and the use of language (Lamy & Hampel, 2007, p. 19).
(For a very thorough description of the debate between the two fields of inquiry in SLA, see Zuengler &
Miller, 2006). Cognitivism focuses principally on the individual, with the notion of the single language
learner processing linguistic input and output (based on the metaphor of the brain as a computer).
Recently however, SLA research has received criticism for holding an imbalanced focus on the four
linguistic competencies (listening, reading, writing and speaking), based on mostly empirical research that
mainly considers form and accuracy (with idealised images of native-speaker performance) and with little
consideration of language as a process and a communicative means for use in socially and culturally
embedded cultural activities (see Firth & Wagner, 1997, 2007).
Sociocultural theories aim to put more emphasis on the importance of interaction for language learning
and in turn highlight situated, learner-centred social practices as part of the learning process. In recent
years, there have been a number of studies that propose the importance of the sociocultural base of
language learning (see Firth & Wagner, 1997, 2007; Lantolf, 2000; Mondada & Pekarek-Doehler, 2004).
Roberts (2001), Kanno and Norton (2003), and Norton and Kamal (2003) have even argued that learning
linguistic competences is in itself a socialising process in which the individual deploys and negotiates
new identities as a member of the target language community. This sociocultural perspective can be found
in CMC research as well:
[T]he role of technology in education has increasingly been studied through the lens of learning
theories and models that mark a departure from cognitive approaches, by locating knowledge not only

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in the mind of individual learners but also in the history, culture and communities that provide the
context in which learning is taking place. (Blin, 2005, p. 5)
Applying an even more critical stance to early SLA research, Hall, Cheng, and Carlson (2006) assert that
much of the research in SLA relies on three assumptions that have underlying theoretical flaws. These
1. The assumption of homogeneity of language knowledge across speakers and contexts;
2. A view of L1 and L2 language knowledge as distinct systems; and
3. The presumption of a qualitative distinction between multi-competence and mono-competence
(Hall, Cheng, & Carlson, 2006, p. 220).
These authors contend that speakers language knowledge should not be considered as homogeneous;
they argue that language knowledge is not composed of a-contextual, stable system components (Hall
et al., 2006, p. 230). This is predicated on the fact that an individuals use of language is not static, even
in the case of native speakers; levels of accuracy and fluency will vary, according to everyday contexts.
Someone writing an article for an academic journal, for instance, will pay more attention to form and
accuracy of language than he or she might when writing an e-mail to a colleague or sending an SMS
message (which are often purposefully composed of lexical, syntactical and spelling errors). By
acknowledging these varying shapes and substance of individuals language use (Hall et al., 2006, p.
233) we can have better insight into the way in which learners develop their language knowledge
according to the context in which they are interacting and make comparisons of individual use across
different episodes and communicative events.
The other two flawed assumptions stem from an idea that language learning processes are sequential
and monolingual (based on the notion that learners are principally monolingual speakers learning other
languages as separate systems). Given that many telecollaborative language learning processes take place
within blended-learning environments in which at least one (and often times more than one) other
language is available as a communicative resource (apart from the target language), this assumption begs
reconsideration. In most cases, the task design does indeed aim to elicit a monolingual product (output) at
the end of a learning process. However, the process of generating the product itself, especially among
lower level (multilingual) learners, is not always a monolingual process, despite the best intentions of
students or the admonitions of teachers to use the target language.
Research indicates that multilingual practices can contribute to the eventual construction of a final
monolingual output. It has been put forth that plurilingual-hybrid practices often scaffold cognitive and
communicative activities which eventually allow speakers to participate in monolingual activities at the
end of the process (Borrs, Canals, Dooly, Moore, & Nussbaum, 2009). Recent research with multilingual
language learners working towards monolingual task accomplishment shows that they tend to shift
between different types (or stages) of L1 and target language use (Borrs et al., 2009; Masats, Nussbaum,
& Unamuno, 2007). Their code-switching allows them to overcome communicative obstacles, facilitating
an eventual stage where the learner can maximise use of the target language for task management, task
fulfilment, and other communicative events (e.g., side-sequences).
This suggests that research must adopt a learner-centred focus that looks at how learners use their various
linguistic resources to acquire communicative expertise in the target language (Kasper, 2004), and in this
particular case how this process follows a path that starts with multilingual practices (the simultaneous
presence of more than one language) to reach voluntary monolingual practices (the use of only one
language at will) through both off- and online interaction. Furthermore, by viewing the multilingual
language learner as having an integrated system of different languages that constitute a repertoire
(Canagarajah, 2009, p. 5), the idea of competences (often based on native versus non-native idealised
standards) must be interrogated.

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Interrogating the idea of competences inevitably foregrounds the question of what is evidence of language
learning. Recent work critiques the dominant view of language assessment, arguing for a more context
sensitive model of dynamic assessment (see Rea-Dickins & Gardner, 2000; Poehner & Lantolf, 2005).
Gardner and Rea-Dickins (2002) propose using language sampling (recordings of what learners say and
do during a task and analysing this later) in order to gain more insight into learners needs and abilities.
According to Rea-Dickins (2006, 2007, December), there are a number of potential clues that can be used
as an indication of a childs learning. These include when a learner is able to extend a concept; is able to
relate the activity to own experience; use the targeted learning concepts in different contexts and provide
evidence of engagement and persistence on a task (among others). This is consistent with language
learning research that focuses on the socially constructed nature of learning interaction over time.
This in turn, brings up the question of what constitutes research data for language learning. It is becoming
more common to find classroom interaction presented as a means of study for language learning
processes, although this type of reduced data has also been critiqued (see Stubbs, 1981) due to the fact
that it is the researcher who selects and then interprets the data. Nonetheless, an interactional view sees
the language input and output of the classroom as inextricably linked and therefore a micro-perspective of
different learning episodes can provide insight into this learning process (see key studies of classroom
interaction analysis by Sinclair & Coulthard, 1975; Mondada & Pekarek-Doehler, 2004; Seedhouse,
2004). This type of analysis, in large part based on social research methods, is traditionally grounded in
repeated study of collections of examples of human interaction as a means of gaining insight into specific
moments of very complex, situated practices, as is the case of language teaching and learning.
Attempting to cover the complexity of interaction in language learning situations implies inherent
difficulties in classroom research. The approach adopted here focuses on segmented chunks (referred to
here as snapshots) of the language learners actions as the unit of analysis in order to encapsulate the
language learner as a social and cultural participant engaged in linguistic interaction. At the same time,
endeavouring to delineate what constitutes interrelated nodes of actions within a classroom is difficult
since any one pedagogical activity is inevitably embedded in many other activities and often times the
activity itself is intersected by many other factors.
Barab et al. (2001), for example, underscore the highly complex interrelations that make up an activity
system in the learning process, suggesting that a methodological approach based on situated cognition
must necessarily try to [track] knowing in the making as the course unfolds (p. 64). While these
episodes do not provide a full picture of learning processes, they do offer chunks (or nodes) of segmented
data that provide insight into the relationship between the nodes that represent the historical
development (Barab et al., p. 69) of the learner. Similarly, finding a way to map the density of a yearlong
language learning course in which the activities and outcomes were integrated into both online and face-
to-face contexts can be problematic. Therefore, the analysis traces the interaction patterns in both F2F and
online activities through these snapshots (interrelated episodes of data segments) in order to discern how
varying activities promote or hinder opportunities for learners to use the target language productively and
thus gain insight into the effect of specific tasks on students language production and, over time, on their
language development.
The complexity of this blended-learning interaction is further exacerbated by the difficulties of defining
task within a SLA or foreign language learning situation. Seedhouse (2005) argues for the need for more
clarification of the notions of task from the perspective of task-as-workplan (which deals with intentions
and expectations of the task) and task-in-process (or what actually happens, p. 535) and task-as-
outcomes (Seedhouse & Almutairi, 2009, p. 312). This underscores the notion that learners, as active
agents in learning processes, can modify activities according to their own intentionsmodifications
which may or may not be in direct accordance with the initial intentions of that task-as-workplan.
As for the off- and online dimensions of learning processes, Kitade (2008) states that most previous

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studies have examined only online interactions.without addressing the role of offline interactions or
the learners engagement in combined online and offline interactions (p. 67). The author posits that in
order to fully understand how learners implement a task.and the potential of this task with regard to L2
learning it is necessary to integrate a sociocultural perspective that examines and reveals how each type
of interactiononline, offline, or combined interactionscan provide learners with opportunities for
collaborative learning (p. 67).


The data come from a yearlong telecollaborative, cross-disciplinary project that focused on both content
and language. While it was not formally labelled as a Content Language and Integrated Learning (CLIL)
project, the project was designed and implemented by an English specialist and the social science teacher
and dealt with environmental issues. The project was carried out across the full academic year with Year
Five students (ten-to-eleven year old students) in a Spanish primary school (in the Barcelona area, thus
the principal school language of instruction is Catalan). The partner school was located in the Czech
Republic (in the Vychodocesky State); the school language was Czech. There were twenty-six students in
the Barcelona group (twelve girls, fourteen boys) and twenty-eight students in the Czech group (fifteen
girls and thirteen boys). The focus of this inquiry is on the Catalan students. The project aims were for the
students to make initial contact, form work groups to exchange information and opinions about different
types of pollution (paying special attention to locally-specific issues), and to form work groups made up
of local and national pairs to compile ideas for contributing to a shared wiki about environmental
problems. The teachers took charge of posting the negotiated information to the wiki.
The data were compiled by a student teacher working at the Spanish primary school while completing a
graduate degree in research in language and literature teaching methods; her research advisor helped
record and collect the initial data. The teacher and research advisor were not directly involved in the
planning but the student teacher did take part in the implementation and the research advisor was an
observer. Class sessions that were related to the telecollaborative work were recorded throughout the year
using one recorder per working group. These were transcribed using the language archiving technology
called Transana (transcription key in Appendix A).
Permission to audio record the face-to-face exchanges was obtained from the Spanish students parents,
however due to strict regulations in the school the exchanges could not be videotaped. The teacher also
received permission from both the Spanish and the Czech participants for full access to the data online
(forums, e-mails, wiki).

The project activities consisted of face-to-face work (whole class activities, group work activities, pair
work and individual work) and online work with international partners in the Czech Republic (primarily
pair work and group work). The English specialist was in charge of implementing the exchange, including
the preparatory work leading up to the online collaboration. Some of the online activities involved:
Participating in a forum about environmental issues in which the students explained different
topics and concepts related to the environment that were relevant to their countries (e.g., water
conservation was important to the students in Spain following a drought in 2008). The pupils
were asked to post comments, links, and images.
Comparing and contrasting different issues that were important to each community and how they
were dealt with.
Based on the previously shared information, preparing a collaborative environment alert wiki.
Overall, the data collected during the year are the teachers work plans (handwritten in a notebook; seven

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recorded F2F class sessions, screenshots of forum interactions during the year (breakdown of interactions
can be found in Appendix B) and the final wiki. The data presented here consist of:
1. Teachers workplans (Spanish EFL teacher: Laura)
2. Student-teachers field notes
3. F2F pair work interaction (one extract)
- Participants: two female students (Berta, Clara) and one female teacher (Laura)
4. Forum entries
- Three students (Maria, Berta, and Clara)
- Two teachers (Laura, Agnieska)
The names of the participants have been changed.


Since task is understood here as something in progressin a constant state of negotiation and
construction (Breen, 1987, 1989)these data extracts are seen as snapshots of interaction, allowing
glimpses into moments of specific language learning events taking place during the overall exchange, and
not just as end-products. Taking the position that language learning is dynamic, non-linear, and
contingent upon multiple, non-isolatable factors, then language use and learning can be seen to emerge in
nested patterns. These patterns are not predicted but retrodicted or described post priori, since
interrelationships are so complex that causation in the traditional sense is untenable (Reinhardt, in press).
Furthermore, within an interactional research framework, data analysis actually begins with the data
compilation and segmentation. The analytical approach follows the premise posed by Barab et al. (2001)
that methodological approaches aiming to capture learning processes from a situated-cognition
perspective must try to describe the rich contexts of knowing about [knowledge-construction] that are so
fundamental to situative or distributed conceptions of cognition (p. 67). These authors propose a means
of representing the learning process as a network of activitya network that allows for the inclusion
(capturing) of material, conceptual, and social components (Barab et al., 2001, p. 67). They apply a
method of identifying relevant data through three steps. [E]xperiences are (a) sectioned into action-
relevant episodes (AREs), (b) parsed down to codes in a database, and (c) then represented as nodes in a
network so that the historical development of the particular phenomenon of interest can be traced (Barab
et al., 2001, p. 63).
A similar approach is taken here, however, rather than using AREs, snapshots (captured data segments)
revolving around chosen language use are employed. It is important to note that the boundaries of what
constitutes a chunk are determined by the needs of the study and not some ontological truth (Barab et al.,
2001, p. 66). The snapshots in this study focus principally on one pair (girl-girl) in different stages of the
task-as-process. The pair also interacts with others but the focus is on the language use by these two girls.
The timeline shown in Figure 1 helps underscore the complexity of describing the interrelatedness of
tasks and activities over a long-term period. For instance, snapshot 2, time wise, falls after snapshots 3, 4
and 5, but it is clearly linked to the snapshots that come before and after it. This will be described in more
detail in the analysis.

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Melinda Dooly Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative Learning

Figure 1. Mapping the network of activities.

Before determining which data segments were of interest, multiple listening sessions were arranged
(twice for the transcriptions done by the student teacher and researcher) and once for triangulation by a
nonparticipant. Following that, data sessions3 were arranged to (a) select relevant data segments
(snapshots) for further analysis, and (b) revise and analyse the selected data. Due to the nature of the
telecollaborative situation, these sessions dealt with more than the recorded transcripts; thus written and
online data were also included (teachers workplans; student teachers field notes; F2F pair work
interaction; forum entries).
Taking Rea-Dickins (2006, 2007, December) indicators of language learning as a preliminary basis for
data selection (extension of a concept; relating an activity to own experience; use of targeted learning
concepts in different contexts; evidence of engagement and persistence on a task), the data session
participants incorporated van Liers notion of being on the lookout for patterns and regularities in the
data (1988, p.16). This article focuses on snapshots that showed recurring patterns of use of new lexical
items in the students L2 repertoire: noise and annoy. (The reasons for this selection are illustrated further
on.) Researchers are not unmotivated by the theoretical frames in which they move, thus the way in which
the data were selected and managed is considered part of the analysis cycle, as illustrated in Figure 2.
Following the data segmentation related to the chosen features to be analysed (episodic snapshots related
to the words noise and annoy), the interactionsboth face-to-face and onlineare examined through the
parameters applied to the study of talk-in-interaction. The interactions are analysed in terms of the
order/organization/orderliness of social action, particularly, those social actions that are located in
everyday interaction, in discursive practices, in the sayings/tellings/doings of members of society
(Psathas, 1995, p. 2).
The snapshots of interaction are then placed in conjunction with the original task-as-workplan (network of
activities) to highlight convergences and divergences between the task plans and actions. As Markee
(2000) argues, a social-interactionist approach that closely examines the learners talk can help identify

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successful and unsuccessful learning behaviours as well as show how meaning is constructed by the
participants (students and teacher) in the learning situation.

Figure 2. The analysis cycle.

Inevitably, the fact that these exchanges take place within a wider context of the classroom implies that
there is a different speech exchange system than other types of talk-in-interaction (McHoul, 1978). As
Meskill (2005) puts it, school discourse is made up of those ways of talking that have become
institutionally sanctioned or normal (p. 46). In this study, the importance of unequal roles of teacher
and student within this school discourse emerges as an important feature determining the talk-in-
interaction in both the face-to-face and online interaction.

The first data segment consists of written text while the second data segment is a short F2F extract of in-
class pair work. However the content of both data segments relate to online interaction that will take place
later on in the network of activities. The analysis illustrates a mismatch between the intended task plan (as
understood by the teacher) and the learners actions. This mismatch carries implications that will be
discussed further on.

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Snapshots 1 and 2: F2F classroom interaction

The first snapshot deals with the teachers plans (see network of activity, Figure 1, above). According to
the teacher, the underlying plan of the overall exchange was to provide opportunities for the students to
use the target language in their F2F and online work (stated intentions were collected in student-teachers
field notes). The workplan focused on the use of F2F work for language planning (metalinguistic focus)
the students first consider carefully about how they should phrase their interaction with their partners.
This was intended to lead into their exchange between the online partners. The focus of the workplan is
on specific target language that should take place during the online work.

- Brainstorm words associated

with environment/contamination
in class
- Make pairs & match with
- Pairs suggest topics in the
forum for the project (2 wks)
- Pairs use forum/chat to
negotiate topic (in computer

- Pairwork in class: make

suggestions of images, words for
the online mural (topics already
decided) []

Figure 3. The teachers first workplan (transcribed next to the original notes).

The workplan indicates that sub-tasks leading up to the online interaction centred on vocabulary
(beginning with the oral elicitation of possible topics in the brainstorming) and structures needed for
making introductions and suggestions (about the topics). The first brainstorming produced the following
lexical items:
Ozone layer holes
Al Gore
Global heat [warming]
Too much traffic
Cutting down trees in the Amazon
Dead fish
Cow farts
Golf courses in Almera

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Greenhouse effect (list comes from the student-teachers field notes)

Following this, the teacher presented short dialogues as models for the online exchange. According to the
field notes, the teacher used the F2F sessions as a means of a priori language practice of the modeled
structures. At this point in the task plan, the teachers focus is on presenting, practicing, and producing
discrete, previously selected target language (how to introduce themselves and make suggestions for
topics). This is to then be transferred to the online exchange.
The next snapshot proceeds from the F2F exchange (audio recording) of a pair of students discussing in
Catalan what topic they are interested in working on with their online partners. According to the workplan
(Figure 4), the students should first make their introductions online, mention local environmental
problems, read the Czech students posts and then make specific project-topic suggestions and wait for a
- Sts post introductions in forum
- Read CZ intros
- Post 1 reply (min)
- Discuss (clss) about ptners
- Forum post on local env. prob.
(can b in prs)
- Find out CZ prob
- Post topic suggestion

Figure 4. The teachers second workplan (transcribed next to the original notes).

According to the workplan, the students should not decide a topic beforehand. This becomes an issue in
the following extract.
Extract 1. Original Version: Teacher (T), Berta (BER), Clara (CLA) (transcription key in Appendix A)
1. BER: teacher/ (.) el podem fer sobre el soroll oi/_
2. T: well: have you talked to the Czech partners yet/|
3. BER: no: hem estat pensant molt i volem fer el noise\|
4. T: you have to decide with the others\|
5. BER: (2) >yes<
6. (T goes to another group)
7. BER: do:ncs (.) que fem/|
8. CLA: fem noise (.) vaig veure unes paraules que molen al frum (.) a veure\ ehm:: ainoi o
alguna cosa =similar=
9. BER: =si si= noi-ing com que els nois sempre parlen tant_
10. (Both Berta & Clara laugh)

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Extract 1. Translation (participants words that were originally in English are marked in bold; words
created by the students are in cursive and underlined)
1. BER: teacher we can work on noise right
2. T: well have you talked to the Czech partners yet
3. BER: no weve been thinking a lot and we want to work on noise
4. T: you have to decide with the others
5. BER: (2) >yes<
6. (T goes to another group)
7. BER: so what do we do
8. CLA: lets do noise I saw some cool words in the forum. lets see hm ainoi or something =like
9. BER: =yeah yeah= noi-ing since its boys that are always talking so much
10. (Both Berta & Clara laugh)

In the last two lines, the students appear to be making up a word based on annoy in English and noi in
Catalan (which means boy). Both words have similar pronunciations.
Following Seedhouses (2004, 2005) description of how interactional organisation can transform the
pedagogical focus, it is interesting to start by looking at the case of preference organisation in this short
extract. In the first two turns, we can see a dispreferred response by the teacher (turn two), in response to
the students request to work on noise as a topic. The teacher does not answer the question directly; rather
she delays the response and answers their question with another question. Looking at the indexicality of
the teachers response, it can be seen that she is referencing the assignment as it was spelled out in the
workplan (Figure 4): the students should decide on the topic after contacting their online partners.
This adjacency pair is followed by the students own dispreferred response. Despite their direct answer to
the teacher (no), Berta immediately uses a pre-positioned alignment weve been thinking a lot to
prevent the teacher from reacting negatively to her additional information and insistence on working with
the topic of noise (even though they have not discussed it with their Czech partners).
The teacher continues her focus on the task in line four and, again, the indexicality of what the teacher is
referencing highlights the importance she places on the plans she has in mind. She emphasizes the need to
follow the steps of the task and dismisses the students apparent engagement and interest in the overall
activity, signalled by the fact that they have already found a topic. The teachers orientation in the
interaction underscores her relevancy on the assignment itself, rather than on the way in which the
students are negotiating and interpreting the task (task-as-process).
After the teacher leaves the pair to go to another group, the students discuss what they should do about the
topic, as seen in turns 7 and 8.
7. BER: so what do we do
8. CLA: lets do noise I saw some cool words in the forum. lets see hm ainoi or something =like
9. BERT:=yeah yeah= noi-ing since its boys that are always talking so much
10. (Both Berta & Clara laugh)

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Significantly, in turn eight, Clara references the forum; this indexicality foregrounds the fact that the
students are aware of the task, however, their referencing indicates that they are interpreting it in their
own way: going online and browsing through the Czech students posts and then using this information to
decide on a topic. This was done before posting their general comments about environmental problems
and before discussing possible topics in the F2F classroom.
As can be seen in Figure 4, in the network of activities a student named Maria posts her introduction and
mentions noise as an environmental problem. This topic is then discussed more in the following threads
(these entries are considered in more detail further on). However, the F2F interaction transcribed in
extract one took place before Clara or Berta made an entry in the forum (thus there was no physical
evidence of their online participation, see Figure 5). However, the fact that they have clearly referenced
the forum implies that there may be a need to reconsider what membership participation online means.

Figure 5. F2F use of noise in network of activities.

Furthermore, in their referencing of the forum, Berta and Clara make jokescreating a new word based
on what they had read in an entry. Belz (2002a, 2002b) shows how language learners may use their L1 as
a mediation tool while playing or breaking rules in the target (foreign) language. As Vandergriff and
Fuchs (2009) point out, playing with language is an authentic and legitimate way to use it and therefore
should be considered as an element of competency.
Returning to the original driving questions, the two snapshots reveal some indicators of language learning
beginning to emerge for the two young students. Taking Rea-Dickins parameters (2006, 2007,
December), it can be seen that the two students are able to relate a new concept (new lexicon noticed in
their forum reading) to their own experience (making a multilingual joke); both actions indicate some
level of metalinguistic knowledge, although these dimensions are not always acknowledged by the
teacher. She appears to be more concerned with following the workplan (see Figures 1 and 4) than
potentialising the students exploration with the target language and their obvious engagement with the

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overall project. Still, it remains to be seen if the students then use the new learning concepts in different
contexts (and modes) and whether they appear to be engaged in the overall task of language learning.
Snapshots 3, 4, and 5: Forum interaction
The following data segments come from the projects forum. The entries are not only the source for new
lexical items for Berta and Clara (they clearly referenced the forum and the word in the F2F interaction);
the forums also display relevant student-teacher interaction.
In her post (Figure 6 below), Maria starts a new discussion. In the subject, she announces an
environmental topic (noise); however, in the main body of her message, she does not formally nominate
this topic for the environmental project. Instead, she provides an explanation for why she is taking part in
the forum; the post indicates that she is taking part in the introduction. The opening used (Teacher say
we) makes it clear that she is doing what she has been told to do (explaining something about where she
lives) and that she is engaged in the negotiation and completion of the task.

Figure 6. Screenshot of task-in-action.

Similar to the F2F interaction, the roles of teacher and students are marked. Maria calls attention to the
fact that she is engaged in the task at handjust as the students in the F2F interaction did. Moreover, like
the teacher in the F2F interaction, the respondent to the post (who is a teacher, Figure 7), gives a
dispreferred response by ignoring the main focus of the content of Marias intervention (which we could
call a turn) and instead brings attention to the task-as-workplan.

Figure 7. Screenshot of an interruption.

Interestingly Marias forum entry is actually closer to a conversational turn because she provides an
opening for her intervention (naming a new topic) and plainly signals the end of her turn (Bye) whereas
the teachers turn is rather abrupt and arguably an interruption because the teacher does not align with the
content of the message nor does she continue the conversational information-exchange tone established
by Maria in her entry. It is recognised, of course, that an asynchronous interruption is different from a
synchronous one and may take place for quite different reasons. Still, at this point, it appears that Maria is
following the workplan more closely than the teacher since she is introducing herself (as was practiced
orally in a previous class) and explaining an environmental problem (see Figure 8).

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The teacher, on the other hand, is focusing on the next task: proposing a topic. In order to ensure the
successful completion of task plans, Van den Branden (2006) suggests that teachers interventions must
be carefully balanced between the teachers initiative and that of their learners. The teachers mediating
role can help bring the task to its full potential or it can just as easily stifle the learners involvement with
the task. Arguably the teachers reply, which indicates a clear focus on the next phase in the workplan
(and subsequent interruption) rather than responding to Marias conversational tone, suppresses other
opportunities for Maria to continue exploring the online mode of target language use.

Figure 8. Student-teacher online interaction in network of activities.

These entries are followed by several contributions by different students discussing whether noise is a
type of pollution (not shown here) and then the Spanish teacher, Laura, asks if this should be included in
the topic discussion. In response to this, the Czech teacher (Agnieska) answers this question affirmatively
(I definitely think it should be), thereby ratifying the topic of Marias first intervention and guiding the
task as plan.

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Figure 9. Screenshot of appearance of lexical feature annoy.

Moreover, there is further endorsement of Marias discussion about noise pollutionthis time contributed
by another student (I agree with Maria). This is another important node in the network of activity since
it is the message containing the word annoying which was referenced in the F2F interaction already
analysed above and which is eventually integrated into the two Spanish students communicative
repertoire. A relationship between learner repertoires (new concepts) and tasks-as-workplan as well as
task-as-process begins to emerge in the network of activities including the interaction with other students
(F2F and online) as a potential source for learning. At the same time, there is evidence in both modes of
interaction that there are divergent perceptions of the TlcLL tasks in regard to the students and teachers.
Snapshots 6, 7 and 8: Extension of Concepts
Additional snapshots of the network of activities illustrate how the participants begin to extend the
targeted concepts (noise and annoy) and integrate them into their own learning process, albeit in a
different sequence than anticipated in the task-as-workplan. Moreover, looking at Rea-Dickins (2006,
2007, December) indicators of language learning, it appears that the students are quite engaged with the
Figure 10 shows a forum intervention by Berta and Clara. This entry was posted by Berta but implicitly
included her partner, Clara.

Figure 10. Screenshot of students making a suggestion.

At this point, Maria had joined the pair and the students had been assigned to work with Martina and
Beata (Czech students). Through negotiation of the teachers (via e-mails, not shown here), the group was
given permission to work on noise as an environmental topic. It is important to remember, however, that
it was the students themselves who first highlighted this topic. At the stage shown here, the students were
supposed to exchange ideas (including images and slogans) that they felt would be interesting to
contribute to the final environmental wiki page. (The students did not have to invent their own images;
they were allowed to look for images in the Internet.) Figure 11 shows the image that the girls sent in a
file to their partners and how it appeared as part of the final output.

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Figure 11. Screenshots of the use of annoying and noise.

It is worth noting that the image the students sent appears in the final product in the wiki, alongside the
word that had first caught their attention (annoying). Furthermore, according to the field notes taken by
the student-teacher/researcher, the students included the same image in their final PowerPoint
presentation and in their oral explanation of what they had learnt at the end of the year (unfortunately
these presentations were not recorded).

Figure 12. Field notes explanation (e-mail).

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According to the field notes, the students not only used the words noise and annoying in their
presentation, but when asked by a classmate about the word annoy Clara responded (perhaps jokingly)
that annoy es cuando algo te toca las narices (is when something gets up your nose).
The students have re-organized, expanded and transformed elements of the target language as they
move[d] into different contexts (Hall et al., 2006, p. 10). They appropriated different linguistic and non-
linguistic resources to communicate during different phases of the telecollaboration, combined with
previous knowledge of the target language. At the same time, the two students first noticed new lexical
items through their online reading and then use.

The driving questions of the inquiry were: Is a relationship between learner repertoires, tasks and output
discernable in the snapshots? Are there indicators of language learning processes in these snapshots? It is
difficult to verify what learning actually takes place in real teaching contexts especially considering that
interaction largely depends on the type of task and activity taking place as well as the possibility of match
or mismatch between task-as-workplan and task-in-process:
Any framework which attempts to portray task-based interaction in a holistic way will need to track
the relationship between these phases as they unfold during the implementation of a task. The
relationship may be a linear one, but this is not necessarily the case. In practice, there is sometimes a
difference between what is supposed to happen (task-as-workplan) and what actually happens (task-
in-process). (Seedhouse & Almutairi, 2009, p. 312)
In this particular case, the individuals language use indicates the different ways in which these students
have employed their language knowledge (as well as their limitations), according to the context in which
they are interacting. This can be seen, for instance, in the initial attention given to a specific lexeme
(annoy) while reading (in the forum) in the target language; this lexical knowledge is later developed into
contextualised use in monolingual output (wiki and oral presentation).
These episodes are directly related to the next driving questions: Are these indicators recognised and
acknowledged in the teaching process? Are there divergences between task plans and participant actions?
These questions underscore the significance of connect/disconnect between task plans and actions in the
learning process, and more importantly, how the learners in this study appear to have acquired some
language outside of the parameters of the task-as-workplan.
Perhaps what most calls ones attention is the fact that these students were originally evaluated by their
teacher as being mostly off-task (recorded in the graduate students field notes). The snapshots of the
entire process indicate differently, however. The snapshots indicate that the learners are engaged
throughout the process and that they display persistence (Rea-Dickins, 2006, 2007, December). These
episodes highlight the differences between the task-as-workplan, as conceived by the teacher and the task-
as-process, as interpreted and put into play by the students.
The fact that the activities involved in creating the monolingual product entailed a multilingual process
does not necessarily imply that the students were off-task and not engaged in the language learning
process. The snapshots demonstrate that the multilingual language learners accomplished the monolingual
task while passing through various stages of target language use. They use their L1 to manage most of the
activity in the F2F interaction but also generate some utterances in the target language (the topic word;
one-word responses to the teacher; the use of the target language to get the teachers attention and to start
a turn, etc.). They also use a hybrid form of the target language to make a joke related to their chosen
topic. In their online, asynchronous interaction, the students use the target language, although there is no
recorded data concerning the process leading to this use.
Different from the initial words elicited in the initial brainstorming, the students in this case did not use

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the focal language that emerged in that session. They are first exposed to and pick up on the lexical item
that will become their topic through the online activities independent of F2F brainstorming activity. The
focal vocabulary needed for [the] successful task processes (Meskill & Anthony, 2010, p. 73) was made
available by their online partners, not the teacher. At the same time, there are a number of episodes in
which learner talk is directly related to the performance of the tasks, indicating that they are, generally,
engaged in the task-as-process while at times moving outside the bounds of the workplan. Furthermore,
the task-as-outcomes do converge with the initial overall planning.
While the various comparisons of the different actions of the teachers and students during the whole
process highlight the divergences between intentions and expectations of the task (task-as-workplan) and
what actually happens (task-as-process), it is interesting to note that the task-as-outcomes coincide. The
students, as active agents in learning processes, clearly modify the activities according to their own
intentionsmodifications which do not appear to be in direct accordance with the teachers initial
intentions, in particular when the students were dealing with language input from the online activities. It
appears that the students are making use of dialogic opportunities provided by digital learning objects
(Meskill & Anthony, 2007, p. 81). Different from the way it is planned by the teacher, the public;
malleable; unstable and anarchic (p. 81) dimensions of technologies provided the students with
possibilities that the teacher was not (at least at first) able to integrate into the task-as-process.

This is a study that endeavours to take a micro-analytical, cross-sectional examination of several events
that make up a wholein this case, the design and implementation of a telecollaborative language
learning project in a blended environment. Inevitably, micro-analysis implies the use of quite limited data
samples; however, at the same time this analysis yields rich description of the complexity of behaviour,
including the typology and intensity of the actions of the participants involved. Qualitative observation is
generally limited to descriptions of what happens in small groups of people, thus limiting the ability to
generalize the results and in this case, the article only draws on the data samples that are specifically
linked to the chosen learning features. It is not the intention of this paper to imply any cause-and-effect
relationships, but rather provide a detailed contextual view of an increasingly common language learning

It can be posited that much research into TlcLL has largely been focused on a-contextual, discreet
moments of online interaction, whereas most TlcLL episodes are actually carried out in blended learning
classroom environments and are embedded in much longer, multiple learning episodes. It is almost a
truism to point out the increasing pressure for language teachers to use new technologies in order to teach
students diverse knowledge (e.g., languages and intercultural competence) associated with the 21st
century. Inevitably, requiring educators to change long-held concepts of language teaching and learning
which are often influenced by language and teaching concepts developed in the 1980s and 1990sin
order to accommodate the 21st century literacy practices and context of their students is no walk in the
park. In 1996, Warshauer warned that technology is not a panacea for challenges facing language
teachers. New technologies will not revolutionize, or even improve, language learning unless they are
well understood and intelligently implemented. The Internet itself is only a tool, albeit a powerful one, in
the hands of good or bad pedagogy (Warschauer, 1996, p. ix).
Meskill and Anthony (2010) propose that the key to viewing learning as a dynamic, developmental
process is the notion of guided participation (p. 13). Investigating the way in which both learners and
teachers interpret and engage with tasks (as plans and as outcomes) may reveal new learning
opportunities in these processes, especially as new opportunities such as telecollaboration are introduced
into language teaching.

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Considering the difficulties already inherent to teaching, moving from more common (classroom-bound)
teacher-centred strategies into open learner-centred, peer-to-peer strategies such as those facilitated by
telecollaboration requires a closer look into the blueprints teachers use for designing these exchanges. The
transferral of a language teaching approach (no matter how time-tested and validated in the classroom)
into a telecollaborative approach is not foolproof nor is it always easy to carry out. This article
underscores the need for futher research into the discourse space between online and F2F language
learning within these learning parameters.

APPENDIX A. Transcription key

The first version of the transcripts were done by the student teacher, who codified the participants
speech, using the standard spelling and a broad key to show some aspects of the actual speech. The
second version of the transcripts was carried out by the researcher advisor/author in order to ensure the
fidelity of the transcripts. The transcript key is based on the symbology regularly used by the research
group Grup de Recerca en Ensenyament i Interacci Plurilinges (GREIP) of the Universitat Autnoma
de Barcelona (Spain).

Capitals at the beginnings of lines indicate the participants pseudonyms

??? = speaker cannot be identified
descendent \
ascendent /
wh question ?
maintenance -
| tiny gap
|| longer gap
<seconds> elapsed time
<0> = no gap
elongation of the immediately previous sound
=text speaker 1=
=text speaker 2=
-_ interruptions in text_
[text] transcripters comments
XXX unable to discern what is said

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APPENDIX B. Types of interactions in forum

Topics Header No. Threads Teacher Intervention

Introductions 12 38 4
Personal questions 3 5 0
Topic Suggestion 18 17 14
Request for clarification 5 5 2
New Topic Suggested 2 2 0
Content 34 15 8
Work procedure 4 6 3
Finalising 11 23 4

1. The author is following the terminology and abbreviation used by Lamy and Goodfellow (2010).
2. Blended learning refers to the use of F2F and online teaching and learning processes in formal
classroom settings.
3. Data sessions are described by the American Sociological Association Section on Ethnomethodology
and Conversation Analysis (EMCA News, 2007, Summer) as a recognised method of data management in
ethnographic/CA studies. Data sharing is an important element of networks of researchers in which audio
and/or video data is presented for observation to a group of researchers several times for observation and
discussion. Segments of interaction may then be singled out for attention and analysis. Observations
about the data are shared, followed by discussion.

I would like to thank my colleagues, Dr. Paul Seedhouse, at Newcastle University (GB), Dr. Randall
Sadler, at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (USA), and Dr. Carolin Fuchs at Teachers
College, Columbia University (USA), for their valuable comments at different stages of writing the text.
My sincerest gratitude goes to Dr. Carla Meskill for her insight on editing this article and bringing it to


Dr. Melinda Dooly specialises in teacher training in EFL at the Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona
(Spain) at the Department of Language Teaching Methodology. She is a member of the research group
GREIP (Research Group on Plurilingual Interaction and Teaching) at the same department.
E-mail: melindaann.dooly@uab.cat

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Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2
http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2011/pasfieldneofitou.pdf pp. 92108


Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou
Monash University
This paper examines the use of CMC in both Japanese and English dominated domains by
Australian learners of Japanese. The natural, social online communication of 12 Australian
university students with 18 of their Japanese contacts was collected for a period of up to
four years, resulting in a corpus of approximately 2,000 instances of blogs, e-mails, SNS
interactions, chat conversations, game profiles, and mobile phone communications. To
supplement this data, interviews were conducted to further explore participants Internet
communication and L2 use. These interviews, paired with evidence from the corpus of
collected data, are analysed using Sealey and Carters (2004) social realism framework in
order to explore questions of language selection, identity construction and nationality, as
well as what it means to be a foreigner online.

Since the early years of the Internet, discussion of virtual communities has been at the forefront of much
research (Crook & Light, 2002; Johnston & Johal, 1999; Matei, 2005; Rheingold, 1993; Zorn, 2004).
Clodius (1997, January) points out that online, shared interests and self-identification of belonging are
viable alternatives to simply defining community on the basis of geography or patterns of residence. This
of course has important implications for second language (L2) uses of computer-mediated communication
(CMC), which may serve as opportunities for immersion in a virtual, target-language-speaking
It has often been claimed that online, particularly in text-based communication, it is largely optional to
signal ones ethnicity, gender, age, or mother tongue. One early Internet adopter quoted in Turkles
pioneer research stated:
You can be whoever you want to be. You can completely redefine yourself if you want. You dont
have to worry about the slots other people put you in as much. They dont look at your body and
make assumptions. They dont hear your accent and make assumptions. All they see are your words.
(Turkle, 1995, p. 184)
Similarly, Sundn (2003) argues that online, we write ourselves into being. This has important
implications for the L2 user. Do L2 users approach online communication as an opportunity to hide their
body and accent and appear less foreign? Are all linguistic domains equally accessible to native (NS) and
non-native (NNS) speakers alike? Given the prevalent view of CMC as a useful tool for language practise
outside the classroom, these questions appear worthy of further exploration. This paper presents some
evidence emerging from interviews with L2 learners, and the analysis of their online communication in
NS communities, which suggest that although some virtual communities provide a sense of immersion in
a certain culture, they may also foster feelings of foreignness. As one participant in the present study
commented, a specific domain may be simultaneously a place where you can be surrounded by the
language and a place where youre always gonna be a JSL (Japanese as a Second Language) student.
As such, participants sense of identity was found to be affected in the present study on the basis of the
linguistic domain they inhabited at the time.
In the introduction to her influential book, Life on the Screen, Turkle (1995) defined identity in a
computer-mediated environment as multiple, fluid, and constituted in interaction via technology. Yet a
decade later, Hewling (2005) argued that CMC research has often taken a narrow, nationality-based view

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Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou Online Domains of Language Use

of culture, and suggests instead that identity or identities be viewed as a site of ongoing negotiation. Such
negotiation, Hewling states, is visible online in the form of CMC discourse. Thus, analysis of L2 learners
online language use across a variety of domains may provide greater insight into the nature of
constructing identity via an L2 online, in particular, in terms of ethnicity, nationality, and
nativeness/foreignness, and the effects of communicating in certain domains on opportunities for
language learning and use.

Past Research on CMC

Miller and Slater (2000) criticize the first generation of Internet literature for viewing the Internet as a
gigantic, placeless cyberspace. Much of this early research on CMC tended to view the Internet as a
monolithic space that was somehow more egalitarian, democratic, and liberating than face-to-face
interactions (Sproull and Kiesler, 1986; McGuire, Kiesler, & Siegel, 1987; Dubrovsky, Kiesler, &
Sethna, 1991; cited in Watt, Lea, & Spears, 2002, p. 63). Simon even described the Internet as having an
inherent support of democracy (2002, p. 101). Hanna and de Nooy categorize such views as subscribing
to the borderless world (2004, p. 259) perception of Internet communication, in which the Internet is
deemed to remove cultural difference. Of course, these perspectives have had an important impact on
research in the areas of L2 use and acquisition also.
Past research on L2 use and acquisition points to a variety of benefits of the online environment. A
reduction in anxiety in comparison to face-to-face speech and greater opportunities for language
production have been claimed as some of the most important implications of CMC for L2 learners.
Itakura and Nakajima (2001) found that the use of CMC assisted language learners in gaining an authentic
audience, provided them with the flexibility to compose e-mails at their leisure, gave them a record of
communication, fostered independent learning and provided opportunities for the negotiation of meaning,
which can lead to language learning. Yoshimura and Miyazoe-Wong (2005) also found that
communication with NSs via CMC could help students to amend stereotypes, and Kano (2004) claims
that such interactions can expose learners to language variation in the form of popular grammar, slang,
and regional dialects.
A body of work on young peoples use of CMC for social purposes in a first language setting has been
carried out by boyd1 and others (boyd, 2007; boyd & Ellison, 2007; boyd & Heer, 2006, January), who
found that participation online is increasingly seen as an essential part of teenage social lives. However,
online participation is influenced by physical location and (offline) social relationships, with students who
live with roommates or alone more likely to engage in Social Networking Site (SNS) use than those who
live with their parents (Hargittai, 2007). The current study shows that in addition to ones immediate
environment (e.g., being physically located at home, school, or in a net caf or library), ones broader
socio-political geographical environment at the national level, and the similar borders manifested online,
also influence online participation, especially intercultural communication.
Recent studies are beginning to challenge assumptions of the Internet as a monolithic, placeless space,
pointing out, for example, the dominance of English, but domains in which languages other than English
preside appear neglected. Hanna and de Nooy (2004) also argue that little systematic attention has been
paid to intercultural online communication. So far, the question of how participation in online
communication affects opportunities for language acquisition, particularly of an Asian language, in a
naturalistic setting has not yet been adequately explored, despite the widely accepted benefits of CMC use
for language practise outside of the classroom.
The present study utilises a social realist frame to investigate the informal use of CMC by NSs of English
and Japanese in terms of language choice, identity display, conceptions of nationality and the perceived
ownership of online spaces. Importantly, it describes some CMC users who identify themselves online as
foreigners, in stark contrast with the idea of the Internet as a placeless space.

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In the present study, 12 Australian university students of Japanese were recruited, who in turn invited
their Japanese contacts to participate. In total, data was collected from 30 participants, and some Japanese
participants were contacts of more than one Australian participant.

Table 1. Australian and Japanese Participants

Australian Participant Japanese Contact(s)

Cindy Mei
Genna Tokio
Scott Kieko
Lucas Hisayo
Zac Fumie
Oscar Yoshio
Kaylene Chikae, Daishi, Ikuko, Junko, Ruriko, Ukiko, Watako
Kaylene & Jacob K
Ellise Atsuko, Sae
Ellise & Alisha Eri
Alisha Noriko
Hyacinth No current Japanese contacts at time of study
Noah No current Japanese contacts at time of study

In contrast to many previous studies, volunteers were not paired with NSs in order to complete tasks, but
instead data was collected from participants in existing relationships. The collection resulted in over 2,000
instances of naturally occurring language use via blogs (including Ameba and Mixi), e-mails (via both PC
and mobile phone), SNSs (including Facebook, Mixi, and MySpace), online videos, chat messages, video
game interactions, and Website or forum posts. Data from the social networking sites Mixi and Facebook,
as will be further elaborated in the findings section, are focused on in particular as case studies in the
current paper.
Background interviews were also completed (face-to-face and audio-recorded with the Australian
participants, and via e-mail with the Japanese participants) to gain insight into participants language and
computing histories. Participants were also invited to take part in a follow-up interview, focusing on their
most recent interaction, in order to obtain more detailed information about their language use in context.
As three of the Australian participants moved to Japan part-way through the data collection period, a
small number of fieldwork focus group sessions were also conducted, which gave the researcher the
opportunity to interview both the Japanese and Australian participant in a pair simultaneously. The use of
Sealey and Carters (2004) social realism framework allowed for a holistic approach to the analysis of the
interviews and CMC data.
Sealey and Carters approach combines elements of applied linguistics and sociology to facilitate the
investigation of issues which incorporate both social and language acquisition factors. It places emphasis
on situated activity (e.g., the act of engaging in CMC), social structure (e.g., the social and other networks
present, and the differential distribution of life chances within these groups), participant
psychobiographies (i.e., participants histories with computer use and language learning), and contextual
resources (i.e., the physical, conceptual and linguistic tools made use of). The social realism framework
has been successfully applied to a range of applied linguistic and sociolinguistic research, as well as its

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more specific use in the analysis of CMC by Belz and others (Belz, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, July, 2005;
Belz & Mller-Hartmann, 2003; Belz & Reinhardt, 2004). While Belzs research concentrates on CMC
use in a formal educational setting, the framework is equally applicable to students use of CMC outside
of teacher directed activity.
In an investigation of the social dimensions of telecollaborative foreign language study involving e-mail,
synchronous chat, and the construction of Websites, Belz (2002) provides a useful summary of the realist
position from both a theoretical and methodological perspective. Theoretically, the social realist position
views social action as shaped by the interplay of social and systemic phenomena (Archer, 1995, p. 11).
Social action is seen as embedded within history (Belz, 2002, p. 61). Methodologically, the social realist
approach reflects the complex and layered nature of the empirical world, relying on an exploratory, multi-
strategy approach. Layder summarises the central aim of realism as an attempt to preserve a scientific
attitude towards social analysis at the same time as recognising the importance of actors meanings
(1993, p. 16).
While social realism is not tied to a proscriptive methodological program, in order to analyse participants
meanings, both the background and follow-up interviews were coded using the qualitative data analysis
software package NVivo, in a comparative analysis, according to the methods outlined in Grounded
Theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). This entailed a massive amount of detailed, layered coding, where
individual nodes were organised under larger concepts. Three levels of coding, as suggested by Richards
(2005) were employed, namely descriptive, topic, and analytical:
1. Descriptive Coding The identification of attributes such as a participants age, average hours
of computer use daily, and so on which describe a case.
2. Topic Coding The organization of passages of text by topic, for example, allocating a section
of an interview that describes chat usage to a node named chat.
Auto Coding The use of software (such as NVivo) to identify key concepts via a crude analysis
of specific words in a text, or by grouping the answers to the same question across a variety of
participants to the same node. Only the latter has been employed in the present research.
3. Analytical Coding Coding that results from interpretation and reflection on meaningsuch as,
what is this particular passage about? What categorie(s) properly represent that passage? What
context should be coded?
In Vivo Coding a term from Grounded Theory which refers to categories named by words the
participants themselves use.
(Richards, 2005, pp. 9095)
In vivo coding, as described above, preserves the importance of actors meanings, as described by Layder
(1993), and one particular in vivo coding, that of domains, will be the main focus of the current paper.
Participants CMC data was analysed at the level of the e-turn, a unit of analysis proposed by Thorne
(1999). The e-turn, while based on the turn, does not include the notions of linear sequencing and
juxtaposition, but instead may be defined as a freestanding communicative unit, taking its form from the
way the program receives and orders input, and the form and content of the message, as typed by the user.
In the analysis of participants interaction data, Nishimuras (1992, 1997) identification of Basically
English and Basically Japanese varieties also proved useful. Each e-turn was categorized as either
English (containing no code switching to Japanese), Mostly English: (where borrowings or code switches
occurred within an English environment, that is, following English grammatical rules), Japanese
(containing no switches to English), Mostly Japanese (where borrowings or switches to English occurred
within a Japanese environment), or Other (including No language where, for example, participants posted
a blog containing a photo and no linguistic content, or where languages other than Japanese and English

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were used). Overall, the Australian participants use of Japanese and English with their Japanese
interlocutors online was fairly balanced. English or Mostly English e-turns accounted for 47% of the e-
turns sent by Australian participants, while 48% were composed in Japanese or Mostly Japanese (the
remaining 5% were categorized as Other).

Second Language Use According to Linguistic Domain
As mentioned above, participants in the present study made use of a broad range of CMC mediums with
their contacts. Yet despite often communicating with the same Japanese contacts via a number of different
mediums, participants language selection and identity performance differed across mediums. Nowhere
was this difference more pronounced than on Mixi and Facebook, two SNSs. Table 2 demonstrates the
large difference in language choice on these two sites, as well as the proportions of language use on other
mediums used by more than one participant.

Table 2. Language Choice According to Domain

Type of domain Language choice

according to
participants (Mostly) (Mostly)
Domain interview comments English Japanese Other
Facebook English 84% 16% 0%
E-mails Neither 62% 25% 13%
MSN Chats Neither 62% 36% 2%
Ameba Blogs Japanese 35% 62% 3%
Mixi Japanese 25% 63% 12%

English, or a Mostly English variety was used on Facebook between the Australian and Japanese
participants in 84% of instances of their communication (including both private Facebook messages, and
public wall comments), while Japanese or a Mostly Japanese variety was used only 16% of the time.
Conversely, English or Mostly English was used only 25% of the time on Mixi, while Japanese or a
Mostly Japanese variety was used in 63% of interactions. A further 12% of interactions on Mixi blogs,
messages and comments were categorised as Other.
When only messages sent by the Australian participants are considered, the contrast appears even starker.
The Australian learners of Japanese used Japanese or Mostly Japanese in only 6% of their private
messages to Japanese contacts, and in 15% of their wall postings to Japanese contacts on Facebook. On
Mixi, however, Japanese or Mostly Japanese was used in 63% of Australian participants messages to
Japanese contacts and in 82% of their blogs. This clear difference in language choice appears to be a
result of participants viewing these SNSs as discrete linguistic domains2, as will be elaborated in the
section that follows.
The two examples of Mixi and Facebook described above will be utilised in the present paper as a case
study of the ways the linguistic domain in which communication is located was found to affect
participants language use, and identity construction. Mixi was used by half of the Australian participants
in the current study (6/12 participants), while Facebook was used by three-quarters (8/12 participants).
Ameba blogs, while also viewed as a Japanese domain and while exhibiting similar patterns of language
choice, was only used by three participants, and will be addressed later.
Language Choice According to Domain

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When participants were asked to reflect upon their language selections, the concept of language-specific
domains quickly emerged. Kaylene explained her choice to use a mostly Japanese variety in her
communication on Mixi, commenting, I think I always use Japanese on the actual blogs, because it feels
like a Japanese domain, and so I feel like I should. Ellise said, I tend to view Mixi as a Japanese forum
most of the people on there, in fact, 99% of people on there cant actually read English. Even Sae,
one of Ellises Japanese contacts, said that she used Japanese with Ellise on Mixi precisely because its
While Mixi was identified as a Japanese domain, Facebook was conversely viewed as an English domain,
in which English language use was the norm for participants. This is evidenced in Zacs comment that
Mixi was the Japanese version of a Facebook (Zac Interview 1, 29/07/08), clearly locating Facebook as
the English language equivalent.
Interlocutors According to Domain
Participants disparate language selections on Mixi and Facebook may in part be explained by Ellises
comment above, that most of the people on there, in fact, 99% of people on there cant actually read
English, (Ellise Interview 2, 10/03/08). Although most of Ellises contacts, and the contacts of other
participants, had some understanding of English, Japanese was certainly the primary language for the vast
majority of the Australian participants Mixi contacts. All 42 of Ellises contacts on Mixi were Japanese,
as were all 12 of Zacs contacts. Only Alisha had more non-Japanese than Japanese contacts on Mixi,
with the non-Japanese outweighing the Japanese by just one person (3 Japanese, 4 non-Japanese).
Overall, 88% (84/95 contacts) of the Australian participants contacts on Mixi were Japanese, as Table 3
Table 3. The Australian Participants Mixi Friends (MyMiku)

Participant Total number of Number of % of Japanese

contacts on Mixi Japanese contacts Contacts on Mixi
on Mixi
Noah 11 8 72.7
Ellise 42 42 100.0
Zac 11 11 100.0
Alisha 7 3 42.9
Oscar 13 10 76.9
Kaylene 11 10 90.9
Total 95 84 88.0

The demographic makeup of participants Facebook networks was almost a mirror image, as shown in
Table 4. One participant, Hyacinth, had no Japanese contacts on her Facebook friend list, despite having a
total of 108 contacts. The participant with the highest proportion of Japanese contacts was Kaylene, who
notably worked in Japan during the time of data collection. Even so, Kaylenes proportion of Japanese
contacts on Facebook (24.2%) is still considerably lower than her total on Mixi (90.9%), and even lower
than Alishas Mixi total (42.9%), which was the lowest proportion of Japanese contacts on Mixi overall.

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Table 4. The Australian Participants Facebook Friends

Participant Total number of Number of % of Japanese

contacts on Japanese contacts Contacts on
Facebook on Facebook Facebook
Lucas 1 3 2.1
Ellise 311 41 13.2
Hyacinth 108 0 0.0
Zac 254 12 4.7
Jacob 136 28 20.6
Alisha 38 3 7.9
Oscar 131 3 2.3
Kaylene 33 8 24.2
Total 1152 98 8.5

Participants perceptions of Mixi and Facebook as Japanese and English domains respectively appears to
have been influenced by the demographic makeup of their social networks on these sites. These
perceptions, in turn, informed language selection. Kaylene termed Mixi a Japanese forum and stated that
this influenced her language choice: I tend to view Mixi as a Japanese forum. Ive only used English
here in the couple of phrases that I wasnt sure about, and when I was talking about the English
language. Indeed, 16 of Kaylenes total of 17 Mixi blogs were written entirely in Japanese.
Importantly, it appears that it was not simply the increased presence of NSs of Japanese on Mixi, but also
the fact that Mixi was an area of the Internet dominated by and moderated in Japanese that influenced
participants perceptions of Mixi as a virtual L2 community, and their language choice. Taking Alishas
communication with her Japanese friend Eri as an example, it is clear that the environment in which a
message was produced had an important impact on the language selected. On Mixi, Alisha composed a
total of five blogs that were collected for the present study, two of which were commented on by Eri. Eri
too wrote a blog which was commented on by Alisha, to which she replied. Finally, Eri also sent Alisha a
private message, giving a total of 10 instances of data.
All five of Alishas blogs were in Japanese (4/5 blogs) or Mostly Japanese (1/5 blogs) varieties. Eris
blog, too, was written in the Mostly Japanese variety, with some Mandarin use. Likewise, all three of
Eris comments were written in Japanese (2/3 comments) or Mostly Japanese (1/3 comments), and
Alishas only comment was also in Japanese. Overall, all of Alisha and Eris communication on Mixi
was carried out in Japanese or Mostly Japanese.
On Facebook, however, although the interlocutors (Alisha and Eri) and topics of discussion (daily life and
university) remained the same, their language choice was reversed. Alisha and Eri each commented on
each others walls using the Mostly English varieties. Other participants followed a similar pattern of
language selection. Ellise, who also communicated with Eri, used Mostly English (3/4 wall posts) on
Facebook, but almost exclusively Japanese (9/10 blogs) on Mixi.
With the exception of Lucas, whose use of Japanese with his friend Hisayo increased over time, as part of
a determined effort to practise his L2, Japanese proficiency did not appear to be linked to language
choice. Medium choice, or more importantly, the linguistic domain in which that medium is seen as
located, the nature of communication, and interpersonal factors, such as relationship and interlocutors
language choice, were found to have a far greater influence.
The Benefits of Virtual Community and Language Immersion

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Given the popularity of the term virtual community, it was unsurprising that several participants made
reference to this concept in the interviews, in relation to linguistic domains. However, not all of their
comments were positive. This section concentrates on Mixi, the medium participants most frequently
used in Japanese, with some additional illustrations from other data.
The Australian learners of Japanese described both positive and negative experiences and perceptions of
Japanese domains. One of Alishas comments in particular illustrates the conflicting views of Japanese
domains that she held. Alisha said:
[I]n my everyday life, I dont use the language a lot unless I do it online. Its a place where you can
be surrounded by the language, without being in a place where youre surrounded by the language!
Its a virtual community . but when it comes to it, youre always gonna be a JSL, I guess, a
Japanese as a Second Language student, so its gonna be a struggle.
A Place Where You Can be Surrounded by the Language
Like Alisha, many other Australian participants saw CMC as a surrogate for face-to-face interaction in the
target language. Zac stated that he supplemented his eight hours of Japanese classes at university each
week with participation in a conversation group and online communication, saying uni doesnt have
enough hours to study a language. Kaylene, too, commented that before she moved to Japan, she used
Mixi frequently, as Japanese practise, because I felt like I wasnt getting enough. Later, Kaylene
I think Ive made one post [on Mixi] since I came to Japan, and since then, Ive sort of slacked off
now Im working at the museum, and get to talk to people every day in Japanese, I guess its not as
Even though most participants main goal in communicating with their Japanese contacts was social
rather than educational, use of CMC for Japanese practise among the Australian participants was very
common. Participation in Japanese domains such as Mixi, and other, less frequently used domains like
Ameba (a blogging site) and WebKare (or Web Boyfriend, http://web-kare.jp an online game) provided
participants with not only increased opportunities to communicate with NSs of Japanese (due to the
higher proportion of Japanese users of these sites), but also the opportunity to be surrounded by the
language, as Alisha describes. Sites which are moderated in Japanese require the user to actively navigate
the site using the language, and those that are sponsored by Japanese companies provide opportunities for
exposure to authentic advertising.
The Australian participants were also able to view messages posted to their Japanese contacts by other
Japanese users of the sites, and to gain admission to other online spaces via their membership of these
communities. Alisha accessed Japanese Websites advertised on Mixi, and Cindy, Genna and Hyacinth
obtained information on their favourite Japanese pop stars by reading their blogs on Ameba. As
mentioned above, the immersion-like effect of being surrounded by ones target language also motivated
the Australian participants to read and write more using their L2. Yet although entering a Japanese
domain may have had numerous positive effects, validating Itakura and Nakajimas (2001) claims
regarding the importance of an authentic audience for language learning, some participants nonetheless
retained a strong sense of being an outsider.
Youre Always Gonna be a JSL
In one of her interviews, Ameba and WebKare user Hyacinth commented that she had heard a lot of
negative feedback from people who werent Japanese about certain Japanese domains. Based on
feedback from other NNSs of Japanese on the blog site LiveJournal, Hyacinth became wary of attempting
a number of online activities, such as a blogging tool that focused on drawing, one of her main interests.
In the interview, Hyacinth said that she had wanted to try using this blog until she heard negative
feedback from non-Japanese who were ostracized from the Japanese online circles [and] communities.

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Hyacinth also heard similar reactions to a video site that she described as being for Japanese people.
She said:
I remember them [non-Japanese posters on a forum] saying one person posted a video of them self,
and they were mocked to the ends of the earth, and felt really ashamed, because they werent
Japanese. I think theres a kind of pride that comes with them [being Japanese], especially online.
Hyacinth was also warned off 2chan, a very popular Japanese Internet forum famous for its distinctive
vocabulary and appearance in the film Densha Otoko, saying that she thought it was dangerous to try as
a non-Japanese speaker. Again, she had heard that if you say one word out of line, something wrong, no
one will look at you or respect you or anything.
Although it is important not to over-emphasize the benefits of the Internet at the expense of ignoring the
less positive aspects, Hyacinths experiences were by no means representative of the group as a whole,
and her reluctance to participate online seems to have at least in part been affected by her own self-
consciousness and lack of confidence in her Japanese. Even though communicating with ones university
teachers in Japanese was common practice among the Australian participants in general, Hyacinth stated
that she never emailed any of her teachers in Japanese, and was frightened of doing so. Nevertheless, it
must be remembered that such negative experiences do occur, and while Hyacinths reports were not
representative of the group, this may be because the others have not ventured into the various online
spaces she did.
A final example of a negative experience for Hyacinth occurred on the forum of an online game. Almost
two months after her final interview, Hyacinth contacted the researcher to describe an experience, this
time, on a medium she had decided to attempt using, called WebKare, an online dating simulator with a
forum attached. While Hyacinth read the forum postings often, she decided not to contribute due to the
abusive nature of some posts. Although a large number of Japanese users were welcoming and helpful to
Japanese learners, some were dissatisfied about the use of other languages, particularly Chinese and
Korean, or the poor use of Japanese on the Website. While it is difficult to find examples of the more
abusive posts as the moderators have been vigilant about censoring as many as possible, hostility towards
language variation on the WebKare forum is evident, for example, in the following post from an
anonymous user written in Japanese, which Hyacinth pointed out as typical of the debate:
Extract 1. Japanese WebKare Posting Example

(Write in Japanese.
This is a service for Japanese people.
If you cannot understand Japanese you have no right to use Japanese services.
Whether youre from China or Korea, go act like savages in your own country.)
(Anon. 20/09/2008)
Despite its aggressive wording, Hyacinth showed some sympathy to this writers point of view, stating
that she did not understand why people would use a Japanese site if you only want to talk in another
language. She said, some Japanese users mentioned that some foreign users use I dont understand

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Japanese/Im foreign as an excuse to avoid confrontation.

After such dissatisfaction among some users about the use of languages other than Japanese on the forum,
the moderators announced a split, segregating the forum into two separate boards, Oekaki Japanese and
Scribble International. (The announcement is viewable at: http://web-kare.jp/information/news/view/15).
While this move may have appeased a number of users who wanted a Japanese-only forum,
dissatisfaction is still obvious among users of the international board, which was developed with an
English interface, although the majority of posts appear to be in Chinese. As another anonymous user
commented in English on the newly-formed international board:
Extract 2. English WebKare Posting Example
First of all; WEB-KARE's oekaki [the Japanese forum] is good so why people won't
use it? ;o;
Second; Chinese is over-rated! Let's use English too so that us non-asian people can
also understand! (to tell the truth, I like more being in JP BBS since at least I can
UNDERSTAND that. >__>)
(Anon. 29/09/2008)
It is evident from this users comment that despite her desire to use Japanese, the new forum setting did
not facilitate this desire, and furthermore, the introduction of a new international board has not gone far to
alleviate tensions over the use of Chinese. For Hyacinth, an Australian-Chinese-background learner of
Japanese, hostility towards Chinese affected her motivation to engage in interaction on the forums.
Even so, Hyacinth saw the reaction of the hostile Japanese as symptomatic of their online space being
invaded: I think the frustrations are the invasion of a domain that [is] mostly Japanese. When asked
what made the Website a Japanese domain, Hyacinth responded Generally, the Website being
completely in Japanese to me suggests that a level of Japanese is required to play itespecially with
instructions in Japanese. Thus, in addition to the nationality of users, the language of moderation appears
to contribute to perceptions of linguistic domains also.
It is important to note that most of the conversation on the forum regarding the use of WebKare in
languages other than Japanese was carried out by anonymous users who, as in the two messages above,
chose not to attach their name or avatar. Levy and Stockwell (2006) state that while anonymity in CMC
can have positive effects such as giving L2 speakers more confidence to participate than they may have in
face-to-face communication (as noted by Shibanai, 2007), negative effects, such as the flaming (hostile or
insulting comments) seen above, are also fostered by the affordance of anonymity.
As mentioned earlier, the sense of anonymity afforded by some types of online communication has also
led to claims that, so long as language use does not indicate otherwise, the signaling of race, ethnicity,
sex, gender, or indeed any other aspect of identity online appears to be at the users discretion (Burkhalter
1999; Herring 2003). Despite this commonly held view, none of the Australian participants in the current
study attempted to hide or disguise their nationality, or their self-selected identity as language learners.
On the contrary, participants took pains to emphasise their L2 identities online.
Language Learners? Users? Foreigners?
Rather than hiding their L2 learner or L2 user identities, the Australian participants in the present study
instead brought them to the fore, through the use of both linguistic and visual means. In some cases,
participants even identified themselves as foreigners, in stark contrast with the idea of the Internet as a
placeless space, and instead, highlighting the extent to which participants viewed Japanese domains as
Japanese-owned spaces.

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Critics of traditional applied linguistics research have problematised the distinction that has been made
between native- and non-native speakers, as if these were given, absolute categories. Perhaps the most
famous call for consideration of these terms was made by Firth and Wagner (1997), arguing that
mainstream theory skews our view of language learners/users by focusing on them as NNSs who strive to
reach NS-like competence. In this view, other social identities of individuals are in danger of being
Sealey and Carter (2004), too, have highlighted the danger of selective measurement whereby the
researcher makes use of a preconceived concept, such as NNS or learner, already infused with theoretical
notions. Sealey and Carter outline their approach to social categories by identifying two types: those
constituted by involuntaristic characteristics, and those characterised by a degree of choice on the part of
their members, emphasising that actors understandings are a central element in the theoretical
description of social collectives (2001, p. 7).
Rather than the researcher imposing the categories of learner or native-speaker, in the present study,
participants identified themselves as learners or native-speakers, as is evidenced in their interview data,
and sometimes, in their online interactions themselves. However, as identity is fluid, Firth and Wagners
(1997) point that these identities may not always be the most relevant in a given interaction, is taken into
consideration. Drawing on the case studies of participants Facebook and Mixi use, this section will
examine the fluidity of participants identities across different language domains online through an
analysis of SNS profiles.
As previously outlined, half of the Australian participants in the current study (Alisha, Ellise, Kaylene,
Noah, Oscar, and Zac) were members of Mixi, and for five of them, Mixi was their most commonly used
CMC medium in Japanese. Mixi profiles typically consist of a display photo, a list of basic information, a
self-introduction, and a list of likes and interests, all of which are optional to complete.
All six participants who were members of Mixi clearly stated in their profiles that they were not Japanese,
or that they were studying Japanese. All listed (Overseas: Australia) as their current
address. This is a set expression included in a list on the site, in which countries other than Japan are
automatically prefixed Overseas. Yet, of course, providing ones current country of residence alone does
not differentiate a student of Japanese as a foreign language from a NS from Japan currently living
overseas, for example. So in addition to this, Noah and Oscar also added Australia as their birthplace.
Furthermore, Alisha, Ellise, and Zac all explicitly stated their nationality in the body of their profiles. This
information often took precedence over other biographic details or participants interests.

Alishas profile opened with the statement (I am Australian). Ellises profile

also started with a statement of nationality:
(I am Australian and English, however I am living in Australia at
the moment!). Zacs profile read (Im Zac. I am
Australian and 23 years old). Kaylenes approach was a little less direct, simply implying her foreignness
by stating
(Im sorry, this blog will probably end up being very badly written and the Japanese is that of a
foreigner, or even Kaylese), referring to herself as a foreigner, and her own idiolect as Kaylese (
Furthermore, some participants were also careful to emphasise the fact that they are still studying
Japanese. Ellises second line was (I am studying Japanese

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at university at the moment). Similarly, Oscar stated (At

the moment, I am studying Japanese and Chinese). Noah included a lengthy description of his language
learning history, excerpted below.
Extract 3. Noahs Mixi Profile

(I have been studying Japanese since 2006 up to now. At first, I began studying Japanese at R
University, but I graduated after eight months. It was a short course, but a lot of fun and I was very
interested. Now, I am studying at M University. Of course, I am continuing with my Japanese study.)
Finally, several participants also used the Interests section to further focus on language. Four out of six
participants, Ellise, Noah, Oscar, and Zac, all listed (language study) as a hobby.
Although a major theme of all six profiles, it would be erroneous to presume that being a foreigner /
language learner was the only identity at the forefront of participants profile construction. Another
observable pattern concerns interest in Japanese culture, something all participants took pains to
emphasise. Four of the six participants used Japan-related photographs for their display picture; Alisha, a
photo of herself in the snow in Japan, Zac, likewise, a photo of himself with a snow sculpture in Japan.
Ellise used a purikura (Print Club photo sticker) of herself and a Japanese friend, complete with Japanese
graffiti, and Oscars profile photo was a snapshot of the neighborhood he lived in while on exchange in
All six also listed Japanese-related likes and interests. This may appear unsurprising, given that an interest
in Japanese culture is hardly remarkable among students of Japanese, or even among the youth population
of Australia more generally, as Larson (2003) notes. However, interesting comparisons can be drawn
between participants English domain SNS profiles (in this case, Facebook), and their Japanese domain
(Mixi) profiles. None of the participants mentioned any of the Japanese-specific interests that they
displayed on Mixi (Japanese television dramas, karaoke, anime cartoons, manga comics, shogi chess,
Japanese alcohol and foods, or even language learning), in their English Facebook profiles. This
demonstrates the context-specifity of participants identity displays as shown in Table 5.
Lastly, although all six participants went to great lengths to foreground their non-native status, and
emphasise their interest in Japanese culture, this does not mean that they cast themselves in a wholly
subordinate role. This is clearest in the case of Noah, who positioned himself as a learner of Japanese, but
an expert in English:

feel free to ask me for help with English

(I want to become a teacher of English in Japan)
Zac also divulged his aspirations to become an English teacher, and offered to speak in English or
Japanese with anyone interested:

(My dream is that I want to become an English teacher in Japan. Therefore I want to make a lot of
Japanese friends, and talk in Japanese and English.)

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Table 5. Australian Participants Interests on Mixi and Facebook Profiles

Participant Mixi Interests Facebook Interests

Alisha Swimming, Japanese anime and None listed
Ellise Sports, karaoke, band, cooking, sake, Acting, singing, travelling, reading,
shopping, driving, language study, talking, shopping
Japanese TV dramas and video
games, ice skating, AFL, tantanmen
noodles, the 300 Yen Bar
Kaylene Travel, art, language study, reading, Stuff, music
Oscar Movies, sport, food, travel, language None listed
study, reading, TV, video games,
Internet, Japanese chess
Noah Language study, manga No profile
Zac Watching movies, sport, watching No profile
sport, listening to music, cooking,
sake, driving, travel, language study,
manga, TV, video games, Internet
Lucas No profile Sleeping
Video gaming

It is apparent from both participants interview comments and from the evidence of opportunities for
language acquisition (expanded upon in more detail in Pasfield-Neofitou, 2010) that there are a number of
benefits of participation in Japanese domains for learners of Japanese. One important benefit is greater
access to the language, as Japanese domains tend to be populated predominantly by NS. The presence of
Japanese NS also leads to opportunities for learners to view NS-NS communication, which can later be
used as a model for their own language use. Participation in language-specific virtual communities may
also act as a springboard for greater access to popular culture and other authentic materials via links
posted by other users and advertising from Website sponsors.
Perhaps most importantly though, a sense of virtual immersion and of being in someone elses space, may
develop L2 learners motivation to use the target language, due to actual or perceived audience
demographics. However, simultaneously, a feeling of being a foreigner or of trespassing on someone
elses space can also result in severe effects on a learners desire to attempt communication in their L2.
The identification of language-specific domains was based not only on the analytical coding of the
interaction data collected, but also an in vivo coding of interviews with participants. This finding was
particularly related to interaction spaces aimed at groups such as SNSs, like Facebook and Mixi, and also
Websites or forums, rather than typically one-on-one interaction channels such as private e-mail, which
tended to be viewed more neutrally, and have more even language choice patterns3. Thus, in this respect it
appears that networks or domains are influenced and continuously sustained by the social interaction of
The domain in which any given interaction is perceived as being situated was found to affect participants
situated activity in terms of language choice, and use of contextual resources. A sense of being immersed

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in someone elses space had both positive and negative effects regarding opportunities for language
acquisition, as summed up in Alishas comments. She stated that the Internet environment gave her an
opportunity to be surrounded by the language, but also made her feel that she would always be a Japanese
as a second-language speaker. Positive effects included Alishas sense of virtual immersion or perception
of joining a virtual community, and greater exposure to Japanese. This greater exposure led to some
participants drawing on the communication between NSs they saw as models, and gave them greater
access to authentic cultural materials, as well as to linguistic assistance from NSs. Some of the negative
effects documented include intolerance towards other languages or ethnic groups. However, the
Australian participants were also found to create their own Japanese-specific spaces and Japanese-learner
identities via their profiles, of which they had ownership, with social networking profiles constituting an
important site for the ongoing construction of identities.
Participants self-identification as foreign or non-native may have been beneficial in a number of ways.
The main goals participants had for using their L2 online were social and educational. By constructing
their identities online as learners of the language, they mitigated any potential loss of face due to their
language competency, and by construing themselves as experts in English or as foreigners, they may have
made themselves more attractive to Japanese members who were actively looking for a foreign or
English-speaking contact. In fact, at least one participant in the present study met her closest Japanese
friend in this way. Secondly, by describing themselves as learners, they invited correction and other forms
of repair, which were surprisingly frequent in the public forum of Mixi in particular, as further described
in Pasfield-Neofitou (2010).
Being a part of a virtual community, in particular, gaining access to an authentic audience, was the most
important source of motivation for L2 production identified in the present study. A sense of being heard
and understood appeared to increase participants sense of achievement, and increase the likelihood of
their continued engagement in L2 use online. This suggests that Bloods (2002) observations with respect
to the importance of an authentic audience in a monolingual first-language blog environment holds true in
L2 settings also.
Being an L2 learner was also found to be an important identity for many participants in their online
interactions, as evidenced in their foregrounding of this aspect in their profiles. Furthermore, their
identification of themselves as foreigners online is further evidence of their perception of Japanese-owned
and moderated domains such as Mixi as Japanese domains, and themselves as outsiders. This finding
challenges views of Internet communication as neutral, equalising or more democratic, and demonstrates
that it is possible to feel like a foreigner (and to be treated as one) even in what has been viewed as a
gigantic, placeless cyberspace.

1. danah boyds name is spelled in all lowercase in all of her publications; her preferred format has been
retained here.
2. The term domain is an in vivo code description which emerged from participants observations, and is
distinct from the technical use of the term domain to refer to a component of URLs that indicates
ownership or control of a Website or other online resource (although this may be a relevant factor in
users perceptions). Mixi, for example, is owned by a Japanese company, and Facebook, an American
company, yet the perceived ownership of Facebook extends beyond the national boundary of the US and
across the West.
3. Although English use dominated participants e-mail communication (62% compared to 25%), this
ratio was influenced by the fact that the Australian students university e-mail accounts at the time of data
collection did not support Japanese. If the e-mails sent to or from an Australian university e-mail address

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are excluded, the figure is much more balanced (54% English or Mostly English, 46% Japanese or Mostly


Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou is a lecturer at Monash University. Her recent doctorate research focuses on
Japanese as a second language learners social computer medicated communication with native speakers.
Her past research projects have examined language use in intercultural chat, and the use of electronic and
online dictionaries and other digital resources.
E-mail: sarah.pasfieldneofitou@monash.edu

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