Overview of Communication and Collaboration in
As evidenced by the theoretical framework outlined in Chapter 1, social interaction is a crucial component of language learning environments, including those enhanced by (Chapelle, 1998; Gass, & Mackey, 2015; Stockwell, 2010), both and . Sadler (2007) notes that:
CMC gives language learners access to more knowledgeable individuals, either native speakers of the target language or more advanced nonnative speakers, than they might be able to encounter in a face-to-face environment, thus increasing their potential ability to learn. Indeed, in some environments, CMC provides the only possibility for access to . (p. 12)
Whereas the term communication implies simply conveying knowledge either one way or through an exchange, the term collaboration is less easy to define precisely. For the purposes of this book, collaboration will be taken to mean the process during which learners interact socially to create shared understandings (Nyikos & Hashimoto, 1997) by engaging in problem solving and knowledge building (Sun & Chang, 2012; Swain, 2000). Social interaction, one of the principles of classroom language learning outlined in chapter 1, includes two or more participants communicating by negotiating meaning, clarifying for each other, and working in other ways to understand each other. Many educators believe that technology’s capability to support communication and collaboration has changed the classroom more than any of its other capabilities (Du & Wagner, 2007; Godwin-Jones, 2003; Kessler, 2009, 2018; Reinders & Hubbard, 2013). In fact, it is how educators make use of that capability that can change classroom goals, dynamics, turn-taking, interactions, audiences, atmosphere, and feedback and create a host of other learning opportunities.
Likewise, the focus on social interaction as the basis for collaboration fits well with the TESOL Technology Standards (Healey et al., 2011); Goal 3, Standard 3 requires that “language learners appropriately use and evaluate available technology-based tools for communication and collaboration” (p. 1) Moreover, social interaction meshes well with the tenets of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE, 2018) standards 5 and 6; the ISTE standards for students require mastery of digital communication tools, including being able to “communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals” and “use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally” (see ISTE Standards for Students). By interacting and negotiating meaning with others in the target language, according to Warschauer (1998), learners can
- take advantage of modeling
- gain new, comprehensible language input
- use language creatively
- work together to understand new experiences and derive meaning from them
- solve language and content problems
- gain control of a situation or person
- learn to use language appropriately
- transfer information
- focus on language structure and use
Clearly, these benefits derive from interacting with other people who can respond creatively and originally in a focused way. Research shows that the interaction between learners and their interlocutors is beneficial to second language development (Mackey, Ab-buhl, & Gass, 2012; Van der Zwaard, & Bannink, 2016). The variety of computer technologies that we use today both in and outside the classroom can potentially provide us with unprecedented opportunities for communication and collaboration. However, the effectiveness of the collaboration tool depends on many variables.
The following video explores a few layers of collaboration in CALL.
Check Your Learning
Computer Assisted Language Learning. The study of applying digital technology to support teaching and learning of language.
Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is defined as any human communication that occurs through the use of two or more electronic devices. ... Research on CMC focuses largely on the social effects of different computer-supported communication technologies. (Wikipedia)
Occurring live in real time, such as chat
Learners posting at different times, such as forum/discussion board interactions