Academic journal article Language, Learning & Technology

Learners' Perspectives on Networked Collaborative Interaction with Native Speakers of Spanish in the US

Academic journal article Language, Learning & Technology

Learners' Perspectives on Networked Collaborative Interaction with Native Speakers of Spanish in the US

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

In this paper, I discuss a network-based collaborative project that focused on the learning conditions non-native speakers (NNSs) of Spanish perceived to be necessary to satisfactoraly communicate with native speakers (NSs). Data from online discussions, end-of-semester surveys, and final oral interviews are presented and discussed. The results of this study demonstrated that the NNS and NS online collaboration promoted the scaffolding by which the NSs assisted the NNSs in composing meaning (ideas) and form (grammar). In addition, the NNSs praised the unique learning condition of being exposed to a wide range of functional language discourse produced by the NSs. Students perceived that open-ended questions for two-way exchange were meaningful for them because they were encouraged to use specific vocabulary and structures during the discussions. In spite of the positive conditions and benefits created by networked collaborative interaction (NCI), it was found that there were some major issues that are crucial for NCI. This study demonstrates that learners' language proficiency, computer skills, and age differences are important factors to be considered when incorporating institutional NCI as these may linguistically and socially affect the quality of online negotiation and students' motivation toward NCI. Practical ideas for further research are suggested.

INTRODUCTION

Networked collaborative interaction (NCI) promotes lively exchanges by learners within a social context, a setting that facilitates the development of their communicative competence. The online tools most commonly used are e-mail, bulletin boards, and chat rooms. These tools create a socially and linguistically enriched environment for NCI. Previous classroom-based research on networked collaboration has focused primarily on the examination of linguistic discourse based on psycholinguistic approaches to language learning (e.g., Blake, 2000; Chun, 1994; Kern, 1996; Lee, 2001; Pellettieri, 2000; Sotillo, 2000; Toyoda & Harrison, 2002). Studies have noted that during their negotiation, learners produce a wide range of discourse structures. To ensure mutual comprehension, learners use a variety of modification devices, such as clarification checks, confirmation checks, requests for help, and selfcorrections. These devices indeed facilitate learners' negotiation for meaning and form (e.g., Chun, 1994; Lee, 2002b). Furthermore, through negotiated input, corrective feedback, and modified output, learners develop their grammatical competence and expand their L2 lexicons (e.g., Blake, 2000; Pellettieri, 2000). While these findings on linguistic features have offered valuable insights into the understanding of the role of online conversational interaction, studies on NCI between students at different U.S. institutions have not yet explored the use of the socio-cognitive approach suggested by Kern and Warschauer (2000, pp. 11-13). Specifically, no research has yet focused on the perceptions of non-native speakers (NNSs) with respect to their online exchange with native speakers (NSs) of Spanish.

From a sociocultural point of view, language learning cannot be viewed as an immediate product of the individual; rather, it is the process by which learners engage in co-constructing their L2 knowledge. Through social engagement, learners collaboratively work with each other to achieve a high level of performance (Donato, 2000; Kern & Warschauer, 2000; Ohta, 1995; Swain, 1995). Furthermore, learners' experiences and motives for language learning and their linguistic, cognitive, and affective conditions shape and influence the social interaction. In other words, other individual factors such as language experience and linguistic skills influence the way they interact with each other. The theoretical framework for this paper, therefore, is an examination of the social processes and contexts that underlie learners' co-constructive efforts. …

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