Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Review of Research on Intercultural Learning through Computer-Based Digital Technologies

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Review of Research on Intercultural Learning through Computer-Based Digital Technologies

Article excerpt


Intercultural interactions and exchanges have started to gain an important place in our everyday life as one of the indirect results of our globalizing world. This state of interconnectedness among people and cultures has been so apparent that it is claimed nowadays that "international relations become the basis for a well-functioning tomorrow." (Schenker, 2012, p. 449). In line with the impact of global developments on functioning of modern societies, having global communication networks and developing an intercultural communicative competence (ICC) have become one of the aims of today's educational systems (Alptekin, 2002; Thorne, 2003). Thus, ICC is strongly supported as a part of language instruction in schools as it enables people to communicate and negotiate successfully with people from other cultures (Byram, 1997; 2000).

Although no agreement has been established on the definition of ICC, there seems a general agreement on its key goals (Deardorff, 2006; O'Dowd, 2003). Byram's (1997) ICC model, which is the most commonly referred one in the literature, covers attitudes, knowledge, skills of interpreting and relating, skills of discovery and interaction, and critical awareness. Within his ICC model, the aim is to go beyond superficial intercultural fact exchanges and to develop a deep intercultural learning. The model suggests people to be open-minded, reflective on cultural similarities and differences, and to reduce their ethnocentrism. Developing this intercultural competence seems as a challenging task but is necessary to be a part of the global world (Talkington, Lengel, & Byram, 2004). Teachers of foreign languages or of other relevant fields therefore need to find sound ways to integrate intercultural competence into their courses. Moreover, cultural knowledge alone may not precede intercultural competence (Bennett, 2009; Perry & Southwell, 2011; Talkington, Lengel, & Byram, 2004), so a critical examination of cultures is a must to go beyond simple facts and knowledge about cultures, which is possible through interactions with people from other cultures.

With respect to helping every student to develop an intercultural competence, computer-mediated communication (CMC) and telecollaborative projects provide environments for students to have an opportunity to communicate with people from diverse cultures (Belz & Thorne, 2006; Kern, 2006; Lee, 2009; Muller-Hartmann, 2000; O'Dowd, 2007). Telecollaboration studies in fact have started to gain more importance due to their practical nature in terms of intercultural contacts. However, existing studies stress a lack of research in technology-oriented intercultural learning environments (Jin & Erben, 2007; Lee & Markey, 2014; O'Dowd, 2007; Perry & Southwell, 2011). Perry and Southwell (2011) especially state, in their review of intercultural models and approaches, that there is no thorough research on the development of intercultural competence via digital technologies, so, according to them, the area needs further research. To my best knowledge, there is no review research on this issue as well. Thus, this review study aims to fill a gap in the current research in intercultural learning through computer-based technology use in order to mark prevalent issues in the field. These major questions therefore seek for answers in this review study:

* What kinds of technologies were used in intercultural studies?

* What type of participants and contexts were involved?

* How long did the studies take place?

* What were the major findings in terms of intercultural learning?

* How effective were digital technologies to promote intercultural learning?

* Are there any potential gaps and suggestions for further research directions?

Research methods

Different inquiry styles utilizing quantitative and qualitative paradigms in this technology-oriented intercultural field made it more appropriate to have a qualitative synthesis of quantitative and qualitative research (Baran, 2014; Suri & Clarke, 2009). …

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