Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Integrating Culture, Language and Technology

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Integrating Culture, Language and Technology

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article reports the findings from a longitudinal assessment following a three-year project of faculty training in the design and development of interactive, multimedia courseware for the study of second languages and cultures. A multidisciplinary approach to faculty development included training in language acquisition theories, cultural studies, instructional design and computing skills. Participating faculty were awarded stipends to travel to the target countries and afterward employ authentic materials for the authoring of interactive courseware. The author's examination of the potential of a cognitive apprenticeship model for the study of culture is based on the analysis of faculty and students' perceptions of the effectiveness of the courseware. Parts of this study were presented at the 10th International CALL Conference "CALL Professionals and the Future of CALL Research" at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, 2002.

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Background

Most scholars recognize that "A language is part of culture and a culture is part of language; the two are intricately interwoven such that one cannot separate the two without losing the significance of either language or culture" (Brown, 1987). In the past four decades, researchers have been proposing models for integrating culture and language in second language (L2) instruction (Born, 1975; Lafayette, 1988; Ballman, 1997). However, Moore (1996) found that these models have not been widely adopted, and the teaching of culture (C2) is frequently limited to cultural notes in the language textbook. Quinn Allen (2000) argues that because of limited experiences living in the C2, many teachers lack familiarity with and understanding of C2, as well as training on how to integrate L2 and C2 in formal instruction.

Can technology help integrate L2 and C2 in formal teaching? According to Furstenberg and Morgenstern (1992), one of the goals of new technologies is to "immerse the learners in a completely authentic world, giving them the tools and tasks to understand and interpret the linguistic and cultural reality around them ..." (p. 119). At the same time, technology is not a new teaching tool, but rather one that holds a potential for "making languages come alive for our students" (Iskold & Pearce, 1996). A review of research literature in the field indicates that theories of L2 acquisition, cognitive-theoretical views on L2 learning, and sociocultural approaches to L2 teaching provide a theoretical foundation for the integration of linguistic and cognitive skills with culture (Salaberry, 1996).

One of the current challenges for institutions of higher learning is to bring faculty into the world of technology not only as consumers, but also as researchers and developers of new instructional materials. At our undergraduate liberal arts college, an initial three-year (1995-97) grant provided faculty training in the development of multimedia courseware to complement elementary L2 learning outside of the classroom. The faculty development program integrated theories of L2 acquisition, instructional design, and multimedia authoring using Asymetrix ToolBook. In line with contemporary views regarding the benefits of authentic materials for L2 teaching summarized by Omaggio Hadley (1993), and in an attempt to resolve copyright problems, participating faculty were awarded stipends to travel to C2 countries and bring back authentic materials to be used in the courseware. The sociocultural approach to language learning, which places L2 acquisition in a context of social practices, has recently emerged form a theory proposed by Vygotsky (1962). Vygotsky focuses on the relationship among mind, language, communication and culture, and he demonstrates that apprenticeship learning is an integral part of formal and informal adult learning. According to this theory, the teacher serves as a "facilitator, guide, and when appropriate, expert" in apprenticing students "into discourse and social practices" of the communities of native speakers (Warschauer, 1997, p. …

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