Social Networking for Language Education and the Making Of

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Open Languages Research ForumOpen UniversityApril 29, 2014Social Networking for Language Education and the Making OfMarie-Nolle Lamy, Open UniveristyKaterina Zourou, Web2Learn Outline of the talkPart 1: What the collection offersmany (too many?) differing approaches to SN for L2 research and teachingyet emergence of common themes and learning/teaching problemsPart 2: The Making of'Concluding remarksa common focus on the empiricala variety of theoretical framesa variety of research methodologiesa variety of conceptions of L2 learninga variety of conceptions of Social NetworkingPart 1: what the collection offersWhat emerged from the studies?two overarching themes: identity, communitylearning issues: degree and locus of controllearning setting issues: porous walls; assessmentdata collection issues: porous walls (again!); observer bias; ephemeralityPart 1: what the collection offersParticipantTaskTechnologyPart 1: what the collection offersNetworked tasks,teacher- or student-createdInterlinked technologiesCore and other participantsRedefining componentsSelecting the most suitable chaptersAn invitation-only CfP addressed to CALL researchers with some experience in social media for language learningDeliberate choice of a selective CfP due to the novelty of the concept/lack of empirical data to dateRound 1 of selection based on abstracts (18 submitted)Round 2 based on improved abstracts (6 rejected)Authors (or groups of) acknowledged to submit a full paperRound 3 based on full papers: 8 accepted papers from 11 submittedPart 2: the Making ofReasons for rejecting abstracts and papersVague understanding of the concept of social networking (main reason)Confusion between interaction and social networkingDigital contexts that neither had social media characteristics in themselves (Moodle, virtual worlds, immersive games, online classrooms) nor were shown to have led to networkingLack of evidence-based papers (contributions on the potential of SN in a language learning context)Off-topic contributionsPart 2: the Making ofProblems with fine-tuning conceptsSocial networking easily confused with similar concepts such as:TelecollaborationInteraction from a language learning perspectiveInteraction through commonly used digital tools such as Moodle (social networking seen as a form of online communication))Part 2: the Making ofSocial networking: disambiguating the term3 features of social media set by Tim OReilly and his team (2007):user participation (user engagement in content creation)openness (ability to network with anyone)network effects (viral capacity)Our claim: social networking as an activity encompassing all those featuresO'Reilly, T. (2007). "What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software". Communications & strategies, n65. pp.17-37.Part 2: the Making ofSocial networking: disambiguating the term (2)Taking social networking in its most informal/less directive definitionEmphasis on:Bottom-up and user-oriented practiceNetworking in informal ways/ less directive ways than in institutional contexts Learning with peers but also with any user across social mediaVS learning settings where interaction, tools and objectives are prescribed by a teacher or CALL researcherInterest in digitally enhanced situations where formal and informal learning occur (OU students attending a language course and communicating also through FB: how social networking affects language learning)Part 2: the Making ofLessons learntMake a CfP as precise as possible. For CfPs containing new concepts: have some critical readers and engage them in a more formalized wayAsk potential authors to accompany the abstract with a footnote explicitly specifying HOW they will address the central topic of CfP. Mention that if this is not made clear, the contribution will be rejected=>frame the process before the first word is written. Part 2: the Making ofConcluding remarks Doing SNs research through SNs? Publishing options?Tools?Crowdsourcing culture?Marie-Nolle: Katerina: @web2learn_eu and @languages_web2 SL 1 No need to introduce MNL to this audience. But for those who havent met KZ, here is a brief presentation [KZ to say a few words on PhD Grenoble, role at Luxembourg, and current role, on the lines below]. Katerina is a Senior Researcher at the Sr-Trndelag University College, Tronheim, Norway on network-based peer learning systems. She also manages the consulting company Web2learn [which] currently manages EU-funded projects in the area of network-based learning and professional training. In the past Katerina worked as post-doctoral researcher in the field of computer supported collaborative language learning at the University of Luxembourg (2008-2012) and at the University Stendhal Grenoble III (2006-2008).How we met? First at Grenoble (EPAL), later at Luxembourg (Webinar).This talk has 2 purposes. On the one hand it is a description of an edited book we produced in 2013, and on the other it is a narrative about the ups and downs of producing a collected work, hence the Making Of in our title. The rationale for presenting you with this Making Of is that it did, we feel, reveal some interesting things about methodological precautions to be taken when talking to researchers, including experienced ones, about new fields of investigation.The idea for a book on Social Networking for Language Education first arose in late 2011, when nothing much had been published on the topic, and it was the brainchild of Katerina, who had already invested time and energy in working with networkers (Luxembourg), and had published on article in ALSIC (in English) about it, where she set out a useful definition of online S.Networking. She approached me, who meanwhile had been intrigued by the behaviour of O.U. students on O.U. forums and on Facebook groups, and wanted to be involved in a more systematic exploration of the topic.SL 2 Talk through SLIDE 2 Our conclusion will not actually be a conclusion but will be open out to questions WE want to ask YOU about networking and research methodologies.To start with a review of what the finished collection offers:a common focus on empirical work (which had been a specific requirement in our CfP, so we rejected the several non-evidence-based submissions that we nevertheless received). The material that we accepted was mainly made up of case studies, some of which follow a single learner, others following groups, of about a dozen strong, or of thousands of members) and even included a selfie (or an autoethnographic study, as its authors prefer to call it).a variety of theoretical frames has been used . Here is a quick review: chapter 1 (Reinhardt) adopts the stand point of language socialisation within the individual ecology of one migrant learner. Chapter 2 (Wigham) makes use of interactional SLA, chapter 3 (Lima) adopts a socio-cultural frame, or even a socio-historical cultural frame, chapter 4 (Zourou) uses instrument design theories to explore learner content uptake, chapter 5 (Harrison) is based on a theory of mediation, specifically mediation through peers, chapter 6 (Fuchs) use an instructional design frame, chapter 7 (Liu) opts to concentrate on student perceptions within a language socialisation approach, chapter 8 (Liaw) choses a social semiotic frame and finally , chapter 9 (Gruba) brings in a sociocultural frame to understand assessment. In some chapters, the influence of other disciplines than CALL is acknowledged, for example some authors have drawn inspiration from sociology, Computer-Supported Collaborative learning, semiotics (Systemic Functional Linguistics in particular) and educational technology.research methodologies all claim to be mixed but are also different from one contribution to another. Ethnomethodological approaches appeared to be favoured, including observations of different types (longitudinal and - often - multimodal), reflection- and self-report-based procedures including use of narrative frames. A minority of studies had an experimental and quantitative element. conceptualisations of LL were also somewhat different from author to author, with a majority of socio-constructivists and some slightly more behaviouristic inputs. For example measuring learner progress using standard lexical instruments appeared in 3 of the contributions. But most were content for their research to illuminate the contextual complexities of formal-and-informal social learning in SN settings, about which we need to understand much more than we currently do, and stayed away from language acquisition questions. conceptualisations of SN were the most interesting aspect of the diversity we were faced with. Having tried to pin down the construct of SN in our CfP, then having provided contributors with further food for thought in an additional paper (more on this in the Making Of), we found that they were bringing in diverse understandings of SN, from understandings originating in information technology as applied to Business, to different models from the field of telecommunication and information, the field of education management, and from the sociology of education.[refs top p. 198 of the book]What did we find emerged from the research in the end ?considering the thousand flowers blooming in the two previous slides, there was a surprising uniformity in the themes that were drawn chapter after chapter: in order of frequent mention, they are identity and community. Even contributions with a lesser focus on social learning ended up with one or the other of those two main (eminently social) themes as priorities for discussion and further research. Identity is explored in 2 different guises: individuals perceptions of changes in their identity, or identity as mediated by technological features such as an avatar, an icon or a user profile template. Communities and their boundaries are second in prominence in the chapters: community boundaries between formal and informal spaces, institutional and extra-institutional, and between online and offline networking.learning issues : the degree and locus of control within social learning. An insight from the literature of collaborative learning is upheld in the various projects in the book, and that is the fact that a condition of success is teacher control of scenarios and tasks and learner control of the interaction. However, if we are to have SN for LL, as distinct from conventional collaborative LL, the locus of control must be allowed to stretch to control of some scenarios and tasks by groups of learners as well. One chapter of the book shows this happening at scale with a network leader (teacher role) setting tasks but members creating new tasks and taking them to others outside the network. Important explanatory factor: these creative networking learners are themselves teachers, so they have the maturity and experience that allow them to set their own tasks. Implications can be drawn if we wish to stimulate ordinary learners to network in this way.learning setting issues the main learning setting issue that contributors had not anticipated but arose in most of the studies was that of educator-provided settings (whether official forums or official Facebook groups) versus learner-created settings (SN groups set up for the purpose of supporting each others learning or even mutual study support through offline networking ). Learner-created settings were a headache for some researchers, because of my next bullet point: data collection: how to chase data from learners private groups, and how to research the conversations that originated on the official university-provided spaces but continued elsewhere. Secondly, several chapters in the book explore new types of learning settings, i.e. commercial networked language learning sites. Popular examples are Livemocha, Busuu, Babbel, but there are others, e.g. Lang-8 or Rworld. In those environments, the networking is set up among learners who have never met before, and it often revolves around peer assessment and the unpaid employment of learners as teachers of their own L1, using a variety of game-like mechanisms to generate customer loyalty and a competitive spirit for learning. Two of the chapters in our book have critical things to say about the mechanisms for peer assessment in these communities, but a more exhaustive critique of these game-like mechanisms is to be found in Zourou and Lamy, Social networked game dynamics in web 2.0 language learning communities, volume 16, collection issues In both official and unofficial environments, how to participate as a researcher with minimum risk of observer bias? One study makes use of the affordance of the SecondLife medium by minimising researcher avatars (turning them into tiny animals). How to get at material created in a learner-owned environment? One way is to ask learners for permission to join the informal group, but this carries a risk of observer bias (teacher or researcher) which then necessitates specific methodological precautions. Several of the contributions used this method. Another is for the researcher to use herself or himself as a learner. Two of our authors chose to do this. Those of our researchers who investigated commercial (or semi-commercial) language learning communities such as Livemocha or Busuu could not access the paying parts of the sites, only the free ones. They could therefore observe and collect only part of the networking data. They also needed to know that they were constrained by the copyright or data protection legislation as applied to the country where the company was based. Finally, some data is ephemeral: platforms can be suspended by their proprietors, ways of displaying the data change constantly (e.g. Facebook). If they have not anticipated these fluctuations in SNs and if theyve not found ways to archive the material on the hoof, researchers may end up losing data or having to re-orient their research questions to the surviving data. We had examples of some contributors having to do this. We are familiar with this old schematisation of mediation in online learning, were the overlaps represent the areas of mediation that are of particular relevance to CALL research and practice. Following up on the priorities that our contributors have identified in this book, we propose a new representation, on the next slide.The priority areas for consideration (overlap bits) are the same as before, but the nature of each of the three main components is redefined. Participants, i.e. those that are registered in the network become core participants but others can become involved as well. These others can be native speakers , or experts of some type or other. The bringing in of external participants is not new (Goodfellow had experts dialoguing with his core learners as early as 1996) but the difference is that now the external participants, instead of being planned in land invited by the teacher, are found by the core learners, using the facilities of electronic networking tools. Secondly, technology becomes interlinked technologies, as the boundaries of the learning space become porous , for example learner conversations and producing lives move back and forth from a university forum to Facebook to Twitter to a blog etc. Finally, the tasks. If there is to be SN for LL, the tasks must be geared to networking. Conventional collaborative tasks as practiced in CALL for 2 decades now just wont suffice. This was the biggest sticking point in the preparation of our book and we will now share our experience with you in the Making Of. Concluding remarks It might be tempting to think that, just as you train online when you are preparing to teach online, you would want to use SNs and their tools when you are researching SNs. Our experience in this are has not been positive, but we would like to examine why, and seek your views as to whether and how it might work for future research on similar topics.Katerina came with lots of ideas. Marie-Nolle poured cold water on several of them.A shared box (Dropbox) for reviewing each others contributions and x-referencing? Too many delays would be caused, version control would be difficult and time-consuming, not compatible with the schedule. We did use Dropbox intensively, but between the two of us only.A wiki? Wikis had proved themselves inert as a resource, contributors will see nothing to be gained in spending time fine-tuning their research thoughts on a wiki. Mendeley?: A shared site for sharing references, for sharing full texts, for annotating your readings and sharing the annotated pdfs, and as Wikipedia puts it for discovering research data and collaborating online. Now in an App store near you! Now that seemed more promising.! An appetising trailer (1 11) is here Whatever time or material a contributor might invest in Mendeley, he or she would recoup tenfold because others would offer their own finds and thoughts. A win-win situation! So early on in the process we set up a Mendeley group and invited the 18 Round 1" contributors to join us there in January 2012. When I looked at the stats last weekend (26 April 2014), there were 5 members including Katerina and me (!) and 119 papers had been uploaded, almost all by Katerina. Each paper has readership statistics, but these include readers of that particular paper across all of Mendeley, not just in the group, so it is not possible to tell whether the 5 members read what was uploaded to the group. They certainly had not annotated or commented any paper, apart from an early abortive attempt on my part.We still think it would have been very interesting to network with our authors in this way but in the end we failed. Where did we go wrong? If it had worked would it have produced better quality research? We would now like to throw open the discussion, thank you for your attention!


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