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Researching Online Foreign Language Interaction and Exchange

Theories, Methods and Challenges


Melinda Dooly and Robert O'Dowd

This book provides an accessible introduction to some of the methods and theoretical approaches for investigating foreign language (FL) interaction and exchange in online environments. Research approaches which can be applied to Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) are outlined, followed by a discussion of the way in which tools and techniques for data-collection in diverse online contexts can contribute to our understanding of online foreign language interaction. The compilation of chapters presents a comprehensive overview of key issues in virtual, intercultural and multimodal research contexts and gives insight into the particular challenges and situations which this area of language learning implies.
Researching Online Foreign Language Interaction and Exchange addresses the needs of researchers and newcomers to the area who are hoping to learn about the current state of the field by providing overviews of varying approaches and extensive literature review as well as extracts of real data to illustrate the theories, methods or issues in question.


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Section I. Theoretical Approaches to Researching Online Exchange


Section I: Theoretical Approaches to Researching Online Exchange Accommodating Divergent Frameworks in Analysis of Technology-Mediated L2 Interaction JONATHON REINHARDT Researchers have used a variety of methodological frameworks to analyze technology-mediated interaction between second/foreign (L2) learners and expert/native speakers, both inter- and intra-class. For example, researchers of telecollaborative interaction grounded in an input-interactionist paradigm have found negotiation for meaning to occur in online inter-class chat (e.g. Pellettieri, 2000; Smith, 2003; Jepson, 2005; Lai & Zhao, 2006), while those using socio-cognitive paradigms (Kern & Warschauer, 2000; Atkinson, 2002) have found evidence for the development of intercultural and pragmatic compe- tence in intra-class telecollaboration (e.g. Ware, 2005; Jin & Erben, 2007; Abrams, 2009). Each approach offers heuristic value for the researcher of L2 learning. While the interactionist (Long, 1983; Varonis & Gass, 1985) and socio-cognitive (Atkinson, 2002) frameworks these methods entail are often seen as ontologically incommensurable (Firth & Wagner, 1997; Block, 2003; Zuengler & Miller, 2006), some research has at- tempted synthesis or balance of the two, while others have made conciliatory nods and acknowledged the heuristic strength of multi- ple perspectives. This chapter examines research from both para- digms, focusing on methodological approaches and the areas they share: interaction and negotiation for meaning. It concludes with consideration of a recently emerging paradigm, broadly labelled eco- logical (e.g. Leather & van Dam, 2003; van Lier, 2004; van Geert 2008; Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008a) that has been claimed to potentially transcend the debate and resolve incommensurabilities (e.g. Lafford, 2007; Chapelle, 2009). Reinhardt 46 There has long been discussion in applied linguistics...

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