Research and Applications for Foreign Language Teaching and Assessment
Focus on Form in Computer-Mediated Communication: Using Written Learner Data to Foster Language and Pragmatic Skills in Communicative Contexts
Since the early 1990s, a rich body of literature on Computer-Mediated Communication (hereafter CMC) has highlighted the potential benefits of using the computer and the Internet in foreign language education: in particular, a vast number of studies have reported benefits in terms of authenticity of tasks (Montero/Watts/Garcia-Carbonell 2007), equality (Warschauer 1996), increased levels of participation (Beauvois 1998), autonomy (Schwienhorst 2003), as well as language and pragmatic development (Thorne 2003). Despite the positive effects illustrated in the literature, some researchers still remain sceptical about the assumption that CMC interaction automatically leads to improved language skills (e.g. Lee 2006). Their observations suggest the importance of developing ad hoc activities to help learners focus on form within a highly communicative context. Drawing on previous studies that have adopted learner corpora to stimulate data-driven learning in CMC settings (Belz 2006; Guarda 2012a), this chapter describes how a learner corpus approach was integrated into an English as a lingua franca (ELF) CMC exchange involving students from the University of Padua (Italy) and the University of Innsbruck (Austria). Both groups were enrolled on an undergraduate course in Foreign Languages at their respective universities, and studied English as one of their foreign languages. The exchange engaged thestudents in online collaborative work by means of ← 87 | 88 → Web-based tools such as Skype, a wiki, and Facebook. Besides primarily having a communicative and intercultural focus, the exchange also aimed at stimulating the participants’ language skills in English, which ranged from level B2 to...
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