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Modelling typical online language learning activity

Following activity theory principles (Vygotsky 1987; Leontiev 1978; Engeström 1987) and Blin's (2010) representation of a typical language learning activity system, a model has been developed to analyse online language learning data collected from individual learners in HE in a developing country as part of a three-year long project. The model itself will be at the heart of this presentation. Reasons to argue that it represents the unit of analysis in the study will be presented. The model offers rich entry points to categorise, analyse and interpret data by asking questions such as 'Who is learning?', who with, what with and in which context, and 'What is being learnt?', why, how and what for. Methods used in the study include a two-tiered analysis of empirical data gathered electronically during an online experiment followed by stimulated recall (SR) sessions. The focus on instances of unexpected learner behaviour, referred to as disturbances (Montoro and Hampel 2011; Engeström and Sannino 2011), reveal systemic contradictions (Engeström 2001), such as clashes between traditional and new (online) language learning practices. The model is intended to work in different sociocultural and educational contexts but findings in the context of this particular study include the widespread dependence of learners on private speech (Flavell 1966; Vygotsky 1987; Ohta 2001; Ellis 2003), that is, self-addressed speech used by individual learners as they interact with online tasks, heavy reliance on memory and oral instruction, and the learners' underuse of learning tools (especially text-based ones, such as dictionaries and notes), signalling perhaps links to literacy issues to be further explored in the context of the prevailing local orality.


Carlos Montoro    
University of Guanajuato

Carlos Montoro is a lecturer at the University of Guanajuato, Mexico. He holds a doctorate in Educational Technology from the Open University, UK. His research focuses on the use of online tasks in language learning from an activity-theoretical perspective.

Regine Hampel    
FELS - Department of Languages
The Open University
United Kingdom

Dr. Regine Hampel is a Professor in Open and Distance Language Learning at the Open University (UK) and Associate Dean of Research and Scholarship. She has published widely on the use of technology in the context of language learning and teaching. Her current research focuses on Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and the use of audio and videoconferencing and other online tools in educational settings.

Ursula Stickler    
FELS - Department of Languages
The Open University
United Kingdom

Dr. Ursula Stickler is a Senior Lecturer in Modern Languages at the Open University (UK). She has published widely in the areas of autonomous language learning, especially tandem learning and language advising, technology enhanced language learning and online teaching skills. Her current research interests include eye-tracking methods and online tutoring.


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