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An international student collaborative blog: linguistic and cross-cultural perspectives

Participation in social networking sites (SNSs) can without doubt be argued to constitute a major part of young people’s everyday communicative practices. In SNSs, new modes of communication have developed in which typically written and oral practices are mixed and merged together with other semiotic resources to form a communicative hybridity. In the wake of this development, educators have tried to embrace the possibilities and challenges of using SNSs in language learning activities. Previous research has outlined the benefits of using blogs, for example, as teaching and learning tools in the foreign language classroom (Ducate & Lomicka, 2005; Ferdig & Trammell 2005; Elola & Oskoz 2008). While advocates argue that the use of SNSs would supposedly facilitate new forms of communication, sceptics maintain that the use of SNSs as part of schooling could compromise traditional literacies (e.g. Manca & Ranieri, 2013; Selwyn, 2009; Ziegler, 2007). To explore the pedagogical possibilities and challenges of employing SNSs as part of language learning, an international collaboration was initiated between Sweden and Thailand in which two groups of 18-year-old students communicated through Blogger as part of their English studies. This exploratory case study started with a collaborative activity during an ordinary English class in which the Swedish students worked together in pairs to formulate postings and to give response to the other students’ postings. A one-hour session was video filmed with the help of five cameras which were directed towards the computer screens in order to capture as much as possible of the interaction including not only the written postings in Blogger but also the spoken communication between the collaborating Swedish students. The multimodal postings and video footage of five student pairs were analysed using Interaction Analysis (Jordan & Henderson, 1995) together with the concept of framing (Goffman, 1974/1986) which is a metaphor for how we define activities and thereby make sense of utterances and response to them; on SNSs, this is done through the hybrid textual communication. The findings show that although the students frame their activity in relation to the institutional practice of an English lesson, which is often considered as inhibiting any spontaneous processes of language diversity, they do in fact adopt a range of linguistic resources including language-mixing, speaking in stereotypical local speech styles and incorporating a considerable amount of humour in their interaction not only with one another but also in the international context of the Blogger. The blended framing of the activity enables the Swedish students to portray Swedish culture in a very relaxed, laid-back manner that playfully encompasses both humour and irony. To what extent this linguistic diversity can be utilized in institutional contexts needs to be more extensively addressed by researchers and educators a like.


Rhonwen Bowen    
Unit for Academic Language, Faculty of Education
University of Gothenburg

Biosketch: Rhonwen Bowen (PhD)
Rhonwen Bowen is a Senior Lecturer in English linguistics and at present Director of the Unit for Academic Language, Faculty of Education at the University of Gothenburg. Her background and previous research interests include English syntax, corpus linguistics, academic writing and language learning. At present, Rhonwen is involved in a research project entitled “Linguascapes – Language learning in social media worlds”. In this project, funded by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg foundation 2011-2013, we investigate students at secondary and upper secondary level, and their innovative uses of English in international collaboration.

Annika Lantz-Andersson    
Dept of Education, Communication and Learning
University of Gothenburg

Biosketch: Annika Lantz-Andersson (PhD)
Annika Lantz-Andersson works as Senior Lecturer in Education at University of Gothenburg. Annika's research, which is rooted in a sociocultural tradition concerns research on communication and learning from a dialogical and microanalytical perspective, with a focus on social interaction the use of digital technology and what that implies for learning and education. The general aim of Annika's PhD study was to explore the in situ practices that emerge among students when technology becomes part of educational arrangements. Annika is currently involved in two research projects within the LETStudio milieu:
1. The first project is called Inquiry-to-insight (I2I) where we study young peoples' learning about environmental problems in the context of acidification of oceans by means of various digital resources with a research interest in how their understandings of science knowledge develop.
2. The second research project named "Linguascapes - Language learning in social media worlds", is financed by The Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation. This project has a focus on young people's engagement in social media worlds, in order to study how such resources and new arenas can enhance the learning of English as a second language. The aim of this project is to study how the gap between young people’s language learning in social media practices and language learning practices in educational settings can be bridged.
Both research projects outlined above are motivated by interests in how we appropriate new knowledge and gain new experiences in various social settings and the role of digital technologies in such activities.

Sylvi Vigmo    
Dept of Education, Communication and Learning
University of Gothenburg

Biosketch: Sylvi Vigmo (PhD)
Sylvi Vigmo holds a position as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Gothenburg. Her background and previous foci include language education, research and development in projects with an overarching interest in learning and digital media. At present, Sylvi is involved in a research project “Linguascapes – Language learning in social media worlds” as part of LETStudio 3. In this project, funded by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg foundation 2011-2013, we investigate students at secondary and upper secondary level, and their uses of Englishes in international collaboration. The research interest expressed in the project points to questions of particular interest to Sylvi, namely questions concerning the potential of young people’s communication in culturally relevant and productive ways in social media spaces, and if the students’ digital media practices, seldom assessed and acknowledged in educational settings, can be bridged with school practices.


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