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Reflection on the complexity of managing a tutor-tutee online exchange

Online exchanges are well documented in the CALL literature (O’Dowd, 2007; Lamy & Hampel, 2007; Guth & Helm, 2010). Such authors have provided learners' as well as teachers' perspectives and have put forward their benefits for language learning (Eneau & Develotte, 2012) and for teacher training (Guichon, 2009). They have told us what is needed to become efficient online tutors for language learning (Meskill & Anthony, 2010; Hampel, 2009; Hampel & Stickler, 2005) and for teacher training (Guichon, 2009). Less has been said about the CALL trainers, those taking the initiative of setting up these exchanges, of carrying them on for the benefit of their language learners and trainee teachers. This will be the focus of our talk.

We will report on a synchronous online exchange project that took place during the fall 2013 between trainee teachers in France (n= 12) and French as a Foreign Language students in Ireland (n = 18). Ethnographic by the nature of the data and polyfocal because it gathers several actors from the same action research) project, this presentation will endeavour to capture the complexity of an online collaboration project by multiplying the perspectives.

The first perspective is that of an 'active observer' (Chaudron, 1988; Allwright & Bailey, 1991), having for initial motivation to enrich and to reflect about her own practice as a CALL trainer. She will attempt to reconstruct the complexity of the situation that she observed, focusing on the colleagues in charge of the project: from their initial steps, to the course organization, the lab set up, the dedicated platform, the tasks designed by the trainee-tutors and their online interaction with their tutees. Based on observation notes and semi-informal interviews conducted with the colleagues, insights will provided on the risks taken, the tensions that arose, the willingness to negotiate and resolve conflicts, in sum, how the project has unfolded.

The second perspective is brought by the project leaders, who managed the online exchange project. They will present and confront their views of their role and interventions during the project, focusing on salient themes emerging from the semi-informal interviews, such as their pedagogical goals, intercultural miscomprehension, the affordances of the online exchange platform, the role of the tutors and the nature of the tasks they designed for their tutees, the added value of the online exchange for all.
The paper will finally reflect on where such a telecollaboration project has led all the involved participants professionally, as CALL practitioners and researchers.


Marie-Josée Hamel    
Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI)
University of Ottawa

Marie-Josée Hamel is an Associate Professor at the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI) of the University of Ottawa and Director of its research center the CCERBAL. She holds a university research Chair in CALL.

Françoise Blin    
Centre for Translation and Textual Studies, SALIS
Dublin City University

Françoise Blin is Senior Lecturer in the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies at Dublin City University. She is currently President of EUROCALL and co-editor of ReCALL.

Nicolas Guichon    
Département des Sciences du Langage
Université Lyon 2 Lumière

Nicolas Guichon is a professor in language sciences at the University of Lyon 2 and belongs to the ICAR (Interactions, Corpus, Apprentissages, Représentations) research team. His research interests include teacher education in computer assisted language learning (CALL), the study of online interaction and materials design.


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