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Task design for intercultural telecollaboration in secondary schools. Insights from the EU TILA project

It is one of the central aims of the EU project TILA: "Telecollaboration for Intercultural Language Acquisition" ( to develop, implement and evaluate intercultural telecollaboration tasks to facilite oral and written communication between secondary school students from different countries and cultures. In our presentation we will discuss learning units developed together with teachers during the first TILA piloting phase.

The tasks have a focus on communicative intercultural telecollaboration and language acquisition and combine synchronous and asynchronous spoken and written communicative interaction. They are designed as blended learning ensembles involving combinations of environments and technological media from face-to-face in class to independent work at home to synchronous and asynchronous interaction in the web. For oral synchronous communication we use the 3D virtual world of OpenSim and the videoconferencing platform BigBlueButton; written communication is supported by forum, wiki, or blog tools. Preferred languages constellations are tandem and lingua franca. All (blended learning) task design follows the learning objectives specified for the respective pilot courses.

In keeping with the blended learning approach and to ensure pedagogical integration into the overall curriculum, the tasks are not designed as isolated units but rather as more or less complex task ensembles organised in pedagogical macro phases from 'preparatory' to 'main' to 'follow-up'. A preparatory phase involves tasks that help prepare the ground for the main telecollaborative task; preparatory tasks can be face-to-face and/or online, individual and/or collaborative. A main phase features intercultural communicative interaction tasks in synchronous and/or asynchronous environments; they give the entire task ensemble its pedagogical and telecollaborative focus. In a follow-up phase, students typically engage in activities designed to 'digest' and secure learning results; they can again be face-to-face and/or online, individual and/or collaborative.

In our presentation we will describe and discuss the principles, conditions and processes of task development and assessment in the TILA project. We will use examples of best practice to illustrate challenges encountered and solutions found. Special emphasis will be on two task ensembles of essentially different task purpose and design: (a) an OpenSim 'learning station' scenario in tandem format and supported by preparatory and follow-up activities in face-to-face and forum/blog/wiki modes; (b) a small group lingua franca conversation scenario implemented in OpenSim and videoconferencing environments along with online and/or offline preparatory and follow-up activities. To conclude, we will move on beyond examples to prototypical task templates; we will show how these templates can be used as conceptual tools for further TILA task adaptation and creation.


Petra Hoffstaedter    
Steinbeis-Transferzentrum Sprachlernmedien

Petra Hoffstaedter (PhD in Applied Linguistics) is deputy director of the Steinbeis-Transferzentrum Sprachlernmedien ( She has developed the multimedia authoring software Telos Language Partner and has authored a wide range of multimedia and web-based language learning resources for German and a variety of other main and lesser taught European languages. She has special expertise in the pedagogic integration of language learning materials and tools into a Blended Learning strategy, and has been involved in ftf and online teacher training measures. She is currently partner in the TILA project on Telecollaboration for Intercultural Language Acquisition, and in the EVIVA project “Evaluating the Education of Interpreters and their Clients through Virtual Learning Activities”.

Kurt Kohn    
Applied English Linguistics
University of Tübingen

Kurt Kohn is professor emeritus of Applied English Linguistics at the University of Tübingen and director of the Steinbeis-Transferzentrum Sprachlernmedien ( His research and teaching interests include theoretical and empirical issues of second language learning and teaching, e-learning for languages, English as a lingua franca, translation and interpreting. His overall theoretical approach is a social constructivist one. Since the early 1990s, he has been involved in EU LLP projects focusing on multimedia content authoring, pedagogic corpus development, intercultural telecollaboration, interpreter training in virtual reality, and language teacher education.


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