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“Learning as they go”: In-service Teachers Learning to Telecollaborate

The importance of teachers’ capacity to integrate and exploit computer mediated communication (CMC) in the foreign language classroom has been recognised by many of the leading publications in this area, including the European Profile for Language Teacher Education (2004) and the E-POSTL European portfolio for student teachers of foreign languages (2007:44).One of the basic CMC activities in FL education is undoubtedly telecollaboration. This refers to the application of online communication tools to bring together classes of language learners in geographically distant locations with the aim of developing their foreign language skills and intercultural competence through collaborative tasks and project work (O’Dowd, 2007).

While CMC-based activities such as telecollaboration may form part of many CALL training programmes for pre-service teachers, there are many in-service teachers who are coming to this activity without previous training and who are forced to develop the competences of the telecollaborative teacher at the same time that they are immersed in the process of planning and running their first exchanges. This presentation begins by presenting a model of competences for the telecollaborative teacher which has been developed and verified by this author (2013) using the Delphi technique. The paper then presents UNI-Collaboration (, an online platform which has been developed reflecting these competencies and a sociocultural approach to teacher education. Following that, the findings of four case studies are presented to explore how this model of competences and the platform can be further refined to reflect the needs and problems of novice telecollaboration practitioners. The presentation concludes by making proposals for training educators in this complex activity of online foreign language education.


Robert O'Dowd    
English Department
Universidad de León

Robert O'Dowd comes from Ireland. He teaches EFL and Applied Linguistics and is Director for International Training at the University of León, Spain. He studied European Studies at the University of Limerick in Ireland, before going on to do an MA at the University of Ulster and then a PhD at the University of Essen in Germany. He has taught English at universities in Ireland, Germany and Spain and has published widely on the application of online technologies for the development of intercultural competence in foreign language learners. He is currently coordinating a LLP project on promoting online intercultural exchange in European Higher Education (


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