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Collaborative enquiry through the tabletop for second language learners

This paper evaluates the use of digital tabletops as tools for language learning drawing on a mixed method approach from both SLA and Human Computer Interaction fields. It focuses more specifically on evaluating the extent to which collaborative learning platforms on multitouch tabletops can promote and support the application of both thinking and linguistic skills for English as a second/foreign language learners (ESL). The focus of the evaluation is on a preliminary study of an application of the use of Digital Mysteries task with ESL learners in a Higher Education institution. The study sought to identify what specific affordances in the design of such existing applications might benefit ESL learners in terms of thinking skills, interaction and language use, and by the same token, what might not.
The evaluation involves an interdisciplinary approach which considers moment-to-moment multimodal interaction with three groups of Chinese English Language learners. The interactions are considered through the lens of three perspectives: First, from the point of view of reasoning skills in the light of a reasoning skill framework (Mosley et al. 2005); second, from the point of view of language-learning specific skills such as interactional competence where Conversation Analysis is used as a methodological tool to investigate relevant processes and behaviours within a CA for SLA approach (Markee, 2000); and in the third stage, the interaction design embedded in the pedagogical-technological design of the user interface is explored. This paper presents the findings from a comprehensive analysis of the groups’ interactions with and around the completion of the Digital Mysteries task leading to a number of suggestions about how technologies designed for collaborative enquiry might be repurposed for thinking skills and language learning.(278 words)
References
Markee, N 2000, Conversation Analysis. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Mosley, D., Baumfield, V., Elliot, J., Gregson, M., Higgins, S., Miller, J., & Newton, D. (2005). Frameworks for Thinking. Cambridge: CUP.

Author(s):

Mei LIN    
School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences
Newcastle University
United Kingdom

Dr Mei LIN is a lecturer in TESOL at Newcastle University in the UK. She is the Degree Programme Director for the MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Her main research interests are on teaching pedagogy, classroom interactions and student talk. She is co-author of the book ‘Thinking Through Modern Foreign Languages’ published in 2004 by Chris Kingston. Since then she has been working and supervising PhDs on integrating teaching thinking skills into foreign language learning classrooms in mono-lingual and non-English speaking contexts, investigating the effect of teaching thinking on language learners’ motivation and competence.

Anne Preston    
School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences
Newcastle University
United Kingdom

Dr Anne Preston is a researcher in Technology Enhanced Learning at Newcastle University. Anne's research interests lie in the role and contribution of language to understanding and designing technologies for learning, with a particular focus on language learning. Anne takes a leading role in iLab:Learn, a practice-based research lab at Newcastle University which undertakes world-class research in education and Information Communication Technologies by combining pedagogic theory, methods and practice in situated learning applications to motivate, develop and evaluate technology enhanced learning.

Ahmed Kharrufa    
Culture Lab, School of Computing Science
Newcastle University
United Kingdom

Dr Ahmed Kharrufa is the director of Diwan Software and Reflective Thinking, two software companies involved in developing state of the art software with a strong focus on educational applications in general and collaborative learning in specific. Ahmed is also actively involved in research at Culture Lab, Newcastle University, as a research associate. His research interest is a continuation of his PhD work on digital tabletop technology and technology-enhanced collaborative learning. While his PhD research focused on individual groups working around tabletops, Ahmed's current interest is more on the challenges of extending this to the general use of collaborative technology in the classrooms.

 

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