The Second International Conference of Telecollaboration in Higher Education built on the success of the first conference held in León, Spain in February 2014. Most of the delegates who attended in León were here and so too were many new delegates, which underlines how the European INTENT group’s UNICollaboration project continues to grow and become consolidated. Its achievement of critical mass is evident in the launch of the organisation UniCollaboration, which took place formally on the Friday evening at the end of Day 2 of the conference.
After a warm welcome from Breffni O’Rourke, head of the Trinity College local organising committee, Robert O’Dowd introduced Celeste Kinginger to give the first Keynote Lecture of the conference on the theme “Telecollaboration and student mobility for language learning”. Celeste is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Pennsylvania State University and in her talk she highlighted some of the difficulties faced by language students during study abroad, particularly with establishing local social networks and in terms of their awareness of diverse language varieties and registers within the host communities. Celeste provided several examples of communication problems and misunderstandings and argued that these can be pre-empted through telecollaboration, either as preparation for physical mobility or as concurrent support while students are abroad. After the Keynote there were parallel sessions under the following themes: Assessment, Curricular Integration, Intercultural Learning Outcomes, Pedagogy and Models of Telecollaboration, Linguistic Aspects, Web 2.0, Language Learning outcomes, Interactional Aspects and Research Methodology, Student Experience.
The day was rounded off with a choice of a Historic Walking Tour of Dublin or a Literary Pub Crawl. Those who opted for the Literary Pub Crawl were taken around the colourful and characterful pubs frequented by writers such as James Joyce and Brendan Behan and we were given fascinating insights into their stories and some of the history of Dublin by our very knowledgeable Trinity College guide. By all accounts the Historic Walking Tour was equally fascinating! Delegates who were still standing were invited to a CALICO social event at 9pm at the Stag as captured in this storify.
Day 2 of the conference began with a Keynote Lecture by Andreas Müller-Hartman, Professor of Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Director of the Institute for Foreign Languages at Pädagogische Hochschule (University of Education), Heidelberg. Andreas discussed the centrality of the concept of ‘task’ to the design and research of telecollaborative learning environments, focussing particularly on the competence development of pre-service teachers who are preparing to engage their future learners in telecollaborative projects. Parallel sessions on Day 2 were under the following themes: Blended and Virtual Mobility, Models of Telecollaboration, Research Methodology, Student Experience, Interactional Aspects, Models of Telecollaboration, Teacher Training and Competences, Interactional Aspects, Intercultural Learning Outcomes and Language Learning Outcomes.
As mentioned earlier, after the day’s sessions the UniCollaboration organisation was formally launched at a plenary event. The aims of the organisation include consolidating and furthering the work done by the INTENT group (Integrating Telecollaborative Networks into Foreign Language Higher Education) since 2011 and prior to that, and providing a base through which educators engaged in telecollaboration, sometimes called virtual exchange, can gain recognition for their efforts. A book, Online Intercultural Exchange:Policy, Pedagogy, Practice edited by Robert O’Dowd and Tim Lewis has recently been published, providing guidance to all engaging in such activities. The beautiful Café en Seine was the venue for the conference dinner at the end of Day 2.
David Little, who retired in 2008 from his role of Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at Trinity College, gave the Keynote Lecture on the final day of the conference. The theme of his talk was “Learner autonomy and telecollaborative language learning” and he argued that successful language learning programmes are those in which ‘learners’ agency is channelled through the target language and in which ‘learners use the target language to plan, execute, monitor and evaluate their own learning’. David described some of the pedagogical procedures that can be used to create and sustain an autonomous learning environment, he explored the challenges posed for the organisation of telecollaborative language learning, and he considered implications for SLA research. Parallel sessions were under the themes of Teacher Training and Competences, Interactional Aspects, Research Methodology and Student Experience.
In addition to the themed parallel sessions on the 3 days of the conference there was a ‘Problem Shared’ strand through which presenters discussed specific, well-defined and unresolved challenges in any aspect of telecollaborative research and practice. Audience members of course were then able to share their experiences and offer advice and suggestions, and it was hoped that these sessions in particular might lead to new collaborations.
All in all the conference was a great success – it was very well-attended and there were a lot of very interesting papers presented and talks given by expert practitioners and researchers in the field. The venue was fantastic (and even the weather was too!) and the organisers had done an excellent job all round. We look forward very much to the third conference and we wish the new UniCollaboration organisation every success into the future.
Elwyn Lloyd, Coventry University. firstname.lastname@example.org
Elwyn Lloyd, Coventry University. email@example.com
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