Volume 16 Number 2

Power within Blended Language Learning Programs in Japan
Don Hinkelman, Sapporo Gakuin University
Paul Gruba, University of Melbourne

As blended language learning environments evolve within tertiary foreign language institutions, issues of power with regards to the privileging of electronic technologies come to the fore. Blended learning, or the principled mix of online and classroom-based activities, challenges the practices of traditional CALL and face-to-face teaching within newly emerging, hybrid learning environments. The aim of this study is to examine the role of power in relation to the design of these environments. To achieve this aim, a research team conducted a longitudinal study at two Japanese universities which employed blended learning practices in their EFL programs. We analyzed ethnographic and action research data using postmodern, critical, and ecological perspectives on technology, to explore hegemony in facility planning (online vs. face-to-face), control of materials development (publisher-based vs. teacher-based authorship), and development of software designs (proprietary ownership vs. distributed teacher initiatives). Results of the study reveal three significant changes in power: (a) the construction of classrooms shifted from single-purpose CALL laboratories to blended face-to-face/online spaces, (b) the production of teaching materials emphasized locally authored multimedia materials with a decreasing reliance on mass-market course books, and (c) the design of software modules was controlled by teaching teams for rapid customization. Overall, the process of innovation in institutional programs requires a collaborative management culture to be appropriate and sustainable in university contexts.
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