Volume 15 Number 3

Learner Autonomy in a Task-Based 3D World and Production
Karina Collentine
Northern Arizona University
This study contributes to the research on learner autonomy by examining the relationship between Little’s (1991) notions of ‘independent action’ and ‘decision-making’, input, and L2 production in computer-assisted language learning (CALL). Operationalizing ‘independent action’ and ‘decision-making’ with Dam’s (1995) definition that focuses on ‘choice’, the present study examines whether, while learners are engaged in a CALL task, their choices—termed autonomous moves—within a 3D environment and the subsequent input they receive predict the linguistic complexity and accuracy of their production in synchronous computer mediated communication (SCMC). A total of 58 third-year university-level learners of Spanish participated in two murder-mystery tasks coupling a 3D segment—containing embedded user-tracking features—with an SCMC segment. Four regression analyses examined the potential impact of learners’ choices within the 3D environment and the input resulting from those decisions on their production. The results suggest that learners’ linguistic complexity and accuracy while completing CALL-based tasks is influenced by both their autonomous moves and the linguistic characteristics of the input they receive (as a result of their autonomous moves).
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Fostering Learner Autonomy in English for Science: A Collaborative Digital Video Project in a Technological Learning Environment
Christoph A. Hafner
Lindsay Miller
City University of Hong Kong
This paper reports on the syllabus design and implementation of an English for Science and Technology (EST) course at an English-medium university in Hong Kong. The course combined elements of project-based learning and a “pedagogy for multiliteracies” (New London Group, 1996) to produce a strong learner autonomy focus. A major component of the course was a student-centered digital video project, in which students created and shared a multimodal scientific documentary. A range of new technologies and Web 2.0 platforms (including YouTube and Edublogs) were integrated into the project process in order to create a technologically rich learning environment. The design of this structured technological learning environment was informed by existing case studies of students’ autonomous language learning in unstructured online spaces. In this paper, we draw on students’ accounts (from questionnaires, focus group interviews, and Weblog comments) to evaluate the digital video project and associated technological environment. In particular, we describe the potential of the project to provide students with opportunities to exercise their capacities as autonomous learners within a structured language learning context.
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Blogging: Promoting Learner Autonomy and Intercultural Competence through Study Abroad
Lina Lee
University of New Hampshire
The current study explores closely how using a combined modalities of asynchronous computer-mediated communication (CMC) via blogs and face-to-face (FTF) interaction through ethnographic interviews with native speakers (L1s) supports autonomous learning as the result of reflective and social processes. The study involves 16 American undergraduate students who participated in blogs to develop their intercultural competence over the course of one-semester study abroad. The results show that blogs afforded students the opportunity to work independently (e.g., content creation) and reflect upon cross-cultural issues. Critical reflection, however, relied on the teacher’s guidance and feedback, as most of the students were cognitively challenged by not being able to clearly articulate different points of view. It is likely that students were not accustomed to reflecting. The findings also indicate that task type fostered autonomy in different ways. While free topics gave students more control of their own learning, teacher-assigned topics required them to critically think about the readings. Lack of access to Internet at the host institution and family also contributed to a limited level of social interaction. The study concludes that well-designed tasks, effective metacognitive and cognitive skills, and the accessibility to Internet are essential to maximize the potentials of blogs for learner autonomy and intercultural communication.
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Self-Study with Language Learning Software in the Workplace: What Happens?
Katharine B. Nielson
University of Maryland
Many language training software packages are intended for self-study and marketed as complete language learning solutions; however, little is known about how well they work or under what conditions they should be used. This article reports on a research study conducted at the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language that explores the way adult learners use Rosetta Stone and Auralog’s TELL ME MORE—two popular, commercially available, technology-mediated self-study packages. Volunteers from different United States government agencies agreed to use these programs according to each manufacturer’s usage guidelines and to complete regular assessments to document their language proficiency throughout the study. The most striking finding was severe participant attrition, which was likely due to a variety of technological problems as well as the lack of sufficient support for autonomous learning in the workplace. This lack of compliance with self-study suggests that despite the logistical ease of providing language learning software, more resource-intensive types of language training are more likely to be effective.
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