An ecological perspective on intercultural telecollaborative learning between Korean learners of English and American learners of Korean
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This study investigates Korean and American students’ online discussion for intercultural learning in a class-to-class telecollaborative project from an ecological research perspective. The study addresses two questions. First, what constitutes the multiple systems in which students’ online discussion is nested and how do these systems interlock to shape online discourse? Second, how do students interact with this given learning environment to generate affordances for intercultural learning. The study involves a 12 week-long online discussion program between an undergraduate Korean language class in the US and a graduate TESOL methodology class in Korea. Data sources include the transcripts of naturally-occurring online interaction, interviews with students and teacher on the Korean side of the telecolalbortaion, and students’ course assignments such as reflective journals and papers. Multiple qualitative analytic methods were employed including constant comparison, discourse analysis and case studies analysis. The analysis revealed an ecological telecollaboration model as being multiple nested systems in which students’ online discourse (microsystem) was embedded in an institutional setting (mesosystem) and cultural values (macrosystem). The study revealed divergent participatory patterns between the American and Korean groups. Further, it showed how such differences were related to the defining components of each system. These included ideologies about ethnic, social, cultural identities; societal discourse about a specific topic; cross-cultural concepts of discussion; the way the telecollaboration project was incorporated into the course; and teacher instruction. Case study analysis of two American students and one Korean student indicates that these individual students approached the intercultural online discussion with a different “self” (Layder, 1993), understanding of the nature of culture and intercultural communication, positioning of self and others, and sense of agency. These influenced both their management of expectations and orientation toward the situated activity, and also shaped their participation.