The Webheads Community of Language Learners Online
by Vance Stevens (Military Language Institute, UAE) and Arif Altun (Nigde University, Turkey)
Proceeds from a demonstration given November 7, 2001, 12:00-12:50 GMT
Writing for Webheads is an online language learning community-building project meeting weekly since 1998. At one meeting, EFL students from Turkey and China participated in synchronous text-, voice-, and video-enhanced chat for their first time, then repeated the meeting online before participants at the annual MLI conference. The Turkish students were surveyed regarding their attitudes toward joining an online community from a distance and showed generally positive attitudes categorized in this study under seven headings. The fact that the co-authors conceived and carried out this study entirely online is further evidence of the scaffolding power of virtual communities of practice. (100 words`)
Writing for Webheads is an ongoing 'experiment in world friendship through online language learning' whose participants have been meeting on line each week since 1998. During that time, Webheads have experimented with numerous synchronous and web-based multimedia communications formats, and have presented at several live and online conference venues. Considering that the class is given free by volunteer teachers, its long-standing viability suggests that participants are getting more out of it than they are putting in.
In the presentation forming the basis for this report, we demonstrated our use of the latest synchronous communications technologies, including live-online video and voice, while showing delegates around the Webheads community. A particular focus was on Turkey, where one of the co-presenters, Dr. Arif Altun, met us online to explain how he has involved his university students with the Webheads project. We were also joined in two of the three sessions studied here by a class of English language learners and educators from China.
At a prior ongoing regular weekly meeting of Writing for Webheads, Arif's class of EFL students was invited to join the group for the first time. Later in the year, his students agreed to re-join the group to participate in the present demonstration given before a live audience at a conference in Abu Dhabi. One week prior to that, a practice session had been held connecting two classes of non-native English speakers from Turkey and China live online in synchronous text-, voice-, and video-enhanced chat. All three events were archived with pictures from the three locations, and with reflections on the experience by the students from Turkey. In analyzing the qualitative data from these events, it was intended to observe how those newcomers felt about joining an online community from a distance.
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Last updated: December 22, 2002 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0
Vance Stevens is CALL (computer-assisted language learning) coordinator at the MLI in Abu Dhabi. An ESL teacher since 1975, he was implementing CALL in 1979. He has conducted research, produced numerous publications and CALL software, and recently been Director of ESL Software Design at a software publishing company in California. He has also served on the editorial boards of major professional journals, e.g. TESOL Quarterly and CALICO Journal, and is currently "On the Internet" editor of the TESL Electric Online Journal. He is past chair and founding member of the CALL Interest Section in TESOL, currently EVOnline Liaison to the Distance Education Sub-committee of TESOL's Professional Development Committee, and serves on the Executive Committee of APACALL (Asia-Pacific Association for CALL). Since 1996 he has developed online language learning environments resulting in two robust communities of practice based on the 'Webheads' concept of personalized web pages and weekly synchronous online events. (150 words)
Arif Altun holds an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Cincinnati with the main emphasis on Computer Assisted Language Learning. He is currently working as an assistant professor at the department of computers and instructional technology education at Nigde University in Turkey. He has taught ESL and instructional technology related courses both at the graduate and undergraduate levels. His main research areas include hypertext theory, socio-cognitive processes in hypertext reading process, web-based instruction, and computer mediated instruction. He has conducted research and published in the field of CALL (computer-assisted language learning) and educational technology. He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. (105 words)
(C)opyright 2002 Vance Stevens