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EFL Students' Use of Multimodal Means for Telecollaborative Digital Story Co-Construction

Mon, April 20, 4:05 to 5:35pm, Virtual Room


Traditionally telecollaboration in language teaching involved using text-based online communication tools (e.g., email, threaded forum discussions). As communication technology advances, communication means for telecollaboration has proliferated, allowing for multimodal interactions. However, studies on how multimodal means are used by L2 learners in telecollaborative contexts and effects on intercultural and language learning are relatively recent and few. This study, involving EFL learners at a university in Taiwan and education-major students at a university in Quebec, Canada, explores what types of communication tools and modes were employed and how EFL participants exploited them for intercultural communication and co-construction of digital stories.

Theoretical Framework:
This study employed the theoretical framework of multiliteracies that, as posited by Kalantzis and Cope (2008), takes into account the multimodal resources (text, visual, audio, hypertext, etc.) afforded by Web 2.0 technologies. Specifically, it leans on multimodal interaction analysis (Norris, 2004; 2014) to describe and interpret activities in the multimodal telecommunicative setting of the project. Multimodal interaction analysis allows researchers to use methodological tools to describe a range of communication modes and the “situated interplay between modes at a given moment in social interaction” (Jewitt, Bezemer, & O'Halloran, 2016, p. 115). Additionally, Kress and Van Leeuwen’s intersemiosis framework (1996) was applied to examine how cultures were represented by the visual and linguistic signs in the sociocultural “third space” of digital stories (Bhabha, 2004).

Methods/Modes of Inquiry:
An intercultural telecollaborative multilingual digital storytelling project was launched to provide EFL students in Taiwan and education-major students in Canada with opportunities for meaningful intercultural communication and building a strong foundation in multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996). The participants were first introduced to various tools for online communication and a website builder for co-constructing digital stories. Then, the participants used tools of their own choosing for self-introductions and working in groups with their intercultural partners on digital stories. The groups were free to decide what to include in their stories, yet encouraged to learn about each other’s culture and integrate the information into stories.

Data Sources/Materials:
The data consists of participants’ postings of self-introductions, records of synchronous and
asynchronous communication among intercultural group members, and finalized digital stories.

Analysis of multimodal communication records (including uses of Padlet, Skype, Zoom, email, Messenger, Facebook, Google Hangouts, Google Docs, etc.) reveals that decisions and preferences for different communication tools and modes were related to the participants’ attention to/awareness of 1) accommodating communication logistics, 2) enhancing social presences, 3) overcoming linguistic barriers, and 4) lowering communication anxiety. In addition, the participants’ agility in exploiting multimodal affordances provided by communication tools induced connectivity and collaboration among intercultural group members, as well as quantity and complexity of language production. Communication records related to the uses of visual and linguistic signs were triangulated with co-constructed digital stories to indicate that communication among group members elevated participants’ awareness and tacit knowledge of image-language relations.

Scholarly Significance:
This study adds to the much-needed understanding of multimodal interactions in telecollaborative contexts and their effects on intercultural communication, literacy, and L2 learning.