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An activity system analysis of international telecollaboration : contexts, contradictions and learning Basharina, Olga 2004

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A N ACTIVITY S Y S T E M ANALYSIS OF INTERNATIONAL T E L E C O L L A B O R A T I O N : CONTEXTS, CONTRADICTIONS A N D L E A R N I N G By O L G A BASHARINA B.A., Yakutsk State University, Russia 1996 B.Ed., Yakutsk State University, Russia 1996 M.Ed., University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA 2000 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY In THE F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES Faculty of Education Department of Language and Literacy Education We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A November 2004 © Olga Basharina, 2004 Abstract The purpose of this study was to provide a thick and rich description of interpretations and understanding of the complex nature of international telecollaboration, including 1) the relationship between participants, computer technologies, and contexts; 2) cross-cultural . contradictions and 3) learning. To meet this purpose this study examined the long distance computer mediated communication in 4 WebCT forums which joined 52 Japanese, 37 Mexican, and 46 Russian English learners. Sources of data consisted of the written transcripts of the online exchanges, interviews, pre- and post- project surveys, journals, and participant observations. The analysis of data was framed within my model of Intercultural Context-Embedded Telecollaborative Activity (ICETA, an expanded version of the Activity System model by Engestrom, 1987) and structured within three broad dimensions: Contexts, Contradictions, and Learning. The "Contexts" dimension included characteristics of geopolitical structures, institutional contexts, context of interaction, and students' agency. The emphasis was on defining to what extent students shaped the environments and the environments shaped students' participation. "Contradictions" captured the how, and "Learning" the what aspects of interaction. The study illustrates how affordances of multiple contextual layers defined students' participation trajectories, their objectives, motivation or unwillingness to interact, and attitudes toward each other. The Japanese and Mexican students' participation represented an interactive learning paradigm whereas the participation of the Russian students represented a curriculum teacher-centred paradigm. Depending on their identity of deep, strategic or surface communicators students demonstrated differences in quality of their participation. The study identified eight major contradictions attributed to students' different cultures-of-use of the computer technologies (Thorne, 2003) and different frames of reference with ii regards to their norms of language use and beliefs about learning online. The study found evidence of both learning and not learning through content and discourse analysis of interaction protocols and students' interview and survey reports. Extending the ongoing discussion, the study emphasizes the importance of 1) students' cultures-of-use of computer technologies, mediated by instructors and by broader socio-cultural contexts, 2) students' frames of reference with regards to interaction and learning, and 3) students' agency in defining the meaning of being communicatively competent in international/intercultural online environments. in Table of Contents A B S T R A C T H T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S I V L I S T O F F I G U R E S • V I I L I S T O F T A B L E S V I I I A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S I X CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION 1 1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE PROBLEM 2 1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM 7 1.3 STATEMENT OF THE PURPOSE AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS 9 1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY 9 1.5 PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE 1 0 1.6 STRUCTURE OF THE RESEARCH 16 1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS 17 CHAPTER TWO: CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK & LITERATURE REVIEW 20 2 .1 ACTIVITY THEORY 21 2.1.1 Online Environments as an Activity System 32 2.1.2 Learning within an Activity System 34 2.1.3 Summary: Activity Theory ; 37 2 . 2 LEARNING LANGUAGE AND CULTURE 37 2.2.1 From Acquisition to Participation and Socialization 38 2.2.2 Shift in Culture Learning: from "What" to "How" 41 2.2.3 Implications for Pedagogy 44 2.2.4 Summary: Learning Language and Culture 46 2 . 3 INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE 46 2 . 4 COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE IN ONLINE ENVIRONMENTS 51 2.4.1 Online Community as a Web of Human Relationships 51 2.4.2 CMC and Communicative L2 Ability 55 2.4.3 CMC and Intercultural Communicative Competence 57 2 . 5 SUMMARY OF THE CHAPTER: BUILDING ON EXISTING RESEARCH 63 CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY 65 3.1 RESEARCH DESIGN : 65 3 . 2 RATIONALE FOR AN ACTIVITY THEORY CONTEXT-BASED APPROACH 66 3.3 BACKGROUND OF THE PROJECT 68 3.4 PARTICIPANTS 70 3.5 RESEARCH CONTEXT 73 3 .6 COORDINATING THE PROJECT 78 3 . 7 MATERIALS 79 3.8 DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURES 81 3 .9 DATA ANALYSIS 84 3 . 1 0 VALIDITY 92 3 . 1 1 LIMITATIONS 93 CHAPTER FOUR: FINDINGS 95 C O N T E X T S 95 4 . 1 GEOPOLITICAL STRUCTURES 96 4.1.1 Students and Instructors as Positioned Subjects 96 4.1.2 Objects/Motives of Positioned Subjects '. 100 4.1.3 Community of Non-Native Speakers of English 104 4.1.4 Summary: Geopolitical Structures 106 iv 4 . 2 INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXTS 107 4.2.1 Object: Students' Expectations from the Project 107 4.2.3 Tools: Students' Access to Computer Technologies 109 4.2.4 Summary: Institutional Contexts 114 4 . 3 CONTEXT OF INTERACTION 114 4.3.1 Instructors as Mediators of Rules and Objects 114 4.3.2 Dilemma: Grade as Motivation or Constraint 125 4.3.3 Tools: Affordances and Constraints of Online Environments 126 4.3.4 Triangulation: Factors Discouraging Students' Participation 132 4.3.5 Summary: Context of Interaction 134 4 . 4 AGENCY 135 4.4.1 Communicative Need 135 4.4.2 One Community or Multiple Communities? 139 4.4.3 Division of Labour: Deep, Strategic, and Surface Learners 147 4.4.4 Different Personalities Expressed in Writing 152 4.4.5 Summary: Agency. 155 C O N T R A D I C T I O N S 156 4 . 6 CROSS-CULTURAL CONTRADICTIONS/TENSIONS 157 4.6.1 Concerns: to Participate or not to Participate 157 4.6.2 Unequal Participation 160 4.6.3 Clash of Genres: "Writing at the Moment" and "Writing Beforehand" 166 4.6.4 Academic vs. Casual, Formal vs. Informal Topics 178 4.6.5 Culture-Specific vs. Common Topics 181 4.6.6 Common Topic - Different Cross-Cultural Perspectives 184 4.6.7 Missed Communication 187 4.6.8 Threatened National Identity 188 4.6.9 Coping with Tensions 195 4.6.10Summary: Contradictions 196 L E A R N I N G 197 4 . 8 LEARNING PROCESSES 197 4.8.1 Comparing and Relating 197 4.8.2 Dialogue and Compromise: Stretching the Language 200 4.8.3 Surface Approach: Avoiding Stretching the Language 204 4.8.4 Change of Perspectives through Process Writing 206 4 . 9 LEARNING OUTCOMES 209 4.9.1 Improvement (or not) of Intercultural Communicative Competence 210 4.9.2 Change of Attitudes (or not) toward Each Other 211 4.9.3 Students' Perceptions and Reflections on Learning 212 4 . 1 0 SUMMARY: LEARNING 220 CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSION 223 5.1 SUMMARY OF THE STUDY 223 5 .2 REVIEW OF THE METHODOLOGY 223 5 . 3 MAJOR FINDINGS 224 5.3.1 When Contexts Shape Students' Participation 225 5.3.2 When Students Shape Participation • 227 5.3.3 Contradictions 229 5.3.4 Same Task: Different Activities 236 5.3.5 Learning Outcomes of Interaction 236 5 . 4 TOWARD COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE IN INTERCULTURAL ONLINE ENVIRONMENTS 241 5.4.1 The Crucial Role of Instructors 245 5.5 IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE 245 5 . 6 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH 249 5.7 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY 250 BIBLIOGRAPHY 253 APPENDICES 268 APPENDIX A STUDENTS' DESCRIPTIONS OF THEIR LOCAL CONTEXTS 268 v APPENDIX B SURVEY QUESTIONS 270 APPENDIX C INTERVIEW QUESTIONS 273 APPENDIX D STUDENTS' TRAVEL ABROAD EXPERIENCE 275 APPENDIX E STUDENTS' KNOWLEDGE OF CULTURES 276 APPENDIX F THE MOST POPULAR TOPICS 277 APPENDIX G BREAKDOWN OF THE INTERACTION FUNCTIONS 278 APPENDIX H WEBCT PROJECT MATERIALS 280 APPENDIX I PARTICIPANT CONSENT FORM 283 vi List of Figures Figure 2. 1 Plan of Conceptual Framework and Literature Review 20 Figure 2. 2 Behaviorist and Vygotsky's Models 22 Figure 2. 3 Activity System Model (Engestrom 1987) 24 Figure 2. 4 Correlation between Acquisition, Participation and Socialization 40 Figure 3. 1 Posting Activity in Forums A - D 76 Figure 3. 2 Interface of the Discussion Board 80 Figure 3. 3 Intercultural Context-Embedded Telecollaborative Activity (ICETA) Model 84 vii List of Tables Table 1. 1 Comparison of Recent Studies on Intercultural C M C 5 Table 2. 1 Byram's Intercultural Communicative Competence Model (1997) 48 Table 3. 1 Structure and Agency Framework (adapted from Layder, 1993; Belz, 2002) 68 Table 3. 2 Posting Activity - Student Averages 78 Table 3. 3 Reading Activity - Student Averages 78 Table 3. 4 Number of Participants across Forums/Cultures/Genders 70 Table 3. 5 Types of Data Collected for the Study 82 Table 3. 6 Criteria for (Intercultural) Communicative Competence Development 89 Table 3. 7 List of Coding 91 Table 4. 1 Students' Attitudes toward Interaction with Non-Native English Speakers 104 Table 4. 2 Students' Expectations from the Project 107 Table 4. 3 Computer Ownership 110 Table 4. 4 Internet Access 110 Table 4. 5 Attitudes toward the Project 125 Table 4. 6 Factors Discouraging Students' Participation 132 Table 4. 7 Greetings Averages 141 Table 4. 8 Closures Averages 141 Table 4. 9 Individual Students' Use of Greetings 143 Table 4. 10 Individual Students' Use of Closures 143 Table 4. 11 Formulaic Openings and Closures 144 Table 4. 12 Averages of Greetings Addressed to Students/Instructors 147 Table 4. 13 Criteria for Classification of Participants 147 Table 4. 14 Classification of Participants across Cultures 148 Table 4. 15 Classification of Participants across Forums 148 Table 4. 16 Entwistle's (1994) Approaches to Learning Model 149 Table 4. 17 Deep, Strategic and Surface Communicators across Cultures 150 Table 4. 18 Deep, Strategic and Surface Communicators across Forums 151 Table 4. 19 Thread Initiation 161 Table 4. 20 Breakdown of Topic Initiation 161 Table 4. 21 Averages of Students posted Messages of Different Length (Forum A , Stage 1)... 162 Table 4. 22 Number of Russian Threads that Have not Received Replies 168 Table 4. 23 Analysis of Russian Students' Online Activity 175 Table 4. 24 Analysis of Russian Students' Online Activity 175 Table 4. 25 Functions of Interaction in Forum A - Averages per Person 210 Table 4. 26 Functions of Interaction in Forum B - Averages per Person 211 Table 4. 27 Change of Attitude toward Communication Partners 212 Table 4. 28 Student Perceptions of Learning 212 Table 4. 29 Students Willingness (or not) to Participate in the Future Projects 221 viii Acknowledgements First of all I am very grateful to students, instructors, and project coordinators from the three universities in Canada, Mexico and Russia whose invaluable contribution to the project and to the study made this dissertation possible. My sincere thanks to Dr. Stephen Carey, my chair, for his great support, consistent availability, and believing in me. You are an incredible person and teacher. Your interest in and great enthusiasm for computer technologies became my interest as well. It is due to your philosophy of embracing diversity and imagining new possibilities this multi-cultural project and research became a reality. Thank you for all your time spent on reading the drafts and giving valuable suggestions. I would like to thank Dr. Bonny Norton, Dr. Bernard Mohan, and Dr. Michael Marker, my committee members for your positive attitude toward me and my research, great classes I took with you and your advice. Special thanks to Dr. Teresa Dobson, for her tireless editing of my comprehensive exam papers that later transformed into the theoretical framework for this study. I am grateful to Dr. Vera John-Steiner who allowed me to audit her courses at the University of New Mexico, gave me an access to the local library resources, and made me understand and appreciate Vygotsky on a much deeper level. Many thanks to Ana Nolla, a researcher from the University of New Mexico for her careful reading of the draft and valuable feedback. On a personal note, I would like to thank my husband, Denis, for his amazing patience and incredible support. He has been a constant source of encouragement throughout this process. Finally, I am grateful to my parents and grandparents who devoted their lives to scholarly work and who made my decision to pursue a PhD so easy. Their personal example has been my constant source of inspiration. ix CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION There are a number of incentives to use computers in language education. The first incentive is related to a growing understanding of learning as a social practice, facilitated in a socially rich interactive environment. The goal to provide for increased human response and social interaction has led to an interest in using computer-mediated communication (CMC) as an additional learning space where people can engage in interaction free of time and space constraints. The broader justification for the use of computer technologies is their responsiveness to the life-long learning and development of multiliteracies (including electronic literacy) necessary to succeed in the modern world where much communication is accomplished electronically (Carey, 2000; Cope & Kalantzis, 2000; Cummins, 2000; Warschauer, 1999). In addition, in our increasingly interconnected world, people face the urgency to communicate in a lingua franca with culturally diverse populations and to develop a sense of belonging to a global community in order to accomplish their personal, educational and career goals. Communication across cultural and linguistic boundaries is essential in the twenty-first century for resolving common global problems and potential intergroup conflicts in both the domestic and international arenas. Cummins and Sayers (1995) remind us that: "unless students cross the cultural boundaries both within and beyond... national borders... they will be ill-prepared to address the myriad social and ecological problems their generation will face" (p. 161). Therefore, computers are used to give learners access to a new environment, where they can gain intercultural communicative competence for developing a broader sense of identity associated with global citizenship (Cummins, 1994, 1996). 1 1.1 Background of the Problem Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) is commonly referred to as an interactive stage of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) due to its new capacity for human-to-human interaction. Before this recent development, only human-computer interaction was available in the context of language instruction when computers were used only for grammar drills and tests (Structural Approach to C A L L ) . Then, with the development of more sophisticated software, the learners engaged in animated simulation exercises framed into various communicative situations (Cognitive Approach to C A L L ) . In the 1990s C M C shifted the focus from the content of computer programs to the content of human-to-human interaction (Socio-Cognitive Approach to C A L L ) . These three stages of C A L L were preceded and caused by the shift in language teaching - from structural to cognitive/constructivist and to socio-cognitive approaches (Warschauer & Kern, 2000). C M C includes synchronous (e.g.: chat rooms, Internet relay chat), asynchronous (e.g.: e-mail, bulletin board and listserv), one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many text and voice-based interaction. C M C is also viewed as one of the three components of electronic literacy. Two other components are Internet-based research and the construction of web-pages. C M C introduces students to new types of reading and writing practices, radically different from conventional literacy practices (Carey, 1999a,b; Warschauer, 1999). According to Rassool (2002), electronic "texts" offer new "active" ways of seeing, hearing and experiencing the world through different forms and modes of information, which can deal with a wide variety of content at the same time. More specifically, electronic spaces provide the following affordances described by Rassool (2002): 2 - "The re-structured author-text-reader relationship which allows a degree of textual malleability in terms of both production and interpretation not available with print text." "The flexibility of focus, 'the infinite periphery' that theoretically frames the availability of information." "The manipulability of information evident in the ways in which texts can be edited, revised and corrected over time." Important for this study is such characteristic of C M C as: "The immediacy of interaction offered by information technology - and the possibilities that this provides for discussion of issues, and cross-cultural engagement with ideas with users located across different time zones and geographical areas (and, relatedly, the potential that this has for the shaping of trans-national, individual opinions on social, political and cultural issues)" (p. 203). The shift of focus from single classrooms to long distance collaborative projects implements three things: "Expands the focus beyond language learning to an emphasis on culture (i.e. intercultural competence, cultural learning, cultural literacy)." "Expands the notion of context beyond the local (often institutional) setting to include broad social discourses." "Problematizes the notions of its own inquiry, namely, communication and intercultural competence" (Kern, Ware and Warschauer, 2004; p. 244). 3 Studies focusing on intercultural aspects of C M C (I-CMC) include the exploration of the motivational aspect of online environments and the greater target language output (Beauvois, 1992; Carey, 2001, 2002; Cummins, 1998; Kelm, 1992; Kern, 1995, 1996; Meagher & Castanos, 1996; Spiliotopoulos, 2002; Toyoda & Harrison, 2002; Warschauer, 1996, 1998); the development of greater cultural awareness (Furstenberg, Levet, English & Maillet, 2001; Garner & Cullingham, 1996; Meskill & Ranglova, 2000; Thorne, 1999; Warschauer, 1999); the study of cross-cultural differences (Chase, Macfayden, Reeder & Roche, 2002; Reeder, Macfayden, Roche & Chase, 2004), as well as the influence of computer technologies on the society at large (Bowers, 1988; Castells, 1999; Ess & Sudweeks, 2001; Herring, 1996). Earlier studies on C M C , both long-distance and within the context of one classroom, have been primarily framed within the product-oriented paradigm focusing on the most quantifiable and easily measured aspects of online communication (Chun, 1994; Kern, 1995; Ma, 1996; Meagher & Castanos, 1996; Vilmi, 1994). This paradigm has been criticized for being too narrowly focused and failing to document many factors influencing the process of learning. Instead, research design which is rather process-oriented and qualitative and includes the context of computer use, interaction, and multimedia networking was advocated by key scholars in the field such as Chapelle (2001) and Warschauer & Kern (2000). Proponents of investigating contexts of computer use emphasize the significance of the processes through which linguistic interaction helps to construct the meanings relevant to learning. The most recent studies on I-CMC by Belz (2003), Chase et al. (2002), Kramsch & Thorne (2002), O'Dowd (2003), Reeder et al. (2004) and Ware (2003; in press) explore the 4 processes of interaction and the kinds of cultural contact afforded by the technological medium. In this dissertation I review in more details the studies by Belz (2003), Kramsch & Thorne (2002), O'Dowd (2003), and Ware (2003) only (Table 1.1), as they focus on international telecollaboration between learners in parallel classes located in different countries of the world. In particular, these studies focus on language-exchange learning in which participants are students from the USA studying European languages such as German or Spanish and their European counterparts studying English and interacting in the pedagogically structured online environments. Table 1.1 Comparison of Recent Studies on Intercultural CMC Channel and Participants Number of messages Research questions/goal Research methods Belz (2003) E-mail structured tandem exchange German learners in USA, English learners in Germany N/A How can linguistic analysis help reveal new layers in interaction and students' cultural behaviour? Interaction protocol (10 e-mails) analysis (Case study of 1 partnership) Kramsch & Thorne (2002) E-mail structured tandem exchange French learners in the USA, English learners in France N/A - To what extent does the medium itself change the parameters of communication and the nature of language use? - What kind of discourse is being promoted online: a discourse of truth or a discourse of trust? Interaction (5 e-mails) protocol analysis (Case study of 1 partnership) O'Dowd (2003) English learners in Leon, Spain Spanish learners in London, UK 150 e-mails + 30 e-mail replies to researcher's questions What characteristics of e-mail exchanges lead to intercultural learning? Interaction protocol (10 e-mails) analysis & Interviews (Case study of 5 partnerships) Ware (2003) Blackboard BB structured tandem exchange 11 English learners in Germany & 9 German learners in USA 167 messages - How do students' views of technology, language learning, and criteria for evaluating mutual participation contribute to their ability to co-construe a context for supporting (hindering) cross-cultural interaction? Theme-based data analysis (interviews, classroom observations, pre-and post-surveys) 5 The research scope of these studies is based on the analysis of a few e-mail partnerships (excluding the study by Ware) within projects that generated no more than 200 messages. While the electronic texts written for e-mail and bulletin board communication are similar in nature, the differences in channels - one-to-one vs. many-to-many, shape interaction dynamics in two different ways. Bulletin board communication replicates a highly interactive model with multiplicity of voices, non-linear structure, and differs from e-mail interaction norms and communicative rules. The studies by Chase et al. (2002) and Reeder et al. (2004) reveal interesting insights into BB intercultural communication between learners located within one country and taking the long-distance course offered by the major Canadian university. Additional research is needed on how students coexist and learn in international online communities characterized by naturally occurring interaction in English among more participants, more geographical diversity (including other than American and Western European students), and more complex inter-group relationships. Furthermore, studies in Table 1.1 focus on single aspects of I-CMC such as genre (Kramsch & Thorne, 2002; Belz, 2003), context (Thorne, 2003), and tension (O'Dowd, 2003; Ware, in press), thereby, providing separate "analytic cuts" (Layder, 1993, p. 108) into "the rampantly complex and multi-layered social action of telecollaborative language study" (Belz, 2003; p. 2). The need for research in the form of a larger scale analysis of patterns of participation and interaction across cultural groups was voiced by Reeder, (2004) and Ware (in press). Studies by Garner and Gullingham (1996), Potts (2001) and Warschauer (1999) provide a larger scale analysis through the use of ethnographic methods and thick and rich description. These studies contribute to the field by demonstrating the complexity of online 6 environments and the multiplicity of interrelated factors that need to be taken into account in order to fully understand the nature of C M C . However, out of these three studies, only the study by Garner and Gullingham (1996) includes analysis of the long-distance intra-cultural collaboration between students from two different states in the U S A - Alaska and Illinois, whereas Potts (2001) and Warschauer (1999) investigate single computer supplemented traditional classrooms. There are no studies on international long distance collaborative projects in the form of a larger scale research, based on multi-layered analysis of their complex nature. 1.2 Statement of the Problem Whereas recent studies on I-CMC illustrate how students' cultural beliefs and values (or frames of reference) impact their learning experiences (Belz, 2003; Chase et al. 2002; Kramsch &Thorne, 2002; Reeder et al, 2004; Ware, 2003; in press) the effects of local contexts and larger geopolitical structures in shaping students' participation and learning in online environments is not sufficiently explored. Exception is the earlier study by Belz (2002) in which she explores the broader social dimensions of telecollaborative foreign languages study and the study by Thorne (2003). The focus on the relationship between participants, computer technologies and their local, cultural and global contexts is especially important in the study of international telecollaboration. For the long-distance international learners local, global and virtual aspects are in constant flux (Ess & Sudweeks, 2001) as students interact by the rules/norms of their local contexts, but at the same time, cannot ignore the rules/norms of the online culturally-heterogeneous communities. 7 Recent studies also have opened up a discussion i f learning in online environments takes place at all and if participation in these environments leads to any new understanding, given that they often promote phatic interaction (Kern, 2000; Kramsch and Thorne, 2002). Therefore, more studies are needed to better understand the kinds of learning promoted by I-C M C . Studies by Garner and Gullingham (1996), Potts (2001) and Warschauer (1999) mentioned above, analyze the broad scope of data based on the emerging, often unpredictable themes. In my opinion, the approach to data analysis both grounded and embedded within a theoretical framework could be helpful in revealing insights into complex nature of online environments in a more systematic way. Given this, Cultural Historical Activity Theory (or briefly Activity Theory) (Vygotsky, 1978, Leontiev, 1981, Nardi, 1996), with its triangular model of evolving complex activity (Engestrom, 1987) and its key notions of mediation, collaboration, intentionality, development, and culture (Nardi, 1996) can be effectively applied to the study of intercultural computer-mediated communication. Within Activity Theory research itself, one of its main aspects - "contradictions" has been often ignored (Wells and Claxton, 2002). Therefore, more attention should be paid to this neglected variable given that contradictions drive changes and capture the developmental path of activities, necessary in the exploration of the telecollaboration processes. Given all these, there is a need for research which provides multi-layered, both inductive (grounded) and deductive (theory-driven) analysis of intercultural online environments, conceptualized as a complex, evolving activity system embedded within layers of broader socio-cultural contexts, and shaped by both students and instructors. 8 1.3 Statement of the Purpose and Research Questions This study is motivated by a pedagogical goal to find out how we can create better intercultural learning environments for students in the time of the spread of discourses of globalization and technological progress. It explores the international telecollaboration between 52 Japanese, 37 Mexican and 46 Russian English learners located in three universities in Canada, Mexico and Russia. The purpose of this study is to provide a thick and rich description of interpretation and understanding of the complex nature of intercultural telecollaboration, including 1) the relationship between participants, computer technologies, local and global contexts, 2) cross-cultural contradictions/tensions, and 3) learning processes and outcomes of students' participation in the online environment. The study is guided by the following research questions: 1. What is the nature of the relationship between contexts, participants and information technologies? 2. What are the cross-cultural contradictions/tensions of International telecollaboration? 3. What kind of learning does I-CMC promote? 1.4 Significance of the Study As this research involves three different socio-cultural contexts, I developed a new model of Intercultural Context-Embedded Telecollaborative Activity (ICETA) which is based on an Activity System model (Figure 2.3) as well as a Structure (i.e. context and 9 setting) and Agency (i.e. situated activity and self) framework (Figure 3.1) with the latter adapted from Layder (1993) and Belz (2002). Using the ICETA model, this study attempts to: Provide a holistic picture of multilayered, complex Intercultural online environments rather than focusing on a single aspect of I-CMC. Extend previous studies on I-CMC and contribute to better understanding of the nature of learning in intercultural online environments. Identify cross-cultural contradictions that future participants might come across and help educators to create less anxious learning environments. Test how the newly developed ICETA model (Figure 3.3) is applied to an analysis of intercultural telecollaboration. Help teachers, researchers, and administrators to reassess approaches for teaching intercultural communicative competence in online environments. 1.5 Personal Perspective I was first introduced to WebCT in 2000 at the University of British Columbia when I took two bulletin board mixed-mode courses with my supervisor Dr. Stephen Carey. Before I came to Canada, I knew that technology-enhanced teaching was one of the rapidly developing, promising areas and, therefore, I had great enthusiasm to participate in such classrooms and found them very useful for my learning and development. My engagement in C M C had been constantly developing through changes which followed the changes in my own goals and strategies as well as contexts of my C M C use. 10 Before I engaged into C M C , I did not associate a learner-centered online interaction with academic learning. I engaged in what I imagined to be the use of computer technologies for academic purposes, when I took an entirely online course with the department of Distance Education. As that course never met face-to-face, day-by-day description of classes, reading materials, and assignments were posted online. However, the bulletin board was not a central aspect in that course; rather, the focus was on writing 3 major papers based on the reading of the online materials independently throughout the course. Although we could ask questions and interact online, there were very few interactions and the bulletin board never became a place to socialize. I learned a great deal in that course, but I was learning almost in the same way I did in the traditional classroom, interacting and receiving feedback only from the instructor and using the computer as a text-book. Participation in both mixed-mode and entirely online courses helped me to understand that they represented two different activities - mixed-mode being learner-centered and relying on knowledge construction through C M C and the entirely online course being less interactive and more teacher-centered. This understanding helped me to appreciate C M C for offering more flexibility, agency and multiple responses from both students and instructor. I always knew that C M C was very useful for my learning, but at the same time, I often felt the pressure of keeping up with newly posted messages. For me an online activity demanded a lot of time-investment accompanied by a constant decision making process with relation to "what to say to whom and how" which is a very productive environment for L2 development. The "participation pressure" was mainly due to the novelty of the activity and my attempt to establish credibility in the eyes of my classmates and instructor who I just met 11 and barely knew. I discovered that I was a person who felt uncomfortable to leave some messages unread as I wanted to know what people were talking about in all threads. This also added to the pressure. When I again took technology-supplemented courses with the same instructor and a number of the same students who participated in previous classes, I knew what to expect from them and the pressure associated with the novelty of experience was reduced. The instructor's understanding of individual differences with regards to computer use and emphasis on quality rather than on quantity of participation also helped to significantly reduce pressure. Instead of setting the goal to read every message and respond to as many students as I could, I focused only on reading and replying to a few, the most interesting academic messages. I did not read short and personal messages, I was interested only in messages rich in content and related to my research interest. I also noticed that the bulletin board message format was subordinated to the common standards dictated by the technology itself - such as to be not longer than a computer screen size, directly address the questions asked, and be concise. When I went to Russia, in the Spring of 2002,1 participated in Dr. Carey's summer course being thousands of miles away. Compared to the Canadian context, the use of the Internet in the Russian context was closely connected to the socio-economic status of its users. Those who had enough financial means to afford the computer, the Internet and its unrestricted use, would have participated on the bulletin board actively. Participation of less financially secure individuals would have been restricted unless they were ready to spend at least one fourth of their monthly salary for the Internet use. The best time to work on the Internet was the night time when the rates of use were cheaper and no phone calls expected. 12 It was also important to spend time productively, knowing beforehand every step that needed to be undertaken in order to save money, as the rates were based on every minute of the Internet use. Those who did not own computers could use the fee-based Internet-cafes that were numerous in the city at that time. It was also important to choose a reliable Internet provider from among others who offered their services. I had the most reliable Internet provider that guaranteed good quality connection set through the dial up modem. Still the speed of downloading the bulletin board was considerably slower than in Canada and took around three minutes. In the Russian context my participation in the online interaction reduced drastically. The main reason was that this activity was not a major priority for me -1 wanted to do something else after being far away in Canada. Besides, it was no longer new for me as I participated in a WebCT-supplemented course several times. In addition, I felt restricted by the concern that the Internet was expensive, there might be urgent phone calls during my Internet use, and I should use it for a maximum of an hour per day. The course I was enrolled in was also taken by the students in Canada who I knew from previous classes. This affiliation helped me to feel a part of their face-to-face community, although we were separated by distance. When I opened the site and saw messages of students I knew, I imagined them sitting in the classroom and myself interacting with them. I was more interested in reading messages, rather than in writing. I knew from previous courses, how my fellow-students would participate and what contributions I could expect from them, so I skipped their messages. Rather I was interested in the messages of new students, and in everything unpredictable. Because time of use was always a concern, I opened the bulletin board, scrolled the messages until I saw the names of the students that 13 interested me, copied their messages in the word document and closed the Internet. After reading their messages, I replied in a word document and opened the Internet again just to post my replies. Through participation in this activity in Russia I realized the importance of having the sense of presence of other participants who I knew, as my imagined ties with them made me feel more comfortable working in that environment. More importantly, I witnessed how context-dependent online activity was, given that my practice of engagement in the B B activity changed under the influence of local conditions. Speaking about learning in the online environment, C M C provided me with a community where the target language was used and the course content was scaffolded. I was doing several things at the same timel) I practiced English, 2) learned the content of the course 3) socialized with my classmates and learned more about them as well as 4) used leading interactive technologies. By being exposed to diversity of writing, constantly reflecting on others' and my language use, and negotiating adequate communicative norms, I believe that I improved my metalinguistic awareness. I also believe that I became more communicatively competent in expressing myself in English. I feel that the knowledge I gained through participation in the bulletin board discussion have translated to my e-mail writing proficiency and communicative competence in face-to-face interaction with different people. I began to write e-mail messages much faster and in the right expressions as words came to my mind faster. I also relate the fact that I began to reflect more on my face-to-face communication under the influence of online activity when I used to reflect on my own and others' writings. In both cases I "rewound" the speech and analyzed it from the pragmatic and linguistic perspectives. 14 Still the issue of how to become a more competent communicator is the main one for me. Becoming communicatively competent is an ongoing process which is closely related to the knowledge of pragmatic rules, target culture, appropriateness to the contexts of interaction and awareness about preserving personal voice, as well as a high level of personal sensitivity toward interaction with other people. My experience of participation in technology supplemented online classes in the role of a student and in the role of an instructor (the latter discussed in the Methodology section), helped me to become interested in the field. I formulated several important hypotheses which stimulated the writing of this dissertation and included the following propositions: The ways computer technologies are utilized depend on the broader social contexts of their use. Online environments will always have different social dynamics depending on the participants' agencies. Online environments represent the networks of social relations and previous affiliations with people who participate in these environments change the dynamics of interaction. - Novelty of online experience is a motivating factor, on the other hand, previous experience of BB use reduces anxiety. There might be various tensions and dilemmas associated with a bulletin board use, such as the pressure of keeping up with messages and meeting instructor's expectations. Participation in online environments develops communicative competence by providing opportunities to experiment with one's language. 15 These hypotheses lead to the following questions: How do online communities form? Why do online communities differ so much in their dynamics? How and what do people learn in the online environments? What is the evidence of learning? What tensions do people undergo through participation in online communities? What participation and learning experiences do students from other than the language education field have? How would students who come from different cultural and educational backgrounds participate in a highly interactive bulletin board? These questions helped to define three research questions I outlined in the section 1.3 of this dissertation. 1.6 Structure of the Dissertation The structure of this dissertation consists of a Conceptual Framework and Literature Review, Methodology, Findings and Discussion chapters. In the "Conceptual Framework and Literature Review" chapter I discuss the Activity Theory which is an overarching theory this study builds on. Then I discuss how Activity Theory and its expanded theoretical counterparts view learning in general and learning language, culture and communicative competence in particular. I relate these learning aspects to learning online. Finally, 1 critically analyze the studies presented in table 1.1. In the "Methodology" chapter I describe the steps undertaken to conduct this study including data collection and analysis. I also present my model of Intercultural Context-Embedded Telecollaborative Activity (Figure 3.3), which served as a framework for data analysis. In the "Findings" chapter I report the findings within three large domains: Contexts, Contradictions and Learning, each domain corresponding to three research questions of the 16 study. Finally, in chapter five I discuss the key findings of the study and relate them to the existing literature. 1.7 Definition of Terms The following are the key terms throughout this study and their definitions within the context of this dissertation: Asynchronous communication - sending and receiving messages at different times. Opposite is Synchronous communication - communication with each other at the same time Bulletin Board (BB) - a place to leave an electronic message or share news that anyone in the course can read and respond to. Communicative Competence - an ability to use spoken or written language appropriately in varying social contexts (Hymes, 1972). Computer Mediated Communication - a set of possibilities, which exist when computers and telecommunication networks are used as tools in the communications process: to compose, store, deliver and process communication (Mason, 1990, p. 22). "Contexts " domain of analysis - geopolitical structures, institutional contexts, and context of interaction. Each of these three contexts consists of the six elements of the Activity System such as: subjects, tools, objects/motives, division of labour, community, and rules/norms. "Contradictions " domain of analysis - "a misfit within elements, between them, between different activities, or between different developmental phases of a single activity" (Kuutti, 1996; p. 34). A l l tensions, dilemmas and conflicts reported by students. 17 Forum - an online discussion group. This group can be either locked (private) or unlocked (public). Intercultural awareness - students' awareness of their own culture and other cultures. Intercultural communication - interactions among people from different cultures. Compare to: Cross-cultural Communication - a comparison of interactions among people from the same culture to those from another. International Communication - communication between nations and government rather than between individuals. Intracultural Communication - communication between members of the same culture. (Lustig & Koester,1993). Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) - involves a set of practices requiring knowledge, skills and attitudes and entails an ability to negotiate a mode of communication and interaction which is satisfactory to oneself and the other (Byram, 1997). Intercultural Computer Mediated Communication (I-CMC) - online interactions among people from different cultures "Learning" domain of analysis - any evidence of learning reading and writing in L2, intercultural awareness and intercultural communicative competence as perceived by students and found through interaction protocol analysis. MOO (Multi-user Object-Oriented). A program that allows participants to interact while moving around a virtual space and manipulating virtual objects. Online community - social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on... public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace (Rheingold, 1994; p. 5) 18 Telecollaboration - "internationally-dispersed learners in parallel language classes using Internet communication tools such as e-mail, synchronous chat, threaded discussion and MOOs ... in order to support social interaction, dialogue, debate and intercultural exchange." (Belz, 2003; p. 1) List of abbreviations A T - Activity Theory (short for CHAT - Cultural Historical Activity Theory) C A L L - Computer Assisted Language Learning ESL/EFL - English as a Second Language, English as a Foreign Language ICETA - Intercultural Context-Embedded Telecollaborative Activity IRC - Internet Relay Chat J(M,R)S - Japanese (Mexican, Russian) Students L2 - Second Language SCT - Socio-Cultural Theory 19 CHAPTER TWO: CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK & LITERATURE REVIEW In this chapter I focus on the conceptual framework and literature review of the study which is based on the plan graphically presented in Figure 2.1. Figure 2. 1 Plan of Conceptual Framework and Literature Review \ C u l t u r a l H i s t o r i c a l A c t i v i t y T h e o r y / \ S o c i o c u l t u r a l T h e o r y of L e a r n i n g / \ L a n g u a g e L e a r n i n g : W h a t —> H o w / \ C u l t u r e L e a r n i n g : W h a t —• H o w / \ C o m m u n i c a t i v e C o m p e t e n c e / \ I - C M C / I chose Cultural Historical Activity Theory from among the various other frameworks adopted by intercultural telecollaboration researchers. Bregman and Haythornethwate's (2001) use the "Radicals of Presentation in the Persistent Conversation" framework adapted from Northrop Frye, which includes such elements as visibility, relation and co-presence. The framework by Chase et al. (2002) includes the identification of cultural gaps, attitudes toward person to person communication, characteristics of electronic genres, communication styles and routines to show the relationship between cultural determinants and situated actions. Nolla (2001) uses Bale's (1950) Interaction Process Analysis (IPA) framework which provides a detailed discourse analysis of interaction. Belz (2002) employs Hallidayan-inspired linguistic framework such as appraisal theory and epistemic modality to analyze the attitudes component of Byram's (1997) model. O'Dowd (2003) employs Byram's Intercultural communicative competence model to explain the varied success of paired exchanges. Overall, most of these frameworks are very 20 effective for the analysis of one or two aspects of online telecollaboration or for micro-analysis of interaction rather than for providing a holistic and multilayered picture of telecollaborative activity. Therefore, I decided to use the Activity Theory framework as it is capable of providing a holistic description and interpretation of the complex nature of international telecollaboration including contexts, contradictions and learning (Nardi, 1996; Thorne, 2002). Broadly speaking, it has two levels of analysis including social actions and underlying motives and goals driving these actions. More importantly, the key concepts of Activity Theory such as linguistic mediation, intentionality, collaboration, development and culture fit in very well with the exploration of intercultural learning environments. In the following section I first discuss the overarching concept of Activity Theory and its theoretical counterparts which fall under the Sociocultural Theory of learning. I then narrow the discussion by focusing on how Activity and Sociocultural Theories view language and culture learning. Finally, I focus on the concept of "communicative competence" and how it has been approached in the most recent works on I-CMC. 2.1 Activity Theory Activity Theorists argue that human psychological behaviour arises from some need/motive and is directed toward some object which, in its turn, is linked to an anticipated outcome (Leont'ev, 1975). This psychological behaviour is realized through activities, therefore, consciousness is not a set of discrete disembodied cognitive acts (e.g. decision making, classification, remembering, rather, it is located in everyday practice: 21 You are what you do. And what you do is firmly and inextricably embedded in the socio-cultural matrix of which every person is an organic part. This socio-cultural matrix is composed of people and artefacts. Artefacts may be physical tools or sign systems such as human language. (Nardi, 1996; p. 7) Three Generations of Activity Theory Engestrom (1987, 1999) singles out three theoretical generations in the evolution of Activity Theory. The first generation, centred around Vygotsky's idea of mediation, is embodied in his famous triangular model of "a complex, mediated act" (1978, p. 40) and represents the triad of subject, object, and mediating tool/artefact (Figure 2.2). This model helped to overcome the limiting behaviourist stimulus-response model which implies instinct-based unmediated activity involving direct action between a subject and an object. Figure 2. 2 Behaviorist and Vygotsky's Models Behaviorist Model Stimulus 1 Response Vygotsky 's Mediational Model Tool/Artefact / \ Subject Object In the field of language education, the behaviorist model neglects socio-cultural context and views language learning as an isolated, autonomous act of memorizing correct forms. As opposed to behaviorists, Vygotsky (1978) argues that most object oriented human activities are mediated through the use of culturally established physical and semiotic tools/artifacts. Viewing language as a semiotic tool/artefact was one of the major 22 contributions of Vygotsky. He saw the difference between physical and semiotic tools in that the latter directs the mind and behaviour; whereas the physical tool directs changes in the object itself (Vygotsky, 1978). Tools/artefacts shape the ways human beings interact with reality and vice versa -"artefacts themselves have been created and transformed during the development of the activity itself and carry with them a particular culture and a historical residue of that development" (Kuutti, 1996; p. 26). Therefore, the use of tools/artefacts is a means to accumulate, transmit, and transform socio-cultural knowledge. Engestrom (1999) characterizes the insertion of tools/artefacts into human actions as revolutionary because they helped to overcome the split between the individual and the societal structures: The individual could no longer be understood without his or her cultural means; and the society could no longer be understood without the agency of individuals who use and produce artefacts. Objects no longer were just raw material for the formation of the subject as they were for Piaget. They became cultural entities and the object-orientedness of action became the key to understanding human psyche, (p. 1) Kuutti (1996) describes an object as a material thing, which can also be "less tangible (such as a plan) or totally intangible (such as a common idea) as long as it can be shared for manipulation and transformation by the participants of the activity." Learning language (object), for example, requires some form of mediation such as explicit instructions, reading books and communication with language speakers face-to-face and through the use of computer tools. Kuutti also adds that "transforming the object into an outcome motivates the existence of an activity" (p. 27). 23 In the course of time, researchers began to see the limitations of the first generation of activity theory, particularly the individually focused unit of analysis. This limitation was overcome by the second generation of Activity Theory, inspired by Leont'ev's (1981) work. Leont'ev introduced the concept of the historically evolving division of labour in his famous collective hunting example, which brought about the crucial differentiation between an individual action and a collective activity. Vygotsky's original model of individual activity was expanded to the model of collective activity by Leont'ev (1981) and graphically presented by Engestrom (1987) (Figure 2.3) in the form of a network, which includes three additional components: rules, community and division of labour: Figure 2. 3 Activity System Model (Engestrom 1987) M e d i a t i n g T o o l O u t c o m e R u l e s C o m m u n i t y D i v i s i o n of L a b o r The relationship between a subject and a community is mediated by rules, and the relationship between an object and a community is mediated by division of labour. "Division of labour refers to the explicit and implicit organization of community as related to the transformation process of the object into the outcome" (Kuutti, 1996; p. 27-28). Any time a person or a group interacts with tools over time on some object with some shared motive to achieve some outcome under cultural constraints such as conventions (rules) and social strata 24 (division of labour) in collaboration with others, one can analyse their interactions as an activity system. People participate in multiple activity systems, such as family, school, classroom, work, library, and other communities including online: "the real life situations always involve an intertwined and connected web of activities that can be distinguished according to their objects" (Kuutti, 1996; p. 30). A person engaged in one activity system is simultaneously influenced by other activity systems in which she/he participates. These influences are both horizontal, happening across communities, and also vertical as social actions are also embedded within history, culture and inequitable power relations that both influence the meaning production and shape human activities in important ways. Engestrom claims that since Vygotsky's foundational work, Activity Theory was mainly concerned with a vertical development toward "higher psychological functions." The studies on the societal activity systems conducted by activity theorists for a long time were largely limited to play and learning among children. Since the 1970s this tradition began to shift and the wide range of other applications of Activity Theory began to emerge, such as, for example, within a domain of organizational studies. Furthermore, Michael Cole (1988) and Griffin & Cole (1984) were among the first in the West to clearly point out the insensitivity of the second generation Activity Theory toward cultural diversity. It was suggested that the third generation researchers should pay attention to horizontal development and focus on questions of diversity, dialogue between different perspectives, voices, and networks of interacting activity systems. Contradiction<s/Tensions 25 Within an activity system, all elements constantly interact with one another and are virtually always in the process of working through changes (Kuutti, 1996). Activity theorists argue that changing tools is bound to change the roles of the members of a learning community and vice versa. For example, changes in the design of a tool may influence a subject's orientation toward an object, which, in turn, may influence the cultural practices of the community. In addition, it is possible that the object and motive themselves will undergo changes during the process of an activity (Kuutti, 1996). Therefore, Engesrom (1987) called an activity system "a virtual disturbance-and-innovation-producing machine" (p. 11) and emphasized the importance of contradictions, driving these changes. According to Kuutti (1996), contradiction indicates: "a misfit within elements, between them, between different activities, or between different developmental phases of a single activity. Contradictions manifest themselves as problems, ruptures, breakdowns, clashes" (p. 34). Engestrom (1987) draws parallels between contradictions within activity systems and Bateson's (1978) concept of "double bind" defined as inner contradictions. In his book "Learning by Expanding" Engestrom characterizes a contradiction as "a social, societally essential dilemma which cannot be resolved through separate individual actions alone - but in which joint cooperative actions can push a historically new form of activity into emergence" (p. 16). Activity theorists see contradictions as sources of development. Wells and Claxton (2002) also see the positive aspect of contradictions. They write that overlap in goals and willingness to understand each other is crucial for collaboration to occur, but difference and disagreement are also valuable: "Without the contribution of new and even antithetical ideas 26 and suggestions, there would be no way of going beyond ways of acting and thinking repeated from the past" (p. 5). Hierarchical Structure of Activity and Object-Orientedness According to Leont'ev (1978), activities can be categorized into three hierarchical levels: (1) activity - motive, (2) action - goal, and (3) operation - condition. People engage in activities to fulfill motives they may or may not be consciously aware of (Kaptelinin & Nardi, 1997). According to Guribye (1999), To realize these activities, certain actions must be performed. These actions are directed towards a conscious goal and are related to one another by the same overall objective. Activities form a frame of reference within which the individual actions can be understood. Actions, in turn, are composed of functional sub-units called operations. These operations are automatic processes that are routinized and unconscious. Unlike actions, they are not directed toward a goal, but are carried out automatically, providing an adjustment of actions to the current situation and the prevailing conditions, (p. 27) Guribye quotes Leont'ev's classical example of action-operation dynamics in order to better demonstrate the mechanisms of how actions turn into operations: When learning to drive a car, the shifting of the gears is an action with an explicit goal that must be consciously attended to. Later, shifting gears becomes operational and can no longer be picked out as a special goal-directed process: its goal is not picked out and discerned by the driver. Conversely, an operation can become an 27 action when conditions impede an action's execution through previously formed operations, (cited in Kaptelinin & Nardi, 1997 p. 2) Lantolf (2000) notes that activities can only be observed by others at the level of conditions. Since the motives and goals of particular activities are planned internally they cannot be determined solely from the level of concrete doing. The same observable activity implemented by different people can be linked to different goals; and, vice versa, different concrete activities can be ascribed to the same motives and goals. The understanding of the hierarchical structure of activity and object-orientedness can be used productively in cross-cultural studies to provide insights into the diverse nature of culturally-constructed human mental and social behavior. Wertch, Minick and Arns (1984), for example, compared the interactional activity that arose between rural Brazilian mothers and their children and urban school teachers and their students in a puzzle-copying task. The differences emerged with regard to how the children were mediated by their caregivers. Urban school teachers provided strategic instructions for children, e.g. they explained the steps to be undertaken and gave them instructions on how to work with the puzzle in general. Although the children made many mistakes, they still completed all the work with the model by themselves under the guidance of adults. Rural mothers, on the contrary, did all the work for their children by directly prompting them to pick certain pieces of the puzzle. These children implemented the task with very few mistakes, but did not learn how to work with the model independently. The researchers explained the differences in performing the task by culture-informed considerations. In the rural community the goal was an error-free performance which was associated with the major economic occupation of the region - the 28 production of pottery and clothes which should be done carefully. This goal was projected onto the implementation of the experimental task. In the case of the urban dyad, the leading activity was educational - i.e. teaching children to think independently. Thus, from the perspective of Activity Theory, while both the rural and urban dyads engaged in the same task, - they were not engaged in the same activities. Despite the fact that the pieces were selected and placed by both dyads, the motives and goals underlying that activity differed. Similar research - "Same task: Different activities" was conducted by Coughlan and Duff (1994). The researchers demonstrated that tasks are defined not externally on the basis of task procedures but internally on the basis of the participants' goals, desires, and motivations. Therefore, teachers need to focus less on task outcomes and more on the processes or students' orientations and multiple goals during their implementation. This is especially important, given that tasks do not manipulate learners to act in certain ways because participants invest their own cultural backgrounds, goals, actions, and beliefs (i.e. their agency) in tasks and by doing so, transform them in various culture-specific ways. Theoretical Counterparts of Activity Theory First developed by Vygotsky (1934/1986) and his collaborators - Leont'ev and Luria among others, Activity Theory has gained increasing recognition and has been further developed by scholars in over a dozen countries (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996). Currently among the expanded and re-interpreted versions of Vygotsky's Activity Theory, there are the following well-recognized approaches: Situated Learning Perspective (Suchman, 1987; Lave & Wenger, 1991), Communities of Learners (Brown, 1994; Brown & Campione, 1996), Theory of Cognitive Apprenticeships (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Collins, Brown, & 29 Newman, 1989), Social Practice Perspective (Barton & Hamilton, 2000), Ecological Approach (van Lier, 2000), and Nexus Analysis (Scollon & Scollon, 2004). Each of the new re-interpreted approaches and theories fall under the umbrella of Socio-Cultural Theory of learning (SCT) (Lantolf, 2000). A l l SCT theories and perspectives are united by common principles. First of all, they view cognition and conceptual changes beyond the individual mind to include learning that is built up by mediated conversations among members of peer groups, local learning communities, and broader cultural systems. Therefore, they focus on relations (of thought, action, power), rather than on objects (words, sentences, rules). Second, humans are viewed as part of a greater natural order of living context who function due to their use of "affordances," a notion which replaced the outdated concept of "input." Van Lier (2000), building on Gibson's (1979) ecological theory of perception, writes that: The environment is full of affordances - language, demands, enablements and constraints that provide opportunities for learning to the active, participating learner. What becomes an affordance depends on what the organism does, what it wants, and what is useful for it. (p. 252) A n affordance is not the property of an actor or an object, but the relationship between the two. Therefore, the concept of affordances is always understood together with a concept of agency, defined by Murray as "the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices" (quoted in Kramsch, A'Ness & Lam, 2000; p. 97). Learners bring to interaction their own personal histories, values, assumptions, beliefs, rights, duties, and obligations. They do not merely conform to their world but actively 30 transform it with their agency: "no amount of experimental or instructional manipulation can deflect the overpowering and transformative agency embodied in the learner" (Donato, 2000; p. 47). Third, those who work within SCT view learning as evolving around notions of identity, meaning, and boundaries, summarized in the following principles, outlined by Wenger (1998): 1) Identity - Learning is inherent in human nature. It is not a special kind of activity separable from the rest of our lives. - Learning is a lifelong process. It is not limited to educational settings but is limited by the scope of our identities, therefore, educational designs should be viewed not in terms of the delivery of a curriculum, but more generally in terms of their effects on the formation of identities. - Learning transforms our identities. Learning is not a reproduction of the past through cultural transmission, but the formation of new identities that can take its history of learning forward. Opening identities is exploring new ways of being that lie beyond our current state. - Learning constitutes trajectories of participation. What participants learn becomes part of their identities, and is thus carried into other parts of their lives. 2) Meaning Learning is, first of all, the ability to negotiate new meanings. Meaning exists neither in us, nor in the world, but in the dynamic relation of living in the world. 31 - Learning creates emergent structures. Negotiation constantly changes the situation to which it gives meaning and affects all participants. This process generates new circumstances for further negotiation and newly developed meanings as well as new relations with and in the world. 3) Boundaries - Learning requires dealing with boundaries. A learning community must push its boundaries and interact with other communities of practice/activity. - Learning is a matter of alignment. Coordinating our energy and activities in order to fit within broader structures and contribute to broader enterprises (activity systems). - Learning is a matter of imagination. Educational imagination is not about accepting things the way they are, it is daring to try on something really different, to open new trajectories, to seek different experiences, and to conceive of different futures. Learning involves an interplay between the local and the global. Joining a community of practice/activity system involves entering not only its internal configuration but also its relations with the rest of the world. 2.1.1 Online Environments as an Activity System In contrast to an earlier "asocial" technology-deterministic view of Computer Mediated Communication, Activity Theorists argue that "the social world is not only outside but also inside people, as part of their identities, and functions even when they sit -physically alone - in front of their computer screens" (Mantovani, 1996; p. 191). Through involvement in collective activities, no matter how widely distributed, learners are in contact with the history, values and social relations of their community or among communities. In 32 addition, "what is lacking physically is supplied by participants in a complex game of identifications, categorizations and projections" (Mantovani, 1996; p. 121). These processes make possible interpersonal relationships: people communicate to the extent in which they live in common symbolic systems. Therefore, all C M C systems - the Internet, local area networks (LANs), bulletin board, e-mail, and conferencing systems - can be described as networks, in which the technical and the social forces cannot be clearly separated: "Technologies are social, because they are produced by, facilitate, and shape human interactions. .. .Correspondingly, the www is a technology with social and technical dimensions and mediates and contributes to social as well as technological change" (Falk, 1996; p. 7). If we apply the Activity Theory framework (Figure 2.3) to C M C , then we will focus on the following 7 elements: 1. The subjects: Sftadents, teachers, or experts who are carrying out an activity. 2. The object (s) of activity: Individual or collective goals/motives of online interaction. 3. The mediating tools of the activity: Computer technologies, texts. 4. The community of learners: A l l people who are connected by the electronic network and are concerned with the problems and issues discussed. 5. The division of labor: Responsibilities commonly associated with the roles of "student", "teacher", "expert", etc. 6. The rules or norms regarding appropriate social actions. 7. The contradictions within and among activity system elements driving changes. These seven elements are inextricably related. Because of their highly contextualized nature and learners' agency that influence all nodes (7 elements) of an Activity System, 33 technologies do not and can not have a uniform effect on participants. Therefore, groups of similar composition working on similar tasks can perceive and use the same technologies in very different ways. 2.1.2 Learning within an Activity System Because activity systems are dynamic, they constantly present opportunities for learning. Vygotsky (1978) called these opportunities "Zones of Proximal Development" (ZPD) which he defined as: "the distance between actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers" (p. 86). According to Vygotsky, at the beginning stages of development, the object-oriented acts of an individual are accomplished through the joint activity of a learner and another person performing together as a working social system (interpsychological plane). Only after that, the interpsychological categories used between people in discursive practices are appropriated as tools for thinking within a learner as an individual category (intrapsychological plane). As John-Steiner and Mahn (1996) note, "Vygotsky conceptualized development as the transformation of socially shared activities into internalized processes. In this way he rejected the Cartesian dichotomy between the internal and the external" (p. 3). Mahn and John-Steiner (2002) argue that oftentimes the notion of ZPD is understood too narrowly, e.g. only in terms of cognitive gains within a classroom context, whereas 34 learning in ZPD involves all aspects of the learner - acting, thinking, and feeling within a broad network of relationships (see also Wells, 1999; p. 331). They view ZPD as "a complex whole, a system of systems in which the interrelated and interdependent elements include the participants, artifacts and environment/context, and the participants' experience of their interactions within it" (Mahn & John-Steiner, 2002; p. 49). Most importantly, Mahn and John-Steiner draw our attention to Vygotsky's least known concept "perezhivanie" which is defined as "lived and emotional experience" and which "describes the affective processes through which interaction in the ZPD are individually perceived, appropriated and represented by the participants" (p. 49). Learning within an Activity System should take into account emotional scaffolding, which includes "the gift of confidence, the sharing of risks in the presentation of new ideas, constructive criticism, and the creation of a safety zone" (p. 52). Applied to the online environments associated with the risk-taking to expose one's thoughts and ideas publicly, affective factors discussed by Mahn and John-Steiner such as, for example, fear and anxiety can diminish ZPD. Thus, learning within an Activity System should be viewed not as internalization of discrete information or skills, but as "negotiating new ways of acting together" (Russell, 2002; p. 69) and expanding involvement - social, intellectual and emotional - with some activity system over time. In C M C environments it is those human interactions, mediated by a range of tools, that allow zones of proximal development to emerge. Computers can be viewed as one tool among many others through which knowledge, identity, authority and power relations are 35 constantly (re)negotiated and collaborative learning can take place. Namely, C M C can promote the following aspects of collaborative and engaged learning (Chism, 1998, p. 7-8): 1. Building group coherence among students through engaging them in collaborative problem-solving, and creating an online community as students elaborate on discussions that began in class or continue to deal with unresolved issues. 2. Refining communication skills, critical thinking, and creative thinking as these aspects cut across all content areas and can be enhanced through electronic communication. 3. Online tutoring and providing feedback to students, sharing information, and processing ideas. Students can share papers and post drafts of their work for their peers and the instructors to critique. The students' works-in-progress can be refined through three types of apprenticeship: 1. The tutor-tutee model of apprenticeship learning through communication between teacher and student (Leont'ev, 1989), which allows more teacher guidance and individual student's reflection. The role of a teacher is to facilitate negotiation of meaning by asking for clarification and thought-provoking questions, thereby, stimulating students' higher order thinking. 2. The collaborative model of apprenticeship learning (Bayer, 1990) with students providing scaffolding for one another through student-student communication and the joint construction of knowledge. 3. The peripheral participation model of apprenticeship learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991) through contact with broader discourse communities. This model posits that learners in diverse settings learn best through limited but steadily increasing participation on the periphery of the communities they seek to enter. One of the examples of this kind of 36 apprenticeship is the C M C between global partners when they seek entrance into the trans-global and trans-cultural community. To understand the nature of learning as conceptualized by Activity Theory, one needs to ask the question of how that which is inside a person might change over time as a consequence of repeated social interactions with other people and their tools, including such tools as computers and language. There is no one answer as learning is situated, and, therefore, it is not a neat transfer of information but "a complex and often messy network of tool mediated human relationships that must be explored in terms of the social and cultural practices which people bring to their uses of the tools they share" (Russell, 2002; p. 73). 2.1.3 Summary: Activity Theory Above I have outlined the historical development of the Activity Theory, demonstrated the relationship between the Activity Theory and the Socio-Cultural Theory and presented a model of the Activity System (Figure 2.3) an expanded version of which will be also used for data analysis in this study. I conceptualized the online environment as a separate activity system and discussed the essence of learning within this system. In what follows, I narrow the focus from discussing learning in general to learning language and culture in particular, as conceptualized by A T and SCT. 2.2 Learning Language and Culture In the above section I argued that learning is a social process taking place through interaction with others. Currently, language educators also move their focus away from the individual (associated with acquisition) toward social, cultural and ecological consideration 37 of human behaviour (associated with participation and socialization metaphors). In what follows I will discuss three metaphors: acquisition, participation and socialization which mark this shift. 2.2.1 From Acquisition to Participation and Socialization According to Sfard (1998), the acquisition metaphor makes us think of knowledge as a commodity (input), and the mind as a storage where a learner accumulates this commodity (potential output). This metaphor describes language as a set of rules and facts to be acquired. In contrast, the participation metaphor understands learning "as a process of becoming a member of a certain community" (Sfard, 1998; p.6). As Hanks (1996) argues, the acquisition metaphor emphasizes the what to study in SLA, while the participation metaphor stresses contextualization and engagement with others to investigate the how to study or act. Along these lines, Donato (2000) argues that the acquisition metaphor requires evidence of what was learned after the instructional treatment, often gathered in the form of post-tests. In contrast, the participation metaphor finds evidence for learning in an individual's growing and widening (or limiting) activity in a community carried out through shared practices of discourse with expert participants. Variables in learning are made visible through the increasing (or decreasing) participation and emergent communication of the learners with their teachers and each other - "an observable feature of the classroom interactions that cannot be denied" (Donato, p. 41). If researchers and instructors adopt the acquisition metaphor (associated with the 'taking in' and possession of knowledge) as indicators of achievement, the failure to achieve 38 may be explained as an individual's low aptitude, lack of motivation, or inappropriate learning strategies. On the other hand, the participation metaphor evokes other reasons for an individual's failure to achieve, such as - an individual's marginalization from a community of practice, insufficient mediation from an expert, or scant access to a learning community (Norton & Toohey, 2001). Despite the critique of the traditional acquisition metaphor, researchers do not argue for its elimination, but, rather, advocate balancing it with the participation metaphor - the two should complement each other (Sfard, 1998). Interestingly, Sfard does not include in the discussion the metaphor "socialization," which is closely related to the concept of "participation" due to its emphasis on an interactive nature of learning. Meanwhile it is important to discuss this metaphor as it has been very influential in the study of language acquisition. Cazden (1999) defines socialization as "the process of internalization through which human beings become members of particular cultures, learning how to speak as well as how to act and think and feel" (p. 63). On the other hand, Wenger (1998) defines participation "as a membership in social communities, an active involvement in social enterprises," and "a complex process that combines doing, talking, thinking, feeling, and belonging''' (p. 56). Definitions of participation and socialization are very similar - in both cases authors talk about membership in communities/cultures, which involves speaking, thinking, acting, feeling in ways these communities and cultures do. The differences seem to be insignificant, yet crucial in understanding both terms. Cazden uses the term "internalization" which considers the Vygotskian psychological aspect. Wenger, in contrast, uses the terms "involvement" and "belonging" emphasizing more the importance of the social aspect. 39 I see the relationship between these two metaphors as follows. In order to socialize into a particular community of practice, learners first choose to participate or not to participate in the given community. If they choose to participate, they move steadily from peripheral to central participation through acquisition of knowledge and socialization into a culture of a particular group. Therefore, language socialization is a more inclusive term than language acquisition and participation, as it involves pragmatic, syntactic and semantic competence, and, more importantly, a psychological aspect (Cazden, 1999). The relationship between these three metaphors can be graphically presented as follows: Figure 2. 4 Correlation between Acquisition, Participation and Socialization S o c i a l i z a t i o n : What What ? A Acquisition V . V Cazden (1999) writes that language relates to socialization in three ways: 1) "There is socialization by or through language, where language is the means, the primary medium for socialization into culture" (cultural content). 2) "There is socialization for language, where situation-specific and culture-specific language use is the outcome" (dialect, grammar). 3) "There is socialization about language in the form of knowledge about and attitudes toward, language forms and functions" (pragmatics) (p. 63). Compared to the acquisition metaphor, the metaphors of participation and socialization imply that learning language, culture, and content happen simultaneously t H o w H o w ? Participation 40 (Mohan, 1985; Mohan & Beckett, 2001). In what follows I will review how the concept of culture changed from being viewed as a separate skill into the integral part of the socialization process. 2.2.2 Shift in Culture Learning: from "What" to "How" In the language classrooms culture is usually studied in terms of ideas (values and beliefs), behaviors (customs, habits, language) and products (artifacts, literature, music, food). The categories of behaviors and products reflect the notion of culture as observable phenomenon; whereas the category of ideas reflects the notion of culture as something which is internal, but which can also be explicitly described. Based on this categorization, Robinson (1985) distinguishes 4 approaches to culture: behaviorist, functionalist, cognitivist and symbolist. From the behaviorist point of view, culture consists of shared and observable sets of behaviors (e.g. traditions, customs, and habits). In the language classroom this approach leads to the study of discrete practices or institutions such as "family," "ethnic food," "customs and traditions," etc. Behaviorists focus on the behavior itself, rather than on understanding or explaining why and under what circumstances certain behavior takes place. On the other hand, the functionalist approach focuses on functions or rules underlying behavior that are shared and can be explicitly described. It is assumed that by understanding the reasons behind particular events and activities, such as celebrating holidays, wearing national clothes, etc., learners will better understand and tolerate people of different cultures. Guest (2002) expressed his concern that the behaviourist reduction of rich and complex cultures to a few salient and general principles is "misrepresenting foreign cultures 41 by reinforcing popular stereotypes and constructing these cultures as monolithic, static 'others,' rather than as dynamic, fluid entities" (see also Marker, 1998). Such representation, in Guest's view, are "politically motivated constructs that serve to essentialize and exoticize this 'other'." As a result, culture teaching prevailing over the last decades can be compared to an "exercise in creating taxonomy of differences between familiar and 'exotic' cultures" (p. 154). Guest also argues that those who are hypersensitive to differences may feel threatened and view interaction with another culture's members not worth the risk. Therefore, viewing culture as a static entity and emphasizing cultural differences "exacerbates adversity instead of encouraging mutual respect" (p. 154). The third, cognitivist approach shifts attention from the observable aspects of what is shared to what is shared "inside" the "cultural actor". Based on this approach, culture is like a cognitive map which differs among ethnic groups. While cognitivists focus on the mechanisms for processing (i.e. cognitive map), symbolists focus on the products of processing (i.e. meanings derived). For them the key question is: "How is meaning derived, and through what symbols is it conceptualized and communicated?" According to symbolists, particular actions are more related to specific situations than to a rigid group membership. The symbolist approach can be summarized in two propositions: 1) the connection between culture, language and behaviour is essentially one of a resource for managing meaning; and 2) the application of these resources is contextual in that it depends on the perceived situation. Thus, instead of being a rigid map that people must follow, culture is best thought of as: "a set of principles for map making and navigation. People are not just map-readers; they are map-makers. Different cultures are like different schools of navigation designed to cope 42 with different terrains and seas" (Frake, 1977; cited in Spradley, 1979, p.6-7). In other words, cultural norms and practices are not fixed properties but rather are constituted in members' daily activities and social interactions. People construct and sustain reality in terms of their own cultural assumptions and cultural mandates, which, in turn, are made real in members' communication and interactions. According to Yokochi and Hall (2000), "Concrete examples of successful communication give the culture life" (p. 210). Symbolists' understanding of culture brings us back to Vygotsky's Activity Theory (and Marx and Hegel philosophy which inspired Vygotsky's work) as it is based on cultural-historical dialectical theory of phylogenetic and ontogenetic development which views cultural development as an ongoing, dynamic process in which learners continually synthesize new cultural input with their own past and present experiences in order to create meaning: Meaning is the product of. . . the integration of successive past and present (and future) experiences into a coherent whole, a life-world, which every individual creates, but also internalizes (the creations of others becoming one's own experiences) and projects onto his or her interactions with others (Dolgin et. al. 1977, cited in Robinson, 1985; p. 11). Such a view of cultural development has been adopted by a number of modern researchers. Kramsch (1993), for example, applied it to the second language pedagogy by introducing the "third place" model of culture learning. She argues that second language learners after many years of socialization into their own cultures and languages, face the challenge of learning a new cultural and linguistic repertoire. In acquiring new language and culture, they carry with them the "stock of metaphors" (p.43) their native communities live 43 by. Kramsch views culture learning as being a dialectical process - "a struggle between the learners' meanings and those of the native speakers " (p. 24). It is created as a result of cross-cultural encounters where learners "can express their own meanings without being hostage to the meanings of either their own or the target speech communities" (p. 13-14). Thus, symbolist understanding of culture was developed long ago, rediscovered in the 1980s, and has taken up the consideration of power relations as a new dimension more recently. Current scholars working within the neo-symbolist direction (Baumann, 1996; Clifford, 1988; Marcus & Fischer, 1986; Street, 1993) add a new "power" dimension to the definition and conceptualize culture as "negotiation of meanings among particular individuals in particular communities locked in an interplay of power relations" (Ilieva, 2001; p. 7). Based on this definition, culture is viewed as having an essentially changing and process nature and is characterized by multivocality, diversity, conflicts, and contradictions. 2.2.3 Implications for Pedagogy Harklau (1999) characterizes culture as "an elusive construct." She writes that a teacher is positioned to "reify their own interpretation of the culture being taught, making static something that is in constant flux, and making unified something that is inherently multiple" (p. 110). More importantly, as Crawford-Lange & Lange argue (1984), the static view of culture "eliminates consideration of culture at the personal level, where the individual interacts with and acts upon the culture" (p. 141). This results in the problem when "students are taught about culture; they are not taught how to interact with culture" (p. 145). To resolve this problem, Guest argues for understanding culture in a situated context with linguistic dynamics adjusted according to the nature of interaction (individual/small 44 groups), and not in order to conform to an abstract, generalized, formula "culture." He suggests that: "Instead of an overtly cultural approach, it would seem that a method more sympathetic to psychological or small-scale interactive models would ultimately be both more accurate and productive" (p. 157). In addition, given that today cultural boundaries and identities are increasingly blurred and intermingled, the emphasis should be on transcending cultural categories rather than on rigidly-defining unique and distinct traits. Guest calls on practitioners to emphasize pragmatic and linguistic universals, and psychological/social typologies, while limiting the focus on finding and interpreting differences. According to Geertz (1973), an access to symbol systems of the target culture should be attained not through arranging abstracted entities into unified patterns, but through observing events, or ethnographic process. Therefore, besides acting (writing and reading) and reflecting, learners should engage in participant observation of others' behaviors, and in some sort of field work while participating in international communities. Following Geertz, Ilieva (2001) emphasizes the unpredictability of cultural encounters and argues that response to these encounters is based on spontaneity and improvisation, rather than on pre-planned expectations. Therefore, she questions the notion of "culture teaching" and, instead, proposes a "culture exploration" framework. She sees the goal of culture exploration in developing an awareness about the relationship between language and culture and awareness of oneself as a cultural being and a "positioned subject" (Rosaldo, 1993). Ilieva sees the differences between culture teaching and culture exploration in that the first promotes prescriptive and the second interactive approaches: Whereas the first seems to impose views of the target culture on the students..., the second simply aims to ask questions and assist learners in approaching, naming, and 45 understanding their own as well as the natives' experience of the target culture and in searching for possible interpretations of it. (p. 8) 2.2.4 Summary: Learning Language and Culture Conceptualizing culture as a fixed and static entity has resulted in viewing it as a separate skill to be mastered, and as something lacking subjectivity. Current researchers argue that culture is constituted and created by active agents through communication, and that learning language, culture and content cannot be separated. The above discussion posits that instead of providing students with linguistic and cultural input we need to teach them how to participate in social activities and communication using affordances of their local contexts. This leads us to a discussion of the notion of "communicative competence" which is undergoing a new wave of interest among researchers for its focus on the "how" aspect of learning. 2.3 Intercultural Communicative Competence Hymes (1961, 1972) was the first researcher in North America to suggest that in order to communicate effectively it is not enough to know what to say, but to whom, and how. Savignon (1971) introduced Hymes's notion of communicative competence to the field of language pedagogy in her doctoral dissertation on the study of the effects of training communicative skills. A decade later, the communicative competence models proposed by Canale and Swain (1980) in Canada and van Ek (1980) in Europe gained prominence in their respective countries and abroad. They describe communicative competence as a combination of knowledge of basic grammatical principles, how language is used in social contexts to 46 perform communicative functions, and how utterances and communicative functions can be combined according to principles of discourse. Based on what others have to say about communicative competence, Crystal (1991) defines it as the speakers' ability to produce and understand sentences which are appropriate to the immediate context as well as the knowledge required to successfully communicate in socially distinct environments. Critique of the 1980s Communicative Competence Model The goal of van Ek's as well as Canale and Swain's models of communicative competence that is - reaching native-like proficiency in the target language, has been criticized by numerous scholars in the 1990s for: Creating an impossible target and, consequently, inevitable failure (Byram, 1997). Ignoring the significance of the social identities and cultural competence of the learner in any intercultural interaction (Byram, 1997). Placing all power in the hands of native speakers ("the native speaker is always right") (Kramsch, 1993). - Failing to reflect the lingua franca status of English (Alptekin, 2002). According to Byram (1997), power relations add to a new understanding of teaching communicative competence. Learners should not be limited to interaction only with those who have access to the dominant cultural capital. Instead, students' own cultural capital, although not dominant, should be equally valued. Therefore, foreign language teaching should focus on equipping learners with the means of accessing and analyzing cultural practices and meanings they encounter, whatever their status in a society is (Bourdieu, 1990). Byram envisions that learners should assume the roles not of imitators of native speakers, but of 47 social actors engaging with other social actors in a particular kind of communication and interaction which is different from that between native speakers. In this inter-national interaction, both interlocutors have a significant, but different role, and the foreign speaker who knows something both of the foreign culture and of their own, is in a position of power at least equal to that of the native speaker, (p.21) In Byram's view, imitation of native speakers' values, behaviors, and grammar .should be replaced by comparison, critical evaluation, and establishing a relationship between one's own and others' beliefs, meanings and behaviors. Echoing Byram's proposition of the role of "intercultural speaker," Alptekin (2002) suggests that a pedagogical model of the intercultural speaker of English is a successful bilingual with intercultural insights, who is both a global and local speaker of English feeling at home in both international and national cultures. Intercultural Communicative Competence in Terms of Objectives Byram's (1997) Intercultural communicative competence model is the most cited in the literature on foreign language pedagogy, therefore, I use it in this study as well. According to Byram, for successful interaction to take place, individuals need to draw upon their existing knowledge, have attitudes which sustain sensitivity to others with sometimes radically different origins and identities, and use the skills of discovery and interpretation (Table 2.1). Table 2.1 Byram's Intercultural Communicative Competence Model (1997) Skills Interpret and relate Knowledge Education Attitudes Of self and other; Political education Relativising self 48 Of interaction: individual Critical cultural awareness Valuing other and societal Skills Discover and /or interact More specifically, each competence is meant to develop: • "Skills of interpreting and relating: ability to interpret a document or event from another culture, to explain it and relate it to documents from one's own" (p. 61). • "Knowledge of social groups and their products and practices in one's own and in one's interlocutor's country, and of the general process of societal and individual interaction" (p. 58). • "Critical cultural awareness/political education: an ability to evaluate critically and on the basis of explicit criteria perspectives, practices and products in one's own and other cultures and countries" (p. 63). • "Attitudes of curiosity and openness, readiness to suspend disbelief about other cultures and belief about one's own" (p. 50). • "Skills of discovery and interaction: ability to acquire new knowledge of a culture and cultural practices and the ability to operate knowledge, attitudes and skills under the constraints of real-time communication and interaction" (p. 61). Building a Shared World through a "Dialogue of Cultures" The "Dialogue of cultures" model prominent among language educators in the Russian context shares basic principles suggested by Byram, and also helps to explain their philosophical underpinnings. This model is based on Bakhtin's (1986) and Bibler's (1988) notion of "dialogue of cultures". Based on a symbolist perspective, Bibler suggests that 49 culture can be viewed as a special link of interaction between civilizations and epochs. Seen in this way, culture can exist only in the special relationship of past, present, and future in the history of humankind. We cannot fully understand one culture in the absence of contact with other cultures. Thus, dialogue is at the very core of culture and represents a dialogical self-consciousness of every civilization (Savignon & Sysoev, 2002). The goal of the "dialogue of cultures" framework is to educate a person who: Perceives the human historical development as an ongoing process and, therefore, is responsible for his/her actions, other country, people and the future of the entire human civilization. Perceives other cultures as equal to one's own and yet, different, unique and mutually complimentary. Realizes the interdependence and integrity of all cultures and their necessity to collaborate in order to solve common global problems. Recognizes the civil rights (including cultural and linguistic) and political freedoms of other people. Cooperates with other people and social institutions in order to strive for humanist ideals and harmonization of man-nature-society relationships (Safonova, 1996). Safonova argues that the "Dialogue of Cultures" is a form of interaction between people of two or more cultures when they express interest toward one another, admit differences, accept others in their inner world, respect others' uniqueness, and, at the same time, through learning and comparison, deepen understanding of their own cultures. The dialogic communication between people of different cultures is based on: absence of judgment, acceptance of others the way they are, respect and trust; developing similar aims in 50 relation to the same situation; honesty and naturalness in expressing emotions, gaining insights into the lives and feelings of others; and ability to know and use actively the wide range of communicative means. The Dialogue of cultures framework suggests that the success of intercultural communication is determined not only by the effective exchange of information, as has been the tendency in communicative language teaching, but also by the ability to establish and maintain human relationship. Similarly, Gudykunst (1994) considers a competent intercultural communicator as a person who can satisfy "the need for a sense of a common shared world, " created through interaction with other people. As such, the efficacy of communication depends upon developing the ability to de-center and take up the perspective of the listener or reader and "using language to demonstrate one's willingness to relate, which often involves the indirectness of politeness rather than the direct and 'efficient' choice of language full of information" (Byram, 1997; p. 3). According to Byram, the functions of a) establishing relationships b) managing dysfunctions and c) mediating between people of different origins and identities comprise the concept of an intercultural speaker. Creating a shared world and being able to establish relationships can be also referred to as community development, the concept which became popular in the study of online environments over the last decade, and, therefore, discussed in the next section. 2.4 Communicative Competence in Online Environments 2.4.1 Online Community as a Web of Human Relationships Supporting the proposition that being communicatively competent means to know the language of relating and sharing the common world with people from different cultures, 51 current C M C researchers identify strictly task-based and community building features of interaction. For example, in his three-year ethnographic study of a 400-member, international group of academics who communicated with one another on listserves, Herrmann (1995) found the emergence of three recurrent kinds of communicative activity: 1. Academic, or knowledge-sharing conversations. 2. Administrative, or process management conversations. 3. Community-building conversations that included encouragement, warm and playful remarks, and expressions of gratitude. Hermann implies that in order for community to emerge it is not enough to engage solely in academic and administrative interaction. Online community cannot be formed without person-oriented interaction because the model of communication as information transfer (Carey, 1988) does not consider the fact that "it is possible to communicate only to the extent that participants have some common ground for shared beliefs, recognize reciprocal expectations and accept rules for interaction which serve as necessary anchors in the development of conversation" (Mantovani, 1996; p. 91). Instead, a new model of communication as construction of common, shared meaning is important. Shared meaning-making occurs through successive turns of talk and action. In this two-way transformative communication process, members of the group progressively create, share, negotiate, interpret, and appropriate one another's symbolic actions. By internalizing these social interactions and processes, they transform their own meaning schemes. This model refocuses attention away from individuals as independent senders and receivers of information, towards individuals as actors in a network consisting of relationships embedded in complex social structures. 52 In this regard, Rheingold's (1994) definition of the online community as "social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on... public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace" (p. 5) well captures the importance of the social aspect of community development. These webs of personal relationships are not always associated with the notions of proximity, homogeneity, and familiarity, because in real life communities are comprised of participants with different cultural backgrounds, learning styles and different needs for affiliation. As Burbules (2000) argues, "the people are drawn together by quite different purposes and are held together by quite different threads" and that "ability to imagine ... communities and realities make it possible to imagine closer affinities or on the contrary exacerbate conflicts" (p. 350). According to Burbules, "particular communities invite or discourage certain kinds of disclosure and participation" (p. 347). Certain social dynamics in C M C , e.g. group-specific forms of expression, identity, social relationships, and norms of behavior that promote different communities, have been conceptualized by Bregman and Haythornthwaite (2001) in the form of three "radicals of presentation": Visibility refers to the means, methods, and opportunities for presentation; it primarily addresses the speaker's concerns with the presentation of self and involves choices of "the timing of the entry, the content, form, tenor and tone of the representation." Relation refers to the nature of the tie between speaker and audience, and the ties among audience co-participants, including the interpersonal relationship, the number and identity of others, and history of association; it addresses the speaker's concerns with the range and identity of the audience, and audience members' concerns about relations with each 53 other. As Potts (2002) notes, people are not linked only by means of an electronic message: they are also connected by an organizational network and by a set of partly shared expectations, needs and goals, which are to some extent reciprocally recognized. Co-Presence refers to the temporal, virtual, and/or physical co-presence of speaking and listening participants; it addresses concerns with being with others at the same time and place, and being able to give and receive immediate feedback in conversations (p. 7). Burbules (2000) suggests that community is formed under mediating, political, and spatial conditions. Among these three elements, spatial conditions are directly linked to Bregman and Haythornthwaite's "radicals of presentation." According to Burbules, people transform spaces into places by acting within and upon them to make them their own. Mapping is an example of trying to turn a space into a place along a number of dimensions including: movement/stasis, interaction/isolation, publicity/privacy, visibility/hi ddeness, enclosure/exclusion. " A central factor in the extent to which this environment takes on character of a place where one can live, act, and interact confidently is the degree to which one can make choices within these dimensions" (p. 347). In order to make linguistic choices that would contribute to development of closer affinities between participants, learners need to have a sufficient level of communicative competence. They already enter online environments with some level of communicative competence, and they also develop their competence in the course of interaction. In what follows I will review the works by Chapelle (2001) and Lamy and Goodfellow (1999) on a linguistic aspect of the communicative competence development. 54 2.4.2 CMC and Communicative L2 Ability In Chapelle's (2001) view, the key question C A L L research needs to address is "How can computers be used effectively to promote development of communicative L2 ability?" (see also Pelletieri, 2000). Chapelle defines communicative L2 ability as a "communicative competence including control over both form and function of the L2" (p. 41). In her earlier work, Chapelle (1997) proposed that the communicative L2 is acquired through learners' interaction in the target language because it provides opportunities for learners to: (a) comprehend message meaning, which is believed to be necessary for learners to acquire the L2 forms that encode the message; (b) produce modified output, which requires their development of specific morphology and syntax; and (c) attend to L2 form, which helps to develop their linguistic systems, (p. 22) Chapelle shares Skehan's (1998) point that "since meaning-based tasks fail to proscribe the use of particular structures, learners have to take an active role in sorting out exactly what they are learning" (p. 47) and the teacher's task is to draw their attention to their own learning. Therefore, accountability, defined by Chapelle as the learners' responsibility to keep track of what they are learning is important in online learning. Chapelle refers to Larsen-Freeman and Long (1991), as well as Swain and Lapkin (1995) Interaction Modification theories to explain the notion of accountability: In producing the L2, a learner will on occasion become aware of (i.e., notice) a linguistic problem (brought to his/her attention either by external feedback (e.g., clarification requests) or internal feedback). Noticing a problem 'pushes' the learner to modify his/her output. In doing so, the learner may sometimes be forced into a 55 more syntactic processing mode than might occur in comprehension. (Swain & Lapkin, 1995; cited in Chapelle, p. 48) Lamy and Goodfellow (1999) extend the ongoing discussion on communicative L2 development in online environments by adding the "social interaction" perspective, according to which the best quality of learning takes place during "contingent interaction " (van Lier, 1996; p. 175-178). Contingent interaction is defined as a form of communication which exhibits the greatest equality among participants and communicative symmetry in terms of the distribution of turns and roles, and a combination of familiarity of subject matter with unpredictability, therefore, "the agenda is shared by all participants and educational reality may be transformed" (p. 180). Lamy and Goodfellow's (1999) study is based on the genre-analysis of the three types of messages, generated during an online course in French, and discussion of their value for learning. They distinguish between monologue-type exchanges, social conversations and reflective conversations and find the latter to be the most effective and valuable for promoting L2 communicative competence. In comparison to monologues and social conversation, reflective (or dialogic) conversations demonstrate both the control dimension and a reflective focus: In this type of exchange: (a) understanding is negotiated; (b) there is explicit reference to knowledge about language and about language learning (when students discuss issues related to language issues); and (c) learner engagement is rooted in a social context in which participants are able to negotiate the dimension of control in the interaction, that is, to be both learner and teacher or expert, setting the agenda for each other.(p. 52) 56 Thus, for development of communicative L2 ability in online environments, it is important to promote accountability and contingent interaction, so students can take responsibility for their own learning. After this brief discussion of the linguistic aspect of communicative L2 development, I now turn to the discussion of current research exploring the cultural aspect of being communicatively competent in intercultural online environments. As Table 1.1 outlines methodological details of the studies I am going to review, I will go straight to discussion of their main findings. 2.4.3 CMC and Intercultural Communicative Competence Kramsch and Thorne (2002) in their study interrogate the presumption that computer-mediated communication naturally helps learners to understand local conditions of language use and to build a global common ground for inter-cultural understanding. They identify and explore two themes - "Synchronous C M C among Americans: seeking common ground" and "Asynchronous C M C between American and French students: clashing frames of expectation ". In search of common ground American students proposed to discuss the topics they thought French students would support. However, actual communication with the French students did not meet idealistic expectations of American students. The interpretation of the second set of data demonstrated that students run across intercultural misunderstanding during communication when it was based on zero knowledge of the "different social and cultural conventions under which each party is operating" (p. 90) and "very little awareness that such an understanding is even necessary" (p. 98). 57 Most of the French interlocutors used factual, impersonal, dispassionate genres of writing, e.g. they extensively used argument building logical connectors such as "for example," "however," "moreover." They made nuanced corrections to what they felt were American mis-judgments about the situation in France. By contrast, the American students, who initiated this exchange in order to understand "How they live their everyday lives" viewed this instance of Internet-mediated communication as a ritual of mutual trust building and used an informal, highly personal genre. The authors explain the misunderstanding as "a clash of cultural frames caused by the different resonances of the two languages for each group of speakers and their different understanding of appropriate genres" (p. 94-95). In Kramsch and Thome's interpretation, "each group mapped the communicative genres they were familiar with onto their foreign language communicative practices in cyberspace." Consequently, the educational implication drawn from this study is to prepare students to deal with global communicative practices that require mastering "far more than local communicative competence" (p. 99). Although the authors see the reason for clashing frames of expectation in genre differences, they do not discuss in detail how students' local contexts might have contributed to these differences. This issue has been addressed in Thome's article published a year later. Thome (2003) approached the same set of data from the cultural-historical perspective of learning - a theory which is capable of providing a broader view of the problem. Based on this perspective, the context of local cultures is viewed as crucial in explaining cultural differences in the use of computer technologies - the relationship termed by Thorne "cultures-of-use of an artefact." Thorne defines "cultures-of-use of an artefact" as 58 "historically sedimented characteristics that accrue to a C M C tool from its everyday use" (p. 40). Thorne rightly points that due to the differences in students' experiences with computers, as well as contexts from which they were operating, uses of Internet communication tools may illustrate "a heterogeneous set of communicative practices with different rules, community norms, and division of labour of these two speech communities" (p.40). The activity of online interaction was different for the French than it was for the Americans, in part because the Internet communication was used in different ways in each case, e.g., French students were communicating through a surrogate (the teacher who was sending their messages). Thorne concludes that radically different cultures-of-use of the Internet communication was the primary reason for different activity outcomes, such as genre differences. In his study Thorne illustrated a potential of Activity Theory to provide a broad and holistic picture of a relationship between contexts, computer technologies and participants. The study could have benefited more from interviews with students as there was a lack of students' perspective on their own participation in online interaction activity. It would have been interesting to find out if French students had free access to computers would they participate differently than others with limited access? Would students from countries other than America and France interact differently? While Thome's study is theory-driven, O'Dowd's (2003) qualitative inquiry is a grounded ethnographic study of a year-long online language exchange between five pairs of Spanish (located in London) and English (located in Leon) language second-year university students. The context of their interaction was structured and placed within 10 collaborative 59 tasks, such as writing introductory letters, doing word association, comparing expressions, explaining idioms, reading and discussing a joint text. For each task students were required to write at least two messages to their partners. O'Dowd explores characteristics of e-mail exchanges that lead to students' intercultural learning and focuses on two kinds of aspects - communication breakdowns and successful communication through examples taken from 5 e-mail exchanges between 5 pairs of students. He uses Byram's (1997) intercultural communicative competence model to explain the varied success of paired exchanges. The study confirmed that intercultural exchanges which fail to function properly can lead to a reinforcement of stereotypes and a confirmation of negative attitudes. More importantly, O'Dowd found that not only task design is important for development of intercultural communicative competence, but also the learners' ability to take part effectively in e-mail exchanges. Pairs that worked well tended to invest a lot of time in their messages, and included some personal, "off-task" messages, to acknowledge their partners' comments, and to respond to their questions. They also tended to take into account the sociopragmatic rules of interlocutors' language and included questions that encouraged feedback and reflection. O'Dowd's significant finding was that such factors as motivation, proficiency level, computer access, and interest in the target culture were less significant for students than the reactions students received when they explained aspects of their culture to their partners, e.g. interest encouraged them to write more, to learn more, and to change their attitudes toward the target culture. O'Dowd identified the future research direction in testing whether the characteristics of successful e-mail exchanges and the content of effective e-mails presented in his study 60 need to be modified or expanded in other cultural and institutional contexts. Next, he argues that greater investigation is needed into the question of how teachers can maximize the intercultural learning experience of e-mail exchanges as well as "how notions of language, nation, and cultural identity are addressed by learners in intercultural e-mail exchanges" (p. 138). The next study by Belz (2003) suggests that intercultural communication in telecollaboration may be more fully explicated i f researchers augment content-based interpretations of this phenomenon with linguistic analysis. Such analyses would broaden the investigation focus on what learners say to include how they say it. Belz uses a Hallidayian-inspired linguistic analyses of intercultural competence (IC) with a focus on the "attitudes" component of Byram's model. The learners' developing attitudes toward both the other and the self are analyzed within the frameworks of (a) appraisal theory and (b) epistemic modality. As in all previously discussed studies, the context of telecollaboration in Belz's study was structured. During the first stage US students created personal web-pages. Using the information on web-pages, the German students chose their e-mail partners. During the second stage, participants got to know each other through e-mail discussion of 3 sets of parallel texts. Throughout the third stage international partners created a joint web-page in which they examined in greater detail a topic that arose from their common engagement with parallel texts. Belz suggests that the tendency of the German focal students - Anke and Catharina toward negative appraisal, categorical assertions, and intensification may be reflective of broader German interactional patterns of directness, explicitness, and an orientation toward 61 the self. On the other hand, Eric's (American focal student) patterns of self-deprecating judgments, positive appreciation, and the upscaling of positive evaluations may index broader English communicational patterns of indirectness and implicitness. The major strength of Belz's study is that it supports the qualitative findings with strong quantitative evidence in the form of systematically counted linguistic units. Belz demonstrates how linguistic micro-analysis can be productively used for providing an additional "analytic cut" (Layder, 1993, p. 108) in a telecollaborative language study. In Belz's case, data includes a linear, relatively short thread of e-mail interaction between 3 people (1 American vs. 2 Germans), therefore, micro-linguistic analysis fits very well to this type of data without leaving an impression of incompleteness and fragmentation. On the other hand, this type of analysis would not fit the purposes of my large-scale study aimed at a thick and rich description of I-CMC. Rather, a broader analysis, of social interaction similar to one used by Nolla (2001) and Potts (2001) would be more suitable to reveal the interpersonal and intercultural dynamics between participants. Finally, the study by Ware (2003; in press) focuses on the aspect of tension in intercultural C M C . The data in Ware's study pose the dilemma of how students' assumptions about the nature of online communication can inform their online discourse choices in ways that lead to a lack of communication. Ware coded the multiple qualitative data sources described in table 1.1 for salient themes that were presented as a series of six major tensions. She found that differences in students' previous experience with technology, their opinions about an appropriate level of formality or informality, English and German languages valuation, individual reasons for choosing to participate in a telecollaboration, as well as differences in how students construed the primary purpose of the telecollaboration and how 62 they allocated time to participate in the exchange led to "missed" communication or students' avoidance of interpersonal communication by choosing not to directly address or engage their online partner. Therefore, research and practice on I-CMC must focus not only on how students jointly construct online discourse, but how they co-construe the context for their online participation. Ware identifies limitation of her study in the problem of generalizability because of the small number of participants, therefore, she suggests that the future research should involve "a greater number of student cohorts using the larger study design" (p. 31). 2.5 Summary of the Chapter: Building on Existing Research In this chapter I analyzed the literature which laid a background for this study. First of all, I discussed Activity Theory and presented an Activity System model (Figure 2.3). A n online environment, as any web of human relationships, can be conceptualized as a separate activity system, interacting with other activity systems, such as broader physical contexts in which it is embedded. I explained that Activity Theory views learning as expanding one's participation in activities from the periphery to the center, through negotiating the ways of acting together with other members of the activity system. I demonstrated that such understanding of learning is also pertinent to language and culture learning. Thus, based on the analysis of current literature, I highlighted the shift in language learning from acquisition to participation and socialization metaphors. I also emphasized the shift from behaviourist to symbolist approaches in culture learning, where culture is learned not by memorizing various target cultural phenomena, but through negotiation of meaning with representatives of other cultures. Therefore, culture learning is associated with the unpredictability of cultural 63 situations and the active exploration of these situations through the competent use of language. I lead this discussion to demonstrate that learning language, culture, and content happen simultaneously and that the focus in language and culture pedagogy should be on the development of intercultural communicative competence. As this study explores intercultural online environments, I reviewed the current literature on manifestation/development of intercultural communicative competence in online environments. This study intends to use Byram's (1997) and Lamy and Goodfellow's (1999) criteria to evaluate the development of students' communicative competence as well as the notion of "cultures-of-use of the artefact" coined by Thorne (2003) to demonstrate the relationship between contexts, computer technologies and students' participation. In addition, the study is going to test if the previous findings on I-CMC are replicated in this study such as for example, the role of genre (Kramsch & Thorne, 2002), influence of motivation, computer access, and interest on students' participation (O'Dowd, 2003), possible tensions (Ware, in press) and themes emerged in studies by Chase et al. (2002) and Reeder, et al. (2004). This study is also aimed to expand the scope of research participants by including instructors and the way they shaped the interaction and pay special attention to the notion of cultural identity as addressed by learners. Thus, building on previous research, this study is aimed to provide a more expanded picture of the nature of participating and learning in online intercultural environments. In the next chapter I discuss methodology used in this study. 64 CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY 3.1 Research Design This study undertakes a qualitative research paradigm based on both qualitative and quantitative data in order to provide the most detailed responses possible to the research questions. The qualitative paradigm operates under the following assumptions: - individuals construct reality, multiple realities exist in any given situation, and - the construction of reality is context-bound (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Therefore, I believe, a qualitative research design is the appropriate methodology to understand the nature of online intercultural environments where students interact and share ideas to solve problems collaboratively, and construct knowledge through social interaction. A qualitative research design avoids generalization in favor of "thick description" and hypotheses, and aims at understanding the richness and complexity of a particular phenomenon (Merriam & Simpson, 1989). Denzin (1989) describes "thick description" in the following way: It goes beyond mere fact and surface appearances. It presents detail, context, emotion and the webs of social relationships that join persons to one another. Thick description evokes emotionality and self-feelings. It inserts the sequence of events for the person or persons in question. In thick description, the voices, feelings, actions and meanings of interacting individuals are heard, (p.83) During this poststructuralist research era, qualitative inquiry assumes that many interrelated layers of meaning exist in any given situation, and the goal is to search for 65 patterns among these layers for the purpose of understanding rather than prediction or control. The methodology under the qualitative paradigm relies on inductive logic, allowing categories, themes, and patterns to emerge (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992). This study found particularly helpful the conceptual map suggested by LeCompte & Schensuj (1999) who compare doing qualitative study, and grounded analysis in particular, to assembling a jigsaw puzzle: The edge pieces are located first and assembled to provide a frame of reference. Then attention is devoted to those more striking aspects of the puzzle that can be identified readily from the mass of pieces and assembled separately. Next [after sneaking a look at the puzzle picture on the box for hints] the puzzle worker places the assembled parts in their general position within the frame, and finally locates and adds connecting pieces until no holes remain, (p. 237) The "edge pieces" in my research are represented by the aspects of "Contexts" domain. The "striking aspects of the puzzle" include the description of Contradictions/Tensions that took place during the interaction. Finally, the aspects of the "Learning" domain correspond to the "assembled parts and connecting pieces" which complete the whole picture. 3.2 Rationale for an Activity Theory Context-Based Approach The analysis of the Intercultural telecollaboration under study is based on the Activity Theory framework. Viewing activities as developing processes reveals certain methodological implications. First of all, the Activity Theory "rejects cause and effect, stimulus response, explanatory science in favour of a science that emphasizes the emergent 66 nature of mind in activity and that acknowledges a central role for interpretation in its explanatory framework" (Cole, 1996; p. 104). In order to understand, for example, how an artefact is used, one has to study its use over time allowing for the usage to develop (Kaptelinin & Nardi, 1997). In this regards, ethnographic methods that track the history and development of practice as it naturally occurs fits well with the goals of Activity Theory. Nardi (1996) summarizes the methodological approach of Activity Theory into a set of the following characteristics (p. 95): 1 • A research time frame long enough to grasp the objects of the activity. • Attention to broad patterns of activity first, then to more narrow episodic fragments. • The use of a varied set of data collection techniques including interviews, observations, video and historical materials. • A commitment to understanding things from the users' points of view. In my work I argue that ethnographic inquiry may not be necessarily longitudinal, as it can focus on the microgenetic domain, defined by Vygotsky as the reorganization and development of mediation over a relatively short span of time (Lantolf, 2000). According to Activity Theory, an individual is viewed in relation to his/her complex contexts, involving a system of artefacts and other individuals in historically developing settings. Situations are actively constructed by the social actors, but at the same time, the actors also shape these situations. As Nardi (1996) explains, in the Activity Theory, Context is not an outer container or shell inside of which people behave in certain ways. People consciously and deliberately generate context in part through their own 67 objects; hence, context is not just "out there." Context is both internal to people -involving specific objects and goals-and, at the same time, external to people, involving artefacts, other people, specific settings. The crucial point is that in activity theory, external and internal are fused, unified, (p. 76) Therefore, it is not enough to understand human actions as context-embedded, it is important to view context and agency as constantly interacting. The complex interrelationship of contexts and agency can be presented as four overlapping dimensions linking more locally situated aspects of language use and language learning to the macro issues of social institutions, beliefs, and ideologies (Table 3.1). Table 3. 1 Structure and Agency Framework (adapted from Layder, 1993 and Belz, 2002) Context: Cultural & geopolitical structures - Large-scale, society-wide worldviews encompassing beliefs, values, and attitudes toward social phenomena; - Group identities such as social class, gender, and ethnicity; - Social issues such as linguistic rights and language education policies Setting: Institutional contexts - Social institutions within communities and groups in which people hold memberships including families and schools; - Communicative practices and activities of particular educational contexts Situated Activity: Communicative activities Activities constituting a particular learning context that shape and are shaped by individual involvement. Agency: Individual experiences - Ways individuals index and construct their own social identities and roles and those of others; -Ways that individuals in their interactions with each other create social concepts such as motivation, affiliation and competence Within this multilayered world, a social action is shaped by a close interplay of both macro-level phenomena such as social context and setting and micro-level phenomena such as linguistic interaction and agency. 3.3 Background of the Project 68 The project analyzed in this dissertation was one in the series of other long-distance projects conducted throughout the Spring, Summer and Winter Semesters of 2001 under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Carey. The Spring 2001 project involved around 40 Japanese and Russian undergraduate ESL/EFL students from the two universities in Canada and Russia. I presented the results of this project in a symposium organized by Dr. Carey at the C A A L Conference in Quebec in 2001. The Summer 2001 project involved graduate Canadian students and undergraduate Russian students who interacted online for a month. We presented these results at a symposium in C A A L 2002. Valerie, one of the graduate students who also worked under the supervision of Dr. Carey went to Mexico to teach English for a year and we decided to launch the third project in the Fall of 2001 which would connect Japanese (in Canada), Mexican (in Mexico) and Russian (in Russia) EFL undergraduate students. However, because of the differences in schedules and some organizational problems beyond our control (challenges to change the curricula in the Canadian and Russian contexts and the lack of access to the computer lab in Russia), the Japanese and Russian students, although received their passwords, did not join the Mexican students and the latter interacted by themselves, with me, being their guest visitor. Therefore, we began to negotiate the possibility that the Japanese and Russian students would join the bulletin board in the coming term (Spring 2002). Thus, the negotiation with instructors about implementation this project began in the Fall 2001 semester. The Japanese, Mexican and Russian instructors as well as their university administrations expressed great enthusiasm about the project and gave their permission to conduct the study. In January 2002,1 created the Webpage introducing students to the upcoming project and to the pilot projects we had conducted before connecting the Japanese 69 and Russian students. In February this website was uploaded to the WebCT courseware (Appendix I). 3.4 Participants The study involved 52 Japanese (38 female and 14 male), 37 Mexican (16 female and 21 male), and 46 Russian (32 female and 14 male) students divided into 4 unlocked forums1 (A-D) with 32-35 participants in each (Table 3.2). There were approximately equal number of students from three cultures and genders in each forum. Instructors and three project coordinators were assigned to facilitate one forum each. Table 3. 2 Number of Participants across Forums/Cultures/Genders Participants. JF' J M MF , M M RF RM Total by forum Forum A 9 4 5 6 7 4 35 Forum B 11 2 4 6 9 3 35 Forum C 8 5 4 5 9 2 33 Forum D 10 3 3 4 7 5 32 Total by gender 38 14 16 21 32 14 ' T h e first letter stands f o r n a t i o n a l i t y , the s e c o n d letter stands for gender, e . g . J F - Japanese F e m a l e During the first stage of the project students could post their messages only within assigned forums, however, later, students were allowed to post in other forums as well. By the end of the project students' participation resulted in 3,022 messages (forum A - 854, forum B - 746, forum C - 769 and forum D - 653 messages). Students 1 Unlocked forum -open for students from other forums as well. 70 The distinctive feature of the Intercultural online community in this study was its diversity - students were from countries that were extremely culturally distant from one another (Appendix A) - a fact often mentioned as beneficial by students and instructors in the interview. There was a great diversity within Mexican and Russian cultural groups as well. For example, Mexican students historically came from diverse Spanish and American Indian cultural backgrounds. Russian students were representatives of two cultures: Russian and Sakha (Native Siberian). Japanese students also came from a variety of intra-cultural backgrounds, however, compared to Mexicans and Russians, they represented the most ethnically homogenous group. Also students from the three countries had different travel-abroad experiences (Appendix D). As for their socio-economic status, generally speaking, most of the Japanese and Russian students belonged to the middle socio-economic class, and Mexican students belonged to the upper socio-economic class. Among the Russian students there were some who came from the rural area and whose socio-economic status was considered below average. Many Japanese students reported in the interview, that they had to work part-time to save money for the trip to Canada. In comparison, the Mexican university brochure described local students as representing the wealthiest socio-economic class. They could afford paying tuition fees equal in amount to the one paid in major American universities, as confirmed by the Mexican instructor. Students had several things in common - they were 18-22 years old second/third year students studying English as a second/foreign language. Japanese students had various majors such as international relations, letters, law, social sciences, policy science, business, and economics. Mexican students were majoring mostly in engineering and computers. A l l 71 Russian students were majoring in world economics which implicated international relations and policy science. Generally, the students' English proficiency varied from intermediate to advanced. Some students had been learning English for 10 years, others began to learn it since they entered the university. Instructors Six people - Dr. Carey - a project leader, three instructors, a technical assistant and myself - were involved in coordinating the project. The Japanese and Mexican instructors, the student providing technical support, and myself were fellow graduate students and all three of us except for the Japanese instructor worked under the supervision of Dr. Carey. The Russian instructor was the only person who never met face-to-face with other project facilitators, except me as I worked with her at the Russian University before I came to Canada. Valerie, a Mexican instructor, was a Canadian white female graduate student who went to Mexico to teach English for a year. Marc, a Japanese instructor, was a Hispanic male graduate student residing in Canada. Svetlana, a Russian English instructor, was the Sakha female, bilingual in Sakha and Russian languages. I, a researcher and a teacher, was originally from the same place and ethnic background as the Russian instructor. Whereas Valerie and Marc just began their teaching careers, Svetlana has been working for more than 20 years as a university professor and had a high administrative status in her university. Valerie and Marc had an advanced level of computer literacy and had been using WebCT courseware extensively prior to this project, which was not the case with Svetlana who said that the students had "much more advanced" computer proficiency than she did. 72 As all three instructors came from different cultural historical backgrounds and, more importantly, operated in different instructional contexts, they mediated the project differently to their students. In this study I analyze in detail how the project was mediated by each instructor and how differences in instructors' experiences with information technologies and educational philosophies shaped students' participation and learning. 3.5 Research Context Students were located in three International sites - the Japanese students in a Southwestern Canadian university, the Mexican students in a major university in Northern Mexico, and the Russian students in one of the universities in the North East of Russia. The University in Mexico was a modern upper economic class institution for privileged, highly motivated students, which made it non-representative of other small Mexican universities. The university in Russia, although not as large and well-renowned as other central universities of the country, was the main university in that region. The Russian students were enrolled in the most prestigious department and were also highly motivated students. The university in Canada, hosting Japanese students, was a major research university. Japanese students came for a 9 month exchange program. Here is how Yuka, a Japanese student described this program in one of her BB messages: 100 [Japanese] university students come to [University in Canada] to study for about 8 months. Therefore, we're taking special program that [Canadian and Japanese universities] created. We're studying culture, economics, media, sociolinguistics and stuff. Those who have enough TOEFL score, they can take one or two regular courses too, I'm also taking a regular course, linguistics. 73 The WebCT interaction was integrated into the face-to-face English courses students took in their home countries. The course taken by Japanese students - "Language Across the Curriculum: Introduction to Language and Culture" - was a language through content course, focused on exploration of various topics in language and culture including comparative cultural patterns, power relations, linguistic imperialism and colonialism, cultures in contact, and the challenges of intercultural communication. The course taken by Mexican students - "Advanced English: Critical thinking of Global issues" - was also a language through content course, focusing on raising global awareness and centered around the following themes: environment, mainstream and alternative media, social activism/culture jamming, cultures and subcultures, political correctness, and current global topics. In the case of the Russian students, they participated in the project instead of taking "Business English" section of the "English for the World Economics students" course. In this course students studied how to write business letters and discuss economy-related issues. Although the Russian students' course was not directly focused on cultural studies, students still were interested in all aspects of international relations. As several students said in a group-interview: "We are the World Economics students - we are interested in what happens around the world." Shortly before the project we posted project materials on the BB including schedule, instructions how to use B B , suggested topics, and certain requirements, such as writing 5 messages a week (Appendix I). There was no strict agreement among instructors on these requirements - it depended on their decision to either follow them or not in accordance with the local curricula and their educational beliefs. It also depended on students i f they wanted 74 or not to follow these posted online requirements. After the process of fitting this activity to the curricula, instructors allocated the following percentage for students' participation in the project: Japanese - 20%, Mexican - 25%, and Russian - 100% (as the project was conducted instead of the Business English section of the Russian students' English course). The students were evaluated for course credit on the basis of their participation in the telecollaborative exchange by their course instructors. Other facilitators of the project and a researcher could not have any bearing on students' final grades. The WebCT bulletin board was intended to become an additional space for students where they could practice the English language through asynchronous discussion of various global and cultural issues. The purpose of the project was to promote thought-provoking, engaging and active interaction in English as a second/foreign language in order to improve students' language, intercultural awareness and critical thinking. The project was conducted in two stages for 12 weeks: from January 21 to March 3 and from March 3 to April 5 of 2002. Each stage lasted for 6 weeks one after another. The end of the first stage was marked by archiving all messages excluding a few interesting threads, with the purpose of not overwhelming students with the large number of messages and to increase the speed of downloading the site. The second stage, therefore, began with a clean bulletin board. Statistical data from the project presented in this dissertation raised new issues that needed to be explored and helped to finalize the research questions. The graphs in the figure 3.1 illustrate the dynamics of students' participation in each forum week by week. Japanese students were the first who entered the forums and posted their introductions. The Mexican and Russian students' semesters began a week later, therefore, they joined the Japanese 75 students in the next week and then began to steadily increase their participation in all 4 forums. Figure 3. 1 Posting Activity in Forums A - D 76 Forum C 100 | to 80 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Week Forum D 100 -i </, 80 -Week The first peak of active participation for Japanese, Mexican and Russian students took place on weeks 4 and 5 (Figure 3.1) indicating that by the middle of the project students began to pay more attention to their participation. The fall of the peak began between weeks 5 and 6 and its steady rise in all four forums reflects the beginning of the second stage. Only in forums A and D is the second peak higher than the first one. Table 3.3 illustrates that on the average, the Japanese students posted half as many messages as the Mexican and Russian students. On the average, the largest number of 77 messages was posted by the Mexican females. The high standard deviation indicates that there was a big difference in student participation within cultures - ranging from those who posted only 5 messages to 60 messages and higher. Table 3. 3 Posting Activity - Student Averages Females Mean STD Males Mean STD Japanese 15.1 16.2 Japanese 12.9 7.2 Mexican 36.8 17.9 Mexican 25.0 13.5 Russian 32.8 17.6 Russian 26.3 15.1 The reading activity revealed a new surprising finding - despite that the Russian students posted the large number of messages, they read the least. At the same time, Japanese students, who posted the least, on the average, actively engaged in reading activity. Table 3. 4 Reading Activity - Student Averages Female Mean STD Male Mean STD Japanese 359.1 303.2 Japanese 221.6 140.5 Mexican 436.4 266.0 Mexican 292.4 211.4 Russian 195.6 206.9 Russian 172.3 155.3 " N u m b e r o f messages r e a d " is s o m e w h a t overstated as it is c a l c u l a t e d b y W e b C T i n cases w h e n students m i g h t h a v e o n l y h i t o n the m e s s a g e s , but not n e c e s s a r i l y read t h e m . These statistical findings left me wondering: Why did students participate in the same project in three different ways? In addition, I was curious to find out i f students had any complaints with regards to these differences. 3.6 Coordinating the Project 78 The role of facilitators was to promote critically framed discussions that would lead to the development of critical thinking and stretching students' L2 and intercultural awareness. Facilitators asked questions that would potentially lead to deep and critical thinking. They were attempting to achieve the Multiliteracies four step pedagogical model -situated practice, overt instruction, critical framing and transformed practice. Each facilitator on average posted around 300 messages. Keeping in touch via e-mail and telephone with instructors and project coordinators was crucial throughout the study as some modifications to the project were conducted during its implementations. Interaction with a Russian instructor was delayed, as she had limited access to the Internet, so, it was easier to connect with her via telephone. Thus, problems with passwords, chat sessions, the ways to facilitate the project by offering new topics, negotiation on who would facilitate which forum, reflections on students' interactions and other organizational issues were all discussed by instructors and project coordinators via e-mail and the telephone in case of the Russian instructor. As each instructor was responsible for facilitating a particular forum during the time when someone was too busy, others took an extra-load to substitute for the "missing" instructor. Thus, implementation of this project required investment of large amount of time, flexibility, quick decision making on the part of instructors, as well as their ability to facilitate discussion in a way that would lead to students'scaffolding within the ZPD. 3.7 Materials WebCT courseware was first developed at the University of British Columbia and is now commercially available to public and private schools and universities throughout the 79 world. The courseware has a variety of components including, web-based resources and links, an assessment grid, a calendar, private chat-rooms, and an electronic bulletin board. The different components can be designed by the instructor to provide materials and information that are specific to each course. The interface of the discussion board looks as follows: Figure 3. 2 Interface of the Discussion Board Group A' • V i t w IM!Pslilf»iilliilillilil$ Home » Sesec! tons' bttetcuituiaiStrafair.* Catnip A aOUj>A/(^e55®pie^*] AM Mmmi /Shew U t^taa ftma^wt/ltnihiimtftil i n •'PMMiiMlmto ^ ©' w^Y<iw^.Wffly««94 2 0 0 5 <0;i3 sew . E l ! ^ , X B r x E a j | ^ •H ai»: i3smfcH i^»«tt*jsfc:M« tMooa 'itikmw & ll«6. Ywff iM i^j^ tSyyanft ManM« I r*ltt<frtt MEW . Oil».XysiE2£teiya(SVyvM^ Tw F*bj4 208203:17 K W H 1333, Saa»H««im»»CT<aik»> M™» i t o H f i r o 11'<!'«« . • 21W, Yury Ptitaffin Mnri M«11,3002 (S f f lKW ' © 2410. YoiyPecy^iffiW^ Wid M*i 1% M0i3(U*3 NEW The following are some of the features of the WebCT that encourages student written interaction: Students' entries can be organized chronologically or in threads that follow a particular theme or topic. Thus, students can see who has written the latest posting, 80 or follow the line of an argument between a group of students, and can interject at any point. Students can view all postings or only the ones that they have not yet read. Students can initiate a new topic for discussion by using the 'compose' button, or they can respond to another student's question or entry by pressing the 'reply' button. Each posting includes the student's name, the date the article was posted, and the subject of the article. The teacher and students can use the quote function to incorporate text from a previous posting in order to comment on it in a new posting. This feature is particularly useful to teachers as it allows them to make comments or corrections to student writing using the bulletin board. Also, students could post their academic essays and pictures onto the electronic bulletin board by using an attachment, or by copying and pasting their document onto a message. A l l messages were stored and could be retrieved at any point, but once a message had been posted, no further changes could be made by students. 3.8 Data Collection Procedures Because the online telecollaborative project was an integral part of the courses taught by instructors in Canada, Mexico and Russia, students who were enrolled in these courses were also enrolled in the project. Whereas students were evaluated for participation in the project, their participation in the research was volunteer-based and had no bearing on their final grades. Right before the project students were offered the opportunity to participate in the study. Those who agreed to participate in the study, signed the consent forms (Appendix 81 J) and underwent a three-phased data collection process (Table 3.5). Some aspects of the data collection process such as filling out the questionnaires and participation in the mid-interviews were part of the students' English course. Table 3. 5 Types of Data Collected for the Study Time Line of the Project Type of Data # of students interviewed/surveyed* Japanese Mexicans Russians Beginning Language Learning & Technology survey 47 37 39 Intercultural Awareness survey 43 32 39 Middle E-mail interview 28 31 36 End Language Learning post-survey 45 36 35 Intercultural Awareness post-survey 26 37 35 Individual interviews 40 22 18 Additional data WebCT bulletin board protocols (3,022 messages), Participant observation, Interviews with instructors Russian students Group interviews (40), Reports with project evaluation, Video-taped session Written project evaluation Japanese students Journal entries (51), Face-to-face Informal conversations * N o t a l l students w h o g a v e their consent p a r t i c i p a t e d in data c o l l e c t i o n p r o c e d u r e , as they w e r e absent at the m o m e n t . T h i s e x p l a i n s w h y the total n u m b e r o f students are u n e v e n f r o m table to table. At the beginning of the project, all students filled out two pre-project questionnaires: "Language Learning and Technology" and "Intercultural Awareness" which provided information about students' previous experience with technology, learning English and their intercultural awareness (Appendix B). In the middle of the project the e-mail interviews consisting of 7-item open-ended questions were sent out to all students to document their attitudes toward participation in the project (Appendix C). Face-to-face interviews were also conducted with volunteer Japanese 82 students. In addition, three students - one volunteer from each culture were interviewed in the WebCT chat room by another graduate student. At the end of the course, all groups filled out two post-project questionnaires - one on language learning and another on development of intercultural awareness (Appendix B). Also, students were invited to participate in follow-up interviews. I interviewed Japanese students after the project ended during the first two weeks of April, 2002. The Mexican students had an option to be interviewed either face-to-face by their instructor or through electronic chat. Most of them preferred chat interviews in the private Web-CT chat-room or using M S N software. The remaining students were interviewed by Valerie face-to-face after the project ended based on the questions I sent her beforehand. I interviewed Russian students face-to-face upon my arrival in Russia, in May, 2002. Russian students chose to be interviewed in the Russian language, therefore, all recordings after being transcribed have been translated into English. The interviews lasted 40 minutes on average. In addition, the Russian instructor video-taped her students during the final class in the computer lab where students reflected in English on their participation in the project. This was Svetlana's own initiative, not required by research, however, students gave their permission to use this video-taped session as an additional data source. I also interviewed instructors at the end of the project. A l l students' and instructors' names were changed and individually identifying information about participants was removed. In addition, within each electronic message all the original formatting, spelling, use of alternate characters, emoticons etc. were left as written by the participants. 83 3.9 Data Analysis To analyze the data for the three research questions of the study, I developed a model of Intercultural Context-Embedded Telecollaborative Activity (ICETA) on the basis of the Activity System model (Figure 2.3) and the Model of "Multi-directional inter-relationship of Structure (i.e., context and setting) and Agency (i.e., situated activity and self) in the investigation of human activity" (adapted from Layder (1993) and Belz, (2002)) (Table 3.1). Figure 3. 3 Intercultural Context-Embedded Telecollaborative Activity (ICETA) Model Explanation of the ICETA Model The online activity, presented in the form of the triangular model of an Activity System, is embedded within broader contexts such as institutional contexts and geopolitical structures. Institutional contexts and geopolitical structures are also activity systems on their own which consist of the same categories as the triangular model inside the circles. The broader circles are divided into three parts representing three different countries and institutions in which students were located. 84 The nodes in the form of small circles within the triangle are also divided into three parts representing points where students' objects, tools, rules/norms did not merge. In comparison, the dark small circles within nodes represent the points of unification and similarities when students share similar tools, and their objects, rules/norms coincide. The outcomes of activity are presented in the form of a larger circle with the dark circle inside representing the emergence of the shared "third place" (Kramsch, 1993) when intercultural learning takes place. On the contrary, students who have differences in tools, norms/rules and objects and who fail to form the international community remain outside the "third place" and, therefore, limit their intercultural learning opportunities. The ICETA model helped to analyze and organize the data within three broad domains: Contexts, Contradictions and Learning. A l l interview transcripts and other written data were analyzed by "unitizing" and "categorizing." Unitizing is a coding operation in which information units are isolated from the text. Categorizing information units derived from the unitizing phase are organized into categories on the basis of similarity of meaning (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; p. 345-347). The whole process of data analysis involved the following steps: Step 1: Initial Reading of Transcripts After all tape-recorded interviews were transcribed (and translated in English in case of the Russian students and their instructor), I reviewed all the data twice before developing a preliminary list of categories, themes and patterns. Several prominent themes emerged from the initial reading. The transcripts were coded on recurrence of emergent themes. Step 2: Organization and Coding of Responses Next, the recurrent responses were sorted and grouped by the seven elements of the Activity System (subjects, tools, objects, community, division of labour, norms/rules, 85 contradictions and outcomes) and three contexts (geopolitical, institutional and context of interaction). I read through all the responses for each research question, highlighting pertinent information, and developed a master coding list of response categories. Within each element of the activity system, response categories were counted by frequency. Step 3: Review of Total Transcripts and Final Coding Using the master coding list, I coded the full transcript of each participant, noting when the second or third references were made in a response category. The coding list was then finalized. Step 4: Completion of Data Analysis and Report of Findings The analysis of each response to research questions and analysis of each interview transcript were conducted. This resulted in themes, patterns, and categories for the research questions. To determine when it was time to stop processing data, I used the four criteria proposed by Lincoln and Guba (1985): exhaustion of sources; saturation of categories, emergence of regularities and overextension. In what follows I describe the data analysis process under each question separately. Research Question 1: What is the nature of the relationship between contexts, participants and computer technologies? I began the analysis from the outside "Geopolitical structures" circle of the ICETA model (Figure 3.3). I described the salient themes that emerged from the interviews, journals, and interaction protocols data, which fell under 6 categories of the triangular activity system and then within "Geopolitical structures" overarching category. For example, on this level one of the salient themes was a "community" aspect of an Activity System when students reflected on their belonging to 86 imagined communities (Anderson, 1991; Pavlenko & Norton, in press) of non-native speakers of English . On the institutional level, the "tools" aspect of the Activity System was a salient category, as students reflected on how an access to computers/or lack thereof influenced their participation. Next, I focused on data which fell within the category "context of interaction" represented as a triangle in this model. To respond to this category, I documented the salient themes from students' reflections on their experiences when they came in direct contact with each other in the online environment. Finally, I presented the salient themes within the "agency" (subjects) aspect of the model, reflecting how students themselves shaped the interaction. Research Question 2: What are the cross-cultural contradictions/tensions of International telecollaboration? To answer this question, I focused on "Contradictions" aspect of ICETA model. According to Nardi (1996), the Activity Theory is more valuable for understanding what went wrong rather than doing predictive work, therefore, it was natural to structure the analysis based on two questions: 1) What happened? (Observable behaviour, students' complaints). 2) Why did it happen? (Explanations elicited from the interviews). The discussion of contradictions was also intended to reveal the processes of online interaction. Research Question 3: What kind of learning does I-CMC promote? The third question corresponds to the "Outcomes" aspect of the ICETA model. Because "Learning" is such a complex phenomenon, exploration of this question was built with the help of three types of data and research methods. As the project was relatively short, it was impossible to expect major changes in students' language proficiency and views. Therefore, the exploration 87 of the "learning processes" was important as they captured the patterns that could potentially result in learning. 1. Content analysis of interaction protocols. To reveal the learning processes, I analyzed the interaction protocols. I was looking for the following evidence: - Moments of interaction which captured changes in students' perspectives, manifested in students' expression of expanded ideas and explicit statements of learning. - Examples of dialogues vs. phatic interaction that, I believe, lead or did not lead to intercultural learning (Table 3.6). 2. Analysis of social interaction. Further, I compared students' manifestation of intercultural learning in the first and the second stages of the project. In order to do it I used the model adapted from three studies: Byram's (1997) "Intercultural Communicative Competence" model, Lamy and Goodfellow's (1999) "Reflective Conversation" model and O'Dowd's (2003b) 4-elements based model of Intercultural learning. O'Dowd's (2003b) model itself is the adaptation of Byram's (1997) model which includes the following elements: Element 1 Function: Introducing, apologizing, joking (i.e. social communication) Element 2 Function: Reporting factual or personal information about one's own culture Element 3 Function: Critical reflection on home or target culture or explicitly comparing 2 cultures Element 4 Function: Asking questions to members of the target culture. According to O'Dowd, all elements except element 2 lead to very effective intercultural learning. I expanded O'Dowd's model by including such aspect as phatic 88 interaction. I also viewed "Comparison" as a separate element. In table 3.6 I drew parallels between Lamy and Goodfellow's (1999), Byram's (1997), and adapted from O'Dowd (2003b) models: Table 3. 6 Criteria for (Intercultural) Communicative Competence Development Interaction functions (Adapted from O'Dowd, 2003b) Lamy & Goodfellow's (1999) "monologues - conversations -reflective dialogues" model Byram's (1997) Intercultural communicative competence model 1. Phatic interaction 1.1 Reporting factual or personal information about one's own culture copied from the source Short conversations -exchanges of a social nature. Copied Monologue - a text containing no invitation to interaction 2. Informative, but less critical messages (Reporting factual or personal information about one's own culture in one's own words) Personal Narrative Reflective dialogues Knowledge of social groups and their products and practices in one's own and in one's interlocutor's country 3. Critical reflection on own or target cultures 4. Explicit comparison 5. Asking questions to members of target culture Reflective dialogues Skills of interpreting and relating Critical cultural awareness/political education Attitudes of curiosity and openness Skills of discovery and interaction Reporting factual or personal information. Such type of communication is similar to the "controlled" classroom discourse in which an exchange ends after the learner replies to the teacher's question (Lamy & Goodfellow, 1999). It lacks features characteristic to critical reflections, and, therefore, does not lead to the effective learning. Here is an example of the fact-reporting message: Message no. 2 4 8 0[Branch from no. 1094] P o s t e d by Rodrigo on Thursday, March 14, 2002 3:55pm Subject Re: National Identity I n M e x i c o t h e N a t i o n a l I d e n t i t y i s v e r y s t r o n g i n t h e s o c c e r games, when t h e n a t i o n a l teams p l a y s here o r i n o t h e r c o u n t r y p e o p l e o f Mexico o r mexican p e o p l e t h a t l i v e i n t h a t c o u n t r y t h e y c a r r i e d b i g f l a g s and p a i n t 89 t h e i r f a c e s and make a l o t o f n o i s e t o s u p p o r t our team... Critical reflection, Comparison, Questions. A critical reflection has features including personal exchange involving negotiation of contingent aspects, form focus, and strategy focus, as well as structured opportunities for comprehending meaning and producing modified output (Lamy and Goodfellow, 1999). This type of communication is the most closely associated with Byram's model of the competent intercultural communication (Table 2.1). For example: Message no. 1094 P o s t e d by Yasu on Monday, F e b r u a r y 25, 2002 10:13am Subject National Identity D i d you watch t h e f i n a l men's hocky game (the U n i t e d S t a t e s v e r s u s Canada) i n Feb 24th? Canada won t h e f i r s t p r i z e . ... Ca n a d i a n i d e n t i t y became s t r o n g e r t h a t day. I t h i n k t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s makes i t s t r o n g e r . I h e a r d t h a t C a n a d i a n p e o p l e do not want t o be seen as Am e r i c a n . A l t h o u g h t h e r e are s i m i l a r i t i e s between t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s and Canada, i n f a c t t h e y a r e d i f f e r e n t . I guess t h a t many Canadians thought "We won A m e r i c a . " r a t h e r t h a n "We won t h e hocky game." I n Japan, t h e r e ar e few p e o p l e t a k i n g f l a g s i n such a case as i n Canada. I t h i n k Japanese i d e n t i t y become s t r o n g e r a l i t t l e , t hough. How about i n Mexico and Russia? Do you take your f l a g s and your national i d e n t i t i e s become stronger? Phatic communication. Given the relative superficiality of phatic communication, it is difficult to see in what non-trivial sense understanding is being negotiated or how a focus on form might work through such an unreflective, though protracted, exchange (Lamy & Goodfellow, 1999). Here is an example of phatic communication: Message no. 3261[Branch from no. 2547] P o s t e d by Lina on Monday, March 25, 2002 11:35pm Subject Re: G l o b a l i z a t i o n H i ! ! ! Of c o u r s e g l o b a l i z a t i o n h e l p s us t o grow up. To my mind may be i n t h e n e a r e s t f u t u r e you w i l l have t e c h n o l o g o c a l p r o g r e s s and t h e g l o b a l i z a t i o n w i l l t a k e p l a c e t h e r e . To my mind we have t o do something f o r i t . 90 Based on the criteria of ICC development (Table 3.6), such elements as a) critical reflections (reflective dialogues), b) social interaction and c) questions to communication partners in this study served as indicators of the (intercultural) communicative competence development. Aspects that I considered not to lead to the communicative competence development were a) fact-reporting messages (monologues) and b) phatic interactions. Within each of the 5 categories there was a variety of smaller social functions, that could not be ignored. Therefore, I coded each message in two focal forums A and B for the following categories: Table 3. 7 List of Coding Element Functions 1. Social interaction 1.1 Expressing agreement, solidarity 1.2 Expressing positivism, gratitude, invitation for interaction 1.3 Apologizing 1.4 Giving advice 1.5 Explicitly stating interest/curiosity/learning 1.6 Expressing readiness to provide more details if asked 1.7 Expressing disagreement, tension 1.8 Stating one's nationality 1.9 Referring to existing theories/articles/books 1.10 Leaving e-mail 2. Reporting factual or 2.1 Reporting information about one's own culture personal information 2.2 Reporting negative sides of one's culture 2.3 Reporting information about other topics 2.4 Personal stories 2.5 Reporting info + personal stories 3. Critical reflection 3.1 Reflection critically on home or target culture 3.2 Comparing 2 cultures 4. Asking questions to 4.1 "What do you think about it?" members of target culture 4.2. "How about your country?" 4.3 Actual wording of the question 4.4 Personal questions, e.g. "Do you like...? Do you know?" 4.5 Asking about own culture 4.6 Request for additional info, e.g. "Can you send me info?" 5. Phatic communication 5.1 Expressions not contributing to forum discussions 91 Step 3 - Survey and Interview-based analysis. Finally, I presented findings with regards to students' perceptions of learning based on major themes from their interview and post-survey responses (Appendices B & C). 3.10 Validity Validity is an elusive construct as applied to interpretive research. Depending on the "interpretive communities" or other audiences... validity will be quite different for different audiences" (Altheide & Johnson, 1994; p. 488). Therefore, I take the view that validity in qualitative research is a judgment produced by the readers of a research text. In this light, validity is not a property of my data, research design, or analysis per se; it is a social construction focused on the credibility, trustworthiness, reliability, and believability of my accounts. I describe below the specific strategies I have used to strengthen this validity. For research findings to contribute to the knowledge base of a phenomenon, they must be judged trustworthy. According to Guba and Lincoln (1985), all research is judged by four criteria: credibility, applicability, consistency and neutrality. This research attempted to verify Guba and Lincoln's (1985) concept of "credibility" through: Persistent observation (via revisiting and reorganizing of raw data); Searching for negative and discrepant examples within each case; Use of critical subjectivity; Triangulation and data convergence by looking for consistency of analysis. Use of different approaches to analysis in response to the ideas that may emerge from different ways of exploring and reorganizing the data. 92 Triangulation rests on the assumption that the weakness in a single method may be compensated by the strength of another method. Using several sources and types of data and data analysis was an effective way to provide the concept of validity for this study (Denzin, 1995). For example, I triangulated my rating results of students as deep, strategic and surface communicators. Instructors' ratings coincided with my rating, thereby, indicating trustworthiness. The list of coding and an excerpt of the transcript was given to one of my colleagues and checked for the degree of match in order to provide reliability of the social interaction analysis. Her coding and my coding coincided which provided additional reliability of the data.I also used analytic memos and continually reviewed them in light of new evidence. Literature was continually consulted, and data continuously reviewed. 3.11 Limitations Qualitative studies such as this are intended to provide detailed descriptions of one set of participants in one setting, existing within a fixed period in time. Although such studies may inform other educators and instructors as to the range and types of issues that may be pertinent to their own settings, the results cannot be extended and directly applied to other learning situations. The next limitation is related to the nature of the qualitative research methods such as the 'truth value' of the study. Poststructuralists argue that reality can never be fully captured, only approximated (Guba, 1981). There is no clear view into the inner life of an individual -"Any gaze is always filtered through the lenses of language, gender, social class, race and ethnicity. There are no objective observations, only observations socially situated in the worlds of the observer and the observed" (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994; p. 12). Findings are 93 created through the interaction of a researcher and participants rather than by the researcher "standing behind a one-way mirror, viewing natural phenomena as they happen and recording them objectively" (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; p. 107). Furthermore, there are hardly any means of ensuring that what students wrote and said was what they actually believed. With this type of data collection, I relied on the honesty and accuracy of the participant's, responses. The concerns I had about inaccurate accounts and false claims were minimized by creating a trusting relationship with students, anonymous surveys, and by ensuring students that they would not be deducted marks for providing 'right' or 'wrong' answers; rather, they would be rewarded for participating and expressing themselves honestly to the best of their ability. 94 CHAPTER FOUR: FINDINGS INTERCULTURAL C O N T E X T - E M B E D D E D TELECOLLABORATION ANALYSIS This chapter consists of three sections: Contexts, Contradictions and Learning (see section 1.7 for definitions of terms), with each dimension corresponding to three research questions: 1. What is the nature of the relationship between contexts, participants and information technologies? 2. What are the cross-cultural contradictions/tensions of International telecollaboration? 3. What kind of learning does I-CMC promote? C O N T E X T S Research question 1: What is the nature of the relationship between contexts, participants and information technologies? To answer this question I describe the relationship between contexts, computer technologies and students' participation based on my ICETA model presented in the Methodology Chapter (Figure 3.3). I view the Intercultural bulletin board as a separate Activity System (including object(s)/motive(s), tools, rules/norms, community, division of labour, and outcomes) embedded within Institutional and Geopolitical contexts. I focus on how contexts shaped the interaction and how interaction was shaped by students' agency. The presentation of findings within "Contexts" dimension is structured according to the following overarching themes: Geopolitical structures and salient Activity System elements Institutional contexts and salient Activity System elements 95 Context of interaction and salient Activity System elements - Agents and the ways they adapt to affordances of three contexts. 4.1 Geopolitical Structures The electronically connected classroom was not a decontextualized locale; it was embedded within a school, located within a district, situated within a local community that was an integral part of the larger global community. These contexts were activity systems that shared tools, meanings, understandings, and experiences. Analysis of the data within the "Geopolitical structures" domain identified the themes presented below. 4.1.1 Students and Instructors as Positioned Subjects Theme 1: Power relations. Before the project many Japanese students had limited knowledge about Mexico and Russia. Most Japanese students (72.1%) indicated that they had poor/no knowledge about Russia and 58.2% had poor/no knowledge about Mexican culture. Mexican and Russian students knew more about Japan than about the cultures of each other. Many Mexican students (62.6%) indicated that they had poor/no knowledge about Japan, and 90.7% had poor/no knowledge about Russia. A little less than a half of the Russian students (48.8%) reported that they had poor/no knowledge about Japan and 87.8% had poor/no knowledge about Mexico (Appendix E). Sasha, a Russian student, said: "We know about them [Japanese] more. We have many programs about Japan. I am not sure if they have as much information about Russia in Japan." Olga, another Russian student, explained such differences by unequal power relations that existed between "developed" and "developing" countries: 96 I think that developing countries want to know more about the developed. We, the developing countries have to follow and watch the developed countries and they don't. [O.B.: Which countries are developed and which are developing?] I think the developing is Russia, and developed is Japan. Mexico is more likely developed rather than the developing one. (Interview) Also Jose, a Mexican student, explained his interest in Japan and Russia as follows: "I like to learn about other cultures, especially Japanese and Russian, I think that we can learn very much about them, they are powerful cultures and we have to take them as an example" (mid-interview). Thus, some students thought that there were unequal power relations between their countries which influenced their willingness to interact with one another. Theme 2: Canadian Multiculturalism. The Japanese students participated in the project not from their home country, but from Canada where they had been living for 6 months since the beginning of the project. Therefore, one of the main themes that emerged from the interviews with the Japanese students was the influence of Canadian context on their interest in other cultures. Many students reported in the interview that living in a "mono-cultural" country like Japan and moving to multicultural Canada made them interested in cultures more: "Japan is a mono-cultural country, therefore, I like to interact with people from other cultures" (Yumiko). "Living in Canada makes us to be interested in cultures more" (Mari). Several Japanese students also had a chance to meet Mexicans in Canada: "I met Mexicans and heard a lot about Mexico in Canada" (Toshi). However, the Japanese students did not report that they met any other people from Russia in Canada besides me. Seven Japanese students, influenced by their instructor who had a Hispanic 97 background and the course within which this project was integrated, went to Mexico during their Christmas break. At the same time, the possibility to interact with Canadians face-to-face constrained participation of some students such as Eriko, who wrote in her journal: In my opinion, the best ways of knowing that other culture is making friends and talk them face-to-face!!! There are many opportunities in this daily life in Canada! BB is good for some people but not so good for person like me. For Eriko, the interaction face-to-face with Canadians and other international students. was more important than investing her effort in distance communication with Mexican and Russian students. Theme 3: Stereotyping. The main theme that ran across multiple messages of students was an emphasis on the diversity which existed within their countries and which was always undermined behind the simplistic nature of stereotypes. Overall, many Mexican students blamed Hollywood in creating wrong stereotypes about Mexico, evident in the following message: Message no. 2292[Branch from no. 1965] P o s t e d by S t e l l a on Tuesday, March 12, 2002 5:37pm Subject Re: C u l t u r a l stereotypes, Images and Objective r e a l i t y H e l l o S h i g u e . . do you remember me??? i am s T e l L a from M e x i c o . , w e l l i was c u r i o u s about your message because i know t h a t you came t o Me x i c o . , and i have a q u e s t i o n . , have you ever seen american movies? because you know i n american movies you always see mexicans with b i g hats with guns.. and i n the border of U.S to Mexico they show Mexico l i k e a d i r t y c i t y . . but t h a t i m a g i n e i s f a l s e . . d o n r t you t h i n k thaT? ...byee! ! s T e l L a Akiko opposed the stereotype that people generalized all Asians - "Asian is.. . ," neglecting the differences that existed between diverse Asian people: 98 Message no. 3113[Branch from no. 2379] Posted by Akiko on Friday, March 22, 2002 2:23am Subject Re: Cultural stereotypes, Images, and Objective reality I agree w i t h you. I a l s o t h i n k we c a n ' t c a t e g o r i z e p e o p l e . I sometimes hear " Asian i s I t h i n k we can see differences even within one country and I f e e l why they categorize us as Asian, i t i s t r u e t h a t A s i a n might have t e n d e n c y t o do t h a t but i can say t h a t i t ' s not a p p l i c a b l e f o r e v e r y A s i a n . I a l s o t h i n k media l i k e movie or TV a f f e c t t o our s t e r e o t y p e s f o r each country... Another Japanese student opposed a stereotype that all Japanese were quiet. Based on his own example of interacting with Canadians, he showed that stereotypes about Japanese as being quiet might have been created because of their insufficient command of English language. Message no. 2923[Branch from no. 1765] Posted by Yoshi on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 11:48pm Subject Re: Cultural stereotypes, Images, and Objective reality One o f my roommates who i s Canadian has a s t e r e o t y p e . I t i s t h e s t e r e o t y p e t h a t Japanese a r e q u i e t . I u s u a l l y go out f o r dinner w i t h my roommates who a r e Canadians on weekend. D u r i n g t h e dinner, t h e r e was a l o t o f c o n v e r s a t i o n . But I d i d not j o i n a l m o s t a l l o f t h e c o n v e r s a t i o n . So, one o f my roommates might have t h o u g h t t h a t Japanese a r e q u i e t . I w i s h I c o u l d have j o i n e d t h e c o n v e r s a t i o n , but I d i d not c a t c h t h e c o n v e r s a t i o n . I f I want t o b r e a k down t h e s t e r e o t y p e , I have t o l e a r n t o speak and l i s t e n t o E n g l i s h w e l l . The main theme in the messages of many Russian students was about ethnic diversity in the Russian context and the lack of information about their native republic and that many people might not have even heard about it. Tina wrote: "I'm sure most of you didn't hear about [my republic], that's why I ' l l write about it." Another Russian student, Toma, wrote the following message which she thought reflected common knowledge about her republic in the eyes of those who lived in other parts of her country and the rest of the world: Message no. 2197[Branch from no. 54 0] P o s t e d by Toma on Monday, March 11, 2002 7:00pm Subject Re: My notion of Japanese, Mexican, and Canadian H i , e verybody! To say t h e t r u t h I u n d e r s t a n d what M e x i c a n s f e e l because we have t h e same s i t u a t i o n h ere i n [our r e p u b l i c ] . Even i n R u s s i a p e o p l e know n o t h i n g about o ur 99 c o u n t r y , so what t o speak about a l l w o r l d ! I n t h e c e n t r e o f R u s s i a some p e o p l e t h i n k , t h a t we a r e r o l l e d on d e e r s , we f i n d diamonds i n s t r e e t s , we hunt on p o l a r b e a r s w i t h i n t h e l i m i t s o f a town and we l i v e i n s t o n e wigwams!!! and so on. Of c o u r s e , i t ' s not so and sometimes i t ' s v e r y d i f f i c u l t t o o v e r p e r s u a d e them. Sometimes we do not t r y t o do i t , we j u s t t e l l them more f a b l e s and t h e y b e l i e v e ! ! ! I t ' s v e r y p e t t y t h a t p e o p l e don't know and don't want t o know about o t h e r c u l t u r e s . Toma Based on what students wrote I inferred that many Japanese students grounded their views on their experience of living in Canada. The perspectives of many Mexican students had been formed as a result of their interaction with Americans who live across the border and their trips to the US. Many Russian students formed their awareness about their republic as a result of interaction with people from their own country who live in the Eastern part of Russia. These perspectives, in their turn, were formed by mass media (Anderson, 1991) including local media and Hollywood movies. 4.1.2 Objects/Motives of Positioned Subjects Geopolitical relationships between countries of communication partners determined some students' preliminary objective to interact with students from particular cultures. Theme 1: Novelty as an incentive to interact with students from a particular culture. Many Japanese students said that they knew very little about Russia: "Despite that Russia is so close to Japan, I do not know much about it" (Naoko). Also: First of all, I am looking forward to communicating with Russian students because / have never talked with Russian people. / did not even know that Russia is a multicultural society because there is little information on Russia in Japan unless you 100 try to get some. Therefore, this is a good opportunity to get to know what Russian culture and its people are like. (Taro) Similarly, Shura, a Russian student, wrote: "I was interested in Mexican, because / knew about them a little & I had no any imaging about them" (mid-interview). Also, Danil, another Russian student, wrote: I prefer to read the most Mexicans messages because a lot of my friends were in Japan, I have redd a books about Japan and saw the films but i have not information about Mexican people, their style of life. Mexica for me is "terra incognita" and that's why I preferred Mexicans messages. (Mid-interview) Theme 2: Pragmatic interest. George, one of the most active Russian students, viewed the project as an opportunity for future collaboration, important for those who studied world economics. In one of his messages he wrote that he was interested in interacting with Japanese students, because "our relations with Japan are growing." In contrast, ".. .Mexico is very far from Russia, and I know there are some trading relations, but they are very small": Message no. 2001 P o s t e d by George on Wednesday, March 6, 2002 7:58pm Subject The advantages of the project. I n my humble o p i n i o n t h i s p r o j e c t i s not o n l y f o r i m p r o v i n g o ur E n g l i s h language s k i l l s , because as I mentioned m a j o r i t y o f you have v e r y good E n g l i s h , but also to f i n d f r i e n d s , maybe future partners i n business and so on. ... Our r e l a t i o n s with Japan are growing and i t ' s good to know. Japan i s very close to our boarders and t h i s f a c t makes a l o t of advantages. I know t h e r e a r e some problems w i t h f o r m e r i s l a n d s o f Japan , wh i c h s t i l l c a n ' t be s o l v e d by our a u t h o r i t i e s . ...Mexico i s very f a r from Russia, and I know there are some Trading r e l a t i o n s , but they are very small. And I'm s u r e That we're the generation who i s going to solve these problems or w i l l do the best to do i t . So, t h i s p r o j e c t seems t o be v e r y u s e f u l and advantageous, and we s h o u l d n ' t l o o s e o p p o r t u n i t y we have. George The Japanese student, Tsuki, wrote the following message in response: 101 Message no. 3217[Branch from no. 2001] P o s t e d by Tsuki on Monday, March 25, 2002 8:54am Subject Re: The advantages of the project. h e l l o , i t i s T s u k i . I found your message r e c e n t l y and I was i m p r e s s e d t h a t you were thinking about t h i s p r o j e c t as a view of your future. I agree with you. now we have chance t o know each c o u n t r i e s and i t gonnabe our i m p o r t a n t e x p e r i e n c e and a partonership. In Japan, I donot meet people from Russia so that i t i s hard to know the circumstance. I wanna ask you about R u s s i a . Do you see Japanese p e o p l e i n your c o u n t r y o f t e n ? Do you know any Japanese companies i n R u s s i a ? what do you t h i n k Japanese economy i n p r e s e n t ? I a l s o wanna want t o know about R u s s i a n ecnomy i n d e t a i l A r e t h e r e l o t s o f i n t e r n a t i o n a l companeis? Similarly, Fernando, a Mexican student, mentioned in the interview that "Mexico has economic relations with Japan" which was a strong incentive for his personal interaction with Japanese students. Theme 3: Integrative interest. Some students were motivated not only by pragmatic considerations, but also by simple interest in learning other cultures. As Kostya, a Russian student, said: "There was no practical interest in Mexicans. It was just interesting what kind of people they are - not from TV and newspapers, but from the primary source." Similarly, Yuki, a Japanese student wrote in his journal: Now the most interesting thing for me is about the relationship among Japan, Asia and the United States economically and politically. In this context, I can say that I am not interested in Russia and Mexico. On the other hand, it is also certain that I want to share ideas with people who are from various countries and I think it important to learn other cultures. Also, the fact that some students studied the languages of their communication partners became a strong motivation for their participation. Thus, for example, some Russian 102 student, said: "As I study Japanese it was most interesting for me to read the Japanese messages" (Luda, mid-interview); "Japanese are interesting for me, because I learn their language & I think that I have to know much about them" (Shura, mid-interview). Kaneko, a Japanese student, wrote in her journal: "learning other languages automatically leads me to be interested in those cultures and people's thoughts again because of the inseparability of language and culture." Theme 4: Opposing stereotypes. Some students were curious to find out what others thought about their countries and to oppose or confirm existing stereotypes about themselves. Ardenio, a Mexican student, said: "What motivate me is to know what people from other country think about Mexico" (mid-interview). Also some students wanted to tell the "truth" about their countries evident from what they said: I do it [participate] more of a "nationalistic pride" so to say. I want people to know something about Mexico other than a stereotype. I want to tell them about my country, and tell them the truth as I see it. (Salvador, MS, IRC interview) I wanted to explain them that we live not in yurtas [national dwelling], we are not wild people, that we also learn English, that our thinking is also well developed and we also have our own values. (Olesya, RS, Interview) I'm really glad that people from other countries are interested in knowing more about us, and Japan. I really want to tell them about real Japan and Japanese people. (Kaneko, JS, Journal) Interestingly, the Mexican students more often expressed their willingness to break stereotypes about their country compared to Japanese or Russian students. This might be attributed to what Aya and Kei, the Japanese students, said: "There are only positive 103 stereotypes about Japan, so I do not want to break them" and to what Olga, a Russian student, said: "You can not make them think differently, on this bulletin board, anyway, so it is useless to try to over-persuade them." 4.1.3 Community of Non-Native Speakers of English As students who participated in the project were all learners of English as a foreign/second language they had errors in their writing. Many Japanese students often mixed the sound "r" with " l . " The main culture-specific error of Mexican students was that they omitted "It" in the "pronoun" + "be" sentences, such as in this example: "Is a little resume of my country history, see you later, and be happy!" "Is not Mexica - is Mexico. " The Russian students tended to make stylistic errors. For example, they confused the style of writing business letters with writing messages on the bulletin board, evident in the way a few students opened their messages with "Dear sirs " and closed them with "faithfully your's, " expressions, taken from the local "Writing Business letters" book. Despite these errors, the post-survey revealed that the majority of Mexican (85.3%) and Russian (73.5%) students had a positive attitude toward interaction with other non-native speakers, which was not the case with the Japanese students. Almost 45% of the Japanese students had negative attitudes toward interaction with other non-native speakers, perhaps because they felt urgency to practice their English with native speakers during the short remaining time of stay in Canada. Table 4. 1 Students' Attitudes toward Interaction with Non-Native English Speakers Attitudes Japanese n %' Mexicans n %2 Russian n %3 104 Positive 25 55.6 29 85.3 25 73.5 Negative 20 44.4 0 0.0 1 2.9 Neutral 0 0.0 5 14.7 8 23.5 ' Percentage o f total c o u n t o f Japanese. ' Percentage o f total c o u n t o f M e x i c a n s . ' Percentage o f total c o u n t o f R u s s i a n s . The analysis of the qualitative data, found that most students did not have either negative or positive attitudes toward interaction with other non-native speakers, rather they had both attitudes at the same time. Most students perceived themselves as belonging to the same community of non-native speakers who were in an equal situation vis a vis the English language: "We are in the equal position - we are also non-native speakers, we have the same level of English, that is why, it is normal for us to interact with other non-native speakers" (Rosalinda, MS). "English is a global language - we can share different opinions about English" (Keiko, JS). "If one makes a mistake others will understand that we are learning and we can help each other" (Tina, RS). Most students had a strong awareness that they were united by the English language. As Rodrigo, a Mexican student, wrote on the bulletin board: Message no. 2452[Branch from no. 2362] Posted by Rodrigo on Thursday, March 14, 2002 9:52am Subject Re: Learning second language I t h i n k t h a t l e a r n i n g a n o t h e r language i t s v e r y i m p o r t a n t , more i f i s e n g l i s h becuase t h i s lenguage i t s t h e i n t e r n a t i o n a l lenguage. Look us!...people from Russia, Japan and Mexico, people who t h e i r native language are t o t a l l y diferents and we are speaking in english, i t s c u r i u s ! . . R o d r i g o 105 A few students reported that the interaction with non-native speakers reduced their anxiety level: "Sometimes English speakers get annoyed when they do not understand what we say" (Jose, MS). "Communication with non-native speakers made me feel more confident; I would not feel comfortable to communicate with native speakers because of my poor grammar" (Kostya, RS). Eriko, a Japanese student, realized that the interaction with non-native speakers was different in nature from the interaction with native speakers. As she said in the interview: It is very important for me to speak with native speakers, but in a sense communicating with non-native speakers is more important because we Japanese, Mexicans and Russians share same situation each other regarding as non-native and we can gain something what we can't gain from communication with native speakers. However, for the majority of students the negative aspect of interaction with non-native speakers was the possibility of borrowing one another's errors. As Rodrigo said: "It is more difficult to interact with native speakers, but more useful because non-native speakers make mistakes." 4.1.4 Summary: Geopolitical Structures On the "Geopolitical structures" level of analysis the Subjects and Objects/motives aspects of Activity system turned out to be the most salient. The ways subjects (students and instructors) were positioned by mass media as well as by geopolitics of their local contexts shaped their broader objects/motives such as pragmatic or integrative interest in 106 communication partners and intention to reverse stereotypes about their countries created by mass media. The study found that students had both positive and negative attitudes toward interaction with non-native speakers - on one hand, they were moving toward a similar goal -that is mastering English, on the other hand, they were concerned about borrowing each other's mistakes. 4.2 Institutional Contexts The interviews with instructors revealed that the administration of the three institutions in Canada, Mexico and Russia supported the integration of innovative technologies into the educational process. The website of the Japanese - Canadian exchange program proclaimed furthering "intercultural understanding among participants" as its main mission. The Mexican university was very advanced in international online technology. The Mexican and Russian universities welcomed international collaboration, which was evident from their institutional missions and previous experience of telecollaboration (e.g. "The U.S.-SiberLink Internet Project," Braunstein et. al.; 2000). 4.2.1 Object: Students' Expectations from the Project At the beginning of the project students responded to the open ended survey question "What do you expect from participation in this Intercultural Seminar?" in the following way: Table 4. 2 Students' Expectations from the Project Expectation Japanese // %' Mexican n %2 Russian It °/o 107 Learn cultures 40 88.9 35 94.6 18 46.2 Communicate 9 20.0 12 32.4 12 30.8 Compare cultures 9 20.0 1 2.7 0 0.0 Become more intercultural 5 11.1 0 0.0 0 0.0 Improve English 3 6.7 23 62.2 20 51.3 Find friends 3 6.7 5 13.5 5 12.8 Learn some foreign 2 4.4 2 5.4 0 0.0 expressions Learn own culture 1 2.2 0 0.0 0 0.0 Meet new people 0 0.0 5 13.5 3 7.7 Self-expression 0 0.0 1 2.7 0 0.0 Total 45 100.00 37 100.00 39 100.00 Students c o u l d c h o o s e several o p t i o n s , therefore, c a l c u l a t i o n o f percentage w a s based i n d e p e n d e n t l y f o r e a c h c a t e g o r y Half of all Russian students (51.3%) thought that practicing English and learning cultures (46.2%) was equally important. For 94.6% of Mexican students learning culture was the most important objective. Many Mexican students also wanted to improve their English (62.2%). Interestingly, most Japanese students had one primary goal - to learn other cultures (88.9%). Only 6.7% wanted to improve their English. These differences in goals might be explained by the overall mission of Japanese exchange program, oriented toward multicultural learning and constraints of Mexican and Russian students' local contexts in which students did not have opportunities to practice their English. In addition, the courses in which the project was integrated in three different contexts might have also influenced students' objectives. Thus, for example, the course of Japanese students was oriented toward culture learning, explaining why they expected to learn culture more than language. The courses taken by the Mexican and Russian students 108 were less culture-oriented, and, therefore, students were willing to invest their efforts in mastering their L2. Some Japanese students (20%) also had expectations to compare cultures. This can be explained by their experience of living abroad, which entailed passing through the stages of acculturation to a new environment and which involved comparing their home culture with the host culture. Also 11.1% of Japanese students expressed their willingness to become more intercultural. As Mari, a Japanese student, wrote: I am not familiar with Mexico and Russia, so I want to get to know their culture and many things. Then I want to become to feel kinship with Mexico and Russia. In addition to that, I expect that I become interested in Mexican and Russian culture. (Journal) 4.2.3 Tools: Students' Access to Computer Technologies The Canadian and Mexican Contexts: Free Access to Computer Technologies The Canadian university had a good technological basis, with multiple computer labs all over the campus and free and unlimited access to the Internet. The lab where students engaged in WebCT activity was equipped with Macintosh computers and each student had an individual station. In addition, all Japanese students had PC laptops and Internet connection in their rooms. This incompatibility between the lab Macintosh and student owned PC computers was inconvenient for some students as they said in the interview. The Mexican university could be compared to the well-subsidized private universities of Canada and the US. It was fully equipped with cutting-edge technologies and computer labs. Valerie described the technological base of her university as follows: 109 There is a high speed Internet throughout campus and high speed access everywhere and a wireless access. Although, there are quite a bit of computer labs in the University, there is, in fact, no need for lab time Students bring their own laptops into classes. It is not like here where if you want to use a computer you have to go to a lab. There you sit at a picnic table outdoors, eating your lunch, plug in your computer and have high speed Internet So there is no comparison to anything I've seen in Canada. (Interview) A l l Mexican students except one female had computers at home and all except 3 female and 1 male students had Internet connection at home (Tables 4.3, 4.4). In addition, both Mexican and Japanese students had unlimited access to computers and the Internet on campus. Table 4. 3 Computer Ownership Russian students N %' Females Yes 15 93.8 No 1 6.3 Males Yes 21 100.0 No 0 0.0 ' T h e q u e s t i o n s f r o m the s u r v e y w a s : " D o y o u o w n a c o m p u t e r ? " ' Percentage o f total n u m b e r o f M e x i c a n and R u s s i a n f e m a l e / m a l e students. Table 4. 4 Internet Access Mexican students It °/o_ Females Yes 13 81.3 9 31.0 No 3 18.8 20 69.0 Males Yes 20 95.2 7 58.3 No 1 4J5 5 4L7 * T h e questions f r o m the s u r v e y w a s : " D o y o u have Internet access at h o m e ? " 1 Percentage o f total n u m b e r o f M e x i c a n and R u s s i a n female/male students. Mexican students 14 15 11 48.3 51.7 91.7 8.3 Russian students N %' 110 The Russian Context: Limited Access to Computer Technologies The technological base at the Russian university was by far weaker than in Canada and Mexico. The entire university had 78 computers donated by the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation). Half of the female Russian students (15 out of 29) and one male student did not own computers (table 15). Only 9 out of the 29 (31%) Russian female students and 7 out of the 12 (58.3%) Russian male students had an Internet access at home. The survey found that the 15 Russian students went online both from their school and home, 17 only from their school and 7 used other public places such as parent's work, friends' place, and Internet cafes. The Internet was expensive, with rates based on the time of its use, therefore, many Russian students tried to limit their time spent online when they worked at home. Students tended to say: "Internet is expensive, and I try to cut time of use at home as much as possible." "I have to pay for my Internet, I could use it more, but I'm still being just a student." That is why, many Russian students composed their messages off-line and logged on the Internet for the short period of time just to post them. Dana, a student who owned a computer described the way she used computers as follows: As for me, I have an Internet at home and I'm go to WebCT every day. I spend (in common) about 2 or 3 hours per day. Usually I compose my messages writing on the bulletin board. If sometimes I have problems with my Internet I firstly write in the Word and then copy to the bulletin board. (Mid-interview) On the other hand, Luda, a Russian student who did not have a computer and Internet access engaged in the following practice: 111 I haven't the computer at home and I need to go to the Institute to work, but it's very difficult, because I study till 17.00 o'clock and then I need to go another building (because there is no Internet in our building). But even here we have some difficulties with work, because there is very big queue [line] and you may work here only two hours. I have two free days a week, and I try to work in the project. So I have less than two hours per day. (Mid-interview) Also the lack of access constrained students' participation in that their messages appeared on the bulletin board with delay: "I did not have an access to the Internet and in the lab I only read because of the limited time and replied at home, and than, when I was to send / was a week late. " Many Russian students said in the interview: "If I had unlimited access I would have participated much more." When I asked i f Russian students were ready to participate in Internet-based projects given that technological basis was not so strong Svetlana, their instructor, said: Unfortunately, we are not ready in terms of technical side. But, we still need to try to do something. It is worse if we do nothing. We can not wait until we are ready - we'll never be ready. We need to use what is available to us right now. (Interview) Students' Previous Experience with Computer Technology It turned out that the overwhelming majority of the Japanese female and male students engaged very often (5-9 times a week) in a) sending e-mails (f=97.4% & m=75.0%) b) chatting on the Internet (f=73.7% & m=75.0%) and c) searching the Internet (f=71.1% & m=62.5%). 112 The majority of Mexican students engaged very often (5-9 times a week) in a) sending e-mails (86.7% & 60.0%) b) searching the Internet (80.0% & 65.0%) c) word-processing (66.7% & 80.0%) and online chatting (66.7% & 55.0%). The Russian students were the least experienced in the socio-collaborative use of computers such as e-mail and chat interaction. Many Russian male students, for example, 8 (66.7%) and many Russian female students - 15 (51.7%) had never chatted before. For most of the Japanese and Mexican students the main frustration about computer technologies was the Internet information overload and difficulty to find necessary information: "There are too many information, so sometimes I cannot get accurate information which I'd like to get" (Keiko, interview). Less students complained of various technical problems such as "computer gets frozen, viruses, frame disappears" (Francisco, interview) and slow speed. Four Japanese and two Mexican students complained that it was difficult to read information in English: "If the information is written in English (or other language), I don't feel like reading it" (Yoko, Interview). The nature of the frustration that most Russian students experienced with technology was different in nature than the frustration of Japanese and Mexican students. Only 1 out of 39 Russian students complained about the difficulty to find necessary information. Four out of 39 students complained about technical problems and slow speed. On the other hand, most of the students were frustrated with the limited access because the Internet and computer time was expensive. One Russian student could not answer what frustrated her about computers because she did not use them enough: "I don't know, I don't spend much time in it to specialize" (Vera, Interview). 113 4.2.4 Summary: Institutional Contexts On the level of "Institutional context" the important aspects of an Activity System that shaped students participation were objects and tools. The study found that the three groups of students had different expectations from the project that were shaped by their broader contexts - such as living in the target or native language environment and the different objectives of the courses in three contexts in which the project was integrated. Generally speaking, most Mexican and Russian students wanted to improve their English, whereas most Japanese students did not expect to improve their English, rather, they wanted to invest in their improvement of Intercultural awareness. In the Canadian and Mexican contexts students had free access to computer technologies and all Japanese and almost all Mexican students owned computers and had access to the Internet. This was not the case with the Russian students, many of who did not own computers and did not have Internet access (Tables 4.3, 4.4). Different access to computers explains why the Japanese and Mexican students engaged in chat, e-mail and Internet search activities regularly, whereas many Russian students never chatted before and used the Internet and e-mail significantly less often. This finding is important as it shows that Japanese and Mexican students in general were more prepared to participate in the highly interactive B B than the Russian students. 4.3 Context of Interaction 4.3.1 Instructors as Mediators of Rules and Objects Instructors were mediators (mediating tools) of the rules and objects of the online activity, as they were the ones who integrated the project within the courses they taught in 114 their local contexts. In this section I discuss how each instructor mediated the project to their students based on their educational philosophies and experiences with technology. The Japanese Instructor's Mediation: Democracy and Multitasks Some aspects of instructor's philosophy. Marc, a Japanese instructor, favoured democratic and equal relationships with his students evident in what he said in the interview: I never reprimanded anyone for doing something that was outside of our class because I thought well .. .that's an assignment they really need to finish now and hand it in and they will catch up with these activities maybe in their room with their own computers. He also structured WebCT activity in a very free and flexible way. He said in the interview: I think that it's important to give students the freedom, to start any topic any thread they feel like and those other things they are interested in and generate discussion. Because many of the topics that I would have never thought about were posted by students and generated a lot of discussion. Marc did not want to overwhelm his students with the same assignment for the entire 1.5 hour long lab time, as he felt that i f students engaged only in WebCT activity during their lab time, it would have been "too much for them." Therefore, he made a decision to give his students additional assignments besides doing WebCT activity during their lab time. I was a T A and a researcher in that class, but I did not interfere in the instructor's ways of structuring the course, first, because I found them absolutely legitimate and, second, because it was important for the study to show how instructors would integrate the project based on their own educational beliefs and affordances of their local contexts. 115 Object/Rules based on the instructor's philosophy. The way Marc structured the course and treated his students can be characterized as engaging students in multitasks and giving them freedom to choose how they would participate in the WebCT project. The project was introduced to Japanese students during the first class along with other course components such as participation (10%), oral presentations (20%), reflection journal (20%), webquests (10%), 2000-word term paper (10%), final exam (10%), and WebCT project (20%). The students engaged in the WebCT activity during the 1.5 hours long lab time. They were also encouraged to participate in interaction in the out of class time. In the lab students were to work on the WebCT project, write journal entries and do a webquest (300-word position papers on the course content). They had freedom to choose the sequence of each activity. Whereas in the case of Mexican and Russian students the requirement to write 5 messages a week (posted online, Appendix I) became the official policy and the criteria for evaluating students' participation, this was not the case with the Japanese students. We did not emphasize and did not remind students to write 5 messages a week. We also did not explain students in detail on how they would be evaluated. The atmosphere in the lab was free and relaxed, so students could move around a room, sit and work in pairs, and discuss assignments. When I twice visited the lab briefly, I noticed that some students were writing webquests, some were doing WebCT and writing journals, whereas a few students were checking their e-mails. Students' participation outcomes. Marc's focus on multi-tasks and freedom to choose between assignments, resulted in active participation only by those Japanese students who 116 were genuinely interested in this activity and who preferred it over other tasks. At the same time, as students received 20% for their participation, they always felt the obligation to contribute to the bulletin board. Seemingly an advantageous feature when students could access the bulletin board any time they wanted to: "I can access whenever I want" (Masumi, Interview), turned out to be not as positive for some students. As Kiho, a Japanese student, said: "it is a good point to go there and participate whenever I want, but this is maybe also bad because if I do not have enough time, I do not participate in it at al" (Journal entry). In addition, multitasks of the course, might have diminished the value of WebCT as it was perceived by some students as one of the multiple assignments. As Shiba, a Japanese student wrote in his journal: Why don't many people participate in BB? Actually I also don't always do that. The reasons why I don't always do that are time and differences of information. I think we have too many works, in particular "Essay". We must work two essay (2000 words). This work are useful for us, but other activities are more useful and valuable. Despite that some students liked WebCT the most, they felt that two other lab activities (webquests and journals) were more important as they were graded for doing those assignments on a weekly basis which was not the case with the WebCT activity. In addition, because webquests and journals had a finite nature they were easier to work on, and could not be as easily postponed as the 12-weeks long, process-oriented WebCT activity. The Mexican Instructor's Mediation: Justice and a Balanced Approach 117 Some aspects of instructor's philosophy. Valerie's, a Mexican instructor's approach to the project can be characterized as balanced and based on principles of social justice, a theme which was salient throughout the interview with her. From what she said about the rationale behind grading students for their participation, we can see that she did not impose rules from the top, but rather, integrated the project into the course based on students' needs: The students had such a heavy work-load, so many exams, so I realized I could not take much of their time because it's unfair to them. That is why I made the project a part of the course and gave them bonus points for participation, so they wouldn't be able to legitimately complain because the project was an extra-work and it was in English. Of course the Tec was really supportive of this project they were really really enthusiastic about it. I knew it was not going to jeopardize my job or anything, but, at the same time, I realized this was not a part of their text-book. (Interview) In another reflection, Valerie also talked about equal opportunities for her students: " A lot of them had password problems so I had to lower the number of messages they had to write because it would be totally unfair for some of them" (Interview). Object/Rules based on the instructor's philosophy. The WebCT project was conducted instead of traditional essay writing and was the only one online activity, besides reading online articles for the class, students engaged in. Students did not have a lab time, so they engaged into the WebCT activity outside of their classroom and at their own time and pace. Valerie introduced the project in the following way: I introduced the project really enthusiastically: "this is going to be great and this is what you get to do." As a result of doing the project they would not do writing essays, so I introduced it in a way - "this is a lot more communicative - there is an audience, 118 whereas when you write an essay there is only one person who will see your work -the teacher." (Interview) Valerie gave students freedom to write on topics of their interest, but at the same time, set the following requirements for her students: I said that they had to write 5 messages a week and if they miss one week they could not write 10 messages the next week because, otherwise, some could write 20 messages in one day. I also told them they should check the B B every day as they check their e-mail so they would not get overwhelmed with all the messages. (Interview) In addition, Valerie emphasized the importance of reading a certain number of messages every week. She also gave some explanations on how she was going to evaluate them: I told them I would evaluate them on quality and quantity and I did not tell how -1 left it ambiguous. Actually I did not really evaluate the quality until the very final last couples of week I randomly selected the messages and gave them the grade on that.. .1 marked them really hardly on quality. (Interview) In terms of the question with regards to whether to provide a grammatical feedback on a regular basis, Valerie thought that: "it would have been totally unfeasible for me to do that -1 had no time" (Interview). Students' participation outcomes. The way Valerie structured the course by giving students the freedom to write on the topics of their individual interest within certain required 119 frames allowed Mexican students to perceive WebCT activity as finite in nature. Besides, the Mexican students did not have to choose between several tasks as in the case of the Japanese students. Moreover, the project was conducted instead of their essay writing, which assured participation of all students. Therefore, most of the Mexican students demonstrated the balanced participation by posting and reading an equally large number of messages The Russian Instructor's Mediation: Authoritarian and Teacher Centered Instructor's philosophy. Svetlana's, a Russian instructor's educational philosophy favouring authoritarian methods was reflected in what she said in the interview: First of all, our students have different mentality, they do not study for themselves -they study for me. .. .Being less strict and less demanding will not have good results. I'd rather have bad image, but I will not be ashamed later for the knowledge they gained. I'd rather be bad in their eyes, but I will not be embarrassed that they did not learn anything. .. .1 am strict not because I play the role of a strict instructor, neither I support an image of the one, but it is my nature, my principles. On of the most salient features of the project was Svetlana's non-participation in online discussions. She explained why she did not participate as follows: If I write something, it will somewhat uh... we have a sort of authoritarian method of teaching and if I had expressed my opinion, students would have agreed with my opinion, so I decided that it is better for me to not appear on the bulletin board, otherwise, students would have been suppressed and they would have written in a way I wrote, in the directions determined by me. (Interview) 120 Svetlana was aware of her authority and power and did not want to display it on the bulletin board. Her non-participation in the interaction, resulted in her unawareness of the nature of the bulletin board. She was not a member of the online activity system and implemented control from the outside, by checking students messages not directly on the B B , but from the floppy-discs which students turned in to her every week. Svetlana said in the interview: There were problems at the beginning -1 did not have a clear vision of the project. I was on the same level as students. / was entirely dependent on the information that I would receive from you. Because for us it was something new and I, myself, could not imagine what was going to happen Two main themes emerged from this reflection: 1) Svetlana was not aware of the nature of the project, as she had very little experience with technology. Therefore, she entirely relied on the instructions and course materials posted on the Website, whereas Marc and Valerie did not necessarily follow the common schedule posted online. 2) Second, her identity of the "knowledgeable instructor" has been jeopardized as she found herself being "on the same level" with students, "entirely dependent" on forum coordinators. Also in the interview Svetlana said that although she had known her students for at least 2 years, she learned a lot of new things about them through the project. This was different, for example, from the Japanese instructor's experience, who did not learn anything new about his students through the project, as he had a chance to do it during the previous semester. This illustrates the differences in instructors' approaches - the one demonstrated by 121 Svetalna was authoritarian and teacher-centered and the one by Marc - democratic and student-oriented. Object/Rules based on the instructor's philosophy. Because many students did not have an Internet access, Svetlana decided to conduct the project instead of the business English class in the computer lab. The WebCT project was the only one activity the Russian students engaged in during their entire 1.5 long lab time. Svetlana met with her students a month before the project began. During that time the project schedule was not posted online, so she came up with assignments for students herself. She gave them 5 themes - 1) World economics, 2) Economy of Russia, 3) Economy of the Sakha republic, 4) Culture, 5) Free topic, which students were expected to make research on during the Christmas break. Later, when we posted the suggested schedule on the WebCT website, students began to accurately follow it, whereas, Japanese and Mexican students did not. Similarly to Valerie, Svetlana set certain requirements: I told them to write 5 messages on the given themes every week. I was not sure about the length of the messages, but than I thought that half of a page would be fine, given that they would write 5 messages a week which would total in 2.5 pages. Plus, they were supposed to do a research - find literature based on the themes before writing their messages. I did not set up any requirements for reading a particular number of messages. (Interview) Those who did not write 5 messages during a week had to catch up with the requirement over the next weeks. This requirement was drastically different from the requirement set by Valerie who prohibited any "catch up" activity for her students, as she 122 realized the whole interactivity and flexible nature of the bulletin board. One could not "order" students to write more than 5 messages a week as the WebCT activity was about the unpredictable and flexible interaction, not the one-sided, essay-writing task. When the project was over, Svetlana said in the interview: Our students wrote on the same topics that I gave them. In the course of work I came to thought that I should not have given students similar topics. I should have come up with 20 topics and distribute them among students, e.g. topic #1 would write this student, topic #2 that student, so there would not be any repetitions. This also indicates that she thought of the project as a conventional essay writing exercise. Svetlana told students to bring their own dictionaries in class: "so they would not distract each other asking the meanings of the words, but work independently. They used dictionary a lot, especially at the beginning" (Interview). Thus, instead of being a collective activity, as, for example, encouraged by Marc, when students were allowed to consult with each other, this activity was structured as any other individual assignment for the Russian students. At the beginning Svetlana checked students' messages on a weekly basis by underlying the incorrect expressions with red ink. After a while, though, Svetlana realized that it was very time consuming to check all students' messages, therefore, instead of checking all messages individually, she made a list of common mistakes that were discussed later in class. At the end of the project, Svetlana set up the final requirement for her students -to write the reports of their participation which would include all their messages written throughout the project. That is why, students complained in the interview that the messages 123 from the first stage (first 6 weeks) were no longer accessible as they were archived with the purpose of saving space on the bulletin board. Students' participation outcomes. The Russian students approached the goal to improve their English in a way their instructor expected them to do - through traditional methods favouring writing academic essays, use of additional literature, dictionary, and revising grammar. Svetlana said: "I had to control students strictly in class, otherwise, not everyone would participate. My goal was to make each and everyone of them participate. As a result, there was hardly a person who did not participate at all" (Interview). The strict control and instructor's personal charisma made all students post the required number of messages. However, the fact that students just posted and read very few messages shows two main things: 1) students had limited access; 2) many of them engaged in this activity just to please their instructor. Also many Russian students complained that instructor's strict control was detrimental to their participation in a way that they had to write even when they did not have any communicative need. Some Russian students who participated actively in interaction, questioned the rules of writing academic and long essays, which was not compatible with the writing styles of the Japanese and Mexican students. They developed new tacit rules for participation by changing the genre and length of their messages - namely their messages became more interactive, less academic, shorter in length. With the second stage of the project, when it entered the phase of interacting on free topics, the interaction became richer in critical messages, generating more instances of the true dialogue. Therefore, Lena, a Russian student said in the mid-interview: "I am becoming more interested in the project after I understood what it is about. At the 124 beginning it was a requirement, and later an interest; first we wrote long messages, then began to write shorter.'''' 4.3.2 Dilemma: Grade as Motivation or Constraint As in any large community, students had different motives to participate in the project. As Salvador, a Mexican student, said: "The primary motivation varies from student to student. Some, might want to know people from other places others might want to know about their culture and there are a few people who do this just because of marks" (IRC interview). Indeed, as survey found, more than a half of the Japanese (56.5%) and Mexican (54%) students viewed the project as part of their course and were neither excited, nor indifferent about it (Table 4.5). As for the Russian students, the equal number (41%) selected options A and B from the questionnaire. Table 4. 5 Attitudes toward the Project Japanese Mexicans Russians n n %2 it %3 A. I was excited and could not wait to start 17 37.0 11 30.0 16 41.0 interacting with Japanese and Russians B. This is a part of the course and I am neither 26 56.5 20 54.0 16 41.0 excited nor indifferent C. Honestly, I don't want to participate in this 3 6.5 1 3.0 0 0 activity D. Other 0 0 5 14 7 17.9 ' Percentage o f total c o u n t o f Japanese. ' Percentage o f total c o u n t o f M e x i c a n s . ' Percentage o f total c o u n t o f R u s s i a n s . Some students admitted that without evaluation, their participation would have been less active. On the other hand, a few students viewed the obligation to participate as a discouraging factor. Fidel, a Mexican student said: "I am forced to go and that makes it boring." Yasu, a Japanese student, also said: "As negative point, I felt it a little bit 125 compulsory. I must read, I must respond, and I must write our opinion about WebCT itself." Similar feeling was shared by Taro, a Japanese student: I feel like I "have to" post messages every week and those messages have to be something "academic." This pressure is too heavy on me who is lazy. ... What I feel now is that I need more freedom on the board. The best way for this is not to grade on the postings. (Journal entry) Students who were against grading perceived the grade as undermining their "true" motives for participation, as, for example, in case of Nori who did not view the project only as an obligation, but rather, viewed it as an activity useful for her professional development: Actually, it is our obligation of LLED226 course. We have to participate it in order to get grade. However, I do not think it is an obligation. My major in Japan is International Relations. I like to learn about the world. I want to think from many points of view. In order to accomplish it, I need other way of thinking. That's why, it is very useful for it. (BB message) 4.3.3 Tools: Affordances and Constraints of Online Environments Theme 1: Authentic interaction. Some students appreciated the online interaction for providing a unique opportunity to find out "what other students think." Kenji, for example, wrote in his journal: The most important expectation is to know how they think through online discussions. We can study many facts like history and geography to some extent by ourselves or in class, but we cannot study the way to think and feel about various things. 126 Theme 2: Special place for cultural learning language/culture. Many students said that the bulletin board was a good method of learning language - " not boring," and "the best way to improve English when we practice, not sit and study drills, but talk freely, interact, share with our thoughts" (Zhanna, RS, BB message). An interesting opinion was expressed by Mik i , a Japanese student, who thought of the bulletin board as of the place specifically designed to discuss cultural topics: Even i f I could meet people from Mexico and Russia face-to-face, sometimes it is difficult to talk about cultural differences and different ideas and so on with people who just happened to meet. ... So this setting of a specific place to talk and discuss about these topics is very easy for me to ask questions and gather information about different cultures and ideas directly. I know that students who join this forum are interested to know these things as well, so discussion will be deeper and more interesting. (Interview) Theme 3: Facilitating agency. Some students also thought of the bulletin board as a place granting agency: "such online interaction gave me and other students an opportunity to express ideas when we want and not when we are asked" (Petr, RS, BB message). Theme 4: Means to connect with wider world. Some students viewed the B B as "the last alternative to communicate thanks to the Internet in case we are so far from each other" (George, RS, B B posting). Several students engaged in discourse of technological progress: "In our industrial time online communication cannot be any surprise. So I appreciate online chatting and different forums. Ten years ago it was impossible because the level of our technical development was very low" (Nurgun, RS, B B message). 127 Theme 5: Availability 24/7, extra-time for thinking, persistent conversation. Like in a number of other studies (Carey, 1999 a,b; Harasim, 1996) many students in this study reported such benefits of asynchronous interaction as the time it provided to think through their ideas, "persistent conversation" - a possibility to return to posted messages again and again (Erickson, 1999), and availability at any time and any place. Along with the motivating aspect of the bulletin board many students also experienced the discouraging sides, outlined in the following themes: Theme 1: Time-consuming. Many Japanese and Russian students said that online activity required a lot of time on their part: "When I tried to enter WebCT it took so much time" (Keiko, interview). Many Russian students said that the sole typing process of the English texts took a lot of time, due to their slow typing speed. Theme 2: Bulletin board is too "slow" compared to chat. Some students found the bulleting board to be a slow mean of communication when you "forget everything" while you are waiting for the next message. Interestingly, the Mexican instructor warned me that many Mexican students did not realize that their university had a very fast Internet access. Most likely, the problem was not in slow connection, but in students' desire to approximate bulletin board interaction to the speed of immediate response (Thorne, 2003). Based on this reason some students expressed their preference of the chatting over the BB interaction: "I don't really like such echo-chats or BB discussions, I like relay-chats" (George, RS, B B message). Also: Message no. 3527[Branch from no. 2565] Posted by Jose on Saturday, March 30, 2002 5:54pm Subject Re: What i s your opinion about online discussions? H i e v e r y o n e . I t h i n k o n l i n e d i s c u s s i o n s a r e f i n e but a r e t o sl o w , i s good because you can i n t e r a c t w i t h o t h e r c o n t r i e s p e o p l e and t a l k about o t h e r c u l t u r e s . But i f we 128 can chat maybe we t a l k b e t t e r because sometimes you a r e i n s p i r e d t o t a l k about a t o p i c and i f you w a i t maybe you f o r g e t e v e r y t h i n g . I s my p o i n t o f view. With regards to the degree of complexity, students placed the e-mail interaction on the continuum between the chatting and writing in word document. Many students shared George's, a Russian student's opinion, who wrote: "It's more useful to discuss important and formal problems through discussion board [compared to chat]" (BB message). Also: "When u r chating u can short some words and u dont have to worry about any grammar or spelling problem but in B B or in works for schools you have to write everything right and complete" (Elisa, IRC interview). Theme 3: Minor technical inconveniences. Many Japanese students found it discouraging that they could not bookmark the project website when they worked in the lab. Also when students worked in the lab they could not see which messages they had read and which they had not, compared to when they worked on their own computers which automatically highlighted all read messages. Some Mexican students disliked that Id's and passwords to the bulletin board were provided, and not chosen by students themselves. Quite a few Russian students said that the web-address was too long and troublesome to type every time they wanted to log on. Theme 4: Names and gender confusion. The Japanese students could not distinguish between Mexican and Russian names. As Kaneko, a Japanese student, said: "Sometimes I confused that this opinion is from which country's people. I wish I could recognize them. I'm trying to mention my nationality every time, but it's troublesome" (Journal entry). In comparison, for the Mexican and Russian students this was not an issue, excluding a single case, when a Mexican student thought that the Russian male name "Yuri" was a Japanese 129 name. Rather, the Mexican and Russian students could not distinguish between Japanese female and male names. Theme 5: Chaotic nature of threaded discussions. Students complained that the interface of the bulletin board was inconveniently designed: I think that it's interesting. Many people many points of view. The only problem I think is in a little bit inconvenient design of the forum. Today it has already became so large and it's hard to operate with it. And also I think new message should appear on the top and not at the bottom. Sorry if I wrote something incorrect. (Semyon, RS, B B message) Fidel, a Mexican student, also said: Some of the topics where off date and others took to long to answer. Besides, the forum was a bit unorganized since the tread of messages was disorder and you couldnt follow a single way to find the answer to a post. You had to search it in the entire tread about the topic. (IRC Interview) Such inconveniences resulted in difficulties to form a community. Stella, a Mexican student, said: "Something that i didn't like was that the messages was so difficult to find., you know .. you didn't know if somebody answered you., and you couldn't keep a conversation with one person" (mid-interview). She further continued: My motivation is that a person that i wrote keep writing me., so i can mantein a real conversation, but when i wrote someone and then that person don't write me so i have 130 to look for another conversation but i don't feel confortable because i get lost., you know what i mean. (Mid-interview) This also led to the following decision making problems, expressed by some students: There are sometimes many messages, and there are sometimes same topics. Therefore, I puzzle which is appropriate topic I should post. Moreover, when messages increased about one topic, I also puzzle which I should follow pre^message or topic, because topic was developed and was sometimes changed. (Akiko, mid-interview) Because of the problem of the chaotic nature of the threaded discussions, some postings were simply overlooked by others. Theme 6: Message overload. The problem of message overload also identified by Sengupta (2001) discouraged many students to participate in the interaction. As Masumi, a Japanese student, said: "If I go to the web after an interval and there are a lot of messages which are unread, it discourages me to do that." Mik i , another Japanese student, added: "I do not have enough time to read every single message. If I can't read every message it makes me feel that I am not sure what exactly is going on" (Interview). Also, Alia, a Russian student said: At the very beginning of the project I was eager to participate in it. Firstly when there were not many persons I was looking forward to see other postings very much. And now when we have so many students there I want to follow all messages but it's difficult. I think that it's very good idea to divide all participants into groups. (Mid-interview) 131 In addition, the overwhelming number of messages caused their devaluation. As Yukako, a Japanese student, said: Sometimes, I have no idea what to say about some specific topics because, I feel there are too many topics to discuss something deeper and / am not sure how and how much I can do that. Many topics seem very superficial, I sometimes feel. 4.3.4 Triangulation: Factors Discouraging Students' Participation The survey conducted to triangulate students' interview responses confirmed that the main factors that discouraged many Japanese students' participation were: the overwhelming number of messages (72.7%) and the focus on other assignments (56.8%). Seven Japanese students (15.9%) wrote that they were afraid to seem less knowledgeable (the reasons for that will be discussed in the section 4.6.1 of this dissertation). Table 4. 6 Factors Discouraging Students' Participation \ Japanese Mexican Russian Discouraging factors n it % 2 N % 3 I was overwhelmed with a number 32 72.7 12 33.3 4 11.4 messages I focused on other assignments 25 56.8 17 47.2 11 31.4 I was afraid to seem less 7 15.9 6 16.7 13 37.1 knowledge I was not satisfied with the topics 6 13.6 12 33.3 10 28.6 and the level of discussion Technical problems 6 13.6 19 52.8 20 57.1 I had other reasons 5 11.4 7 19.4 0 0.0 I did not want to put effort into 4 9.1 4 11.1 0 0.0 reading and composing messages 132 I expected more structure and 3 6.8 10 27.8 4 11.4 control Limited Internet access 0 0.0 9 25.0 30 85.7 Total 44 100.0 36 100.0 35 100.0 ' ' Students c o u l d c h o o s e several o p t i o n s , therefore, c a l c u l a t i o n o f percentage w a s based i n d e p e n d e n t l y f o r e a c h c a t e g o r y The main factors that prevented many Mexican students (52.8%) from participating were technical problems such as problems with passwords when students could not enter the site, and when their computers got frozen. The next discouraging factor was the focus on other assignments. A considerable number of Mexican students (33.3%) said that they were also overwhelmed with the large number of messages and were not satisfied with the topics discussed. In the case of the Russian students, 85.7% of them said that the limited Internet access and technical problems (slow Internet, difficulty to post messages) were the main discouraging factors for them. The technical problem most of the Russian students encountered was when their messages did not appear on the bulletin board. Because of the slow speed of downloading the project web-site, some Russian students wanted to switch to the e-mail interaction which, in their view, was easier to use than the bulletin board. This explains why some Russian students added e-mail addresses in the end of their messages. Interestingly, 37.1% of the Russian students reported that their fear to seem less knowledgeable was also one of the discouraging factors for them. Furthermore, 31.4% of the Russian students focused on other assignments and were not satisfied with the topics discussed. In comparison to Japanese and Mexican students, only 4 (11.4%) of the Russian students said that they were overwhelmed with the large number of messages. This was because students had limited time to work on the Internet in the lab, and therefore, many of 133 them thought: "you are not frustrated that many messages remain unread because you know beforehand that we would not have time anyway to read everything. You just come on a couple of hours to the lab" (Tina, interview). Therefore, many Russian students suggested that there should be additional lab time for this activity. 4.3.5 Summary: Context of Interaction On the level of Context of Interaction the salient aspects of the activity system were: the rules and objects of participation mediated by instructors. The study found that the ways instructors mediated the project to their students in accordance with their educational beliefs and experiences with computer technologies, educational contexts and curricula in which the project was integrated, became one of the most important factors in shaping students' participation. The next salient shaping factor was the tools or affordances of online environments that were related to the nature of the BB itself. Among affordances of the BB the study identified the following aspects: 1) an authentic interaction 2) a special place to learn L2 and culture 3) facilitating agency 4) the only means to connect with outer world 5) availability 24/7, extra-time for thinking, and persistent conversation. The following features of the BB were perceived as constraining: 1) time-consuming, 2) "slow" speed compared to chat, 3) minor technical inconveniences, 4) names and gender confusion, 5) chaotic nature of threaded discussions and 6) message overload. The study also found that evaluating students' participation was both a motivating and constraining factor. On one hand some students said that the major incentive for their participation was a grade, on the other hand, this fact made them feel more pressure and 134 turned the activity which was supposed to be based on students' communicative need into obligation. As the survey demonstrated, students from the three cultures named different discouraging factors. Thus, for Japanese students the main discouraging factors were the overwhelming number of messages and the focus on other assignments. For Mexican students the main discouraging factors were technical problems and the focus on other assignments, finally, for the Russian students the main discouraging factors were limited Internet access and technical problems. Also, 37.1% of the Russian students said that they were afraid to seem less knowledgeable. 4.4 Agency So far the discussion was around how students' participation was influenced by outside contexts, in what follows I discuss how students themselves shaped their interaction through making their personal choices. In this section I also present an example of the diversity of personalities expressed in the discussion that developed around the topic "Pets". 4.4.7 Communicative Need The context of interaction influenced students' participation by shifting their external motivation such as a grade to the internal interest in the process of interaction. Mik i , a Japanese student, wrote: First of all, it was a requirement for my class. Second, I can honestly say that after I got to know the project better, I enjoyed participating in it. Something that made me log in for more time was to see if someone had answered a message back, and what he thought about my opinion. It was always very cool to log in and see that some of 135 the people actually read my messages, and it was even better to see that I had a response! (Journal entry) After students began to interact, most of them found that interesting topics were more important than messages of students from particular cultures. As Amador, a Mexican student, said: "Interesting stuff is brought by a student, not by a country" (Mid-interview). Also many students tended to say: "I chose by topics of interest." "I don't care i f the message is addressed to me personally, i f it is interesting I reply." Theme 1: Choices. The common strategy students used was scanning messages: "I first defined the content of the message through looking at key-words, and than decided i f I would read it" (Miki). Many students also tended to read replies to their messages and latest messages first. Kostya, a Russian student, used the following tactics: "I tried to post as many messages as I have read" Salvador, a Mexican student, who was one of the active participants, when asked how he chose to read and post his messages, said: 1. I might try to complement their [my classmates] posts i f I feel something might be missing. 2. If there are a lot of posts, I might want to see why everybody is writing something or 3. i f no mexican has posted something in that topic. I'll read it and see i f I can make a good post 4. maybe if there are names of foreign students that I know that have written something (Interview). The first line reflects Salvador's posting activity and the lines 2-4 reflect his reading activity. Salvador positioned himself as a person who felt responsible for the participation of 136 his fellow-students and who was also interested in messages of foreign students. Overall, students chose to write in the following cases: - "If I have an opinion on a message which I am reading. I wrote the topics that I knew and was sure about." - "If I have opposite opinion. If I am struck by a message e.g. by differences between cultures." "If I am asked a question: I did not reply to many messages because they did not ask any questions, just comments. I did not feel like I need to reply." "If I receive a reply to my message." - "I tend to avoid long, academic, culture-specific messages." Theme 2: Communicative need and Identity. Many students tended to reply when they were stimulated to do so and, more importantly, when they were emotionally stimulated by the interaction. This stimulation led to a communicative need, the importance of which was well captured in the following reflection: Actually I found some interesting topic on this bulletin board, and I felt, "I want to reply this message". However, I often feel that I do not need to reply, or I do not have any opinions or any suggestions about the messages on it. I think the reason why I have little interest in the messages is that most of the topics are not so exciting or appealing for me, and I am lazy. (Jun, JS, Journal entry) Interestingly, after I interviewed Jun in the middle of the project, she wrote in her journal: After I took an interview with Olga, I realized / should think something more positively, or I need to make use of this good opportunity to get to know foreign 137 students, and that is the point that I was most interested in this program. / went to the site and posted a few messages after the interview, I think it seems to be more interesting since / changed my attitude toward the WebCT. I think whether we can make the most of every opportunity depends on how we take an attitude toward it. (Journal entry) Indeed, Jun posted a few messages, however, after that, her participation ended. Therefore, communicative need was not something which could be provided from the outside, it had an internal origin, stemming from students' overall attitudes to participation and learning. For example, Elisa's gendered identity helped her to initiate and moderate a dialogue with the Japanese and Russian female students. In her message she congratulated all women on Women's day, described the position of women in Mexico and asked about the status of women in Japan and Russia. She explained her choice of this topic as follows: [I chose to write about] the international women day, because i'm a little bit feminist, and / knew that my topic would create some controversy, and i liked to know how other women feel in their countries and how women live in the other countries. (IRC interview) Some Russian students said: "Every time I did not know what to write about and how to write it correctly." Therefore, they said: "I liked it [the project] at the end, when we began to talk on free topics," which indicates that they liked communicating when they felt an internal communicative need. Theme 3: Debates. In the interviews and journals some students reported that debates would promote more discussions and desire to participate: "It's interesting, but not too much. The topics of conversation so far have not created much controversy or discussion, 138 everybody just gives their opinion about something, but its not much of a debate" (Paloma, MS, Interview). "I wish we discussed some debate-provoking issues, e.g. ethnic conflicts" (Vera, RS, Interview). "We should have more chances to discuss, have argument, and not just simply post narratives. In the process of debate we can find the truth." (Olesya, RS, Interview). Also Stella, a Mexican student, said: (I was discouraged) when i couldn't find some interesting topic because i wanted to participate but i didn't know what to say in some topics. I would like more interesting topics that people can debate not just to comment and say yes this is interesting..and bla bla.. i prefer topics that people is against other..and so on. (Mid-intreview) Some students thought that personal information tended not to lead to much discussion. For example, Salvador said: "It depends on how the person handles it. If he states it just like personal information, it might not lead to much in terms of discussions" (WebCT interview). Also, in order to evoke a communicative need in other students, some participants "tried to say something interesting" (Stella). This points at students' understanding of the importance of knowing how to facilitate interaction, so it would be interesting and thought-provoking for everyone. 4.4.2 One Community or Multiple Communities? Students in the three contexts had different course objectives, rules of participation and computer tools, and, therefore, they could not always form a community that worked toward the same goal. Instead of one large community, they formed multiple micro-communities. Feeling a sense of community with a few people rather than with all 32-35 people in their forums, was evident in the following students' reflections: 139 We got to know each other after a while, or at least I got used to seeing the same names every time I logged in. Also, once I saw someone's message, I usually tried to read more things about the person who posted the message. (Patricia, MS, Interview) [I felt a sense of community] with someones, because in some topics I feel the same way like as the people of my own group, and I think that I was alike with (Arcadia, MS, Interview). Mik i , a Japanese student, said: "I tend to reply to specific members of our group, because I feel we have built closer relationships through our discussions. Maybe that is because of my personality, but I feel comfortable to do so" (Interview). Some students felt sad when people who they got used to see left their forum: The sole negative moment was during the second round when some participants changed groups and we couldn't continue communication with a person who left our group; on the other hand, there was no information about new ones who connected us. It's my subjective opinion however. (Alia, RS, Evaluation) Thus, generally, students understood a sense of community as being attracted to messages of certain people, "feeling the same," "feeling comfortable with". They felt the sense of community with people who they got used to see in their forums or with people who they liked on a personal level. In addition, as Yana, a Russian student reported, she felt uncomfortable to write in other forums as for her it was a different territory, which she did not have a legitimacy to cross. Similarly, Toma, another Russian student, reported that she 140 had a sense of competition with people from other forums - she wanted her group to write the largest number of messages. Politeness Moves and Community Building In forum B a greater number of the Japanese and Russian students greeted each other compared to forum D. The Mexican students, on the other hand, greeted others more often in forum D. This indicates that slightly more community-building efforts were made in forum B than in forum D. Table 4. 7 Greetings Averages Japanese Forum B Forum D M M Mexicans Forum B Forum D M M Russians Forum B Forum D M M Personalized Greeting 4.5 4.2 5.6 12.4 9.3 6.5 Greeting everyone 4.5 4.6 9.5 11.6 11.3 6.4 No greetings 3.0 3.6 9.3 8.4 9.6 10.5 A v e r a g e n u m b e r o f a l l posted messages in f o r m s B and D w i t h / w i t h o u t greetings per student Students across the three cultures were slightly more person-oriented and social in forum B than in forum D as they also used closures (e.g. "talk to you later," "this is all I wanted to tell you," "looking forward to hearing form you") more often. As seen from Table 4.8, Japanese students finished their messages with questions more often than Mexicans and Russians. More Mexican students, on the other hand, put names in the end of their messages compared to Japanese and Russian students: Table 4. 8 Closures Averages Japanese Mexicans Russians Forum B Forum D Forum B Forum D Forum B Forum D 141 M M M M M M Closure 3.2 2.8 8.5 4.9 10.5 6.1 No closure + signature 0.3 0.5 3.0 3.6 1.3 1.3 Question 3.7 4.0 4.1 6.4 3.1 3.5 No closure 4.5 5.0 8.6 17.9 13.3 13.1 A v e r a g e n u m b e r o f a l l posted messages in f o r m s B and D w i t h / w i t h o u t c l o s u r e p e r student Based on how students tended to address others - by collective or personal greetings, they could be divided into collective and individual communicators. Individual communicators tended to address individual students in person by their first names. They also tended to finish their messages with questions, closures and signatures. On the other hand, collective communicators tended to omit greetings and closings or tended to greet everyone at once. Absence of such politeness moves as greetings and closures could be compensated for with the person-oriented content, however, when the content of messages was also task-oriented, absence of politeness moves made messages sound even more distanced. Presence of politeness moves and questions in the end of the students' messages, but poor quality of their content, did not make messages more appealing either. Thus, the best form of messages suitable for community building were the ones combining substantial and rich content with politeness moves. There was also a wide range of individual differences in students' use of politeness moves. For example, Mik i and Stella (Tables 4.14) were balanced communicators who always wrote messages of good quality and tended to use individual or collective politeness moves. Karl, despite his extensive use of politeness moves, never wrote messages of substantial quality and quantity, and therefore, his messages did not contribute to community 142 building. Akiko, on the other hand, was social and critical in terms of content, but rarely used politeness moves. Still she contributed to community building by weaving social elements in the body of her messages. Finally, Inna, a Russian student, represented an example of a student who did not use any social moves. Inna was lying in the hospital during the project. She wrote her messages by hand that later were typed and posted on the bulletin board by her friends, therefore, she had a very low sense of interlocutor which was reflected in her messages lacking social cues. Thus, individual students contributed differently to the community formation. Table 4. 9 Individual Students' Use of Greetings Japanese Mexicans Addressing Russians Instructor Hi/hello No greeting Miki - J F 1 1 4 1 1 8 1 Stella - MF 13 2 11 5 8 2 K a r l - M M 0 0 0 1 29 5 Akiko - J F 0 0 1 0 5 22 Inna- RF 0 0 1 0 10 14 ' J F - Japanese F e m a l e , Z M F - M e x i c a n F e m a l e , J R M - R u s s i a n M a l e Table 4.10 Individual Students' Use of Closures No closure + name Closure + name Closure Question + closure No closure Miki - JF 2 1 8 5 0 Stella-MF 1 6 4 29 0 Karl - M M ' 2 13 6 10 2 Akiko - JF 0 0 2 6 20 Inna-RF 0 0 4 0 19 143 Some students consistently used the same formulaic openings and closures in all their messages: Table 4.11 Formulaic Openings and Closures Openings Closures Japanese JF2 3 "Hi! I am [name], a Japanese JM3 "Let's share opinions! Thank you for reading" girl" JF4 "Thanks+name" Mexicans MF, "Well..." MF 4 "Bye [Name]" MF 2 "Hey [name] ... hello!" MF 5 "Be happy" MF 3 "[Name]:" MF 6 "adios!", "Love, [Name]" M M 3 "Ey man" MF 7 abbreviated name "mtmt" Russians R M l 5 2 "Dear sirs" RF 4 "Thank you for reading + closure + name" RFi "Good morning!" RF 5 "If you have question, ask; if you want to know RF 2 "Hi there" more, see previous message" RF 3 "Hi, my name is []" RF 6 "Your's, faithfully" R M 3 "Good afternoon" R M 4 "Any comments?" Such habitual ways of opening and closing messages some students used were a form of mapping their space, turning it into a place (Burbules, 2000). "Mapped territories" made students easily recognizable in the forums and contributed to community building. Sense of Community with Own Classmates vs. Foreign Students Some students purposefully chose to read messages only of the foreign students. They said: "When I read I was looking for foreign names." "I did not read messages of my classmates about culture as I knew what they would be about." "I didn't learn much about my classemates since i tried to avoid all the messages they posted to learn from somebody else." 144 The choice of foreign communication partners for some students was facilitated by the bulletin board itself. For example, Elisa, a Mexican student, said that compared to a chat interaction, on the bulletin board, the interaction with foreign students is promoted more: Message no. 3075[Branch from no. 2566] Posted by E l i s a on Thursday, March 21, 2002 10:34am Subject Re: What i s your opinion about online discussions? I n c h a t s and o t h e r s i t e s you can i n t e r a c t w i t h o t h e r c u l t u r e s , b u t u s u a l l y you prefeer to ta l k with people of your own cult u r e , and i n t h i s forum you have to i n t e r a c t with people from other cultures, and i have d i s c o v e r e d t h a t t h i s i s f u n ! and i have l e a r n a l o t . Be happy!! As for the Russian students, they were encouraged by their instructor to read and reply to messages of Japanese and Mexican students, as they were told that they could communicate with their own class-mates face-to-face. The interviews revealed that most students were interested to read messages of both foreign students and their classmates. Miki , a Japanese student, said: "Actually, it is very interesting to read messages by my classmates as well. I know them, but I do not know exactly what they are thinking about different cultures" (Interview). Yukako, another Japanese student, said: I roughly know how Japanese students tend to think, so I am not so interested in their postings. But it depends on the topic. Some topics make me eager to know how Japanese students introduce our culture to foreign students; or how they are interested in other cultures and ask them questions. (Mid-interview) Similarly, Shura, a Russian student, said: "What about my classmates: there were so many postings of them, and it was interesting for me to read them and to know their opinion " (Mid-interview). The study found that the third year Russian students felt attracted to messages of their quiet and reserved female classmate Alia. Semyon said that there were 145 other quiet people in the forum, but they did not feel attracted to them, as opposed to Al ia (and Luda - another person Semyon was interested in) because she had a charismatic personality: Al ia e.g. for me she has such an attractive aura. It was interesting what kind of person she is. I don't know .. .it is difficult to approach her in the face-to-face context. When Luda writes and makes reports in English and talks about her interests - it is very interesting to listen to her. / think they are two the most interesting people who I interacted during my studies very little. ...Due to this forum I began to treat our students .. .not differently, but simply knew more about them, about those people who were interesting to me. (Interview) Indeed, Alia and Luda were two very shy students in a face-to-face context and active online. Luda, for example, found it easier to interact online than face-to-face. This is what she said in the interview: "I-net dialogues are very useful for thought expression: it is quite difficult to be open with people when you speak face-to-face." She also said: In Internet you reveal yourself more. You do not see the reaction. In the face-to-face conversation there are people who will not give you a chance to express your thought and thrust on their own. And here you can speak out everything and wait until they reply and than again. (Mid-interview) Whereas some students preferred to read messages of students from their culture, they rarely replied to their messages. Analysis of greetings in forum B indicates that only 4 Japanese, 2 Mexican and 3 Russian students personally addressed their classmates. In forum D slightly more students addressed their classmates. In comparison, in both forums the Japanese students addressed more often the Russian students; the Mexican students 146 addressed more often the Japanese students, and the Russian students addressed the instructors and the Japanese students more often than the Mexican students. Therefore, generally speaking, the Mexican and Russian students were more attracted to the Japanese students, than to each other. Table 4. 12 Averages of Greetings Addressed to Students/Instructors Greeting: Japanese Forum B Forum D M M Mexicans Forum B Forum D M IYl Russians Forum B Forum D M M Japanese 0.3 0.5 2.2 4.7 2.4 2.5 Mexicans 1.4 1.3 0.2 1.0 3.0 1.5 Russians 2.1 1.9 1.8 4.0 0.3 0.6 Instructors 0.8 0.5 1.4 2.7 3.7 1.9 T h i s b r e a k d o w n is s o m e w h a t understated as it is l i m i t e d o n l y to messages w i t h e x p l i c i t greetings o f students/instructors and does not n e c e s s a r i l y i n d i c a t e students' o v e r a l l preferences o f c o m m u n i c a t i o n partners. 4.4.3 Division of Labour: Deep, Strategic, and Surface Learners The next important variable in the analysis of the online context and students' participation was the division of labour between students and instructors, as well as among students themselves. Several students mentioned that they did not feel instructors' and researchers' online presence, as the latter positioned themselves in a way granting agency to students. As for division of labour among students themselves, depending on the quantity of students' messages, I divided them into a) active, b) balanced and c) passive writers and readers, d) late visitors, and e) drop-outs. Table 4.13 Criteria for Classification of Participants 147 Classification Wrote messages Read messages Active writer/reader >20 >400 Balanced writer/reader 12-19 150-400 Passive writer/reader <12 <150 Drop-outs Visited BB at the beginning, but dropped out at the end Late-visitors Did not participate at the beginning, and visited WebCT in the end Classification of students' interaction revealed that most of the Mexican (70.3%) and Russian (67.4%) students were active writers, whereas most of the Japanese students (73%) were either balanced or passive writers (Table 4.14): Table 4. 14 Classification of Participants across Cultures n Japanese n Mexicans %2 / ; Russians Active writers 5 9.6 26 70.3 31 67.4 Balanced writers 19 36.5 7 18.9 11 23.9 Passive writers 19 36.5 1 2.7 0 0.0 Late-visitors 6 11.5 0 0.0 2 4.3 Drop-outs 3 5.8 3 8.1 2 4.3 Total 52 100.0 —in * 37 100.0 w_ • Jn * 46 100.0 1 Percentage o f total c o u n t o f Japanese. 1 Percentage o f total c o u n t o f M e x i c a n s . ' Percentage o f total c o u n t o f R u s s i a n s . In forum A there was the largest number of active writers and the largest number of messages was generated in this forum (Figure 3.1): Table 4. 15 Classification of Participants across Forums Forum A Forum B Forum C Forum D n n % n % n % Active writers 19 54.3 16 45.7 16 48.5 11 34.4 Balanced 7 20.0 11 31.4 8 24.2 11 34.4 148 writers Passive writers 4 11.4 5 14.3 5 15.2 6 18.8 Late-visitors 4 11.4 0 0.0 2 6.1 2 6.3 Drop-outs 1 2.9 3 8.6 2 6.1 2 6.3 Total 35 100.0 35 100.0 33 100.0 32 100.0 ' Percentage o f total c o u n t o f participants in f o r u m s A - D . Individual students consistently wrote messages that were either critical, mixed (less critical and more social), or phatic; reflecting students' deep, strategic or surface approaches to learning and interaction, based on Entwistle's classification (1994; in Thorpe, 2002; p. 139): Table 4. 16 Entwistle's (1994) Approaches to Learning Model Surface approach( Reproducing) Strategic approach (Organizing) Deep approach ( Transforming) Intention: to cope with content and tasks set Studying without reflecting on purpose or strategy Seeing the course as unrelated bits of knowledge Difficulty in making sense of ideas presented Memorising facts and procedures routinely Feeling undue pressure and worry about work Intention: to excel on assessed work Alertness to assessment requirements and criteria Gearing work to perceived preferences of lecturers Putting consistent effort into studying Ensuring right conditions and materials for studying Managing time and effort to maximise grades Intention: to understand material for oneself Showing an active interest in course content Relating ideas to previous knowledge and experience Looking for patterns and underlying principles Adopting a cautious, critical stance Checking evidence and relating conclusions Those students who used a deep approach invested much of their efforts in writing messages of good quality that would stretch their L2. Those who used a strategic approach, did not invest extra-effort, but wrote just as much as needed to satisfy their instructor and, at the same time, to have an enjoyable practice. Finally, those who used a surface approach were not likely to improve their language and intercultural awareness as they engaged in the interaction just to not fail the course - their focus was not on quality of messages, but rather 149 on leaving short, often phatic evidence of their presence. The deep approach to interaction was expressed by Salvador, who said: I take my time to read things over, to think carefully, to start writing and to proofread what I've written, and then post. .. .1 try to be active, and also try to give something meaningfull to the discussion, but also keeping quiet so that others can speak. I'd rather make a few posts of something that really interests me, and make good ones, than to speak lightly about some I might not care too much. (IRC - Interview) The students who took a deep approach had a strong sense of interlocutor, as Alia, a Russian student, said: "I wanted to clarify their image, give some aknowledgement, cheers I tried to find common issues" (IRC interview). The holistic analysis has demonstrated that the number of students who took deep, strategic and surface approaches to interaction and learning was approximately equal across cultures: Table 4.17 Deep, Strategic and Surface Communicators across Cultures n Japanese N Mexican %2 n Russian Deep approach 12 27.9 9 26.5 10 23.8 Strategic approach 23 53.5 17 50.0 23 54.8 Surface approach 8 18.6 8 23.5 9 21.4 Total 43 100.0 34 100.0 42 100.0 ' U J Percentage o f total c o u n t o f Japanese, M e x i c a n s , and R u s s i a n s . • S t a t i s t i c s i n this table does not i n c l u d e " d r o p - o u t s " and " l a t e v i s i t o r s " The number of students who took deep, surface and strategic approaches differed across forums, though. The largest number of students who took deep approach were 150 students in forums A (26.3%) and B (30.6%). In forums C (18.2%) and D (12.5%), the number of students who took deep approach decreased two times. Table 4.18 Deep, Strategic and Surface Communicators across Forums Forum A Forum B Forum C Forum D Communicator n n %2 n %3 n %J Deep 10 26.3 11 30.6 6 18.2 4 12.5 Strategic 15 39.5 18 50.0 20 60.6 14 43.8 Surface 5 13.2 3 8.3 3 9.1 10 31.3 Late visitors & Drop-outs 5 21.1 3 11.1 4 12.1 4 12.5 Total 35 100.0 35 100.0 33 100.0 32 100.0 Percentage o f total c o u n t o f participants i n f o r u m s A - D . Although in forum A there were many students who took a deep approach, this did not contribute to the community development. Many critical messages remained un-answered because they were too long, academic, and not appealing to others. Participants who used a deep approach in forum A were academically strong, but not as social. In addition, some deep messages were simply overlooked by others because of the large number of messages. In comparison, in forum D there were too many students who either took a surface approach or did not participate at all. This forum was also male dominated. The most popular topics in this forum were about alcohol, sports, gambling, soccer world cup and computers. Generally speaking, the best quality of interaction took place in forums B and C, which contained the fewest number of unanswered messages. In addition, the students in these forums wrote balanced messages that combined both critical and social features that helped promote a community development. 151 Differences in participation across forums indicated that each forum had its own dynamics orchestrated by students themselves. Contributions from students with different personalities (e.g. social and joyful Stella, serious and critical Salvador and Petr, "philosopher" Luda, talkative Yuka, thoughtful Kenji and Alia, etc.) made their forums evolve in distinct ways. In what follows I illustrate how different personalities were reflected in students' writing and shaped the dynamics of online interaction. 4.4.4 Different Personalities Expressed in Writing Semyon, a Russian male student introduced the topic about his dog. Semyon thought that, generally, this topic was more likely to be discussed by children and, therefore, began his message with expressing his awareness that this topic might not be interesting to other students. Then, he introduced his dog using a genre of narrative. The text felt like a small literary work with the presence of texture and emotions. Semyon chose, first of all, to reveal himself as a very loving, tender human being and managed to awake this side in the readers. His message was written in grammatically correct English revealing the evidence that Semyon used a dictionary in which he was looking for translation of his dog's pedigree. Here is his full message: Message no. 2610 P o s t e d by Semyon on S a t u r d a y , March 16, 2002 1:20pm Subject Pets May be i t ' s not i n t e r e s t i n g t o p i c , I t h i n k c h i l d r e n i n s c h o o l d i s c u s s such t h i n g s . But i n anyway. Do you l i k e dogs o r c a t s more, o r any o t h e r p e t s ? As f o r me I l i k e dogs. I don't l i k e c a t s and I don't want t o t e l l why. I t h i n k t h e dog i s t h e b e s t p e t . E s p e c i a l l y mine. I didn't f i n d the t r a n s l a t i o n of i t ' s breed. But you s h o u l d know i t . I t ' s s m a l l , funny, f l u f f y , has l o n g e a r s and always l i k e a puppy. And a l l my f a m i l y l o v e s i t v e r y , v e r y much. Long t i m e ago i t became a member o f t h e f a m i l y w i t h e q u a l w i t h us r i g h t s . I don't know maybe we a r e 152 c r a z y , b u t we wash i t w i t h t h e b e s t human shampoo, and papa v e r y a n g r y when I use i t , i t s l e e p s on t h e a r m c h a i r n e x t t o p a r e n t s bed, we g i v e her g i f t s on each h o l i d a y . Mama always d r e s s e s our g i r l i n d i f f e r e n t ornaments on such days. Mother and f a t h e r spend much ti m e a day t o s h i r k , t o comb and t o chee r up i t . Now our g i r l i s p r e g n a n t f o r t h e second t i m e and we're i n a worry f o r h e r h e a l t h . I a d v i s e t o a l l o f you t o p u r c h a s e l i t t l e dogs, not b i g . Because l i t t l e dog brings heat to the soul and always a smile. And i f you have b i g rancho or v i l l a then you should have two dogs. One b i g as a s e c u r i t y , and a n o t h e r l i t t l e f o r t h e f a m i l y . Semyon used international words - "rancho" and "villa" demonstrating his consideration of the contexts from which other students were participating in this discussion. Paloma, a Mexican student, replied 2 days later. She opened her message with the expression of her approval of the non-academic topic. She also shared her love for dogs and introduced cats as potential objects of love. We see that Paloma became sincerely curious in Semyon's personality, as she asked: "Why don't you like cats? Im curious." Her positive attitude is evident in the use of smiley face and positive appraisal of Semyon's message about his dog: Message no. 2719[Branch from no. 2610] P o s t e d by Paloma on Monday, March 18, 2002. 8:35am Subject Re: Pets h i semyon! Im g l a d somebody i n t r o d u c e d a simpler topi c to t a l k about, other than a l l those complicated problems... :) I a l s o l i k e dogs v e r y much, but o n l y t h e s m a l l ones, because you ca n t p l a y w i t h b i g ones, a t l e a s t n ot me. I have a b i g germa shepherd, and hes a h a s l e . . hes v e r y p l a y f u l but knocks me down and I ca n t s t a n d i t . Your dog sound very cute. On t h e o t h e r hand, i t h i n k c a t s a r e a l s o v e r y c u t e , e s p e c i a l y k i t t e n s . They ar e much more p e a c e f u l t h a n dogs, and v e r y easy t o t a k e c a r e o f . why dont you l i k e c a t s ? im c u r i o u s . Teresa, another Mexican female student, responded to these messages by posting a joke about cats and dogs: Message no. 2977[Branch from no. 2610] P o s t e d by Teresa on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 10:05am Subject Re: Pets I l o v e dogs, though I don't have one. my house i s t o o s m a l l . I h a t e c a t s because t h e y a r e not l o y a l . I f e e l l i k e c a t s a r e t h e r e when t h e y need you. There i s a j o k e 153 I w ould l i k e t o s h a r e w i t h you: DOGS THINKING: My master t a k e s c a r e o f me, p e t s me, fe e d s me, walks me, e t c . He must be god. CATS THINKING: My master f e e d s me, t a k e s c a r e o f me, b a t h s me, e t c . I must be god. SEE THAT'S WHY I DON'T LIKE CATS. JAJAJAJAJAJAJAJA :) mtmt Yet, another style of writing motivated by a simple topic: "pets" was introduced by Kenji, a Japanese student. His message took a critical stance by turning a discussion of seemingly "unserious" topic to discussion of social problem about the lack of responsibility of the dogs' owners in relation to their pets: Message no. 2989[Branch from no. 2 977] P o s t e d by Kenjion Wednesday, March 20, 2002 11:27am Subject Re: Pets H i , I l i k e dogs...but I must t e l l about s i t u a t i o n i n Japan. Maybe ower l e s s dogs a r e i n c r e a s i n g because t h e y had t h o s e as p e t and t h e n t h e y threw away t h o s e . Because o f Japanse s e l f i s h , ower l e s s dogs a r e k i l l e d by u s i n g i n j e c t i o n s i n h e l a t h f a c i l i t i e s . I t h i n k we s h o u l d not c h a i n dogs u p . . . i f you were them, you must s t a y home a l l day w i t h d o i n g n o t h i n g s p e c i a l o u t s i d e . I t h i n k we s h o u l d have r e s p o n s i b i l t i e s . . I mean i f p e o p l e have p l o b l e m not t o have as p e t , we s h o u l d f i n d t o s o l v e t h a t p r o b l e m p r o p e r l y i n f e s t e d o f t h r o w i n g away. I want t o have some dogs w i t h o u t c h a i n i n f u t u r e i f I c o u l d have space l i k e farm. How about s i t u a t i o n i n your c o u n t r y ? The final message in this thread was posted by Jose, a Mexican student. He chose not to go in a "serious" direction, taken by Kenji, rather, he chose to talk lightly on this topic: Message no. 3522[Branch from no. 2977] P o s t e d by Jose on S a t u r d a y , March 30, 2002 11:19am Subject Re: Pets My f a v o r i t e p e t s i s t u r t l e s , i l o v e t u r t l e s because t h e y a r e so p a s s i v e and n i c e , two y e a r s ago i had a one but a dog a t e i t . Now i have l i t t l e ones b u t t h e y a r e water t u r t l e s . I l i k e dogs but i dont have one i n my department because i s : s m a l l and i l i k e b i g ones. I dont l i k e c a t s because i dont l i k e i t s eyes im a f r a i d of them. As we can see from this exchange, the trivial topic "pets" generated a wide array of responses - emotional narratives, critical inquiry, humorous message and casual conversation. In each of these messages we can see students' personalities - Kenji chose to 154 be serious and critical, Semyon and Paloma emotional, and Teresa and Jose took the "youth" stance. Semyon and Paloma opened their inner, vulnerable emotional selves to others which revealed their high level of trust. For Semyon showing his loving side became a "gender-crossing" act to some extent, as discussing such topics as "pets" and being emotional usually indicates a female side. This example demonstrated the pluralism of identities and genres characteristic to an online community. In addition, through this example we can see that discussing "trivial" topics can become emotional, border-crossing, educational and very human communication experience. 4.4.5 Summary: Agency I determined the presence of human agency and its shaping effect by discussing an object, community, and division of labour aspects of A T based on students' reflections. Object: Communicative Need. Interestingly, when students began to interact, their objects and expectations that were formed on the broader level of geopolitical structures and institutional contexts underwent changes in accordance with the affordances of online environments and students' own agency, revealed in a new online context. Thus, for example, as we could see from what Mik i said, at the beginning her main motive was grade, but, as soon as she began to interact online, it turned out that her main motivation became the anticipation of replies. Once students came to the online space, they re-considered their goals in accordance with the affordances of the new environment. The study found that only when students felt communicative need - the state when they were emotionally and intellectually involved in the interaction, they were truly investing themselves in this activity and felt satisfaction. 155 One Community or Multiple Communities? Instead of forming one community of learners, students formed multiple small communities based on their interests in particular topics and their interaction partners. Echoing a number of previous studies on C M C (Chun, 1994; Herrmann, 1995; Nolla, 2001; Potts, 2001) this study found that community formation was taking place because of the social functions students demonstrated including the most discrete ones such as greetings and closures (politeness moves). The different use of politeness moves also revealed individual differences of the students - some tended to be person-oriented, polite and social and some were more task-oriented and omitted social rituals (Tables 4.9, 4.10). Students were interested in messages of their own classmates as well as their foreign interaction partners. Their interest in messages of their own classmates most likely was due to their willingness to feel the presence of people they knew in order to turn a new online space into a friendlier and familiar place (Burbules, 2000). Finally, in this study individual differences and division of labour became two salient features. Based on the quantity and quality of students' contributions, the study classified them into active, balanced, and passive writers/readers, late-visitors and drop-outs; deep, strategic, and surface learners. I demonstrated students' personal differences in terms of their socio-emotional characteristics expressed through discussion of the topic "pets." Thus, the study found that student agency was a strong shaping factor of online communities. CONTRADICTIONS Research question 2: What are the cross-cultural contradictions/tensions of International telecollaboration? 156 "Contradictions/tensions" became the salient theme that emerged from the data. According to Vygotsky (1978), the analysis of rough and conflict-based situations may bring a lot of insights into interpreting "the developmental path of a particular phenomenon." With this in mind in this section I discuss each contradiction separately with the purpose to reveal the processes of how intercultural online communication evolved in this study. 4.6 Cross-Cultural Contradictions/Tensions 4.6.1 Concerns: to Participate or not to Participate The study identified 6 types of anxiety students experienced at the beginning of the project. 1. Novelty/Unpredictability of the Practice. Almost all Russian students shared Shura's opinion: "As everyone else I felt uncertainty and constraint at the beginning of the project associated with my unawareness of what was going to happen." Similarly, Sierra, a Mexican student, said: At the beginning of the project / was a little confuse, i didn't know what to say, what to write, how to response the other msgs but while i was writting the messages i like the idea to interact with people of other places so i send a lot of messages more than the teacher told me to send. (IRC interview) At the beginning, Sierra was confused and "did not know what to say, what to write" because for her, to participate in such an international project was something new and unfamiliar. However, Sierra reported that she became interested in interaction, as soon as she began to interact and found out more about the project. 157 2. Cultural Concerns - Anxiety to seem "strange". In addition to the anxiety of not knowing what to say, Yasu, a Japanese student, was afraid to seem "strange" due to her perceived cultural differences. She wrote in her journal: First I have heard of this discussion, I have no idea what to talk with them. Because / did not know what topic they are interested in. Moreover, I was little embarrassed to express opinion to others, especially from different culture. At first, I only could read their messages and could not respond them. I was too conscious and worried to be seen strange. The reason is because my way of thinking is based on Japanese very much and I thought it might sound strange for Mexican or Russian students. I myself have been surprised to hear different opinion from different culture and I thought difference is bad thing at that moment. (Journal entry) After Yasu saw that other students felt quite comfortable to post their messages, she had also posted her introduction and after she received replies, her anxiety began to decrease as she realized that she had something in common with her communication partners: Now my way of thinking is changing and I posted my introduction on the online discussion board. I did not think it is a big deal for me and other student. However, when I found respond to my postings, / was very glad that someone was interested in my topic and gave me back a message. As I read the message, I realized that other students from Mexico and Russia also have the same kind of interests as me. I found it interesting because we have great regional distance, but our interest are really close to each other. (Journal entry) 3. Being afraid to not meet all project requirements. Before the project Russian students were asked of their feelings toward the project, and some of them shared Katya's 158 feelings: "First of all I said to myself - cool! But then I asked myself whether I could meet these requirements." This type of anxiety was also related to students' lack of experience with computer technologies. Many Russian students said: "I was very surprised and / was afraid because I had never took part in such seminar." " / was afraid, because I had no practice of working on the Internet. " 4. Anxiety to seem less knowledgeable than Japanese and Mexicans. In addition, many Russian students said in the interview: "I felt less confident because I thought that Japanese and Mexicans would be more advanced than we were." "We thought that their English would be much better than ours." Concern to seem less knowledgeable made the Russian students to prepare for the project beforehand. Students' anxiety level was triangulated through the survey (Table 4.6), which identified the highest degree of concern to seem less knowledgeable among the Russian students (37.1%) (Compare to 15.9% of the Japanese and 16.7% of the Mexican students) As Kostya, a Russian student said in the interview: I was concerned about participating in the project. I thought they were all monsters - / thought Mexicans were so advanced. If they read my poor messages I thought I would disgrace our department of World economics and myself. Therefore, I had to learn grammar again - how the sentences are written. This might have improved my grammar. Echoing Kostya, Shura notes: "We learned how to compose grammatically correct sentences in order to not disgrace ourselves in the eyes of other foreign students." Anxiety of such nature, might have been related to Russian students' lack of international experience, as compared to Japanese and Mexican students, they traveled the least (Appendix D). 159 Later, when the project started, many Russian students realized that the Japanese and Mexican English language proficiency was similar to their English proficiency. This significantly reduced their anxiety level. As Shura, a Russian student said: "I was afraid that I would seem odd compared to them, but it seemed to me that the level of their knowledge is similar to ours." 5. Cultural concern - Anxiety to represent the whole country. Russian students' anxiety to seem less knowledgeable might have been also related to the way Svetlana introduced the project as a unique and rare opportunity, made possible due to the Canadian university initiative. Students were told that participation in the project was a privilege: "Our teacher said that we were chosen among all university: no one more can have such lesson here besides our Department - to communicate through Internet with Canada" (Alia). As some of the Russian students said: "it's an international project and we are face of our Republic" (Alia, interview). "We had a feeling that we were the part of something and representatives of the whole Russia. I personally had such feeling. Not the whole Russia, but [my republic]" (Asya, interview). The Russian students perceived this project not as a mere interaction, but, rather, as something having a broader international meaning. This fact motivated students, and, at the same time, raised their anxiety level. This type of anxiety explains why there were more students who were afraid to seem less knowledge among Russians. 4.6.2 Unequal Participation 160 Based on students' posting activity, I divided them into thread-initiators and thread-developers. The striking statistic was that almost all new topics were initiated by the Russian students, and therefore, they fell within the thread-initiators category (Table 4.19). Table 4.19 Thread Initiation Students Japanese Mexican Russian M 2 M 2 M 2 Forum A 13.2 2.0 10.7 2.1 76.1 13.6 Forum B 17.8 2.0 10.3 1.5 71.9 8.8 Forum C 26.0 2.6 9.2 1.3 64.9 7.7 Forum D 19.9 2.6 8.8 2.1 71.3 11.1 ' P r o p o r t i o n o u t o f the total n u m b e r o f initiated threads in the f o r u m ' M e a n n u m b e r o f threads initiated per p e r s o n . In comparison, the Japanese and Mexican students were characterized as thread-developers. Rodrigo explained why he did not initiate new thread as follows: "I initiated just 1 thread because: I had enough with those already posted, and I think I'm lazy, it was easier to only read and respond" (Interview). The largest number of messages initiated by the Russian students during the first stage of the project, were about their native culture (table 4.19), such as "National holidays", "Customs and traditions", "Sports", "History," "Education," "Economic situation," "Russian meals" (Table 4.20). The second by number were casual topics about modern, everyday life of students. Table 4. 20 Breakdown of Topic Initiation 1-6 Weeks 6-12 Weeks Topics Japanese Mexican Russian Japanese Mexican Russian Introductions 53 32 45 0 0 0 161 Farewells2 0 0 0 0 2 29 Casual 7 4 33 12 6 41 Course-based 3 2 7 4 0 19 Cultural (own culture) 2 6 144 5 2 38 Cultural (other cultures) 2 0 12 6 1 15 Global 6 0 20 4 4 15 Total 20 12 216 31 13 128 Mean3 0.4 0.3 4.8 0.6 0.4 2.8 T h i s table represents a l l n e w l y initiated t o p i c s across 4 f o r u m s that were c a t e g o r i z e d and c o u n t e d w i t h a p u r p o s e to demonstrate a) u n e q u a l t o p i c i n i t i a t i o n a c t i v i t y b y students f r o m three cultures and b) students' t o p i c preferences, i n t r o d u c t i o n s and F a r e w e l l s w e r e not i n c l u d e d into total c o u n t o f messages. ' A v e r a g e s o f total p o s t e d messages per p e r s o n . When many Russian students posted their first messages with description of their cultural aspects such as "Russian holidays", "Russian history", "Sports in Russia" etc. Japanese and Mexican students were grateful that the Russians shared information about their culture. However, when messages on the same cultural topics appeared multiple times (as students followed the fixed plan what topics they should discuss), it became a burden for some students. Analysis of messages identified, that Russian students posted longer messages, compared to Japanese and Mexican students. Thus, some of their messages were the size of two-three computer-screens (Table 4.21). Table 4. 21 Averages of Students posted Messages of Different Length (Forum A, Stage 1) Length of messages Japanese Female Male M M Mexican Female M Male M Russians Female Male M M Very short (up to 7 1.4 1.3 2.4 4.6 4.0 4.8 lines) Short (8- 13 lines) 2.9 0.8 7.2 5.2 4.0 2.8 Medium (14 - 20 lines) 3.2 0.5 3.2 1.6 4.3 2.0 162 Medium - long (21 - 27 0.8 0.0 1.6 0.0 1.9 1.3 lines) Long (28 - 34 lines) 0.4 0.0 0.4 0.0 0.3 1.8 Very long (35 - 42 0.1 0.0 0.2 0.0 0.4 1.3 lines) Longer than 42 lines 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 1.8 * M - m e a n n u m b e r o f messages initiated per p e r s o n . Because of such unequal participation, many Russian students complained that: "Mexicans and Japanese should send more information and topics." Nurgun, a Russian student, openly expressed his frustration about unequal participation in the following manner: Message no 1339: [Branch from no. 1051] p o s t e d by Nurgun Tue Feb 26, 2002 19:25 Subject: What do you t h i n k about t h i s WebCt p r o j e c t so f a r ? H e l l o . I t h i n k i t ' s v e r y i n t e r e s t i n g , but why only students from Russia are sending messages. Theme 1: Unequal Transfer of Information. Some Russian students complained that generally, messages of Japanese and Mexican students were not as informative, as some Russian students expected them to be. This can be evidenced from the following example of exchange between Karl, a Mexican student and Kira, a Russian students. Message no. 1608: Posted by Karl on Thu Feb 28, 2002 16:05 Subject: About my school!!!!! F i r s t a b l e I would l i k e t o t e l l you what k i n d o f s c h o o l I s [my s c h o o l ] . T h i s i s a s c h o o l who make s t u d e n t s t o o p r e p a r e d and c o u l d be memers o f any company t h a t work f o r good. T h i s s c h o o l i s t o o e x p e n s i v e but i t depends on you how p r e p a r e d you wanna be. So, I recommended, c-ya l a t t e r We see that Karl did not invest much effort in his message, and therefore, received additional questions on the topic from Kira, a Russian student: Message no. 1910: [Branch from no. 1608] Posted by Kira on Tue Mar 05, 2002 06:39 Subject: re: About my school!!!!! 163 Can you t e l l s o mething more about [your s c h o o l ] ? What k i n d o f s p e c i a l i s t s does i t make? (p. 136) Also, the common complaints among Russian students were: "Japanese and Mexicans did not give us much information about their culture and traditions." "Japanese did not write about their culture. They probably thought we knew about it." Complaint of an unequal participation was especially salient in forum A , where the Russian students were the most active participants. Some students from this forum requested more information directly on the bulletin board. Danil, for example, wrote: Message no. 1514:[Branch from no. 1082] P o s t e d by Danil on Mon Feb 27, 2002 20:04 Subject: re: OLYMPIC GAMES H i ! ! ! P l e a s e write me some information about p r e - e m i n e n t Japanese sportsmens. Message no. 1508[Branch from no. 10 91] P o s t e d by Danil on Mon Feb 27, 2002 19:56 Subject: re: MY FAVOURITE HOLIDAY H i ! ! ! What i s your most i m p o r t a n t h o l i d a y ? P l e a s e describe i t f o r me. Danil used words "send me information" and "describe" which indicate that he viewed interaction as information transmission. He also posted a series of long, grammatically correct and full of information essays such as: "My usual day off,' 'My favorite holiday,' 'Olympics,' 'My native country - the Russian federation. History, geography, culture", "My favourite singer" (Michael Jackson) and "The role of books in our life. My favourite book." Few of his postings received short replies and never developed in longer discussions, therefore, Danil thought he did not receive the equal amount of information in exchange. 164 In another example when, Naoko, a Japanese student, wrote a list of Japanese holidays, Dolores, a Mexican student, requested a website where she could learn more about these holidays: "tell me about a website where I can find some information about each of them (holidays), I'm really curious about knowing a little bit about each." Naomi satisfied Dolores's curiosity by providing a website with a few comments: Message no. 520: P o s t e d by Naoko on Mon Feb 18, 2002 13:51 Subject: Japanese holidays H e l l o guys!! I f you know about Japanese h o l i d a y s and c u l t u r e , p l z check on t h i s www(http://www.j ! ! There a r e many i n t e r e s t i n g t o p i c s ! ! See you, naomi. The response from Yana, a Russian student, to Naoko's short message was: Message no. 1499: [Branch from no. 520] P o s t e d by Yana on Mon Feb 27, 2002 19:48 Subject: re: Japanese holidays HI!!! My name i s Yana. Why donot you write some information about i t ? I t h i n k t h a t i t i s v e r y i n t e r e s t i n g t o know about i t ! ! ! We have some s i m i l a r h o l i d a y s . H i k e i t v e r y much!!! Do you know some R u s s i a n n a t i o n a l h o l i d a y s ? I f you want t o know, p l e a s e ask. It is evident from Yana's message that she was disappointed that Naomi did not provide information about Japanese holidays, but instead gave a website where others could find information on that topic. Indeed, some Russian students found it frustrating that Japanese and Mexican students just sent them web-sites instead of writing the information. Tina, a Russian student, said: "You write something not according to the plan, but from your heart and soul and wait for reply, but receive either no reply, or just 2 lines. And they only throw their sites - search as you want" (Interview). Explanation 165 The Russian students initiated almost all threads and wrote messages on similar topics because they followed the plan to write 5 half-screen long messages every week. They had to post their messages no matter if they felt an inner communicative need or not. Therefore, Luda, a Russian students, wrote: "If someone writes to me, I reply to this person, and i f nobody writes, I just send a topic - general topic to everyone" (Mid-interview). More importantly, the Russian students were required to catch up if they did not post the required number of messages over the previous weeks. Also because the Russian students had limited Internet access, they wrote messages at home and posted them from the floppy disks by simply initiating new threads on the bb during their limited time in the lab. Because of this, their messages were on the same topics and scattered all over the place, creating disorder on the bulletin board. As Luda, a Russian student, said: I don't have the Internet at home, so I have a chance to read and reply messages only during the lessons in the computer class. I live in a dormitory, and I can use my friend's computer to write the messages on the discette. And then I ask my friend who has the Internet at home to send my messages. That's why my messages appears rarely and one by one. 4.6.3 Clash of Genres: "Writing at the Moment" and "Writing Beforehand" When, Petr, a Russian student, wrote the following message: Message no. 1410 P o s t e d by Petr on Wednesday, F e b r u a r y 27, 2002 6:36am Subject G l o b a l i z a t i o n G l o b a l i z a t i o n One o f t h e i m p o r t a n t a s p e c t s o f g l o b a l i s a t i o n i s i n t e g r a t i o n . Economic, p o l i t i c a l and o t h e r c o n n e c t i o n s between c o u n t r i e s d e v e l o p . Today i t ' s i m p o s s i b l e t o grow w i t h o u t f o r e i g n a f f a i r s , and i t ' s 166 b e t t e r t o t r a d e w i t h your p a r t n e r on good o r a t l e a s t s a t i s f a c t o r y terms - and c o u n t r i e s u n i t e and u n i t e w i t h each o t h e r . So, a c c o r d i n g t o t h i s t h e o r y , t h e more a c o u n t r y i n t e g r a t e s , t h e b e t t e r i s i t f o r i t s economy. A m e r i c a n magazine " F o r e i g n p o l i c y " i n v e s t i g a t e d t h e l e v e l o f i n t e g r a t i o n o f 62 c o u n t r i e s . R u s s i a o c c u p i e s t h e 3 9 t h p l a c e - a b i t worse t h a n average, j u s t between Japan and S e n e g a l . The USA - t h e 12th p l a c e . The h i g h e s t l e v e l o f g l o b a l i s a t i o n now i s i n I r e l a n d , S w i t z e r l a n d and S i n g a p o r e . 13 i n d i c a t o r s were c o n s i d e r e d d u r i n g t h e e v a l u a t i o n . They d e s c r i b e l e v e l o f i n t e g r a t i o n i n d i f f e r e n t s p h e r e s - economy, p o l i t i c s , i n t e r n a t i o n a l t r a d e , i n f o r m a t i o n a l t e c h n o l o g i e s exchange e t c . S p e c i a l i s t s t h i n k t h a t i t ' s s m a l l c o u n t r i e s t h a t a r e c o n s i d e r a b l y i n v o l v e d i n t h e i n t e g r a t i o n . And such huge c o u n t r i e s as I n d i a , C h i n a , B r a z i l , I n d o n e s i a a r e i n t h e bottom o f t h e l i s t . I t can be e a s i l y e x p l a i n e d by th e f a c t t h a t s m a l l c o u n t r i e s depend on f o r e i g n t r a d e q u i t e more t h a n b i g ones owing t o h a v i n g fewer r e s o u r c e s and fewer t r a n s p o r t expenses. But t h e i n t e g r a t i o n can be r e g a r d e d as dangerous as i t r educes c o u n t r i e s ' i n dependence. So, t h e r e a r e two a t t i t u d e s t o t h e i n t e g r a t i o n . Which one i s c o r r e c t ? The reply from Karl, the Mexican student was: Message no. 2017[Branch from no. 1410] P o s t e d by K a r l on Thursday, March 7, 2002 4:15pm Subject Re: G l o b a l i z a t i o n H i e v e r y o n e . . . The o n l y t h i n g t h a t i want t o know i s . . . w h a t do you think about g l o b a l i z a t i o n ??? Bye bye CCHS In this example of genre clash we see the dissatisfaction of Karl with Petr's message which he found to be dispassionate, distanced, too long and academic. Petr, guided by the assumption that this communication should be academic and, based on his professional interest and additional literature, was in conflict with Karl who viewed the interaction as informal and a chat-like conversation. For Petr it was all about transfer of objective information, for Ivan it was a relationship-building activity. In addition, this example represents a clash between students' deep and surface approaches to communication. I classified Petr as a deep communicator, as all his messages were 167 consistently reflective, although not all of them necessarily social. On the other hand, Karl consistently interacted on a surface level with almost 90% of his messages representing phatic interaction. In what follows we will se the major themes within this "Clash of Genre" contradiction. The Mexican Students' Reflections on Genre Many Mexican students characterized the Russian messages as long, same, "boring" topics about their culture, "scattered all over the place," which made many Mexican students say: "first I was interested in both - Japanese and Russian messages, but than was bored by Russian messages. " This explains why almost 50% of messages initiated by the Russian students in forum A , have not received any replies in the first stage of the project (Table 4.22). Table 4. 22 Number of Russian Threads that Have not Received Replies % Stagel n Total % Stage 2 n Total Forum A 47.4 37 78 7.6 5 66 Forum B 31.3 21 67 0 0 27 Forum C 29.3 17 58 4.8 1 21 Forum D 37.8 31 82 12.1 4 33 In the mid-interview many Mexican students characterized the genres three groups of students in the following way: of writing of "Japanese have sense of humor, life and culture; Mexicans are relaxed, sharp, to the point, Russian write long messages and I got lost what they were talking about." "Japanese and Mexicans postings are the most interesting and easier to read." 168 Theme 1: Plagiarism. Moreover, many Mexican students accused Russian students of plagiarism. They said in the interview: "Japanese and Mexicans write their own postings, and Russians copy and paste (plagiarize) and it is not fair." On a question what motivated and discouraged students from participation, the common answers of Mexican students were: It motivates me the fact that you can share your opinions and express yourself with others. What discourages me is the fact that it seems that not everyone is taking the time to write messages about what they think and they're just copy and pasting some information. (Dolores, Mid-interview) The things that motivated me, are the interesting topics that sometimes the students write; and discourages me: the plagiarism that sometimes occurs, when the student talk about some specific theme of their country and then they copy and paste it from the internet, it really disappointed me. (Arcadia, Mid-interview) Theme 2: Writing at the moment and writing beforehand. Many Mexican students got the impression that the Russian students plagiarized because their messages did not sound like they were written based on their own opinions. Russian students, for example, referred to existing theories/articles/books 20 times in forum " A " , compared to 6 times of Japanese and 3 times of Mexican students (Appendix H). Sierra, a Mexican student, characterized the Russian messages in the following way: The russians are like they write the msgs, but.. .it isn't seems like they write in the moment with theirs own word their msgs were perferct, they didn't have any mistake and Japanese were like they write at the momento... what they think in this momento i 169 dont know... but i feel it was like that... and i prefer to write what you think in this momento than write something that i found in internet or a book.... is like copy paste... and is better in your own word because you are practicing your English. .. .That people i f see that is that not all are gonna read that. (IRC interview) Thus, in many Mexican students' view, the Russian students engaged in the practice of "writing beforehand," which was opposed to Japanese and Mexican students' practice of "writing at the moment." Sierra said that "writing beforehand" would be quite acceptable on the asynchronous bulletin board as long as copied information is "put in one's own words": .. .is better a copy paste but change somoe words and put in your own words is like reading a book... and in this case is like a chat combine with information.... to know how to say the things without the people say that they dont want to read that message because is very long.... and it not seems like the persons write. (IRC interview) In this statement Sierra raised the importance of being communicatively competent: "to know how to say the things without the people say that they don't want to read that message." Practices of "writing at the moment" and "writing beforehand" reflect two different approaches to interaction - the one happening without any preliminary preparation and the other taking place off-line and based on a literature review. Students who wrote "at the moment" might have or might have not consulted the sources and dictionaries, depending on their overall (deep, strategic or surface) approaches to interaction. As interview demonstrated, many Japanese and Mexican students did not consult any sources, grounding their messages on their current background knowledge and immediate context of interaction. Therefore, they avoided writing on the topics beyond their scope of expertise because they 170 were afraid to give distorted information (unless they would have engaged in the practice of "writing beforehand" on their own). On the other hand, some Russian students who wrote "beforehand", although inserted social anchors in their messages, such as greetings and closures, were not engaged in interaction. These students were doing something different - namely, they followed the path of engaging in traditional writing practice, when they were evaluated for precise information transfer and for error-free performance reinforced by their instructor. The Japanese Students' Reflections on Genre Interestingly, many Japanese students tended to regret that their participation was not as active as the participation of Mexican and Russian students. Here are some common Japanese students' reflections: "Mexicans and Russians are more active than Japanese (seek topics)." - "Mexicans & Russians are friendly, however, "I cannot feel Japanese are friendly from message." "They (sound) more attractive than Japanese." - "Mexicans & Russians write their opinion more than Japanese (think more about the topic than Japanese)." "Mexicans write in less academic language, Russians in more academic language, and Japanese mostly reply." 171 Interestingly, Japanese students' poor participation was characterized by them as sounding not "attractive." Also more Japanese students expressed sensitivity with regards to the length of their messages. For example such concerns as this one: "I was thinking that my introduction was too long and few people read all of the sentence" (Mayako, B B message) was explicitly expressed by several Japanese students. Such behaviour was more likely attributed to Japanese students' previous experience of taking a course in which they were specifically taught about netiquette. Generally, the whole theme of sounding attractive and leaving good impression was very much characteristic to Japanese students, which might have been also attributed to their socially-constructed cultural characteristics. Interestingly, none of the Japanese students blamed Russian students for plagiarism, and in fact, in their interviews, very few students expressed their dissatisfaction with the Russian cultural topics. They would generally characterize Russian students' messages as: "same and long," they would also note that Russians were "interested very much in culture." When I asked Ruriko, a Japanese student, what she thought about Russian students' writing, Ruriko said that the way the Russians wrote their messages reflected their cultural ways of writing, which should be equally respected. Some students also sensed that Russian students were given an assignment to write on particular topics. The Russian Students' Reflections on Genre In comparison, many Russian students said: "Almost everybody in our group and our instructor as well thought that their English and grammar was worse than ours" (Shura, interview). "They write in 'free English' and don't use dictionary. Japanese and Mexicans 172 are more free: 'hi! ' 'Wow!' We wrote 'faithfully your's' © we were not as free as they were" (Zhenya, Interview). The practice of writing "at the moment" and "beforehand" was reflected in students' grammar. As Olya, a Russian student said: Japanese and Mexican English is different, not as ours, and their sentence structure is different. For example, we pay more attention to grammar and than, we know that "I" should be written in capital letter and they wrote in small. Almost everybody in our group and our instructor as well thought that their English and grammar was worse than ours. And I don't know what they thought about our English. (Interview) Indeed, many Russian students wrote with minimum errors because they used dictionaries. In Alla's description of her bb use we see how much attention she paid to the form: I usually go to the WebCT 3 times a week—once at home and 2 times at the University. When I at home I download it and then read and write some topics or replies autonomically using dictionaries. Then I usually make copy of my messages on a floppy disc to send them at the classes. Sometimes I write on the Bulletin Board directly with dictionaries too. Still I have a number of mistakes, but you can correct them through reading correct way of writing in other postings I think (Mid-interview). Explanation: Assignment vs. Free Interaction. Overall, in their interviews, some Russian students expressed their awareness about the reason for differences in participation between three groups of students. They said that, 173 compared to Japanese and Mexican students, they perceived the interaction as an assignment: "Our students wrote long and same messages as they viewed the project as an assignment and it was boring." Also: Japanese and Mexicans did not have control, right? - they interacted freely, it seems to me, but we - no. If we also had the same conditions, because we were like idiots -write and write they probably looked at our messages with eyes like jars - so many similar topics about republic, everyone writes similar things - give me a break! (Tina, Interview) There was a situation - the Russian students wrote the large number of messages on the same topics, the foreign students got tired of them, did not read them and just interacted at their own interest and therefore, did not write much. And we wrote most of the messages. (George, Interview) The interview revealed that the Russian students were encouraged to post translations from the Russian language texts. This is what Inna, who lay in the hospital during the project and still participated, said in the interview: Our instructor did not allow us to copy - she said - take the Russian sources and translate them because when you translate you increase your knowledge... .1 took a thick book about [my republic' from a library which contained all sorts of topics -about holidays, nature, animals, what is produced in our republic, and many other things - there aren't such books in English, and I just translated those texts. Kira, another Russian student, who also engaged in the literature-based writing practice, said: "I did not like the topic about Intercultural marriages because it was difficult to 174 find information on this topic." In contrast, this topic was the most popular among other students from the three cultures who were writing not based on the literature review, but based on their own opinion. In the following tables I analyze the Russian students' participation practices: Table 4. 23 Analysis of Russian Students' Online Activity Underlying Motive Student's Reflections on Object/Motive Researcher's Comments Rules set by instructor Suddenly we were told to write on 5 themes. And we were given 5 themes. The assumption about the official nature of the project was reinforced by Tina's instructor who introduced the project as a privilege and set the rule to write 5 messages on fixed topics every week. Object set by instructor I thought everything will be so official. I thought that we were expected to read from a newspaper and translate it, e.g. or from book - read and translate. Tina thought that the project would be official, and therefore, expected their genre of writing to be academic and error-free. Activity Student's Reflections Researcher's Comments Participation We began to search for different sources. ...This about [my republic] / rewrote for sure because at the beginning I did not think... Another topics / took from newspaper. Tina engaged in searching for literature and translating ready texts from Russian into English. Learning And only by the end I started to write topics in my own words. However, in the course of time, Tina learned that she needed to change the genre of her writing in order to fit in the online community's discursive norms and rules. Similarly, Olya's (another Russian student's) reflection on her experience of participation in the project can be analyzed as follows: Table 4. 24 Analysis of Russian Students' Online Activity Underlying motive Students' Reflections on Object/Motive Researcher's Comments Novelty of the project Because we did not know what this project was about, Olya said that she and other students were not aware what the project would be about. Object set by instructor we just thought we were expected simply to write something She followed the object set by her instructor 175 Activity Students' Reflections on Actions Researcher's Comments Participation Those 5 themes I did not write in my own words -1 took them from particular sources because all our group took from the sources and translated which resulted in her online participation being similar to the path of her participation in face-to-face classrooms. Learning and by the end we understood that Japanese and Mexicans write in their own words and not in the same style we wrote. (Olya, interview) Finally, Olya became aware of the inadequacy of her genre of writing and changed her practice, which also indicates her learning. Theme 2: Did students plagiarize? Why? The study identified the cases of plagiarism among both Mexican and Russian students. In the case of Mexican students, Leticia was the one who posted cut and pasted messages about Architecture. In her case, the reason for plagiarism might have been in her poor English language proficiency, as she had a slightly more than 300 TOEFL score. Due to her insufficient language proficiency and unwillingness to invest more time to write the better revised messages, she was categorized as a surface communicator. In the case of the Russian students, there were a few students who actually posted the copied messages. Below is the interview with Semyon, a Russian student, who scanned a number of his messages and posted them on the B B : O: Where did you take these texts from? S: From the book, telling the truth, I just scanned them. O: Did you have a sense of audience, that people out there would read your messages? S: Aha, maybe I had. .. .Maybe if I wrote online, then I would [], but / wrote off-line at home in the evening, maybe that is why I wrote messages in the form of essays. O: For yourself? S: No, not for myself, but someone should read it. O: One person? 176 S: Not necessarily one. / did not think about it in fact. O: Why did not you write the topics by yourself? S: I entered the forum with delay, therefore, I was required to write 15-20 topics to catch up with others. I was supposed to bring the topics the next day and I simply did not have time. Two themes emerged from this interview: 1. Semyon wrote his messages off-line at home, and, therefore, he did not have a strong sense of audience. 2. He was required by his instructor to catch up with what he had not posted during previous weeks and, therefore, "copying and pasting" activity was "a means of survival" for him. The discussion on the topic of Plagiarism which I initiated in all four forums to address Mexican students' complaints, revealed that cutting and pasting (plagiarism) was a temptation to all three universities. A l l students in three universities had heavy work loads with too many assignments for some, therefore, they were tempted to cut and paste information in order to get all their assignments done in the limited time. The reason why only Mexican students noticed the cases of plagiarism was explained by the reinforcement of the anti-plagiarism program in their university. Valerie, their instructor, was urged to enforce these rules whenever she noticed cutting and pasting. She, e.g., spent the first two weeks of the course dealing only with plagiarism and explicitly prohibited plagiarism in the course outline. Several Mexican students confirmed that the anti-plagiarism policy was enforced by the Mexican university policy oriented toward Western standards and by the instructors who came from the US and Canada: 177 Message no. 2193[Branch from no. 2116] P o s t e d by Ines H on Monday, March 11, 2002 1:31pm Subject Re: What do you think about plagiarism? H i ! W e l l here i n Mexico p l a g i a r i s m i s not viewed yet as a h o r r i b l e c r i m e , but t h e way we l o o k a t i t i s c h a n g i n g . I have t o t e l l t h a t t h i s i s not happening i n a l l t h e c o u n t r y , I t h i n k t h i s i s a campain s p e c i a l l y t h a t t h e [Institute] i s taking, because o f t h e v a l u e s t h e y want t o t e a c h . A n o t h e r r a s o n i s because, l i k e V a l e r i e , we had a l o t o f teachers who came from the United States and Canada, where the plagiarism i s view l i k e a crime or something l i k e that. Maybe t h a t ' s why we a r e used t o r e f e r always t h e p l a c e s where we got t h e i n f o r m a t i o n t o do our p a p e r s . Ines In comparison, Japanese and Russian students did not say anything about the enforcement of anti-plagiarism policy in their universities. Moreover, they wrote in their messages that the issue of plagiarism was not problematized in their institutions in Japan and Russia. 4.6.4 Academic vs. Casual, Formal vs. Informal Topics Theme 1: Academic vs. casual topic. When some Russian students posted many academic and culture-specific topics during the first stage of the project, Paloma, a Mexican student, wrote: "Please just stop bombarding us with globalization, and ecologic issues, and lets talk about something more teenagery" (online interview). She also complained in the mid-interview: I'm still going to say the topics of conversation do not really inspire me, it's just not something you want to spend 15 minutes or more reading about. And I know, that we are supposed to learn such things, but they are boring, and I wish this could be the one assignment that's fun to do. 178 Many other students shared Paloma's willingness to discuss less "serious" issues: "it might motivate me more to deal with issues that werent so global, and maybe a little more personal, issues that one can relate to, to really know what their life is like." Theme 2: Formal vs. Informal messages. In another example, feeling happy for his Japanese soccer team who won on the soccer championship, Taro wrote a very emotional and informal message: Message no. 3393[Branch from no. 1450] P o s t e d by Taro on Wednesday, March 27, 2002 11:02am Subject Re: World Cup y e s ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! i f e e l p r e t t y f i n e t h i s morning because j a p a n ' s n a t i o n a l team beat p o l a n d by s c o r e o f 2-0!!!!!! i r e a l l y wanted t o see t h i s match on t v but i c o u l d n ' t because i'm i n Canada r i g h t now.... j a p a n i s g o i n g t o w i n t h e w o r l d c u p ! ! ! ! ! ( i ' m h a l f k i d d i n g , h a l f s e r i o u s . . . ) hmmmm....sorrry f o r not being academic....i'm j u s t e x c i t e d . . . Toward the end of his message, however, he realized that he was too informal and apologized for "not being academic." Similar to Taro, Mik i , a Japanese student wrote: "Maybe this is not really an academic topic, but I was just curious!" These examples demonstrate that students clearly faced the dilemma related to the level of formality/informality relevant on the bulletin board. Theme 3: Writing and Identity. Discussion of casual or academic topics was closely related to students' identities and perceptions of the online activity as an assignment or as an out-of-class activity. This double dilemma was evident in the following exchange between three Russian students: 179 Shura: It seemed to me that some students thought it was obligation - they had tasks, topics and they should write. Their letters were formal and not interesting sometimes. Zina: I think formal is much better then informal. If it is informal - than it is chat. S: But our speech should be informal, because we are young people (ha-ha) Z: How could you write informally, say, about social problems -1 could not understand! It should be more formal, it's not "Simpsons. " (Interview) In this example, Zina, who did not participate actively in the project and who wrote only academic and task-based messages, thought that the bulletin board was designed for academic interaction, whereas, two other students thought that being too serious was inappropriate on the bulletin board. They thought that writing should reflect students' personal, youth identity. Two students who were for informal interaction, said that they did not mind academic style per say, but they were against the fixed academic "formulaic" expressions such as: " 'my country is situated,' 'wil l you please' - not always business English." In other words, they sensed that there was an incompatibility between their task-oriented and Japanese and Mexican student' person-oriented communication. Ulyana, a Russian student, also saw a dramatic distinction between what she really wanted to talk about as a young woman and what she was supposed to talk about, as a student of world economics and a participant of an international project, reflecting her inner identity dilemma: Message no. 2077[Branch from no. 1946] P o s t e d by Ulyana on S a t u r d a y , March 9, 2002 9:54pm Subject Re: New s t a r t H i , O l g a ! I want t o know, what k i n d o f l e t t e r s s h o u l d we w r i t e ? Letters of our r e a l i n t e r e s t , or l e t t e r s on p o l i t i c a l , economy problems. As f o r me I am i n t e r e s t e d i n problems o f h e a l t h , s p o r t s , f a s h i o n e . t . c B e s t w i s h e s U l y a n a 180 4.6.5 Culture-Specific vs. Common Topics Mexican students expressed their complaint about too-culture-specific messages initiated by the Russian students as follows: "Come on, the Russians, for example, start telling about this specific things about their culture that we had no idea they even exist, and they talk about it like it was a global common knowledge" (Teresa). "Russians write about culture-specific things, like it was common knowledge I could understand only 10%" (Maria). "The Russian cultural topics were discouraging because the only thing you can say is - wow! I didn't know! Maybe you should try to establish some topics that are interesting to all in general" (Alita). Based on these complaints I infer that students realized that the lack of background knowledge about a particular culture, may not only motivate, but discourage interaction, as students may end up not knowing what to talk about. Thus, for example, Machiko, a Japanese student said: "About Russia, it's sometimes difficult to talk to, because, I do not know about their culture. I cannot think about what to ask." Therefore, it turned out, that some students, even though, being attracted to differences, did not like to discuss too culture-specific and unfamiliar things. Rather, students preferred topics they could relate to and had background knowledge on: "I felt that the topic was sometimes too local so that we couldn't afford to discuss over nationalities Even if we are not from the same country, we should be able to follow the subjects provided the sense in common" (Mako). Theme 1: Difficulty to describe culture online. Based on the Russian students' messages about their culture, many students came to the conclusion that "description of culture might be boring online if you don't see it." The difficulty to discuss culture-specific 181 topics, was related to the nature of the bulletin board itself, namely, to the lack of visual cues that made it hard to learn about different cultures for the following reasons: "Accent and gestures are hidden online." As Fidel, a Mexican student said: "I talk a lot with my hands - on bb you have to give more details instead." "You can't interrupt when somebody is speaking, even i f it's rude to do it, but valid" (Paloma, MS). "When you communicate face-to-face you can see the face, you communicate more, speak faster. It is easier to express your thoughts" (George, RS). "We do not know how to express a lot - in school everyone wants to express their opinion, but on bb - it was different" (Fidel, MS). - "It is difficult to gain impression about other cultures online" (Naoko, JS). Mayako, a Japanese student, for example, thought that it was inadequate to write long culture-specific topics on the bulletin board, as the long messages did not fit to the format of online international communication. She explained why she did not write much about her culture as follows: "There are a lot of traditional festivals in Kyoto, but i f I mention about that now, it will be a very long, so I don't write here" (BB message). Theme 2: Lack of knowledge about own culture. Many students found it especially challenging to write about traditional culture and history of their own countries as they were concerned that they could give misleading information: "I am afraid to give "mistaken idea" about my culture," "I have to think and choose topics carefully so that I will not tell those people wrong information or anything like that" (Yuka). As Taro, a Japanese student, wrote: "In order to satisfy the curiosities of Russian and Mexican students, I need to give them as 182 much information as possible. So I think I need to do some research on Japan because what I already know is very little and not enough for them" (Journal). Theme 3: Avoidance Strategy. Students were not interested in spending extra-time doing research unless they were really motivated. Therefore, they either provided very little information ("I tried to explain my culture simply" (Fernando)), or avoided altogether to write about their own culture. Many Russian students themselves disliked to write about their own culture and said: "Writing about culture and food was not interesting. We had to look for info in the books because we did not know about the culture." Theme 4: Different topic preferences. When asked what topics students liked to discuss, the common opinion was the topic about modern culture: "I want to know more about other students life. How is it to live in another country" (Nurgun). "Maybe we need some specific topics to expose the reality of our countries, what we really feel, and what we have experienced in our daily life" (Yukako, mid-interview). "To my mind it would be interesting to discuss the topics of fashion, because we are all young men. then I would like to discuss the style of thier life. I would like to discuss some problems of our life." (Shura, Mid-interview). As Kostya, a Russian student said: "We live in the present, not in the past," thereby, emphasizing the irrelevance of discussing traditional old culture. Through content analysis of the interaction protocols, I found that, generally, students from three cultures had different topic preferences. Many Japanese students were particularly interested in discussing topics related to the issues of language learning and travel experiences. As several Japanese students traveled to Mexico over the Christmas break, they 183 tended to discuss their trip to Mexico. They also tended to constantly compare Japanese and Canadian contexts. The recurrent themes in Mexican messages were religion, family values and national pride. A l l students were interested in such topics as international marriage, fashion, sport, movies, ecological problems (Appendix F). Several students from three cultures engaged in the open discussion of topics that might be considered taboo in some cultures, such as, for example, homosexuality and alcohol. Many students were open about discussing social problems inside their countries. For example, Mexican and Russian students engaged in discussing the topic "Corruption." I asked Olesya, a Russian student, why she had chosen to disclose the negative sides of her country, such as corruption and she said: "It seemed to me that corruption existed everywhere, and I wanted to know to what extent it is spread in their countries, what they think about it and how they fight against it" (Interview). On the other hand, students seemed hesitant to discuss problems that involved interests of both countries at the same time, such as e.g. political conflicts. As Eriko, a Japanese student wrote in her journal: "It's also true that I cannot ask them about political things. Is it okay??? It's difficult to ask them about sensitive question that I really want to know on such B B . " Although Eriko's instructor told her that it was absolutely fine to discuss such topics on the bulletin board, Eriko chose not to. 4.6.6 Common Topic - Different Cross-Cultural Perspectives It was sometimes difficult, what they meant. As our instructor told us, they have a different mentality and therefore, when they write they mean one thing and we understand it differently (Shura, Interview). 184 Although students discussed the same topics, they expressed highly contextual local discourses. These differences, sometimes, caused misunderstanding and difficulty to come to consensus. In her message, for example, Maria, a Mexican student, chose to write about racism toward indigenous people in her country and polarization which existed between white and indigenous people. Alia, a Russian student, responded to Maria the next day. In her message she wrote that she learned something new about the situation in Mexico. Next, Alia wrote that Russia also had indigenous people, however, she expressed a completely different discourse about indigenous people in her local context, namely the discourse of the consequences of cultural contact between dominant and minority groups when minority groups "loose their originality" and when "young people of such nationality don't want to come back and continue national traditions." In response to Alia, Teresa, another Mexican student, confirmed Maria's point about racism in Mexico and compared the Mexican situation with the situation in the US. She also asked what actions could be taken to fight against racism: Message no. 2975[Branch from no. 2544] Posted by Teresa on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 9:56am Subject Re: Social problems I n M e x i c o we have t h e pro b l e m o f r a c i s m . As US have the "black people" racism problem, we have i t w i t h our i n d i a n s . There i s much t h a t can be done about i t , but not much t h a t has been done. I t i s a national prolem, and we a l l have t o t a k e a c t i o n i n what we can. IT i s d e f e n e t e l y not a pro b e l m t h a t can be s o l v e d i n a day o r a month o r even a y e a r , i t would t a k e many y e a r s and many p e r s o n s t o change i t . A r e you d o i n g s omething t o s o l v e y o u r c o u n t r i e s r a c i s m problem? mtmt Mila, a Russian student, responded that racism was not considered to be a key problem in Russia compared to other social problems such e.g. homeless people and 185 neglected children. Indeed in Russia, historically, the issue of racism and nationalism had not been problematized and had never been a major concern, despite that this issue has always existed. Such a position was expressed by Mila: Message no. 3337[Branch from no. 254 4] P o s t e d by M i l a on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 6:18pm Subject Re: S o c i a l problems H i , M i r n a ! I t ' s very t e r r i b l e t o have such problems i n your own t e r r i t o r y . I n R u s s i a t h e r e i s no such c r i t i c a l s i t u a t i o n as r a c i s m but sometime we have s i m i l a r p r o b l e m . I mean n a t i o n a l i s m i s i n our c o u n t r y , e s p e c i a l l y i n our c a p i t a l . ...But I t h i n k t h a t i t i s not main problem i n our country,the most i m p o r t a n t problems a r e such as homeless one,neglected(children) and so on. And I t h i n k t h a t we must f i g h t a g a i n s t any s o c i a l p r o b l e m s . Finally, Maria, a Mexican student, in her next message stated that "we can't do it [can not fight social problems] if we are racist people" demonstrating that for her racism was more important issue than other social problems. Maria, like Teresa, asked what actions should be taken in order to overcome this problem, thereby, making an attempt to step beyond mere description of problems toward finding solutions to these problems and to switch from providing facts to critical discussion. As this discussion demonstrated, in many cases, students posted messages under similar topics, yet, expressed different discourses that prevailed in their local contexts. The result was - both Mexican and Russian students were surprised to hear about two different perspectives on the same topic, that they could not fully understand because of their lack of knowledge of the political, historical and demographic situation of their interlocutors' countries. 186 4.6.7 Missed Communication Shiba, a Japanese student, wrote in his journal: "sometimes the replies are different from things what I asked. " Indeed, there were several instances when some students missed the point of their interlocutors by misinterpreting what they were writing and asking about. For example, in his messages, Amador, a Mexican student, wrote about his trip to Southern Mexico and his realization how little he knew about his own culture: Message no. 3838 P o s t e d by Amador on Wednesday, A p r i l 10, 2002 7:36pm Subject How much do you know the world? Nowadays g l o b a l i z a t i o n i s a p o p u l a r d i s c u s s i o n s u b j e c t . Even though we have ways t o r e a c h p e o p l e i n f a r away c o u n t r i e s I must ask, do you r e a l l y know the places you think you know? I j u s t r e t u r n e d from a t r i p t o G u a d a l a j a r a , one o f t h e 3 b i g g e s t c i t i e s i n Mex i c o (awesome t r i p by t h e way, d i d you mi s s me?). By going there I r e a l i z e d that I pretended to know a l o t about world issues and a l l that s t u f f , but I don't even know my own country. I mean, maybe I do know more about t h e w o r l d t h a n p r e v i o u s g e n e r a t i o n s d i d a t my age as so w i l l t h e n e x t one know more t h a n me, but we must q u e s t i o n more about what we know. What I'm t r y i n g t o say i s t h a t things are much more d i f f e r e n t depending on the place you are looking from that you can no longer t r u s t completely on the information that comes to you. There may be some p e o p l e l i k e me out t h e r e , a l o t p e r h a p s . I'm not r e f e r r i n g t o t h o s e who don't know t h e i r own c o u n t r y because t h e y have not been t h e r e i f you know what I mean, t h e y have o n l y been i n v e r y few p l a c e s , l i k e me. O t h e r s have t h e l u c k y enough t o v i s i t a r e a s o n a b l y amount o f t h e c o u n t r y . No, t h o s e a r e not t h e p e o p l e t o wor r y about, what we must w o r r y i s about t h e p e o p l e who l o o k a t o t h e r c o u n t r i e s o r p e o p l e and judge them w i t h o u t b e i n g t h e r e o r knowing what t h e y r e a l l y a r e . In response, he received quite inadequate feedback from Yuka, a Japanese student, who completely missed Amador's point and began to discuss advantages of independent traveling vs. "packaged" tours: Message no. 3859[Branch from no. 3838] P o s t e d by Yuka on Thursday, A p r i l 11, 2002 7:13pm Subject Re: How much do you know the world? I f you wanna know more about other places or other countries, I think i t ' s a good idea to l i v e f o r a while. 187 T h a t ' s why I pref e r staying f o r a while, instead of j u s t t r a v e l l i n g as a package tours. I do-+n't l i k e them. I p r e f e r t r a v e l l i n g by m y s e l v e s , l o o k i n g a t maps, a s k i n g n a t i v e p e o p l e t h e r e , t a k i n g l o c a l t r a n s p o r t a t i o n s and so on. I t ' s r e a l l y f u n ! ! T a l k t o ya l a t e r ! Yuka In comparison, Ines, Amador's classmate, understood Amador's point and posted a relevant response. Referring to the irrelevance of Yuka's message, Ines begins her message with the statement "I really got your point." Here is Ines's full message: Message no. 3867[Branch from no. 3838] P o s t e d by Ines H on Sunday, A p r i l 14, 2002 4:41pm Subject Re: How much do you know the world? H i Ahmed! I r e a l l y got your point, and i t ' s v e r y i n t e r e s t i n g . I c o m p l e t e l y agree w i t h you and a l s o t h i n k t h a t we most know f i r s t who we are and from where we come from, and then t r y to know more about other cultures. Here i n Mexico that's a b i g problem, s p e c i a l l y from people who l i v e here i n Sonora, because they don't know t h e i r country!. IS d i f f i c u l t f o r t h e p e o p l e here i n Sonora t o know Mex i c o , because i t i s so f a r from h e r e , but I think that we j u s t have to p r e f f e r i t than go to the United States and help t h e i r economy! W e l l , t h a t ' s i t ! See you l a t e r ! I n e s Such cases of missed communication, as demonstrated in this example, happened because of some students' disengaged reading and their inability to shift from their own frame of references to the one of the interlocutor (Ware, 2003). 4.6.8 Threatened National Identity Example 1: "Hello People ofMEXICA" Throughout the interaction there were a few salient cases of tension based on students' sense of threatened national identity, such as, for example, when Kostya, a Russian student, posted the message titled: "Hello, People o f M E X I C A ! " A misspelled highlighted 188 word "Mexico" was hard to ignore and caused various responses from the Mexican students. Kostya opened up his message with a greeting, and closed it with expression of thanks and his signature. He wrote that he knew about Mexico "only from movies" and that "roughly speaking" what he knew was gangsters and narcotics. Kostya's message was about professional rather than personal interest in Mexico. Being an economics student, he asked about the economy of Mexico. In the final part he introduced the economy of his own republic. Here is the full message written by Kostya: Message no. 2503 P o s t e d by Kostya on F r i d a y , March 15, 2002 8:16am Subject Hello, People of MEXICA! H i ! I know about your c o u n t r y only from movies. Roughly speaking: g a n g s t e r s , n a r c o t i c s ... And I r e a l l y i n t e r e s t i n g i n what your c o u n t r y has. E x a c t l y , what product do you export, what in d u s t r i e s do you have, what industry the main, and s p e c i a l i z a t i o n of your country i n a world i n t e g r a t i o n . About our c o u n t r y r e p u b l i c o f Sakha (Yakutya) now I can say, t h a t i t i s developing country, our i n t e g r a t i o n i s diamond i n d u s t r y . We e x p o r t o i l , gas, wood t o Korea, Japan and o t h e r s . The development are going very hard, because of small population and b u i l d i n g of new market economy. I t i s some i n f o r m a t i o n about our c o u n t r y . Thank you! I'm l o o k i n g f o r w a r d h e a r i n g from you. K o s t y a . Arcadia, a Mexican student, was among the first students who responded to Fyodor. In her message she blamed Hollywood for portraying Mexicans as "lazzy, foolish, poor, corrupted" and Americans as "always being the heroes, and never making mistakes": Message no. 2577[Branch from no. 2571] P o s t e d by Arcadia on S a t u r d a y , March 16, 2002 8:38am Subject Re: Hello, People of MEXICA! H i ! I also agree that i n movies, e s p e c i a l l y the hollywood ones, the show the cultures very "stereotypied", f o r example, a l l t h i s movies, shows t h e mexicans l i k e i f we a l l were lazzy, f o o l i s h s , very poor, very corrupted, and some of t h i s things happen i n Mexico, as i n many o t h e r c o u n t r i e s , but i t ' s not f a i r t o 189 g e n e r a l i z e a l l t h e bad and n e g a t i v e a s p e c t s o f a c o u n t r y and put them on a movie. Also I f e e l that U.S. people, show themselves i n a l l the movies, l i k e always being the heroes, and never making mistakes, when t h i s i s n ' t true. So, I r e a l l y t h i n k t h a t w a t c h i n g a movie, and making your p o i n t o f v i e w about some p l a c e , c o u n t r y o r c u l t u r e , i t ' s v e r y bad, because you w i l l get a r e a l l y wrong i m p r e s s i o n o f them. Interestingly, Arcadia entirely ignored Fyodor's question about the economy of Mexico and focused only on a discussion of stereotypes about Mexico. Kostya assumed that Arcadia was offended by his message and posted his apology in response: Message no. 2755[Branch from no. 2577] P o s t e d by Kostya on Monday, March 18, 2002 7:19pm Subject Re: Hello, People of MEXICA! A r c a d i a , h e l l o ! :) I'm v e r y s o r r y f o r my words about your c o u n t r y . I j u s t wonted t o know more about Mexica. K o s t y a He misspelled "Mexico" again which points out that his mistake was not intentional, rather he thought that this was the actual spelling, because in the Russian language "Mexico" is spelled with an "a" in the end. Four days later after Kostya posted his apology, Andres, another Mexican student, corrected Kostya's error: Message no. 3146[Branch from no. 2503] P o s t e d by Andres on F r i d a y , March 22, 2002 12:30pm Subject Re: Hello, People of MEXICA! Hey K o s t y a f i r s t o f a l l i s not M e x i c a i s MEXICO Again, Kostya reacted in such a way as if he offended Andres and made an attempt to fix the situation by posting a friendly comment: Message no. 3586[Branch from no. 314 6] P o s t e d by Kostya on Monday, A p r i l 1, 2002 6:30pm Subject Re: Hello, People of MEXICA! H i A n d r e s ! Thank you! :) We can see from this example that in the online environment lacking visual cues it is very easy to hurt others' national feelings by small things, such as, misspelled words that 190 carry symbolic meaning, as shown in this example. It is also easy to avoid questions and begin talking about things that do not interest a communication partner, but rather, interest a reader him/herself. Furthermore, because of the time delay, people's spontaneous reaction might be reconsidered and, instead of exchanging offensive remarks, they may avoid tension by posting a brief apology as Kostya did. Thus, the media itself shapes interaction in certain ways by making salient the form/genre and possibility to hide emotions. Example 2: "Culture Shock in Mexico" In the next series of messages we will see the tension which took place between a Japanese and Mexican students. Yukako, a Japanese female student, went to Mexico during her Christmas break and saw that in one Mexican village people drank coca-cola in the church. Her tour guide told that local people thought coca-cola was a sacred drink. Yukako wanted to find out from the Mexican students if it was true or not and posted the following message: Message no. 1911 P o s t e d by Yukako on Tuesday, March 5, 2002 7:12am Subject Culture shock i n Mexico H e l l o ! When I was t r a v e l i n g around i n Mexico, I have experienced a culture shock t o see a custom i n a s m a l l v i l l a g e . There, p e o p l e had a custom t o drink Coca-Cola always, everyday. Our t o u r g u i d e e x p l a i n e d t h a t t h e y have b e l i e v e d t h a t C o c a - C o l a i s good f o r t h e i r h e a l t h , a l t h o u g h people's teeth were almost collapsed. I t was t o t a l l y i n c r e d i b l e f o r me. People drank Coca-Cola or alcohol even i n the church. They have r e l a t e d C o c a - C o l a and a l c o h o l w i t h r e l i g i o u s f a i t h t h a t t h e s e d r i n k s s h o u l d p u r i f y them because t h e y make us belch a f t e r d r i n k i n g , and t h i s b e l c h can h e l p expel e v i l s from t h e i r b o d i e s . And my t e a c h e r , he i s from E l S a l v a d o r , s a i d t h a t some p e o p l e i n small v i l l a g e s i n h i s c o u n t r y a l s o t h i n k t h a t C o c a - C o l a i s good f o r t h e i r h e a l t h because i t i s very n u t r i t i o u s . i t c u l t u r a l imperialism??? Yukako 191 Yukako used a number of negatively charged words as "culture shock", "collapsed", "totally incredible," "belch," "cultural imperialism???" that signalled her state of being perplexed and reflected her polarization toward people she was talking about. Alano, a Mexican student, reacted to Yukako's message in the following way: Message no. 2556[Branch from no. 2525] P o s t e d by Alano on F r i d a y , March 15, 2002 3:32pm Subject Re: Culture shock i n Mexico Hey: We don't d r i n k coca c o l a i n t h e c h u r c h , we d r i n k i t out s i t e t h e c h u r c h , I t h i n k t h a t many p e o p l e don't know r e a l l y t h e c u l t u r e i n Mexico Based on Alano's use of a "rude" form of greeting "Hey:" and a complaint that "many people don't know culture in Mexico" we may assume that he was offended by Yukako's message. Interesting was the next message in which Slayter wrote: "coca cola is not part of our culture, just we drink it as another drink." He interpreted Yukako's message as an attempt to associate something "imported" and "alien" with local, religious, Mexican: Message no. 2789[Branch from no. 1911] P o s t e d by Guest LLED on Monday, March 18, 2002 9:14pm Subject Re: Culture shock i n Mexico h i i am from mexico, and we d r i n k coca c o l a and may be a l o t ,but we do not d r i n k i n g i n t h e c h u r c h , n e v e r e v e r , i f you know mexico i s v e r y r e l i g i o s , and a n o t h e r t h i n k we do not mixed coca cola with r e l i g i o s thinks, that i s crazy, i t h i n k t h a t your t o u r g u i d e d i d n o t know much as he s a i d . Mexico has a l o t of culture but coca cola i s not p a r t of our culture, j u s t we drink i t as another drink. SLAYTER Yukako tried to defend her point: Message no. 2812[Branch from no. 2789] P o s t e d by Yukako on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 12:09am Subject Re: Culture shock i n Mexico H e l l o L i o s , y es, I had thought the same way as you when I was t h e r e and I c o u l d not u n d e r s t a n d t h e s i t u a t i o n i m m e d i a t e l y . But i t was r e a l t h a t Coca-Cola has been r e a l l y r e l i g i o u s s t u f f . I asked my g u i d e (he was M e x i c a n as w e l l ) , I f someone t o l d t h e s e p e o p l e t h a t 192 C o c a - C o l a i s j u s t bad f o r h e a l t h and not t o d r i n k i t , what would t h e y do?, t h e n he answered, They j u s t do not t r u s t him/her. I f someone i n t h i s v i l l a g e t o l d such a t h i n g , t h e p e r s o n would be c o n s i d e r e d as w e i r d . I cannot know whether he i s very r i g h t or not any more, but a c t u a l l y I saw people who were drinking Coke i n t h e c h u r c h . . . I t h i n k t h a t was i n San Juan Chamulahin San C r i s t o b a l de l a s Casas. I want to confirm you that I d i d not mean that a l l Mexicans have such a custom. I understand that i n the most regions i n Mexico l i k e where you know, there i s never such a custom. I j u s t want you t o t h i n k about how p o w e r f u l r e l i g i o u s i n f l u e n c e i s . . . Thanks! ;-) In her message Yukako restated what she saw. She tried to be as diplomatic as possible, e.g. she used careful reasoning: "I cannot know whether he is very right or not any more, but actually I saw people who were drinking Coke." "I want to confirm you that I did not mean that all Mexicans have such a custom." At the end of her message she inserted a friendly emoticon. Mexican students, on the other hand, were sure that Yukiko's guide tricked her with a mistaken idea about Mexican culture. Therefore, Slayter, in response, stated once again that "coca-cola in all mexico is not a religious staff." To strengthen his argument he wrote that he saw Japanese people with mobile phones in the church, but this did not mean that mobile phones were the part of Japanese religion: Message no. 3557[Branch from no. 2812] P o s t e d by Guest LLED on Sunday, March 31, 2002 10:56pm Subject Re: Culture shock i n Mexico h i yukako , i am so s o r r y b u t coca c o l a i n a l l mexico, i s n ot a r e l i g i o s s t a f f , a c t u a l l y t o d a y i earning back t o mexico from j a p a n , and i saw i n the temples people with mobile phone and t h e y cannot l e f t t h e i r m o b i l e , t h e y a r e allways using the mobile, i t was l i k e a v i c i o s , and t h e t h i n k s t h a t u say about mexico i s l i k e i f i say t h a t m o b i l e phones a r e r e a l i g i o u s s t a f f i n j a p a n , you see what i mean, dont you? s l a y t e r l i o s Later, Slayter, reflected on this interaction in the following way: Actually i was interesting in Japanese culture coz in easter I went to japan so 193 almost all my topic were about Japanese culture and just one, that / did not like the stereotype that one Japanese had about Mexicans, ... because she did not know what she was writtig at all she wrote that coca coal was part of catholic religion in mexico that we used in the church haha. (Chat interview) Thus, national feelings were salient throughout this interaction. Unfortunately, students did not come to a consensus and Yukako's inquiry was not fully satisfied. Yukako remained confused about what she saw and what she was told by the Mexican students. In the case described here this was hard to do because of the asynchronous nature of interaction, which did not allow for faster exchange of opinions and more forceful persuasion as well as students' weak choice of words. Example 3: Intra-cultural Conflict One of the interesting moments in students' interaction was the tension that happened between Mexican students. Slayter wrote to Rosalinda a message in which he asked about her native culture and town: "have you got televisions? is colonial town? how the girls are? The name of the mains streets in the town? do you still using horses? or cars?" Here is his full message: Message no. 2790[Branch from no. 254 6] P o s t e d by Guest LLED on Monday, March 18, 2002 9:32pm Subject Re: TV and ch i l d r e n h i r o s a l i n d a some body t o l d me t h a t you have a l r e d y w r i t t e n back my message, but i dont know, i d i d not see i t , may be because some one d e l a t e d a l l t h e messages, so c o u l d you send me a g a i n t h e i n f o r m a t i o n about navojoan culture, how t h e p e o p l e l i v e i n t h e r e ? have you got t e l e v i s i o n s ? i s c o l o n i a l town? how t h e g i r l s a r e ? t h e name o f t h e mains s t r e e t s i n t h e town? do you s t i l l using horses? or cars? s l a y t e r 194 Rosalinda was insulted by Slayter's message as she interpreted it as an attempt to make fun of the place in Mexico where she was from. She wrote the following response: Message no. 3526[Branch from no. 2790] P o s t e d by Rosalinda on S a t u r d a y , March 30, 2002 5:43pm Subject Re: TV and ch i l d r e n H i s l a y t e r . . . i dont l i k e your comments and at t h i s moment im angry with you. you know t h a t my c i t y i s a b e a u t i f u l p l a c e . We have a l o t of cars..almost a l l people have a jaguar there...antoher thing i s that i dont l i k e to hear that you compare mi c i t y with a need t o go t h e r e and meet e v e r y s i n g l e p a r t o f my p l a c e . . . Slayter responded in an apologetic tone, e.g., he used a very polite form of address: "dear Rosalinda", to demonstrate his good intensions: Message no. 3559[Branch from no. 3526] P o s t e d by Guest LLED on Sunday, March 31, 2002 11:12pm Subject Re: TV and ch i l d r e n dear ro s a l i n d a , you dont have to get ungry, i say that cause i dont know anything about navojoan culture, i dont know i f i s a c i t y as you s a i d , o r i f i s a town, any way, i t h i n k some day i w i l l go t h e r e i see i t w i t h my own e y e s . S l a y t e r This exchange illustrated that much was going on between students from the same culture and that some students did not know well the cultures of their own countries. This example supports Amador's, a Mexican student's, revelation who wrote: "I realized that I pretended to know a lot about world issues and all that stuff, but I don't even know my own country" (BB message). 4.6.9 Coping with Tensions There was an understanding among some students that the success of interaction depended on their own efforts. As Noburo, a Japanese student, said: "It depends on students whether they make use of WebCT or not." When, for example, Teresa, a Mexican student, 195 posted a message in which she expressed her frustration with Russian messages, she received the following reply from her classmate: Message no 1668: [Branch from no. 1119] posted by Maria F r i Mar 01, 2002 14:45 Subject: how do you f e e l about t h i s forum H i t o a l l ! I t h i n k i f you want t o t a l k about g e n e r a l t o p i c s , why don't you ask i t to somebody?, or put you own topics as L e t i c i a s a i d . Be p o s i t i v e , you get b o r i n g i f you want, so now s m i l e and put some good t o p i c s , and somebody'11 send you a r e p l y Bye Also, the understanding that they themselves shaped the interaction made several students blame themselves in their poor participation: "maybe I was too lazy©," rather then various contextual constraints. 4.6.10 Summary: Contradictions In this section the study identified the following cross-cultural contradictions/tensions students encountered throughout the interaction: Concerns: to participate or not to participate. I identified 6 types of anxiety associated with students' decision to participate or not in the online activity, such as: 1) novelty/unpredictability of the practice, 2) cultural concerns - anxiety to seem "strange" and to represent the whole country, 3) being afraid to not meet all the project requirements, 4) anxiety associated with the lack of experience with technology, 5) anxiety to seem less knowledgeable than others. Unequal participation. The main tension within this theme was the one associated with the unequal transfer of information, when, for example, a Russian student complained that instead of writing about their holidays, a Japanese student sent a website. 196 Clash of genres: "Writing at the moment" and "writing beforehand." The main issues that came up with regards to this tension was when some Mexican students accused Russian students of plagiarism because the latter perceived this online activity as an assignment, as opposed to viewing it as a free interaction. Academic vs. casual, formal vs. informal topics. Culture-specific vs. common topics. Some students found it challenging to write about their traditional cultures online due to the concern to give inaccurate information. Overall there was a dilemma if they should discuss commonly shared topics instead. Common topic - different cross-cultural perspectives. Missed communication. Threatened national identity. LEARNING Research question 3: What kind of learning does I-CMC promote? In this section I present the evidence of students' learning through focusing on the following processes: 1) comparing and relating 2) dialogue and compromise as facilitating community formation and stretching the language 3) surface approach: avoiding stretching the language and 4) change of perspectives through process writing. 4.8 Learning Processes 4.8.1 Comparing and Relating Theme 1: Learning through noticing differences. Throughout the project many students engaged in comparing their own cultures with cultures of their interlocutors. 197 Students found intercultural differences to be particularly interesting. As Kenji, a Japanese student, said: Mexican and Russian have different opinions, feeling and thinking about specific topics. They have different ways of life although they grew up in the same generation, so I feel the differences between us are interesting for me and kinds of environment that we had give us strong influence. (Kenji, Journal entry) Some other students expressed a similar opinion: "I think that there are much differents between the Russian and Mexican cultures. But these differents are so interesting for me" (Olesya). Students found differences to be particularly interesting, because they learned through noticing differences. Thus, for example, Leticia, a Mexican student said: "I think the opinion of the Japanese, the Russian and the Mexican students were always very different, which was good, because in this way we got to learn the cultures better." Tsuki, a Japanese student, brought the following example of intercultural learning: I found some opinion of Russian student in WebCT. He said Russia is suffering from economic crisis now and there are lots of unemployment people but even he does not be satisfied with current Russian circumstance, he respected a present president. I was surprised because i f I was in situation like as him I would criticize a present president and I would not show respect to him. So I think it is interesting that people have different view and different way of thinking If I discuss about some issue with Russian people and Mexican people, I will find different answer that I never think of it. Also I may find similarity with them. Those of thing are great discovery for me. (Journal entry) 198 Theme 2: Learning through noticing both differences and similarities. Students realized that differences and similarities were two sides of the same coin. Kaneko, a Japanese student, wrote: Mexican and Russian cultures are different from Japanese and Canadian culture, so we can learn different things each other, That's very interesting. For example, we have different holidays and diffenet religions. I think that to learn different things is very fantastic. On the other hand, I also think that to notice similarities is interesting. For instance, although we are in different culture, we love same music, movies, sports and books. Some of the students might be my close friends. That's very good. (Journal entry) Theme 3: Learning one's own culture through comparison. In another example, when Elisa, a Mexican student, and Kostya, a Russian student, discussed the topic "Corruption" they compared the situations in their two countries. In the interview Kostya reflected on this interaction and said that the Russian situation is better: "[O.B: So we accuse the system and they accuse themselves in promoting corruption?] Yes, they accuse themselves. If they have such attitude, everything should start changing but nothing changes. And we, compared to them, have changes." In her interview, Elisa also recalled this interaction and, paradoxically, said that, in her view, the situation in Mexico was better: They gave me the opportunity to compare my culture with theirs... . They are so similar to mexicans in so many ways, but i think that they have more problems than us and now i want to learn more about them, before i didnt think about russians, i only knew they existed, but i hadn't any interesting in them. 199 Theme 4: Learning about oneself through comparison. Students compared not only their ideas, cultural behaviours and products, but also their writing: O: Did you compare your writing with other students' writing? Alia: It is always like this - people always compare. E.g. if a person writes well, why can not I do it as well? And you begin to put efforts O: © [Who did you like to interact with?] Alia: I liked Salvador - he is so clever, it is even intimidating (O: Yeah?) Yes. (O: Intimidating to communicate?) Yes. I don't know, you might seem childish compared to him. 4.8.2 Dialogue and Compromise: Stretching the Language Lamy and Goodfellow (1999) argue that reflective dialogues contribute to development of communicative L2, and, consequently, facilitate community development. In this section we will take a close look at the example of the dialogue between a Japanese, a Mexican and a Russian female students, which stretched their language and promoted community development. Luda, a Russian student, posted a message "About public values" in which she described the value of mutual help among people who live in the cold climate. Luda's message is a critical narrative in which she provides explanation for the cultural behaviour of people from her country: Message no. 500 P o s t e d by Luda on Mon Feb 18, 2002 02:03 Subject: About p u b l i c values... 200 I t h i n k t h a t one o f t h e most i m p o r t a n t c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s o f our n a t i o n i s t h e kindness and mutual aid. E a r l i e r , when Sakha p e o p l e l i v e d i n a l a a s e s v e r y f a r from each o t h e r , t o t r a v e l i n w i n t e r on a h o r s e was v e r y dangerous. Even now i t ' s v e r y easy t o f r e e z e t o d e a t h i f y o u r c a r i s br o k e n , because b u i l t - u p a r e a s s i t u a t e d f a r from each o t h e r . So, a t t h a t t i m e s , everyone was ought t o r e c e i v e t h e t r a v e l l e r as a g u e s t . Or t h e r e were n e g l e c t e d houses t o s t a y f o r a n i g h t . And e v e r y t r a v e l l e r who s t a y e d t h e r e was t o p r e p a r e t h e f i r e w o o d f o r t h e n e x t t r a v e l l e r , when l e a v i n g . I t h i n k t h a t t h e d i f f i c u l t c o n d i t i o n s o f t h e l i f e t a u g h t p e o p l e t o h e l p each o t h e r . The d i s i n t e r e s t e d a s s i s t a n c e i s r a t e d h i g h l y . A l s o , t h e c l e a r c o n s c i e n c e i s v a l u e d v e r y much. A man w i t h o u t c o n s c i e n c e i s thought t o be al m o s t t h e w o r s t man. To be a good man i s valued more than to be a r i c h & well-known man. Dolores, a Mexican student, replied the next day. From the first two sentences of her message it is evident that she learned something new that she did not know before this interaction. However, Dolores missed Luda's point and, instead, began to talk about the importance of being polite: Message no. 624:[Branch from no. 500] P o s t e d by Dolores on Tue Feb 19, 2002 09:57 Subject: re: About p u b l i c values... H i Luda I t was curious t o r e a d your messages about how p e o p l e t e n d t o be more p o l i t e i n c o l d p l a c e s . I couldn't a c t u a l l y know very much about i t since I l i v e i n the middle of a desert. W i n t e r s a r e a c t u a l l y r e a l l y c o l d , b u t i t has nev e r snowed, o r a t l e a s t not i n H e r m o s i l l o . There a r e o t h e r few p l a c e s i n Sonora, l i k e cananea and y e c o r a , where i t has. Going back t o t h e main t o p i c o f t h i s d i s c u s s i o n I t h i n k t h a t p u b l i c v a l u e s a r e r e a l l y i m p o r t a n t no m a t t e r where you a r e . Saying h e l l o , please, t h a n k s , s i m p l e words l i k e t h a t , and b e i n g p o l i t e i n g e n e r a l w i t h everyone even i f you don't know t h a t p e r s o n g i v e s a good image o f who you a r e . And I'm not s u r e i f i t ' s a u n i v e r s a l t h i n g , but you know what i t ' s s a i d : " T r e a t o t h e r s t h e way you would l i k e t o be t r e a t e d " . Luda engaged in negotiation of meaning with Dolores. She first thanked her for her reply and then wrote that Dolores misunderstood her message, and explained what she really meant. Luda wrote that she was talking not about verbal politeness, but, rather, about non-201 verbal gratitude on a broader level, when every good deed is always paid back, but not necessarily verbally and right away. Message no. 796:[Branch from no. 624] P o s t e d by Luda on Wed Feb 20, 2002 02:03 Subject: About p u b l i c values... Thank you ...Dalia f o r your answers. But I would l i k e t o n o t e , t h a t when I t o l d about t h e a s s i s t a n c e , I didn't meant the politeness. S a y i n g " H e l l o " , "Thanks", "Good bye" o r " F o r g i v e me" - i s not t h e r e a l k i n d n e s s . For example, Sakha p e o p l e a l m o s t n e v e r s a y " F o r g i v e me". There a r e no such words i n Sakha language, we used to f e e l another person without words. Sometimes i t l o o k s l i k e t h e Sakha p e o p l e a r e v e r y c o l d p e o p l e . But i s i s n ' t so: even i f we f e e l the strong emotions we j u s t can't f i n d the words to show i t . Because Luda was talking about the issue which is characteristic to high-context cultures, her message seemed familiar to Mayako, a Japanese student, who wrote in response: Message no. 1366: [Branch from no. 796] P o s t e d by Mayako on Tue Feb 26, 2002 20:30 Subject: re: About p u b l i c values... H i ! Luda! I was impressed that there are no need to express with words to get through to other people. I can f e e l s o m e t h i n g warm m e n t a l l y a t t h e same t i m e . I t h i n k t h a t because t h e r e a r e some p e o p l e who does not do k i n d a c t i o n b u t j u s t says k i n d words, which make me sometimes not be a b l e t o b e l i e v e p e o p l e . After this message personally addressed to Luda, Mayako wrote one more message in which she opened up a discussion about punctuality, another public value. Mayako received responses from both Mexican and Russian students. Interesting is the final message written by Luda in which she expressed her satisfaction with Mayako's understanding of her point: Message no. 3859[Branch from no. 3838] P o s t e d by Luda on Mon Feb 18, 2002 02:03 Subject: About p u b l i c values... H e l l o , t h e r e ! I think that at l e a s t we came to the understanding! We are speaking about the same things! I'm very glad, Maya, that you understood me. So, what about t h e p u n c t u a l i t y , I t h i n k t h a t t h e s e a r e t h e 202 n a t u r a l t h i n g s . But as t h e Sakha have been t e c h n o l i s e d n ot so f o r a l o n g t i m e , we p r e f e r t o t a l k f a c e t o f a c e . And i f my f r i e n d w i l l say "Thank you" i n a few days, b u t f a c e t o f a c e , I t h i n k t h a t I won't f e e l , s a d . The f a c t t h a t he d i d n ' t f o r g o t about i t w i l l be enough f o r me. May be t h i s i s t h e d i f f e r e n c e between t h e Japanese and Sakha. This interaction made possible due to. contributions from three students, and more importantly, due to Luda's investment in the topic. She demonstrated herself as a student who has a deep approach to interaction. She did not give up when she ran across misunderstanding, instead, she made an effort to bring her point through, thereby, practicing her persuasive writing. If we are to characterize this exchange, we can say that this is a dialogue, which has all its characteristics: a) when the meaning is negotiated, b) the interaction is sustained over time, c) the messages are socially contingent and d) end in consensus. As Luda wrote: "I think that at least we came to the understanding! We are speaking about the same things! I'm very glad, Mayako, that you understood me." Several students reported, that consensus, or the sense of the shared world, was accompanied by the sense of a deep satisfaction with interaction. In another example of interaction between Yasu, a Japanese students and Alia, a Russian student we can again witness the creation of a shared world between these two girls expressed in Yasu's following reflection: One Russian student introduced us to their traditional food and / was very curious about their food. The way of cooking, materials for the dish sounded very unique and /felt like trying the dish she introduced us. I replied the message and introduced Japanese meals. I wrote about sushi and other meals which I think are good ones to introduce. Then she replied my message again and / was really happy to find her 203 respond today. /found a joy of communication now. Even we are in the distant country, we can still share our knowledge and culture. (Interview) Highlighted words in Yasu's reflection reveal that she really enjoyed her dialogue with Anna and demonstrated principles responsive to Safonova's "Dialogue of cultures" (1996) such as "viewing other cultures as equal, yet unique and complimentary to one's native culture." Yasu's reflection was also responsive to Byram's (1997) criteria of the competent intercultural communicator, who demonstrates curiosity and openness toward other cultures. 4.8.3 Surface Approach: Avoiding Stretching the Language In the next example I ask the opposite question: "In what cases is the language not stretched, intercultural learning does not take place, and the community formation is not facilitated?" Takashi, a Japanese student, posted a message titled "Japanese culture" in which he wrote about gambling: Message no. 1442 P o s t e d by Takashi on Wednesday, F e b r u a r y 27, 2002 11:26am Subject Japanese Culture H i , M i k h a i l . I want t o t a l k about my c o u n t r y , Japan. I t h i n k t h a t Japan i s one o f t h e i n t e r e s t i n g c o u n t r i e s , becasue we have many ganble, l i k e Pachinko, S l o t ,and so on. You a r e e x c i t e d i n t h e s e s t u f f even i f you might l o o s e your money. And we have many Izakaya where we can d r i n k b e e r , and hang o v e r . Of c o u r s e , we have t o go t o s c h o o l , but i t i s easy to get c r e d i t because Japanese e d u c a t i o n system emphasizes on u n t i l h i g h s c h o o l e d u c a t i o n . Takashi's message can be characterized as a stream of consciousness, rather than a carefully written encounter of Japanese culture. Takashi used a Japanese word "Izakaya" which was not familiar to Mexicans and Russians, however, he did not explain what it was. 204 He demonstrated very little awareness of how others might understand his message, and i f his message provided complete information about his culture. Zhanna, a Russian student, asked Takashi to clarify what "Ganble", "Pachinko" and "Slot" were: Message no. 2313[Branch from no. 1442] P o s t e d by Zhanna on Tuesday, March 12, 2002 8:07pm Subject Re: Japanese Culture H i T a k a s h i ! My name i s Zhanna. I'am from R u s s i a . I r e a d your t o p i c i t was v e r y i n t e r e s t i n g . B u t i don't u n d e r s t a n d what i s the Ganble, Pachinko and Slot . I'm l o o k i n d f o r w a r d t o h e a r i n g from you. Takashi responded that it was difficult to explain what it was through online interaction. Instead, he suggested Zhanna to check it via the Internet and also provided information about another element of modern Japanese culture - namely "Gokon party": Message no. 2336[Branch from no. 2313] P o s t e d by Takashi on Wednesday, March 13, 2002 11:31am Subject Re: Japanese Culture S o r r y , i t i s very d i f f i c u t t t o e x p l a i n t h e s e g a n b l e s i n web d i s c u s s i o n . You can check the information about these v i a internet. I n s t e a d o f t h e s e , I want t o i n t r o d u c e o t h e r Japanese c u l t u r e . We have 'Gokon Party" at our ages. T h i s p a r t y i s a m e e t i n g f o r un-known f r i e n d s , and i f someone l i k e s o t h e r one, he o r she ask him o r h e r phone number. To be ho n e s t , t h e po r p o s e o f Gokon i s f o r p i c k i n g up. Takashi used the avoidance strategy, because he felt reluctant to explain the terms Zhanna asked him about. He wrote what was easier for him, something that came up to his mind on the spot, and that did not require any cognitive and linguistic efforts. In this example Takashi took a surface approach - he was not willing to engage in constructive dialogue and remained on the conversational "stream of consciousness" level. Taro, another Japanese student, supplemented the writing of Takashi, which, he thought, was not accurate and not informative enough: Message no. 2337[Branch from no. 2313] Posted by Taro on Wednesday, March 13, 2002 11:32am Subject Re: Japanese Culture 205 h i , TAKASHI OBA and everyone, i ' d l i k e to add some information on taro's explanation about Japanese gambling culture, yes, i ' d say Japanese p e o p l e l i k e g a m b l i n g , but not a l l o f them, a c t u a l l y , i ' v e n e v e r gambled b e f o r e but l o t s o f my f r i e n d s a r e i n t o i t and l o s e p r e t t y much money, i guess takuzo i s one of the guys who loses... hehehe.. i n j a p a n , g a m b l i n g , e s p e c i a l l y h o r s e r a c e , p l a y s an i m p o r t a n t r o l e i n one c i t y ' s economy, t h e money t h a t comes from t h o s e k i n d o f ga m b l i n g b e n e f i t s t h e c i t y , i guess t h a t ' s one o f t h e r e a s o n s why ga m b l i n g i s p o p u l a r i n j a p a n . Taro, who demonstrated a critical and deep approach in this exchange was likely to benefit from this interaction more than Takashi in terms of developing his critical thinking and communicative competence. By supporting the dialogue and using social moves and humour, Taro also contributed to community development. 4.8.4 Change of Perspectives through Process Writing Analysis of interaction protocols allowed me to capture a few moments in which it is possible to trace changes in students' perspectives under the influence of other students' opinions. Example 1 In the following exchange, Yuka criticized the Japanese system of education, which, in her view, lacked a critical approach and reinforced memorization. Her critique was based on comparison of Japanese education with education in Canada: Message no. 3096[Branch from no. 3020] P o s t e d by Yuka on Thursday, March 21, 2002 7:24pm Subject Re: Education I'm not s a t i s f i e d w i t h Japanese e d u c a t i o n system, because we j u s t had t o momorize a l l t h e ti m e when we were i n e l e m e n t a r y , j u n i o r h i g h , and h i g h s c h o o l s . I d i d n ' t l i k e t h a t . I p r e f e r t h i n k i n g why tham j u s t m e m o r i z i n g t h i n g s . How d i d o r do you s t u d y i n R u s s i a n and M e x i c o ? So I p r e f e r s t u d y i n g here i n Canada t h a n Japan, though I have t o go back i n one month o r so . . . 206 What do you t h i n k about t h i s ? Yuka Tina, a Russian student, expressed a totally different perspective on Russian education, which was very positive: Message no. 3442[Branch from no. 3096] P o s t e d by Tina on Wednesday, March 27, 2002 7:42pm Subject Re: Education H i Yuka! Here i n Russia we have very d i f f i c u l t , but ex c e l l e n t education (I think). I don't want t o be unmodesty, b u t t h e g r e a t e s t s c i n t i s t s , b e s t s p e c i a l i s t s i n t h e w o r l d a r e from R u s s i a . :) I'm agree w i t h a l l o f you: t h e whole p r o c e s s o f e d u c a t i o n i s t o o l o n g and b o r i n g . A l t h o u g h i t depends from your t e a c h e r s and s u b j e c t s . Tina's message made Yuka rethink what she had written before and to take a less critical stance. Yuka recalled that when she was a student in Japan, they did not only engage in memorization, but also discussed different topics, and that their courses were not always boring. In addition, Tina's message evoked Yuka's curiosity in the Russian educational system: Message no. 3481[Branch from no. 3442] P o s t e d by Yuka on F r i d a y , March 29, 2002 12:43am Subject Re: Education H i , T i n a , What do you t h i n k i s t h e e x c e l l e n t e d u c a t i o n ? We j u s t memorized l o t s o f k i n d s o f t h i n g s i n Japan u n t i l l h i g h s c h o o l . I guess I d i d n ' t r e a l l y " t h i n k c r i t i c a l l y " a t t h a t t i m e . I thought that some topics and subjects were i n t e r e s t i n g , though. But once you e n t e r an u n i v e r s i t y i n Japan, you have t o w r i t e e s s a y s , p a p e r s . We also have to duscuss i n exams, not j u s t mamorixing terms and so on. we a l s o have t o d i s c u s s o r p r e s e n t i n E n g l i s h c l a s s e s , f o r example. The ways o f s t u d y i n g a r e k i n d a d i f f e r e n t . I guess i t depends on what we are studying, though. Do you guys ask q u e s t i o n s i n c l a s s a l o t ? Yuka 207 This example makes us wonder i f this change of Yuka's perspective indicates learning. We can assume that Yuka learned that some Russian students were proud of their education, and that one should be more careful about critiquing elements of one's own culture because national pride is at stake and generalization is not desirable in such kind of communication. Rather, it is important to see both negative and positive sides of one's own culture. Example 2 In this example, Elisa, a Mexican student, posted her opinion about Spanish or Japanese languages that had a potential to become a lingua franca instead of English: Message no. 3728[Branch from no. 2635] P o s t e d by E l i s a on F r i d a y , A p r i l 5, 2002 7:27am Subject Re: English as a global language H i Marc! W e l l , E n g l i s h i s one o f t h e most i m p o r t a n t l a n g u a j e s r i g h t now i n p a r t because t h e economic power o f USA and th e I n t e r n e t , because I n t e r n e t s t a r t e d i n USA and most o f t h i n g about i t a r e i n E n g l i s h , i n my w o r l d , t h e computer system w o r l d E n g l i s h i s v e r y i m p o r t a n t , a l l t h e programming l a n g u a j e s a r e based i n E n g l i s h , and most o f t h e i n f o r m a t i o n about computers and systems i s i n t h i s l a n g u a j e. I t h i n k t h a t i f a n o t h e r l a n g u a j e b e s i d e s E n g l i s h s h o u l d be an o f f i c i a l i n t e r n a t i o n a l l a n g u a j e , t h a t would be Spanish, because o f t h e l a r g e number o f c o u n t r i e s t h a t speaks S p a n i s h , or Japanese, because Japan i s a v e r y i m p o r t a n t c o u n t r y and i s becoming even more p o w e r f u l . Be happy!! Yuka, a Japanese student, on the other hand, suggested that Chinese might become a lingua franca because of the large number of its speakers: Message no. 3743[Branch from no. 3728] P o s t e d by Yuka on Sa t u r d a y , A p r i l 6, 2002 1:15am Subject Re: English as a global language H i , What about C h i n e s e ? R e g a r d i n g t h e number o f p e o p l e 208 who speaks C h i n e s e , I t h i n k t h e r e a r e a g r e a t many p e o p l e who speak C h i n e s e i n t h e w o r l d . Yuka Yuka's opinion reminded Elisa the points that she ignored and made her write a new, more thoughtful and critical message: Message no. 3753[Branch from no. 3743] P o s t e d by E l i s a on S a t u r d a y , A p r i l 6, 2002 1:32pm Subject Re: English as a global language H i t h e r e ! ! -I s t r u e , most o f t h e p e o p l e i n t h i s p l a n e t speaks t h a t l a n g u a j e , but i s only one country, but i n t h e o t h e r hand we have E n g l i s h and S p a n i s h , i f you l o o k a t a map, you w i l l see t h a t i n e x t e n t i o n E n g l i s h f o r example c o v e r more t e r r i t o r y , you have some o f t h e b i g g e s t c o u n t r i e s s p e a k i n g E n g l i s h , such as USA, Canada and A u s t r a l i a t o name a few, and many c o u n t r i e s speak t h a t l a n g u a j e . I f we see economic power I t h i n k E n g l i s h i s t h e b e s t o p t i o n , t h e o t h e r o p t i o n s a r e German o r Japanese. So I t h i n k , t h a t f o r extention English and Spanish a r e t h e o p t i o n , f o r power English and Japanese and by number C h i n e s s e , b u t E n g l i s h w i n because have two n o m i n a t i o n s , so I t h i n g E n g l i s h w i l l c o n t i n u i n g as t h e more s p r e a d l a n g u a j e. Be happy!! In both examples we see the advantages of writing on the bulletin board because students received feedback not only from their instructors, but from their peers. Students engaged in the process writing, which involved several turns before they expressed all their arguments. In the process they were motivated to rethink their arguments and came up with renewed perspectives. 4.9 Learning Outcomes 209 After discussing learning processes that present evidence of students' development/or not of communicative competence and critical thinking, I now turn to a discussion of students' perceptions of learning. 4.9.1 Improvement (or not) of Intercultural Communicative Competence In forum " A " learning took place due to the significant increase of critical reflections in the case of Mexican (from 0.5 to 1.7) and Russian (from 0.1 to 1.5) students. However, the number of questions and social interaction decreased across students from three cultures. At the same time, there was an increase in factual messages and phatic interaction: Table 4. 25 Functions of Interaction in Forum A - Averages per Person Forum A Japanese Stage 1 Stage 2 Mexicans Stage 1 Stage 2 Russians Stage 1 Stage 2 1.Social interaction 1.2 0.5 1.6 1.1 1.0 0.7 2. Reporting facts 0.7 0.7 1.8 2.4 2.3 3.1 3. Critical reflections 0.6 0.8 0.5 1.7 0.1 1.5 4. Questions 1.0 0.6 1.1 0.4 0.9 0.8 5.Phatic interaction 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.7 0.3 1.0 In comparison, in forum B the number of social interaction and fact-reporting messages decreased in the second round across three cultures. An especially significant decrease of fact-reporting messages could be observed in the case of Russian students - from 2.6 in the first round to 1.4 in the second round. At the same time, the number of critical messages increased significantly and exceeded the number of fact-reporting messages across three cultures. In forum B Japanese and Mexican students decreased the number of questions, whereas, Russian students significantly increased the number of questions. Finally, phatic interaction was not as significant across three cultures in forum B compared to forum A . 210 Therefore, the interaction in forum B was more successful as more students reported that they had a sense of community and satisfaction with communication. Table 4. 26 Functions of Interaction in Forum B - Averages per Person Forum B Japanese Mexicans Russians Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 1 Stage 2 1. Social interaction 1.0 0.7 2.2 0.8 1.5 1.5 2. Reporting facts 0.7 0.6 1.6 1.4 2.6 1.4 3. Critical reflections 0.4 1.1 0.7 1.8 0.4 1.7 4. Questions 1.3 0.9 1.2 0.6 0.1 0.8 5. Phatic interaction 0.1 0.0 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.0 The improvement of interaction in the second stage in two forums was also reflected in a dramatic decrease of unanswered threads initiated by the Russian students (Table 4.22). 4.9.2 Change of Attitudes (or not) toward Each Other As the survey demonstrated, the attitudes of 38% of Mexican students toward Russian students became less positive (Table 4.27). This might be related to generalization that Mexican students made about Russian students' plagiarism. As Slayter, a Mexican student said in the interview, "I realized responsibility of representing a whole culture - when one does copy-paste, you feel like everyone is going to do it." In contrast, Japanese students, did not change attitudes about Russian students to the worse. Also, Japanese students' perception of Russians might have been influenced by me, their teaching assistant from Russia. As for the Russian students, half of them reported that their attitude toward Japanese and Mexicans remained the same, mostly because they did not receive the kind of 211 information from Japanese and Mexicans that would radically change their attitudes toward them. Table 4. 27 Change of Attitude toward Communication Partners Japanese toward Mexicans toward Russians toward Attitude Mexicans Russians Japanese Russians Japanese Mexicans n % N % n % n % n % n % More 25 59.5 27 69.2 21 61.8 14 41.2 18 51.4 14 40.0 Positive Less 1 2.4 2 5.1 3 8.8 13 38.2 1 2.9 2 5.7 Positive Same 16 38.1 10 25.6 10 29.4 7 20.6 16 45.7 19 54.3 Total 42 100.0 39 100.0 34 100.0 34 100.0 35 100.0 35 100.0 4.9.3 Students' Perceptions and Reflections on Learning ... What I've gained are different points of view and very direct visions and impressions about other countries as told by residents (Salvador) As the survey demonstrated, 91.1% of Japanese students reported that they improved their knowledge about other cultures and intercultural understanding. Next thing they thought they improved was their knowledge about their own culture. Most likely, Japanese students pointed at these improvements not as a result of participation in the project, but because of learning through their everyday intercultural experiences in Canada as well as through their courses on intercultural issues. Table 4. 28 Student Perceptions of Learning Japanese Mexican Russian Aspects of Learning n % n % n % Knowledge about other cultures 41 91.1 29 81.1 34 87.2 Intercultural understanding 40 88.9 30 82.9 17 43.6 Knowledge about own culture 32 71.1 10 29.4 14 35.9 212 Communication skills in English 31 68.9 22 62.9 29 74.4 Sense of belonging to global 31 68.9 24 68.6 14 35.9 community Reading comprehension 30 66.7 28 77.8 24 61.5 Vocabulary 25 55.6 25 69.4 19 48.7 Informal writing 25 55.6 24 70.6 24 61.5 Critical thinking 24 53.3 20 57.1 15 38.5 Academic writing 11 24.4 17 48.6 21 53.8 Slightly more than 80% of Mexican students reported that they improved their intercultural understanding and knowledge about other cultures. In addition, 77.8% of Mexican students reported that they improved their reading comprehension. As for the Russian students, 87.2% of them reported that they improved their knowledge about other cultures as well as communication skills in English and informal writing. The Russian students began to participate in the project with anticipation to improve their academic writing, therefore, the higher percentage of Russian participants (53.8%) (compared to 24.4% of Japanese and 48.6% of Mexicans) reported its improvement. More Russian students (53.8% vs. 61.5%) said that they improved their informal writing. For most of them, being familiar only with the genre of writing business letters, informal interaction with the students of the same age was a new experience. As Alya, a Russian student, said: What we improved is not academic English, but the way to express our own opinion (thoughts). In our classes we have a lack of it. We are not asked "what do you think about this or that?" We are simply given a topic and we must "give a birth" to something. And here you are simply interested and write according to interests. (Interview) 213 Interviews also identified the following major themes with regards to students' learning: Theme 1: B B as the first step toward learning cultures. Some students viewed the interaction on the bulletin board as the first step to learn other cultures, helpful when they would meet representatives of these cultures face-to-face: [I learned] many basic things about both Japanese and russian culture, this will absolutely be useful to me in the future where globalization is common and we need to know about other countries and cultures. It can be assesed that its the first step on learning about their culture to treat them right and know what to expect from them. (Francisco, Interview) Similarly, Nori, a Japanese student, wrote in her message: Message no. 2996[Branch from no. 2567] P o s t e d by Nori on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 11:47am Subject Re: What i s your opinion about online discussions? ...It i s very important opportunity to know about other cultures. I t might be h e l p f u l to communicate with Mexican and Russian people when I meet them. Common knowledge about t h e i r c u l t u r e s makes me easy t o make f r i e n d s . I want t o go t o Mexi c o and R u s s i a someday. I f I have knowledge, I would not be confused when I meet d i f f e r e n t culture with which I am not f a m i l i a r , and I can enjoy myself there-Some other Japanese students shared Naoko's opinion as well. As Tsuki wrote, "If I did not join this WebCT B B , I would not be interested in Russia forever" (Journal). Also: I feel like that i f I do not have opportunities to talk and to know people from a different country, I might not be even interested about the country. However once I meet someone from a country and talk to the person, I will feel like I really want to know the culture and country. It is just like a discovery of new things in my life. .. .In 214 my case, it is a usual signal that I start to learn about new cultures. (Miki, Journal entry) Theme 2: Learning pieces of information. Instead of gaining a holistic perspective about other cultures, students learned "pieces of information": Message no. 2814[Branch from no. 2566] P o s t e d by Takeshi on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 12:38am Subject Re: What i s your opinion about online discussions? Now, I f o u n d one t h i n g I have t o t e l l . That i s we have t o ab s o r b l o t s of pieces of information f o r t h e arguments o f WebCT. More we t a l k , more we understand, w h i c h brings us to study more about t h e a f f a i r s t h a t we argue. We a r e not a b l e t o t a l k w i t h o u t any p i e c e o f i n f o r m a t i o n o r knowledge. Thus, g e t t i n g pieces of information and knowledge i s s u r e l y i m p o r t a n t . Today, I have several talks about p o l i t i c s , e n v i r o n m e n t , t r a v e l , and o t h e r i s s u e s w i t h M exicans and R u s s i a n s , and I am q u i t e e n j o y i n g i t . I hope I can make n i c e f r i e n d s w i t h them t h r o u g h t h i s p r o j e c t . Some students also learned additional information about other students' personalities and cultural behaviours. Some Russian students, for example, wrote: "I liked the message written by Akiko - she wrote about war and peace -1 never thought of what she wrote about, I did not think that people might be interested in such issues." (Shura, interview). "I learned that the foreigners are more relaxed, free, they always express their own thoughts. I noticed that our communicative styles were different - foreigners are more relaxed and free than we are" (Luda, interview). Also: Mexicans wrote that people think they were poor, but in fact they are not. It turned out that Japanese are more americanized. E.g. many Japanese wrote about their love of baseball, Kenji wrote about his "Harley Davidson." That was something new to me. (Shura, interview) Dario, a Mexican student, wrote: 215 I learned that russians love to "copy paste ", but they are also very intresting when they do their work in a correct form. Japanese are not as "closed" as its said, they are very happy and love to talk about many different topics, they are absoultley more free than i thought. (Mid-interview) Theme 3: BB as improving intercultural awareness rather than L2. Many students thought that the bulletin board was useful not for the L2 improvement, but for development of intercultural awareness: "For cultural understanding this bulletin board is good idea, but I think this bb is not so good for improving English ability, it's better to include some native English speaker" (Yuko, journal). Those who did not feel that they improved their L2 said that it was because they were not pointed at errors: "When you are not pointed at the mistakes - how can you improve your English?" (Kenji, Interview) "Even though you wrote a lot and practice, there's no one to correct your mistakes, so you didn't really learn something new" (Dolores, Interview). Theme 4: Practice as equivalent to learning. Those students who thought that they improved their L2, explained their progress by the fact that the more one practices, the more one improves his/her language: Yes, I feel that every time that we (non-English speakers) are reading, and witting more and more English, we are improving it. I feel that my abilities to write, and my skills to read and understand more things are improving since I'm in this forum. (Jose) Some students reflected on their learning in the following manner: 216 "I do not think I can improve my English directly through this, but I spend some time to post my opinion on it. Composing my thought and tell other students clearly have become easier through this discussion, maybe" (Yukako). "It makes you think at the discussed problem a lot and moreover think in English! (as for me)" (Alia) Theme 5: Focus on form as improving L2. Monika said that focus on form and noticing features of language which had not been familiar before was crucial for her language improvement: "you can learn english because, in that way you see what is wrong in their writtings and what is good, because for example, I try to write in the best form I can" (Monika). Teresa added: "Yes, maybe [improvement was] not in my pronuntiation, or grammar, but it pushes me to try to write good, trying not to make many mistakes in my spelling, etc." Similarly, Salvador said: "It improves my writing in several ways, the first one being, of course, practice. It also helps me reinforce my English because J must "proof read", so to say, the message that I'm reading, picking up the mistakes and thinking of ways of correcting them" (Interview) Indeed, through interaction protocols analysis I found that students tended to repeat expressions used by other students. For example, Ines, a Mexican student, wrote: "I am a sporty girl, I love almost all sport. I play basketball and weight lifting." Mik i , a Japanese student responded: "I think it's cool that you play weight lifting!" In the same message Mik i asked: " A California roll is quite popular for Canadians. Do you know what it is?" Later on, Ines repeated this same question in her reply: "About the Mexican food, is delicious too, the most typical food are the "taquitos" that is a tortilla roll (do you know what it is?)" Thus, we 217 can see that students, in fact, borrowed both correct ("do you know what it is?") and wrong ("play weight-lifting") expressions. In addition, some students reported that they used the following strategies that might have improved their learning: "I tried to write in a way so others would want to read my messages." "I compared my own writing/thinking with other people's." "When-I was interested in a topic, I searched for more on it on the Internet." "Before writing something about my country I checked information in the books" "I corrected mistakes in the word document." "I tried to write my best to not look less knowledgeable in the eyes of instructors and classmates." "I liked to reread my messages, when I reread, I corrected my mistakes. It is somehow interesting to reread your own writings even when significant time has passed. If I don't correct, it means I like my messages." (Alia, interview) The first statement "I tried to write in a way so others would want to read my messages" serves as an evidence that some students had a sense of audience and made an attempt to sound "attractive" and with minimum errors. In contrast, an approach taken by Shura, a Russian student, was unlikely to lead to any language, culture, and content improvement: "I wrote in simple sentences to avoid mistakes. When interacted I used simple words. I never used dictionary." Theme 6: Increased tolerance. Some students also reported that the project made them feel more tolerant toward others' opinions: "Well, it taught you a little bit more about being tolerant with other, and not discriminate people for having different beliefs I became more 218 open, and flexible to other people's beliefs" (Dolores, MS). "I became more precocious in dealing with cultures." Also: "I became less picky and more tolerant to others' opinions. .. .After project I have such attitude - let them speak, each has his or her own opinion" (Olesya, RS). Theme 7: Increased self-awareness. Some students increased their self-awareness. For example, they said: Japanese students: "My opinion is not strong enough." - "My English is not good enough." "I am not so flexible." "I tend to write short/long messages." Mexican students: "I tend to be overacting and over-prejudiced when see copy-paste - it's not good." "I don't like to write too long, I go straight to the point." - "On the bulletin board I was careful to not offend others, usually I am not like that." Russian students: As we discussed in the "Contradictions" section, the Russian students thought that the level of English of Japanese and Mexican students would be much higher than their level. Through the project they found out that other students' level of English was similar to theirs and said: "I was not sure in myself in my knowledge of language. And this project gave me an opportunity to look at their level and compare it with mine; I realized that somebody knows English less then me" (Kostya). "Thanks to this project I finally feel confident to interact with foreigners" (Asya). 219 In addition, some Russian students were proud that they managed to participate in the project despite the constraints of their local context: "I gained more confidence that we participated in this project, we were not expelled, or punished - we went through it" (Zhanna). Those Russian students who were not electronically literate, said: "I increased my speed of typing." "I subscribed for e-mail for the first time." "I gained some experience in such work." "At last I feel myself freely with computers and realize their importance." Theme 8: BB project as too short to promote learning. Some students who did not feel they improved their intercultural awareness and L2, said: "I need more kinds of interaction with other people to become global," and "My concept of foreign people did not change, I just talked to persons from Japan and Russia." 4.10 Summary: Learning In this section the study discussed the following processes that manifested students learning: Comparing and relating. Dialogue and compromise: stretching the language. Change of perspectives through process writing. These learning processes were contrasted with the example of a surface approach to interaction (avoiding stretching the language) which was the opposite to learning. In order to present the quantitative results of students' learning, I coded interaction in two forums based on Byram's, Lamy and Goodfellow's and O'Dowd's models. I compared 220 the number of phatic and critical messages in stages 1 and 2 of the project. The study found that during the first stage of the project students tended to be more social, whereas, during the second stage they became more critical which increased their potential of intercultural learning. The study also found that the project resulted in over 30% of Mexican students gaining negative impression about Russian students because they disliked their genre of writing which they characterized as plagiarism. The study identified the following themes that emerged from the interview data and reflected students perceptions about learning: 1) B B as the first step toward learning cultures, 2) Learning pieces of information, 3) B B as improving intercultural awareness rather than L2, 4) Practice as equivalent to learning, 5) Focus on form as improving L2, 6) Increased tolerance 7) Increased self-awareness, 8) B B project as too short to promote learning. When the project was over, students responded to the final question of the survey "Would you participate in similar projects again in the future?" in the following manner: Table 4. 29 Students Willingness (or not) to Participate in the Future Projects n Japanese % n Mexicans % n Russians % Yes 25 56.8 20 55.6 25 73.5 No 3 6.8 4 11.1 0 0 Maybe 16 36.4 12 33.3 9 26.5 Total 44 100.0 36 100.0 34 100.0 As a majority of students from all three cultures responded positively, their answers indicated the success of the project. I would like to finish this section with the words of George, a Russian student who wrote when the project was over: 221 You do great job by arranging such projects. People far away from the Western University have possibilities to communicate with the students abroad. Of course, it's not a staging tour or exchange program, but it quite interesting and advantageous. I'd like you to arrange such projects in further, but not only for "chosen" ones. It'd be great to offer it to the students who are interested in it, but have no chance to do it. 222 CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSION This chapter presents the summary of the study and important conclusions drawn from the data presented in Chapter IV. It provides a discussion of the implications for action and recommendations for further research. 5.1 Summary of the Study The purpose of this study was to provide a thick and rich description of interpretation and understanding of the complex nature of intercultural telecollaboration, including the relationship between its participants, computer technologies, local and global contexts; cross-cultural contradictions, and learning. To meet this purpose this study examined the international online computer conference in 4 WebCT forums which joined 52 Japanese, 37 Mexican, and 46 Russian English learners. The following were the guiding questions asked in this study: 1. What is the nature of the relationship between contexts, participants and information technologies? 2. What are the cross-cultural contradictions/tensions of International telecollaboration? 3. What kind of learning does I-CMC promote? 5.2 Review of the Methodology Sources of data consisted of the written transcripts of the online exchanges as well as interviews, pre- and post- project surveys, journals, project evaluations and participant observation. 223 In this study I looked beyond the texts of interaction to the broader contextual dynamics that shaped and were shaped by those texts. Therefore, I structured the analysis of data within three broad dimensions: Contexts, Contradictions, and Learning. The dimension "Contexts" included the characteristics of the 1) geopolitical structures, 2) institutional contexts, 3) context of interaction (including elements of the Activity System such as an access to computer technologies, the ways the project was integrated into the courses, affordances and constraints of online environments etc.) and 4) students' agency. The emphasis was on defining to what extent students shaped the environments and environments shaped students' participation. The dimension "Contradictions" captured the "how" aspect of interaction. Contradictions were identified as a result of the analysis of interview data and supported by examples from the interaction protocols. Finally, analysis of the dimension "Learning" focused on learning processes and outcomes of the interaction identified through surveys, interviews and interaction protocol data. 5.3 Major Findings The findings of this study were based on my ICETA model (Figure 3.3) introduced in the Methodology section. According to this model, the Intercultural online community was viewed as a separate activity system mediated by computer technologies, evolving by its own rules, with the subjects having their own personal and collective objectives, as well as roles they played within the community. This online activity system was embedded in institutional, and geopolitical contexts, which also represented broader activity systems which were interconnected with the online community. 224 The following is a summary of the key findings based on the exploration of the relationships between participants, computer technologies and contexts; contradiction as well as learning processes and outcomes of the interaction. The discussion of the relationship between contexts, computer technologies and participants is built around two themes: "When contexts shape students' participation" and "When students shape participation." 5.3.1 When Contexts Shape Students' Participation In the "Contexts" section I analyzed the interplay between three contextual layers: Geopolitical, Institutional, Context of interaction and students' Agency. Even though students from three cultures engaged in the same task, their participation was shaped by affordances and constraints of the contextual layers and students' individual differences. First of all, students were positioned subjects who came to the bulletin board with a previous history of participation in other activity systems and certain agendas formed by the discourses of their local contexts and broader geopolitical structures. In particular, there was a relationship between students' participation and their positioning as socially-constructed subjects caught up in the unequal power relations which some students thought existed between their countries. The students' imagined sense of community (Anderson, 1991; Pavlenko & Norton, in press) or lack thereof with non-native speakers was an additional variable influencing their willingness to interact with one another as was their pragmatic interest in the countries of their interlocutors. Some Japanese students' self-perception of being "monocultural" citizens in multicultural Canada evoked their interest in other cultures. The stereotypes about students' countries, created by mass media, also served as an incentive for interaction in order to dispel or confirm these stereotypes. 225 Institutional context provided students with tools to enter the online activity system and to mediate their interaction. Whereas in Canadian and Mexican contexts students had unlimited access to computers and the Internet, this was not the case in the Russian context. The limited access to computers and the Internet impacted participation of many Russian students in the following ways: Many Russian students wrote their messages off-line, and demonstrated very limited online reading activity Participation in the project was more time consuming for them than for the Japanese and Mexican students. Many Russian students had higher anxiety levels associated with their limited experience with computer technologies. The large number of participants and differences in their goals and needs, as well as the inconvenient organization of threaded discussion and message overload, constrained community development. Instead of forming one community of learners, students tended to form multiple communities based on the commonalities of their interests and personal attraction. Online context became the place where the diversity of students' identities and approaches to interaction and learning came into direct contact and were re-negotiated. In this context it was the student agency that became the most important in shaping interaction supporting the proposition that "it is not a question of different culture and language systems which confront each other in cultural encounters, but of interacting individuals who produce, negotiate or defend meanings and capitals" (Christensen, 1994, p.37; translation by Byram, 1997; p. 40). This study found that students' participation was influenced the most by the 226 institutional context and context of interaction, rather than by broader geopolitical structures. This can be explained by the fact, that the farther apart personal relationships between students were, the weaker the links between them became. On geopolitical and institutional levels these links were imagined. As soon as students gained actual access to interaction, the distance between them decreased and their imagined affiliations were reconsidered. These findings also fit within Claxton's (2002) "social historical discourse" and the discourse of the "irreducible situated moment" framework with regards to learning and development. According to social historical discourse, the individuals find themselves 'positioned' within structures, practices and 'discourses' that have a cultural, rather than psychological reality. "Irreducible situated moment" or "mediated action" discourse has a micro-level focus on situated immediate actions. Claxton argues that the social historical discourses "being abstractions and tendencies ... are never able fully to catch the intricate complexity of the unique moment in which a person interacts with an unprecedented material, social and cultural setting" (p. 25). 5.3.2 When Students Shape Participation According to Rassool (2002), online environments allowed us to move away "from being mere readers and spectators to becoming active participants in the shaping, deconstruction and re-construction of text, literally, experientially and metaphorically" (p. 176). Potts (2002) found that in her study the bulletin board contributed to the students' learning in a way that "it seemed to go beyond affording agency and to actually facilitating the exercising of agency" (p. 204). Similarly, in this study the bulletin board facilitated students' agency. I analyzed students' participation or not through the focus on 227 communicative need (object/motive), division of labour, emerged community and students' decision making. Learners themselves shaped the interaction based on their individual approaches to learning and interaction as well as by the communicative choices they made. Students had to adapt to online environments, characterized by multiple discussions taking place simultaneously and by a large number of messages through making purposeful choices about what messages to read or not to read and what messages to reply to or not to reply to as well as how much effort to invest in this activity. By doing this, they engaged in the process of shaping the environment. The interaction evolved due to the students' contributions - in this regards, quality and quantity of their participation became instrumental in keeping the bulletin board functioning and rolling in different directions. Such factors as forms of greetings and closures, choices to interact with their own classmates vs. foreign students, and dialogues vs. phatic interaction facilitated or hindered community formation. The study found that students' agency operated in accordance with their identities of deep, strategic or surface communicators. Although all students participated in interaction, not all of them engaged in true dialogue of cultures that would result in creation of a new cultural meaning. Some students did not enter the core inner circle (Figure 3.3) because they remained on the level of surface interaction or because they were interested solely in students from their own cultures. There was no correlation between quality and quantity of students' participation, though. Thus, deep learners, such as Taro from Japan, Amador from Mexico, and Zina from Russia were passive writers. On the other hand, the surface learners such as Karl and Sierra from Mexico, and Natasha from Russia were among the most active participants. 228 5.3.3 Contradictions The study found a number of contradictions that echo some of the tensions identified in the studies by Chase et al. (2002), Kramsch and Thorne (2002), O'Dowd (2003) and Ware (2003, forthcoming), among which were the following: Unequal participation. Many Russian students complained that Japanese and Mexican students did not provide them with sufficient information about their countries and initiated significantly less threads. Lopsided interaction was also found in Ware's (2003) study. Clash of genres: writing "at the moment" and writing "beforehand." Similarly to finding by Kramsch and Thorne (2003), the clash of genres became the main tension that students encountered. Interestingly, the Japanese and Mexican students interpreted the Russian students' dispassionate style of writing in two different ways. Many Mexican students accused the Russian students of plagiarism (cutting and pasting), whereas some Japanese students assigned the Russian genre to the cultural features of the latter or to the fact that they might have received an assignment to write in that certain style. This reveals the shaping force of the broader institutional level when Mexican students were influenced by the anti-plagiarism program running at their university and transferred their concerns to the B B . Academic vs. casual, formal vs. informal topics. Students had a dilemma of choosing between the level of formality/informality that was predetermined by the overall object/motive of students' engagement in this activity and their professional or personal (youth) identities. This finding echoes findings by Chase et al. (2002) and Ware (2003). Chase et al., for example, attribute the rich mix of communication styles to cultural gaps that 229 sometimes exist between speakers and the dominant "cyberculture," as well as between individual speakers. Missed communication. Similarly to the finding by Ware (2003), who coined the term "missed communication" there were incidents of missed communication in this study as well when learners appeared to be communicating, yet, were talking about two different things and not reaching consensus. The main reason for missed communication was the students' lack of attention, or failure to decentre or approach the text from the perspective of their communication partners. Missed communication was also facilitated by technology itself due to such features as the delayed response time and the lack of social consequences for dropping topics allowing participants to be less active conversational partners. In addition, the ability to engage in communication at a deeper level of intercultural inquiry was impeded by the online discourse norm that favoured brevity over sustained attention (Ware, in press). Concern: to participate or not to participate. The study identified that students experienced six types of anxiety: 1) novelty/unpredictability of the practice, 2) cultural concerns - anxiety to seem "strange" and anxiety to represent the whole country, 3) Being afraid to not meet all the project requirements, 4) anxiety associated with the lack of experience with technology, 5) anxiety to seem less knowledgeable than others. Overarching cultural anxiety might be related to the proposition of Gudykunst (1994) that the greater the cultural gap between communicators is, the greater is the "anxiety" on the part of communicators. Culture-specific vs. Common topics. As Russian students strictly followed the plan, they posted the largest number of messages introducing aspects of their culture which . contradicted other students' preferences. It turned out that most students preferred to discuss 230 topics on modern issues, and topics they had background knowledge on, rather than topics unfamiliar and irrelevant to their immediate context of interaction. Common topic - different perspectives. Students discussed common topics, but reflected their local discourses. In the example of interaction between Mexican and Russian students on racism, students expressed different discourses on that issue prevalent in their local contexts, which at times led to the difficulty to reach the understanding and agreement. Threatened national identity. In the examples provided in this study, Mexican students were offended by the misspelled name of their country " M E X I C A " instead of " M E X I C O " (written in capital letters) and by mentioning negative stereotypes about Mexico such as "gangsters and narcotics." This example points at the emotional involvement of students in the interaction activity and the power of text as a mediating channel. This intercultural online communication reminded some students of the diversity and internal complexity of relationships which existed not only between countries but within their own countries, evident in the heated exchange between two Mexican students - Rosalinda and Slayter. In what follows I will discuss the underlying reasons for all the contradictions found in this study. Differences in Educational Traditions (Curricular vs. Interactive) Similarly to the finding by Sandholtz, Ringstaff, and Dwyer (1997) in their 10-year-long study of the use of technology in US public schools, this study found that sociocultural context strongly influenced how computers were used by students and that this influence was mediated by beliefs of individual teachers and their experience with technology. Chase et al. (2002) also found that the online culture reflects the values of its developers and "is overtly 231 maintained by guideline creation, and covertly maintained by facilitators and participants" (p. 5). In this study I characterized the approach of the Japanese instructor as "democratic and multitasks," the approach of the Mexican instructor as "balanced and social justice" and the approach of the Russian instructor as "authoritarian and teacher centered." Whereas the Japanese and Mexican instructors advocated the interactive learning paradigm, the Russian instructor was a proponent of the curricular paradigm. Both approaches were described by Lemke(1998) as follows: The curricular paradigm assumes that someone else will decide what you need to know, and will arrange for you to learn it all in a fixed order and on a fixed timetable. This is the educational paradigm of industrial capitalism and factory-based mass production. It .. .resembles them in its authoritarianism, top-down planning, rigidity, economies of scale, and general unsuitability to the new information-based "fast-capitalist" world. The interactive learning paradigm assumes that people determine what they need to know based on their participation in activities where such needs arise, and in consultation with knowledgeable specialists; that they learn in the order that suits them, at a comfortable pace, and just in time to make use of what they learn. It is the paradigm of access to information, rather than imposition of learning. It is the paradigm of how people with power and resources choose to learn. Students also came from the traditions favoured by their instructors and educational contexts. The interactive learning paradigm, reinforced by the forum, contradicted the Russian instructor's and students' expectations. Thus, many Russian students reported that they expected the project to be "official", requiring preliminary preparation. When they 232 began to participate, they realized that the project was different from what they expected as Japanese and Mexican students were very social and informal. However, not all Russian students were happy with the bulletin board being informal as it was in conflict with the educational tradition they came from oriented toward a high degree of control and formality. The suggestion of some Russian students such as this one: "May be i t ' l l be useful to have some additional materials on the BB? Listening exercises, some on-line text-book on the English language" (Alia) - indicates, that students were representing the curriculum learning paradigm favouring fixed grammar drills and exercises ("writing beforehand"), which differed drastically from an interactive learning paradigm based on spontaneous interaction ("writing at the moment"). Despite representing the different educational tradition, many Russian students demonstrated flexibility and readiness to change their interaction style which was evident in how they decreased the number of fact-reporting messages and increased the number of critical messages and questions in the second stage of the project (Tables 4.25, 4.26). The finding of the transfer of learning approaches from one educational context to another supports the findings of other researchers who also found that students' schema for classroom interaction and learning can be easily transferred to on-line spaces. The researchers of the use of C M C in work groups (Zack & McKenny, 1995) found that social structures are carried over from the physical world into the on-line space. These researchers expressed their concern over students' failure to use on-line spaces to engage in deeper and more reflective conversations (see e.g. Angeli, Bonk & Hara, 1998; Bonk & King, 1998). Differences in Approaches to Culture Learning 233 Another reason for misunderstanding in online environments stemmed from students' different frames of reference with regards to what culture learning should be about. When some students engaged in a description of their cultures, they were coming from a behaviorist perspective, based on the understanding of culture as a static and fixed commodity - the 5 t h skill to be acquired. Opposite to this approach was a symbolist approach, when students negotiated the meaning around issues raised from the context of interaction. Differences in Individual Background Knowledge (Schemas) Contradictions also took place because students had different schemas (background knowledge) evident in their different interpretations of the information, which was based on what they wanted to hear rather than what their interaction partners really meant. Differences in schemas often resulted in "missed communication" described in the example of the interaction between Amador and Yuka. In addition, whatever students discussed, their views were based on the discourses prevalent in their cultural contexts (as in the example of interaction between Teresa and Alia), reflecting the argument, that: "Materially constituted within specific ideological milieu, texts enter into dialogue with social and political discourses and the institutions, processes and practices in which they are embedded" (Rassool, 2001; p. 158-159). Approaches to Communication: Deep vs. Strategic vs. Surface This study found that there was a clash between deep, strategic and surface communicators. Thus, deep communicators produced long, error-free and critical messages. 234 When they received short, phatic and full of errors responses of surface communicators, there was a clear incompatibility between their genres of writing. Differences in Cultures-of-Use of Computer Technologies More importantly, contradictions were caused by differences in cultures-of-use of computer technologies across 3 socio-cultural contexts, and, therefore, students from three countries had different participation and learning experiences. The Japanese and Mexican students' participation was mediated by instructors in a democratic regime in that they had freedom to write on the topics of their personal interest and during the time convenient for them. They also interacted directly online due to their free and unlimited access to the Internet. The Russian students' participation, on the other hand, was constrained by their lack of access to computer tools and was heavily mediated by instructor's control. The Russian students began their participation cycle in the library, continued at home where they typed their messages in the word document, saved them on the floppy disk, proceeded in the lab where they posted their messages, gave the floppy disk to their instructor for a control check up every week and then began this cycle again. In case of the Japanese and Mexican students, their local contexts with free access to the Internet afforded them more options, as opposed to the Russian students. For example, they could make printouts of interaction, download messages from all four forums at once, they could bookmark the page and go to the B B at any time. Thus, the differences in students' cultures-of-use of the electronic bulletin board was another important underlying reason for the differences in students' participation and cross-cultural contradictions. 235 5.3.4 Same Task: Different Activities To sum up, all identified contradictions/tensions students came across in this study had their origin in: Different cultures-of-use of the computer technologies in three socio-cultural contexts that students have been interacting from. Identities of deep, strategic and surface learners. Students' different frames of references with regards to: o Approaches to learning in general (curricular, teacher centered vs. interactive) and valuing different cultural discursive norms. o Approaches to learning culture (behaviourist vs. symbolist). o Individual background knowledge (schemas). 5.3.5 Learning Outcomes of Interaction Learning by Expanding within an Activity System Chase et al. (2002) and Reeder et al. (2004) argue that there is an "Internet culture" or "cyberculture." Features of the observed cyberculture include "etiquette, rules of formality/informality, flexibility, interaction style (including greetings/farewells, use of apology), expectations of response speed, and work ethic (tensions between relationship building communications and 'on-task' communications)" (p. 5). Similar to the process of socialization in the second culture, learners socialize in the cyberculture through learning how to co-exist with others and master new values and discourses. In this study, those students who had unlimited access to computer technologies and who found the interaction to 236 be interesting, engaged in the process of expanding their participation from the periphery to the center. The evidence of students' learning to participate in online environments was well captured in Tina's and Olya's reflections (Tables 4.23, 4.24) as well as in what many Russian students said: "we understood by the end that we need to simply interact, and not to write academic essays. " Therefore, I argue, that some students learned how to participate in highly interactive online environments. Students' expertise developed dynamically through continuing socialization in the community's discourse. Students learned what was appropriate and what was not through running across contradictions. These contradictions resulted in the emergence of the rules/norms the online interaction evolved by and which participants understood and agreed upon. In this case competence drove experience when, in order to achieve the competence defined by a community, newcomers transformed their experience until it fit within the regime (Wenger, 1998). These rules were not imposed by anyone, rather, they emerged as a result of students' negotiating new ways of acting together. The tension around the discussion of the appropriateness of culture-specific vs. global and academic vs. casual topics illustrates an example of students' negotiation of new norms and rules. In addition, students seemed to appreciate common human values - such as humour, honesty, and charismatic personalities. Through reading and analyzing messages, some students figured out that the genre of debate was quite stimulating and desirable for them. Reeder et al. (2004) argue that the genre of questions/debate is valued by aggressive/competitive individualistic behaviours of Anglo-American engineers and scientists "seeking quick and open access to others like themselves" (Anderson, 1995, p. 13; cited in Reeder, et al. 2004). It is interesting that some student in this study who came from Japanese, Mexican and Russian youth cultures also favoured the genre 237 of debate which indicates that they were highly influenced by the Internet culture and globalization in general. Learning/or not Language, Culture, and Content "There are differences among us, but I still don't know them well enough to say which are attributable to their culture and which to their own personality" (Salvador, IRC interview). The study found evidence for both learning and not as a result of students' participation in I-CMC. First of all, the interaction ran across missed communication, when students failed to decentre and did not understand or avoided the points expressed by their communication partners. Examples of missed communication were found in the description of contradictions: "Missed communication" and "Threatened national identity." Next, an analysis based on the Byram's (1997), Lamy and Goodfellow's (1999), and O'Dowd's (2003) models identified that students wrote a large number of phatic and fact-based messages, thereby, avoiding engagement with intercultural reflective dialogue. Thus, it is legitimate to say that learning opportunities for students had been avoided or shut down in several instances. On the other hand, the assumption that learning language and culture took place cannot be denied either. Many students reported the improvement of those aspects of language and culture that they wanted to improve (table 4.28). I demonstrated the learning processes through the examples of the interaction between Mayako, a Japanese student, and Luda, a Russian student, as well as Yasu and Alia who engaged in a "dialogue of cultures" (Safonova, 1996) resulting in an emergence of the third place (Kramsch, 1993) (Figure 3.3). I compared these learning moments with the surface approach demonstrated by Takashi (a 238 Japanese student) who used an avoidance strategy by refusing to respond to a question asked by Zhanna (a Russian student), thereby, shutting down possibilities for community development and stretching his language. It was found that students were using such cognitive strategies as comparing (focusing on differences and similarities) and relating in order to gain inter-cultural awareness. This replicates the finding by Gray (1999) who in his study of how school-children form the understanding of their online peers found that they used three strategies: description, inference and comparison. It also indicates that some students had an awareness that they were participating in the intercultural community as they were constantly alerted about the differences they could encounter any minute, and, therefore, were always in a state of comparing and relating the cultures of their partners with their own cultures. The analysis of social interaction demonstrated that the number of messages containing critical reflections increased in the second stage of interaction, indicating increased chances for students' intercultural learning (Tables 4.25 & 4.26). Thus, in this study I found evidence for both learning and not in the online context. Due to the short time period of the project, deep changes in students' world-views can hardly be expected* rather, the study captured minor changes in their perspectives. Instead of gaining a holistic view of the issues discussed, students gained "bits and pieces" of information. This is not unique to online environments: "Neither the nature of the learning nor the factors that contributed to learning are unique to electronic bulletin boards. They are familiar to anyone who has experienced a good learning space, physical or virtual" (Potts, 2002; p. 190). We gain an impression of learning "bits and pieces" when we talk with our friends, read newspapers or watch TV. This information does not always seem educational, however, at times, a single phrase heard from various sources may prove to be really 239 educational and insightful, shedding light on things that were hard to understand before. These educational moments are individual and depend on students' schemas and background knowledge. Therefore, I argue that individual students had different educational moments through participation in online activity and through being exposed to "bits and pieces" of diverse information. Personally, the most educational moments for me were when I read messages that touched me emotionally (Mahn & John-Steiner, 2002) such as well-written textured narratives, like the one written by Semyon about his pet. In relation to this, Lamott (1994) argues that when people write a little every day (as the students in this project), they end up writing about the drama of humankind. "Life is complicated, and we grapple with events that can be confusing [and difficult to understand in other ways]. Sometimes writers are so gifted that they can shed a little light on these events" (cited in Garner & Gullingham, 1996; p. 49). This project resulted in some Mexican students' gaining a negative impression of Russian students because of the cross-cultural contradictions and tensions described above, and, particularly, because many Mexican students were disappointed with the dispassionate messages of some Russian students that they interpreted as plagiarism. No matter how much effort students invested in their writing and how much content they transferred, when their genre of writing was formal and dispassionate, Mexican students tended not to relate it to the differences in frames of reference and cultures-of-use of the bulletin board, but rather interpreted it as the Russian students' arrogance and lack of consideration. In relation to this, it is important to remember that impressions are made based on the genres of writing that, according to Kress (2003), 240 deal not with what is talked about, .. .but with who acts .. .in relation to whom, with the question of purposes. This is directly in the domain of social interaction: the questions that arise are questions such as "who are the participants involved in the social action as it takes place?" and "what are their social relations with each other?"(p. 84). Lam (2000) also argues that: ".. .a prominent aspect of C M C is the use of textual and other semiotic tools to create communal affiliations and construct social roles and narrative representations of se l f (p. 477). Online texts seemed to be perceived by students as an image, a symbolic personification of an individual' Such signs as emoticons, capital letters, habitual ways of opening and closing messages used by some students served as the virtual representation of students' actual personalities. Given this, students could strengthen or weaken their virtual representation by the consistent use of certain types of signatures, capital letters, and other forms of expressing their personality. 5.4 Toward Communicative Competence in Intercultural Online Environments Kramsch & Thorne (2002) argue, that we need "to prepare students to deal with global communicative practices that require far more than local communicative competence" (p. 100). The findings of this study contribute to the ongoing discussion of what it means to be communicatively competent in a global online environments that connect speakers of English as a second language interacting from various parts of the world in the virtual zone of contact. Theme 1: Appropriateness vs. Desirability. Communicative competence refers to readers/users' ability to participate adequately in discourse with regard to the 241 appropriateness of contributions to the context of interaction (Rassool, 2001). However, we should not forget that successful communication means different things in different socio-cultural contexts. Therefore, Norton and Kamal (2003) working within the critical approach argue that theories of communicative competence need to address not only what is "appropriate," but what is desirable in the teaching of English internationally. Furthermore, they argue that "rules of use" is an inadequate pedagogical goal i f teachers are concerned with the relationship between language, identity, and power and i f they ask "whose interests do such rules serve?" Similarly, Kramsch and Thorne (2002) express their concern that "those who own personal computers and email accounts may unwittingly impose their genres globally onto others .. .at the expense of other... discourses" (p. 99, see also Reeder, et al., 2004). The question raised is whether culturally diverse students should change their communicative behaviour in order to better fit to one another's frames of conversational norms and rules or further reinforce their cultural ways with words, thus, contributing to dialect diversity. Belz (2003) proposes a constructive balanced perspective, which I share as well. In her view, "becoming interculturally competent may be not so much about adopting the words and interactional norms of the other in his or her language as it is about performing judicious acts of linguistic hybridity in a broadened discursive space" (p. 22). The concept of linguistic hybridity was also well-articulated by the New London Group (1996): Instead of core culture and national standards, the realm of the civic is a space for the negotiation of a different sort of social order: where differences are actively recognized, where these differences are negotiated in such a way that they complement each other, and where people have the chance to expand their cultural 242 and linguistic repertoires so that they can access a broader range of cultural and institutional resources (p.69). Indeed, in this study students were satisfied the most when the C M C was used to assist them in expressing their own voices and critically choosing among new genres and discourses. The communication was successful when students were expressing their own opinions, instead of recycling facts. Students were interested in reading messages reflecting personal opinions and were reluctant to read dispassionate, distanced and formal messages. In contrast, as a means of imposing control and structure, and transferring facts, online communication came across resistance and contradictions. Theme 2: ICC as an interactive process. According to Rassool (1999, p. 23), communicative competence within a technological global world is the interactive process in which meanings are produced dynamically between lived experience and information technology. As Norton and Kamal (2003) argue, "the extent to which we are informed will , in turn, affect the extent to which we respond to and act upon our understanding." This study found that the extent of being informed and operating with the "quality of information, and the level of efficiency in acquiring, processing, and applying it" (Rassool, 1999; p. 238) was directly linked to students' access or lack thereof to computer technologies and differences in their cultures of use. The study found that those students who had free access to computer technologies and had an adequate level of electronic literacy, had more opportunities to actively shape interaction. Olya and Tina, for example, were disappointed when Japanese and Mexican students, instead of "describing" cultural aspects of their countries, suggested them to find this information on the Internet. Whereas for Japanese, Mexican, and some Russian students 243 there was a clear distinction between research (information search) and communication functions of computer literacy, there was no such understanding for Olya and Tina who were restricted by slow and expensive Internet connection. In comparison, those Russian students who were on the other side of the digital and information divide, engaged in the activity similarly to Japanese and Mexican students. Thus, I argue, that access to technology, prior experience of working on a highly interactive bb and encountering otherness helped students to critically approach the rules set by their instructor and shaped interaction in their own ways. Therefore, as this study demonstrated, it is not enough to have "knowledge" about tacit cultural aspects, rules of discourse, and culturally desirable forms of communication, it is important to have an adequate culture-of-use of the computer technologies which allows for flexible participation and reinforcement of an interactive learning paradigm. To be communicatively competent is, therefore, to be aware of the relationship between people, contexts, artefacts and material and economic differences which exist between haves and have-nots. Participants need to have an understanding of how different literacy practices might depend on resources available to learners in different socio-cultural contexts. With regards to material and economic differences between interaction partners, Thorne (2003) raises a profoundly important issue as to whether inter-cultural communication needs to explicitly take into account cross-class and cross-social material condition differences. Theme 3: Importance of human agency. The study emphasizes the importance of human agency in intercultural projects, mainly, learners' sensitivity to one another's cultural identities and communicative styles. The success or failure of communication in online environments depends on learners' agency in the same way as in face-to-face 244 communication. Being able to engage people is the art demanding an extraverted personality, a willingness to share and relate, diplomatic curiosity, and, most importantly, readiness to work toward the common goal. 5.4.1 The Crucial Role of Instructors I agree with researchers of C M C (Kern, 2000; Warschauer, 1999; Kramsch & Thorne, 2002; Belz, 2003; Ware, in press) who argue that instructors play the key role in shaping online learning experiences for their students. This study also emphasizes the importance of teacher involvement in "discerning, identifying, explaining, and modelling culturally-contingent patterns of interaction in the absence of paralinguistic meaning signals" (Belz, 2003). In this study instructors mediated rules and objects of the interaction in accordance with their different educational philosophies and experiences with computer technologies. Differences in objectives/rules instructors set for their students were more than mere differences between teaching traditions - curricular paradigms associated with the acquisition metaphor and interactive learning paradigms associated with the participation metaphor - it was about instructors' different levels of computer literacy. Therefore, I argue that instructors have a responsibility for adequate mediation of the project, and that they, themselves, need to have an adequate level of computer literacy and be ready to work collaboratively with other instructors and students. 5.5 Implications for Practice Miki 's , a Japanese student's reflection that the online environment is specifically designed to discuss cultural topics points to the fact that students come to the international 245 bulletin board with an increased level of intercultural sensitivity. Intercultural and online environments give students the opportunity to cross cultural borders evident in their cognitive processes of comparing and relating, and saliency of their cultural identities evident in tensions that took place because of their threatened cultural identity. Therefore, such international projects is a good instructional tool, which can help students develop their intercultural and global identities. Implementation and analysis of this project helped to identify the following implications for practice: Raising an Awareness about the Relationship between the Word and the World. It is important to teach students about the relationship between the 'word' and the 'world', between textual and larger sociocultural practices (Lankshear et al., 1997). Learners should consider how different cultures-of-use, frames of references and practices might produce different outcomes, as happened in this study: "FLT needs ... to go beyond linguistic realizations of politeness to take account of the ways of living out of which others speak and write" (Byram, 1997; p. 4). Instructors need to provide learners with opportunities "to explore the extent to which social practices, ways of doing and being, and forms of knowledge are historical, contingent and transformable, rather than neutral, fixed and immutable" (Lankshear et al., 1997; p. 156). The ICETA model (Figure 3.3) can be used by instructors to assist students in understanding the complex interrelationship between contexts, computer technologies, and participation outcomes. Teaching Genres. This study supports Kramsch and Thome's (2002) argument that what needs to be negotiated is "not only the connotations of words... but the stylistic 246 conventions of the genre (formal/informal, edited/unedited, literate/orate), and more importantly, the whole discourse system to which that genre belongs" (p. 98). Therefore, instructors need to call students' attention to how their writing genres demonstrate particular stances and carry traces of a wide range of contextually and culturally situated views. Students need to see the differences that exist between online and off-line interaction. In online environments, for example: 1) Communicative "norms" can be displaced when moving from the physical to the virtual 2) A database of online interactions can increase the potential for a face-threatening context 3) Goals and pedagogical use of the exchange can be subverted (Ware, 2003). In addition, it is more difficult to operate the WebCT bulletin board, than with e-mail, as the network of interlocutors and discourses increases. Therefore, instead of trying to catch up with every message, students should be prompted to read messages selectively, based on their personal interest. Emphasizing engaged participation. In online exchanges there is a need to stay engaged so the interaction does not develop into "missed" communication (Ware, 2003). In order to facilitate engagement, it is important to place an emphasis on reading activity, (understanding what exactly the interlocutor means, and reflecting on what was read) as well as to introduce netiquette "stances" that value intercultural engagement. Emphasis should be made on the investment of sufficient time in this activity and the increase of background knowledge of students' communication partners' countries. As the findings of this study demonstrated, some students tended to easily withdraw from the online activity as soon as they ran across constraints inherent to bulletin board interaction, such as difficulty to navigate the large number of messages. Therefore, the 247 learners should be taught to be resilient; that is, to develop an "ability to stay intelligently engaged with a complex and unpredictable situation." The opposite of resilience is fragility or - "the tendency to get upset and withdraw at the first sign of difficulty, and to shift from 'learning mode' into a defensive, self-protective stance" (Claxton, 2002; p. 28). Moving away from the discourse of "otherness" and reinforcing "dialogue." Instructors should encourage less focus on cultural "otherness" and more focus on "how language opens up and closes down particular roles for partners" (Ware, in press). The focus should be on finding common ground and developing the sense of a common world through a "dialogue of cultures" (Byram, 1997; Safonova, 1996). When people are united around a common object, they have a lot of things to talk about, consequently, in online environments it is important to join students around speech activities that would evoke their communicative need and would be mutually desirable, satisfactory, emotionally charged, and engaging for everyone. Facilitating students' agency. It is instrumental to give students the freedom that would allow them to demonstrate their agency investment (Carey, 1999a,b: 2002). This recommendation supports' Lamy and Goodfellow's (1999) proposition that learners should negotiate not only the correctness of forms, but content so they can be positioned as experts by controlling what they discuss, thereby, increasing their chances for language acquisition. As this study found, such "trivial" topics as "pets" can prove to be much more useful for students' development of communicative competence than, e.g. the topic on "global warming." The instructors, however, might disregard students' choices, still dictating their own preferences, thereby, undermining one of Chapelle's (2001) criteria of communicative 248 L2 development: "positive impact of a Computer Assisted Language Learning task." Therefore, it is of great importance to consider students' interests when designing and selecting C M C tasks. Focusing on identity development. This study reinforced the importance of personal differences with regards to participating in I-CMC interaction. Like in face-to-face communication;, those students who offered interesting topics for discussion and were both social and critical, turned out to be the most popular among other students and linguistically and culturally benefited from the project. Therefore, instead of developing students' discrete skills, it is important to educate them to be better communicators, learners, and people in general, remembering that education is about their identity formation (Cummins, 1996; Norton, 2000). It is important to go "beyond focusing only on cognitive development, but taking into account the whole person - body, mind and spirit" (Wells & Claxton, 2002; p. 5; Mahn & John-Steiner, 2002). The model of the deep learner who is a critical thinker, seeking common ground with others and having a well-rounded personality should be reinforced. 5.6 Recommendations for Further Research Given that this study focused on three broad dimensions - Contexts, Contradictions and Learning in the intercultural online environment, it was based on an analysis of the most salient themes across these dimensions. Future research could focus on experiences of a few students or investigate in-depth one or two variables identified in this study, using micro-analysis and providing more specific theoretical background. This study classified students into deep, strategic and surface learners, demonstrating 249 that students took different roles in interaction. However, more specific behavioural patterns can be investigated further. In particular, future studies may focus on how students positioned themselves and their partners in online discourse (cf. Belz, 2003), and how this positioning is both a product of and a producer of students' locally and culturally situated perspectives. The interesting and promising area is the investigation of how different styles of moderating influences student participation. There is substantial potential behind the linguistically grounded research techniques that can be used for the exploration of various aspects of online interaction. The study found that students' emotional involvement was crucial for their interest in interaction. More studies need to explore the affective factors of students' participation. It would be interesting to investigate the dynamics of students' participation over the longer time period and with other communication partners (Carey, 2000). Finally, the issue of how virtual cross-cultural encounters are woven back into real-time, in-class conversations remains a very interesting and an ambitious direction for future exploration (see discussion initiated by DePourbaix, 1992). 5.7 Significance of the Study In the Introduction and Chapter Two I discussed the importance of studies that would provide a complex multi-layered picture of international telecollaboration. While this study cannot claim to have provided answers to all questions about the nature of international telecollaboration, it has provided tentative explanations for many of its aspects within Contexts, Contradictions and Learning dimensions. This study is unique in that it involved a large number of culturally diverse students from other than the USA and European countries interacting in English on the electronic 250 bulletin board. The study broadened the contextual scope of research by conceptualizing the international telecollaboration as an Activity System embedded within the institutional, cultural and geopolitical contexts. Framing international telecollaboration within broader contexts addresses the gap in North American Sociocultural Theory which tended to neglect "the wider political and ideological settings in favour of a detailed concentration on the micro-dynamics of the individual family or classroom... and the local characteristics of ' Z P D ' " (Claxton, 2002; p. 26). In my attempt to graphically represent the complexity of multi-layered telecollaborative activity, I developed the model of Intercultural Context-Embedded Telecollaborative Activity (ICETA) (Figure 3.3) which has both pedagogical and theoretical implications. It can be used by educators and researchers in developing similar projects and research design. By including into the research scope all elements of activity system such as tools, objects/motives, community (students and instructors), division of labour, rules/norms, contradictions and outcomes as well as broader contexts in which it was embedded, it was possible to demonstrate the multifaceted, complex nature of intercultural online environments. Thus, using both deductive and inductive methods, the study provided a thick and rich description of interpretation and understanding of the complex nature of intercultural telecollaboration, including the relationship between its participants, computer technologies, local and global contexts; cross-cultural contradictions and tensions, and the nature of learning through international telecollaboration. Another theoretical implication of this study is that, based on the models by Byram (1997), Lamy & Goodfellow (1999), and O'Dowd (2003), I developed a model and a list of coding to measure the development of Intercultural communicative competence (Table 3.6). 251 The findings of this study contribute to the ongoing discussion