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Tools for Communication and Collaboration

In addition to the tools just mentioned, those described in this section have been used in a variety of ways in CALL classrooms.

Chat

A chat room is a website that provides a forum for users to communicate in real time (synchronously). It is used for interactive messaging. Special software is not usually needed. Chatting is especially useful for interviews, guest lectures, and discussions in which instructors want everyone to have a chance to participate. Sometimes the conversation scrolls very quickly out of sight, however, and messages are not always in order. Examples include Facebook Messenger (https://www.messenger.com) Google Hangouts (https://hangouts.google.com/), and Skype (http://skype.com). There are also 3D chat rooms that can be found in VWs (see chapter 3) such as Second Life (https://secondlife.com/) and Twinity (http://www.twinity.com/).

Discussion Forums

Forums provide asynchronous written conversation. Benefits include allowing students more time to think before they post and posting in themed threads that may be easier to read and follow than chats. Examples include electronic discussion forums often found in courseware packages such as Blackboard (available from http://www.blackboard.com/) and Moodle (https://moodle.com/). Some are also free, such as Canvas (https://www.canvaslms.com/), Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com/) and Google Groups (https://groups.google.com/).

Electronic Lists

Electronic lists, sometimes called listservs after a piece of popular proprietary software used to set up and run the list, are e-mail posting services created to facilitate the exchange of information. When an e-mail message is sent to a mailing list, it is automatically broadcast to everyone who is subscribed to the list. An example is FreeLists (https://www.freelists.org/).

Google Drive

Google provides many cloud-based (that is, not physically stored on a user’s computer) applications,  such as Docs (http://docs.google.com), Sheets (http://sheets.google.com), and Slides (http://slides.google.com), which can be used in collaborative projects. For instance, using Docs, multiple users from around the world can collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously towards developing a document. Also, the application allows the users to chat synchronously using a text-based chat service. In fact, this version of this book was written by collaborating in Docs.

Wiki

A good example of a wiki-based service is Wikipedia (https://www.wikipedia.org). wiki (meaning quick) pages can be created and edited by multiple users working collaboratively on a writing project. Writers from around the world can connect to the page and edit it, with changes and writers’ identities (like in Google Docs) being logged. Wiki pages can provide special opportunities for writing tasks requiring a great deal of communication and collaboration. Other good examples of free wiki services are Pbworks (http://www.pbworks.com/) and Wikidots (http://www.wikidot.com/).

Websites

With so many free online web-building services like Wix (http://wix.com), teachers can task students to create a website as a collaborative project. This activity can have students planning, designing, and publishing content while engaged in communication and collaboration at all times. The product, which is an online website, could be particularly motivating for students. Another free web-building website is Weebly (http://weebly.com/).

MMOGs

Multiplayer online games, which Pearce, Boellstorff, & Nardi, 2011) call “the medium of the twenty-first century” (p. 66), require a great deal of communication and collaboration among group members in a highly competitive gaming world. In these games, members usually communicate over text-based forums, text and audio chat rooms, or other third-party communication applications such as Discord. Therefore, all types of synchronous and asynchronous communication tools can be employed by members for smooth and coordinated gameplay where everyone shares tactics and strategies, mentors new players, supports others, completes quests, and strives to win. Quest Atlantis Remixed (http://atlantisremixed.org/) is an educational MMOG, while World of Warcraft (https://worldofwarcraft.com/) is a serious game.

Social media

Like websites, social media applications provide a great opportunity for students to create, share, comment, and receive feedback. Students may already be using social media applications such as Facebook (http://facebook.com), Twitter (http://twitter.com), or Tumblr (https://www.tumblr.com/) to connect to friends and family; therefore, using this authentic technology in the context of class could be beneficial for pedagogical purposes. Teachers can task students to create a social media page for the class and collaboratively maintain it.

Software

Although the Internet is the most obvious source for collaboration tools, as shown previously, software packages can also support collaboration and communication. In addition to the software packages already mentioned, common software packages such as word processing programs can be used for collaboration. For example, the “comment” function in Microsoft Word allows learners to work together and comment on each other’s work.

These tools support opportunities for English language learners to work with others for a wide variety of tasks and collaborations. The use of such technologies can clearly help teachers meet the CALL principles. More important than how they connect learners, however, is why and with whom learners connect.

License

Creative Commons License
Tools for Communication and Collaboration by Joy Egbert and Seyed Abdollah Shahrokni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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