This year the HIB was pleased to be represented at the 18th international conference of the European Association of Computer Assisted Language Learning (EUROCALL 2010), “Languages, Cultures and Virtual Communities” which was hosted by the University of Bordeaux, France, from Sept. 8 – 11.
The 7 parallel strands, addressing issues such as “Innovative e-solutions for languages”, “Online multimodal communication and language learning” and Assessment, feedback and guidance in schools and universities”, for example, were well complement by the pre-conference workshops, the 3 keynote speeches, the Special Interest Group symposium sessions and the daily poster/research exhibitions – amounting to over 200 presentations.
The report of a research project carried out among Level 1 English students at the Academy, reviewing strategies for developing reflection on the use of language within an online discussion forum, was presented as a reflective practice paper in the “Pedagogical changes brought about by ICT integration” strand.
One certainly fulfilling element of this conference was the critical approach to analysing the impact of technology generally taken by presenteres. In terms of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) alternatives for developing learner autonomy, supporting collaborative learning or the issue of assessing a network of students as a unit, a great deal of emphasis was placed on the need for training for both teachers and students, so that the skills match the challenge and learners are able to respond appropriately and truly benefit from the CALL experience. The predominant theme of online communities was extensively explored and of particular interest was the point noted by one keynote speaker of the move from individual competitive learning/research to an appreciation of the notion of collective cognition or collective thinking.
One example of the effect of this collective experience (that is, the function of so-called mirror neurons and the role of empathy in shaping a community of practice – like the virtual communities our language students may be a part of) became a highlight of the conference and is certainly worth sharing:
this, along with the stimulating academic and social engagement among the many international colleagues present.