Our full-day TILA workshop took place on August 28, 2013 at the Secondary School (Gymnasium) in Saarburg, a picturesque small town of 6670 inhabitants at the river Saar close to the borders to Luxemburg and France – the ideal place for combining explorations into the possibilities of telecollaboration for intercultural language acquisition with wine tasting.
The workshop brought together representatives from the two German TILA partners: Harald Jacob (Spanish), Elke Nonn (English), Stefanie Schedler (French), Joachim Scheid (English), Helmut Wörz (French) and Hajo Zenzen (French) from the Gymnasium Saarburg as well as Petra Hoffstaedter and Kurt Kohn from the Steinbeis Transfer Center Language Leaning Media, Konstanz.
The workshop was organized in three parts. We first addressed theoretical-methodological issues of intercultural lingua franca communication and foreign language learning, and took a closer look at the potential of synchronous and asynchronous telecollaboration tools for intercultural communicative collaboration. Against this backdrop, we plunged into practical explorations of two synchronous communication and learning environments implemented for TILA purposes by the TILA partner 3DLES (Nick Zwart): the 3D virtual environment OpenSim(ulator) and the videoconferencing system BigBlueButton. In the final part of the workshop, we discussed the up-coming TILA pilot phase with regard to both pedagogical and organizational issues.
As usual, time was too short and more questions were raised than answered – all and all, however, we managed to get a clear picture of the tasks ahead. In addition to ensuring sufficiently robust access to the TILA virtual learning environments for all pupils and teachers involved in a telecollaboration event, pedagogical implementation was identified as a key challenge. This concerns in particular specification of suitable communication and learning tasks for synchronous and asynchronous telecollaboration as well as pedagogical organization of telecollaboration units in relation to regular classroom hours and activities.
It was generally agreed that our TILA telecollaboration approach should be implemented in a step-by-step fashion as part of an overall blended learning strategy, always driven and carefully monitored by pedagogical insights and objectives.
Many thanks to the Saarburg team for hosting and facilitating an inspiring workshop.