Article The use of videoconferencing and e-mails as mediators of intercultural student ethnography

O'Dowd, Robert
Heinle Cengage Learning
O'Dowd, R. (2005). The use of videoconferencing and e-mails as mediators of intercultural student ethnography. The American Association of University Supervisors, Coordinators and Directors of Foreign Languages Programs (AAUSC), 86-120.
Full Record
As part of the search for effective methods for developing language learners’ intercultural communicative competence, this chapter explores the possibilities of engaging learners in ethnographic research with distant peers through the use of networked communication tools such as videoconferencing and e-mail. The chapter begins by providing a review of the literature on the use of ethnographic techniques in foreign language education and by outlining what videoconferencing has been seen to offer network-based language learning to date. Following this, the outcomes of a semester-long networked exchange between two university classes in Germany and the United States will be presented. In the exchange, the German group of EFL learners and the American students of Communication Studies put into practice the skills of ethnographic interviewing to which they had been introduced earlier in their classes. The classes used both e-mail and videoconferencing technology in their interaction together. The qualitative analysis of transcripts, interviews, and questionnaires collected during this study revealed two central outcomes. First, it was seen how synchronic and asynchronic communication tools can contribute to very distinct aspects of ethnographic interviewing and intercultural learning. Second, the German students were often unwilling to take on the role of ethnographic interviewers during the exchange and regularly choose to reject alternative cultural beliefs and behaviour as being inferior to their own.Reasons for this reaction to the online contact are explored.