Immersion Teacher Education through

The ACIE Newsletter, May 2002, Vol.5, No. 3

by Tony Erben, Assistant Professor of Foreign Language Education & ESOL, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida

Of the many so-called innovations which have occured in the language education industry over the past thirty years, only two innovations have been credited with providing a unique contribution to the field. One is immersion pedagogy (Krashen, 1984) and the other is computer-mediated online learning (Warschauer, 1997). The aim of this article is (a) to provide a contextualised account of the linguistic and pedagogic changes which occur in a university teacher education immersion classroom when instruction is networked through the medium of one particular on-line technology, audiographics, and (b) to characterise the linguistics and pedagogic adaptations which take place in the classroom.

The LACITEP Speech Community
The immersion context referred to above is a four year Bachelor of Education degree program called the Languages and Cultures Initial Teacher Education Program (LACITEP) at Central Queensland University in which up to 80% of the curriculum is delivered through the medium of Japanese. A second aspect of context relevant to this study is the need to educate student-teachers to teach in remote areas in Australia. In Central Queensland, where 61% of schools are in rural areas and 40% of these have a student population under 100, the population density ratio is approximately 1.8 persons/km2 (cf. US 27/km2; UK 235/km2; and Korea 437/km2). In direct response to this situation, one of the requisite skill-based competencies to be acquired by students in the LACITEP program is proficient use of electronic media for distance education purposes.

The telecommunication technology utilised in LACITEP is audiographics. Audiographic technology is a network based media tool that facilitates multimedia conferencing, data conferencing and visual conferencing in the classroom. Providing a two-way audio and two-way virtual-visual computer link, it allows users to learn interactively, to store and/or send images and information from separate computers linked over a network. It enables linked sites to share screens in such a way that any information written or typed is immediately seen at all remote sites. Linked sites are thus able to share software tools such as Windows and use these interactively.

In adopting audiographics, student teachers are required to learn not only how to become immersion teachers but also to become literate in the use of electronic media. In this way, student teachers are preparing for the time when they are placed in Queensland schools and may have to teach foreign languages in distance education mode. Thus, electronic technology in an immersion context is not taught as ‘object’ but through its functional use in context-embedded, experiential situations.

There are a number of discourse patterns that audiographics provides. These include:
Two-way interactive and synchronous white board. The white board facility allows teacher and students to interact in real time. It permits participants to import documents and to rewrite on top of these documents which may be seen simultaneously by all participants at ll sites. The white board facility could be enhanced with the addition of pentrays (these are electronic pens that enable a person to write on a graphic tablet or on a white board. Whatever is written on the tablet/whiteboard appears on the computer screen and then can be cut and pasted into a word document); however, the costs become quite exorbitant with large classes and many sites.

Two-way interactive and synchronous chat window. Both teachers and students may engage in an electronic chat window in real time. The ‘chat windowspeak’ or ‘emailspeak’ more closely resembles the linguistic characteristics of speech rather than written language. One participant can write a message in the chat window and when it is sent it automatically goes to all sites.

Two-way interactive and synchronous audio. Audio connections can be made through the internet or by way of telephone conferencing. At the very least, when using audiographics each site must have access to at least one telephone point connection. In the case where telephone conferencing is used for the audio, two telephone connections are needed.

The use of the internet for both the audio and graphic components of an audiographic session is highly desirable; however, where there are limited, old, or unsatisfactory telephone lines this will seriously impede internet audio communication.

Slide show. Teachers can import computer generated pictures, which may be presented in the form of a video or still slides. The ‘slide show’ allows the teacher to speak to pictorial representations of lesson content and provide visual stimulation for students.
Word processing. While a teacher may select to deliver a lesson through use of one of these facilities, it is usual for multiple facilities to be used. Initially, all interactions between teacher and students are publicly monitored and all participants can see all work, writings, or displays. As the teacher learns to use all facilities through experience, it is possible for students to interact across sites without their interactions being mediated through the teacher. In such cases, much of the learning among students is ‘private’ in as much as students select a white board screen of their own choice.

Mediated Activity through Audiographics
Audiographic technology impacts the delivery of immersion teacher education in unexpected ways. Because there is no face-to-face access, teachers and individual student teachers tend to ‘work harder’ to produce pedagogic and/or linguistic cues that require amplification and/or reduction.
Amplification refers to those classroom discursive practices which participants modify by increasing the production, frequency and/or intensity of cues, signs, and behaviours. Examples of amplification include the necessity for teachers to increase question wait time due to delayed transmissions or the introduction of communication protocols, such as the use of ‘10-4’ after each conversational turn, so that the teacher can organise turn-taking.


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