Preparing higher education language students for their period abroad through telecollaboration: The I-TELL Project.
Keywords:Interculturality, Period Abroad, Intercultural Awareness, Telecollaboration
The period abroad (on Erasmus or work placement) is a significant part of the higher education student experience. While it is crucial to increase the opportunities for students to go abroad, it is also paramount to prepare them for their stay in a foreign country through reflection and analysis so that they can benefit fully from this experience. The better prepared they are before their placement, the better their experience will be (Byram & Dervin, 2008a). The main objective of the project described in this paper was to respond to this need for preparation.
In order to do so, the I-Tell project was initiated. It aimed at raising intercultural awareness amongst students and at promoting language practice through online exchanges between students of Spanish in Ireland and students of English in Spain prior to their sojourn abroad. As part of the project work, students had to conduct in pairs a series of telecollaborative tasks covering a range of cultural and intercultural topics. The virtual exchanges were carried out using e-mail, video recordings and videoconferences on Skype.
The data analysis reveals some encouraging results. Students reported an improvement in their fluency and range of vocabulary and expressions. The data also contains many examples of them comparing, reflecting and learning about differences and similarities between both cultures, which are important steps in the intercultural learning process. The project was also instrumental in preparing students for their mobility programme, both logistically and psychologically.
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