Build a lesson around any TED-Ed Animation, TED Talk or YouTube video
Create a Lesson

Learner-Community-of-Practice Interaction: Technology

  • 21 Questions Answered

Let’s Begin…

Four trends in world language education that support telecollaboration. Four kinds of software that match the trends. “Fleshware” problems with implications for using technology. KISS for success.
This lesson is part of the NFLRC Online Language Pedagogy Series, designed for in-service teachers of world languages online.

Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

Additional Resources for you to Explore
No matter whether you teach in a traditional classroom or online, several recent trends in world language education all lend support to the use of collaborative and communication-enabling technologies that facilitate student interaction with communities of practice:Emphasis on real, task-based communication -- for example, communication that contributes to a larger project;Emphasis on ACTFL’s Culture “C” -- i.e., leading learners toward intercultural competence rather than just declarative knowledge about folkways, literature, etc.;Emphasis on collaborative learning -- “learning by doing” in collaboration with others, using 21st-Century skills;Emphasis on ACTFL’s Communities “C” -- extending learning beyond the walls of the institution by engaging with communities of practice. Trends in technology and social media are converging on these points as well; technologies are emerging that offer superior affordances for each of the 4 emphases described above. Examples includefor task-based communication: asynchronous discussion using voice and/or text, such as Michigan State University’s “Conversations” (a Rich Internet Application)for ACTFL’s Culture “C”: platforms for telecollaboration to build intercultural competence, such as MIT’s Cultura;for collaborative learning: any technology allowing collaborative authoring, such as Google Apps for Education;for ACTFL’s Communities “C”: educationally oriented sites such as The Mixxer and ePals are preferable to open-market sites such as LiveMocha that link learners to online communication partners in virtual exchanges. These software technologies are important for helping you find a way to connect beyond the walls (or virtual “walls”) of your classroom and exposing your students, under safe conditions, to the community of practice that uses the language you teach. But just as important is the relationship you build with the community of practice. As of yet, there is no “magic app” that can find and introduce you to a ready-made community whose goals and availability mesh with yours. For telecollaborative exchanges between classrooms, even lining up academic calendars can be a real challenge! The difficulties are redoubled if you are teaching in an online-only format: your students never come together in a physical group that can meet via video chat with a partner group, making it difficult to build a sense of group-to-group contact.

“Falling back” (also known as “Keep it simple, silly!” or KISS) can be an effective strategy for confronting the logistical difficulties of reaching out to a community of practice. “Falling back” can take place on several fronts, some of which are mutually exclusive:Technology: Use simple messaging technologies such as WeChat or email rather than relatively bandwidth-intensive technologies such as Blackboard CollaborateLogistics: Arrange for interaction in a single collaborative space (such as a Google Doc) rather than trying to keep track of many separate messages (such as emails). Instead of trying to partner students with a whole group (such as a class overseas), try finding one native-speaking friend who can join your synchronous class session and take questions. Mode: For learners at lower proficiency levels, keep communication manageable by having them compose questions (for example in a survey) to which they gather responses for delayed processing. The uniform, patterned body of responses can be easier to process than a conversation that has the potential to go many directions.Scaffolding: If your learners are conversing directly with members of the community of practice, provide a supporting script they can use. If you are interested in developing learner-CoP exchanges as a part of your regular curriculum, consider applying to TalkAbroad for a grant. TalkAbroad grants come in three sizes: curriculum development grants allow you to investigate how interaction with native speakers can fit into your curriculum, while short and long term research grants support language acquisition research related to interaction with native speakers.

Intercultural exchange is a complex topic. I recommend the following two articles that provide perspective from teachers experienced with this kind of exchange.

O’Dowd, Robert. (2011). Intercultural communicative competence through telecollaboration. In J. Jackson (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of language and intercultural communication, 342-358. (

Schenker, Theresa. (2013). Virtual exchanges in the foreign language classroom. FLTMAG (online publication). Posted on 20 June, 2013. Retrieved October 21, 2015 from

Customize This Lesson

Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

Meet The Creators

Log In to Take or Create a Lesson

Log In to participate

Please Log In or Register to Apply

Please Log in to Access Leader Resources

If you have already logged into click Log In to verify your authentication. Click Register if you need to create a free TED-Ed account.
Log In    Register

Enter your name

Your name and responses will be shared with National Foreign Language Resource Center.

To track your work across TED-Ed over time,Register or Login instead.