Lecture by David Malinowski, September 14, 2012

Where is the language classroom today?: Reconsidering the place/s of language learning with technology

by David Malinowski, Berkeley Language Center, University of California, Berkeley

Labeled increasingly as “traditional” or “brick-and-mortar”, the physical university classroom has been criticized for fostering a teacher-centered, top-down, and formulaic model of education, whose resistance to innovation is symbolized by the fixity of its very four walls. And, as is often the case, this critique is occasioned by the presence of a “better” alternative: online course management systems, self-access learning materials, and other social media tools are said to promote alternative, student-centered paths to knowledge, while the proliferation of free, massive open online courses is touted as “democratizing education”. In L2 educational contexts, the growth of blended and distance language courses creates urgency for language teachers, curriculum designers, and administrators to respond to Nunes’s (2006) claim that, for many students, “the physical classroom presents nothing more than an unnecessary, inconvenient hindrance to efficient delivery” (p. 132).

In this presentation, I draw from my own research and teaching in a number of hybrid instructional settings in order to raise critical questions about the changing nature and relevance of the language classroom. Data underpinning this discussion focus on UCB intermediate French students’ verbal and visual depictions of their experiences of place online as they participate in desktop videoconferencing tutorials once a week in addition to their face-to-face instruction. While the France they experience online may be neither “here” nor “there”, the comparisons they make between the classroom and their online tutorial spaces suggest that students’ awareness of (and resistance to) the exercise of institutional control may be an increasingly salient aspect of classroom experience—a possibility that would complicate the classroom teacher’s ability to foster learning. I argue that findings such as these, to the extent that they expose a tension between online/offline, in-class/out-of-class, and other dichotomous learning spaces, are cause to redirect attention to pedagogical and experiential processes that can join the two sides through reflection, reframing, and creative response.

Friday, September 14, 2012
3:00 – 5:00 pm, B-4 Dwinelle Hall

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