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The University of Southampton
Centre for Linguistics, Language Education and Acquisition Research

Critical Digital Literacy through Virtual Exchange  Seminar

12:30 - 14:00
3 March 2021

Event details

Brown (2017) reminds us that the socio-political context is crucial to defining and understanding digital literacies and the much wider concept of digital citizenship. He sees the goal of developing critical digital literacies as inextricably linked to enabling a greater sense of personal and collective agency among learners, both with and without new technologies to disrupt “a world where 1% of humanity controls as much wealth as the bottom 99%” of the population (Oxfam, 2017).If digital literacies are core to what it means to be an educated person in the 21st Century, he posits, then our thinking needs to go beyond preparing people to fit the type of inequitable and socially unjust societies we have created over the past century. Drawing on Brown (2017) understanding of critical digital literacies and Freire’s (1970) and Giroux’s (1983) understanding of agency as the ability to read the world critically and the ability to act in the world to change it, I will argue that telecollaboration - more recently also referred to as virtual exchange (VE) - provides the ideal setting for promoting a critical agency and sustainable approach to developing digital competences. Telecollaboration is a form of network-based language teaching which emerged in language teaching in the 1990s. It refers to the pedagogic practice of bringing together classes of foreign language learners through computer-mediated communication for the purpose of improving their language skills, intercultural communicative competence and digital literacies (Guth and Helm, 2010). The challenge with regard for VE lies in addressing not only issues of language and culture in such a way as to avoid linguistic and cultural hegemonies, but also in addressing issues of digital literacy so as to overcome technological determinism and to tackle some of the bigger issues confronting the future of humanity (Hauck, 2019). I will show how VE participants can be guided to take a first step in this direction, namely, to becoming aware of how power operates in digital spaces, shaping ways of thinking and doing that are implicated in social and cultural reproduction (Darvin, 2017). Key are VE tasks designed to develop a critical lens through which they examine linguistic and non-linguistic features of digital media, their biases and assumptions, in order to verify information and access the truth (Darvin, 2017). To illustrate the suggested approach for critical digital literacy skills development through VE, I will be drawing on data collected from faculty training and subsequent VEs with students carried out in the context of the EU ERASMUS Plus-funded Evidence Validated Online Learning through Virtual Exchange (EVOLVE) project: EVOLVE aimed to mainstream VE as an innovative form of collaborative international learning across disciplines in Higher Education institutions in Europe and beyond. Project consortium organised training, research and policy making activities to bring telecollaboration/VE to the attention of stakeholders in HE institutions in the European Coimbra Group and Santander Group university networks and VE partners around the world.

Speaker information

Dr Mirjam Hauck, The Open University UK, School of Languages and Applied Linguistics. .

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