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1Since the second half of the 90s and thanks to the development of digital technologies, telecollaboration practice in the field of language teaching-learning has multiplied, allowing learners of a foreign/second language to expose themselves in an authentic way not only to the target language but also–among other things–to an intercultural encounter with the other, its educational culture, its understanding of work in pairs/groups and its way of perceiving and thinking about the world.

2The literature on telecollaboration is extremely rich; the projects, conferences, studies and books on this pedagogical practice are constantly growing in number around the world, demonstrating by this fact its supporting dimension in terms of teaching and learning and its many aspects that have yet to be explored.

3From a terminological point of view, O'Dowd (2007) and O'Dowd and Lewis (2016) opt for the name Online Intercultural Exchange in order to place emphasis on the intercultural dimension of this approach. O'Dowd identifies eight different telecollaboration designations mobilised over the years and authors each illustrating in their own way "the educational context and the pedagogical focus of its practitioners" (O'Dowd, 2016: 292). Despite this, in the same article, this author finally retains the term telecollaboration, "due to its widespread recognition in the CALL community" (O'Dowd, 2016: 293). For our part, we have also opted to use the term telecollaboration because the contributions that this special issue brings together do not necessarily focus on the intercultural dimensions of this pedagogical practice.

4From a definition point of view, O'Dowd and Lewis see in telecollaboration:

the engagement of groups of students in online intercultural interaction and collaboration with partner classes from other cultural contexts or geographical locations under the guidance of educators and/or expert facilitators (O'Dowd & Lewis, 2016: 3)

5In this issue, we choose a broader view of telecollaboration, which also includes asymmetric telecollaborative practices, occurring in the context of training future teachers (see also Jager, Kurek & O'Rourke, 2016: 7). Similarly, in this issue we explore, through a study still in its infancy, the way telecollaboration is becoming detached from its formal framework and context(s) to embrace dynamic, non-formal or even informal dynamics, already highlighted by Thorne, Black and Sykes (2009) and Hanna and Nooy (2009).

6Without seeking to discuss the terminological proliferation of telecollaboration, nor wishing to make a historical overview of this term, which has acquired a solid dimension over time and over the course of optimisation (Guichon, 2012) of telecollaboration practices, this special issue corresponds to its title Exchanging views on Telecollaboration. The contributions that compose it each derive from diverse educational contexts, diverse educational cultures and scientific concerns and analytical views resulting from varied conceptual backgrounds. As a result, the interest and strength of this issue seem to us to reside in its geographically, pedagogically and conceptually cross-sectional dimension.

7Specifically, the Research section brings together five contributions.

8In the first, Catherine Muller ("Understanding telecollaboration through a sociocritical approach: the participants' relationship to digital technology") calls for a sociocritical approach to telecollaboration. The author is particularly interested in the way in which the practices, usage and representations of digital technology affect the attitudes, stances, ease and uneasiness of tutors (future teachers of French as a foreign language) within a telecollaboration project. This contribution, in view of those that follow, draws our attention to the fact that any interaction, exchange, or speech are connected to past interactions, which cannot be played down when one seeks an analytical focus and understanding of participants, who are social stakeholders in their own right, and not just the technical aspects that make their exchange of views effective.

9It is precisely this social aspect that brings Catherine Muller's contribution closer to the second study of this volume, that of Marco Cappellini ("Telecollaboration from the perspective of exolingual communication: How two research traditions could complement each other"). In a different context and with different conceptual tools, this researcher offers an alternative to cognitive studies that often overlook the social dimensions of interaction. In his article, he proposes to bring together two different research traditions, that of studies on exolingual communication and that of research on telecollaboration, in order to show how these two domains can mutually nourish each other on a conceptual level. The aim here is not to ignore the specificities of telecollaboration, but rather to take them into account to "test" and enrich categories of analysis initially developed from a very different context. The purpose is to account for the complexity of interactions within telecollaborative exchanges, by linking the dimension of learning a foreign language to the dimension of the co-construction of social reality in situations of multimodal communication.

10This complexity of interactions is also very present in the contribution of Christophe Bouyssi and Pascal Marquet ("Bodily expressive signs in videoconferencing conversations"). These authors opt for a different approach, that of proxemic analysis and hand gestures in a Franco-German polylogue by videoconference within an asymmetrical exchange. Building on the work of E. Goffman, they highlight the importance of expressive corporal signs, these allowing to better account for the dynamics of exchanges. Indeed, by focusing on these aspects, the notion of encounter (still in the Goffmanian sense) is mobilised in the fullest sense. In particular, proxemic analysis reveals in the presentation rites two very interesting behaviours from an intercultural point of view, greetings and gift offering. As for gestural analysis, this reveals notably, through the circulation of speech mediated by the microphone, moments of cooperation but also of competition. These two analytical results seem to us relevant in two respects: firstly, they unfold the asymmetric expert-learner relationship with a provider-recipient relationship that rebalances by somehow neutralising initial asymmetry. Secondly, they confirm that within a social encounter (including those conducted for learning purposes in a classroom or in a digital open acquisition environment) nothing is acquired from the outset but is negotiated and conquered before becoming acquired.

11This last point echoes Ute Walker's contribution "Community building and translingual practice in an international eGroups telecollaboration" which aims to explore the way in which, during a telecollaborative piece of work, two groups of students, one in Germany and the other in New Zealand, mobilise shared bilingual repertoires to support interaction and create social connections. In this case, the form (that of the adopted code(s)), serves the meaning and the construction of a feeling of community belonging. Indeed, beyond an absolute norm, beyond the clearly established boundaries in the mobilisation of a particular language, participants in these synchronous exchanges move from English to German (and vice versa), they model lexically and syntactically one over the other in favour of fluid communication and group cohesion built, among other things, on gestures of mutual support, mutual trust, conflict management, negotiation and co-construction of meaning.

12Thanks to Theresa Schenker's latest article in Research, ("Synchronous Telecollaboration for Novice Language Learners: Effects on Speaking Skills and Language Learning Interests"), the chronological loop of before and after telecollaborative experiments is complete. Indeed, while previous contributions have focused either on what precedes the telecollaborative sessions or on the analysis of these actual exchanges, Theresa Schenker demonstrates in her contribution the impact of telecollaboration on student interest (in a university in the United States), even at beginner's level, for the learning of the target language (in this case, German), on the awakening of their curiosity about the target culture and on their motivation to study abroad. Indeed, even if the telecollaborative sessions (synchronous audio and chat) lasted just one semester and did not significantly impact students' speaking skills (compared to a non-participant control group in telecollaborative sessions), the results presented above, from a post-survey, lead the author to conclude that telecollaboration projects should take place very early, from the beginning of foreign language learning to allow learners to widen and diversify their exposure, but also to develop their representations of target language culture in addition to the work done in class.

13In the section Practice and Research, Simon Ensor, Marcin Kleban and Christine Rodrigues ("Telecollaboration: foreign language teachers (re)defining their role") opt for an approach that echoes the contribution of Catherine Muller. Indeed, these authors adopt a cultural and socio-historical point of view in order to examine the evolution of the identity of six teachers and seven future foreign language teachers who participated in the telecollaboration project Clavier. Through reflective writing, interviews, questionnaires, and by considering the classroom space (on site and remotely) as a separate historical space, these researchers argue that the identity of the teacher is the result of a complex game, caught in a dynamic between institutional, professional and informal discourses that can be obstacles as well as bridges to pedagogical transformation. Despite the differences between stances and perceptions of teachers and future teachers, the entire population participating in this study agrees on the difficulties in redefining its role in a connected language classroom and to opt for full integration of telecollaborative work and its achievements in a teaching-learning programme. It is precisely this difficulty that leads the authors to stress the importance of telecollaboration as a means to bring about a profound transformation of education in order to prepare for the education of tomorrow.

14The article by Sabrina Priego and Meei-Ling Liaw ("Listening to the Multiple Voices in an Intercultural Telecollaborative Multilingual Digital Storytelling Project: A Bakhtinian Perspective") studies digital storytelling between, on the one hand, future teachers of French as a second language (FSL) in Canada and students learning English as a foreign language at Taichung University in Taiwan. The objective is, firstly, to show how the participants' voices are expressed throughout the project in question and, secondly, how these voices are integrated into the final narratives. This results in two different telecollaborative stances: one constructed according to the principles of Socratic dialogue, where one allows oneself to discuss, question and negotiate meaning and form (Lyster, 1994), to question the ideas and suggestions from the different members of the group. The other borrows from the model of peremptory, vertical and monodirectional authority, which leaves little room for exchange. Thus, according to the stance adopted, the stories obtained are in the first case impregnated with the voices of the different participants whereas, in the second case, authors note the impossibility of a consensus which leads to different narratives (one for the Canadian group and the other for the Taiwanese group). Based on these results, the authors focus, at the end of their contribution, on the pedagogical implications of telecollaborative storytelling.

15The section Points of view, exchanges brings together two case studies. Kristi Jauregi and Sabela Melchor-Couto ("The role of coaching in teacher competence development for telecollaboration") reconsider teaching practices and offer coaching as a possible solution to the difficulties faced by some teachers (already highlighted in Ensor's, Kleban and Rodrigues article) in setting up telecollaborative exchanges. This contribution presents the results of a survey conducted among 23 language teachers who participated in the European telecollaboration project TILA (Telecollaboration for Intercultural Language Acquisition). The teachers interviewed had all previously benefitted from a coaching system introduced as part of the same project to assist them in the technical implementation of telecollaborative sessions and to encourage them to rethink some of their usual teaching practices.

16Christelle Combe ("Informal telecollaboration 2.0: an American's French speaking vlog on YouTube") examines a new form of telecollaboration, whose study is still in its infancy, the vlog, born from the development of web 2.0. By analysing a young North American's YouTube channel, Combe demonstrates how the vlog sub-genre "practicing an online language" can be a form of telecollaboration in an informal context. This space allows the learner not only to work continuous oral speaking skills and to acquire digital literacy skills, but also and above all, to gather around him a community of linguistic and cultural support. The vlog thus becomes a place of peer learning between peers where knowledge and know-how are co-constructed and complemented, and where stereotypes are confronted and challenged.

17At the end of this presentation, let us recall that we have sought to present within this special issue the multiple, eminently polymorphous dimensions of telecollaboration through the solicitation of authors from different contexts and research concerns. Nevertheless, two major trends in the approaches to telecollaboration emerge: a proven interest for teachers and future language teachers, their reflective perceptions of the projects in which they have been involved, their digital practices outside their professional practice, their doubts and uncertainties; close-ups on the analysis of the actual telecollaborative sessions where the tasks are carried out (at the verbal and/or non-verbal level) in respect of the other, equity, the nuanced management of conflicts and where sometimes the way of acting on each other takes precedence over the group, imposing its points of view and breaking with the principles of meeting and co-construction with the other. The implications in terms of training and pedagogy are numerous. We need only take this into account in emerging telecollaboration trends.

18We conclude by thanking the research teams Experience, Cultural Resources, Education (Experice, EA 3971, Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis University) and Didactics of Languages, Texts and Cultures (Diltec, EA 2288, university Sorbonne Nouvelle) for their financial support.

19The following people participated in expert assessment and reviewing of articles. We thank them warmly for their help.

  • Emmanuelle ANNOOT, université de Rouen, FR

  • Nathalie AUGER, université Paul-Valéry Montpellier, FR

  • Françoise BLIN, Dublin City University, IR

  • Jean-François, BOURDET, université du Maine, FR

  • Linda BRADLEY, Chalmers University of Technology, SE

  • Julie BYRD CLARK, Western University, CA

  • Thierry CHANIER, université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand, FR

  • Chantal CHARNET, université Paul-Valéry Montpellier, FR

  • Cathy COHEN, université Claude-Bernard Lyon – Espé, FR

  • Daniel COSTE, ENS-LSH de Lyon, FR

  • Ingrid DE SAINT-GEORGES, université du Luxembourg, LU

  • Christian DEGACHE, université Grenoble Alpes, FR

  • Charlotte DEJEAN-THIRCUIR, université Grenoble Alpes, FR

  • Melinda DOOLY, universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, SP

  • Darren ELLIOTT, Nanzan University, Nagoya, JP

  • Fiona FARR, Limerick University, IR

  • Anne-Laure FOUCHER, université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand, FR

  • Muriel GROSBOIS, université Paris Sorbonne  – Espé, FR

  • Nicolas GUICHON, université Lumière Lyon 2, FR

  • Mirjam HAUCK, Open University, GB

  • Francesca HELM, university of Padova, IT

  • Phil HUBBARD, Stanford University, US

  • Gosia KUREK, Jan Długosz University, Częstochowa, PL

  • Tim LEWIS, Open University, GB

  • Mônica MACEDO-ROUET, université Vincennes Saint-Denis Paris 8, FR

  • François MANGENOT, université Grenoble Alpes, FR

  • Pascal MARQUET, université de Strasbourg, FR

  • Muriel MOLINIÉ, université Sorbonne nouvelle Paris 3, FR

  • Andreas MÜLLER-HARTMANN, Pädagogische Hochschule, Heidelberg, DE

  • Elke NISSEN, université Grenoble Alpes, FR

  • Robert O'DOWD, université de León, ES

  • Breffni O'ROURKE, Trinity College, Dublin, IR

  • Christian OLLIVIER, université de la Réunion, FR

  • Henri PORTINE, université Bordeaux Montaigne, FR

  • Maguy POTHIER, université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand, FR

  • Cécile POUSSARD, université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, FR

  • Annick RIVENS MOMPEAN, université de Lille 3, FR

  • Muge SATAR, Open University, GB

  • Birgit SCHÄDLICH, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, DE

  • Geoffrey SOCKETT, université Paris Descartes, FR

  • Thierry SOUBRIÉ, université Grenoble Alpes, FR

  • Valérie SPAËTH, université Sorbonne nouvelle Paris 3, FR

  • Shona WHYTE, université Nice Sophia Antipolis, FR

  • Ciara WIGHAM, université Clermont Auvergne, FR

  • Geneviève ZARATE, Inalco, FR

  • Katerina ZOUROU, Web2Learn, GR

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Jager, S., Kurek, M. & O'Rourke, B. (2016). "New directions in telecollaboration research and practice: introduction." In Jager, S., Kurek, M. & O'Rourke, B. (eds.). New directions in telecollaboration research and practice: selected papers from the second conference on telecollaboration in higher education. Dublin: pp. 1-17.

Lyster, R. (1994). "La négociation de la forme : stratégie analytique en classe d'immersion." La revue canadienne des langues vivantes, vol. 50 n° 3. pp. 446-465.

O'Dowd, R. (ed.) (2007). Online intercultural exchange. An introduction for foreign language teachers. Multilingual Matters.

O'Dowd, R. (2016). "Emerging Trends and New Directions in Telecollaborative Learning." Calico Journal, vol. 33, n° 3. pp. 291-310.

O'Dowd, R. & Lewis, T. (eds.). (2016). Online intercultural exchange: Policy, pedagogy, practice. New York, NY: Routledge.

Thorne, S. L., Black, R. W. & Sykes, J. (2009). "Second language use, socialization, and learning in internet interest communities and online gaming." Modern Language Journal, vol. 93, n° 1. pp. 802-821. Abstract available online:

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Electronic reference

Anthippi Potolia and Sofia Stratilaki, EditorialAlsic [Online], Vol. 20, n° 2 | 2017, Online since 08 December 2017, connection on 27 July 2021. URL:; DOI:

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