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“ESL Students’ Computer-Mediated Communication Practices” by Dong Shin Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Oct 25th, 2021

The research article “ESL Students’ Computer-Mediated Communication Practices” evaluates and analyses language learning practices based on computer-mediated communication (CMC). The author concentrates on the problem of joint activities and on “how a group of ESL students jointly constructed the context of their CMC activities through interactional patterns and norms” This topic is extremely interesting to theorists and practitioners because it helps to understand students’ communication and participation in e-learning activities and the best possible ways to design effective language practices. Computer-mediated communication use in language learning is catching on for training and education worldwide at all levels. Computer-mediated communication is not just a trendy word. It is a new approach built on what we have learned from developing and instructing with thirty years of computer-based methods and on what we know about how to help people learn. The concept of Computer-mediated communication is changing the way educators instruct and learn. At the same time, Computer-mediated communication is evolving, and it is likely that what we call e-learning today will be different in a few years. Previous studies discuss the context and environment of language learning and teaching, technologies, pedagogy, curriculum, and social discourses on CMC. The author hopes to add facts and data about the interactional patterns of ESL students, interactional norms the ESL students establishing, and answer the question “how do the ESL students utilize CMC activities for their linguistic, social, and academic goals?” (Shin 65). All the questions are specific and clear based on careful literature analysis and problems identified by previous studies. While inputs are important to the success of learning, they are only part of the story. Instructional designers should concentrate on outputs such as measured increases in job and business performance, either in the quality of goods and services produced or in the job satisfaction of employees producing those goods and services. Solid instruction is concentrated on what people need to learn to enhance their performance as students or workers. A better understanding of what constitutes successful learning and how to achieve it helps managers with the selection of courseware from vendors and helps instructional designers in the creation of materials.

The research study follows an ecological Perspectives of Second Language Learning. Special attention is given to human learning processes and its environment perceived as “an integrated entity involving cognitive, social, and environmental elements” (Shin 66). The author uses interpretive parading of the research. This means that the article is based on personal experience, observational and interaction approaches. Inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning are both subsumed under scientific inquiry, yet they characterize a distinction between purely qualitative and purely quantitative methods. Student teachers’ quantitative ratings of their experiences on questionnaires followed interpretive analyses of their narrative responses. The research design is based on the ethnographic method. “This ethnographic case study was conducted in an intermediate adult ESL class with 16 students at a university in the northeastern United States” (Shin 66). Ethnography helps the author to study the commonsense features of everyday situations the common, ordinary happenings in a particular set of interests. In these studies, social interaction as an ongoing process is scrutinized and recorded in descriptive detail. The participants of the research are international graduate students, visiting scholars, and their spouses. All of the participants were from Northern Asia (1 student from Peru). All of them have at least a bachelor’s degree. They were selected based on the questionnaire method and personal interviews. Personal information was the main criterion for selection. The main principles were: (1) Asian origin, (2) BA degree obtained in a home country, (3) engineering or natural sciences field of study, (4) “graduate student and visiting scholar participants were men, and all the spousal participants were women” (Shin 66), (5) good relations with a teacher (Johnson 77).

The main data collection methods were observations and surveys, formal and informal interviews with participants, e-mail exchanges between the teacher and the ESL participants. also, the data was collected from offline FtF class meetings, In all situations, the researcher acted as a participant-observer. The researcher “identified recursive patterns through triangulation of field notes, transcripts of recorded FtF class meetings, interview data, and electronically saved chat data” (Shin 67). Interviewing informants involved using phrasing and vocabulary more closely in tune with the subjects’ own and less abstractly than in instruments used in quantitative studies. This, therefore, increased the likelihood of the instrument being able to tap the information for which it was developed. Participant observation was conducted in natural settings that were the reality of the life experiences of subjects more so than are contrived settings of quantitative studies. The analysis in ethnography used a process of “researcher self-monitoring,” a “disciplined subjectivity” that brings the study under continual questioning. The data were analyzed systematically and appropriately answered the research questions. The analysis allowed the researcher to reconstruct Interactional Patterns among students.

The findings show that the teacher should pay special attention to computer-mediated learning environments and communication practices among students because they have a major impact on language learning. “The participants’ learning experiences in online chatting demonstrate that language learning and language socialization are interwoven into the fabric of CMC practices” (Shin 70). An informal computer-mediated communication resource is the online discussion group. Participants can learn a great deal by formulating and posting queries and by just lurking and observing questions and answers posted by other participants. Some discussion groups archive the replies to questions, and many have a section where key questions and answers are posted. In self-paced e-learning, the learners themselves determine the speed—and sometimes the sequence—of their progress through a professionally developed training course (Morrison 31). Because self-paced courses and materials are designed and developed by training professionals, they are a formal rather than informal method of learning. The researcher identifies that offline lives influence language learning practices and the success of language acquisition. “Ecologically exploring the ways illustrates their identities/subjectivities regarding co-constructed norms, rules, and goals, as well as specific interests and concerns embedded in their language socialization processes through CMC” (Shin 70). Generally, students appreciate the convenience, choice, and flexibility that CMC activities offer. Instructional designers value the standardized framework and flexibility of CMC activities. Instructors think CMC activities are convenient; they applaud the ease of record-keeping and the reduced travel that are part of the e-learning revolution. The author finds that learners must first acquire the lower-level skills (knowledge, comprehension, and application, for example) before they can perform the higher-level skills (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation). The different levels are also taught differently. The higher-level skills require carefully designed application exercises to ensure that the learning has occurred and has “stuck.” For example, if the focus is on learning to synthesize the concepts of e-learning as presented in this book, an effective learning program would ensure that participants acquired the basic knowledge of the four types of e-learning, were able to explain them either orally or in writing, could explain the relationships between e-learning and conventional learning, and would be able to synthesize or use this knowledge in a specific situation to recommend what types of e-learning to use. The first step to understanding learning, in general, is an understanding of learning styles. People have ways they prefer to learn, which are often called preferred learning styles. The most effective teaching methods, whether in the classroom or through a computer, are those that accommodate the preferred learning styles of the people being taught.

The author concludes that CMC activities are seen as language socialization and help students to understand complex lives and “a complexity that comes from multiple social roles” (Shin 70). There are no conclusions made on the researcher’s guesses thus he states that it is important to examine “how language learners carry their interests and life stories over to online language learning spaces” (Shin 70). All recommendations follow logically from the findings and data analysis. There are many schools of thought about learning styles, but no universally accepted approach to defining them or adjusting instructional designs and methods to account for them.

The research study proposes an interesting analysis of computer-mediated learning and language acquisition practices. I would like to ask the researcher about problems he was faced during the research and the attitude of students towards this research.

The research is well-constructed and based on appropriate methodology. Thus, the researcher ignores external validity. First, the purpose is to describe in detail aspects of a single subject, group, or unit. And, even if multiple sites are used, the researcher is obligated to enter each site as if he or she had no other information and as if this site were unique. Therefore, there are no bases for comparison or generalizability. Third, the problem studied, the nature of the goals and the application of the findings differ substantially from traditional quantitative methods, and so definitions of external validity must vary. Concerning the problem studied, the credibility of quantitative designs should be based on examining effects in controlled situations, looking at variables uniquely, one at a time. Regarding the goals of studies, the goal of ethnographic research should be to develop theory not to test it, which requires that a priori relationships be avoided. While quantitative researchers aim to generalize from the sample to the population, and external validity must be (Garrison and Anderson 23).

The author did not consider the different learning styles. First, it is critical to identify the predominant learning styles of the people who will be taking the e-learning program. Research indicates, for example, that recent graduates from Asian countries prefer concrete action. The same research indicates that instructors tend to prefer an abstract approach to learning. In other words, young people prefer to learn by doing, while instructors prefer to learn by developing concepts. Potential trouble here! At least there could be trouble if instructors teach youth in the way that they personally prefer to learn. The researcher materials must also take care to ensure that their own preferred learning styles do not govern the instructional design. The researcher must consider the learning styles of the people who will be taking the program—and they could be convergers, divergers, assimilators, or accommodators, or likely a mix of all four (Morrison 102).

Much has been written about the virtue of interactive learning—using questions, exercises, and other activities to engage learners as active participants in the learning process. The research under analysis does not take into account the nature and types of tasks and different perceptions of students. Interactive learning should keep students energized and help participants absorb information and remember it. It would be important to analyze how interactive learning help students focus. To understand how this works, consider that the human brain functions five or six times faster than instructors speak or e-learning audio files play. If a classroom instructor, an online instructor, or an e-learning module limits the messages to facts, participants whose minds are working five times as fast as the information is being delivered will start to draw their own conclusions—and perhaps daydream about subjects not related to the material being taught. Clearly, interaction is a valuable component of a successful learning experience. But how to create interaction in e-learning? As an instructor, instructional designer, or administrator, you must think clearly about interactivity. also, the researcher does not take into account the fact that carefully designed learning activities challenge learners, even in a self-directed format. Games are one engaging activity from the classroom that can be applied to e-learning, and there are several others. Learning works best, you have been taught, when the designer follows a structured process of needs analysis, development of performance objectives, rigorous development of content, a structured delivery, and evaluation.

Works Cited

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T.R. E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice. RoutledgeFalmer, 2003.

Johnson, D. M. Approaches to Research in Second Language Learning. Longman Publishing Group, 1992.

Morrison, D. E-Learning Strategies: How to Get Implementation and Delivery Right First Time. Wiley, 2003.

Shin, D., ESL Students’ Computer-Mediated Communication Practices: Context Configuration. Language, Learning & Technology, 10 (2006), 65-73.

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