University of Edinburgh (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 6136-6144
ISBN: 978-84-616-2661-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
This paper will explore an Activity Theory based approach to investigating the use of an ePortfolio tool in supporting workplace second language learning. The investigation will be conducted on a language learning project funded by the European Commission Lifelong Learning Programme Leonardo da Vinci as a Transfer of Innovation project.

The Lang2Tech (L2T) project was conceived as a response to evidence on across Europe, technician workforce supply is not aligned with locations of demand resulting in occupation shortages in specific regions. The most significant constraint on technician mobility is that of language. The L2T project has adapted an e-portfolio tool designed to assess basic skills, to support the demonstration of second language competence through assessing basic skills in that second language. As Piaget argues, change comes not just through exposure to a ‘better’ theory, but rather through actively applying that ‘better’ theory in the world (Ackermann 2001). In other words, to practice (with) it

When embedded into the process of workplace language learning, the e-Portfolio aims to support collaborative language learning through peer network, private and ‘open’ reflections and the capturing of evidence demonstrating the evolution of second language competence. Thus the e-portfolio tool aims to span both a positivist stance for assessment purposes and a learner-centric constructivist stance (Coolin et al 2010).

As a mediating artefact present in the language learning activity system, the e-portfolio tool offers two separate e-portfolio environments: personal and institutional (Coolin et al 2010). Within the personal space, learners are able to record their profile, keep a reflective learning diary (blog), regularly completed self-assessment forms and attach evidence to back up their progress (documents, pictures or audio/video files). At specified points, the learners submit sections of their e-portfolio collection to an institutional area which offers customised access to four specific groups: tutor, assessor, moderator and administrator. The Lang2Tech work should benefit the five project language strands: Italian, Spanish, German, Russian and English. The e-portfolio templates are interoperable within the LEAP2.0 framework. Lang2Tech expected impact centres on the placement of Lang2Tech Certification at comparable levels within Europe's emerging NQFs, and on a consequent increase in occupational mobility for technicians.

Activity Theory (Engestrom 1987; 2001) is adopted for the study as it allows for multiple constructions of practices of, in this case, language learning. As a socio-material perspective, Activity Theory understands learning practices in terms of people, activities and non-human materials being intertwined in a dynamic series of interactions (Tuomi 2000). In the L2T project, the e-portfolio sits at the centre of this intertwining potentially anchoring the networking effects of technology this form of technology enhanced learning and enabling the emergence of communities of learning.

This paper will draw on initial findings from the language learning evaluation data to investigate activity systems. The paper will be particularly concerned with the development of a community of language learners with a potential for transnational dimensions.