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G. García Pérez1, M. Blum1, M. Kriscautzky2, A. Sánchez González2

1University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus (CANADA)
2Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (MEXICO)
Internationalization of higher education has increasingly been influencing the culture of our universities, and the impact technological advances have had on the way students from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds interact is evident. Telecollaboration is one flexible teaching method used to make this possible because it actively engages groups of learners from geographically distant locations on a task with the aim of learning a language that is not their own, and raising their cultural awareness. This paper describes a telecollaborative project taking place between eight students studying Spanish as a foreign language at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan (UBCO), and seven native speakers of Spanish studying at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), as part of a semester course specifically designed to learn how languages are learned and taught. By exchanging information in Spanish on the differences between first and second language acquisition, the students from UBCO developed not only the skill of listening, but also speaking, reading and writing in an authentic setting. Besides, the students from both universities became more aware of the similarities and differences between their own culture and that of their Mexican counterpart. Fourth year students at UBCO majoring or minoring in Spanish were engaged in activities related to observing how first year students learn Spanish as a foreign language. Through class observations and class discussions, they had the opportunity to combine theory and practice. The students at UNAM were engaged in a literacy project with a group of Mexican women who were learning to read and write Spanish. Synchronous and asynchronous activities were designed for students to discuss their findings on the similarities and differences between first and second language acquisition. Based on the active learning framework, this project offers insights into how information technology can be used not only for internationalization and for the development of student mobility but also as a tool to develop language skills and the students' sense of intercultural awareness.