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A multivocal approach in the analysis of online dialogue in the language-focused classroom in higher education.


How do we capture those critical moments where something changes, where someone "gets it," where someone throws out a comment that shifts the discourse?

(Pennycook, 2012, p. 132)

As technology-mediated communication (TMC) is increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives (at least in the global North), we are endowed with the possibility of engaging in communication everywhere we go and with whoever we wish to, without worrying about logistical issues. While TMC is a gloss for communication in and through different kinds of texts, e.g., email and computer applications for videoconferencing, it has interesting implications when issues of how meaning is negotiated in online spaces are addressed. Being inside the virtual classroom and engaging in TMC to interact within a learning community implies that participants need to adjust to the media and artifacts that are dimensions of that space: "It is at the intersection between people's actions, the tools they use and the infrastructures that they have access to that new conditions for learning arise and where new practices emerge" (Bliss & Saljo, 1999, p. 7).

The concept of social learning analytics as developed by Buckingham Shum and Ferguson (2012) is a subset of learning analytics that focuses on the study of learning in the doing, i.e., group processes and the co-construction of knowledge. According to Buckingham Shum and Ferguson (2012), social learning analytics "should render learning processes visible and actionable at different scales: from national and international networks to small groups and individual learners" (p. 5). In addition, referring to the use of inscriptions and other kinds of technologies as tools that mediate thinking, Saljo (1999) argues that "[t]he mastery of mediational means is [...] an essential aspect in the process of learning" (p. 152) wherein a fundamental assumption is that "learning is always learning to do something with cultural tools" (p. 147).

Moreover, Hampel and Hauck (2006) highlight that affordances for participants are related to aspects of the use of "the most appropriate tools" among those offered in digital spaces and those that are best suited to the communication situation participants have at hand. Wertsch (1998) refers to a tension in the sociocultural continuum between agents and their mediational means because mastering the use of tools can both enable and constrain action. Mapping these tensions using the epistemological lenses of social learning analytics is a central interest in this study. In addition, given the ontological assumption in the present project of considering mediated action (i.e., agents and their cultural tools) as the fundamental unit of analysis, how can this element be conceptualized so that it makes sense and can be used to support learning analytics? I argue that a focus on dialogue and its sequentially in space and time is crucial for understanding the organization of interaction in online synchronous environments (see also Trausan-Matu & Rebedea, 2010; Dascalu, Trausan-Matu & Dessus, 2013). According to Chen and colleagues (Chen, Wise, Knight & Haugan Chen, 2016) there is a significant research gap in educational technology in the study of temporal dimensions of learning in the analysis of data that, in fact, stretch over time and could therefore afford the opportunities to support analytics that "could map the different dimensions of temporal analysis [...] to support researchers in interrogating and incorporating different approaches" (Chen et al., 2016, p. 1). The overarching aim of this exploratory paper is to provide some first insights in the ways in which several analytical scales in the study of synchronous TMC can be bridged by using a multivocal approach. An attempt to develop such a methodology is the response to the following analytical needs: (i) scaling up the analysis of technology-mediated action at micro-scale to larger data-sets so that it can be used to support learning analytics, and (ii) mapping the sociocultural continuum between agents and their mediational means in order to explore where and how learning opportunities emerge in the language focused virtual classroom, in terms of the kind of social and cognitive aspects that are enacted through the use of TMC.

Heteroglossia in online dialogue

Bakhtin's notion of heteroglossia builds upon an understanding of language (and of the world) as social practice in diverse contexts, as opposed to the idea of language as a generic system of linguistic symbols. Dialogue and heteroglossia, in Bakhtin's terminology, are two aspects of the same phenomenon that cannot be separated since they generate each other in the situated interaction and meaning making through any utterance. Following this line of thought, in dialogue, and also in online dialogue, it is relevant to analyse utterances as an activity of orchestration of the agent who produces the utterance and the mediational means that afford and/or constrain the communicative project (Linell, 2009), and thus the co-production of shared and mutual knowledge. In a similar vein, Shegloff (1996) describes an utterance as interdependent of its interactional past and possible future, in the form of the next utterances. Scholars in the field of conversation analysis (CA) aim to understand discourse in the local sequentiality of situated interaction in terms of utterances' retrospective dependence (i.e., Sacks, Schegloff & Jefferson, 1974), their focus on the present and their projections towards possible future(s). Such a view is in line with heteroglossic understandings on language since it entails a conceptualization of discourse as an activity accomplished in situ, drawing on the resources that are at hand and focusing on the interlocking links that are constitutive parts in the interaction. Thus heteroglossia, in Bakhtinian terms, is an epistemology of complexity that understands the organization of utterances as a sequential endeavour in time and space (Bakhtin, 1981).

We have in previous work (Messina Dahlberg & Bagga-Gupta, 2013a; Messina Dahlberg & Bagga-Gupta, 2013; Messina Dahlberg & Bagga-Gupta, 2014 Messina Dahlberg, 2015) attempted to provide an account of technology-mediated interaction by means of an augmented CA that takes into account the mediational means afforded by the videoconferencing platform used in some institutional encounters. Using the analytical tools of CA that allow a fine-grained understanding of turn-taking, we were able to map parts of the fractured ecologies (Luff et al., 2003) of technology-mediated communication. Patterns in the data show the range of ways in which interaction in the online environment is affected by the task at hand, as well as how the tools support (or constrain) participants' communicative projects (Luff et al., 2003; Messina Dahlberg & Bagga-Gupta, 2016). The study presented here is an attempt to develop our previous studies by merging the epistemological stances of social learning analytics, heteroglossia and dialogism. I will present some illustrative examples that shed light on the dynamic and fluid nature of communicative projects that can change as "they are carried out or brought to completion, sometimes in ways that were not projected from the beginning" (Linell, 2009, p. 178). Before presenting the data in such examples, I will, in the next section, provide some background of the study of online dialogue in relation to learning analytics.

Analytics in online dialogue: Some recent studies

In educational contexts, the uncertainty about which direction the dialogue is going to take has been conceptualized in terms of creativity (Wegerif et al., 2010). The alternative pathways of interaction are understood as widening the space of dialogue in critical thinking. Visual representations of the sequentiality of creative dialogues in Wegerif's study are created by a computational model that recognizes dialogic creativity in terms of "new perspectives." The study's sequence diagrams that represent online discussions in a graphical textbased online environment called Digalo (see also Schwartz, Dreyfus & Hershkowitz, 2009) offer a powerful visualization of the instances where new perspectives emerge in the discussion. Results of the analysis of the explorations of the computational model highlight how the latter can offer relevant and reliable insights into the ways in which meaning is created in dialogue by participants. Furthermore, the spatial representation afforded in Digalo maps allows "pedagogical affordance for creativity" (Wegerif et al., 2010, p. 620). Scholars have reported on the design and use of online tools that build upon slightly different ontological assumptions of "good dialogue" and deliberations, compared to the focus on creativity in the study by Wegerif et al. (2010). Here, focus lies on exploratory dialogue and the assessment of the quality and quantity of the evidence that support a given participant's argumentation (De Liddo & Buckingham Shum, 2013) as well as on participants' epistemic beliefs when dealing with collaborative tasks (Knight, Buckingham Shum & Littleton, 2013a). The concepts of epistemology, assessment and pedagogy and their relation to issues of analysis and representation of human interaction, epistemic practices and higher-order thinking with learning analytics are discussed by Knight et al. (Knight, Buckingham Shum, & Littleton, 2013a; Knight, Buckingham Shum, & Littleton, 2013b; Knight & Littleton, 2015). From the epistemological assumption that "our learning analytics are our pedagogy" (Knight Buckingham Shum & Littleton, 2014, p. 31), the authors bring to the fore the burning issue of the purpose of designing and using learning analytics in educational research. Taking pragmatic and sociocultural perspectives, Knight, Buckingham Shum and Littleton (2014) highlight the importance of discourse-centric learning analytics in order to capture the role of the performativity of epistemic practices, i.e., the knowledge-in-the-making by participants across contexts and technologies-in-use. According to Knight and colleagues (Knight, Buckingham Shum & Littleton, 2014; Knight & Littleton, 2015) learning analytics is a tool that frames a certain kind of analysis and not a goal per se that shapes what the idea of meaningful learning should be.

According to Mercer and colleagues (Mercer & Wegerif, 1999; Littleton & Mercer, 2013), collaboration and coreasoning in educational contexts are also framed in terms of exploratory dialogue in Ferguson and Buckingham Shum (2011). In an attempt to identify exploratory dialogue as well as resources that support learning within synchronous textual chat, Ferguson and Buckingham Shum provide a preliminary analysis of the contributions in the chat tool included in the web conferencing platform called Elluminate. The exploratory markers identified in the transcripts of the discussions indicate the importance of considering the context of the contributions, since there seems to be a correlation between the position of the messages in time and the amount and the quality of meaningful exchanges among participants. In their later evaluation of the study, Ferguson et al. (2013) propose "a self-training framework for the detection of exploratory dialogue within online discussion" (p. 92) as well as a number of visual applications of computational models for exploratory dialogue detection. Also in this later study, Ferguson et al. (2013) re-confirm the importance of analyzing the context of the utterances in order to be able to identify instances of meaningful exchanges (within the epistemological frame of exploratory dialogue) in their sequentiality in time and space. Suthers et al. (2010; 2013) propose an analytical framework that accounts for the co-occurrences (or, as it has been framed elsewhere, the "chaining" [Bagga-Gupta, 2002; Bagga-Gupta, 2015; Messina Dahlberg & Bagga-Gupta, 2013]) between what they frame in terms of events, activity, uptake and contingency in the study of human interaction (see Figure 1).

Contingencies are framed in terms of "how acts are manifestly related to each other and their environment" (Suthers et al., 2010). Such a focus on the importance of context in terms of the sequentiality of the utterances and their relation to their environment is in line with the deliberations in the Introduction section of this paper where the concepts of heteroglossia in dialogue and the methodological assumptions of CA were outlined. In the following sections, I will provide an example of how learning analytics could be used to visualize the (im)mobilities of participants' embodiment, tools and technologies-in-use in videoconferencing, more specifically when students are engaged in using (and learning) a language variety with which they have limited experience as well as the use of a range of communicative tools (both digital and analogue, e.g., written chat, whiteboard, course materials and hand-written notes) both inside and outside the virtual environment of the videoconferencing platform Adobe Connect. Special focus lies on the chaining, or contingencies of people-inconcert-with-tools as well as on the attempt to discern critical moments in the interaction where participants change perspective and focus. Such a focus on context(s) and boundaries will, it is suggested, provide an alternative voice in the fields of discourse-centric and social learning analytics.

An example: (im)mobilities in online dialogue

In the previous sections, I have briefly reviewed the Bakhtinian concept of heteroglossia as well as the notion of chaining and how these frame the understanding of dialogue and situated cognition and interaction in this paper. One important issue at this stage is how the epistemological assumptions of such a sociocultural-dialogical take on interaction are mirrored in the creation of the social learning analytics that will eventually shape our pedagogy in terms of what epistemic practices or "learning experiences" could be.

This paper draws upon the ongoing work in the CINLE project (Everyday Communication and Identity Processes in Netbased Learning Environments, see in which two Italian for Beginners online courses are examined. Recordings of the synchronous online meetings (once a week during two terms, for a total of 40 hours of interactional material) as well as the course instructors' planning and materials are included in the data (see also Messina Dahlberg [2015] for a detailed description of the data presented in this paper with illustrative purposes). CINLE aims to develop knowledge regarding the situated practice of interaction in institutional learning settings where online language courses are offered at university level. Taking sociocultural and postcolonial perspectives, we illustrate the ways in which learning, culture and identity are framed within the affordances and the constraints of the online environment, as well as how an epistemology of time/space as a single dimension is fruitful for understanding: (i) how the synchronous sessions are organized based on the analysis of the interaction; (ii) how tasks and activities are chained in the situated interaction; (iii) how literacy practices frame the interactional organization; and, finally, (iv) to highlight how the (im)mobilities of tools and participants have a bearing on the time/space organization in the online environment. (Im)mobility here refers to the prerogative of online courses in which students may be required to adhere to a specific schedule and participate online at specific temporal slots, but there is no need for them to congregate at a given physical place.

CA representation of online dialogue

The virtual classroom in which data for the CINLE project has been generated consists of a videoconferencing program that allows participants to use oral and written communication as well as share their individual webcams. A critical aspect of TMC in general lies in its very mediational component: by means of the digitalization of the processes at stake in the online interaction, the tools and the inscriptions inside the virtual classroom become visible and can be accounted for. The analyst can keep track of the documents displayed on the whiteboard and the interaction that occurs in the written mode in the chat pod during the meeting, as well as record the participants' contributions in the oral mode. The researcher has the vantage point of uncurtailed access to everything that occurs inside the environment and can thus, a posteriori, access the contributions in the environment in all the modes to map how these are mutually shaped in interaction.

In the following sections, I will provide some illustrative examples of what this access to a range of epistemic practices means in terms of representation and analysis in order to create learning analytics that account for such a movement across modalities, language varieties and a range of other mediational means.

Tracing chaining in online dialogue

Zooming in: Interactional sequence and adjacency-pairs as units of analysis

In order to illustrate these issues, one instance is examined which took place during one synchronous session of the online course Italian for Beginners where participants' contributions shape and are shaped by the inscriptions inside and outside the environment of videoconferencing. It is important to highlight that in order to make visible participants' use of different language varieties, all original language use has been retained in the transcriptions and a verbatim translation in English is provided (see Figure 7).

In line 03 (of Figure 2), Olle refers to the file with the questions about the topic of the day, (see Appendix). In line 05 Olle reads the questions, after specifying in Swedish: de dar fragorna star ju da (Original in Swedish [Sw]: these are the questions then). Olle takes on the task of the "reader of the questions" that are at this point, after the move to the small group space, not available on the WB in the virtual environment. Olle is accorded this position by Anna, who in line 01 asks him whether he wants to start. After a silence of 5 seconds, Anna adds: om du vill (Sw: if you want). Here silence appears to be a consequence of the medium where the session is taking place. Participants cannot be certain that the other members have understood their previous turn-at-talk. Here one can consider understanding or epistemic moves as embodied achievements in interaction (Mondada, 2011). This shows that participants have access to interlocutors' bodies through oral markers like the participants' voices and the lexical contents of the contributions. These processes are constrained by the limited visual access that the participants have to one another in the online environment, thus resulting in long moments of silence and in the disruption of the indexical order of the conversation. Olle orients towards this marker of uncertainty displayed by Anna in line 01 when he leaves the floor to her in line 10.

Figure 3 below presents the interactional order that can be seen in student-only phases of online contexts. Here the interactional sequence continues on the topic of friends. Olle has previously described his friend in the task oriented activity. Olle's friend has, according to Anna, a Dutch-sounding name (Anna is physically located in the geopolitical spaces of the Netherlands during the meeting). The sequence begins with a question, where Anna asks whether Olle and his friend speak Dutch together.

Olle's hesitation with regard to Anna's question is highlighted (in Figure 3) by: (i) the silence in line 42; (ii) the e:m produced by Olle in line 43; and (iii) the overlapping talk in 44 where Anna adds o inglese? (Original in Italian [It]: or English?). Olle takes the turn in line 45, thus initiating the epistemic engine of the sequence that will end in line 59: qualche volte parliamo olandese (It: sometimes we speak Dutch). Olle looks for the word item sometimes in Italian, positioning himself in a lower epistemic status. Anna orients towards Olle's turn and produces an answer with rising intonation as a marker of her uncertainty, followed by a repair in line 50. Olle continues the word search in line 51 using declarative syntax. The analysis highlights a general pattern in the data, where students use other language varieties (in this case, Spanish) when they are uncertain about a particular word item which does not allow them to carry on the conversation. This transpires particularly when producing the correspondent word item(s) in Swedish does not help in the search either (see line 46, where Olle produces the Swedish word ibland [Sw: sometimes]). Per, the third participant in the meeting, utters some word items rather loudly in the overlapping talk depicted in line 53. Per repeats qualche volte (It: sometimes) a second time in line 58 after Olle's request for clarification in line 56. After a pause, Olle is finally able to produce the sentence he initiated in line 45. In concomitance with line 64, the same sentence is made publically available by Per in the chat pod of the environment. This is also a rather common behaviour that has been identified in the data: students use the chat window either to perform parallel conversations or as an alternative to the WB in the environment, where they can write word items or other information related to what has been raised in the oral modality or vice-versa. The analysis shows further how the turns in this sequence are finely tuned to one another: Anna orients towards Olle's hesitant talk in line 62 by filling in the word item la lingua (It: the language) in the overlapping talk illustrated in line 63. Olle uses the same item in the latching turn in line 64. Anna's repetition, in lieu of confirmation in line 67, concludes the sequence, after which Anna orients to Per and asks him about his friends. The repetitions, both in the oral and in the written modes, of word items produced by the participants during the online meeting are understood as a result of the limited visual access to one another: Per writes the same words he produced twice, the second time very clearly, in the oral modality in order to "put into print" what has been said before and that the other participants were looking for in their word search. Anna and Olle's mutual fine orientation shown throughout the sequence is, I maintain, also a consequence of this lack of visual access to one another's bodies or the non-embodied characteristics of this interaction.

At a more overarching level, an analytical gaze at Figure 2 also highlights how Olle's orientation to the online and offline resources during his on-task activity implies a lack of orientation towards other resources in the environment, including other participants. This pattern of rather long chunks of talk is disrupted when participants asked direct questions of one another (Figure 3). Figure 3, and the arrows included in it, show the epistemic 'seesaw motion' (Schwartz et al., 2009) initiated by participants' focused mutual orientation in the oral mode. Such movement and mutual orientation is what I have framed in section 1 in terms of (online) dialogue and heteroglossia. In the next section, I will attempt to show this shift in focus by zooming out and focusing on an analytical macro-scale of the interaction.

Zooming out: Before and after critical moments

The ethnographic study of the online interaction across time allows for a preliminary analysis on a macro-scale to attend to interactional patterns that occurred across sessions over one term of study. As illustrated in the analysis of instances from one session during the online course in the previous section, participants clearly initiate their contributions by using vocatives: Olle, would you like to start and if you would like to start with that Anna (Figure 2, lines 01 and 10). These discourse markers are used to clearly define the start and the end of each contribution. This communicative strategy enables a smooth transition and the next student can take the floor (this structuring device enables participants to get turns-at-talk). Shiffrin argues that discourse markers gain their pragmatic function in relation to "the underlying cognitive, expressive, textual and social organization of discourse" (Shiffrin, 2003, p. 66). During the teacher-led online meetings, the students construct a time-space dimension for their contributions by clearly marking the boundaries of the start and end of each turn. Thus, the communication that occurs in the environment can, in terms of the organization of the interaction, be understood as individual presentations by the students who are usually well prepared, rather than as a discussion or a conversation. There seems to be a specific interactional order, a "culture" inside the group: when one student holds the floor, the others are silent and they seldom ask follow-up questions. What they do, thereby preserving the indexical order of the interaction, is that they sometimes relate to previous students' presentations, by saying, come ha detto Anna ... (It: As Anna said.).

The students' contributions in the oral mode are represented in Figure 4 as chunks (boxes) of similar length that follow one another, with rare overlaps. Red arrows indicate chaining of the contributions across modes and literacy events while blue arrows indicate mutual orientation among students' turns. Figure 5, on the other hand, visualizes the talk-in-interaction when students engage in dialogue after a critical moment as highlighted in the previous section of this paper. Here, the contributions from the participants are an integral part of the overall oral conversation. After a critical moment, participants respond and react to one another's contributions with overlapping talk. They commonly ask for clarifications and confirm their mutual attention (see also Figure 3). The length of the chunks of talk thus varies according to the response students receive from one another.

The representation of the analysis at the macro-scale of the interaction in Figures 4-5 does not attempt to provide the framing of the oral contributions in terms of their exact length. This kind of illustration and analysis (based on the ethnographic understanding of the data in CINLE) aims to provide a first step in the implementation of learning analytics that attends to the length of talk, silence, students' mutual orientation as well as to the tools they have at hand, inside and outside the online environment. Figures 4-5 show the patterns of contingencies (Suthers et al., 2010) or chaining across online/offline resources as well as across participants' contributions in the oral mode. However, the jump from data to abstract representations (Figures 4-5) using learning analytics must go through a detailed analysis at the micro-scale (Figures 2-3), and this is the analytical challenge that this study addresses, in terms of a methodology that is able to handle such analytical scale-jumps, i.e., the movement from the general to the specific, or from the collective to the individual in the study of human interaction.

Heteroglossia and chaining in discourse-centric social learning analytics

The illustrative examples taken from one synchronous session in an online language course provided the opportunity to discern some of the interactional patterns that are at stake when people interact in institutional settings like the one focused on in this study. Furthermore, the representation on a macro -scale of the analysis of such interactional patterns (Figures 4-5) before and after the occurrence of critical moments illustrates participants' orientation towards one another as well as across tools and modalities. This illustrative example will, it is suggested, provide the opportunity to create an automated tool for computational analysis that, on the basis of learning analytics, can support a deeper understanding of the (im)mobilities of learners-in-interactionwith-tools in the language-focused virtual classroom. This will allow for a bridge between several analytical scales in the study of synchronous TMC as well as of the dynamics behind the occurrences of critical moments and their educational implications for language learning and instruction.

Figure 6 is an attempt at detecting the relevant analytical scales that provide a depth in the analysis to support a visual representation of online dialogue. A multivocal analysis (Suthers & Rosen, 2011) takes into account and shows the chaining across scales, modalities and language varieties as well as the tools used by participants in the online/offline settings. More specifically, I contend that an analysis at the micro scale would inform the multivocal endeavour of following, mapping and measuring illustrated in Figure 6 by focusing on:

* adjacency pairs or responses (see Goffman (1981) and Figure 3)

* chaining across modalities through repetition or ventriloquizing (see Tannen (2007) and Figures 2, 4-5)

* length of turns-at-talk, overlapping talk and pauses (see Figures 4-5)

* occurrence of novel word-items/chunks in the target language (see Messina Dahlberg and Bagga-Gupta [2013; 2014] and Figures 2-3)

* epistemic (im)balance across participants' enquiring initiations (K-) and knowing utterances (K+) (see Heritage (2012) and Messina Dahlberg & Bagga-Gupta (2016))

* discourse markers, e.g., start and end of utterances (see Shiffrin (2003) and Figure 3)

Such a take on analytics forefronts epistemologies that attend to the learning potential of heteroglossia in online dialogue, e.g., a scientific position that acknowledges the complexity of discursive practices in (online) interactional (learning) spaces. The analysis at the micro-scale shows how the unexpected turns (or critical moments) that emerge in interaction can be understood as driving the dialogue forward and are therefore of primary interest for mapping and studying using analytics. In addition, a further dimension of language use needs to be addressed here, i.e., participants' manipulation of word items and chunks related to tasks in the course materials as well as in the course curriculum more broadly. The implementation of a multivocal approach to the creation of a more holistic analysis of online (synchronous) group interaction means providing an interpretation of the data which is in dialogue with other interpretations. This is done in order to reach the goal of the creation of alternative theoretical and methodological understandings of the field as well as the data which can then be generalizable and usable as a method for reliably distinguishing "critical moments" from non-critical moments, not least with regard to issues of causality that are often problematic in educational research, not least concerning learning analytics which rely precisely on a relation of cause-effect: "The purpose of a scientific learning analytics is to identify underlying causal mechanisms and provide actionable advice that pertains directly to learning." (Rogers, 2015, p. 228). I share Rogers' (2015) concerns about the endorsing of mixed methodologies not "as an act of methodological tolerance [but rather] from a point of ontological validity" (p. 229). Such concerns and discussions, from a critical realism perspective in Rogers (2015), or the post-humanist perspective in Barad's (2003) agential realism are crucial in order to understand the epistemological grounding on which learning analytics are resting. Both concepts entail a shift that is tectonic in nature: the focus no longer lies on science as something that is, and that can be observed, but rather on the means and measurement tools that are used to make science possible.


This paper critically discussed a methodology that allows the analysts, and ultimately learners and educators, to follow and visually represent participants' dialogue-in-concert-with-tools across space, time and language varieties in TMC. Using the analytical lenses of heteroglossia and chaining, the complexity of online dialogue and the chaining across modalities/tools and language varieties were addressed. Social learning analytics and, in particular, discourse-centric learning analytics, are understood as tools of analysis that could address such complexity. Nevertheless, the illustrative examples of online dialogue in a synchronous videoconferencing setting show that an analysis at different scales is needed that uses a range of methodological and theoretical understandings of what learning, and thus learning analytics, is. I started by taking the Bakhtinian concept of heteroglossia and discourse and its sequentiality as a starting point and as a unit of analysis. Here, dialogue is centre-staged in order to shape a type of learning analytics that will capture moments of shift in focus, or critical moments, after which there is a change in the overall interactional pattern, as I have outlined in section 1 in this paper and which, I maintain, retain specific educational interest in terms of the language use that emerges in concomitance with such shifts (see also Messina Dahlberg & Bagga-Gupta, 2016, for a detailed analysis of these phenomena). The purpose of designing such an analytical tool and defining a more fluid unit of analysis that depends on the power of magnification used in looking at the data and the issues that are at stake, would be to create a space for dialogue across disciplines and an alternative to other discourse-centric learning analytics. The latter, it is suggested, takes dialogue as an a priori defined standard of productive talk, in terms of the horizontal (higher/lower level thinking) and vertical (creativity) movements as outlined in the studies reviewed in the section called Analytics in online dialogue: some recent studies. Access to large amount of information (in terms of so-called "big data") is the analytical centre in the fields of educational data mining and learning analytics. Here, the digital traces that students leave behind are used in the analysis in order to study "learning in the doing." According to Buckingham Shum and Ferguson (2012), these kinds of analyses "should render learning processes visible and actionable at different scales: from national and international networks to small groups and individual learners" (p. 5). Analytics thus, always entail some kind of preparation of data for further analysis. This, in turn, means that issues of standards, quality and globalization are at stake now more than ever. I argue that, in order to address this issue, empirically grounded research at the micro scale of analysis is needed in order to understand the ways in which interaction may support collaboration and learning across time and space (see also Chen et al., 2016). As Suthers and Rosen (2011) succinctly put it: "the network structure is not enough: to explain the origin of social life we must understand the nature of the communication or interaction that takes place" (p. 17). The organization of time and space in digitally mediated interaction in specific virtual learning sites both affords and constrains the emergence of critical moments in which participants experience a shift in focus that, in turn, may end up in an encounter with new knowledge and a reorganization of the flow of the interaction. The methodological analytical deliberations in this study will, I argue, contribute to the field of language learning and instruction, where learning analytics can be designed to attend to issues of manipulation of novel structures and word items in the target language in the language-focused virtual classroom.

The implementation of a multivocal approach to the creation of a more holistic analysis of online group interaction as outlined in the study by Balacheff and Lund (2013) means providing an interpretation of the data which is in dialogue with other interpretations, not necessarily to create a common understanding (or convergence in Balacheff and Lund's terminology, see also Rogers (2015)) but with the aim of developing "further theoretical and methodological integrations" or to "progress in each other's problematiques" (Balacheff & Lund, 2013, p. 11). However, the data that has been used with illustrative purpose in the present study has been generated through ethnographic methods. This implies a more holistic understanding of the field, which is a vantage point for the researcher(s) who conducted the work. Such a prerogative needs to be shared in appropriate ways in dialogue with other researchers in order to reach the goal of the creation of alternative theoretical and methodological understandings of the field as well as the data. The co-creation of mergers, coalitions and challenges in the analysis of the data through a multivocal approach invokes the establishment of some sort of shared focus, as advocated by Balacheff and Lund (2013), in which data is seen as the boundary object between learning analytics and educational data mining as different approaches to online learning. In the present study, the boundary object, seen as an artifact that articulates meaning and addresses different perspectives (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011) is participants' learning space(s), included in the online videoconferencing platform. Such spaces include artifacts that emerge from a social network which is in constant flux or a process of (re)making, wherein participants are continuously orienting towards a range of tools and practices, enabling a "move" between different virtual and real (or online and offline) spaces and the management of boundaries. Since such a movement can be conceptualized in terms of "implicit transitions," boundary objects are, at least for the individuals who are dealing with a range of tasks and activities in it, black-boxes. People thus engage with them from a taken-for-granted position. A multivocal approach to the analysis of online dialogue aims at opening up such black-boxes. This is a high-stakes endeavour, which seeks to understand not what the ingredients of productive interaction are, but rather, to unfold the educational practices with which participants get engaged or disengaged, or, as Saljo (2012) puts it, "as an alternative to resting content [...] in terms of abstract outcome measures of products of learning" (p. 12).


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Questions in preparation of the meeting in Figure 1 and 2

Fore chatten kommer du att forbereda kapitel 14 i boken Buon viaggio Vi kommer att prata om VANNER

* Presenta un tuo amico: come si chiama, quanti anni ha, che cosa fa.

* Parla del suo carattere: come e?

* Incontri spesso i tuoi amici?

* Cosa fai insieme a loro?

* Tu e i tuoi amici avete gli stessi

* interessi? Quali?

* Preferisci stare solo/sola con una persona o con una grande compagnia di amici?

Before the meeting you shall prepare chapter 14 in the book Buon viaggio. We are going to talk about FRIENDS

* Introduce a friend of yours: what is his /her name, how old is he/she, what does he/she do ...

* Talk about his/her character: how is he/she?

* Do you often meet with your friends?

* What do you do with them?

* Do you and you friends have the same interests? What?

* Do you prefer to be alone with a person or with a big group of friends?

Giulia Messina Dahlberg

School of Health and Learning, University of Skovde, Sweden //

Caption: Figure 1. Uptake analysis framework (Suthers et al., 2010)

Caption: Figure 2. Student's task orientation

Caption: Figure 3. Chaining across modalities

Caption: Figure 4. Students' contribution in the oral mode (task oriented)

Caption: Figure 5. Students' contribution after a critical moment

Caption: Figure 6. Multivocal approach in the analysis of online dialogue in the language-focused classroom

Caption: Figure 7. Transcription key
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Author:Dahlberg, Giulia Messina
Publication:Educational Technology & Society
Geographic Code:4EUSW
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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