'Old concepts in new spaces': a model for developing Learner Autonomy in social networking spaces

Ward Peeters, Christian Ludwig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


In current discussions of what is good and adequate language learning, two concepts appear to dominate: computer-assisted language learning (CALL), which can broadly be defined as the use of computer technology in language learning, and the pedagogic concept of learner autonomy. Computers as a learning technology are of course not limited to autonomous learning environments but can be applied to all pedagogical concepts. However, it is important to note that computers do not replace any pedagogy and – though often put forward – it can be doubted that they per se lead to better learning outcomes. In recent years, the field of CALL has been increasingly influenced by the rapid development of digital and social media. These Web 2.0 technologies – often referred to as the participatory, or social web – encourage users to interact and collaborate in ‘interest-driven activities’ (Chik & Breidbach, 2014, p. 101) which Gee and Haye (2011) have referred to as ‘passionate affinity spaces’ (p. 69). In contrast to earlier models of learner autonomy, which have focused on learners’ independent interaction with learning materials and technologies with the aim of pursuing their own individual learning goals (e.g., Nunan, 1997; Blin, 2004, 2005), more recent approaches to the concept (e.g., Dam, 1995; Little, 1991) highlight the social and collaborative dimension of learner autonomy (see, for example, Lewis, 2014 for further discussion). This chapter aims to explore the potential of social networking sites (SNSs) for developing learner autonomy. In a first step, existing models of learner autonomy will briefly be revisited. Here the focus will be on Dam’s 2008 simplified model of the physical autonomous classroom, understood as an environment where learners can exercise their autonomy. Subsequently, a model of learner autonomy based on recent findings from two studies – which centered around peer collaboration through the SNS Facebook – will be proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLearner Autonomy and Web 2.0
EditorsMarco Cappellini, Tim Lewis, Annick Rivens Mompean
Place of PublicationSheffield UK
PublisherEquinox Publishing
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781781795989
ISBN (Print)9781781795972
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

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