Scaffolding Second Language Communicative Discourse with Teacher-Controlled Multimedia


  • Jerome Johnston Ph.D.,

    1. University of Michigan
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      University of Michigan is Associate Research Scientist at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan and Adjunct Professor of Communication and Education at the University of Michigan.

  • Lynda Milne Ph.D.

    1. University of Michigan
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      Completing her degree in Higher Education at the University of Michigan.


ABSTRACT  Providing examples of authentic target-language discourse is a challenge for teachers of first- and second-level foreign language courses. The Teacher's Partner is a multimedia tool that assists the teacher by presenting communicative exchanges among native speakers. Compared to videotape, this computer-mediated videodisc permits more precise control over video segmentation–essential for the limited language decoding skills of novice learners. The computer also provides contextualized textual and graphical resources, including a hypertext transcript that will reveal word and phrase definitions and selective grammatical explanations in the target language.

The use of the Teacher's Partner influenced the nature of classroom discourse in a French 1 and French 2 class. Year-long research analyzing classroom interaction patterns showed increased use of communicative discourse by a teacher and students in those class periods when the Teacher's Partner was used by the teacher (an increase of 39 percent in French 1 and 55 percent in French 2.) Reflections by the teacher provide a rationale for how this tool scaffolded teacher-student discourse. The challenge of integrating advanced technology into classroom settings is discussed.