By Damaris Cordero Badilla, Dra., Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (UNA)
Worldchat Live Education is a video chat platform that was founded in 2018 by M.Ed. Anne-Marie LaFortune and formally launched in 2020. It allows teachers and students to conduct conversations in English with other learners around the world. It is described by its founder as “a pedagogical tool for second language professors around the world to design authentic speaking activities for their students” (LaFortune, 2022). The main objective of the platform is to help them improve their speaking and writing skills in English as well as their interpersonal skills.
|Name of tool||Worldchat Live Education|
|Primary purpose of tool||To offer an opportunity to teachers and students around the world a safe learning environment for authentic conversations|
|Cost||It has a cost per video conference which is paid by the students who participate, approximately 20 Canadian Dollars per participant for 4-5 virtual conferences|
|Ease of use||Easy to use when recommendations by the website creators are followed.|
Worldchat Live Education offers a turnkey solution for English teachers and students around the world to have authentic conversations in a safe learning environment. The people in charge take care of the logistics for the teachers, and discussion questions are included for the students` conversations. Video chat meetings happen directly on the Worldchat Live Education platform. Only verified teachers are approved to use the site, and teachers oversee their own students. Moreover, the site’s zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior is coupled with a flagging system to ensure a safe learning environment.
There is a calendar for students to schedule a meeting with their partner, and for them and their teachers to keep track of their progress. A video recording space is created each time the students meet, and there is a chat function for the students to organize or just interact through written communication. Video recordings and conversations are saved automatically in the teachers’ and students’ accounts so they can be viewed and commented on. Students can watch those recordings as a metacognitive practice tool since they can comment on their own flow, pronunciation, vocabulary use, and so on. Teachers can leave feedback on a student’s particular conversation recording and tag a specific time in the video, which is a feature students really enjoy.
The first time 27 Pre-Intermediate EFL Costa Rican university students participated in Worldchat Live Education was during the first semester of 2021, when they interacted virtually for five weeks with a group of 27 Vietnamese secondary school students that were of similar age and taking an ESL English course. They had different conversations that they scheduled in consultation with their partners, based on several proposed topics, and the learning objective at that time was to develop their conversational skills (including negotiation of meaning, paraphrasing, and using supportive tools like the chat) between the Vietnamese and Costa Rican students using English.
They found the experience enriching due to the exchange of information about their countries. Some of the topics that they discussed were places to visit, typical food, ways of dressing, and music. The conversations were based on topics that were included in our class, and we worked on targeted vocabulary before each virtual conference. The weekly assignments were mainly for the purpose of reinforcing their speaking skills. The virtual exchanges were 1 x 1 matches, and students used the questions as guides to develop the conversations with their partners.
One especially compelling session featured the Vietnamese students preparing one of their favorite dishes through live video because of their desire to share the recipe with their new friends from Costa Rica. Students improved their English during this exchange, but even more importantly, they connected to each other and to a new culture. Students from Costa Rica reciprocated by showing the beautiful beaches of their home country to their Vietnamese language partners. Participants showed their dedication by joining the virtual meetings even when the time was inconvenient due to time zone differences.
During the second semester, in the spring of 2021, 22 Costa Rican students at an intermediate English level and the same number of Canadian students participated and interacted for four weeks in virtual oral discussions about different topics related to their fields of study, enhancing their cultural awareness. The teachers created a list of questions about these topics weekly and included them in the Worldchat Live platform, with the main idea of guiding the students in their conversations. All the students who participated were able to build communities of learning and practice while enhancing their oral and written English skills with the help of students from another country.
The following are some of the positive testimonials received from students after participating in one of these intercultural virtual experiences on the Worldchat Live Education platform.
|Testimonials from the students after participating in one of the intercultural virtual experiences at Worldchat Live Education|
|It made me see things that I had never seen before, and it made me understand how similar can two cultures can be.
It helped me to improve my way of speaking. I think it’s the best way to learn another language.
I feel I have improved my skills, and become more confident.
The project helps me to have more confidence in myself to talk with other people in real-time.
I think it helped me to speak more easily, also to develop social skills, and to learn more about another country. Plus, I’ve learned vocabulary and had the experience of speaking not just in English but in French, too.
This experience helped me a lot with my listening and also helped me gain a little more confidence in myself.
The experience was very enriching, I learned words and phrases, which allowed me to develop better and practice.
The COVID-19 pandemic made English teachers all around the world look for innovative technology-based opportunities to make their pedagogical practices more motivating and engaging for their students, and Worldchat Live Education is one pedagogical tool that helps offer them flexible and adaptable active learning experiences and authentic speaking activities. It facilitates students’ active learning and collaboration across cultures in an immersion setting, while at the same time allowing them to develop their intercultural skills.
LaFortune, Anne-Marie. (2022). Worldchat Live Education. www.worldchat.live.