Using WhatsApp to Create a Space of Language and Content for Students of International Relations

Conor Keogh


For language learners of this generation, the smart phone represents a key cul- tural artefact that complements the learning process. Instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp are widely used in personal, professional and, increasingly, academic circles to maintain constant contact among friends, colleagues, or classmates. This study seeks to analyze how a group of 19 International Relations students and their teacher utilized a WhatsApp chat group throughout their semester-long English class. The group was conceived of as being an extension to a Community of Practice. On a basic level, the chat group was to be used as a shared space in which learners could practice their use of new phrases or vocabulary learned within the class in relation to real life issues connected to themes associated with International Relations. The space could also be interpreted as a virtual ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) in which learners were scaffolded by their teacher as well as their classmates. Finally, the group provided a space in which learners could engage dialogically and more openly in a truly collective, recip- rocal, supportive, cumulative, and purposeful manner. This qualitative study analyzed both in- teractions within the group and student re ections on its effectiveness, which served to indicate that such a group space can lead to effective learner scaffolding, increased learner participation, and the formation of an advantageous community of learners. 


doi: 10.5294/laclil.2017.10.1.4


CLIL; Scaffolding; WhatsApp; Community of Learners; International Relations

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