As the semester gets under way, we’ve already had quite a few language exchanges via Skype. Some of the languages have partner classes with whom the students communicate throughout the semester. Others schedule events in the Mixxer and thereby invite native speakers of our students’ target language for an exchange via Skype during class time. There are also usually a handful of classes each semester that assign students to find a language partner on their own in the Mixxer and conduct an interview. Usually this interview is then combined with other research to create some sort of project or presentation.
Of course, language exchanges don’t necessarily have to be limited to Skype. Another possibility is for the students to keep a journal using either a blog or twitter and connect with native speakers in written form. There are sites that encourage these kinds of exchanges as well. Lang-8 is a popular site that lets native speaker suggest corrections in the comment section. The Mixxer gives each user their own wiki where learners can write and then request corrections from native speakers. Another possibility is to have the students in the class form their own community and correct each other. We could host such a community on the Dickinson Blog or students could form their own using Ning, Twitter, or Blogger.