Archive Page 2

Language Learner Behaviour in a Virtual Environment

Roed, J. (2003). Language learner behaviour in a virtual environment. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 16, 155-172.

Goal of study: To create guidelines for students and teachers of less widely taught languages on how to create a virtual language department


  1. Can’t just transfer classroom practices to a virtual world. To be effective, must have a different structure and different set of contents.
  2. People’s online behavior can be different compared to real life. After learning the language from the game, can this knowledge be transferred to understanding in real life?
  3. People are less inhibited when communicating via computer than in face-to-face situation. “A shield from being on-stage”
  4. Teachers report online discussions to be more active than in-class discussions.
  5. Factors that affect students not speaking out in classroom: not feeling attractive & people ignoring your comments


1.  There are several strategies we can use to learn language. The most anxiety-provoking/uncomfortable, yet rated as most effective are:

  • start L2 conversation
  • finding the courage to speak when afraid
  • actively look for conversation
  • find ways to use L2
  • ask questions in L2

2. Self-awareness hinders language learning.

Duval and Wickland’s 2-component self-awareness model (1972):

Private self-awareness (awareness of individual motives and goals) – Desire to learn L2 so they can pass exams and communicate with native speakers

Public self-awareness (awareness of possibility of being assessed) – even though students can be happy with their level of proficiency, when starting to communicate, they are open to a medley of humiliations

3. Student anxiety reduced when question is e-mailed. And when they get a response, they can take as much time as they want to understand the answer correctly BEFORE THEY RESPOND.

A problem here might be that virtual language learning may not accurately reflect real life.

Look up: How much time do anxiety patients get to respond in video games to treat phobias?

4. Disinhibition – any behavior characterized by apparent reduction in concerns for self-presentation and judgment of others. The internet generates disinhibition due to low physical distance and low social presence

The study

  • There was a virtual “party at Buckingham Palace” to celebrate the 50th jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The grounds were actually a chat room in WebCT.
  • Students were sitting in the same room, task was undemanding so all students could participate regardless of level of proficiency.
  • Each student was given the identity of someone famous and the task was to interview each other and find out the identities of their fellow guests.
  • Problem with webct = took time to load stuff on screen when network was loaded = frustration. The advantage of a non-networked video game is no server lag.

Lag = time it takes from pressing return key and until message shows up on chatter’s screen. Lag of 2-3 seconds is acceptable to most. Drastic irritation when it goes up to 8-9 seconds or more.

In real life, an 8-9s delay might mean that the person is thinking of an answer but you could still infer what’s going on from body language and context. but when u can’t see those things using a chatroom, you think you’re being ignored.



  1. no accents to distract
  2. no time pressure and no interruptions from teachers/classmates (very important issues for people with anxiety)
  3. no immediate reactions such as giggles or eyebrow raises
  4. students that would never display active participation in classroom are more likely to participate online (good for shy students)


  1. Advanced students will sometimes get bored with other students.
  2. Lag
  3. Latecomers are seldom acknowledged.
  4. Anonymity can be bad for extroverts who want attention, but extroverts are better language learners anyway.
  5. Students can’t choose to communicate entirely by e-mail or in chat for the rest of their lives, although virtual environments can act as scaffolding of confidence.



Mystery Game Lit Search

I’ve found the full text PDF files for these:

Wood, J.J. (1999). Misterio en Toluca:  An Internet Mystery Game. Hispania, 82(2), 284-286.


Abstract: Misterio en Toluca: An Internet Mystery Game, from Heinle & Heinle, is an interactive CD-ROM mystery role-play game for intermediate students of Spanish that users play over the Internet entirely in Spanish. This program is easy to use, and its mystery normally takes ten weeks to solve. Innovative, creative, and original, it should motivate students to improve their Spanish language proficiency.


Trotter, A. (2004). Digital Games Bring Entertainment Into Learning Realm. Education Week, 23(44), 8.


Abstract: Educational simulation designers believe that qualities of digital games may benefit middle and high school classrooms. Their aim is to create digital simulation games that can drench students in the complexities and colors of another place and time; provide them with experiences of living and working, leading, and solving mysteries; and foster learning during the fun. Examples of educational simulations are provided.

Can we find the full text version of this? 

Nuessel, F. (2006).  Language Games in Spanish.  Hispania, 89(1), 151-153.

Abstract: Easy to read and comprehend, La tienda de palabras, by Spanish author Jesus Marchamalo, is a fascinating novel that interweaves language games into an entertainingmystery. Suitable for use in an intermediate or bridge course in the Spanish curriculum, this book presents competitive, goal-defined, rule-governed, and engaging languagegames that can provide a source of fun and active participation in a Spanish class.


Virtual Reality in Language Learning

These articles mainly deal with text or chat-based VR worlds, and regard any voice input mechanisms as impractical or “high-end”.  Most of the articles I found also come from a pedagogical background, and don’t get into emotional reward.  Lots of Vygotski references to social aspects of learning.  After reviewing this stuff, I think we need to look for SPELL vs. CALL techniques (see acronym key below), since these involve spoken language.
Morton, H. & Jack, M.A. (2005). Scenario-Based Spoken Interaction with Virtual Agents. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 18(3), 171-191.
  • We should definitely look at the full-text version of this one, as it is very close to our idea.  It may not have the theoretical background of emotion reward, but it does involve a VR world and spoken interaction.  This SPELL approach is real-time and feedback focus is immediate and corrective.
Schwienhorst, K. (2002). The state of VR: A meta-analysis of virtual reality tools in second language acquisition. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 15(3), 221-239.
  • Goes into how learner partnerships w/in a virtual environment, learner autonomy, and automatic logging enhances educational power of VR gaming experience.  Exploration of high and low-end VR tools in L2 acquisition. Places a lot of emphasis on learner-learner interaction.

Roed, J. (2003). Language Learner Behaviour in a Virtual Environment. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 16(2-3), 155-172.

  • When communicating online, people show fewer inhibitions, display less social anxiety, and reduce their public self-awareness. Based on these findings, it seems that a virtual learning environment may constitute a more relaxed and stress free atmosphere than a classroom.

Peterson, M. (2006). Learner Interaction Management in an Avatar and Chat-based Virtual World. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 19(1), 79-103.

  • Report on a study that investigated non-native speaker interaction in a 3D virtual world that incorporates avatars and text chat known as Active Worlds. Post-study questionnaires found that avatars enhanced the subjects’ sense of telepresence and that the learners made use of their communicative features during the interaction. The analysis further suggested that the use of avatars facilitated learner interaction management during real time CMC.
  • Full-Text Summary:  This study looked at NNS interaction in a 3D virtual world w/avatar functions, called Active Worlds. The main thing we are interested in are the citations about how avatars facilitated learner interaction management, which supports L2 development by increasing target language output and enhancing motivation.  Avatars offer a sense of “telepresence”, or a sense of “being” within a virtual world. Another avatar advantage is the ability to communicate through non-verbal cues, such as smiling or waving.  Studies have shown that the chat-base design can become overwhelming for NNS’s to follow, which doesn’t allow them time to use their avatars or their communication features.
Peterson, M. (2001). MOOs and Second Language Acquisition: Towards a Rationale for MOO-based Learning. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 14(5), 443-459.
  • Nice overview of reasoning behind MOO-based learning software, which could be used as theoretical background against classroom learning.  Actually mentions salience of L2 input, as well as feedback; however, this is based on network-based education.
  • Full-Text Summary:  Concentrated on network based VR worlds, which is out of the scope of what we want to do.  Mentioned that CMC-based discourse conducted entirely in TL may improve learners’ written output, and ultimately their L2 proficiency (Paramskas, 1993).  Less inhibition (Richards, 2001). Fewer restraint on time/distance than traditional L2 learning environments (Harasim, 1986).  Studies have noted the motivational effects of nenwork-based CMC learning (Chun, 1994, Negretti, 1999).  Logging input is good for self-review.

Hansson, T. (2005). English as a Second Language on a Virtual Platform–Tradition and Innovation in a New Medium. Computer Assisted Language Learning,18(1-2), 63-79.

  • Vygotskian design to investigate a virtual platform on text composition task.  By investigating the design of a combined virtual and physical learning environment we describe how the video-game generation operates (in) a social system of peers as they develop their computer skills and text composing ability. 
McAvinia, C. & Hughes, J. (2003). Sharing Systems, Sharing Language: Designing and Working in a Virtual Department. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 16(5), 445-467.
  • This study created an inter-university virtual learning environment (called a virtual department), in order to accomodate talented language learners or students of obscure languages, which the university may not have offered.  More of a community-based learning environment, but a good example of how “virtual” is overgeneralized in the literature.
Welcome to the world of VR-related acronyms:
CALL = computer assisted language learning
MOOs = object-oriented multi-user domains
SPELL = spoken electronic language learning
CMC = computer mediated communication


Cool sites to check out:

Onlive Traveller – online community where avatars can communicate in the user’s voice, with microphones instead of typing.



What Video Games Teach Us About Learning and Literacy

-Most young people see game playing as almost entirely social, preferring to play in multiplayer settings of one sort or another (even to the point of passing the controller back and forth for single player games (P. 8)
– Requires taking on a new identity and forming bridges from one’s old identities to the new one. i.e children in a science classroom engaged in inquiry, not passive learning, require the individual to take on the identity as a scientific thinker, problem solver and doer (P. 45)
– Thus, the gamer feels responsible to and for the character, he has a virtual identity. They are projecting an identity as to who the character ought to be and what the trajectory of his or her acts in the virtual world ought, at the end of the day, to look like (P. 53).
-Without such as identity commitment no deep learning can occur. People will not invest the time, effort, and committed engagement that active, critical learning requires (P. 55).
– Even if the gamer has a damaged identity of (in our case of learning languages) video games create psycho-social moratorium- that is a learning space in which the learner can take risks where real-world consequences are lowered (P. 59)
**- If the virtual world and virtual identity at stake is not compelling to the learner, then little deep learning is liable to occur, in part because the learner is going to be unwilling to put in the effort and practice demanded for mastering the domain.
– Bridge real world identities to the virtual character I played in the game.
1. the learner must be enticed to try. Accomplished through building bridges to his real-world identities and by creating a psychosocial moratorium.
2. The learner needs to be enticed to put in a lot of effort. This is done by making the virtual world or virtual identity at stake in the learning compelling to the learner on his or her own terms. The learner needs to be sucked in.
3. “amplification of output principle”- give for a little output, a lot of output. This is highly motivated for learning. i.e press some buttons in the real world and a whole interactive virtual world comes to life. Virtual world needs to be built such that learners discover new powers and feel the dawning of new valued identities (P. 63)

Oscar Lake Reviews

A web of knowledge search gave 2 reviews of Who is Oscar Lake?:

Concha-Chiaraviglio, V. (2004). Who is Oscar Lake? Hispania, 84(3), 514-516.

Nelson, K. (1997). Quien es Oscar Lake? Hispania, 80(4), 821-822.

BU doesn’t have direct access to Hispania, but JSTOR has articles up to 2002. We might want to do an ILL for Concha-Chiaraviglio (2004), although I’m not sure if it’s worth it since it’s a product review rather than an experiment.

Here’s what Nelson (1997) had to say (plus comments):

  • The game has multiple pathways and endings, and players are free to explore the game and the activities (This reminds me of the need for a game engine, which is something Laura mentioned on Tues. According to this walkthrough , the game engine used was QuickTime projector engine 2.12)
  • The characters are entertaining, and even a bit campy (Good to know that we don’t have to be constrained by realism.)
  • Characters speak clearly and slowly enough so that even beginning students will be able to follow the action (This is our idea! Was it really CDS or foreigner talk? There really isn’t enough info, but we need to find out. Also, we don’t know if the characters are given a “guide” NPC to form an attachment to. Maybe this is can be our contribution – emotional connectedness to NPCs + enriched input)
  • There are 3 modes of player interaction: a) listen & choose (click on a text response), b) listen & speak, and c) listen & do (cues tell player to drag/click on an item)
  • The biggest drawback is that there should be more clues to help solve the mystery (Again, maybe this is where a guide NPC would help.)
  • Too much scenery that is not relevant to the progression of the game. Need more “hotspots” (Right… too much useless information gets boring. We want to motivate the player by highlighting significant events and minimizing non-relevant scenes. BUT, this only applies to the mystery game. Would multiple scenes be better if the focus were more on an NPC and less on the environment? (e.g. a walk in the park… multiple scenes would provide more opportunities to strike conversation)


Can anyone find this?

Unnamed author. (2004). Who is Oscar Lake? Hispania, 87(3), 514-516.

Abstract: Who is Oscar Lake?($56), from Language Publications Interactive, Inc., is an interactive CD-ROM on grammar and vocabulary for beginning and intermediate students of the Spanish language in school or college. This program engages students in an interactive game of mystery and intrigue and provides them with the opportunity to learn grammatical structures and vocabulary. It is an excellent supplement to Spanish language instruction. 


How to Use This Blog

Instead of having to go to the lab, we can post our paper summaries here. I will work on compiling them all onto a word doc on the main computer, but with this we can post as we find articles and also comment.