I created this blog last year as a just-married elementary school English teacher embarking on an MA in TESOL.
I now have a 10-month old son (Aaron), I’m a history teacher to secondary school Koreans in an English-language school, and I’m just starting my MA thesis. A lot happens in a year!
So how have my teaching/research interests changed or developed over that time?
I was originally interested in bilingualism, the strengths of non-native English teachers, and the value of implicit learning over explicit. I wanted to show how bilingual non-native English speakers have a large advantage over native speakers in many ways, and how they can create a classroom atmosphere in which students can pick up language rather than learn it, through group-work and interaction.
These interests still stand, but have shifted focus somewhat.
Now it seems I’m specializing in situated learning theories, and studying more extensively how people come to know language through extended exposure and interaction with target-language communities. I want to:
- know how we can get language learners involved in English-language communities (e.g. Thorne & Reinhardt, 2008).
- find out how to encourage L2 speakers to develop an identity around that language (e.g. Kramsch, 2003).
- find out what kinds of communities facilitate language learning, and how we can use aspects of these as teachers (e.g. Wenger, 2011).
This is part of the justification behind my thesis, which is to be about how language learners can gain access to communities within online games, and how these communities do or do not afford language learning opportunities.
Specifically, I’m studying my own Korean language learning in League of Legends (LoL), a game which is immensely popular here in South Korea (around 35% percent of online gamers spend their time playing it!). Computer games appear to be an excellent and motivating environment in which to find language communities without physically being there. They also afford players opportunities to create new identities removed from their physical bodies, and require players to use language to make any real progress. I can do all that from my front room! Excellent.
To do this, I’m using Wenger’s (1998) theory of “Communities of Practice” as a framework for learning. To oversimplify, Wenger (2011) claims that learning emerges in communities who share a specific practice, where long-term members help each other work towards the performance of that practice. I need to show if such communities exist in LoL, and if I can become a member, because if they do (and I can), they should allow language learning.
Just means I have to spend the next 3 months playing as much LoL as I can! Any LoL players/teachers out there care to join me?
I plan to post my thoughts on this and applications of it over the next few months, mostly to aid my writing, but partly in case anyone happening to read this wants some introductory info on the area.
Kramsch, C. (Ed.). (2003). Language acquisition and language socialization: Ecological perspectives. Continuum.
Thorne, S. L., & Reinhardt, J. (2008). ” Bridging Activities,” New Media Literacies, and Advanced Foreign Language Proficiency. Calico Journal, 25(3), 558-572.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge University Press.
Wenger, E. (2011). Communities of practice a brief introduction. Accessed from http://wenger-trayner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/06-Brief-introduction-to-communities-of-practice.pdf