Date of Award

5-2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Professional Communication

Advisor

Holmevik, Jan R.

Committee Member

Haynes , Cynthia A.

Committee Member

Taylor , Summer S.

Abstract

This thesis delves into three different virtual platforms that have potential to promote foreign language learning using a constructionist, personal approach: Second Life, a three-dimensional multi-user virtual environment (MUVE); Livemocha, a social networking site; and World of Warcraft, a multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Each platform is built on varying levels of pedagogical influence. Livemocha, for instance, is built entirely around the principle of tandem language learning whereas Second Life is not designed around such principles but has the capability of incorporating them. Lastly, World of Warcraft does not contain the ability for players to build pedagogy into the platform, but users may learn a foreign language through informal interaction with the game and other players.

Through participant observation, I provide an analysis of the three platforms in light of theories from three major fields: gaming, rhetoric, and language learning. In place of current theories of language learning, I offer a new approach grounded in Gregory Ulmer's (2003) concept of electronic literacy, or electracy. This new theory is known as electrate language learning (ELL) and emphasizes the need for personal, adaptable language instruction that encourages foreign language acquisition while capitalizing on learners' need for literacy in electronic platforms. Lastly, I delve into implications of this theory for teachers, learners, and researchers and offer suggestions for future areas of research.

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