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Performative teaching

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Gilmar Martins

on 22 March 2015

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Transcript of Performative teaching

Using Voki avatars to make purposeful, goal-oriented presentations
Audience is fellow class members in general and students elsewhere in Canada or Germany in particular

Create a personal avatar to communicate a professional résumé in order to obtain a job in Germany (“Berufsbiografie”).
Our context is twofold:

(1) Availability of new media and
digital technology

(2) New paradigm in SLA of sociocultural understandings, and especially of learners developing second language selves

"Our characters ... their voices ..." On avatars, agency, and second-language identity.
Dr. John L. Plews
(SMU, Canada)
with Ma. Gilmar Fernandes
(UFU, Brazil)
Pilot study: Seeking basic feedback
Students are more concerned about attending to formal aspects of the target language when engaged in purposeful activities that involve an audience
Using new technologies for the genuinely communicative purposes for which they are really intended creates exactly that kind of authentic and purposeful activity
The performative aspect of new technologies might facilitate
more fluent, accurate, and complex language learning
as well as initiate learners into
potential new identity positions
Purpose + audience + performance
In task completion, some students seem to focus more on language (accuracy, fluency, complexity) and taking on a new voice while maintaining appearances; others seem to focus more on exploiting the technological options and varying content
More study is needed to see if these are exclusive? And whether either aspect still leads to sustained language gains?
Language textbook design needs to undergo a
paradigm shift
Preliminary conclusions
The basic questions that emerged for us:

(1) Could we
integrate current new technologies realistically in a regular domestic foreign language class
-- i.e., in textbook-driven beginner & intermediate Canadian university German and for the purpose they were designed for?

(2) How do new technologies contribute to the performance of L2 selves? Or, what aspects of using new technologies can we observe that reasonably
indicate that beginner and intermediate German learners/users are becoming aware of, developing, and performing their second language selves

Create a personal avatar to advertise and communicate facts and wishes in order to swap apartments with someone elsewhere in Canada or Germany (“Wer möchte mit mir tauschen?”)
1. Something that I found
especially difficult
when using the technology was …

2. Something that I found
especially easy
when using the technology was …

3. Something that I
would do differently
now if using the technology again is …

Pilot study: Seeking basic feedback

4. Something I especially
liked about using this technology
as compared to the other ways technology is used in the course (listening dialogues, videos, e-book, online exercises, etc.) is ...

5. Something I especially
liked about doing this activity
by using technology as compared to other course activities (in-class interaction, written paragraphs, etc.) is …

6. Thinking about
who I am as a language student
, using this technology made me feel like I …
Go raibh maith agat
Muito obrigado
Thank you very much
Danke schön

We live in the age of
digital communication
, yet our teaching is centred around textbooks that

(a) were
often originally designed before this age
(and/or still pay obeisance to that design)
(b) are
neither genuinely communicative, nor especially imaginative
, and require low levels of cognitive ability (Andon 2013; Plews 2013)
(c) tend merely to
transfer the textbook online
(= existing, artificial dialogues & videos, drills moved online; weblinks and S-I chat added); do not pay attention to new media (Warschauer 2003, 2006)
(d) integrate technology poorly / in inauthentic ways, i.e., used to facilitate traditional language exercises but
could be used for its real-world purpose
-- which is often communication -- and therefore as a medium for more authentic language use (Paiva 2012)
Second language acquisition theory has made a “
social turn
” (Block 2003):

Universal and individual factors influencing
SLA extended by regard for social dimensions and reconsidered through social theories
(Afonso 2002; Block 1996; Firth & Wagner 1997; Hall 1993; Lantolf 1996; Norton Peirce 1995; van Lier 1994)
Language learners no longer deficient vessels requiring input, interaction, feedback, and correction
Actors developing new abilities and concomitant subjectivities
, whose investment in the language learning project varies
Scholarship indicates that
new digital technologies & social networking media can lead to SL learning and new SL identity formation
in ways proposed by social theories (e.g., Hull & Nelson 2005; Kenner & Kress 2003; Kern 2006; Lam 2006; Levine 2013; Prensky 2001; Sykes et al. 2008; Thorne & Black 2007)

Read sample ads in textbook (
Wie geht's?
) & Internet
Brainstorm with fellow students what information to include, questions to pose, etc.
Plan, write draft, get peer & instructor feedback
Create avatar, enter text, publish, & post link
Audience members access avatars & choose which to reply to / swap with
Also, audience members & instructor evaluate effectiveness of avatar ads
Read sample ads in textbook (
Berliner Platz NEU
) & Internet site
Brainstorm with fellow students what personal / professional information to include, questions to pose the employer, etc.
Plan, write draft, get peer & instructor feedback
Create avatar, enter text, publish, & post link
Audience members access avatars & choose who to offer interview to / qualifies for the job
Also, audience members & instructor evaluate effectiveness of avatar résumés
Performance Characteristics
Qualitative Experiences
Technical Matters
Practical technical matters:

"Just finding out what to do initially was a little difficult"

The task instruction sheet was in German

"The recording / typing aspect was easy"
Most students expressed that it was easy to use the Voki avatar site

Technology, language, & performance

"It was difficult editing after I was done”
= Positive outcome!
– Indicates that students are editing their work, which is not usually the case with other written work
– Important for learning: attending to form
– Editing becomes higher stakes because more than just the instructor as audience / Output is genuinely performative

“I would play around more with the different voices next time”
– Performative aspect of the activity appealed to the student
– Perhaps s/he is becoming aware of taking on another's voice & different identities
As a classroom task ...
"Fun" / "Simple and creative, lots of colors and options"
– motivating

As effective learning ...
"I could read the German instructions (on the sheet) well enough to perform the task"
– achievement
"Could express myself, I guess"
– self-expression
"Needed to have visual creativity with language"
– purposeful

“I was able to hear and correct myself more than usual” / “Hearing my work in another’s voice makes it easier to hear the mistakes”
– Error correction / self-correction; positive effect on focus on form

“Hearing my work in another’s voice makes it easier to hear the mistakes”
– Merging of self & other
– Student is virtual other speaker and actual self listener; one and the same person!

“It was fun to make our characters and to use their voices instead of ours”

– Shift in identity position possible through creative / performative learning: "make ... characters"
– Use of “ours” – the student sees her/his own repositioning and her/his peers’
– S/he does not claim to become someone else / an other, but does take possession of the other’s voice
– How often are beginners able to express the sense of taking on a new voice? Is this empowering?

As a language student with an emerging new L2 identity
Physical appearance

Students chose a range of appearances that were either (1) very different from their actual appearance or (2) mirror-like

(1) Some chose Canadian icons (moose, husky); some chose completely alternate appearances (Buddha, skeleton); several chose stereotypical German appearances (blonde or redhead with blue eyes)
The latter was common among students not of Euro-North American heritage

(2) Mirror-like selves were also more likely to have realistic or task-specific backdrops

Content and language

Most keep to task content criteria
Some digress or individualize with comical, whimsical, exaggerated, or detailed additions
Texts tend to be more whimsical when appearances are whimsical
Texts tend to be more accurate when appearances are closer to the actual
Key to language acquisition is: to take on new voice with representation of self
(where the self is primarily modified/ repositions itself by the new voice) rather than to take on a new voice and a completely different form of self-representation
Full transcript