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Language Learning with Machinima: Learner Creativity and User-generated Video Production

This paper reports on research arising from a two-year project involving nine European partners entitled, “CreAting Machinima to Empower Live Online language Teaching and learning” (or CAMELOT Project), awarded by the EU Lifelong Learning Programme (KA3 ICT Multilateral). CAMELOT deals with the use of machinima – recorded videos made in a virtual environment such as Second Life or within a digital game world, specifically related to the under-researched area of language learning.
Machinima is a portmanteau word that combines ‘cinema’ and ‘machine’ and refers to filming actions, role-plays and dialogues between 3D virtual characters or avatars. Learners and instructors engage in a variety of creative preparation and planning tasks such as rehearsing, scripting and storyboarding. Users can then edit and refilm where appropriate to construct a complex and sophisticated video narrative that is potentially of immense value in a variety of fields, equipping users with a variety of skills in intercultural communication, language learning, and digital literacy.
An impressive array of machinima resources has been developed in areas such as theatre and media production. The SL Shakespeare Company provides an excellent example of the power and creativity of machinima ( A number of machinima techniques have been identified and CAMELOT will explore these specifically in the area of language education. These include puppetry (game characters are manipulated to perform actions on cue according to a screenplay, which is recorded in real time for later editing); recamming (it builds on the puppet approach, and combines it with re-recording. Additional characters might be added, lighting changed, or cameras moved); and scripting (this involves programming the game’s characters to perform in particular and specific ways), as well as simple recording.
The paper presents data arising from a pilot study involving English teachers' perceptions of machinima and their reflections on the challenges and opportunities presented by in-world video production to both instructors and learners. Using a case study approach and mixed methods research, the paper aims to contribute to research on how to integrate machinima in language learning contexts (both inside and outside the language classroom); definitions of key terms in the field; and the pedagogical and theoretical frameworks available to guide their future use.


Michael Thomas    
Language, Literature and International Studies
University of Central Lancashire
United Kingdom

Dr Michael Thomas BA (Hons) Cert. TESOL MA M.Ed. MBA Ph.D. FHEA is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Language, Literature and International Studies at the University of Central Lancashire, UK. He is an invited Faculty Affiliate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, USA. He is the Course Leader of the MA in TESOL with Applied Linguistics by E-Learning and Course Leader of a BA (Hons) degree in Business Communication. He has taught undergraduate, postgraduate students and research students at universities around the world, including Newcastle University (UK), the University of Heidelberg, the University of Stuttgart, Mannheim University (Germany), Nagoya University of Commerce & Business (Japan) and the University of Liverpool (UK).

His research interests are in language and literacy education; multimodal and digital research methods; and intercultural communication in digitally-mediated environments.

He has published over twenty books and special editions of refereed journals. He is the lead and founding editor of three book series, Advances in Digital Language Learning and Teaching (Bloomsbury Academic), Digital Education and Learning (Palgrave Macmillan US), and Advances in Virtual and Personal Learning Environments (ISR).

Among his other book publications are Contemporary Task-based Language Teaching in Asia (2014), Contemporary Computer-Assisted Language Learning (2012) (with Mark Warschauer), Handbook of Research on Web 2.0 and Second Language Learning (2008), Task-Based Language Learning & Teaching with Technology (with Hayo Reinders) (2010), Interactive Whiteboards for Education: Theory, Research and Practice (with Euline Cutrim Schmid) (2010), Digital Education: Opportunities for Social Collaboration (2011), Deconstructing Digital Natives: Young People, Technology and the New Literacies (2011) and Online Learning: IV Volume Major Work (2011). He is Associate Editor of the International Journal of Computer Assisted Language Learning and Teaching, General Editor of the Journal of Second Language Teaching & Research, and has guest edited peer reviewed special editions on language learning and technology for the CALICO Journal, the CALL Journal, the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, the International Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society, the Journal of Digital Education and Culture, and the International Journal of Computer-Assisted Language Learning and Teaching.

He has organized over 20 international conferences on computer-assisted language learning in the UK, Germany and Japan. He is a member of a number of leading editorial boards including the Journal of Research in Learning Technology (ALT-J), the Asian EFL Journal, and the Asian ESP Journal.

Dr Thomas is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) in the UK and a member of the Academic Board of the University of Central Lancashire.


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