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Semiotic remediation and language learning through place-based plurilingual gaming

In the new millennium, emerging mobile technologies have had a profound effect on information and communication practices – from interpersonal communication and social coordination to the on-demand, just-in-time dynamics that shape everyday uses of information. While mobile technologies have come to saturate everyday life, they are only recently coming to support, and in some cases to transform, learning opportunities and processes. Applying principles expressed in cultural-historical and ecological approaches to development (Bateson, 1972; Engeström & Sannino, 2010; van Lier, 2004), extended and embodied cognition (Atkinson, 2010; Clark, 2008), the relations between human and non-human actants (Latour, 2005), and recent scholarship produced by the “distributed language group” (e.g., Cowley, 2007; Thibault, 2011), this talk will describe a variety of projects to illustrate the use of Augmented Reality (AR) place-based techniques for creating multilingual learning opportunities for language students. AR games leverage mobile and GPS enabled devices to engage players in spatially enacted narratives, role-playing, the history of particular locations, and informational and interpretive quests that are carried out in real physical places, with the goal of embedding language learning affordances in embodied experience in the world. The projects to be discussed represent multiple dimensions of the design, implementation, and evaluation of place-based experiences. Existing AR games for language learning (e.g., Holden & Sykes, 2011; Thorne, 2013) and accompanying mobile resources share certain objectives: 1) to increase engagement in the language learning process by moving students and learning experiences out of the classroom and into the world; 2) to provide in situ prompts and activities that support, and potentially augment, existing language learning curricular objectives; and 3) to offer ubiquitous access to mobile language learning resources and activities. The presenters will draw on available findings from each of the projects to highlight learning outcomes, synthesize lessons learned at the design and implementation stages, and make recommendations for future research and practice.


Steven Thorne    
Portland State University and University of Groningen
United States

Steve Thorne holds faculty appointments in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Portland State University and in the Department of Applied Linguistics at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. His interests and research include the semiotic ecologies of new media and online gaming environments, cultural-historical and usage-based approaches to language acquisition, and theoretical investigations of language, communication, and human development.

Julie Sykes    
Center for Applied Second Language Studies
University of Oregon
United States

Director, Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS); Faculty, Romance Languages, University of Oregon


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