1. Professional Series in Language Instruction: Digital Video & Streaming Media
Integrating Diverse Digital Media in a Global Simulation German Course
Glenn S. Levine
University of California, Irvine
Points to Ponder
L2 Teachers are generally quite familiar with the concept of role playing in the L2
classroom; how might one expand a simple role-play into an entire simulation in which
the L2 learners worked within their roles for an entire semester?
The German program at University of California, Irvine faced the problem of a reader-
based curriculum in second-year courses that neither met goals for a task-based, student-
centered curriculum nor engendered great enthusiasm among students. Our solution was a
quarter-long “global simulation” course (based on Jones, 1984; Crookall & Oxford, Eds.,
1990; García-Carbonell, et al., 2001). We incorporated into the curriculum elements
familiar to students along with diverse digital media. Students engaged in a variety of
Internet-based activities and authored original Web content and digital video toward the
creation of simulated Internet retail company.
In the German program at University of California, Irvine, we faced the problem
of a reader-based curriculum in the second-year courses that neither met our goals for a
task-based, student-centered curriculum nor engendered great enthusiasm among
students.1 Our solution was a quarter-long “global simulation” (GS) course (based on
Magnin (2002) discussed the important uses of technology in functional and global simulations
and argued they “give a leadership role to foreign language departments” (p. 395), provide a cross-
curricular link that lends itself to successful interdisciplinary collaboration (in particular with business
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Jones 1984; Crookall & Oxford, Eds., 1990; García-Carbonell, et al., 2001).2 In this
course, students conceptualized and created a simulated Internet retail company, called
www.technomode.de. In the process, they learned about the German city they selected as
their headquarters, the values and practices of the youth groups that comprised the
company’s primary market, and more generally, about ways of studying and
understanding German “culture(s).” While the course contained elements familiar to
students (e.g., classroom discussion, prepared readings), we fairly seamlessly
incorporated diverse digital media into the curriculum, greatly facilitating its intensely
task-based, experiential-learning orientation. In this paper, we would like to describe
briefly the GS course format, the specifics of the course we designed, and the ways we
integrated digital media into the curriculum.
Simulation in the Foreign Language (FL) Classroom
The use of simulation is not new to the language classroom, though it appears to
have found less frequent application in the U.S. university setting than in some other
countries (e.g., in France, see Caré, 1995). The approach and tenets to simulation were
hammered out primarily by Jones (1984) and the papers collected in Crookall & Oxford
(Eds., 1990). In recent years, as scholars and teachers have sought ways to put into
practice Long’s (1996) interaction hypothesis and Skehan’s (1998) ideas about task-based
language instruction, simulation has received greater attention in the SLA and pedagogy
departments), and foster motivation and the development of communicative competence in the FL
classroom. See also Magnin (1997).
Garcia-Carbonell, et al. (2001) demonstrated how experiential learning strategies (i.e., comprehensible
input, interaction, etc.) have been more successful in simulation formats than in other class settings. They
argued that simulation enhances communicative competence through its application of “linguistic,
psycholinguistic, and sociolinguistic principles” (482) as it creates a learner-centered environment that
increases self-confidence and motivation and decreases anxiety.
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literature (e.g., Kovalik & Kovalik, 2002; Levine in press; Magnin, 2002).3 Simulation is
defined by Jones (1984) as “reality of function in a simulated and structured
environment” (5). Participants do not role-play or play-act. They are provided with the
scaffold of a situation and enough information to function within it. Once the simulation
begins, participants make decisions and negotiate their way through the simulation as
they might if it were real.4 In this paper we extend the definition of simulation, which is
usually carried out in one or two sessions, to the term “global simulation,” carried out in
our case over the entire ten-week academic quarter.
A Global Simulation Intermediate German Course: www.technomode.de
The GS course we designed was called “Creating the Internet-Based Retail
Company www.technomode.de,” which takes place in the fifth of the six-quarter lower-
division sequence in our institution. It is made clear to students at the outset that the
course is not meant as a business German course. Rather, because we emphasize the more
creative aspects, i.e., those that do not require background knowledge of business or
management, class members are free to explore any aspect of the new company they
choose. The following description is based on the most recent version of the course,
which includes refinements and improvements made over the last three years.
Kovalik & Kovalik (2002) utilized the tenets of Piaget’s philosophy (children construct their intelligence
independently through spontaneous game playing) to frame their approach to simulation used in ESL
composition courses. Their ideas draw an important link between the development of a child’s mental skills
through symbolic games and the development of language learning through simulation in that they both
require “an assimilation of reality into the self” (345), are dependent on cooperation, negotiating meaning,
and following rules.
This accords well with prevailing sociocultural and sociocognitive models of SLA (See Atkinson, 2002),
which accept the inherent complexity of the L2 acquisition process but also the complex relationships
between the learner and the learning environment.
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The course is divided into four main phases. In the first phase students are
extensively briefed on simulation and how to carry one out, and they are instructed in a
range of communicative strategies in order to succeed under the rather demanding
conditions to come. Included in this strategies instruction are vocabulary lessons (e.g.,
discourse gambits, see Crocker & Kramsch, 1991; basic computer and Internet
terminology), practice exercises in various sorts of negotiation, and tenets for effective
codeswitching behavior (e.g., inserting English vocabulary into the discourse without
The second phase involves prepared readings that revolve around two main tasks.
The first asks students, divided into groups, to research a city/region, to argue for or
against it and then to select a headquarters for their simulated retail company. For the
second main task, students become acquainted with some of the values, practices, and
especially the fashion trends, of several German youth (sub-)cultures (using, in part,
Projektgruppe Jugendkulturen, 1999).
In the third phase of the course students participate in a one-hour workshop
dealing with basic Web site design using a template software application (taught in
English by a representative of the campus computing facility). It is stressed that students
need not become computer experts in order to carry out the tasks of the course; content
will count for much more than appearance or visual/graphic quality. During this third
phase students also investigate and discuss what various company departments could be
represented in the simulation (remember that a simulation is an abstraction of reality, so
To deal with the communicative demands of the www.technomode.de course, artificially constrained
codeswitching is formally sanctioned. We find that it not only allows students to remain primarily in the
target language, it also appears that by the end of the term many students need to codeswitch much less
than at the beginning.
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participants may opt to include or exclude whatever aspects of reality they wish) and then
divide into these departments. In this phase, they begin articulating their company’s
philosophy, familiarizing themselves in the process with the stated philosophies of many
different German businesses, and they are introduced to the video task. Each department
of the company must also design, script, and film a brief video clip to be included in the
www.technomode.de Web site.
The fourth phase is then taken up primarily with the creation of the company
itself, in virtual form. Participants in their respective departments design the content that
will go into their part of the company’s Web site and create the video clip for that Web
site. They are encouraged to create as much textual content as possible. Each week,
participants also interact as a class, reporting to the others their progress, problems, and
goals. In the closing weeks of the simulation, they prepare actively for the final project,
which is to pitch their company to the “investors,” in our case played by faculty members
and graduate students from our German Department. During this presentation, each
company department demonstrates, discusses, and fields questions about its part of the
Due to space limitations we will not delve into some other aspects of the
www.technomode.de course, such as the teaching and learning of grammar, assessment
and testing, or the role(s) of instructor and students in this sort of course.56 In the
For information about grammar teaching, assessment instruments, and instructor/student roles, the reader
is referred to http://methods.heinle.com. For a more detailed description of the GS format, see Levine (in
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following pages we will discuss only those aspects of the course that employed or
depended upon the use of digital media.67
Uses of Digital Media in the www.technomode.de Course
During each of the four phases of www.technomode.de, digital media are
integrated into in-class and out-of-class activities, but several features are common to all
phases of the course. For example, at least once per week students work in computer
classrooms to complete their various tasks. Also, throughout the course students and
instructors engage in frequent e-mail communication in German, nothing new for FL
courses today, but nonetheless as essential to the simulation as e-mail correspondence in
a real-world company. Also common to each phase of the course is the frequent presence
in the classroom of a notebook computer with projector and Internet access; this is used
for instructor and student presentations and serves as a classroom tool for immediate
information via the Internet. In the following we describe briefly how digital media are
used in each phase of the www.technomode.de course.
Phase One: Introduction to Simulation and the Simulation www.technomode.de
The first phase of the course is the least digital-technology intensive, and in any
case, the computer is primarily used by the instructor. Specifically, during the initial days
of the course, the instructor makes use of several simple Web-based or PowerPoint
presentations in order to brief class participants adequately about simulations, and about
the company they will create in the coming weeks. During this time the instructor also
For more on the many benefits of employing simulation as a vehicle for language learning see the special
issue of Simulation & Gaming (1999, March) devoted to the topic.
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seeks to address student anxieties or misgivings about using digital technologies as part
of a language class.
Phase Two: Facilitation of “Traditional” Reading Task & Establishment of Cross-
In phase two of the course, some pre-selected readings are accessed over the
Internet, either through Web sites or as Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files. To investigate
prospective company headquarters and German youth cultures, students also engage in a
good deal of unguided Internet searching and reading. Additionally, in this phase of the
course students are asked to make contact with at least one German-speaking e-mail pen
friend and/or begin regularly visiting German-language chat rooms. The instructor helps
facilitate these contacts if it is requested by the students. We felt that the simulation
would be in essence more “real” if students are able to bring into their discussions the
comments and insights of fellow young people living in German speaking countries.78
Phase Three: Internet Research; Video Clip Design; “Unplanned” Problems
During the third phase of the course, class members engage in a great deal of
unguided Internet research on the roles and responsibilities of the various departments of
a company. They study the Web sites of German companies, sharing in class what they
have discovered. In this phase, students are encouraged to obtain feedback from their e-
mail pen friends on the topics and themes under discussion and share this information
with classmates during class time.
For more on this medium of cross-cultural communication see Jogan, Heredia H., & Aguilera M. (2001)
and Liaw & Johnson (2001).
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During this middle segment of the course, after they have joined their various
departments, students begin to consider what sort of video clip they could create for the
company’s Web site. Once this has been decided, they set up a timetable for scripting and
creating the video clip. Video cameras and video editing facilities are made available to
create the clips. Most of the filming and editing of the clips is done outside of class; class
time is used later on to view the final products.89
As students go about forming the departments of the new company, setting goals
within them, scripting and creating the video clips, and beginning to draft the company’s
philosophy, the instructor sends out a few “memos” via e-mail. These memos contain
unplanned (from the students’ point of view) crises or dilemmas that the company must
address, interrupting the normal business at hand. Divided into groups, students discuss
the problem and collaboratively draft a solution or response. Each group is encouraged –
but not required – to make a brief class presentation of its proposal using MS PowerPoint
or similar presentation program. The entire class then engages in a debate to decide what
the company should do.910
Phase Four: Creation of Web content & Expansion of Cross-Cultural Communication
If a digital camera is available, then no further work is needed to add it to the company’s Web site. If the
cameras are analogue devices, then the media center on campus is asked to assist in digitizing the video
One example is a “crisis memo” from a German activist group that has discovered that one of the
suppliers of one of www.technomode.de’s products (Product A) uses child labor in its factory in Country X.
www.technomode.de has been purchasing Product A at very low prices. The activist group is writing to give
the young company the chance to join it in its struggle against child labor before going to the press with
their discovery. Obviously, the activist group is right to ardently oppose child labor, but should
www.technomode.de submit to such tactics on the part of an interest group? Also, if/when the company
ceases to buy Product A from Country X, where will it obtain Product A at such a low price? In other
words, how does the bottom line intersect with the right thing to do? For further examples of “unplanned”
situations, see accompanying Web materials.
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By the time students enter the fourth phase of the course, our experience is that
many students become so involved in the simulation that they often forget they are in a
language class. Working primarily in their respective departments, they proceed in a
largely self-guided manner to compose Web content for their portion of the company’s
Web site, including discussing and developing their video clips. At least once each week
the instructor brings the groups together to present what they have been doing and to
describe what they intend to do the following week (and of course obtain feedback from
In addition to this, at least one member of each department is asked to obtain
regular feedback from a German-speaking e-mail pen friend. At this stage they are
encouraged to send their German contacts drafts of what they are working on (assuming
that the pen friend consents to receive them!). Students are asked to share in class the
comments they receive.
For the final project, the participants demonstrate the Web site(s) they have
created and “pitch” the company to “investors,” in our case diligently played by faculty
and graduate students from our department. 11 Each department makes a separate
presentation concluding with a statement of the amount of capital they believe they will
Pitfalls and Suggestions for Avoiding Them
In the first sections of the www.technomode.de course we ran in 2001, the Web content created by
students, while visually appealing, fell short in terms of meaningful textual content. In later courses we
asked them to write more in prose form for their Web sites (even if this meant diverging from the norms of
real companies to some extent). In this way students were pushed to work collaboratively on written texts, a
new task overall for most (in any language).
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While this course format, with its heavy reliance on digital media, is interesting
and engaging for most students, a number of concerns should be expressed so that the
instructor might help minimize their impact. First and foremost, despite the ubiquitous
availability of computers and the Internet, some students may express anxieties about the
use of computers or other digital media. Instructors should consider administering an
anonymous survey at the start of the course to determine what percentage of the class
might feel this way. They can offer as much “technical support” as possible, either
personally or through invited guests. Also, one should stress that the creative and not the
technical aspects of the company receive the most emphasis in the simulation.
A second pitfall is related to the business focus of the course. While it is not a
business German course per se, some students may express that they are wholly
uninterested in business matters. To help these sorts of learners benefit from and enjoy
the course, their interests should be identified (also through classroom surveys) and
accommodated early on. The instructor can encourage them to choose and deal with
aspects of the business that are the least “business-like,” and/or serve as the resident
historian, anthropologist, etc.12 A third potentially problematic area involves the
perceived relationship between digital media and language learning. Some learners, even
those who are most at home in a digital environment, may feel that the relatively large
amount of time spent on the creation of video and Web content for the company takes
away from the language learning experience. They may conclude that time spent
Future manifestations of global simulation at our institution will eliminate the “problem” of the business
focus altogether. For example students will engage in the creation of a “Virtual Museum of German
Culture(s),” a course that shifts the focus away from business in particular and broadens the scope of
cultural investigation while still relying heavily on the use of digital media (e.g., Web authoring is also a
crucial component of this course).
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collaborating on these things, despite being conducted in the target language, constitutes
a digression from “normal” or productive language learning. We offer two suggestions to
help avoid this. First, provide sufficient numbers of “grammar days,” hours during which
the simulation is placed on the back burner and the instructor leads “traditional” grammar
lessons. Whether implicit or explicit in nature, many students will appreciate the time
spent on this. One of our students commented, “it’s good that we have grammar days
because it reinforces the grammar I already know and helps me (re)learn the grammar I
may have forgotten.” Second, the instructor should take the time to point out to students
the valuable sorts of negotiation of meaning and sophisticated verbal interactions
involved in collaborating on the creation of digital content. To this end, the instructor
should include early on in the course sufficient vocabulary and strategies support for
“technical” language such that students feel capable of using and discussing computers or
other media in the target language (See http://methods.heinle.com). Many students may
notice an improvement in their skills as evidenced by comments like, “I think going to
different Web sites really helps me improve my writing skills … and it helped me gain
confidence in German,” and, “I learned a lot of vocabulary. I think I will remember these
words more because I actually used them in a practical situation.”
In this paper, applications of diverse digital media in a GS format, ranging from
video to e-mail to student Web authoring, were presented and described. Overall, student
reception of the course and the use of instructional technology were extremely positive in
all three years. For example, one student remarked, the “course was challenging and
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stretched my skills beyond what I expected from a language course.” Another wrote,
“this course has been a good experience for developing real German skills that can be
applied in future situations.” We believe that the integrated use of digital media in this
format provides rich and varied opportunities for meaningful, task-based interaction,
facilitates cultural learning in many ways, and helps accommodate diverse interests,
personality types and learning styles. 13
We would like to express our gratitude to Kai Herklotz, Franz Kuzay, and Jason Wilby
for their work in developing and teaching the global simulation course described in this
chapter. In addition, we are grateful to the students who took part in the courses, whose
enthusiasm and engagement made the courses more successful than we had even
anticipated. Lastly, many thanks to Judi Franz and Pati Espinoza for their technical and
administrative support of the courses, to Dwayne Pack for holding private technical
workshops for our students, and to the faculty and graduate students of the UCI
Department of German for playing the part of German entrepreneurs for our students'
To learn more about some of the observed social and psychological benefits of simulation for students,
see Harper (1985). Harper argued that simulation helps students improve interpersonal skills through
problem solving, collaborative writing and develops skills in cultural competence and creativity, which
contribute to the long term social and psychological development of the individual.
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Atkinson, D. (2002). Toward a sociocognitive approach to second language acquisition.
Modern Language Journal 86, 525–45.
Caré, J.M. (1995). Inventer pour apprendre: Les simulations globales. Die neueren
Sprachen 94, 69–87.
Crocker, E., & Kramsch, C. (1991). Managing conversations in German: Reden mitreden
dazwischenreden. Second edition. Boston: Heinle.
Crookall, D. & Oxford, R. L. (Eds.). (1990). Simulation, gaming, and language learning.
New York: Newbury House.
García-Carbonell, A., Rising, B., Montero, B., & Watts, F. (2001). Simulation/gaming
and the acquisition of communicative competence in another language.
Simulation and Gaming 32, 481–91.
Harper, S.N. (1985). Social psychological effects of simulation in foreign language
learning. System, 13, 219–24.
Jogan, M.K., Heredia H.A., & Aguilera M.G. (2001). Cross-cultural e-mail: Providing
cultural input for the advanced foreign language student. Foreign Language
Annals 34, 341–46.
Jones, K. (1984). Simulations in language teaching. Cambridge: University Press.
Kovalik, D.L., & Kovalik, L.M. (2002). Language learning simulations: A Piagetian
perspective. Simulation and Gaming 33, 345–52.
Levine, G.S. (in press). Global simulation: A student-centered, task-based format for
intermediate foreign language courses. Foreign Language Annals.
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Long, M.H. (1996). The role of the linguistic environment in second language
acquisition. In W.C. Ritchie, & T. K. Bhatia (Eds.), Handbook of second
language acquisition (pp. 413–68). San Diego: Academic Press.
Magnin, M.C. (1997). The Building: An adaptation of Francis Debyser’s writing project.
A global simulation to teach language and culture. Beijing: China-U.S.
Conference on Education. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED425406.
Magnin, M.C. (2002). An interdisciplinary approach to teaching foreign languages with
global and functional simulations. Simulation and Gaming 33, 395–9.
Projektgruppe Jugendkulturen (1999). Expressin’ myself! Punks HipHoper Technos
Skateboarder. Berlin: Verlag Thomas Tilsner.
Skehan, P. (1998). Task-based instruction. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 18,
1. What other simulation scenarios can you envision for your L2 classes?
2. What is the difference between a simulation and a simple role-playing exercise?
3. What are some advantages of a simulation-based course like that described here?
What are some of the drawbacks?
4. The project described in this chapter places a great deal of responsibility on the
student participants. This can work well for a group of older students, but would you
have any misgivings about assigning a similar set of tasks to a group of high-school
or middle school students?
To learn more about this chapter, for appendices, additional questions and project ideas,