Second Life Chinese School:
Iterative Design for Embodiment and Game Play
Dongping Zheng, Ph. D.
Michigan State University
• Mimi’s new teacher
• “PG reports having observed another of the NS
instructors intimidate a student who was unable to
completely produce a line of dialog…. As soon as the
student began his recitation, the teacher “snapped” at
hime in Chinese “Buhao?” (Lantolf & Genung, 2002, p.
50,000 Chinese learners
in grades 7-12 compared
to just 5,000 in 2000
(Washington post, April
40,000,000 in the world
Economy in China is
expected to grow 8%
The world is in our head vs.
Our head is in the world?
Information processing vs. Embodiment
Hierarchies vs. Networks
Linear, Hierarchies Non-linear, Networks
• scissors > paper >stone
>scissors > paper >stone
… (van Lier, 20044)
Niche, Affordance (Network), Reflexivity, Relations
• The “niche” implies a kind of animal and the
animal implies a kind of niche,” by which Gibson
inferred the duality of affordances and affectivity
(Gibson 1979, p. 128 ).
• “Affordance Networks” cuts across the dichotomy
of subjective-objective (Barab & Roth, 2006)
• “Reflexivity”: language and context feed off each
other constantly dynamically (Gee1999, p. 82)
• “Relations”: relationship between people and the
world, affordance signals an opportunity for action
(van Lier, 2004, p.18)
• Ecological and Social perspectives on design
and language learning (Gibson,1979; Hodges,
2007; Young, 2004; Hodges, 2007; van Lier, 2004)
• The essential properties of language learning and
activity design in virtual worlds should be
“physically grounded, and biologically, socially
and culturally determined joint (dialogical)
activity” (Kravchenko, 2007).
The dual nature of perception and action is
viewed as embodiment which focuses on the
demonstration of how cognition is embodied in the
physical, real body (Hirose, 2003).
• Change is the essential element, the
essence of a dynamic system. Change
(variance) and stability
(invariance/patterns) provide the
information to be detected (perception) by
actors to be acted upon (Zheng, et al.,
• Changes in the physical context result in
changes in the nature and number of a
particular word’s relationships with other
phenomena constitutive of its environment
(Kravchenko, 2007, p. 657)
• New Designs Change the World for Interaction (Gaver, 1996)
Negotiation for Action
• Literal Understanding vs. Understanding and Meaning-
making (Gee, 2004, 2007)
– “Play” that can give situation-specific meanings to the styles of
language associated with that domain
• Multiple Trajectories vs. Linear Paths (van Lier, 2004: Young, 2004)
– Emergence, not linear, accumulation, of objects, but transformation,
growth and reorganization
– Attune learners to the patterns of language through meaning-making
with Non-Playing Characters, instructors, tutors and environments by
providing a sandbox for multiple goal-directed learning trajectories
and scaffolding students in (inter) actions rich in cultural nuisances.
• Activity vs. object,
– but in the world; authorship, emotionally connected to action and
speech, and to community (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006; van Lier, 2004)
Caring, Goals, Identity
Caring (Hodges, 2007)
● The larger context that makes social cooperation and
● Perception and action are best understood as values-realizing
Goals/Intentions (Kravchenko, 2007; Jacob & Michaels, 2007)
● Language use is associated with intention as an act of a desire
to enter communication as shared (and, therefore, value-laden)
● Intentions define task situations.
Identity (Hodges, 2007b; van Lier, 2004)
● Identity can be realized only within interactions and within the
symmetries that reflect the dynamics of the ecosystem as a
● Fluid and emergent; learners shape the world they lived in, but
also are transcendented by the world.
Ecological Psychology +Design (Gibson, 1979; (Shaw, Kadar,
Sim, & Repperger,1992; van lier 2004; Young, 2004)
Key Concepts Design for Embodied
Learning as Activity-in-the
Perception-action Negotiation for Action
Goals and intentions Emerging goals
Variance/invariance picking up patterns
Attunement Opportunities for scaffolding
Heterarchical Values Multiple identities, values-
Prolepsis, Feedforwardness Assume the learners already
have the abilities we and
they wish to develop
• A new methodological approach that guides reach and design work
in the context of real-life settings (Brown, 1992; Collins, 1992 ).
• “Innovations into the booming, buzzing confusion of real- world
practice (as opposed to constrained laboratory contexts) and
examining the impact of those designs on the learning process”
(Barab et al, 2002; Barab et al, 2007).
• The implications of the findings are cycled back into the next
iteration of the design innovation so as to build evidence of the
particular theories being researched.
• Develop theory in practice, they have the potential to lead to
interventions that are trustworthy, credible, transferable, and
ecologically valid (Barab, Hay, Barnett, & Squire, 2001; Brown,
1992; Kelly, 2003; Roth, 1998).
Virtual Quest Curriculum link
Lesson 2B: I am looking for my handbag: How to ask about
others’ names and say thanks 。
wǒ zhǎo wǒde shǒutíbāo ： Rúhé xúnwèn tā rén de
mínɡzi hé zhìxiè ？
我找我的手提包： 如 何 询 问 他 人 的 名 字 和 致 谢
Lesson 4B: Looking for a Friend 。
zhǎo yī ge péngyou
Lesson 6A: I want to be a tour guide!
Wǒ xiǎng dāng dǎoyóu! 我想当导游！
Three Cases: Kate and Kyle
What did the participants say?
• “The quests force to think about
languages and responses, you are
almost forced to learn it. I never would
have thought about what I was actually
doing, just answer the questions in my
• “the sentence structure is so different,
once I get over with that, I think my
brain has adapted to something of
different ways of thinking something”
What did the participants say?
• In terms of the quests, I think it was good both with working
with the tutor. Because you are with the native speaker, then
he can really push you and try to reset certain responses and
correct you along the way. That the third quest at the end was
really a different feeling quest but I found out so much fun.
Because I felt like we were a group of foreigners in China and
we were trying really figure things out without any help. And
you know often how life is and you’ve got to communicate to
survive or to get questions and answer. So I think I liked both
quest, and in the last quest, I was much more comfortable and
didn’t feel so nervous, but that might be just because it was the
end of the course, and I felt I gradually know the classmates a
little bit, and also I didn’t put so much pressure perhaps on
myself to try to precise with the Chinese. I could feel more
relaxed because they were both the Americans with me too.
• ¤<905087>(0:15:05.1)Kyle ： (... 远不远 ) ？
• ¤<915364>(0:15:15.4)Kate ：是的，东海鱼店在， I
couldn't say that, ，远 ,um, 远不远， can I say that?
uh, 东海鱼店在前面， oh, no, 在 what I’ve been say
在公公寓楼前面。 ((video out))
• Naiyi: ((Tempted to say something))
• Dp: (typing: Naiyi, hold on, let Tyler answer)
• ¤<975759>(0:16:15.8)Kyle ： 对， for me, when I did
this one ， they taught me a different word ， It's uh, it
is uh, 在斜对面。
• ¤<991376>(0:16:31.4)kate: 奥， ok.
• ¤<993256>(0:16:33.3)Kyle:Hang on for second ((Tyler
typed: xie2 dui2mian4)).
• ¤<994166>(0:16:34.2)Kate:oh, Ok ，对面，走吧， ok,
请带我们去 （ ( kate is reading naiyi's tyiping ）。对，
对， ok 。 请我们，我们去吧， Tlyer.
• ¤<1039188>(0:17:19.2)Kyle ：对， If that's the right
answer for that 。
• ¤<1045440>(0:17:25.4)Kate ：好的，我们去东海
((video out)).Tyler ，东海东海鱼店在， I already forget
to say, it’s here 在这儿，在这儿。在 is that right ？在
• ¤<1079589>(0:17:59.6)Kyle ： Right 。
• ¤<1081322>(0:18:01.3)Kate ： um-hum, 对 .
Take Away Message
Learners act into the opportunities and problematics afforded by
others and designed environments (Hodges 2007). Through the care
the quest prompted, and developed for each other in the challenge,
each learner acted out their identity and allowed the environment to
shape their new identity so to create new possibilities that invite
responsible action. Also through the caring interactions, learners
adopted new goals after each discourse and new challenge.
Conversations engaged are nurtured from good prospective acts of
collaboration that realize values. Embodied environments made all
these good prospective acts available and accessible.