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Research Proposal (2nd Rough Draft-06!15!09)2

Research Proposal (2nd Rough Draft-06!15!09)2

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Published by: awilker on Jun 15, 2009
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Capitalizing on Tandem Learning iCapitalizing on Tandem Learning in 2- and 3-D Virtual Environments:An Investigation of 
Second Life
Beth WilkersonEnglish 839Dr. Jan Holmevik June 23, 2009
Capitalizing on Tandem Learning ii
Broadly defined, tandem learning is a process whereby two people who speak different languages
learn each other’s language through bilingual conversation sessions. Within the last 15 years, tandem
learning has emerged in virtual environments, particularly in object-oriented multiple-user domains(MOOs). Although MOOs have been found effective in promoting second language acquisition (SLA),they are now being replaced with new technologies, such as tandem learning websites and virtual worlds.This proposal suggests a historical study of the evolution of tandem learning in the MOO, followed by acomparative study of tandem learning in
a 2-D social networking website, and 
Second Life,
a 3-Dvirtual world. It first outlines recent research concerning language learning in virtual environments,focusing specifically on tandem learning and briefly discussing some of its current applications and results. It then includes a methodology for undertaking the proposed thesis along with a tentativeschedule of completion and possible chapters and structure. Finally, it explains potential benefits of theresearch and offers a working bibliography.
Capitalizing on Tandem Learning 1
The summer before my senior year of college, I studied in Salamanca, Spain where I lived with a hostfamily. As I communicated with my host brother in Spanish, something unexpected happened:
beganto learn more English! Whenever I failed to comprehend something he said in Spanish, he would explain
the concept in the few English words he knew from college, and I would ―correct‖ any mistakes he made
in grammar or syntax. He returned the favor when I fumbled in Spanish, and through this dialogue, we
both improved our ability to communicate verbally in the other‘s native language. This idea of mutually
beneficial language improvement is at the heart of tandem learning, and my personal experiences withlanguage learning in this way will serve as a framework on which I base the research for my thesis.Broadly defined, tandem learning is the process whereby two people with complementary language skills
learn the other‘
s language through mutually beneficial interaction (Chung, Graves, Weshce, & Barfurth,2005). Thus, an Irish learner of Spanish may be combined with a Puerto Rican learner of English so that
the two can learn from each other, ―alternating between the role of L2 learner and L1 expert either face
-to-face, by e-mail, via chat systems or the MOO, [or] by audio- or video-
conferencing‖ (Schwienhorst,
2003, p. 431). Tandem learning operates closely alongside the principle of learner autonomy, the capacity
of the learner to ―develop a particular kind of psychological relation to the process an
d content of his
learning‖ (Little, 1991, p. 4). In other words,
learner autonomy stems from
responsibility for one‘s own
learning and the subsequent capability of reflecting on that learning. Within tandem learningenvironments, learner autonomy is closely aligned with the concept of reciprocity, the idea that
―eachlearner has to support their partner as much as they wish to support themselves‖ (Schwienho
rst, 2003, p.431).Since the early 1990s, tandem learning has been studied extensively in virtual environments, particularlyin object-oriented multiple-user domains (MOOs) (Schwienhorst, 2002; Schwienhorst, 2003;Schwienhorst, 2004 and Chung et al., 2005). While this research has provided a rich body of knowledgeabout tandem learning, much territory remains to be explored in virtual environments that have emerged within the last few years. To expand on current literature on tandem learning, I propose to write a thesisthat first provides a historical perspective of tandem learning in the MOO and then builds on thatresearch by examining two specific environments in which tandem learning can be employed today:
Second Life,
a three-dimensional online virtual world; and 
a two-dimensional social networkingsite.
My intent with this research is to examine whether three-dimensional tandem environmentsare necessarily more conducive to second language acquisition (SLA) than two-dimensional

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