When is an affordance really an affordance?
Increasing L2 complexity
through video postings
CALICO 2015, Boulder, CO
Robert Blake,
(many thanks to Kim Morris and Gabriel Guillén, hybrid instructors)
What is a CALL affordance?
the use of a technological tool that allows
learners to engage with the L2 in new or more
productive ways.
Intermediate hybrid SPA
SPA 21Y (150-200 contact hours)
SPA 22Y (200-250 contact hours)
three sources of production data:
synchronous chats (1 hour/week)
asynchronous video postings (1 hour/week)
compositions (about 1 / week)
CANVAS: “best recording” (Wood
asynchronous video postings
But tasks themselves affects student output!
Schmidt (1990, p. 143) NOTICING HYPOTHESIS observes, “Task demands are a
powerful determinant of what is noticed” in experimental settings “and provide one of
the basic arguments that what is learned is what is noticed.”
Skehan (1998, p. 97) LIMITED COMPLEXITY HYPOTHESIS suggests that tasks
often “consume more attentional resources…with the result that less attention
is available for focus on form.” Consequently, we have a trade-off: tasks can
lead either to increased complexity or better accuracy, but not to both.
Robinson (2011, p. 14) COGNITION HYPOTHESIS submits that if the tasks are
sequenced correctly, “…increasing complexity is argued to promote more accurate ,
grammaticized production…” In particular, tasks involving intentional reasoning
(beliefs and desires of others)that require L2 learners to make linguistic reference to
the mental states of others, increasing complexity along these dimensions: Greater
effort of conceptualization promotes complexity and accuracy.
Asynchronous video postings appear to follow the COGNITION
HYPOTHESIS because of the increased planning time—
provided that the tasks are chosen wisely.
Sample tasks:
a description of the ideal job
a memorable trip
the most important human virtue
ecological concerns
internet use
money management
childhood experiences
winning the lottery
health care issues
What students say (exit survey)
about the video posting tasks:
ACCURACY: “I was able to rehearse and correct myself beforehand.”
COMPLEXITY:“I think the video recordings were helpful because they
forced you to expand deeper into topics and explain why you held certain
opinions, rather than just asking you to state certain facts.” (60%)
ACCURACY:“I prepared more for the video recordings [than the oral chats]
because you have total control over what will be said, you have the ability
to think about how to say it and [to] look up anything you may need.”
COMPLEXITY:They could produce more complex sentences because they
had the “luxury of being able to pre-plan” what would be recorded making
the final product “more like an essay rather than a conversation” (80%)
case study: Janice
discursive style of oral chats
A string of tersely worded sentences, fragments, and
Heavy use of paratactic pero (“but”) and other
conjunctions such as y (“and”) and porque (“why”)
Few complex sentences; only one repeated stock
phrase/cliché: creo que… (“I believe/think that…”),
used in a paratactic fashion.
Janice: oral chats
[non-contrastic, paratactic <pero>]
Yo [sic] no me gusta mirar béisbol en la tele tampoco/
pero en persona sí/ pero me gusta mirar baloncesto
mucho/ porque es muy rápido/ y por eso no es aburrido/
pero no tengo un equipo favorito/ pero mi papá es de
Nueva York/ y por eso cuando era niña me gustaban los
Yankees/ pero ahora me gustan los Giants.
I don’t like to watch baseball on television either/ but I
do in person./ But I like to watch baseball a lot
/because it’s very fast /and that’s why it isn’t boring/
but I don’t have a favorite team /but my dad is from
New York/ and that’s why when I was a little girl I liked
the Yankees/ but now I like the Giants.
Janice: video postings
much more sophisticated
Si me tocara [N.B. past subjunctive!] la lotería, creo
que me pagaría por el resto de mi educación porque
ahora mis padres lo pagan y me gustaría eliminar los
[sic] responsabilidades del precio de mi educación de mis
If I were to win the lottery, I think that it would pay for
the rest of my education because right now my parents
pay it and I would like to eliminate the responsibility of
the price of my education from my parents.
Janice: writing
He estudiado el español durante varios tiempos de mi vida pero no
creo que defina bilingüe ahora, aunque me gustaría serlo. He
aprendido mucho en los últimos tres años y por eso he avanzado a
nuevos niveles en mi hablar. Ahora puedo comunicar en español
en un nivel relativamente alto y tengo la confiencia [sic] a hablar
con personas españoles, pero a veces es difícil hablar con los
habladores nativos.
I have studied Spanish for several years of my life but I don´t
think that I define [meet the definition of a] bilingual right now,
although I would love to be one. I have learned much in the last
three years and for that reason, I have advanced to new levels in
talking. Now I can communicate in Spanish on a relatively high
level and I have confidence talking with Spanish-speaking people,
but sometimes it´s hard speaking to native speakers.
Case study: Janice
Oral Chats
Video Postings
pero “but”
y “and”
porque (“cuz”)
Coordinate Ss
Embedded Ss
(22% > creo que*)
# of Words/T
* creo que is being used as a paratactic conjunction just like paratactic pero
What do the video postings
provide the researcher?
The added planning time helps make the case that
what is produced is what the learner can do under the
best of circumstances: In Janice´s case, more
embedded clauses separated by a
complementizer with fully conjugated verbs
(± change of subject).
So, what about the Spanish subjunctive? Complex
clauses mean mood choices are inevitable.
Janice´s mood choices?
•Spanish doesn´t have infinitive complements like in English: “I want you Ø to go
the store” and Janice did NOT transfer this structure over from the L1
•It´s rare to find Janice eliminating the complementizer <que> as in English
BAD NEWS: Correct mood choices lie beyond Janice´s linguistic competence at the
intermediate level.
•Janice repeatedly failed use the subjunctive in all but 2/11 eleven cases
•More planning time afforded by writing compositions did not improve her
performance on mood choices either.
These difficulties with mood choices should not be surprising if careful note is taken
of when the Common European Framework of Reference suggests that the subjunctive
be introduced into the curriculum: at the B1/B2 level or after a minimal of 480
contact hours with the target language. Students in Janice´s cohort had only logged a
maximum of 250 contact hours by the end of the two hybrid courses—too little time
to reach proficiency with this tricky part of Spanish grammar, while also juggling the
structural challenges of complex sentences.
Collentine (2010)
Learners need to be at a point in their
development where they reliably produce
subordinate clauses instead of depending
on paratactic strategies or being heavily
dependent on coordination for relating
ideas such as cause-effect and stance.
N.B.: Janice´s last oral chat
Yo tampoco/ no tengo algunos exámenes esta
semana/ pero tengo un proyecto que debo
entregar el viernes/ pero no me importa mucho/
pero creo que no va a ser bastante difícil.
Me neither…/ I don´t have any exams this week/
but I have a project that I have to turn in on
Friday/ but I´m not worried much/ but I believe
that it´s not going to be very hard.
Yes, real affordance!
• In oral chats, students still relie on paratactic strategies
(i.e. infrequent embedded clauses), but Janice surely
benefits from the additional practice afforded by the
asynchronous recordings WITH MANY COMPLEX
SENTENCES. Basic structures are correct.
• This is good!
• More practice and more language study will gradually
reshape Janice´s interlanguage; the subjunctive will
come also.
• For the researcher, this tool allows us to follow the
learning process under the best of conditions, which is
also a very good thing because it gives us a more complete
picture of proficiency (i.e., what the L2 students can do).
--Blake, R. (2013). Brave new digital classroom. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown
University Press.
--Collentine, J. 2010. The Acquisition and Teaching of the Spanish Subjunctive:
An Update on Current Findings. Hispania 93(1): 39-51.
--Larsen-Freeman, D. 1983. Assessing global second language proficiency. In H.
Seliger and M. Long (eds), Classroom Oriented Research in Second Language
Acquisition. Rowley, MA: Newbury House Publishers, Inc.
--Nation, P. (2001). Learning Vocabulary in Another Language. Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press.
--Robinson, P. (2011). Task-based language learning: A review of issues.
Language Learning, 61: 1-36.
--Schmidt, R. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language learning.
Applied Linguistics, 11, 127–158.
--Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
--Wood, D. (2010). Formulaic language and second language speech fluency:
Background, evidence, and classroom applications. London/New York:

When is an affordance really an affordance? Increasing