Session Ten—Viral Videos

Marly-Gomont rap music video by Kamini.
According to a Time magazine article of December 2006, a young man dreamed of becoming a hip hop artist. Hailing from the only black family in a small village in France where, according to this musician, the average age is 65, Kamini rapped about his personal experiences, posted it online and quickly became an overnight sensation. The time from posting to signing a recording deal with RCA? Not even two months. Why is this significant for us as educators? These sites can serve as additional resources for authentic material for classroom instruction. Kamini’s Marly-Gamont video engages not only through music and song, but also provides authentic, meaningful content that allows us to explore, with our students, multiple topics such as racism, community, and adolescence, as seen through the lens of another and to compare them with our own experiences. As the Educause article, “7 Things You Should Know About YouTube” concludes, “YouTube is part of a trend among Net Generation students to replace passive learning with active participation, where everyone has a voice, anyone can contribute, and the value lies less in the content itself than in the networks of learners that form around content and support one another in learning goals.”

Planning for Neomillennial Learning Styles: Implications for Investments in Technology and Faculty by Chris Dede of Harvard University extends the conversation further to describe the impact emerging technologies will have on the upcoming generation of students, the ‘neomillennials’, particularly with regards to situated learning.

During class we’ll look at some popular video posting sites such as YouTube, GoogleVideo, TeacherTube and Ustream. We’ll also continue work on our class wiki and discuss progress on our classroom projects.


I think that virtual worlds–as described in the Educause chapter and Educause’s article– can be great tools for the language class, since they can provide authentic material. I got, for example, the following information from the Goethe Institut New York: earlier this month, Florian Thalhofer, a new-media artist and documentary filmmaker from Berlin, started traveling all over the United States by motorcycle (provided by BMW), while U.S. filmmaker Mark Simon travels throughout Germany by car. During their journeys, each filmmaker writes about his experiences, collects stories, and conducts interviews, posted daily as a video weblog, or “vlog.” Their route is determined by interested folks in the U.S. and in Germany who reply to their “Americans wanted”/ “Germans wanted” online ad.

The filmmakers can be contacted via to suggest itineraries and potential interview candidates and to comment on the project. When I checked out the website and these virtual worlds it was very fascinating. They covered in both countries very different people and stories. I was amazed how much insight one can get into a variety of ideas, personalities, landscapes etc. (similar to Kamini-without the need to travel there myself!). It allows me to “dive” into worlds I otherwise might not have known. Also, I think it is a great idea, that the viewers can-by commenting and suggesting-contribute as well and thus become part of these virtual worlds. As mentioned above, one could also apply to be interviewed which would be another part of sharing “social networks” and-as the Educause article named it-“become part of a community” (of course this is a virtual one and might be short-lived; nevertheless one can be part of it).

Thus, from a teacher’s perspective, if students participate, these virtual worlds can lead to more active participation. I would also like to point out, that I like to show short videos on youtube since they make the classroom more energetic. It is a good tool “to spice up” a language class. In my Business German Class, for example, we ended our session on advertisement law in Germany with discussions on some funny and provocative German advertisement videos on you tube. This definitely enhanced the textbook. Of course one has to be careful what to show in a classroom, but used in an appropriate way, it can be a wonderful addition to the language class learning.



After months of complaints and comments dripping with cynicism, I can finally say that I am enthusiastic (yes, I am using the “e” word) about an article. The Dede piece was absolutely terrific: the connection of virtual environments and augmented realities is to “neomillennial learning styles”, although the use of avatars rings of online D&D, of a sort seen in an American Dad! episode (but this is a good thing, since it is a medium with which our students are certainly familiar [this is an assumption which I have made in past postings by the Clayton-Pedersen piece led me to the realization that I was mistaken]). These virtual environments and augmented realities undoubtedly have fundamental implications for higher education, especially for language learning as I have been enthusiastically (ah, that word again) sustaining for some time now. Salzman’s dichotomy of exocentric frame of reference and egocentric frame of reference, as it is supplemented in the article with the addition of a “bicentric” perspective, which alternates between these two poles, if used the foreign language teaching by means of augmented realities cannot but be beneficial to students for whom a study abroad may not be economically feasible.

Full immersion, anyone?
The definition of Immersion as the subjective impression that one is participating in a comprehensive, realistic experience, cannot but recall once again the Holodeck of Star Trek fame (interestingly enough, the bibliography includes Janet H. Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1997). The connection between a simulated experience and the fantastic is a logical one if we take into consideration that the “willing suspension of disbelief” mentioned in the article derives from Coleridge’s theory of the same name in his Biographia Literaria (1817) in relation to the supernatural (significantly, in the essay “On Fairy-Stories,” Tolkien refuted Coleridge’s theory, positing instead a notion of subcreation, a narrative approach to the fantastic hinged on an internal consistency of reality. The point is however that this interactive and immersive Web 2.0 tool has immediate applications through the use of authentic scenarios.


One Response to “Session Ten—Viral Videos”

  1. rventura Says:

    Dear Felice,
    I totally agree with you, and also I wanted to stress Dede’s idea on “fluency” (page 9). I think virtual worlds will be useful for any language students and especially for those who feel under pressure in class. Virtual world, like any other internet social portal, offers a relaxed environment. How many times as instructors, in class, we were faced with a the answer from a student ” I don’t feel comfortable to speak in public?” Well I think that VW will help those “shy” students to acquire that fluency (given only by experiencing the direct use of any language) hinted by Dede.

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