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Technologies, morphologies of communicative action, and the rewilding of language education
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Bio

Steven L. Thorne (Ph.D., UC Berkeley) is Professor of Second Language Acquisition in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Portland State University (USA), with a secondary appointment in the Department of Applied Linguistics at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands). His interests include formative interventions in world languages education contexts, intercultural communication, communication across new media and mobile technologies, indigenous language revitalization, and research that draws upon contextual traditions of language analysis and usage-based and distributed approaches

to language development. In 2014, he was selected to receive the Faculty Research Excellence Award for assistant and associate professors at Portland State University. His research has appeared in numerous journals, edited collections, and books, the latter including Sociocultural Theory and the Genesis of Second Language Development (with James Lantolf, Oxford, 2006), Internet-mediated Intercultural Foreign Language Education (with Julie Belz, Thomson/Heinle, 2006), Language, Education, and Technology, Volume 9 of the Encyclopedia of Language and Education (3rd Edition) (with Stephen May, Springer, 2017), and Engaging the World: Social Pedagogies and Language Learning (with Sébastien Dubreil, Cengage, 2017).

Abstract

This presentation examines a range of issues at the confluence of three streams of research and pedagogical innovation: 1) technology, 2) human development, and 3) language use and learning. Across human history, information and communication technologies have had enormous effects on the processes they mediate and enable. Digital technologies in particular have amplified possibilities for communication in the areas of audience, impact, and speed while also facilitating the emergence of distinctive linguistic, multimodal, cultural, interactional, and cognitive practices. Moreover, in many regions of the world, digital technologies have become entwined with everyday action and interaction, specifically in the use and interpretation of semiotic resources for the construction, negotiation, and contestation of meanings, identities, and relationships. The broader argument is that technologies are constitutive forms of human culture that mediate and shape cognition, communication, and material action. In this talk, I describe contradictory appraisals of digital media and then present empirical studies of L2 and plurilingual language use and learning. Included are case studies of “learning in the wild” (in the sense of Hutchins, 1995), focusing primarily on interaction in environments outside of formal education, which then come to inform pedagogical interventions that attempt to “rewild” instructed language learning. Together, these projects apply multiple approaches (i.e., sociocultural and activity theory, usage-based linguistics, ethnomethodology, posthumanism), evince social justice commitments, and address foreign, second, and indigenous language contexts. I conclude by arguing that language development is usefully understood as adaptive semiotic bricolage catalyzed by high engagement, motivated by social relationships of consequence, and that humans, artifacts, and environments together create particular morphologies of action, with the implication that social and material educational processes should be designed accordingly.

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