Friday, June 26, 2009

Kim (2008) The Role of Task-Induced Involvement and Learner Proficiency in L2 Vocabulary Acquisition

Cited by 1 [ATGSATOP]

Another paper that I am reading as part of a meta-analysis of second language vocabulary learning. I had started to read this and then paused for three weeks while I read three background theoretical papers (Laufer & Hulstijn, 2001; Hulstijn, 2001; Hulstijin, 2003) that made this one much easier to understand.

This paper is an experimental study in two parts designed to test L&H's involvement load hypothesis. One concern is control of time on task, since this varied in L&H's experimental attempt to assess involvement load hypothesis. Knight (1994) apparently brings this issue up in general for things like dictionary look up tasks. All through I was concerned with precisely how vocabulary knowledge was being measured. Like Folse (2006) Kim used the Vocabulary Knowledge Scale (VKS; Paribahkt & Wesche, 1993) but I still wonder what L&H used - later on it is described as providing L1 translation or English explanations. Laufer's (2003) experiment gave support for different performance based on different levels of involvement load, however another experiment in the set gave varying performance for three tasks that were supposed to have the same involvement load (distribution was different?). Am keen to know Laufer's explanation of that - that paper also on our reading list?

Laufer (2001) apparently indicates that involvement load construct should generalise from textual to face to face audio situations, which I had assumed, but good to be able to reference that assertion given the wide range of studies we are applying the concept to.  I was unsure of the meaning of interactionally modified input versus interactionaly modified output, and in particular the concept of premodified input, although this is in the context of L&H(2001) that I guess I should be reading.

I was concerned about the random assignment implications of the split between the two experiments. One of the experimental groups from the first experiment is compared with a group constructed for the second experiment, which I think was run subsequently, and although similar had a slightly different mix of ages and nationalities.

Another concern is that it seems we could explain results independently of involvement load. In the reading condition the learners attention is only drawn to the target words through emphasis and glossing. In the gap-fill condition the learners attention is drawn to 15 words, and in the composition and sentence writing conditions the learners attention is drawn to the 10 words they will be tested on. Purely in terms of attention one might expect to see the results that were achieved. In the experiment that tested the three different involvement load levels, the immediate post test only distinguished the composition group as significantly higher, while the delayed post test distinguished all three - there was no interaction or main effect for proficiency level. The second experiment made no distinction between the composition and sentence-writing tasks. I had been wondering earlier if the results could all be explained in terms of receptive/productive or active/passive differences, although the significant difference between reading and gap-fill at post-test could not, but now I realise that there were 15 words being brought to attention in the gap-fill task, it seems that the results can all be explained in terms of attentional resources. Another question is whether the comprehension questions needed understanding of the target words in order to be answered (looking at appendix b I would say not really).

I am concerned about the bias of using the VKS tests, and the author expresses some concerns as well. I find the alleged pedagogical implications sit uneasily with me, since I am not sure that showing a benefit on a VKS test necessarily indicates that the learner has gained something of importance.  The key problem here is that the VKS sentence generation task could represent various sorts of ability on the part of the learner, e.g. that they memorized a sentence containing the word versus actually generating a novel sentence.  In particular it seems that if a learner was specifically practicing sentence generation or doing essay composition for a particular set of vocabulary that this would increase performance on the test through a practice effect.  It seems to be obvious that practicing a productive skill would lead to higher performance on productive tests, whereas practicing a receptive skill would lead to benefits on receptive tests.  The question I would like to know the answer to is what kind of transfer do we get cross-task, and thus motivational concerns aside, what is the most efficient approach to take to maximise ability on both receptive and productive tasks.

Reading proofs of our soon to be publshed paper on vocabulary study (Joseph et al. 2009) I am struck that as we discuss how to make tests more and more challenging, we are not addressing the goal of the language learner. We are arguing that gradually more challenging tasks maintains motivation and boosts long term retention, but the real question should be what is the long term task that the learner wants to succeed at. Clearly looking up a word in a dictionary can help a learner understand a sentence they are reading. The question is then whether other activity related to that word should be undertaken. The usual argument in L2 is that if nothing else is done then exposure to low frequency words will be insufficient for the learner to avoid having to look the word up again in future. I guess the real question is whether some sort of "artificial" re-exposure to the word will be a more efficient way of increasing the likelihood of future sentence comprehension, versus using that same time to just do more reading ... and what kind of experiment could actually test which approach was more efficient? I guess one could have learners perform a reading comprehension task, and then have one group perform another reading comprehension task, while a second group did vocabulary review, and then both groups would be tested on another reading comprehension task that was of comparable level and contained similar words. So for this kind of experiment we would need three different texts of comparable length, involving the same "target" vocabulary?

Depending on the results of such an experiment an argument could be made to say that although explicit vocabulary study was not recommended, that selection of subsequent texts for additional comprehension practice could be selected based on which words were looked up by a learner, in order to increase the chances of a rewarding experience - which is linked to overall motivation issue, i.e. should the learner be reading anything other than texts they specifically select themselves?

[A great deal of research has shown that when learners study definitions alone their ability to comprehend text containing the target words does not improve (Graves, 1986; Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986)] from Joseph et al. (2009), so I wonder if doing essay composition, or gap filling leads to improvements in text comprehension.

[N.B. The Kim paper also references some more studies showing the importance of negotiation that I was previously associating with Newton (1995), i.e. de la Fuente (2002) and Joe (1995, 1998) although latter focused on generative rather than negotiated tasks?]

ResearchBlogging.orgKim, Y. (2008). The Role of Task-Induced Involvement and Learner Proficiency in L2 Vocabulary Acquisition Language Learning, 58 (2), 285-325 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9922.2008.00442.x

My References

Joseph S.R.H., Watanabe Y., Shiung Y.-J., Choi B. & Robbins C. (2009) Key Aspects of Computer Assisted Vocabulary Learning (CAVL): Combined Effects of Media, Sequencing and Task Type. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning. 4(2) 1-36. 

Kim's References
Arlov, P. (2000). Wordsmith: A guide to college writing (Cited by 3). Upper Saddler River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Barcroft, J. (2002). Semantic and structural elaboration in L2 lexical acquisition (Cited by 34). Language Learning, 52(2), 323–363.
Baddeley, A. D. (1978). The trouble with levels: A reexamination of Craik and Lockhart (Cited by 190)’s framework for memory research. Psychological Review, 85, 139–152.
Brown, T. S., & Perry, F. L., Jr. (1991). A comparison of three learning strategies for ESL vocabulary acquisition, TESOL Quarterly, 25, 655–671.
Cho, K-S., & Krashen, S. (1994). Acquisition of vocabulary from the Sweet Valley Kids Series: Adult ESL acquisition. Journal of Reading, 37, 662–667.
Craik, F. I. M., & Lockhart, R. S. (1972). Levels of processing: A framework for memory research (Cited by 3428). Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11, 671–684.
Craik, F. I. M., & Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory (Cited by 1346). Journal of Experimental Psychology; General, 104, 268–294.
de la Fuente, M. J. (2002). Negotiation and oral acquisition of L2 vocabulary: The roles of input and output in the receptive and productive acquisition of words. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 24, 81–112.
Ellis, N. C. (2001). Memory for language (Cited by 97). In P. Robinson (Ed.), Cognition and second language instruction (pp. 33–68). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ellis, R., & He, X. (1999). The role of modified input and output in the incidental acquisition of word meaning (Cited by 0). Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21, 285–301.
Ellis, R., Tanaka, Y., & Yamazaki, A. (1994). Classroom interaction, comprehension, and L2 vocabulary acquisition (Cited by 19). Language Learning, 44, 449–491.
Howell, D. C. (2002). Statistical methods for psychology (Cited by 3067) (5th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Duxbury.
Hulstijn, J. H., Hollander, M., & Greidanus, T. (1996). Incidental vocabulary learning by advanced foreign language students: The influence of marginal glosses,
dictionary use, and reoccurrence of unknown words
(Cited by 185). The Modern Language Journal, 80, 327–339.
Hulstijn, J. H., & Laufer, B. (2001). Some empirical evidence for the involvement load hypothesis in vocabulary acquisition (Cited by 91). Language Learning, 51, 539–558.
Joe, A. (1995). Text-based tasks and incidental vocabulary learning (Cited by 44). Second Language Research, 11, 149–158.
Joe, A. (1998). What effects do text-based tasks promoting generation have on incidental vocabulary acquisition (Cited by 62)? Applied Linguistics, 19, 357–377.
Knight, S. M. (1994). Dictionary use while reading: The effects on comprehension and vocabulary acquisition for students of different verbal abilities (Cited by 150). Modern Language Journal, 78, 285–299.
Laufer, B. (2000). Electronic dictionaries and incidental vocabulary acquisition: Does technology make a difference (Cited by 20)? In U. Heid, S. Evert, E. Lehmann, & C. Rohrer (Eds.), EURALEX (pp. 849–854). Stuttgart: Stuttgart University Press.
Laufer, B. (2001). Reading, word-focused activities and incidental vocabulary acquisition in a second language (Cited by 15). Prospect, 16(3), 44–54.
Laufer, B. (2003). Vocabulary acquisition in a second language: Do learners really acquire most vocabulary by reading (Cited by 44)? Some empirical evidence. Canadian Modern Language Review, 59, 567–587.
Laufer, B., & Hulstijn, J. H. (2001). Incidental vocabulary acquisition in a second language: The construct of task-induced involvement (Cited by 150). Applied Linguistics, 22, 1–26.
Luppescu, S., & Day, R. R. (1993). Reading, dictionaries and vocabulary learning (Cited by 99). Language Learning, 43, 263–287.
Nassaji, H. (2002). Schema theory and knowledge-based processes in second language reading comprehension: A need for alternative perspectives (Cited by 46). Language Learning, 52(2), 439–482.
Nation, P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language (Cited by 807). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Newton, J. (1995). Task-based interaction and incidental vocabulary learning: A case study (Cited by 39). Second Language Research, 11, 159–177.
Paribakht, T. S., & Wesche, M. (1993). The relationship between reading comprehension and second language development in a comprehension-based ESL program (Cited by 84). TESL Canada Journal, 11, 9–29. Language Learning 58:2, June 2008, pp. 285–325
Paribakht, T. S., & Wesche, M. (1997). Vocabulary enhancement activities and reading for meaning in second language vocabulary acquisition (Cited by 136). In J. Coady & T. Huckin (Eds.), Second language vocabulary acquisition: A rationale for pedagogy (pp.174–200). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pulido, D. (2003). Modeling the role of second language proficiency and topic familiarity in second language incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading (Cited by 38). Language Learning, 53(2), 233–284.
Read, J. (2000). Assessing vocabulary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rott, S. (2004). A comparison of output interventions and un-enhanced reading conditions on vocabulary acquisition and text comprehension (Cited by 1). The Canadian Modern Language Review, 61(2), 169–202.
Rott, S., Williams, J., & Cameron, R. (2002). The effect of multiple-choice L1 glosses and input-output cycles on lexical acquisition and retention (Cited by 20). Language Teaching Research, 6, 183–222.
Stahl, S. A., & Clark, C. H. (1987). The effects of participatory expectations in classroom discussion on the learning of science vocabulary (Cited by 20). American Educational Research Journal, 24(1), 541–555.
Waring, R., & Takaki, M. (2003). At what rate do learners learn and retain new vocabulary from reading a graded reader (Cited by 46)? Reading in a Foreign Language, 15(2), 130–163.
Wesche, M., & Paribakht, T. S. (1996). Assessing second language vocabulary knowledge: Depth vs (Cited by 7). breadth. Canadian Modern Language Review, 53, 13–39.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fighting with Android Layouts - lack of row spanning

So I've been trying to layout a couple of icons, two pieces of text and an image in an Android GUI, and have so far been thwarted from achieving the effect that I desire.

I've tried various arrangements and I still can't get what I want. My initial layout was just to use a simple table layout like the one on the left, which with android:shrinkColumns="1" means that the sentences get wrapped which looks good.

Results from emulator in image on left(translation sound icon is hidden when not available). My only complaint is that the image doesn't span two rows leaving a lot of blank space between sentences. Unfortunately it seems that Android tables don't support row spanning according to this Google groups post.

Next I tried a table within table layout as shown on the left, but try as i might with different combinations of stretch and shrink columns, either the image would get knocked onto the next row (as shown), or when it wasn't the bottom of the text would be cut off.

After that I tried experimenting with RelativeLayouts, where you can specify that one item should be positioned relative to another using syntax like android:layout_toRightOf = "@id/sentence_sound".

My first attempt - shown further down on the left, used a single RelativeLayout inside a table (tables seeming to be the only way to get the text to wrap), and that was probably the best result, given that the translation sound was absent.

You can see from the black image the way the translation sound doesn't line up with the translation from the eclipse GUI. Given the translation sound is usually absent in the content I am dealing with I will go with that for the moment.

The reason for giving up there is that what I thought was my clever final approach - to nest relative layouts, so we had one for the sentence and sound, and a second for the translation and sound, and place one above the other - leads to the complete disappearance of the translation, even though the hierarchy viewer claims that it's there.

I guess what I am attempting to do is a bit of a corner case, but it has been frustrating not to get the layout just as I wanted - almost as frustrating as trying to get all these images lined up in this blog post :-)

Even with these images I would be surprised if anyone can really understand what I'm doing. For replication, I really need an easy way to associate the XML layout files with each imsge. I'll happily provide those if anyone thinks they know a solution.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Koubarakis (2003) Multi-Agent Systems and Peer to Peer Computing: Methods, Systems and Challenges

So I must have read this paper about 3 or 4 times now.  It was originally recommended to me by Gianluca Moro as being a good paper to read about what MultiAgent Systems (MAS) research might have to offer peer to peer (P2P) research.  In Koubarakis' opinion the Agents field was slower to pick up tools and techniques from the P2P community than some other fields and that this was disappointing given that:
deployed P2P systems can be considered an interesting case of MAS as pointed out originally [by Finin & Labrou (2000)].
Koubarakis further suggests specifically that:
MAS can readily offer concepts and techniques that can be useful to P2P computing at the application modeling and design level (e.g., ontologies for describing network resources in a semantically meaningful way, protocols for meaning negotiation, P2P system modeling and design methodologies etc.).
Interestingly I was at an Agents conference in 2000 where Tim Finin spoke at the scalability workshop as to how Napster might be "improved" using ontologies, and I remember comments afterwards to the effect that Napster was doing just fine without ontologies.  What I keep coming back to here is the question of whether ontologies and sophisticated protocols for meaning negotiation would provide any short-term benefit for P2P system users and developers.  I have several layers of comments about this in the paper from my various passes over this point, but the summary is that a sophisticated layer of middle agents on which to base applications could allow developers to avoid re-implementing lower layers again and again, but that any individual developer is not going to have much patience with that kind of system if they don't see some immediate benefit.  In addition in the first instance there are likely to be drawbacks in as much as P2P applications need to operate blindingly fast to produce the best results for the end user, and as such P2P protocols are simple and robust.  Support for complex negotiations seems like it would slow things down.

Nevertheless, Koubarakis presents a review of what P2P research might offer MAS research and vice versa.  The former makes sense to me; P2P systems can offer look up services that agent systems use, and basically be an infrastructure component for MAS.  It is in the latter case that I still struggle with understanding the benefits, i.e. what agent research can offer to P2P developers.  I guess it is important to distinguish between P2P researchers and P2P developers, but I will attempt that elsewhere.  Koubarakis' first example is of the application of agent based software engineering methodologies to P2P systems.  I think this is one that I glossed over in earlier readings, and now that I look up the referenced paper by Bertollini et al. (2002) I see that the Tropos software engineering methodology (from a very quick skim) allows a diagrammatic summary of the Napster and Gnutella architectural designs, which they then abstract away from to produce a generic peer to peer virtual community pattern which can then be used to support the implementation of particular P2P solutions using the JXTA framework (JXTA forums are still active, but not clear what the status of that project is, particularly since Oracle bought Sun).  Interestingly the example implementation used comes from health care, which is an application domain I compared Agents and P2P in myself (Tse et al., 2006).  I am not deeply familiar with the effectiveness of agent-oriented software design, but this does seem like an area where agent theory might have something to offer.  At least, some sort of formal approach could be helpful in the design of distributed systems.

Next up is the idea from Tim Finin; build ontologies on top of P2P systems.  The Edutella project is given as an example, although that project appears to have petered out; at least the Edutella website has not been updated since 2004, although there are more recent academic publications on Edutella.  Of course even if the Edutella project has not been a great success that doesn't mean there can't be some value to be derived from building ontologies on top of P2P systems, but I struggle to see what they are.  of course this relates to the whole question of the "Semantic Web", which I find a recent Tim O'Reilly post on.  O'Reilly is talking about rich data snippets that allow Google results to display more strucutre.  There is a whole bundle of ideas here, but I should try and finish my summary of Koubarakis' paper before straying into that territory.

Koubarakis specifically mentions the Semantic Web while refering to work by Karl Aberer on local onotologies and local translations among ontologies of neighboring peers.  Aberer's paper "The Chatty Web: Emergent Semantics Through Gossiping" is cited by 156 [ATGSATOP], and there certainly seems to be a rich research vein there.  I see some interesting articles looking at emergent semantics deriving from folksonomies - another area I have published in (Joseph et al., 2009).  A skim of Aberer's article indicates that the problem they are hoping to address is inter-ontology mapping so that, for example, one could send out a query to get project titles from multiple different data sources, where the meta-data format was potentially different in each case, e.g. multiple XML documents where in one case we have <project><title>My Project</title></project> and in another we have <project-title>Project X</project-title>.  Without reading that paper in more detail it is not clear to me to what extent schema/ontology authors have to provide mappings, and to what extent users are giving feedback on failed matches; but the authors reference other work on automated ontology matching which I guess is what this is all about.  Say I want to formulate my query for a flight and send it out to all the online travel sites, I don't have to force them to all use the same schema - there is some process that just handles the translation between the different terms used by each site so that everyone can agree on how to query on things like "departure time".  Still seems like the simple short term solution is to have translations provided by 3rd parties, if at all.  Not clear to me why the effort of automating ontology matching brings great bounty.

Next up is BestPeer, which apparently improves on a P2P system by adding mobile agents.  I have a long standing point (Joseph & Kawamura, 2001) about the unpredictable benefits of mobile agents, and I have the BestPeer paper on my reading list, so will discuss that in a future blog post.  The final work mentioned in the section on what agents could offer P2P systems is theoretical analysis of search in distributed agent systems by Shehory (1999), which I also have on my reading list, so more on that soon.  Overall I think I am being more and more persuaded that there is agent research that can inform P2P researchers, but the more complex question is whether agent research is useful for P2P developers.  My main gripe is that simply citing the list of properties that agents should have (e.g. autonomy, reactivity) etc. is not enough to explain their value.  One has to present mechanisms that support autonomy, reactivity and so forth, and then show how their use brings some specific benefit to the system they are being incorporated to.  I guess the alternative tack here is to say that the agent field has lots of analysis into the behaviour of systems comprised of multiple autonomous entities, and attempts at producing design guidelines to handle development of such systems.

The next section in the paper is on bottom-up approaches to MAS such as projects like DIET and BISON which are inspired by natural ecosystems.  This is certainly an interesting area of research and the suggestion seems to be that these lightweight multi-agents platforms could serve as a testbed for P2P systems, although it feels a little back to front given that the granularity of P2P systems is usually smaller than even the simplest multi-agent systems.  I think the challenge here is that laboratory based platforms like these are generally likely to be cut off from real P2P users, unless it achieves critical mass within the research community itself.  Clearly such things can be used as test-beds to provide theoretical results about distributed systems; but any P2P system that is hoping to be used by a non-trivial number of people is probably going to have to be built "close to the metal".  Again I am skirting up against this difference between P2P users, developers and researchers.

The final portion of this paper focuses on Koubarakis' own research of P2P publish and subscribe systems.  Koubarakis' approach is based on the idea that:
The next generation of P2P data sharing systems should be developed in a principled and formal way and classical results from logic and theoretical computer science should be applied
although that makes me think of a chapter in the book "The Next Fifty Years" where Paul Ewald talks about how in medicine fundamental achievements have occurred more through the testing of deductive leaps than by building-block induction, giving examples such as Edward Jenner's discovery of vaccination in the absence of knowledge of viruses as evidence that simply trying to understand the workings of disease at the cellular and biochemical levels may be insufficient to make great leaps.

Actually I'm not sure of the validity of my analogy here, since I had been thinking of Ewald's points as being related to the importance of accidental discovery versus theoretically informed developments, when actually they are slightly different, since the process of generating a hypothesis to test necessarily involves some theoretical input.  Although I think my concern stems from the plethora of available theories and the difficulty in assessing the extent to which different theories are experimentally grounded.  Developing P2P systems in a principled and formal way will certainly be attractive to those who are well versed in the principles and formal theories of computer science.  Having spent some time becoming more versed in them myself I am not convinced that they are purely virtuous.  I feel there is an extent to which theory can end up serving itself rather than serving the development of useful techniques and systems.

In conclusion Koubarakis cites results from his research where they calculate worst case upper bounds for the complexity of satisfying and filtering queries within their publish and subscribe networks.  I think a lot of my personal confusion in this area comes down to differentiating between systems that are simulations designed to provide support for theoretical results versus systems that are frameworks that one might hope to build applications for use in the real world.

One of the key things I realise re-reading all these papers is how I am not really interested in industrial software engineering.  I am not really interested in developing techniques that might be used in factories or supply chain management. I am interested in writing code that everyday end users (including myself) interact with.  It was the potential of the digital butler that got me interested in agents.  P2P systems and search engines were interesting because of the experience they delivered to the end user.  I think that's what I repeatedly struggle with regarding agents research - trying to find something of direct use to the end user.
Cited by 12 [ATGSATOP]

Manolis Koubarakis (2003). Multi-agent systems and peer-to-peer computing: Methods, systems, and challenges Lecture notes in computer science, 2782, 46-61

References (my scholar system couldn't handle this papers reference format - didn't want to burn time on fixing that at the moment)

K. Aberer, P. Cudre-Mauroux, and M. Hauswirth. The Chatty Web: Emergent Semantics Through Gossiping. In Twelfth International World Wide Web Conference (WWW2003), May 2003.

D. Bertolini, P. Busetta, A. Molani, M. Nori, and A. Perini. Designing peerto- peer applications: an agent-oriented approach. In Proceeding of International Workshop on Agent Technology and Software Engineering (AgeS)-Net Object Days 2002 (NODe02), volume 2592 of Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence, pages 1–15. Springer, October 7–10 2002.

T.W. Finin and Y. Labrou. Napster as a Multi-Agent System. Presentation at the 18th FIPA meeting, University of Maryland Baltimore County, July 2000.

Joseph S.R.H. Yukawa J., Suthers D. & Harada V. (2009) Adapting to the Evolving Vocabularies of Learning Communities. International Journal of Knowledge and Learning.

Joseph S. & Kawamura T. (2001) Why Autonomy Makes the Agent.  In Agent Engineering, Eds. Liu, J, Zhong, N, Tang, Y.Y. and Wang P. World, Scientific Publishing.

O. Shehory. A Scalable Agent Location Mechanism. In Proceedings of ATAL 1999, pages 162–172, 1999.

Tse B., Raman P. & Joseph S. (2006) Information Flow Analysis in Autonomous Agent and Peer-to-Peer Systems for Self-Organizing Electronic Health Records In Agents and Peer to Peer Computing, Eds Joseph S.R.H., Despotovic Z., Moro G. & Bergamaschi S. Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence, Volume 4461.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Csikszentmihalyi & Hermanson (1999) Intrinsic Motivation in Museums: Why Does One Want to Learn?

This is another paper that was recommended to me by Peter Leong who is teaching a course in Second Life this summer for the College of Education at the University of Hawaii. We are trying to better understand how we might build engaging learning spaces in Second Life.

Reading this paper I started wondering what proportion of the population went to museums. Superficially I imagine computer games and films/tv to be far more frequently consumed by the general population, although since having children I realise what a valuable resource museums are. Is going to the cinema more popular than going to the museum? I guess the big difference is whether you are asking your audience to sit in a chair or walk around, and whether they are hoping for thrills rather than to be made to think. One imagines that theme parks are more popular than museums, but again it would interesting to know the real statistics.

Csikzentmihalyi's concept of flow was mentioned in the McClelland (2000) paper I blogged about previously. Although it seems like Pine and Gilmore's experience realms diagram is a subdivision of flow, at least since reading Csikzentmihalyi's paper he mentions flow in the context of watching a basketball game, so the implication is that one can get sucked in to a state of flow for both passive and interactive experiences, and either absorptive or immersive experiences? However I am less clear about this latter dimension, I guess immersion is where you are totally immersed actively in a role, or in a passive appreciation of something. Funny as I would call that being absorbed, but absorption for P&G seems to be more about maintaining a distance from the thing you are observing, e.g. for an educational experience where you try and work out how something works.

Csikszentmihalyi & Hermanson (1999) distinguish extrinsic and intrinsic motivations. They argue that museums must rely on intrinsic methods of motivation. A good part of the paper is taken up describing the flow concept, and I the range of activities the authors suggest can induce flow are wider than I expected. Flow apparently relies on activities that have clear goals and appropriate rules:
Conflicting goals or unclear expectations divert our attention from the task at hand
However this is at odds with some of my experience programming, where I am changing goals as I explore different possibiilties. It seems to me there can also be a state of flow as I explore and reject possible goals, although I take the main point that this does require some shift in level of attention. Given clear specifications and little ambiguity one can become completely immersed in programming to specification, but sometimes the most interesting solutions come from questioning the goals and expectations to find alternative solutions to the real underlying problem.

The authors also mention that as skills increase, the challenges of the activity must increase to maintain flow, which reminds me of the suggestion in other motivations literature (Dornyei?) that tasks should be just hard enough and not too hard to maximize motivation, although I have yet to find any empirical studies which back this up. The authors also cite a number of references to support the assertion that affective processes can be as important as cognitive processes in learning, and this ties in to ideas about memory being strongest when things are linked to emotionally charged events. Further discussion of flow includes the assertion that:
when involved in the activity, the individual fully expresses the self
although sometimes when I am in a programming or writing flow I think I lose my "self". Overall the discussion of flow is interesting, but it only seems to tie weakly to the design challenge of museum exhibits. At least it is not clear whether the state of flow which I associate with much more focused activities is necessarily the state we should be trying to induce in museum visitors; although arguably it would be no bad thing to have visitors losing themselves in the exhibits. The authors provide the diagram shown above to indicate one approach to structuring exhibits or experiences at museums. There is the "hook" that piques initial interest, opportunities for involvement and then a set up for intrinsic rewards that hopes to stimulate flow. There are many good suggestions such as trying to connect exhibits to the individual visitor and presenting things as perspectives rather than fact:
Information that is presented as true without alternative perspectives discourages the motivation to explore and learn more
Although this is slightly ironic as the statement itself is one of fact rather than perspective. There are further discussions of the conditions for flow, such as the suggestion that displays should provide information by which visitors can compare their responses to other standard(s?), and that supportative environments provide people with choices, and acknowledge their perspectives or feelings; however I find these difficult to conceptualize without more concrete examples. However the authors do acknowledge that as yet there is:
no table where we can look up the elements that will attract the curiosity of difference types of visitors.
Just started having this idea about doing roleplays and paying SL residents to come in and be actors for some relatively low rate of Linden dollars. Arguably they would be more fun to interact with than scripted bots, would allow for the possibility of "unscripted" emotional interaction. Although of course the payment aspect might negatively effect the social interaction. What about tasks or role plays where you don't get paid unless a team works together. An extrinsic reward may undermine intrinsic motivation according to this paper, but museum's pay actors to form living exhibits in their museums ... I wonder if one could create something engaging ... could the activity be interesting enough that people would get involved anyway? I wonder what kind of games have been built in second life already? I don't hear much about that, but then I haven't looked. It seems like you could have a murder mystery, or ecological mystery - could have a subterranean level with dwarves or gnomes (or menehune) suffering from a disease and rather than just find a cure, you have to convince the dwarves to change their behaviour which requires talking to multiple NPCs and working out a convincing argument - all much easier to make believable if you can make the dwarves real people playing roles ... they can judge themselves whether they have been convinced by what the team of detectives come up with, and be in a position to hand out prizes (in a suitable story context) when they feel they have been convinced. Of course we also have to deal with new people popping in at different times, but could deal with that by restricting the number of entrances; could have a leader board of time to solve the problem - I guess the whole thing could reset after a certain time - but what we really want is to allow multiple actors to come in and have their teamwork be required to solve the problem - I guess there could be multiple versions of the game - one if there is only one avatar and other harder versions if there are more avatars around ...

Some related SL activity includes Second Life Singers, and also a Macbeth interactive experience, Virtual Hallucinations, and the OSU Medicine Testis Tour.

Also an interesting blog on Education in Second Life.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, & Kim Hermanson (1999). Intrinsic Motivation in Museums: Why Does One Want to Learn? The educational role of the museum By Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, 146-160

Cited by 70 [ATGSATOP]

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blogger posts really grab high google ranking

I just noticed that my recent blog post on "Android multipart upload" is now top of the Google ranking for a Google search using those terms.  And not even those terms in quotes, just those three terms.  I guess that is because probably gets a high rating from Google, and I guess my post has those three terms in proximity, whereas other mailing lists have the same terms distributed throughout their content.  Anyhow, it was kind of surprising to see my blog post so high up in the rankings.  Google analytics tells me that that blog post is getting a lot of hits, and I even had a comment from someone asking for help with that issue.  It seems odd that I would jump the multiple google groups posts with my blog post, but I guess that it is at least partly desirable since I was trying to write a summary of what I had discovered from multiple google group discussions.

I guess this is a phenomena that people noticed a while back.  Google either submits blogger posts directly into its search index, or it integrates them at some other level.  I imagine that companies may have noticed this, and a top "maximise your search ranking" tip would be to start a blog and then post regularly on topics that match the keyword searches you are hoping your customers will find.

Of course the main question for me is about whether there isn't a better approach to making summaries of discussions on mailing lists accessible.  For example it would be good if my blog post summarizing multiple google groups discussions was automatically posted to the appropriate Google Groups discussions and flagged in previous discussions on the same topic.  I guess a form of trackback on discussions would be useful, i.e. all discussions would show links to summaries that included them.  Most of all I wish that the main API documentation would link to summaries of this sort; but perhaps that is overkill, is the general Google Search enough ...?  I guess I think there could be some additional tools provided to make the job of the folks doing the summarizing easier, and also make those summaries easier to find for those getting lost in the tangle ...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hulstijn (2001) Intentional and Incidental Second Language Vocabulary Learning: A Reappraisal of Elaboration, Rehearsal and Automaticity

So this is the paper that I should have been reading last week.  Hulstijn's (2003), which I read last week, reviewed more broadly the use of the incidental/intentional distinction across the fields of psychology and second language learning, considering grammar as well as vocabulary.  This earlier 2001 book chapter is focused specifically on vocabulary acquisition and amongst other things has a detailed summary of the empirical results related to rehearsal. Early on Hulstijn reviews the traditional and connectionist perspectives on what it means to "know a word" and I found the following particularly interesting:
The acquisition of an entry’s features in L1 is generally believed to take place in an incremental way (Nagy & Herman, 1987), consisting of the filling of various `slots' of entries in the mental lexicon (De Bot, Paribakht & Wesche, 1997) but to date no specific claims have been made concerning the order in which L2 lexical features must or may be acquired
The emphasis on the statement about order of feature acquisition is mine.  I'm thinking this refers to the order in which spelling, meaning, pronunciation and other aspects of entries in the presumed "mental lexicon" are acquired.  I wonder what kind of experiments would explore this?  I guess presenting the text or audio of a word without L2 definition of L1 translation might offer some degree of control, but seems to me that the lexical entry itself would not emerge until a number of presentations of each aspect, and it would take time for each to become fixed.

My speculation aside, Hulstijin emphasizes two factors of the many that affect the difficulty of learning new words: codability (related to learner's prior phonotactic knowledge), and arbitrariness of the form-meaning link (related to decomposability of the word, e.g. stoplight).  After the familiar reprisal of the large numbers of words required by learners to achieve the 95% threshold generally agreed as a prerequisite for text comprehension there is a fascinating dissection of the automatic skills required for fluent speech, listening and reading, which I summarize below:
  • Normal, fluent speech proceeds at a speed of two to three words per second
  • Humans have a capacity for consciously focusing their attention on only a very limited amount of information
  • It follows that the speech production process must largely take place automatically, i.e. conscious focus on message while articulation handled unconsciously
  • Similarly for listening, word recognition processes have to take place automatically in order for listener attention to be focused exclusively on message
  • Normal fluent reading proceeds is around three to six words per second and by the same argument word recognition must be automatic
As I have mentioned previously I think evaluation of teaching methods and software really should be in terms of the language goals of the learner, and I think the above neatly summarizes the set into which most language learners goals will fall.  Here is another tidbit that caught my attention:
Phonological representations emerge during the process of lexical access, and are either utilized (the so-called indirect route to lexical access) or not (Taft, 1993: 91).
Which appears to refer to the possibility of reading without hearing the words in your head, and I suddenly find myself wondering whether there is always an audio track in my head when I am reading.  As soon as I think about it there is, but perhaps when I am not forcing the reading process into conscious awareness, it is not.  So that Taft reference would be an interesting one to pursue.  Makes me think of angles for investigation of consciousness.

In a subsequent section I was surprised to read the assertion that:
Only less skilled readers use contextual information in word recognition (Stanovich, 1980) ... , in normal listening and reading, lexical access is not subject to top-down influence from syntactic and semantic processing; the processing of a word is largely driven by the input code itself rather than by contextual information (Cutler, 1995: 114; Seidenberg, 1995: 165).
Whereas I would have thought, particularly from a connectionist perspective, that contextual information in the form of collocation awareness would be pre-activating sets of words that one would expect to find next; thus the slight surprise every time one hears the All American Rejects lyrics "I wake up every evening ...".  However Hulstijn goes on to describe the threshold hypothesis:
according to which knowledge of reading goals, text characteristics and reading strategies (such as inferring the meaning of unknown words from context), cannot compensate for a lack of language knowledge if the latter remains below a certain threshold level.
and I wonder if this is the same as the 95% vocabulary requirement for text comprehension?  All of this is reinforcing the argument that learning to apply reading strategies should not take precedence over learning a core vocabulary.

Specifically on incidental versus intentional learning, Hulstijn says that while theoretically the distinction between them is difficult to maintain, methodologically the distinction is important.  There is a review of the distinction in both the psychological and SLA literature similar to the 2003 book chapter, and the important point for our meta-analysis is this:
in the applied domains of L1 and L2 pedagogy, incidental vocabulary learning refers to the learning of vocabulary as the by-product of any activity not explicitly geared to vocabulary learning, with intentional vocabulary learning referring to any activity aiming at committing lexical information to memory.
However as Hulstijn points out it is possible to construct incidental learning tasks where subjects process new vocabulary only superficially and intentional tasks where they will process it deeply.  Hulstijn also cites multiple studies that indicate that vocabulary acquisition is enhanced when learner's attention is oriented towards unfamiliar words, but I still have misgivings about time on task.  Hulstijn reasons that:
From an educational point of view, simply encouraging learners to spend much time on reading and listening, although leading to some incidental vocabulary learning, will not be enough in itself
Although I don't know that I am convinced that this is what the evidence presented indicates.  In a subsequent section on pedagogic consequences, rehearsal is one of a number of areas explored in some detail.  I was particularly fascinated by the following:
In a name-learning experiment using college students, Landauer & Bjork (1978) found that uniform spacing was better (for presentation) and a pattern of increasing intervals (for testing). The educational implication of this finding would be that incidental vocabulary learning benefits from regular and frequent exposure whereas intentional vocabulary learning benefits from self tests with increasing intervals.
Which makes me think that I should re-read that paper. I had certainly assumed that an expanding rehearsal series (ERS) would be the optimal way to present vocabulary whether for intentional study, or incidental learning through text presentation.  Hulstijn also has many interesting suggestions for exercises to achieve automaticity, but overall I don't quite get the conclusion that L2 study based purely on extensive reading is necessarily insufficient.  I mean it's odd because I'm all for explicit study of vocabulary, and I am certainly open to there being a potential benefit, but the various arguments made in this chapter don't convince me that we have evidence to demonstrate that one couldn't be as effective studying an L2 purely through incidental learning.  I mean the main argument for using intentional learning is that vocabulary acquisition improves if learner's attention is oriented towards unfamiliar words, but this comes back to how vocabulary acquisition is being measured.  If orienting attention towards unfamiliar words improves scores on simple vocabulary recall tests, it doesn't mean that the learners' key goals are being met.

It is possible the studies Hulstijn refers to are already taking this into consideration, but it seems to me that the question to be answered is not whether vocabulary acquisition improves through intentional study, but whether progress towards fluent speech, listening, reading and writing are advanced.  That is more difficult to test, but not impossible.  Seems to me like the experiment to assess this sort of thing would be a reading comprehension exercise with and without glosses (or with and without dictionary lookup or whatever) for the two conditions, where the post-test is another reading comprehension exercise that involves similar vocabulary.  That would seem to get at the real question as to whether the focus on vocabulary is benefiting the learner's long term goals.  Perhaps that kind of study has already been done.  We are going to be reading some of the paper's referenced by Hulstijn as part of our meta-analysis, so I will come back to this point once I have read some more.

Hulstijn also emphasizes the importance of achieving automaticity to allow fluent vocabulary use.  There is the suggestion that Krashen's comprehensible input hypothesis has lead L2 specialists and materials writers to encourage L2 learners to move quickly through course materials and not to reprocess old materials extensively.  Hulstijn indicates this may have an adverse effect on achieving automaticity, and suggests a number of tasks designed to promote automaticity that are likely to be more interesting for learners than simple re-reading of old texts.

Cited by 128 [ATGSATOP]

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