Playing the Videotext: A Media Literacy Perspective on Video-Mediated L2 Listening

Article excerpt


Adopting a literacy perspective towards student interactions with digital media can extend and develop views of second language (L2) listening comprehension. In this case study, variations in play are grounded in a media literacy perspective as a way to frame student work with authentic videotext. Twenty-two Australian students of Japanese watched three digitized news clips as they talked aloud. Qualitative analysis of their immediately retrospective verbal reports showed that learners do indeed play and replay the media texts as they, for example, perform, fool around, and establish signposts. The article concludes with a discussion urging language teachers and researchers to adopt media literacy perspectives in their use of electronic media.


As we increasingly make use of materials that are non-linear, context-bound, recursive, and constructivist (Kramsch, 1993), a key challenge in our work as educators is to help students navigate new media and text types (Lankshear & Knobel, 2003). Investigating the ways students navigate and make sense of texts is the basis for second language (L2) listening strategies research (e.g., Chamot, 1995; Goh, 2002; Graham, 2003; Gruba, 2004; Vandergrift, 2003a, 2003b). Narrow development of such work, however, may distance it from current trends in second language acquisition that emphasize computer-mediated ("electronic") L2 literacies that highlight authenticity, integrative approaches, social aspects, and media texts (Kern & Schultz, 2005; Kramsch, A'Ness, & Lam, 2000). Here, I argue that a media literacy perspective offers a basis to see interactions with videotexts as a form of play (Mackey, 2002) and brings work in L2 listening strategies new perspectives, fresh insights, and greater relevance.

To develop this argument, I first review L2 video-mediated listening, central aspects of media literacy, and a framework for play. Within a descriptive case study, I then use play as a central metaphor to describe learner interactions with digitized videotexts. The study concludes with a discussion of the implications of the results for teaching and research.

Differing conceptualizations of videotext interactions

To date, no single definition of video-mediated listening comprehension has become established; more importantly, no widely accepted model of listening comprehension has been developed (Lynch, 1998; Vandergrift, 2004). One key conceptual issue in defining the skill revolves around the role of visual elements. Riley (1981) suggested that "listening with the eye" best described learner use of video. Willis (1983) argued that "viewing comprehension" was the most accurate term. Tudor and Tuffs (1991) regard video comprehension as a "skill in its own right" (p. 80). Many prominent listening theorists, however, minimize the role of visual elements in comprehension (Kellerman, 1992) Many prominent listening theorists, however, minimize the role of visual elements in comprehension (Kellerman, 1992). Indeed, most theorists define the skill as a "process of receiving, attending to, and assigning meaning to aural stimuli" (Wolvin & Croakly, 1985, p. 74). In an important departure, Rubin (1995) embeds an awareness of video to define the skill as "an active process in which listeners select and interpret information which comes from auditory and visual cues in order to define what is going on and what the speakers are trying to express" (p. 7). Other researchers offer views that include "listening and viewing comprehension" (Hoven, 1999), "video comprehension" (Coniam, 2000), or "DVD video comprehension" (Markham, Peter, & McCarthy, 2003). If nothing else, researchers recognize there is a broad range of skills required to make sense of video. In line with Kramsch and Andersen (1999, p. 34) perhaps it is best to see the competent decoding of authentic digitized videotexts as part of "textual literacy. …