Chapter 8. The third dimension
This chapter describes a theoretical framework for the design and evaluation of pedagogical tasks for 3D virtual world environments. The proposed framework is informed by Vygotskian Sociocultural Theory (SCT) and Activity Theory, two related sociocultural approaches to second (L2) language learning which, I argue, offer a particularly suitable paradigm for the design, implementation, and evaluation of technology-mediated tasks. Firstly, I provide an overview of what characterises 3D virtual worlds (3D VWs) and of current research into the potential of this technological application in the service of second language learning and teaching, and the range of tasks that this research has thus far inspected. Secondly, I briefly review core SCT concepts underlying the proposed framework and point out how they apply to 3D VW tasks. I then identify pedagogical principles derived from this approach to L2 learning and discuss their relevance in the context of technology-mediated task-based language teaching (TBLT) with specific reference to the current state and capabilities of 3D VWs. I also outline a task example designed to capitalise on the potential of 3D VWs for L2 learning. I conclude with a proposal for the application of Activity Theory to the evaluation of 3D VWs tasks. At a theoretical level, my goal in the chapter is to bring key sociocultural perspectives to TBLT and show how SCT can inform theoretically sound pedagogical design in TBLT. At a practical level, I hope to offer a framework for practitioners to support the design and evaluation of technology-mediated tasks in general and 3D VWs tasks in particular.