Video and Second Language Acquisition

The Technology Fellows Program is underway! Our initial discussions have focused on social media, digital literacies, using and creating video, among other topics. We are excited to share our discussions with the broader community and will use Engage as a platform to publish guest posts written by the Fellows.

 Our first post is written by Suzuko Knott, Assistant Professor of German. Thank you, Suzuko!

suzuko-knottDeveloping English Grammar Instructional Videos for the Second Language Acquisition Classroom and the Writing-Intensive First Year Seminar

Project Overview

Very often the students who find their way into a beginning German language course are faced not only with the task of learning the grammar of a foreign language, but also by the challenge of learning English grammar for the very first time. This is not a situation limited to non-native speakers of English, but a common phenomenon that extends to students who have never spoken any language other than English. Increasingly grammar is not explicitly taught in the K-12 system and a lack of grammar knowledge necessary to secondary language acquisition and writing-intensive First Year Seminars must be taught in the first year of college. To facilitate English grammar learning for both of these kinds of classrooms, I am developing instructional videos and integrating other digital media technologies to provide grammar support for students in their first year.

 R & D


The research and development phase of any project can be a frustrating process. For each great lead that drives your line of inquiry forward, there are at least three dead-ends. This is particularly true of projects that fall outside of your area of expertise. As a relative neophyte to theories on the application of advanced digital technologies in the Second Language Acquisition (SLA) classroom, and to someone who frankly could have paid better attention to her SLA pedagogy instructor during graduate school (sorry, Eva!), I have embarked on a three-pronged journey in search of substantive SLA theory articles on digital technologies in the classroom, English grammar and writing pedagogy, and concrete examples of successful instructional videos.

  (Very) Preliminary Results

 As one might imagine, there is a glut of information on digital technologies in the classroom, and the first true challenge has been sifting through the embarrassment of riches for the gems that fit my project. Although they have little to do with the production of instructional videos, I’ve discovered some interesting reports on the use of social media platforms and video games in the classroom – reports that make me think that perhaps my idea to produce video material is already antiquated and passé.  I’ve also looked at other institutions’ approaches to the problem of grammar instruction in the SLA classrooom, including the German Department at Dartmouth’s extensive web-based “Grammar Review” and “Annotext” and the University of Texas’ online “Grimm Grammar” developed for learners of German.

These are not new resources, but I am now looking at them through the lens of assessment and adaptability. These are, however, static information sources, and I am interested in creating dynamic tutorials that also allow the student to co-create a final product. There should also be a form of assessment (quiz function) built into the tutorial.

Examples of video instruction of both high and low quality are readily available online. In order to explore the possibilities of these technologies, I have looked at some MOOCs, iTunes University podcasts and YouTube videos. Here is a brief sampling of the more entertaining videos I’ve found on YouTube from the Sentence Center and from Todd Coyour and Brett Freyseth. Humor and the element of collaboration are of particular interest to me in these examples.

The Sentence Center

Todd Coyour and Brett Frayseth

Image credit: By Vaikoovery (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


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