Eco-dialogical learning and translanguaging in open-ended 3D virtual learning environments: Where place, time, and objects matter

  • Dongping Zheng University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Matthew M. Schmidt University of Cincinnati
  • Ying Hu University of Vermont
  • Min Liu University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Jesse Hsu Tamagawa University
Keywords: ecological psychology, distributed learning, eco-dialogical translanguaging, place-based learning, object manipulation, affordance


The purpose of this research was to explore the relationships between design, learning, and translanguaging in a 3D collaborative virtual learning environment for adolescent learners of Chinese and English. We designed an open-ended space congruent with ecological and dialogical perspectives on second language acquisition. In such a space, sense-making is contingent on the relational dynamics of place, activities, and artefacts. These spaces encourage meaning-making in situ, manipulation of virtual objects within places, and coordination among players. Our investigation looked at how learners of Chinese and English collaborated on a project in which they decorated a virtual living room. The findings suggest that socioculturally bounded places afford unique learning opportunities. Firstly, learning occurred through referencing, which is the mutual clarification of a virtual object’s meaning, position, and function, in relatively stabilised places, such as a museum, and secondly, learning occurred through coordination between verbal instruction and object manipulation in more adaptive places, which we call eco-dialogical learning. We also found a strong relationship between translanguaging and object manipulation. We conclude the paper from the perspective of how the eco-dialogical model resulted in designs that promoted cognition and interactivity.


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Author Biographies

Dongping Zheng, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Associate Professor

Department of Second Language Studies

Matthew M. Schmidt, University of Cincinnati

Assistant Professor

Instructional Design and Technology Program

Ying Hu, University of Vermont


Department of Asian Languages and Literatures

Min Liu, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Assistant Professor

Department of Educational Psychology

Jesse Hsu, Tamagawa University

Assistant Professor

Center for English as a Lingua Franca

How to Cite
Zheng, D., Schmidt, M. M., Hu, Y., Liu, M., & Hsu, J. (2017). Eco-dialogical learning and translanguaging in open-ended 3D virtual learning environments: Where place, time, and objects matter. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 33(5).