Why is Pixton
Pedagogically Interesting?

By Hannah McMeekin, Elma Burnham, and Carson Dietz Hartmann

The following report was written specifically for Second Language Acquisition, however many of its points apply to other subject areas.

Pixton has the potential to encompass many of the elements that are important to optimal Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Firstly, motivation can strongly impact how successful a student is at acquiring a language (Csizér, Lukács, 2010: 3). This program motivates a wide variety of students because it allows for creativity, it is interactive, and it can be funny.

Language is a social practice, and students have the ability to work together on assignments through Pixton's website. This is especially important to SLA because when learners are able to work together, either to explain a concept or work constructively on one activity, the process is especially powerful. Due to the fact that the output is virtual and assignments do not ask for instantaneous output, students will experience less anxiety and be able to play with the language and the comic before submitting any final work (Burke, 2002: 88) (O'Dowd, 2009) (Haight et al., 2007).

The culture of the second language is easily incorporated through Pixton. By uploading unique background images, students and teachers can employ cultural circumstances. For instance, students could create a comic with two people in front of the Eiffel Tower trying to ask people where to find the restroom. This tool can also allow students to upload photos from their own trips and experiences, making the learning personal. Additionally, uploading photos from their own experiences abroad, educators can provide cultural and geographic context for the target language in their assignments (Haight et al., 2007).

Pixton also allows students to record their voices speaking the text of the comic. This creates the potential for authentic interaction. Students could practice and perfect their pronunciation at home, before recording their comic and submitting it online.

Feedback is an important part of second language acquisition because it allows the teacher to assess the level of students' comprehension, and also lets the student know what they need to work on. Through Pixton, teachers can comment and grade the students' work online, letting students read the feedback and then make necessary changes. Students can also comment on other students' comics with a click of a button can share if they think the comic is funny or artistic (Burke, 2002).

Finally, Pixton embodies the task-based approach. Students are asked to create comics on their own with a provided set of vocabulary for a specific situation. Comic creation can be a continual project throughout the language-learning course, allowing students to develop characters, or stories as their knowledge of vocabulary and grammar develops.

While no single tool can incorporate all elements that are important to optimal SLA, Pixton's built-in flexibility makes it a tool that encompasses many of them. Negotiated interaction is achieved by having students produce something that they then receive both student and teacher feedback on. The tool also allows the students to take time to complete the task and also gives them the chance to fix errors that the teacher notices (feedback). This brings students' attention to their mistakes in certain aspects of the language and will help them to notice them in the future (Burke, 2002).

Successful language learning also requires that there be opportunities for output. Pixton is well-designed to provide such templates. The program allows students to test out their understanding of the target language's grammar and vocabulary while the output forces syntactic processing. At the same time, the program is flexible enough that students can steer the assignment to what they want to talk about, personalizing the learning.

Works Cited

  • Burke, Rachel. "Formative Assessment Procedures and the Second Language Curriculum: Signposts for the Journey." TESL Canada Journal 19.2 (2002): 87-91. Print.
  • Csizér, Kata, and Gabriella Lukács. "The Comparative Analysis of Motivation, Attitudes and Selves: The Case of English and German in Hungary." System 38.1 (2010): 1-13. Print.
  • Haight, Carrie E., Carol Herron, and Steven P. Cole. "The Effects of Deductive and Guided Inductive Instructional Approaches on the Learning of Grammar in the Elementary Foreign Language College Classroom." Foreign Language Annals, Vol. 40 (2007): 288-310.
  • O'Dowd. "Online Foreign Language Interaction: Moving from the Periphery to the Core of Foreign Language Education." (2009).