Monthly Archives: September 2009

People bored by board games? Board games better than computer games?

Loony Hiker (Pat), over at Successful Teaching, recently posted her regret that people don’t play board games any more.

I’m not so sure this is true. I think there’s been a resurgence in board games, especially since the Settlers of Catan was released in 1995. The problem with so many of the classic board games that Loony Hiker mentions is the game-play becomes very predictable after you’ve played a few times (Cluedo, Snakes & Ladders, Sorry, Parcheesi, Mousetrap), or playing one of these games (Risk, Monopoly) takes up too much time (4-6 hours or more). Settlers of Catan is a multiplayer game that has been called “the killer app of board games” and which has sold over 15 million copies worldwide since its release.

It has also spawned a number of similar games. Such has been its influence that Hasbro, the makers of both Risk and Monopoly have had to relaunch these games with revised rules so the game time is not as long. I suppose people just don’t have the time to play the classic versions of these games.

It may be different where Pat lives (the US?), but board games do seem to be alive and kicking in Europe at least. Apart from the classic board games mentioned above, there is a thriving face-to-face role-playing game and trading card game culture in many countries. In Barcelona, where I live and work, for example, this is the case with many of the students I teach, and there are many shops that specialise in these types of games.

Loony Hiker is also disappointed that today’s students seem to prefer computer games and says that “many of the technology based games seem to isolate the students and keep them from interacting with others.”

I completely disagree with this statement. So many of today’s computer games have an online element to them allowing people to play with other people. I also know that most computer gamers play with other people (their friends, family members), and the idea of the isolated teenage gamer playing in his bedroom does not accurately reflect the typical gamer of today.

Loony Hiker continues: “Even if they play online games, they are missing out on seeing facial expressions and body language which are very important in learning communication skills.”

Again, I disagree. Apart from the social aspect of playing games mentioned above, there is a very healthy culture “outside the game”, with a whole host of websites, forums, blogs, etc. where gamers share information and cheats, walkthroughs, etc. Talking about games is also a very popular activity for young people to do with friends, and the idea that the gamers are a non-communicative bunch is highly inaccurate.

I also take issue with the idea that playing games does not help with the learning of interpersonal skills. Loony Hiker mentions this “is an important job skill needed in the adult world” and she implies that because they are not learned by people playing computer games, “many people are looking for jobs without these skills.”

I get the feeling here that Loony Hiker’s experience of what people do when they play computer games is just as outdated as her experience of the current board game world. Presumably, she hasn’t heard of World of Warcraft (with an estimated 20 million players playing monthly subscriptions) or the countless other MMORPGS (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games), where players have to work together in large groups (usually referred to as guilds).

The players forming part of these guilds organise themselves and have to regularly meet at the same time and place to undertake a coordinated raid or perform a complex in-game quest. The image below shows a 120-strong guild meeting in preparation for a raid (screenshot thanks to Patrick Lozano ).

World of Warcraft Raid

World of Warcraft Raid

Behind each one of these characters is a person sitting at a computer. And they could be anywhere in the world. Loony Hiker also implies in her post that playing board games is better than playing computer games as far as critical thinking skills are concerned. There is now plenty of evidence (here and here and here and here and here and here, etc.) that the skills learnt by playing games such as WoW are exactly the type of  skills required by 21st Century business.

If I had kids, I’d put away that family board game and sign them up for World of Warcraft accounts if they showed a flicker of interest.

Advertisements

Playing video games = Healthy body, healthy mind

In 1961 a psychologist by the name of Albert Bandura ran a series of experiments where groups of children witnessed adults attacking an inflatable bobo doll. The bobo doll experiment was conducted to see whether children learnt violent behaviour by observing and imitating others. This ground setting experiment has led to many studies into the effects violence, first on the TV and now in video games, has had on molding behaviour. The fact that repeated exposure to violent video games has been seen to have negative effects simply serves to tar the whole video game industry. With the amount of anti-gaming sentiment out there you could be forgiven for believing there are good video games, educational, and bad video games, the rest. The fact is that there is a lot of anecdotal evidence and research out there that would suggest otherwise.

You’ve probably sat on a bus or train and see someone playing ‘braintraining‘ and finding out how old their brain is. You may even have played it yourself. This popular hand held puzzle video game was designed by a prominent neuroscientist who claims that playing the games’ puzzles reduces the chances of dementia in old age. Such a health benefit from a video game may sound incredible but the evidence is mounting that one way to be healthy is to play video games. Similar neurological benefits have also been credited to the game Tetris. Who would have thought fitting different shaped coloured bricks could make your brain better? Neuropsychologist Dr Rex Jung, who works at the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, is on record as saying practising this puzzle game increases grey matter in the motor areas of the brain. Food for thought. Meanwhile, at the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at University of California Irvine’s, Richard Haier was finding that first time Tetris players’ brains experienced a boost in glucose levels. Could this mean that glucose deficient diseases such as diabetes may one day have a pharmatronic solution? Playing video games, in this case, could be just what the doctor orders.

Nor are video games just for patients it seems. The study “landmarks the arrival of Generation X into medicine”conducted in 2002 found that doctors who played video games for three hours a week were less likely to make mistakes in surgery. A doctor was quoted as saying that both game playing and surgery required the same hand eye co-ordination so, in effect, the gaming improved that skill. Surprisingly, it is the violent games such as Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, HALO or Left 4 Dead that seemed to offer the best opportunity for practising hand eye co-ordination skills. Back to the patient and Daphne Bavelier of the University of Rochester in New York suggests that action video-game training may even be a useful complement to eye-correction techniques because such games train the eye in what eye doctors call contrast sensitivity. Contrast sensitivity allows a person to distinguish objects from other objects and the background. A persons ability to do this is said to diminish dramatically with old age. Know of any games your parents may be interested in?

Being fitter and having regular exercise is what doctors would say is the greatest preventative medicine. Getting fit and healthy is not the sort of thing that playing video games brings to mind though. However, keeping fit with video games does have its proponents and gained early popularity in the late 90s with the release of ‘Dance Dance Revolution‘. This arcade game involved players scoring points for dance moves, which were played out on a dance platform that flashed in time to each of the gamers dance moves. Many players of DDR, as it is called, claimed to have lost weight through the games aerobic work out of dance. This may be the reason why Norway recognises DDR as an official sport and why the game was also adopted by many state schools in the USA as part of their physical education programme.

Perhaps the most well known and popular keep fit video game in recent years has been the wii fit. Its fitness programme is divided into four categories – yoga, strength training, aerobics and balance games – and its popularity placed it as the third best-selling video game in history. However, its popularity wasn’t restricted to the living room at home, health clubs and gyms also invested in this technology. What is surprising is the Finnish army Defence forces decision to buy hundreds of the console to encourage more free time exercising. It proved a very popular choice with the troops. No doubt they enjoyed the need to be fighting fit.

The ancient Greeks believed that healthy in mind was healthy in body. To look at how healthy a nations mind is you should look at the education it receives through its schools and universities. Earlier this year, a study commissioned by a Member of the European Parliament came to the conclusion that playing video games “have a positive contribution to make to the education of minors”. This was an opinion that had already been put into practice in Scotland. It was in Scotland that an education project using the Nintendo DS was introduced into state primary schools. The project took advantage of the fact that short bursts of playing on the Nintendo DS before a class activity actually improved results in classes such as maths. I wish they’d known this when I was at school!

Across the borders to England and in Kent a graphic adventure video game is being used to stimulate creative writing in state schools for juniors. The video in question is called ‘Myst’ and the writing project is the brainchild of Tim Rylands.  Rylands states that the game provides a “shared experience” in the classroom as well as providing a context with which to explore and enhance children’s writing. The project is ongoing but has received positive feedback from both teachers and pupils alike.

The potential for video games in education is now being realised in English language teaching. The International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) holds its International Annual Conference & Exhibition every spring. It’s attended by around 1500 ELT professionals from 70+ countries and was held in 2009 in Cardiff, Wales. One of the plenary speakers at the event was Marc Prensky who is the author of such books as “Digital Game-Based Learning” and “Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning“. In these books he advocates the use of video games as a means in which to help children develop the kind of meta skills that will help them to become successful adults in the 21st century. Although Prensky doesn’t refer specifically to language learning games it is interesting to note that he excludes the more violent action games from his agenda.

Language learning computer games‘ have been around for decades but have never really gained a high rung on the social ladder of video games. Perhaps it is their overt language agenda and a lack of an engaging storyline or an engaging aspect that they lack but best-selling video games have. What is for sure is that the big money companies have been reluctant to invest time and money in developing ‘edutainment‘ games. To this end commercially successful gaming platforms and video games are now being adopted and adapted by education.

If you are a language teacher and want to know where video games meet the classroom then look no further than the internet for information. A very popular blog run by Larry Ferlazzo  provides access to numerous video games for use in the language learning classroom. Youtube has videos on the use of such games as ‘The sims‘ (the best-selling PC game in history) as a language teaching tool. ‘Wii Englishis a site which looks at the use of wii games, such as animal crossing, and uncovers and reveals their potential as a language learning tool. There are even sites that take online point and click games free on the internet and into the classroom. If video games are being used as engaging and fun group collaborative activities that practice language learning skills (listening, reading, writing and speaking) then the view that video games are an individual and isolated activity for geeks and nerds will soon become outdated. In fact, ask the younger generation and you may discover that this view is already a little old fashioned. Remember though it’s never too late to start playing!

A Creative Writing Activity Using an Online Game

 

Level: Upper-intermediate

Topic: Planning stories

Writing Focus: Fictional story

Time: 1 hour/ 1.5 hours

Game: Arcane Season: The Miller Estate part 1

 

Opening screenshot of Arcane Season

Opening screenshot of Arcane Season

 Key Language: cellar, path, lantern, chest, hook, matches, well, rope, bucket, firewood, crate, rug, trapdoor, wine rack, barrel.

Preparation: Connected classroom or computer room. One printed copy of the flashcards. One photocopy of the walkthrough.

 The ‘Arcane season’ online game series is a point and click adventure game that the film studio company Warner Bros runs on a website. It is young learner friendly though it’s worth playing yourself first with the help of a walkthrough to evaluate the ‘scarier’ elements that the games contain. Personally, I’d recommend using the game with upper intermediate teenagers and above. The Arcane Season games are visually attractive with a cartoon feel and its audio elements and short action sequences add an engaging dimension to its play.

There are about 8 episodes of the Arcane Season to date and each part is split into several parts. The material included with this article used part 1 of episode 1 the ‘Arcane Season: Miller Estate’ game. The activities are aimed at Upper Intermediate Language learners for practicing creative writing using the narrative tenses and also to extend their descriptive writing techniques. I have found it useful to have a pregaming activity to orientate the learners towards the language activity. This is so that when they get to the game playing activity they have a clear language objective in mind and don’t get ‘distracted’ by playing the game.

Pregaming activity

I have found it useful to have a pregaming activity to orientate the learners towards the language activity. This is so that when they get to the game playing activity they have a clear language objective in mind and don’t get ‘distracted’ by playing the game. I start by telling the class the name of the game and I write it on the board. Then I present four screen shots of the game and using these brainstorm vocabulary and elements of the story and write them on the board too. This all usually takes place after a presentation on the narrative tenses or, if it came up in a previous class, a short review that is placed on the board (or learners find the relevant notes in their books to avoid crowding the board). If it does get a little crowded on the board don’t worry. When this is done, ask learners to use the language on the board to ‘tell’ their partner the story orally. This helps activate their story telling skills. While they are doing this I monitor and input useful language items. Afterwards I elicit any useful or interesting language that learners may have used during this stage and write it up onto the board (if there is room). The learners then make notes of the language on the board. Once you explain that they are going to use their notes to write a story about a game you are ready to take them to a computer room to play the game.
Gaming activity

This can be done in pairs on computers or alternatively in open class on a data projector.

  1. Pairs on computers

If the writing task is to be conducted in pairs on a computer they need to take the notes they made in the classroom with them. It’s good for learners to take writing material with them to the computer room as it stresses that there is work to do and it’s not just fun and games. Having said that I like to give the learners 3 minutes or so playing the game without guidance from myself or a walkthrough right from the start. Why do I do this? Because it not only helps learners to familiarise themselves with the game but the game is also sufficiently difficult that after 3 minutes they are so frustrated with not being able to solve the puzzles that they are more receptive and motivated to receive guidance. The 3 minutes free gaming time is also a convenient time for them to ask/ write down any vocabulary or language items but also allows time for me to round and make sure every one has the game set up and is ready to start. When they are ready the learners can start the game either by reading the walkthrough themselves or listening to you read the walkthrough to them. If you want the walkthrough to be a reading activity, learners can find the walkthrough and have it on a second internet explorer page. They can then go back and forth between playing the game and reading the walkthrough as many times as they like. A third internet explorer page could be used to access an online dictionary but the activity can be more fluid and more engaging for the teacher if learners simply ask the teacher any language questions. It is very important that the teacher monitors carefully to make sure that the learners are writing as they play and NOT just playing the game.

    2. Open class with a data projector

The advantage of using a data projector is that the teacher has control of the game. Start by placing the learners into pairs or small groups to allow them to work collectively on their writing. It’s a good idea to have a printed copy of the walkthrough to hand. You can then play a short part of the game using the walkthrough for the class to watch. Be sure to stop regularly to allow your learners to discuss and write the part of the story they’ve just watched. Consider providing dictionaries and for them to feel free to ask you for help with any language. In between playing the game you can walk around the class and provide support to any of your learners.

Post gaming activity

Learners can swap their stories, read them and discuss which stories they like the most and explain why. If there is any interesting language elements from someone elses story, encourage them to write it down.

You can hand out the walkthrough for another part of the ‘Arcane Season: Miller Estate’ game although part 2 is best avoided as some of the game loses narrative elements in favour of puzzle solving (you have to figure out the correct order to prise a lifeless hands fingers off an amulet).

Material:

Flashcards of game images to use in a pregaming activity.

An annotated walkthrough – An online walkthrough which has vocabulary links your learners can click on to view images of the object.

Download a written walkthrough from here – You can print this to use as a gaming dictation/ relay dictation or a reading.

Video games go to the Movies

 

Video Game characters at the movies

Video Game characters at the movies

I’m game for the movies

 

Many films go on to become video games but do you know which films started out as video games? The pictures above show just four of those films, can you name them? You may be surprised to find out that there have been quite a few more. Which do you think was the first video game to make it to the big screen? I asked this question to a friend recently and he came up with Tron. My friend didn’t know that Tron didn’t start off as a video game. First, it was a 1982 science fiction film by Disney and although it was about a video game it was actually the film that spawned the game. The prize for first live action film based on a video game was in fact ‘Super Mario Bros in 1993 starring Bob Hoskins as the moustachioed title hero and Dennis Hopper as the bad guy. Though Bob Hoskins received praise for his portrayal of the popular game character, the film itself received very negative reviews and did poorly at the box office.

During the mid nineties there then followed a spate of kung fu and kick boxing video game / film crossovers, the most famous of which were the run of ‘mortal combat films and Street Fighter. Such stars as Christopher Lambert, Jean Claude Damme and even Kylie Minogue brought theses video game titles kicking, if not screaming, to the big screens. Initially both titles proved to be commercial hits but unfortunately, the negative reception of each subsequent film meant that the prospect of further releases is minimal.

It was not until Tomb Raider and Lara Croft (played by Angelina Jolie) hit the screens in 2001 that a video game could really lay claim to having successfully made the leap to the movies. In takings it broke the record for a film that featured a female lead and took over $300 million at the box office worldwide. It not only remains the most successful video game adaption to date but also launched Angelina Jolie’s career as a Hollywood actress.

Ironically enough the next video game to successfully make the transition from computer screen to cinema screen also starred a female protagonist. In Resident Evil Mila Jovovich also plays a gun-totting amnesiac heroine and a secret underground genetic research facility called the ‘Umbrella Company’. The trouble starts when the company is responsible for accidentally releasing a virus which causes dead bodies to reanimate as blood thirsty zombies. To date three live action movies under the name of Resident Evil have been released. The fact that the movies took an average of $20 million on their opening weekends and grossed $150 million worldwide means that Alice’s fight against the Umbrella Corporation is sure to continue.

The talk of the computer game town at the moment is the prospect of Peter Jackson’s (director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy) involvement in HALO. HALO is a very successful first person shooter video game. It will be interesting to see how a video game that took $300 million in its first week of sales will make it as a movie adaptation. There are many sceptics who simply believe that a successful video game loses its principal appeal once it becomes a movie. You watch a film passively for a couple of hours at the most. A video game requires active participation and it is the choices that you make that decide the story. Also a video game, from start to finish, can provide anywhere in the region of 100 hours or more of play.

So what is the future for computer games at the movies? Rather than seeing movies and video games switching back and forth we may see the two blending together to form a single new media. The technology perfected by James Cameron to film his new movie Avatar may hold the key to this future. As James Cameron himself says, he used “a big, powerful game engine” to capture actors’ motions to let them interact with computer generated characters on a real, live-action set while shooting live action. Perhaps the video gamer of the future will interact with a game environment in a similar way putting the player inside the game in real time. This will bring a whole new meaning to “I’m into video and computer games”.

Download this article (PDF) for your learners (with comprehension questions)

Gamer – the unsettling action film about our possible future

http://gamerthemovie.com/posters/poster.swf?id=4EwFoGraham

Gamer is a new science-fiction action film that features people playing an online game in which participants can control human beings as players.  I’ve not seen it yet, and reviews have been mixed (see Wikipedia article) , but it is interesting to see a film released that predicts a dystopian future based on the current trend of playing massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs).

As one reviewer puts it, the film takes  “a look at the dangers of a media-infested world, of nonstop advertisement and of the future of youth in a world with ever expanding interactive technology” – there are many who worry about the influence of gaming on today’s youth, and this film won’t do anything to quell the fear that the influence of violent games is leading our society down  a dangerous path.

There has been controversy over video games ever since they first appeared, and the popular press and TV loves to play up the idea that the influence of such games leads to greater violence in society.  others, however, believe that evidence is misleading and many of these ideas are myths.

We will be looking at this in more detail on this blog in the future, but would love to hear from you first – what do you think? Are violent games a negative influence on the youth of today?

How to Use 'Escape the Room' games

An Escape the Room game is a type of adventure game that lends itself well to the language classroom because they are very difficult to complete without help. The objective of such games is to (surprise! surprise!) escape from a room (or a series of rooms), and this is usually done by completing a number of puzzles.

ADAPTING THE GAME FOR CLASSROOM USE

Best exploited in a computer room, with the learners playing in pairs, Escape the Room games usually present a wealth of opportunity to the teacher for live listening practice (link to pdf). One of the advantage of this is that you can adapt the level of difficulty to your class.

Twenty minutes is usually enough time for this type of activity. To prepare for it, you should have chosen a game (an example is below) and its walkthrough. A walkthrough, as the name suggests is a step-by-step solution to the game. You can usually find a walkthrough to any popular Escape the Room game by searching on ‘the name of the game‘ + walkthrough.

We suggest choosing a game /walkthrough that has vocabulary which is relevant to the needs and level of your learners. Remember too, you can simplify / adapt the walkthrough to suit your learners (either by adapting your language when you tell them what to do or by rewriting the walkthrough previously).

Once the learners have played for a few minutes, because of the difficulty of the game, you can start to tell them the solutions to the puzzles. They will listen to you because they want to progress in the game.

You can also take adavantage of a situation when a learner completes one of the puzzles and ask them to stop and tell the others what they did. This way, all of the learners will be at the same stage in the game.

Continue playing until you finish the game or (more likely) you run out of time. A good follow-up activity is to give the learners the walkthrough and tell them they can finish the game at home – they won’t think of it as homework, but they will be getting reading practice while they use the instructions to finish the game.

Now, let’s look at an example Escape the Room game and its walkthrough, ready for use in class. You can find more examples of games to use (with links to walkthrough) on Kyle’s wiki.

AN EXAMPLE: ROOM FAKE

Room Fake is a popular ‘Escape from the Room‘ puzzle game that is perfect for use with language learners as it is almost impossible to do without the walkthrough, which I have added below.

COMPLETE WALKTHROUGH:

  1. Click on the dresser, click underneath it, and get the battery.
  2. Back out, turn right, get the number 4 tile and the wadded paper out of the garbage can.
  3. Examine and uncrumple the wad of paper.
  4. Back up so you’re looking AT the can, click on it to lift it, and click it again near the base to find the color for the letter O.
  5. On the desk, near the left side of the plant, will be a green 3 cylinder. Get that.
  6. Click on the bed, turn back the blanket, and get the number 6 tile from the edge of the blanket. At the bottom of the bed is a red 3 cylinder, get that as well.
  7. Back out, turn right again. Between the bed and the cabinet on the floor is the number 7 tile.
  8. The top drawer of the green cabinet has a clue but nothing to get. The middle drawer has a safe that we don’t have the combination for yet. The bottom is locked. Open the cabinet at the top and get the battery from the right side of the second shelf, and the scrap of paper from the top shelf. That should tell you the color of the letter C.
  9. Turn right again, open the curtains. On the curtain rod will be a blue 3 cylinder.
  10. Next to the curtains is a diagram for the magic sqare. Click the bottom corner: Taped to the back is a scrap of paper that has the safe code (196 – it’s shown upside down).
  11. Go back to the green cabinet – put the combination in the safe, and get the number 7 tile and the screwdriver. Examine the screwdriver and pull the cord to extend the bit.
  12. Turn right, click the wall plate, and use the screwdriver to remove the cover. Take the screws.
  13. Turn right again, and look at the SIDE of the small wooden dresser. Unscrew the screws (and take them!), return to the front, and open the stuck bottom drawer. Take the battery charger and the red 3 cylinder.
  14. Examine the battery charger and put the batteries in it, then go back to the left to the outlet. Plug the charger in, click away, click back, and take the charger and charged batteries. (That was fast!)
  15. Turn right again, click on the little dog statue, and put the batteries in the holders. Press the button on the front to turn its head and get the number 9 tile.
  16. On the desk is a magic square puzzle – put the tiles in so the grid becomes:
    8 3 4
    1 5 9
    6 7 2
    and press the button. This will give you the color of the K.
  17. When you back up, the picture will have fallen. If you turn left, two circles of light on the side of the dresser will give you a time, and the controls behind the painting are to set the clock. Set the short hand to 5 and the long hand to 6 (30 minutes).
  18. When you turn left again, there is a small box extended under the clock. Click it and get the silver key and the blue 2 cylinder.
  19. The silver key opens the bottom drawer of the green dresser. Open it and get the pink tissue and the small red sword.
  20. On top of the small wooden dresser is a vase – knock it over and use the pink tissue to absorb it. Turn left, open the curtains, and clean the window off with the tissue. This will show you the color of the L (on the right), and a secret about the door (on the left).
  21. Return to the dog statue, put the red sword in its neck slot (as marked) to get a red 1 cylinder. Pull the string left over to get the gold key.
  22. Turn to the door, click on the bottom left corner to zoom in, and again to take off the panel. Plug the door into the wall outlet. Get the blue 3 cylinder.
  23. The gold key opens the safe behind the paper to the right of the window. Open it, and get the doorknob, and the green 2 cylinder.
  24. Click the door, use the doorknob on it, and the screws to secure it. Pressing it will open a panel with the word “LOCK” above it.
  25. THE COLORS CHANGE, but the puzzle works like this: Any two colored cylinders of the same value will blend (blue and red become purple, red and green become yellow, blue and green become teal). If you kept note of the colors each letter should be there will only be one combination of the cylinders that will fit and make the right colors for each letter. Place the cylinders so the colors are right, and OPEN SESAME!
    Now you can exit through the cabinet, OR, find the REAL exit…
  26. Clicking the bottom right of the green cabinet should show you the side – get the hammer out from behind the drawer.
  27. Turn around, break open the vase to reveal the color of the letter A.
  28. To your right, the magic square on the desk can be clicked and turned over – that reveals the color of the backwards K.
  29. The back of the cover from the electrical panel will give you the color of the letter E.
  30. Believe it or not, with this, you have enough information to re-solve the puzzle for “FAKE”. Go back to the door, and solve the puzzle again. FAKE will turn to TRUE, and there will be one gold cylinder now – a token with a dog on it. Take that.
  31. Return to the dog statue, detach the head, put the dog token in the neck slot, and reattach the head. He will open the TRUE exit for you.

The end!

* Note: The walkthrough (above) is the original – I have not adapted it.

Do you know of any other Escape the Room games that would be good to use with learners? Have you had experience of using them? Please let us know by adding a comment. And if you use these ideas with a class, why not come back and tell us how it went? Have fun!

About Digital Play

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” – Plato

Digital Play is a new blog aimed at language teachers who are interested in using computer games and other digital toys with learners. The main focus will be on English Language Teaching (ELT) as we (the authors of the blog) are both EFL teachers, but we think the ideas and suggestions should be useful and adaptable to all modern foreign language (MFL) teachers too.

For several years now, we have been adapting free online games to use with learners. We both work with young learners and teenagers and hope to share with you the experience we have had in the classroom and computer room when using games with students to practise English. How can  the use of online games help learners of a language? Here are just a few brief ideas:

  • Motivation. An essential feature of learning a language and probably the hardest part to foreign language learning – every teacher knows that if the learners are motivated, then they will learn more and it will stick.
  • Relevance.  Teaching a language needs to be relevant to the learners’ interests and lives.   Digital gaming has fast become one of the most popular free time activities  for many of our learners. And don’t just think games are only played by the young either. The average gamer is now 35 years old – every year this age tends to rise as more and more people continue to play games as part of their entertainment.
  • Integrated skills work. Many online games, when  adapted for use with language learners, can provide an engaging mix of reading, writing, speaking and listening skills work. We’ll be showing you how to do this on this blog.

We continue to believe that using computer games with language learners is a valid use of classroom time and look forward to sharing our ideas, information, lesson plans and worksheets with you here.

If you’d like to keep up with this blog, then subscribe to the Digital Play mailing list, add us as a friend on Twitter or become a fan of our Facebook page and we’ll keep you informed of what’s going on.