Monthly Archives: February 2010

Spotlight on Digital Play Innovators #4: Hayo Reinders

Darren Elliott, who writes the great Lives of Teachers blog, recently interviewed Hayo Reinders, keynote speaker at the 4th International Wireless Ready symposium.

An Interview With Hayo Reinders from darren elliott on Vimeo.

One thing that comes out of the interview, that Hayo also mentioned in his keynote, is that existing games should be adapted, which is exactly what we are doing on Digital Play. There’s no need to try to get involved in game design – it’s too expensive and Reinders suggests adjusting existing games.

Reinders also mentions being disappointed with existing language learning games that have been produced for platforms such as the Nintendo DS. Most are not interesting or interactive and would not be motivating for students. In the abstract to his keynote, he states that “the pedagogical approach underlying such games is often not clear…the games were intended to develop fluency but in fact offer only simple spelling exercises with right-wrong answers.”

Reinders has a website, , which has some details about the research related to gaming and language learning that Reinders is involved in:

One of my PhD students (Sorada Wattana) and I are looking into the effects of game play on students’ Willingness to Communicate (WTC) and their actual in-game interaction. We are also looking at the effects of different types of instructions (in the form of in-game quests) on the quantity and quality of target language use

Also on the website is an article that Reinders wrote for English Teaching Professional called ‘Using computer Games to Teach Writing‘, which is full of useful ideas for teachers. One of these, which is new to us is ‘Gamics’. This is a contraction of games and comics, and would involve students using images from their favourite games to create their own comic.

Finally, Reinders has also been involved in making games for the ipod – he calls them podquests (a combination of ipod and webquest) and wrote a chapter of a book about this, which is available here: Podquests: Language Games on the Go

Droppy – Present Perfect Playing

Level: Intermediate

Language Focus: Present Perfect simple /passive

Time: 30 – 40 minutes


Help Droppy to solve problems in 11 different situations and help him stay out of trouble.



Download a single copy of the walkthrough for you to use in class and download a copy of the Droppy worksheet. Play the game yourself to get a feel for the game. In class have the game set up at the beginning ready to start and in a place where can be easily seen. Download the present perfect passive exercise sheet for extra language support for lower levels.

NOTE The majority of sentences in the walkthrough are in the present perfect simple but it is possible to produce a present perfect passive structure and still be correct. Be aware that learners may produce grammatically correct sentences that are part of the language focus but that are not included on the walkthrough sheet.


Hand out a copy of the Droppy worksheet to your learners. Ask them to compare the picture they have on their worksheet with the game on the screen. In pairs, ask them to find as many differences as possible between the two. While they are doing this write this on the board:

The rock on the ground has been moved.

He the top of the cactus has been cut off.

Droppy has put a hat on.

Feedback on any differences the learners have found. Get them to connect the differences to the three sentences on the board. Ask a volunteer to come up and complete this level of the screen.

When the first level has been completed and the game level menu is up tell your learners you now want them to talk about the differences but write down what has happened by comparing their picture with the game on the screen. The first pair to finish should say stop. They then read out their present perfect passive/ simple sentences and you tick them off against your walkthrough. If the pair have identified all elements of your walkthrough, one of them can come up and play the game to the next level. If they have failed to identify all elements of the walkthrough then you should give them clues on where to find them.


In the 6th level (roasting marshmallows) Droppy has to get a magnifying glass out of his bag to use the suns rays to start a fire. This is not apparent from the learner’s picture. You can give clues like:

“What do you notice about what has happened to his bag!”

When the magnifying glass comes out you can ask:

“Has anyone seen this object before? What have you used it for?”

Notice how the questions use the present perfect. You can then tell them what the object is “It’s a magnifying glass”.

Repeat for all 11 stages of the game.

Post Playing

Learners use the present perfect to write their version of the Droppy walkthrough (either in class or for homework but you will need extra copies of the droppy worksheet, one for each learner, if you do this). When they have finished they compare their walkthroughs with others and discuss the differences.


This activity can be easily adapted to Present Perfect passive by changing the object in the present perfect sentences to the subject.


‘He has made a fire’ to ‘A fire has been made’.

ABC Arcade Fun

Level:  Primary

Language Focus: Alphabet

Skills Focus: Pronunciation

Game: Alphattack

This game is used to practice and consolidate the pronunciation of the letters of the alphabet.  It can be played either in a connected classroom or a computer room.

alpha attack

Bombs drop from the sky and need to be stopped before they destroy the city. Destroy the bombs before they do by pressing the corresponding letter on the keyboard.

Pregaming Activity

Lower levels
To do this you need to have a data projector, a computer with internet access and Flash player installed. Seat the class in rows in front of the data projector. Go to the game and skip the instructions so that the game is started as quickly as possible.

  1. As the bombs start to fall look at the screen and call out the letters. If you want, don’t touch the keyboard and point to the letters. This means that you lose the game but encourage the learners to call out the letters as this is happening.
  2. When the game ends start again and encourage the learners to call out the letters but this time you move to the keyboard and type in the letters that the learners call out. At this stage it is not neccessary for you to look at the game on the data projector.
  3. When you have completed a stage ask for a volunteer or nominate one of your learners to come and stand by the keyboard.
  4. Start the next stage of the game. The learner at the keyboard now listens to the others calling out the letters and the learner types in the corresponding letters on the keyboard.
  5. Move to the computer room so the class can play the game in pairs (see gaming activity below).

Higher levels
To do this you need to have a data projector, a computer with internet access and Flash player installed. Seat the class in rows in front of the data projector. Go to the game and put the instructions on the board. Choral drill (all the class reading at the same time) the instructions on the screen. Then start the game. Pretend you don’t know how to play the game at the start and ellicit from the class what you should be doing? As the class tells you what to do play the game. Then conduct the game from stage 3) above.

Gaming Activity

In the computer room sit two learners (A and B) to a computer. Learner A sits in front of the screen with their arms folded. Their role is to “look at the letters and tell your partner”. Learner B sits in front of the keyboard and CAN NOT see the screen. Start the game and monitor to ensure that Learner A is calling out the letters in English (correct pronunciation) and learner B is not taking a look at the screen. Once a pair completes a stage or loses a life the learners can swap roles/ seats.

Listening practice with BBC 'Casualty' game

Level:   Advanced +

Skills Focus:   Listening

Language Focus:   First Aid

Game:   Casualty Challenge

Help your learners practise their listening skills in the computer room with this BBC Skillswise words game based on the UK TV Programme “Casualty”.



Make sure that there are enough computers and headphones for your learners and that the game is either ready for them to start or that you can successfully guide them to the website.

Pre- Playing

Dictate the following questions in chunks ‘/’ and as naturally as possible:

1) What kind of things/ does a paramedic/ have to do/ at the scene of an accident?

2) On arrival at the hospital/ how does a doctor/ take over?

3) How might the nurses/ help get the patient/ back into shape?

Learners discuss the questions and feedback before playing the games.


Learners listen to the descriptions of first aid proceedure for a paramedic,  a doctor and a nurse and then move pictures of the proceedures they have just listened to into the correct order.  They have three chances.  If your learners are extra keen then get them to note down any difficult language.

Post Play

In class ask them how they did, if they have any questions about the language, what they remember and what they have learnt from playing the game.

EVOKE – Edugaming Online

EVOKE is an online Alternate Reality Game (ARG) run by the World Bank Institute and directed by Jane McGonigal.  It begins on March 3 2010 and requires gamers to complete ten game challenges over a ten week period.  If you want to reserve a place then do so now.

Screen shot 2010-02-13 at 1.38.49 PM

An EVOKE is defined as an urgent call to innovative solutions to real life problems.  In the same way that EVOKE is calling for gamers to solve in-game problems which could then be applied to real world strategies.   Think of the gamers as parts of a huge organic computer brain being set the task of solving problems facing Africa within the context of an online ARG.

The game targets Africa and aims to look into using playfulness and gaming as a tool for solving the bigger issues facing the world today, such as “hunger, poverty, disease, war and oppression, water access, education, climate change”.

Could this game as a languguage learning tool?  Such a game could not only have great potential within the TEFL context for motivating language learners but ARGs have had a fair share of success stories already.  The European Union ran an Education Project called ‘Babel Tower’ aimed at Secondary school language learners from around the world.  This was part of their ARGuing for Multilingual Multivation Project and was rated as a huge success.

ARGs run prior to Evoke have included Superstruct and World without oil and Superstruct which reached ‘Game Over’ status in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

To learn more about the EVOKE Alternate Reality Game project then visit the official websiteWatch the trailer, or read up on the game story so far by checking out the graphic novel storyline.

So why not Make Life a Game and Change The World?


Gateway is a short, absorbing and entertaining puzzle game with ten levels – you have to guide a robot through a number of different rooms, each of which require the solving of a puzzle. Highly entertaining, although it is easy enough to do, so it’s not so obvious how you can use this for language learning…

One idea would be to play the game in a whole-class situation and ask the students to guess what has to be done to pass the robot to the next room – there could be two teams and points awarded for the team which guesses correctly the right way to get the robot to the next room.

Another team-game way of using Gateway could be to award each team a number of seconds (accumulated for answering questions) – they ‘spend’ the seconds trying to get the robot through the door, winning points for each door they pass the robot through. Read more about Gateway here / walkthrough

The game’s puzzles are easy until you get to the TV at level 9 (see image on the right), which requires more thought to solve (answer = the sequence on the TV monitors shows the numbers you need to press on the keypad to let you out the door = 95271)

There is a sequel, which continues the story, Gateway II – this continues with the story, but involves a lot of text that would be quite difficult for all but higher levels. See walkthrough here

Discussion Topics #3 – A New Life

Level: Advanced

Topic: Border Country

Speaking Focus: Expressing opinions

Time: 30 – 45 minutes

Game: Against all odds

A new life


You also need to go through a few steps after entering the site before you can get to play the game. The steps are:

1) Click on Open in full screen.

2) Click on Play against all odds.

3) Choose your game characters identity. i.e one of the characters (use the left right arrow to move between the characters) and write in a name before clicking on No! Play without registering.

4) Click on the number 1 in the A New Life box.


Learners can play this game in a computer room or a connected classroom . In the computer room it acts as an interactive reader though you may wish to incorporate some of the ideas below as note taking activities.

Screen shot 2010-02-02 at 2.08.53 PM1 Learners read the job letters and agree on one explaining why.

2 They then choose the best clothes to wear to the interview.

3 In the reception there are three other candidates for the job.  Ask learners to note down what they say and what they would say to them in return and who they would most like to sit by and why.

4 Finally the job interview consists of a few questions.  learners should say which is the worst answer to the questions and explain why.

Screen shot 2010-02-02 at 2.20.08 PMLearners visit each of the shops looking to buy a mobile phone.  A pre play activity could be for learners to discuss what phones they have, which is the best and why.  They then play the game:

1 Take notes on who says what in the shops.  i.e. age, gender, looks etc and what opinion they express.  Later learners can discuss what sort of views they have on immigrants and how these opinions may be true/ false and what affect they may have on an immigrant who hears them.

Screen shot 2010-02-02 at 2.28.47 PMQuickly drag objects into origin categories of either the USA or Other Countries.

1 Start the game and as the objects go past one learner watches and dictates the objects to a partner.  Play the game until they have all objects.

2 Learners discuss the country of origin for each country.   (pyramid discussion).

3 Ask a volunteer to come to the front to play the game as the rest of the class shouts out where each one goes.

4 If they get it wrong click on web facts and tell learners they have 2 minutes to find the answers on that page.  Scroll down/ up every 30 seconds so that learners can read all the text.

5 Repeat steps 3 & 4 until the game has been finished.

Post Play

Learners write up their reflections on what some of the emotions and feelings an immigrant may feel.

To research and write about an invention from their own country, any other country or a predetermined country (England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales).

Debate with half the class presenting and anti-immigration view point and the other half a pro-immigration view point.

Role play the situation in the reception between them and the three other candidates.  First brainstorm the characters and personality to establish character roles.

Discussion Topic #2 – Border Country

Level: Advanced

Topic: Border Country

Speaking  Focus: Expressing opinions

Time: 30 – 45 minutes

Game: Against all odds

Border Country


You also need to go through a few steps after entering the site before you can get to play the game.  The steps are:

1) Click on Open in full screen.

2) Click on Play against all odds.

3) Choose your game characters identity.  i.e one of the characters (use the left right arrow to move between the characters) and write in a name before clicking on No! Play without registering.

4) Click on the number 1 in the Border Country box.


Find shelter for the nightTell your learners to write a list of what they think each building is.  Hover mouse over each building that gets highlighted.  Allow 30 seconds for each one.  Encourage learners to discuss what each place represents for the refugee.  Go back and click on each building left to right.  Let learners read and discuss options.  Follow learners instructions.  Play again if the game ends.  The correct option is the church on the far right.

Find an interpreter

Follow the learner’s guidelines and play as they instruct you to do so.  Try and keep the pace quite fast.

Refugee or immigrant

Learners work in pairs and have to decide on whether an individual is an immigrant or a refugee.  They make a note of their name and reasons for their decision.  Learners then find others who disagree with them and discuss their reasons.

New in class

Allow time for learners to read the options and in pairs discuss which option they would choose.  Then discuss the which option to choose in open class.  Vote and choose the winning option.

Post Play

Write a composition on some of the topics or issues raised in class from playing the game.

Discuss the game in open class.

Role play one of the sequences from the game.

Write a short story based on the experience of the character in the game.

Write some advice using ‘should’ to the character in the game.

Discussion Topics #1 – War and Conflict

Level: Advanced

Topic: War & Conflict

Speaking  Focus: Expressing opinions

Time: 30 – 45 minutes

Game: Against all odds

Against All Odds is an online video game developed by UNHCR designed to teach players about the plight of refugees.  This first episode entitled ‘War and conflict’ looks at the problems faced by dissidents within a country where the military has just taken power.

War and conflict


You need to go through a few steps after entering the site before you can get to play the game.  The steps are:

1) Click on Open in full screen.

2) Click on Play against all odds.

3) Choose your game characters identity.  i.e one of the characters (use the left right arrow to move between the characters) and write in a name before clicking on No! Play without registering.

4) Click on the number 1 in the War and Conflict box.



In pair learners look at the statements and discuss reasons why they should/ shouldn’t tick  yes/ no.  When you judge that the activity has finished take a class vote on where to put the tick.  There is a short text on the next screen and if you see fit to discuss the facts here or language feel free.  Try to keep the pace of the activity up while allowing enough time for learners to discuss the statements.

In open class ask what problems citizens might have in an oppressive regime.

You must flee

In pairs learners look at the objects in the room and try to remember them.  When the 2 minutes are up they write a list of objects they remember and then discuss what items they would take and why.  Move pairs into groups of 4.  Compare lists and discuss which items they should take.  Continue pyramid discussion until class decides on which objects they would take.  The class tells a learner who plays the game what to pack.  Is there enough room?

Get yourself out of town

This is an hand-eye co-ordination game so just ask a volunteer to come to the front of the class and play the game.  The class can help by giving directions.  If they fail at any point in the game then ask for a different volunteer to step up and play the game.  Before they come up ask them how they will play the game differently.

Any text that appears that requires a decision to be made should be discussed in open class.

You must flee the countryLearners look at the different options and discuss the pros and cons of each different method of fleeing the country.  Take a class vote and then click on the option they decided on.  If they choose an option that’s not open to them tell them there is in fact only one correct answer.  In groups they discuss which one and why.  Allow time for learners to read text and ask them if they know why that route may not have been good.  In fact, the truck is the only option they can take.  Go through the ‘truck’ dilemmas allowing groups to discuss and vote on each option.

Post Play

Write a composition based on topics and issued raised while playing the game.

Discuss the game in open class.

Role play one of the sequences from the game.

Write a short story based on the experience of the character in the game.

Spotlight on Digital Play Innovators #3 James Paul Gee

Later today (early tomorrow in some parts of the world), there’ll be an interesting opportunity to join James Paul Gee who’ll be in conversation with Steve Hargadon and Ed Hill about Video Games, Learning and Literacy.

photo by Preoccupations

Event: More Details are here
Date: Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010
Time: 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern / 1am GMT (next day) (check your time here)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: In the Elluminate Virtual Classroom. Log in at. The room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event for those who want to come in early. If you have never used Elluminate, go to Recordings of the session will be posted within a day of the event at the event page (here).

James Paul Gee is perhaps at the forefront of those academics calling for others to take the use of video games in education seriously.

He states in his book Situated Language and Learning that he is a linguist ‘whose interests have changed over the years.’ This is probably the understatement of the decade – he has moved from being a theoretical linguist to being the author of What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, which “argues that good video games are designed to enhance learning through effective learning principles supported by research in the Learning Sciences“.

He is currently the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University, and is an engaging speaker who always has something thought-provoking to say.