Hello! Welcome to a new year and the new TESOL Games and Learning blog series. I’m thrilled to lead this new TESOL expedition into the world of games. As both a language learning educator and lifelong gamer, it’s exciting to have a new TESOL forum to discuss the rich landscape of games. I hope you will join me each month as we explore games and gamification and examine how each can be leveraged to enhance our classroom practice.
Language learning and games have been a natural fit for decades (see Lee, 1979; Susser, 1979) and it’s easy to see why: Both are inherently social, communicative activities. In the metaanalysis around games and learning, the strongest correlations between games and learning occurs in language (Young, et al., 2012). Yet, uptake among language educators in the use of games, specifically video games, could be described as lagging. In my experience, it’s not a lack of interest or enthusiasm, but an uncertainty on where to start within the diverse landscape of games. After all, the word game describes activities as varied as cricket, Overwatch, and Apples to Apples.
That’s why I would like to begin by covering some foundational aspects of games and work toward a holistic understanding of them before we venture into direct lesson plan ideas for games in the classroom. To start off our gaming adventure, I would like to outline the topics I am eager to cover in the coming months:
- Games: A definition
- Gaming vs. gamification
- What are game mechanics?
- Making classroom activities more “gamey”
- Games for the classroom: Choices for beginners
- eSports, Twitch, and Fortnite—Oh, my!
- Games and learning: A report from the research
My goal for this blog is to chart the landscape of games and gamification to lower the barriers of entry for educators who are interested in games but unsure where to begin in using them in the classroom. Over the coming months, we will map the mechanics, the concepts, and the communities of practice around games. Understanding these broader aspects is crucial to incorporating games successfully into classroom practice and can inform how we understand them as a literacy practice. Along the way, I will provide links and resources that can help level up your gaming literacy.
Developing a games literacy is perhaps the crucial step in the ultimate effectiveness of games for learning. Colombi and Schleppegrell (2002) asserted that as technology changes it creates new forms of literacy, and these changes require educators to envision literacy as existing beyond reading and writing. All of us are literate in the traditional media literacies: music, books, movies, and television. To this list we must now add games. Unlike traditional forms of media, games do more than describe experiences—games model these experiences (Bogost, 2011), allowing the player choices and agency in ways traditional, linear media do not. Games “create events people can experience and then tell a story about” (crtl500.com, 2015), and it is in this storytelling that games can best serve the language learning classroom.
For those of you already working with games and gamification in the classroom, I look forward to you sharing how in the comments. For those who are gaming novices eager to learn more, please use the comments as a way to reach out, ask questions, and foster connections to enrich your understanding of games. TESOL also offers a fantastic resource in the Electronic Village Online, which offers a session on using Minecraft for the classroom.
Until next month, play more games!
Bogost, I. (2011). How to do things with videogames. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Colombi, M. C., & Schleppegrell, M. J. (2002). Theory and practice in the development of advanced literacy. In M. J. Schleppegrell & M. C. Colombi, Developing advanced literacy in first and second languages: Meaning with power (pp. 1–19). New York, NY: Routledge.
ctrl500.com. (2015, October 9). 33 on Metacritic: Why my game failed – Control Conference 2015 [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbqMjCPmaa8
Lee, W. R. (1979). Language teaching games and contests. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Susser, B. (1979). The noisy way: Teaching English with games. The JALT Journal, 1, 57–70.
Young, M. F., Slota, S., Cutter, A. B., Jalette, G., Mullin, G., Lai, B., Simeoni, Z., Tran, M., & Yukhymenko, M. (2012). Our princess is in another castle: A review of trends in serious gaming for education. Review of Educational Research, 82(1), 61–89.