Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Digital Games: Entertainment or Education?

Whether digital games can be applied in L2 classrooms has long been a controversial issue among teachers and scholars. Some people think playing video games is a time-consuming entertaining practice, which might also increase the likelihood of making the kids more aggressive, while others maintain that certain video games of educational value can be employed in instructional settings. For example, serious games may facilitate students' learning, enabling them to solve problems and acquire certain knowledge or skills while playing. Similarly, strategy games ask for tactics and decision-making skills to win either individually or collectively. Hence, I think digital games are not 100% an evil. As teachers, we need to figure out the suitable genre and theme for the students to target our teaching objectives, if we want to employ cyber games in our classroom. 

I have tried SUPERBETTER (recommenced in Game for Change) for a couple of days which I found a pretty great game for people to stay healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. It really can change one's life little by little through a series of little actions, because there are lots of good ideas and healthy tips in this games, enabling players to transform their attitudes and life gradually. Hence, students can use game strategies to create a super better self. I think this game can be used in my future class room. The theme of the unit is Staying Healthy. 

The teaching objectives is that students need to be able to use  visual notes or diagrams (clusters for example), to illustrate different aspects in terms of staying healthy according to this game. Also, they should be able to collect and prioritize detailed suggestions from the game for maintaining physical, mental, emotional and social resilience. The linguistic teaching objective is to be able to use past tense to demonstrate their old habits and use present tense to say the change they do. As for the functional perspective, students need to be able to give suggestions by using functional phrases and structures.  

I will give the students a rubric and all the requirements in terms of the format for the visual aid, grammar especially using the correct tenses to show the contrast between the past and present, vocabulary relating health issue, coherence and cohesion in presenting a systematic topic, functional phrases in giving suggestions will be listed. If the time is limited and students' proficiency level is limited, group work or peer work can be conducted. Hence, self-assessment and peer assessment can be applied. 

Suggested video: Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Using Digital Games in L2 Classroom

Gamification is to use game elements and constructs to accomplish certain objectives in the non-entertaining settings, like business, education, etc., which has become a trend in languages learning and teaching.  Implementing digital games  L2 classrooms enjoys considerable merits in reaching the instructional goals. 

First of all, playing digital games could be an engaging and relaxing experience, which can lower learners' anxiety in learning. In Tom Chatfield's video, 7 ways games reward the brain, he points out playing games can compel, motive and transfix individuals. Games can generate emotional, individual and collective rewards, which increase individual emotional, psychological and neurological engagement. 

Moreover, during the process of game playing, learners must be motivated to try their best to move and excel with continuous efforts. The more familiar with the games they become, and the more they points they earn, and the more they want to play. The process of wanting and liking of the game increase learners’  ambition and delight in engaging in subjects. They are more likely to become motivated in the learning process.

Furthermore, I think games truly can help people develop themselves and make them smart by thinking and solving problems while playing. Players might also get excited to challenge themselves to the uncertain obstacles in the new game situation after they pass one.  In order to win, they need to reason and put consistent efforts to pass another task through errors and trials. Hence, this is like a circle, which makes them hardly to stop. 

Let's take teaching vocabulary for example. I like using Vocabulary Games, because there are many types of games (like Memory Match / Cross Word/ Word Search/ Which one/ Unscramble, etc.) arranged by themes and levels. Personally, I seldom play games, but when I clicked START button..I found myself getting hooked, because it is so easy to click the mouse and match the words. The animation makes the activity very interesting and interactive. There are always hints to make a guess and opportunities to learn when I gave a wrong answer. For example, if I teach Halloween vocabulary. I will make a word search grid to let students to play with it. The teaching objective is to aid students in learning new words and their spellings by intensively searching for them in the puzzle, letter by letter. Also, I can use the cross word to let students write the words based on the definition I provide. Hence, they need to read the English explanation and retrieve the word from the memory by spelling them correctly in the boxes. Students will find these games more engaging than read and copy the words. Teachers need to provide students assistance if possible to make sure students are on the right track. Also, walkthrough can be provided if the task is challenging, which can guide and facilitate students' thinking and output. Relevant pictures and musics can be provided as long as they can facilitate students' learning outcomes.

To assess whether students' learning outcomes match the teaching objectives or not, we need to make sure students fully participate in the activity at first hand. Hence, we can use peer work or group work to invite them to collaborate and get involved in the games. During the game process, we need to observe students' needs and give explanation if possible. After the game, we can recycle the words and  adapt them in another game genre that they are familiar with to see whether they can figure it out again. 

As for the supplement games for students to play outside classrooms, OGI Games is a good resource. If I teach a group students majoring in medical science, I will introduce Arm Surgery to them. There are a lot of vocabulary in the context of hospital. Also, students can learn a lot of verbs by following the instructions by immersing themselves in the virtual situation.  Moreover, they can learn the words about sequence by doing the operation. 

Hence, in this game, students can learn vocabularies in a meaningful context. Also, they can learn by doing, which benefits their understanding. Moreover, they will find it very relaxed. Digital games for L2 classrooms are like alliterative but powerful arrows for us to target the teaching objectives and students' needs. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Twitter is A Double-edged Swords

                Twitter is a very inspiring platform for us to send and read the microblogs from people that we follow. Users can build their own social networks by following one another. As future teachers in such a digital age, how can we make the best use of it in our teaching?
                 I read Great Twitter Tools for Your Professional Development. I found a lot of interesting tools here, especially the twitTV. We can click the link and watch a lot of interesting videos in it. Also, Teachers Guide to the use of Twitter in Classroom is also a very practical one. Twitter is a good way for learners and educators to communicate, collaborate and to be connected, enabling learners to improve "global literacy, information literacy, network literacy, and digital citizenship." In the future I will create a twitter account for my class, offering my students an avenue to communicate and cooperate among each other. I can @ my students to invite them to participate. Plus, we can follow others to get more inspiring resources and help students to build a bridge to seek more learning opportunities. If the students find some interesting topics or ideas, they can post it on twitter and the other students will see it when they log in. Hence, information is selected and filtered. I think I need to promote students to post their original work on their twitters, instead of simply retweet each time. Creativity is a big matter. If they have any inspiration or feeling, they can write it down. They can also take some beautiful pictures or make some poems and share it with peers. Additionally, Twitter HOTS & Establishing a Twitter Routine in the Classroom gave us good insights of how to use twitter to promote higher order thinking skills and establish Twitter routines in the classroom.
             However, I watched the video from Professor David Crystal, one of the world's leading linguistic experts, who demonstrates some myths and realities about the texts and tweets. The myths he covers are: 1) Youth text messages are littered with mangled abbreviations; 2) the youth use abbreviations as a way to trick adults; 3) the youth don't know how to spell; 4) youth school essays are filled with inappropriate abbreviations; 5) we are rearing a generation of children who have no responsibility toward language.
            This is a very thought-provoking standpoint of view. To solve this problem, I think as educators, we need to teach students the digital etiquette and set up rules for the students when they post.


Question: Does Social Media aid or harm Literacy Levels?

Further reading:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Social Networking

      Key words: community-based approach, educational technology project
"            "Ning's impact on education has been profound, showing the potential educational networking has to transform professional learning." Ning offers a platform for people who have the same professional interests to connect together to form a social network. A lot of cyber learning communities have been established. Within each community, participants share the same goal and vision. I experienced EFL classroom 2.0, where I found a great home for learning and teaching. We can log in via Facebook account. Peers with similar minds come together to share and exchange information and resources, making the benefits multiple. 

              Community-based approach requires individuals' participation and engagement. Within a learning community, learners, like a set of nodes connected by virtual ties, are immersed by the information and knowledge, being educated everyday. In this sense, knowledge has become more accessible in this platform, because students can approach the knowledge in an easier manner. 

        Within the community,  learning is more of a dynamic pattern, which offers learners more opportunities to exchange ideas, get inspiration and absorb new information, because technology makes it available beyond time and space. Conversation among learners facilitates problem-solving and information transmission. Through interaction with teachers or other students, more and more involvement is required. Hence, learners will be more motivated by participating in the activities in the learning community.