ICIS Newsletter - March 2021 (Plain Text Version)
In this issue:
ENGAGING LANGUAGE LEARNERS THROUGH GAMIFICATION
Technological advancements have resulted in a plethora of technology-enhanced learning activities that can be used to promote students’ acquisition of language skills and intercultural learning. The advent of technology has provided new opportunities to engage language learners and provide them unique learning experiences in interacting with individuals from diverse and varied geographical locations. Through their interactions with technology tools, students are active in their learning and experience increased levels of motivation and immersion within tasks that result in deep learning. Language educators are gravitating toward more interactive technologies such as gamification due to its numerous benefits that include providing learners access to vocabulary, narratives, and role plays. Further, since many games contain an emotional impact, students are also able to more effectively retain information through these types of digitally enhanced activities.
By playing games, students are able to gain an understanding of grammar rules and vocabulary that results in points, quests, and trophies. This exciting approach to language acquisition helps students feel motivated to learn a new language in an incentivized environment that encompasses competition and fun. Students are also able to track their progress and identify what skills they need to further develop. Benefits of language games include providing access to target language skills and the ability to reflect on diverse learning approaches. By engaging in games, educators can nurture the development of a learning community that is conducive to promoting higher levels of proficiency.
There are an ample number of language games that are available for students to use. Games such as MindSnacks, Languagenut, FluentU, and Duolingo guide learners in their language endeavors by providing interactive gaming experiences through competitive and challenging activities. By completing gaming tasks, students earn badges and compete against peers, resulting in increased motivation and continual progression toward their language goals. Further, by having constant access to language apps, learners more readily and more quickly acquire another language and feel higher levels of comfort in their language abilities. Gamification lessons have been described as bite-sized in that learners are prompted to stay engaged and on-track and focused on realistic goals (e.g., 20 minutes per day).
Prior to implementing gamification into their classrooms, Huang and Soman (2013) proposed guidelines for a five-step process that include: 1) understanding the target audience and context, 2) defining the learning objectives, 3) structuring the experience, 4) identifying resources, and 5) applying gamification elements. Educators also need to ensure that their linguistic aims are clear and that they include student interactions as opportunities for target language production. Moreover, educators need to determine at what points in the game they should provide feedback and the number of times students will be allotted to play the game. Once the game is implemented with learners, educators should include a debriefing session for students to reflect on their gaming experiences. Through the incorporation of questions that include “how do you feel,” “what did you learn,” and “how can you apply the content” allows for more memorable learning experiences. For example, in role play activities, students can express their comfort levels in interacting in the game and if they felt they engaged in culturally appropriate behaviors. They can further discuss the strategies that they utilized in their communications. These discussions often extend student learning for future interactions and classroom activities.
Technology provides many advantages for educators to promote language development. Students who engage in games to enhance their levels of language proficiency receive exposure to interactive lessons that mimic real life events and cultural situations. When learning a new language, students need access to experiences that allow them to practice their language skills in authentic situations. Gamification activities allow for these types of learning experiences through role plays and narrative overviews. Educators who integrate gamification into their classrooms need to verify that the games are supportive of their learning objectives and that students have opportunities to connect with one another. Specifically, providing a competitive edge to a language learning classroom can result in students being more immersed and motivated in their language learning pursuits.
Huang, W., & Soman, D. (2013). Gamification of education. Research Report Series: Behavioural Economics in Action. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
Kelly Torres, Ph.D. is the Department Chair of the EPT program at TCSPP. Her research interests are focused on heritage language learners, English language learners, teacher certification programs, and online learning.
Aubrey Statti, Ed.D. is a core faculty member of the EPT program at TCSPP. Her research interests include early childhood education, educational technology, online education, and mentorship.