Online Games for Second Language Acquisition

Recently I was reading about incorporating online games in the classroom experience. From an strictly teacher perspective the games must enhance students learning experience according with the goals and learning objectives.
Is it possible to have fun when we learn and teach a second language? In my opinion gaming can be incredibly beneficial to learning a second language. These kind of activities like Horton (2012) mentioned can provide practice, provoke discoveries, and test learning.
To learn a new language is a very individual process aligned with specific communication skills. To provide effective gaming experience for increasing retention of classroom curriculum I agree with the idea of Brown, Roediger & McDaniel that the more difficult the practice, the greater the benefit.
It is important to design and select games with different levels of difficulties having new knowledge built from prior knowledge and gradually increasing complexity while encouraging problem solving skills and providing effective feedback. In every level it is possible to choose or create the appropriate game from simple puzzles for practicing vocabulary to simulations or immersive role-playing games for encouraging listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
I found extremely value Peter’s recommendations when selecting or developing games for a course:
Align games with learning goals.
Choose games based on their motivational potential.
Games must be interactive and dynamic.
Provide progressive complexity.
Integrate learnability into the game.
Contextualize games into real life situations (relevant to the learning process)
Embed feedback into the game (realistic consequences from the choices made)

In terms of designing games’ interface most of the experts recommend for simple games to use game templates to reduce the amount of custom development required. For advanced learning activities it is highly recommended to design micro-world with clear goals, learning objectives, character, objects, and rules. Always focus on how the win condition requires accomplishing the learning objectives (Horton, 2012). I believe there still is a long way remaining to develop great games for each content area but education is progressing more toward effectively incorporating virtual play learning experiences in the curriculum.

6 responses to “Online Games for Second Language Acquisition”

  1. Hello, Rosanna. I enjoyed reading your blog entry on the topic of gaming as a tool for second language acquisition. While I do not play online games of any sort, I know that our students play them all the time. In your post, you mention quite a few different types of games as simple as puzzles (crossword puzzles perhaps) and as complex as simulated real world situations. I agree that all sorts of game types could be useful for motivating and stimulating foreign language learners. The role play activities you cite seem to me to offer opportunities to put learners in the target culture and to have them take on responsibility for “winning” the game by using the target language appropriately.

    I took note of the pedagogical criteria you cited as necessary components for effective foreign language learning games:

    Align games with learning goals.
    Choose games based on their motivational potential.
    Games must be interactive and dynamic.
    Provide progressive complexity.
    Integrate learnability into the game.
    Contextualize games into real life situations (relevant to the learning process)
    Embed feedback into the game (realistic consequences from the choices made)

    I will use these criteria when the time comes for me to select language learning games for my students. Thank you for your insights and some very useful information about gaming!

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    1. Patricia, thank you for your comment and sharing your insights about the topic. Like you I do no play online games; but I understand their educational potential to engage and motivate students. I will try to include them in my design projects. I am curious how effective they will be. For sure, it is a good idea for future reflections.

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  2. I really took note of the comment “can we really have fun while learning a language.” My daughter is learning spanish in middle school and she comes home and shows me some of the things she learns. The teacher has the kids do skits where often the boys play girls and the girls play boys, they have a pot luck or they do the words, i.e. jump, run fast, sit, laugh etc. She has been learning fast because she is having fun. I think games are a great way to make learning fun. I would think that an online game could be something like making a person travel through that certain country and needing to communicate with the other characters in the game. It would really cool if your students could log in anytime and they are added into the same game as they log in. I’m not sure if it is possible but it would be a great game for adults as well.

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    1. Kristen, I am not aware is exist a game to learn Spanish like that. Actually I have a similar idea, thinking about good ways to engage students in Spanish class. I would love to work on a project like this in the future… Just a wish. I recommended this course http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/spanish/mividaloca/ . It is an online simulation mini-course to learn Spanish. I think it is very well developed and the students that took it had the same impression as I. (maybe not appropriate for teenagers, but great for adults!) Thank you for your comment!

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  3. I really like the idea of gamification when it comes to language aquisition. I would be interested my self in learning spanishm and would love if there were some type of game that successfully imiersed you into everyday spanish so that you could really learn. I love travelling, and I wish I was more able to leave everything to live in a spanish speaking country, because it seems like the only way to really learn a language. If gamification could solve this problem I would be quite excited!

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    1. Bryan, I love to travel as well. Even if I usually don’t play games I have learned a lot of English through online games with my little girls. I can see the educational potential and benefits incorporating it for language classes. I think well designed games for learn ingSpanish are a good area to explore and develop. Maybe a future project on my list?

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