Most video games are narrated in English and require at least basic English ability. In most games, regardless of genre, the four major language domains are included: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. With the emergence of online gaming, people from all around the world have the opportunity to communicate and strategize while being truly engaged in their task. While most of these tasks are purely for entertainment, there is often learning taking place at an efficient and enjoyable level. While developing a framework for engagement theory, Kearsley & Schneiderman (1999) suggested that:
Students must be meaningfully engaged in learning activities through interaction with others and worthwhile tasks. While in principle, such engagement could occur without the use of technology, we believe that technology can facilitate engagement in ways which are difficult to achieve otherwise. So engagement theory is intended to be a conceptual framework for technology-based learning and teaching. (p. 1).
They point out the popularity of video games outside the classroom as well as postulate that some of the video game ideas could work in the classrooms as well. Take into account the diverse group of people that play video games, they come from all around the globe. Since the narration in nearly all popular games is in English, English language learners (ELLs) have a potential classroom everytime they go online. This paper sets out to explore the usability, efficiency, and research surrounding the use of video games as a vehicle for English acquisition.
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Over the past few years we’ve both been researching and studying popular culture and language acquisition and I had already read some video game theory. Dr. Puzio recommended we start with Dr. Gee who has built a reputation as a video game expert. Some of his work led, via Google scholar, to Piaget and Vygotsky which resulted in an eruption of theory and practice. Looking primarily at empirical articles involving keywords such as: video games, language, and online gaming and education, we found various articles that discussed, usually a desire to incorporate video games into curricula. Earlier Chon had been in contact via email with Storey, Duff, and Pinker, three experts in their respected fields of popular culture, and language acquisition which led to some academic texts as well. In addition to personal communication and Google Scholar searches, reading the resources of various studies inevitably lead to useful scholarly work.
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The Volume of Gaming
Video games generated nearly 67 billion dollars in 2012 worldwide. While the United States has consistently been the biggest consumer of video games, other countries are experiencing tremendous growth in the gaming market. China, Brazil, and India are leading the way in 2013 with no slowdown in site. The following figure (figure 1) depicts the market share in billions in the past 10 years. Video game sales are predicted to reach 82 billion by 2017 worldwide (Forbes, year).
Great paragraph well done.
Figure 1. Video game sales from 2003-2013 (Source, year)
Instructors are always looking for innovative and effective ways to engage learners both in and out of the classroom. As you can see from figure 1, the number of gamers has grown at a tremendous rate. Many of these learners around the world are purchasing and playing video games on a regular basis. While genres and formats of video games vary, there is one constant, that the vast majority of video games are narrated and setup using English as the default and only language. Language learners, specifically English language learners (ELLs), may be engaged in an authentic way through video games and as such that engagement could translate into language acquisition.
Video games can promote interests such as sports, role-playing, arts, music, action, problem-solving, and promotion of language skills. Popular culture author Johnson (2005) points out that games have proven to be effective in basic conceptual skills as well as physical skills (dexterity, speed, coordination) but also because games allow for learning social and cultural skills associated with language. In a meta-analysis of gaming theory and research, Van Eck (1999) suggests that “games are effective not because of what they are, but because of what they embody and what learners are doing as they play a game.” He goes on to discuss how when a student is playing a game, he or she is not simply playing, they are incorporating specific skills cognitively and physically that correspond with their chosen game, and that “games, clearly, make us of the principle of play as an instructional strategy.”
Look no further than constructivist theory for a reason to utilize video games. Quite simply, people can improve quicker by doing, not just listening. Piaget believed that active learning promoted the most efficient learning. Just as a teacher serves as a guide, video games can be the teacher, there to assist when needed, but the student is using cognitive and motor skills to apply knowledge.
Use academic language such as help rather than assist. The paragraph requires references.
Video Game Literacy
As various forms of digital environment continue to emerge, education pedagogy needs to keep up with learners’ affinity towards tech devices and ability to navigate a myriad of new digital literacies. Video games have become more than just entertainment, “digital technology is rapidly becoming a primary carrier of information and that the broader means of expression this technology makes possible are now critical for education” (Meyer & Rose, 1999). New literacies go beyond the ability to read and write as ‘digital natives’ have developed skills. Gee (2006) defines video gaming as a “proactive production of story elements, a visual-motoric-auditory-decision-making symphony, and a unique real-virtual story which produces a new form of performance art co-produced by players and designers” (p. 61). Gee goes on to say that when people learn to play video games, they are simply learning new literacies, especially when learners are learning actively and critically.
Engagement & Game Theory
Engagement theory and game theory have some overlapping facets that work well together. In that vein it is necessary to show the juxtaposition of the two in correlation with using video games in the classroom. By integrating outside gaming with the classroom, Kearsley & Schneiderman (1999) posit “Engagement theory is based upon the idea of creating successful collaborative teams that work on ambitious projects that are meaningful to someone outside the classroom (p. 2).
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James Gee (2004) has led a game theory revival over the past decade to encourage the use of video games as a part of curricula in all school settings. Two major claims set the foundation for his hypothesis. First, good video games have a solid foundation on learning principles. Second, video game are more than entertaining, they promote learning in and outside of school in a myriad of ways. Gardner (1991) supports these claims by suggesting that video games allow players to see a virtual world where you can make mistakes, learn from them, and improve. Gardner also points out that some video games teach social and academic skills that can be applied to real-world situations. Gee (2004) continues to support his claims by stating “Dialogue and experience are essential for people to be able to relate words to actual actions, since games are simulations of experience, they can situate language in specific contexts.”
Six features of a ‘good game’ include: motivation, the role of failure, competition and collaboration, the design of games, situated meaning, cross-functional teamwork, and open-endedness. Discovering goals and being engaged enough to achieve those goals is primary characteristics of what games should be able to do within education according to some components of game theory.
Game theory was originally created to aid in the development of mathematical modeling and decision making. Since its inception, game theory has evolved to include various forms and meanings, and Gee has utilized the term to incorporate and include video games and the theory that learning can and does take place thanks to video games. Gee believes in the art of acting and role playing in education. In 2003 he suggested that “In a sense, all learning involves playing a character. In a science classroom learning works best if students think, act, and value like scientists. Games can show us how to get people to invest in new identities or roles, which can, in turn, become powerful motivators for new and deep learning in classrooms and workplaces” (p. 3) and that “they allow people to re-create themselves in new worlds and achieve recreation and deep learning at one and the same time” (p. 4).
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Gee promotes the use of ‘commercial’ video games available on the most common platforms (PS3, Xbox, CPU, and Nintendo Wii) and is an advocate for learning and enjoyment via these platform based teaching tools. The creativity and imagination associated with video games can and does promote learning and language acquisition because just as game theory was created to allow for collaboration and decision making, video games of various genres allow for all sorts of decision making in just about any context imaginable. Wu (2012) postulates that “Game-based learning is learning through the game, rather than learning to play a game” (p. 269).
There are four theories that inform Gee’s Video Game Theory. Each has characteristics that relate to emerging interest in using games in learning. The first theory, behaviorism, (Thorndike, 1913, Pavlov, 1927) includes elements of self-teaching, direct instruction, imitation, and modeling which can all be experienced in video game play. Second, cognitivism is based on memory and learning and reacting from past experiences. Motor skills and attitudes are also reflected in various video games which users experience. The third theory, humanism, is apparent in many video games because players value their time and energy and the goal is develop more skills that can be utilized somehow in life. And finally constructivism allows players of video games to create their own worlds based on their real experiences. While Vygotsky (1962) focused on speech and writing to develop cultural and social skills, video games can and do have similar effects on learners. Playing various video games, especially online games involve interaction between players where many gamers make global connections, usually in English.
Great paragraph although you need to include one or two more references in it.
In the literature there are several themes that emerge. The first theme is that of collaboration involved in video games. As mentioned in the theory section, Gee advocates for promoting creativity and innovation through video games, which helps create and maintain identity. This identity is seen when working with other others where players’ abilities to mesh identities to work together may be the difference between winning and losing. In the wide world of online gaming, Gee (2003) and Wenger et al. (2002) postulate:
We can state that when players play in massive multiplayer games, they often collaborate in teams, each using a different, but overlapping, set of skills, and share knowledge, skills, and values with others both inside the game and on various Internet sites. In the process, they create distributed and dispersed knowledge within a community in ways that would please any contemporary high-tech, cross-functional-team-centered workplace. (page number)
ELLs playing with native English speakers adds a language dynamic that is occurring naturally and authentically. If there are fifteen players and they are all ELLs, then leaders usually emerge which adds another element valuable to education.
A second theme of video games is that of authenticity. Authenticity has been mentioned as a major component of task engagement, and playing games is a prime example of a specific task. There are foundational explanations and research directed related to authenticity in the literature. Meltzer & Hamann (2004) offered an explanation of authenticity, saying it is “making connections to students’ lives by creating opportunities for authentic interactions with people, objects, and experiences that initiate student interest” (p. 10). Schwarzer (2009) studied adult ESL students and their interaction with tutors. He wanted to find out what adult language learners found important and personal, and he wondered if that approach would translate into language acquisition. He also found that adult students needed to be motivated by authentic means, adding that, “authentic learning means to incorporate learning materials and learning experiences from the learners’ daily lives” (p. 29). Duff (2003) has recognized positive results from using pop culture as a medium to teach language. She worked with language learners and popular culture, primarily in secondary and university classrooms. She contends “Children and young adults naturally develop repertoires of fictional characters and stories that are part of their background knowledge, cultural repertoire, social practice, and indeed identity” (p. 233).
This source could have been paraphrased.
The next theme found within the literature has elements of authenticity and collaboration, and that is social interaction. A seminal work by Pica and Doughty (1985, 1987) suggest that social interaction is the navigation of language and context to share ideas and solve problems. While Pica and Doughty claim the navigation of language is paramount, Long (1983) suggests that providing learners with ways in which to negotiate meaning and context afforded them with more acquisition opportunity. Both theories support the use of social interaction in task engagement.
Some of the theory addressing the social interaction piece of task engagement is not new to academia, and may have really started with Vygotsky (1962). Vygotsky was one of the first to introduce this principle when he suggested that social and individual functioning requires active engagement with peers and adults who support their functioning. He postulated that children’s education is a social enterprise. He believed that as learners grow so does their need and ability to interact. This interaction between peers and instructors encourages and harbors more interaction, allowing for communication and navigation of social skills.
There have been multiple studies to promote the inclusion of social interaction as a component of task engagement. For example, Shernoff & Hoogstra (2001) conducted a study trying to decipher reasons for university success in language acquisition. They suggested, “High engagement during tasks in the high school classrooms has been a significant predictor of continuing motivation and commitment as well as overall performance in college” (p. 61). Task engagement is a more focused area of engagement and as such it is necessary to look closely at some work being done in the area. Shernoff & Hoogstra (2001) conducted a study of 526 high school students. They investigated how these students spent their time and what they reported as being engaged. Suggestions by students to increase engagement such as focusing on autonomy provided the most positive feedback. Additionally, Kuo (2004) suggests that:
Indeed, if we observe them, most children playing games will be talking, sharing strategies, downloading FAQs from the Internet, or participating in online forumsMost gamers describe their play as a social experience, a way to connect with friends, and rare is the player who truly games “alone” in any meaningful sense. (p. 23).
Whether in or outside the classroom, video games may serve as an influential medium of language and cultural acquisition, as Anderson et al, (2008) posit, “Playing video games will prepare students for social participation (p. 191).
Along with interaction there are elements of scaffolding when considering video games for language acquisition. Gee (2003, 2004, 2005) argues that “videogames are an ideal laboratory for studying learning principles because, as the games increase in complexity, game designers embed structures to help players learn them” (Squire, 2006, p. 22). In addition, Annetta (2009) points out the work of Brougere (1999) who states:
Childhood is a time for constructing the relationship between the world through play. The decision, the initiative of the player who organizes the activity, the rule, whatever its origin, the absence of consequences (gratuity or futility), and the uncertainty of the results scaffolds learning (p. 232).
The scaffolding of instructors and players to help one another in video games has proven to be a useful strategy that may work for a plethora of video games, both educational and entertaining.
Motivation is another component of video games that is also present in various theories and themes. Gardner (1985) emphasized the role of attention and motivation, believing that a highly motivated student will enjoy learning and therefore want to learn. Gardner focused on two areas of motivation: integrative motivation and instrumental motivation. According to Gardner, integrative motivation would include students wanting to learn a new language to travel and be accepted socially in a new place. Instrumental motivation takes on a more academic role. For example, if a language learner needed to study for a Spanish test, he or she would be using instrumental motivation to help accomplish this task. Much like intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, there are reasons a student does anything, and motivation may only be a catalyst. For various reasons players around the world are motivated to play video games. “Of course, game players aren’t doing just anything in these worlds, they are motivated by challenges set up by designers (or constructed by the players themselves), and are limited by the constraints of the game system” (Squire, 2006, p. 22). Squire’s quote leads to what game developers may be considering when how to motivate and engage players.
The paragraph was clear and concise well done.
Video Game Design
Arnold and Doe (2011) identify 10 key principles for foreign language learning that should be included in the design. These principles should be considered when not only designing a game, but when implementing a game in the classroom.
- Consider what players have liked and disliked in past games to create more successful games in the future.
- Content should ensure that learners focus on meaning and form.
- Elements of the game, particular communication and input mechanisms should have a playful spirit to them.
- Metalinguistic descriptions and terminology should be presented through optional supporting material, not as a part of core gameplay.
- Learning content should be organized around tasks.
- New concepts should be introduced gradually and interspersed with other content before requiring difficult responses from players.
- Assessment should intelligently track free production task throughout the game, not simply measure controlled production during test events.
- Consider the full range of gaming platforms available.
- Instructional activities should be designed to teach students how they can autonomously continue playing similar games or performing similar activities taken directly from the target culture.
- Multiplayer games should provide players with meaningful and distinct roles.
Gee (2007) offers five principles for creating ‘good’ games for learning. First, that all aspects are set up to encourage active and critical learning. Second, learning about and coming to appreciate design principles is core to the learning experience. Third, learning about interrelations within and across multiple systems as a complex system is core to the learning experience. Fourth, that learning involves mastering at some level semiotic domains and being able to participate at some level with an affinity group. And fifth, that learning involves active and critical thinking about the relationships of the semiotic domain being learned to other semiotic domains. Some games are intended for entertainment while others are for education. The goal in this research is to find out how to create a game for both.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990) Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper Perennial.
Gee, P. (2007). Are video games good for learning? Curriculum Leadership Journal, 5 (1) p. 1-6.
Kearlsley & Schneiderman (1999). Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Retrieved from: http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/engage.htm
Meyer, A., & Rose, D. (1999). Learning to read in the computer age. Cambridge, MA:
Rankin, Y., Gold, R., & Gooch, B. (2006). 3d role-playing games as language learning tools. In Conference Proceedings of EuroGraphics 2006, vol. 25.
Stets, J. & Burke, P. (2000). Identity theory and social identity theory. Social Pyschology Quarterly, 63 (3), p.224-237.
Turkle, S. (1997). Multiple subjectivity and virtual community at the end of the Freudian century. Sociological Inquiry 67:72–84.
Whittlesea & Wright. (1997) Implicit (and explicit) learning acting adaptively without knowing the consequence. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 23 (1997), p. 181–200.
Van Eck, R. (2006). Digital game-based learning: It’s not just the digital natives who are restless. Educause Review, p. 16-30.
The paper is generally well written with few spelling and grammatical errors to prevent
the reader from understanding it. While the reference list is comprehensive you need to include
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clear headings to guide the reader from one idea to the next. A few sentences could be rewritten