Computer Games – the Key to Successful Foreign Language Teaching

Technology has promoted the evolution of edutainment, therefore teachers can use a lot of edutainment materials in order to compete with all media distractions for students’ time and attention, and they can actually use technology to make their work better. Educational games are designed to teach students about certain subjects, to help them acquire certain skills while playing and to reinforce students’ development such as board games, card games, video games, films, art, drama documentaries, music, language games etc. They are considered to belong to the field of edutainment, a new term related to games that has been introduced along the years.

”Edutainment” is a portmanteau word designating a form of education which is entertaining in order to keep students interested and engaged and acquire knowledge (”edu” is derived from „education” and ”tainment” is kept from ”entertainment”). So in a few words, edutainment means educating as well as entertaining.

„The first step towards understanding how computer games can transform learning and education is charging the widely shared perspective that games are „mere entertainment”. It is more than multi-billion dollar industry and more than a compelling toy for both children and adults, computer gamesare important because they let people participate in new worlds. They let players, think, talk, and act  – they let players inhabit — roles otherwise inaccessible to them. These virtual worlds are what makes games such powerful contexts for learning- In virtual worlds, learners experience the concrete realities that words and symbols only describe.” (Global Conflict Press Kit).

Many scholars understand the advantages of games in learning. Some of those that strongly support that Serious Games should become an integrated part of learning in the classroom are Marc Prensky, Clark Quinn, Carly Schuna and the numerous authors behind the Horizon reports.

The article ”Serious games for Serious Topics” by Clark Quinn at eLearn Magazine studies the fact that serious games create and change a scenario while simultaneously learning about consequences of choice in the situation. As students become more engaged and committed to succeeding in the game, they become more willing to learn about the scenario the situation is taking place in. They begin to care about learning more about the topic and how to solve the problem.

Playing educational games also help us and children with focus, self esteem, and memory. Educational games can help a child focus because they are being patient while waiting to achieve getting to the next level. Playing these games help their self esteem because sometimes they get a quicker reaction from game system and they can really see how they have accomplished something. In the games there are milestones that children will have to reach and at the end of each stage they receive something that will have to have in the next stage. This is also where their focus comes into play because they will take their time to make sure they do things correctly so that they may go on longer in the game.

Furthermore, Prensky argues that children are naturally motivated to play games. Serious Games are interactive play that teach students goals, rules, adaptation, problem solving, interaction, all represented as a story. They give them the fundamental needs of learning by providing enjoyment, passionate structure, motivation, ego gratification, adrenaline, creativity, social interaction and emotion. So in his opinion:

Games are a form of fun. They give us enjoyment and pleasure.
Games are form of play. That gives us intense and passionate involvement.
Games have rules. That gives us structure.
Games have goals. That gives us motivation
Games are interactive. That gives us doing.
Games are adaptive. That gives us flow.
Games have outcomes and feedbacks. That gives us adrenaline.
Games have win states. That gives us ego gratification.
Games have conflict/competition/ opposition That gives us adrenaline.
Games have problem solving. That sparks our creativity.
Games have interaction. That gives us social groups.
Games have representations and story. That gives us emotion.

The main reason why games are considered effective learning aids is that „they spur motivation and students get very absorbed in the competitive aspects of the games; moreover, they try harder at games than in other courses” (Avedon, 1971). Naturally when playing games, students are trying to win or to beat other teams. They are so competitive while playing because they want to have a turn to play, to score points and to win. In the class, students will definitely participate in the activities. Therefore, it is possible for a teacher to introduce students to new ideas, grammar, knowledge and so on. As in the dictation game, students are so competitive that they want to finish first and win. It can be clearly seen that games can increase students’ attention and participation. They can motivate students to want to learn more. Moreover, they can transform a boring class into a challenging one.

However, even though games sometimes do not work since students have different learning styles  and preferences, and some other factors such as being used in an inappropriate time, the nature of games themselves, and even the nature of teachers, it is still worth trying to use them in class, because they are very effective and supportive activities in contributing to students’ language skills and proficiency.

Bibliography
Avedon, E.M. & Sutton-Smith, B. (1971).The study ofgames. John Wiley & Sons.
Global Conflict Press Kit. Retrieved from www.globalconflicts.eu
„Serious Games for Serious Topics’ ‘Clark Quinn , eLearn Magazine.
Simon Egenfeldt- Nielsen,S. (2005). Beyond Edutainment: The Educational Potential of Computer Games, IT University of Copenhagen

 

prof. Beatrice Grigore

Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/beatrice.grigore

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