IED In English Digital
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Special Feature: digital technology in the language teaching classroom !
The British Council magazine for teachers of English in Lusophone countries
5-8 From If to When Creative pedagogy, Language Learning and Technology:
Cover image adapted from: Gunnar Assmy/shutterstock.com
Promoting writing and speaking with free online tools:
Digital technology, the kids’ language:
Developing your teaching online:
INVADER A GPS-based game of alien anthropology:
DESIGN Paul Driver
Distracted or Engaged? Digital Technology and Learning:
Using iPads in Brazilian Schools:
WebQuests - Essential Components of a WebQuest:
Literature meets video game - Digital gamebased language learning with Interactive Fiction:
Mini-Profile: São Tomé and Príncipe:
IED I n English Digital
intr oduc)on Having recently taken up post in Portugal, I am pleased to have been asked to introduce In English Digital 6. The quality of this e-zine has really impressed me, not only because of the breadth of topics it covers, but also because of the quality of the articles submitted from across the Lusophone world. There is an increasing demand for English language teaching professionals to gain appropriate training and critical insight into the use of technology in their practice. This edition of In English Digital explores the ideas around technology-enhanced learning and future directions for technology design in education. You can now contact us at any time on email@example.com, which is our new email address. Use this address to send us your comments on the articles in this issue and any further ideas you would like to share.
You can also use this address if you want to be notified of when the next edition is published or to receive our new In English Digital newsletter. We also want to hear from you, with your expertise and experience, to help shape the content of In English Digital to meet your needs. Ideas – videos, lesson plans, articles … snippets or deeply considered items – are always welcome. To all our readers – we hope you enjoy this edition – use it, share it, tell us what you think … and remember to send us your ideas and comments. We’ll publish them – if you allow us – on our website: http://www.britishcouncil.org/por tugalensinar-ingles-revista.htm Christina Phelps English Programmes Manager, British Council Portugal
editorial This edition of In English Digital, the sixth, moves away from the country-themed approach of the earlier editions and takes a hard look instead at the role of digital technology in the language teaching classroom. The last decade has seen an explosion in the development of technology that takes it from being an occasional addition to the classroom to a central tool for many. Graham Stanley, one of two ICT gurus who we have invited to contribute to this edition, says that we have moved to Act II and "the question has changed from ‘if technology should be used’ to ‘when should technology be used’." Graham discusses the kind of frameworks that can be employed to make the use of technology effective but, more importantly, he looks in detail at the impact of creativity and creative teaching in the work of a language teacher. Nik Peachey, our second ICT guru, on the other hand is concerned about the role that digital technology and the internet can play in supporting teachers themselves and breaking away from what he claims used to be " a very isolated existence" for most teachers, at least in the traditional context of teaching. He explores the various tools that are available in bringing teachers together in cyber communities. We hear from Joe Pereira, a teacher from Portugal who is making his name on the international stage with his work on
Interactive Fiction and who introduces us to the interface where 'literature meets video game'. And we hear from Susana Oliveira who runs through some specific uses of free online tools which are available to promote writing and speaking in the classroom, as well as from other teachers who share their experiences of working face to face in the language classroom and using different forms of digital technology, including a short video report on the use of iPads in Brazilian schools. There is also a report about teachers who are not yet convinced by the new revolution and who ask us to be cautious. It isn't all about technology, though. For example, we visit a school in Azambuja through a video produced by some 11th year students, and take a brief trip to São Tomé to see what teacher Lawrence Mbotte is doing at the Liceu Nacional. The next edition, IED7, will be looking to shake a few trees and rattle a few cages when we challenge the paradigms of education generally. If you want to add your voice to this - asking questions or giving answers - then let us know before 30 June. Fitch O'Connell
From If to When Creative pedagogy, language learning and technology We live in a world that is being transformed dramatically by technologies which are emerging and evolving more quickly than at any other time in history. These technologies are changing how we communicate, think, work and play. Now more than ever, we need to encourage people's intellectual and creative capabilities.
image: Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock.com
Ten years ago, when the Web was still largely a library of resources to be used, many questioned the use of technology in language teaching. Back then, it was referred to as CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) and this was very much a minority activity. Most teachers had seen a computer; some had used them; but the idea of using them for teaching was still frowned upon. Now, few doubt the role technology can play in the language classroom. We seem to have moved to Act II and the question has changed from ‘if technology should be used’ to ‘when should technology be used’. If you are a teacher who is curious about technology, there is a temptation when you find an interesting tool to experiment with it in class, to try it out with learners, even though it may not be the best way to accomplish the language learning aims of your class.
By Graham Stanley It’s time for a change, and some educators have called for a more principled approach to using technology in the classroom. The ELT blogosphere is full of posts such as ‘ten tools for digital storytelling’ or 'five tech tools for teachers', with blogs and bloggers building a reputation on discovering new tools and showing how teachers can use them. There is clearly a demand for this, but it’s not enough. Technology needs to be integrated into practice and used only when it is the most effective way of furthering language learning aims. Trips to the computer room shouldn’t be seen as a break from what you’re doing in class, a novelty, just as using a video shouldn’t be seen as an end of class or term activity or (worse) something to do on a Friday afternoon. There should be clear learning objectives and the learners should be made aware of this. Fortunately, there are a number of different frameworks you can use when you decide to implement technology in the classroom. Your choice of one should align with your theory of language learning. Technology should only be used if and when it supports this, and only if it is the best way to do something. This may mean that it motivates learners, or saves you time, or the technology is used in a real world use of language.
One way of integrating technology is through creative pedagogy. In the rest of this article, I’ll be looking at what it is and how technology can best serve this t h e o r y o f l e a r n i n g , ex p l o r i n g t h e relationship between the two and hopefully indicating how a creative learning environment can be fostered, where both creative thinking and learning are enhanced. First of all, let’s take a closer look at creativity. Creativity Unfortunately, the words creativity and school are rarely mentioned in the same breath. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly in his book about the subject goes further, saying that rarely does school gets a mention as a source of inspiration in the lives of creative people. Indeed, school often threatens instead 'to extinguish the interest and curiosity' a child discovers outside its walls. Individual teachers, however, often exert an important influence, with two factors standing out as being important. The first is the teacher noticing a student', believing in his or her's abilities and caring enough to want to help. The second is the teacher giving the child extra work and greater challenges than the rest of the class received. Sir Ken Robinson feels the same way about creativity and school. In his much viewed and highly influential TED Talk, he said that ‘creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status’ and yet he believes in schools ‘we are educating people out of their creative capacities’. In the book on which the talk was based, ‘Out of our minds: Learning to be creative’ , he expands upon this, saying that it is wrong that some eye the word ‘creativity’ with suspicion, image: NLshop/Shutterstock.com
believing it incompatible with ‘serious work’ and that ‘new forms of work rely increasingly on h i g h l eve l s o f s p e c i a l i s t knowledge, and on creativity and innovation.’ This is all very well, but how can teachers make their classrooms a more fertile place for nurturing creativity? One answer is by adopting creative pedagogy. Creative pedagogy The concept of Creative Pedagogy was introduced by the educator and author Andrei Aleinikov in 1989. It involves teaching learners how to learn creatively, and thereby transforming the traditional classroom into a creative teaching environment that better promotes life-long learning. Practically speaking, this requires a teacher to strike a balance in the classroom, using teaching skills to promote understanding of a subject whilst also allowing learners the freedom to innovate, and take risks. It helps if a teacher plans a lesson which always involves encouraging the learners to think or behaving imaginatively. This imaginative activity should always be directed towards achieving an objective: that is, it should further the learning aims of the class. Finally, the traditional study material (the course book, etc.) is transformed so that something original is generated or c re a t e d by learners and teacher.
A key difference in creative pedagogy is the role of the learner. Rather than the 'object of influence' (i.e. someone to be taught), the learner's status is raised to one of 'creative person'. Das, Dewhurst & Gray (2011) stress the importance of the teacher 'helping learners develop characteristics such as self-motivation, confidence, curiosity and flexibility… all of which need to be supported by a flexible learning context.' Creative Pedagogy and ELT Let's look now at the four components of creative pedagogy (fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration), and see how they can be adapted for the language classroom. Fluency. Fluency in creative pedagogy is all about generating new ideas. Teachers can turn to the learners to find out what they know and what they are interested in. Use these as examples, rather than the examples in the course book. F l ex i b i l i t y. Most experienced language teachers recognise the value of changing the direction of a lesson if something interesting emerges. This could be from something a learner says, or related to something that is happening in the outside world that everyone is interested in. This shif t of perspectives should be embraced if the teacher can do so without straying from language learning aims. Originality. Doing something new can be key to gaining and holding learners' interest. If your lesson always starts and finishes the same way, for example, then this can disengage and demotivate. Surprise the learners. For example, use the classroom space in different ways, posting copies of coursebook material on the walls and asking everyone to walk from wall to
wall to read and piece togather the text. Write sample questions on pieces of paper and stick them to the bottom of chairs or inside balloons which are randomly distributed in class. Elaboration. Building on existing ideas is important. Link what you were doing in one class to another and make sure creative projects in class relate to the learning aims. Technology and Creative Pedagogy in ELT Adding technology into the mix can be a way of stimulating learners' creativity. How can technology best be combined with the f o u r c o m p o n e n t s o f c re a t i ve thinking? Here are two examples: a) Term book. Online publishing of learners' work is an easy way to motivate learners to write better English. Because the work they produce is being published, a teacher can ask for a higher standard of work than usual, and there's a real reason for learners to rewrite. Publishing writing c a n a l s o b e a ve r y rewarding way of documenting a learner's progress and producing a collection of writing from different classes each term (or a yearbook) is an excellent way of making a connection between different levels of learners and showing what is required at higher levels. It is also, in the case of young learners a way of opening up the classroom to parents. At the British Council in Bonanova, a 'Summer Course Book' was produced last year by collecting work from different classes. Learners and teachers were encouraged to be as creative as possible and their work was scanned or produced digitally and then compiled it using the free desktop publishing software, Adobe Rome. The resulting publication was published for free on Issuu, a digital publishing platform and made available to parents and learners on our student portal.
b) The Island project. Based on a project in Diana L. Fried-Booth's excellent resource book, 'Project Work', the island project uses the idea of an imaginary island as a platform for a number of different activities that can be used to practise a wide range of different skills and language. Working in groups, learners are first asked to imagine an island, which they draw and then add natural features (mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, etc.) to. The learners next add man-made features (cities, towns, factories, etc.) to the island and name different places. The last time I introduced this project to learners, I scanned their maps and then traced over the features using IWB software. This meant that different elements could be moved and I was able to put all of the islands together on a world map. What you do next is only limited to your imagination, and the imagination of the learners. In our case, the learners made each island a country, holding elections in groups for country leaders, forming governments. Some learners played the parts of journalists, reporting after attending press conferences and producing newspapers with sensationalist
reports of what the governments had or hadn't promised to do. The learners were also involved in negotiating trade agreements between islands and trying to attract tourists by producing posters using Glogster. Of course, this project can be run without any use of technology, but using technology to produce artefacts such as the posters, newspapers, and tourist guides, alsong w i t h re c o rd i n g s o f interviews can of ten make the project more meaningful for learners. The resulting artefacts can also easily be collected on a wiki (such as http:// pbworks.com or http://www.wikispaces.com), which can help the island come to life as more elements of it are documented. Final words I hope I have given you a taste of what can be done when creative pedagogy and technology are combined in the ELT classroom. I'll soon be linking to more examples on this website http://languagelearningtechnology.com so please drop by if you are interested in knowing more.
Further Information Csikszentmihaly, M (1997) Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention, New York: Harper Collins. Das, S., Dewhurst, Y., Gray, D. (2011). 'A teacherâ€™s repertoire: Developing creative pedagogies'. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 12(15) http://www.ijea.org/v12n15 Robinson, K (2006) Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity, TED Talks http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html Robinson, K (2011) Out of our minds: Learning to be creative http://sirkenrobinson.com/skr/out-of-our-minds
Promoting writing and speaking with free online tools By Susana Oliveira Agrupamento de Escolas de Valbom
As it of common knowledge today, the Internet is much more than just a teaching tool, it is becoming one of the primary media of literacy and communication practices (Warschauer & Kern, 2005). This is the report of a project I developed with my 10th graders and which I think can be of immediate practical use to ESL/EFL teachers. As we live in the Internet era I find it logical to try to use all the free tools available online inside our English classrooms. Not only will we promote our students` language skills but also help them to learn about and use new and versatile tools which will certainly be of use in other parts of their lives besides language learning. As Shetzer and Warschauer, 2005, advocate, it is no exa g g e r a t i o n t o d a y t o s a y t h a t t h e development of literacy and communication skills in new online media is critical to success in almost all walks of life. Issue or problem that started my project The issue or problem that moved me was the fact that the majority of my students had a very "scientific and objective" spirit and t h e re f o re h a d g re a t e r d i f f i c u l t i e s i n developing/creating longer, richer and better structured texts. Added to this many of them had a lot of difficulties in expressing their opinions orally and tended to participate in class only when they were asked to and even then they did it reluctantly because they were afraid of making mistakes.
Since some of the course goals for this grade were writing different types of essays, including argumentative, persuasive and opinion essays with a clear introduction, main b o d y w i t h s u p p o r t i n g ev i d e n c e , a n d conclusion, and overall presenting and defending individual points of view. There was an urgent need to do something to promote the quantity and quality of their writing and speaking.
Background First of all I would like to characterize the learners I worked with: they were a class of 22 students (11 male; 11 female), with an average age of 15. They were in the 10th year, scientific area of studies, and they had been learning English for 6 years.Three of my students were very good at English, four other students had a number of difficulties, another eight had some difficulties and the other seven were good. All of them were motivated, but there was a group which was very motivated and committed to everything they did. This class had English twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays for a period of 90 minutes each lesson. The school has internet access in the whole facility, as well as a projector in every room. There are two computer rooms, which are normally occupied by computer science classes, and around ten laptops that can be taken to class. My students were all able to use the computer for word processing and PowerPoint presentations, and the internet for basic research, social networking, e-mail, games and chats. They all have a computer and the majority said they used it every day. Only one student didn’t have internet access from his home. Activities Since my students had to prepare and present a final project I decided to promote students´ writing and speaking, enhancing this task with the use of technological tools so as to motivate them for writing and make their task easier. This was accomplished by presenting the students with a mind map tool to structure the work (Mindomo), as this resource is ideal for organizing one’s thoughts before writing (Fotheringham, 2009), and the search engine Twurdy to adapt to each of the students’ proficiency level while researching for their final projects.
Besides this the students were also presented with several search tips so as to make web searching easier and more effective, since, as Healey (2009) mentions, if you are looking for reliable academic sources while searching online you are much less likely to find what you want. I also opted for the creation of a class website that would function as motivation, since the students’ projects were going to be posted there, as well as a way to interact in English and explore such a rich tool as Google sites. Behind all the activities and strategies used was the intention to promote the students` autonomy, always keeping in mind that individual learners differ in their learning habits, interests, needs, and motivation, and develop varying degrees of independence throughout their lives (Tumposky, 1982 cited in Thanasoulas, 2000) in this case throughout their final projects. Notwithstanding, it was also intended to promoted cooperative learning and work, since students who are learning cooperatively are more active participants in the learning process (Lord, 2001 cited in Starting Point, n.d.). They care about the class and the material and they are more personally engaged. Sequence of activities: 1st – Students chose a partner, then a topic and finally structured the final work with the help of a mind map, made at the Mindomo website. (in class/at home) 2nd - In order to start promoting their speaking abilities students presented their mind map to class so as to show the other colleagues what their work was going to be about. (in class) 3rd - To promote writing they were presented with some web search tips and they got to know Twurdy and all its potential related to the different difficulty levels of language available. (in class) 4th – In pairs the students did their written work, maximum 4 pages, for the teacher to correct. (At home)
5th – The teacher prepared a website with “Google sites” and invited students as collaborators. (At home) 6th – Each student created an individual page on the website, wrote his/her presentation and inserted a picture and a video. (In a classroom with 12 computers) 7th – Each pair of students created a page for both of them under the page “final project” and started by inserting the mind map they had prepared. (In a classroom with 12 computers) 8th The teacher delivered the corrected papers to the students who then prepared their PPT presentation based on what they did to present orally to class. (In class/at home) 9th – The students inserted their written work in the site. (In a classroom with 12 computers) 10th –The students presented their final project orally to class with the help of the PPT presentation. Both elements of the pair had to equally present their project to class, by setting up similar speech times it was intended to make the less fluent students speak and not hide behind the more fluent ones. The result of this task was also published on-line at the class website. (In class/in a classroom with 12 computers)
Students’ Response Students responded very positively, they kept the deadlines and never failed to complete a task. The use of the mind mapping software pleased these students, who were very scientific and objective and found in that resource a practical way to sum their ideas up as well as organize them. From the feedback I got, they thought this tool would continue to be useful for them in the future. The oral presentation they had to do with the mind map, as it was objective and clear, was a way to make the less fluent students talk. The students were very pleased to discover “Twurdy” and really took advantage of its potential related to the different difficulty levels of language available, this turned out to be of great use for the project especially to those students who had more difficulties.
The site, with the help of Google where we inserted the work, became a success, as collaborators they could not only see everything I put there but as well as upload their work and help build "our" site, which they did. As they were secondary school students and quite responsible already, we were able to create a sort of "English community" in which they were the main participants. This m o t i va t e d t h e m a n d p ro m o t e d t h e i r independence since they knew it`s not every day that a teacher gives students the chance of being co-creators of a website directed to learning English! Although I tried to centre the work with the website during our classes because of the student who didn`t have internet access (even this one managed to edit the website out of school, possibly by using someone else`s internet access!) students worked on their homepages at home as well and commented on each others` pages actively, all in English of course. They worked well and some of them finished their written task quite early and started preparing their PPT presentation immediately. The written projects were of good quality, objective and clear and I could see that, apart from one topic or the other, the majority really made the effort to create their own texts (without using copy/paste!) and improved their written English proficiency as well as the quantity of text they were able to produce.
Conclusion Students responded so very positively to these activities and strategies because they naturally feel highly motivated by technology and have a tendency to try to do everything using the computer and the internet. Awarding them the responsibility of being cocreators of a website motivated them and made them participate more in class and try harder so as to make better projects, this
being so because they were responsible students most of which intended to continue studying and get good results. The success the site has had with my students and the improvement of their written and spoken fluency are more than reasons to continue using these tools together with more interactive web based activities, which I think will promote even more the students` proficiency in the English language and their motivation to learn it. What I observed in this project indicated that these strategies are good and effective since I was able to increase my studentsâ€™ written and oral production in terms of quantity and quality. During the time of the project I used my diary to take notes on the students` reactions and register the evaluations I gave to the mind maps and to the written projects. I also used the tool offered by Google where you can check the history of revisions made to the pages and I also subscribed to the site changes so I always got on my email everything that was changed and, above all, who changed it. I definitely encourage other teachers to use these strategies and tools. Mindomo, Twurdy and Google sites are free valuable tools that can help improve our students` proficiency in the English language as well as be useful for them in other aspects and areas of their lives, like Shetzer and Warschauer, 2005, mention these tools will give them power that may bring results well beyond the language classroom. Final projects prepared with the help of web search are also effective, together with PPTs, as a base for oral presentations. References
Digital technology, the kids’ language By Anabela S. S. Cardoso The first time I had to use an interactive board in a lesson I wasn’t so familiar with it as it was something new in schools, but my students back then already knew a lot more and helped me to start using this new technology. This is just an example of how kids nowadays understand almost intuitively digital technology, but it made me think that I could use this as an advantage in English lessons.
choose the images, show them and let them write the story. One of my classes wrote a story based on some pictures I chose and some basic vocabulary that I told them they had to use.
There are now many digital tools which we can use to motivate and help students to learn English, I will introduce you to some of the ones I use with my students:
Prezi - Another great digital tool is Prezi which is a different and more interesting way to make a presentation of slides. We can add pictures, sounds and videos to it very easily either from a folder on your computer or from the internet. We can use this to make presentations in our lessons or we can teach students to apply it and ask them to make use of it in a”show and tell “ lesson or any other presentation they have to make. Voki – a digital utensil in which students and/or teacher can record audio messages and choose different models (humans, animals, cartoons) to convey the message. It’s fun for kids and easy to use. I used this for example to make Christmas audio postcards.
Here are some examples. Storybird – It’s a writing tool in which we can use different artistic illustrators work to inspire us to write stories. We can choose different drawings join them and create the story ourselves and tell it to our students or we can
Here are two prezis I made , the second one I used to start talking about Thanksgiving. Next term I intend to ask students to use them in some presentations I’m going to ask them to do. There are plenty more digital utensils all over the internet which we can use in order to speak the same language as our students. It’s only fair that we speak digital if we want them to speak English.
Developing your teaching online @
image adapted from: Peshkova/Shutterstock.com
By Nik Peachey
I’ve been involved in teacher training for almost 15 teachers to grow in ways that would just not have been years now and those 15 years have seen an enormous possible a decade or even five years ago. shift in our profession as in most others. The catalyst for this shift has of course been digital technology and more For decades now the prime and preferred method of specifically the communication possibilities offered by the professional development has been the conference. For Internet. At its best, the application of new technologies many teachers this is a chance to regenerate, renew old has enabled teachers from around the globe to connect acquaintances and make new friends. The continuing communicate and exchange ideas and materials at a rate growth and popularity of conferences like IATEFL and that has never been possible before and in my role as TESOL can bare witness to this. As part of the team that teacher trainer and course developer I’m becoming works on delivering the IATEFL online experience I know increasingly convinced that the considered application of that there were some initial misgivings that the online new technologies has made the delivery of online training offer could potentially undermine the physical event, but courses not only, cheaper and more accessible for on the contrary it seems to have had the opposite effect teachers, but I genuinely believe we and making so much of the conference “…there were some initial have reached a point where online available online has only fueled misgivings that the online teachers’ desire to attend the event in teacher development has become a offer could potentially more effective means of developing person. Recent research I carried out undermine the physical teachers than face to face. i n t o t h e p re f e r re d m e t h o d s o f event, but on the contrary it professional development of over 125 In our ‘traditional’ context as teachers teachers supported this assumption, seems to have had the we lead a very isolated existence, with conferences still coming out at the opposite effect…” despite that fact that we spend most of top of the list. our working lives surrounded by students. Many teachers are rarely if ever observed, and often the purpose of this Not surprisingly though the next three places were all observation is most often quality control rather than taken by web supported methods of development, these development. Many teachers work in staff rooms where being webinars, Twitter and online courses. there is little support or exchange of ideas and where Web based seminars, or webinars as they have become colleagues either teach other subjects or prefer to spend known have become increasingly popular over the last as little time as possible actually in the building. For new few years. The improvements in connection speeds or aspiring teachers this malaise can soon become coupled with better PC sound quality and the availability infectious with teachers choosing to take the easy ground of a number of free or low cost platforms have made and repeat the same tried and tested lessons over again. these a genuinely viable alternative to attending a face to The arrival of the internet and especially ‘web 2.0’ type face conference, in fact some cash strapped teachers’ applications which support user created content and associations have organized complete 2 and 3 day events social networking, have enabled enthusiastic teachers to using virtual platforms rather than go to the huge bridge that isolation and reach out to a myriad of expense of hiring a physical venue and organising hotels individuals with diverse experiences and opinions and and flying in speakers. draw on the creativity and generosity of their peers to nourish their teaching experience and enable so many
Among the advantages of webinars sited by the subjects of my research were the convenience. You can attend a webinar without even leaving home let alone the cost of travel and hotels. As most webinar presentations are recorded and archived, you can even watch them when you want to and with whom you want to. Many teachers arrange to meet and watch webinar recordings together so that they can discuss them afterwards. If you want to try to present your own webinar try one of these free or low cost platforms. http://www.bigmarker.com/ http://www.wiziq.com/ http://bigbluebutton.com/ You can also find a collection of recorded webinars here. Twitter, the online micro-blogging platform that has taken the world by storm is now almost as ubiquitous in our lives as the omnipresent Facebook, but can you really learn anything about teaching from a message of only 140 characters (the maximum permitted ‘tweet’)? Well it seems that many teachers believe that you can and they in fact do. Let’s not forget that some of the most commonly exchanged pearls of wisdom throughout Better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all. A fool and his money are soon parted. Give a man some rice and you feed him for a day. Give him a plough and you feed him for life history have been shorter. Twitter can however do much more than this, as Twitter enables teachers to exchange links to online materials such as blog articles, journals, videos and teaching materials from all round the world. At its worst though Twitter is like millions of people standing in a huge room all shouting at once .The secret of getting the best from Twitter however is knowing how to listen and who to listen to. The best way to ‘listen’ or to find useful information is to search Twitter using hashtags. A hashtag is a short key word or acronym preceded by a hash symbol #. There are a number of hashtags that you can try out which are commonly used by English language teachers, for example #elt, #esl, #efl, or, for those interested in educational technology #edtech. Or a search using #edchat or #eltchat will locate information being shared during some of the many synchronous live weekly
discussions being organised by ad-hoc groups of teachers from around the world. You don’t have to ‘follow’ anyone to search Twitter using hashtags, but doing this will probably help you to locate the useful people to ‘follow’. Actually reading a Tweet once you find one can be a little confusing for the uninitiated. Tweets often look a little like sms text messages, with lots of abbreviations and strange symbols like @ followed by a name, which usually refers to the person who is the source of the information. The best thing to look for in these ‘tweets’ is a link. Links in Twitter are often shortened (to save on those valuable 140 characters) and start with bit.ly or vsb.li instead of the usual http. These links are where the real information lays and it is this exchange of information that I have found most valuable in Twitter. I don’t want to hear what someone had for lunch or which airport they are in - people who share this kind of information rarely use hashtags - what I look for is the links to blogs, new online teaching tools, interesting videos, video tutorials or journal articles. This is where the real development is and where I learn the most. ‘Following’ the right people can also help. When you ‘follow’ someone you receive all the information they share into your Twitter page. if you follow a lot of people this could be a constant flow of information. My advice is, don’t worry about trying to read everything, just take a little time out of your day each day to browse the information stream which Twitter provides and find a couple of interesting things to read. Some of the people you could start by following are: According to my http://twitter.com/ozge http://twitter.com/SeanBanville research, online courses http://twitter.com/esolcourses seem to be becoming http://twitter.com/russell1955 increasingly popular and http://twitter.com/harmerj as I said at the beginning http://twitter.com/NikPeachey of this article I believe https://twitter.com/brad5patterson that these can now be https://twitter.com/barbsaka not only much cheaper, https://twitter.com/missnoor28 https://twitter.com/Larryferlazzo but more effective than their face to face classroom equivalents, especially for inservice and continuing development. Unlike most of the face to face courses I have worked on which most often, by necessity, had to be delivered out of context and intensively, online
courses can be delivered over a longer period of time bursts of study into the busy regular schedule of their and teachers can study a little each week and try out the lives. ideas they are learning in their own classroom context with their own students. Real change and development in I believe that increasingly course developers are waking the way we teach takes time and needs to be a up to these needs and many providers such as The continuous process. Short bursts of intensive learning Consultants-E, Bell and International House as well as usually have big short term effects but those effects tend publisher like Cambridge ESOL and CUP are starting to to be more superficial and away from the rarified and provide good quality courses at reasonable prices. There supportive air of the intensive classroom “Teachers want to interact i s c l e a r l y a g row i n g a n d w i d e r many good intentions become lost and with each other, not with acceptance among teachers that online momentum for change can soon wind courses offer a viable, good quality and the computer.” down. Well designed online courses can good value alternative to face to face help teachers to build on and develop their motivation courses with the newly launched Cambridge English and support them while they explore new ideas within the Teacher courses attracting more than 12k guest users in real context in which they work. July 2012 after starting with only just over 2k back in March. Of course many online teacher development courses are not well designed and in the past, exaggerated claims Any article dealing with online teacher development and undeserved hype have led to a lot of disillusionment would I believe be incomplete without mention of a new in online learning and drop out rates in online courses and growing internet trend among teachers and that is have been notoriously high. When developing the Bell ‘content curation’. Back in 2009 Michael Wesch in an Blended Learning in ELT course, which recently won the article entitled ‘Knowledgable to Knowledge-able: British Council’s ELTon award for excellence in course Learning in New Media Environments’ stated that each innovation, I carried out detailed research into almost second 2,000 gigabytes of new information was being 800 teachers’ experiences of online learning. What created. This staggering figure has I’m sure grown since emerged from that research was that teachers were then and it leaves us with the problem of how within that looking for a number of things. Primary among these was vast quantity of information being generated, do we the desire to learn in an online environment that was locate, digest and assimilate that minuscule portion of geared towards socialization and sharing. that vast figure that is relevant to us? Teachers want to interact with each other, not with the computer. The learning environment should exist to support communication between the teachers and the materials and tasks that courses are based around need to be practical and applicable to their teaching context. Teachers don’t want to be assessed, evaluated and tested by the computer, they want to be able make mistakes share ideas and experiment with the support of a genuine person who understands that the learning process is about more than just having the correct answers. Rather than working through materials in isolation, they want to be able to exchange ideas within groups and build lasting contacts and networks among the people they study with. Time spent online needs to be limited so learning needs to be concise and ‘bite-sized’ so that they can fit short
Twitter goes some way towards answering that question, because it puts us in touch with people who can help us to mediate that torrent of information, filter out some of the vast irrelevancies and reduce it to something that we can attempt to consume. This still leaves us with the question of how we make sense of the still quite considerable and valuable amount of information that is being generated about our profession. Content curation, in the form of a number of web based tools, can help us with this problem and assist us in the process of making sense of that information and converting it into knowledge. These are some of the most useful free content curation tools around at present: Scoop.it Pinterest.com Meaki.com
These tools can help us save, organise, use and eventually share the useful resources we find online and this process is what curation is all about. It is a process of understanding and organising web based content to make it useable. My own approach to using these services works like this:
I use Scoop.it to save and share interesting articles a read from around the web. It has a very reader friendly magazine like format and like Twitter you can also follow other users to find out what they are reading. You can see my collection here: http:// www.scoop.it/t/learning-technology I use Pinterest to capture useful videos and images from around the web that I can then use in classroom and online materials development. Pinterest was designed for sharing web based images (without violating copyright) and has a simple to use interface that works well to make the images easy to locate. You can see my video collection here: http:// pinterest.com/nikpeachey/video/
I believe this process of organising and arranging web content and developing through online resources can help us to work more effectively, learn more efficiently and perhaps more importantly take us a little closer to the kinds of practices need by the digital generation that we teach. I recently found a wonderful video clip online (itâ€™s now saved in my Pinterest account). The clip describes the digitally networked student. This is the kind of student we teach and the kind of learner we need to aspire to be in order to do credit to the students we teach. If you have a moment, watch it and think about how you can be more like this: http://youtu.be/XwM4ieFOotA
Lastly, I use Meaki to collect an organise web based learning tools. Meaki is a visual bookmarking tool, a bit like â€˜favouritesâ€™ on your web browser, except that the links are stored online and you browse them by looking through images of the website with short summaries rather than just a title. You can see my collection of video related tools here: http://tinyurl.com/d6t4c27
I N V A D E R A GPS-‐based game of alien anthropology Your Mission: infiltrate a human population and gather anthropological reconnaissance data to inform an imminent full-‐scale invasion.
Do not, at any cost, alert the humans to your actions. By PAUL DRIVER
image: Bob Orsillo/Shutterstock.com
Game-based mobile learning doesn’t have to be about the apps. It doesn’t have to be about verb quizzes, grammar aids or vocabulary lists, no matter how well dressed up they may be. In fact it doesn’t need to be about what’s on the screen at all. The term “mobile phone” is increasingly becoming an anachronistic name for a device in which so many technologies and services have converged. Even “smartphone” doesn’t come close to adequately describing the compact, sensor-laden black slabs of technical wizardry, that now make Captain Kirk’s communicator look so 2008. They have become powerful tools not just for consuming media while on the move, but also for producing media. In fact they are the perfect all-inone fieldwork device for getting students to engage with the real world and use their English language skills outside the artificial confines of the classroom environment. They can record voice and video, take photographs and provide navigation through the inbuilt GPS and maps. For the last few years I’ve been researching and experimenting with new ways to use mobile devices to exploit more embodied, spatial, kinaesthetic and procedural aspects of the language-learning process. Invader is one of a series of location-based mobile games I’ve designed to put these ideas into practice in a simple, fun way. I’ve played it many times with my own university students in the city centre, and since I blogged about the experience others have tried it out in their own countries and local contexts. I’d like to share it with you now, so that perhaps you will feel motivated to give it a whirl.
Pre-‐game: Students play the role of an alien race that has infiltrated the local human population in order to collect reconnaissance data to prepare for an imminent full-scale invasion. In the lesson preceding the game, students can brainstorm and discuss details regarding the origins and name of their species and the reason why they intend to invade planet earth. Agree on a convenient place to meet and tell students what equipment to bring. Also make sure they know how to use their devices and that they are fully charged. Simple tips like reminding them to hold the camera the right way up when recording video can make a big difference with regard to the quality of the media produced.
cameras can also record video with sound. In addition, many mp3 players have voice recording capability and can be used in conjunction with a camera. Students can also form groups and share devices if necessary. A standard car GPS unit can also be used to navigate to the pre-selected GPS coordinates if necessary.
Instructions: Choose some interesting places and objects in the city and find out their GPS coordinates. There are many ways to do this, either by scouting them out in person and recording the GPS position using your phone (which I recommend), or remotely using Google Maps or a convenient site like iTouchMap. I’ve found 5 to 8 specific points to be a good number, depending on the time available and how closely bunched they are together. Students are also free to choose and describe other human actions, places and objects along the way between the pre-selected ones. Give out the mission cards containing a map of the proposed invasion area and specific targets of interest (preferably in colour on sturdy paper or card). If you’re feeling creative you can design your own, or just copy the ones I’ve already made for inspiration. In the example cards on the next page I chose to demarcate the invasion zone in the shape of a space invader just for fun. If you sign in to Google Maps and click on the “Create Map” button, you can use the drawing tool to outline whatever shape you like. Students with Internet enabled devices can just be provided with a link to the demarcated invasion zone (created on Google Maps) identifying the primary targets, but it is also helpful for them to have a card to tick off their progress and save on battery life. Set a time limit before setting off to explore the city and hunt for the targets. All human actions, artefacts and spaces must be photographed or filmed and verbally described and recorded as if they have never been encountered before. Verbal descriptions must include not only what they can see, but also conjecture regarding the possible purpose or function of the human object, space or action being documented and how this might impact their plans for invasion.
Equipment: Smartphones with camera, GPS and voice recording capability. If this is not an option then most digital
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Role of the teacher:
The game is an end unto itself, in that it provides a playful, engaging opportunity for embodied, contextrelevant and situated language emergence. It also reinforces the notion that English is not just something you study abstractly in the classroom, but it can actually be used outside in the real world. Of course it can also be integrated into the curriculum to focus on specific language in any number of ways. I don’t want to be too prescriptive, but here are a few suggestions.
During the game the role of the teacher becomes that of a participant observer, making recordings, filming, photographing and assisting with language and equipment when necessary.
The game can be used either as a follow-up to previous lessons on relative clauses, adjectives, word order with multiple adjectives, description, communicative flexibility when describing things outside the learners vocabulary range, the passive voice, modal verbs of deduction, expressing opinions, c o n d i t i o n a l s o r, p re f e r a b l y, a synthesis of these. Alternatively it can be played to gather material for subsequent language analysis in class, for example, by focussing on habitual errors in the voice recordings (at either an individual or group level) or for assessment purposes. On one of my communication science courses, Invader was integrated into a larger War of the Worlds project, including eye-witness reports and running commentary embedded in Orson Welles-style mock radio shows.
Post Game: Students must arrive at a pre-arranged meeting point before the time limit is up. Getting together for an English speaking cup of coffee or lunch works well and provides players with an o p p o r t u n i t y t o exc h a n g e t h e i r experiences of playing the game (in English). Students should be encouraged to use the media they produced to create their own Invader por tfolios, VoiceThreads or online journals to aggregate and share their images, videos and voice recordings. Classmates can then explore each other's work and suggest alternative interpretations of the artefacts, spaces and actions described. I often create a collaborative Google Map and ask my students to upload their media and place it at the precise location in which it was produced. This serves as a form of memory archive and can also be annotated. The same map can be used for multiple games to build up a more detailed view of human culture and behaviour over time. You can easily embed text, geotagged flickr photo sets, youtube clips and audio recordings on a shared map.
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One of my favourite descriptions so far has come from a student at the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT) in Germany during an Invader game set up by the English teacher there, Donald Richardson. On the mission, the student comes across a lamppost with a street sign attached to the top with an arrow pointing towards the sky and a metal ashtray and rubbish bin attached near the base. As he films this, he first describes the structure and general appearance of the artefact, and then hypothesises that it must be some sort of ritualistic prayer totem. The humans appear to make offerings to their gods by leaving objects in the opening at the base (the bin) or by burning and leaving smaller objects (in the ashtray). Here are a few examples of images taken by and of one group of students playing Invader in Vila Real. To the left you can see that one of them has discovered a curious series of teleportation devices scattered around. It appears the humans use them for rapid transportation through the city. They bear crude, cryptic markings but are a sign of surprisingly advanced technology for such primitive hairy apes. It is unclear how to activate the device, but it appears that the humans must first stand on the metallic disc…
If you’d like to watch a video and listen to some of the language produced during an Invader mission, you can find an embedded clip under the slideshow on this page. If you do decide to play a game of Invader with your students, I’d love to hear how it goes. I’d also be happy to answer any questions you may have about setting one up. It’s a lot easier than you may think and can be a fun, rewarding and extremely productive way to get your students using their language skills to engage with the world “out in the wild”. Just remember,
do not, at any cost, alert the humans to your actions.
Further reading on the affordances of pervasive games and mobile technologies for language learning
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By Peter Pennyfeather
image adapted from: Perig/Shutterstock.com
Distracted or Engaged? New Research into the Effects of Digital Technology on Learning New research shows that many teachers believe that students’ constant use of digital technology is having a negative effect on their abilities to concentrate and persevere in the face of challenging tasks. The researchers make it plain that their findings are based on the subjective views of teachers, and may not, therefore, be seen as definite proof that widespread use of computers and other digital devices affects students’ capabilities, but the vantage point of teachers – who observe young people for hours a day – is nevertheless significant.
written work of her students, who are deemed to be ‘above average’ in ability
The New York Times interviewed teachers about the results of the Pew Research Center and Common Sense Media, San Francisco, studies, and found that most agreed with the findings and that they had to work harder to capture and hold students’ attention. One such teacher says that she is “....an entertainer. I have to do a song and dance routine to capture their attention.” The same teacher notes that she has observed a notable decline in the depth and analysis of the
“Are we contributing to this?” says one. “What’s going to happen when they don’t have constant entertainment?”
Teachers interviewed do not wish to give up in the face of the challenge of engaging students, but most note that l e a r n i n g p a t t e r n s h ave c h a n g e d amongst students in general and that they are yet to be convinced that it is for the better. A number of teachers are also worried that they are simply adding to the problems by adjusting their lessons to accommodate shorter attention spans and a perceived need to entertain.
Scholars point out that there have been no long term studies into the effect of digital media on students’ attention spans, but cite indirect evidence that constant use of technology can affect behaviour, particularly in developing brains, as a result of heavy media stimulation and rapid shifts in attention.
On the other hand, says Kristen Purcell, associate director for research at Pew, the findings can also be viewed from another perspective and that the education system has not done enough to adjust to the way that students learn, a point supported by some teachers interviewed. Ms Purcell is concerned that the label of ‘distraction’ –often used about digital media - may be a judgmental response from the perspective of an older generation and may not reflect the truth.
and that this can lead to teachers adopting more dynamic and flexible teaching styles.
Positive aspects are also noted by the majority of teachers who state that the internet and search engines have a mostly beneficial effect on students’ research abilities, and that s u c h t o o l s h ave m a d e m a n y students more self-sufficient researchers. However, in contrast, teachers also refer to what be called the ‘Wikipedia problem’, in which students have become so accustomed to finding an answer within a few mouse clicks that if an easy solution isn’t found then they fail to persevere. The majority of teachers interviewed in the research believe that students have been conditioned by the Internet to find quick answers.
There are also some apparent contradictions in the research: while teachers report a general decline in attention spans there is also a perceived improvement in subjects like m a t h s , s c i e n c e a n d re a d i n g . Researchers think that these anomalies may be explained by subjectivity and bias and Pew claims that its research gave a “complex and at times c o n t r a d i c t o r y ” p i c t u re o f teachers’ views of the impact of technology. In the expert opinion of Dr Dimitri Christakis from the Center of Child Health, t h e s u b j e c t i ve v i ew s o f t h e teachers could well be accurate in sensing diminishing attention spans amongst students, a view supported by his own research.
There is a reported decline in students’ abilities to face academic challenges which seem to have an exponential relationship with the amount of access to television, phones, iPads and video games at home. What is needed is a more balanced media diet, according to Jim Steyer of C o m m o n S e n s e M e d i a . P a re n t s n e e d t o understand that “what happens in the home with media consumption can af fect academic achievement.” Others point out that technology is as much a solution as a problem, and claim that educational video games and digital presentations are excellent ways to engage students on their terms,
“I’m tap dancing all over the place,” says teacher Dave Mendell. “The more I stand in front of class, the easier it is to lose them.” He goes on to say that it is harder now to engage the interest of students but that once they are engaged they are just as able to solve problems and be creative as students in the past.
The heavy use of technology, says Dr Christakis, “makes reality by comparison uninteresting.” Teachers working in Portuguese speaking countries will have their own views on this topic, and no doubt will vary from country to country, from one different experience to another. We would love to hear from readers of IED about their views on the use of digital media by their own students. You can post your comments if you follow this link. We look forward to reading them!
Using iPads in Brazilian Schools A short video case study
Carla Arena, the Head of Educational Technology and Digital Communication at Casa Thomas Jefferson in Brasilia, describes how they are using iPads to enhance English learning. “I have 40 iPads in two different school branches,” she says. “The main goal is to enhance classes with technology in a way that is meaningful for students. It’s a student centred classroom.” This 2.5 minute video was made by The Consultants-e www.theconsultants-e.com
A School Tour The students of Escola Secundária C/ 3º Ciclo de Azambuja, Portugal, invite you to visit their school. Their English teacher, Margarida Pato, mentioned the possibility of making a video about the school to her 11th year vocational students, but left it open – it was entirely voluntary. She was surprised – and delighted – when they produced a short film on their own. She said “Sometimes even we, as teachers, underestimate the capacity of these students. It was a very nice surprise.” So follow Mariia Babiichuk, Oksana Manko, Ricardo Pechorro and Thárike Láuar as they show you around their school.
Using WebQuests in the classroom is an excellent way to foster the growth of critical thinking in our students and make them develop higher order thinking skills and problem solving skills. WebQuests promote student active engagement rather than passive reception of information and help create learner-centred, authentic, collaborative and problem based environments. Using an inquiry-oriented approach the teacher promotes students’ reflection about their own learning, thus helping them understand their own thinking processes, as well as
The teacher acts as a facilitator and the students work independently, increasing their autonomy. So, why not try and create your own WebQuest? Yes, it’s time-consuming, I’m not going to deny it, but is there greater pleasure than creating your own materials tailored to your students’ needs? And once you do the first one and learn how it all works, you will be completely addicted to it. It will change the way you teach, and bring positive results to your class. Your students will thank you for that!
WebQuests Essential Components of a WebQuest WebQuests have six essential parts: 1. Introduction In the introduction you should draw your students’ attention to the topic in a motivating and amusing way.
image: andrea crisante/Shutterstock.com
2. Task Here you give a formal description of what your students will have to do. The students must have a clear idea of what is expected of them and what tasks they will need to perform. 3. Process This component should give a full description of all the steps the students must go through to accomplish the task(s). 4. Evaluation In this part you give the guidelines for your students’ assessment. They must know exactly how they will be assessed. If you have different tasks to evaluate, then give them all the necessary rubrics.
5. Conclusion The students’ quest is brought to a closure. It’s time to reflect on what they have learned and how they can use and apply it. 6. Resources (or Teacher Page) Here you must include all the internet links you used to create your WebQuest, as well other resources. This page should also contain the target learners and other information you consider impor tant, as the curriculum standards, goals, duration, strategies, etc. The mission, should you choose to accept it… D i d y o u f e e l l i ke a M i s s i o n Impossible agent? No need for that, I assure you! WebQuest pages offer lots of templates and guidance throughout the creation process and all you need is follow the instructions. You decide when to publish your work and so you can try as many times as you want till you decide it is ready for your students. The benefit is that once you have finished it, most of your work is done. You can now have
By Celeste Simões your students do the WebQuest while you supervise their work. An Example I leave you with an example of a WebQuest I created last year for the e-teacher course Building Teaching Skills through the Interactive Web1, offered by the University of Oregon. It was created for eighth year students, but you can also use it with ninth graders or above, depending on your students’ level of proficiency. The topic is Healthy Food/Healthy Eating Habits. It makes use of all four skills and you will find individual, pair and group work activities all designed in a fun and motivating way. Students will have to go through a series of tasks to become permanent members of the exclusive Healthy Food Club! I hope you and your students will enjoy your stay! 1Mark
The E-Teacher Scholarship Programme is funded through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. If you want more information on the courses and on how to apply for the scholarship go to <http://umbc.uoregon.edu/eteacher/ courses.html> and visit the US Embassy website <http:// portugal.usembassy.gov/> or Facebook page <https:// www.facebook.com/usdos.portugal?ref=ts>.
Literature meets video game-‐ Digital gamebased language learning with Interactive Fiction By Joe Pereira Learning is a game Video games (often called digital games by researchers and educators), long understood by those who play them to be much more than the generally perceived 'waste of time', 'outlet for aggression' or an activity 'only enjoyed by teenage boys', are now a socially accepted pastime, one of the most lucrative entertainment industries in the world, and slowly being recognised as valid educational tools. Contrary to any negative associations, James Paul Gee, a noted linguist and advocate of the use of digital games as a form of improving literacy, notes their pedagogic value: “A digital game is a play-based, well-designed, problemsolving experience meant to create motivation, engagement, and often creativity. Humans learn best from well-mentored, guided experience centered on interesting problems to solve, clear goals, copious feedback, and a relatively low cost for failure. This is what good games supply” (Gee, 2012). While the literature on using digital games for structured learning across the curriculum is vast, some recent research has touted the potential of the affordances of digital games specifically for language learning (Cornillie, Thorne, Desmet, 2012; Reinders, 2012). These affordances include the ability to take on a new identity and control a character’s actions, the freedom to take calculated risks in a safe environment, and the element of challenge, which requires the constant implementation of metacognitive strategies. As a whole, the characteristics of digital games which make them motivating to play and engaging enough to warrant continued play, also make them potentially useful learning tools. Playing with words From a language learning perspective, many digital games can be used for language learning because they provide large amounts of text or audio output. Some game genres additionally provide computer-mediated language interaction with other players, either through text-chat or voice-chat. However, most games that provide authentic language practise with other online players have openended, social-based gameplay, where the absence of short, meaningful tasks to fulfil and the steep learning curves to play, may make their integration into a structured language lesson difficult. In most digital games, reading or listening to the in-game text is usually not the main activity involved in the game-play. There might also be turn-based tactical combat, real-time arcade action, point-and-click exploration, and resource management, to name a few – all of which require giving attention to graphical information and images on the screen and using the mouse and image: pavila/Shutterstock.com
keyboard as controllers in order to interact with the game. These types of games are certainly engaging, and in addition to putting into practise language and many lifelong cognitive skills, they may allow for the stealth learning of content knowledge. However, using language is the not the main point of these games, and interaction with the ingame text is often optional or can be glossed over without assimilation. In order to implement digital games in the classroom which have not have been designed specifically for learning purposes (dubbed ‘serious games’), it is necessary to provide the learners with a series of pre, while and post tasks to keep the game-playing activity aligned with the expected learning goals (Whitton, 2010). While the implementation of language tasks around gameplay is certainly in itself a worthwhile use of a digital game as a language learning and teaching tool (see Mawer & Stanley, 2012), there is a genre of video game that not only uses language to provide gameplay output, but it also solely uses textual input, and in natural language, as a vehicle for communicating with the game. In this way, beyond being able to implement additional language tasks around the gameplay, the gameplay in itself, becomes a language-learning task. This text-based genre of video game, once known as ‘text-adventures’, is called ‘Interactive Fiction’. 9:05 (Cadre, 2000). Click to see a video of the thought processes involved while playing IF. Let’s tell a story together Interactive Fiction (IF) is a unique form of digital entertainment. It is both a form of electronic literature and a video game. In IF, the player/reader becomes the protagonist of a narrative, controlling her actions and adopting her perspective of the world around her. It is a form of non-linear participatory storytelling – it not only produces text, but does so in a meaningful way based on the player’s input. In this way, the main objective of IF is to flesh out the underlying narrative and reach the stated goal through exploration and interaction with the story/gameworld. Furthermore, narratives in IF are usually presented in the second person of the present tense so as to create a stronger connection between the reader and the protagonist through a more immersive and immediate reading experience. In essence, the reader becomes a coauthor of the narrative – writing a story which is different with every play-through, as not only can new text be discovered upon trying different actions, but even the order in which these actions take place will create a slightly different tale.
However, contrary to other forms of participatory storytelling such as Choose Your Adventure Books or Hypertext fiction, the reader does not push the narrative forward by merely making choices from a limited set of options. In IF, the reader must actively type in commands in natural English in order to have an effect on the game-world – thus triggering the textual output which creates the narrative. Using 9:05 (Cadre, 2000) as an example, the reader takes on the role of the unnamed protagonist who has overslept and is rudely awakened at 9:05 by a ringing phone. Using simple verb plus noun collocations and standard IF commands, such as EXAMINE ME, LOOK, INVENTORY and ANSWER PHONE, the player will learn more about who they are and the predicament they are in. In many IF works, the goal of the game may not be clear at the beginning, but navigating through and interacting with the objects and other characters in the game-world will allow the reader to discover this information as the story progresses. Typing in a command that is recognised by the computer and that makes sense to the story results in the creation of a new passage of text reflecting the player’s action – i.e. typing ANSWER PHONE causes the protagonist to pick up the phone, which provides some backstory and a possible goal. Typing in an unknown verb or command results in an ‘error message’ such as “I don’t know how to do ______” , “You can’t do that”, or a contextual retort, proving that the game really is listening to what you are telling it! At this point, the reader will need to paraphrase their command, try something different or continue exploring. Second-Person Thinker Unlike the previously mentioned forms of participatory storytelling, IF does not only involve exploring the virtual space inside the narrative. The game element of IF exists in two distinct ways: as the linguistic guessing game of communicating one’s thoughts to the computer in a manner in which it will be understood, but also in the form of logical puzzles embedded in the narrative, which need to be solved using critical and lateral thinking. Puzzles may be as straightforward as finding a key to unlock a door or they may be more abstract and involve understanding the specific rules governing the game-world and the objects found within it (eg. learning how to use magic in a fantasy-themed IF work or manipulating a mechanical device in a sci-fi game). This cognitive challenge involving the discovery of solutions to observational and mental problems is especially suited to the written medium, in contrast to the dexterity and reflex-based challenges of most graphics-based video game genres. As a result of this, the IF genre has been called “second person thinker” (Scott, 2010) (contrasting with the immensely popular first-person shooter genre) and is widely enjoyed by an older audience, as well as by physicallychallenged and sight-impaired players. While primarily offering a sense of challenge to the player, puzzles also serve as pacing and gateway mechanisms in the
narrative, thus ensuring that the player has assimilated all of the text and performed all of the pre-requisite actions before being able to move on in the story. > LEARN LANGUAGE As it is a form of authentic literature, IF can be used as any work of literature would be used in the classroom. Due to the interactive and challenging nature of the game-play, IF provides a potentially more engaging reading experience than can be found when using static text. IF works exist in every literary genre and their level of challenge can range from very puzzlefocused to more narrative-focused and from multiplelocation games requiring many hours to complete to single-room games, which can be finished in minutes. The variety of genres, challenges and literary styles found in IF make it a viable alternative to static texts for improving reading fluency and it is also an excellent tool for encouraging reluctant readers to embrace reading for pleasure, both in an out of the classroom. Because IF, like all digital games, provides instant feedback, it can be used for autonomous self-directed learning. Playing most IF requires understanding nearly all the words found in the text. Words cannot be glossed over as they may be linked to the solution to a puzzle or simply not allow further progress until they have been synthesised and acted upon. In this way, making progress through an IF game is clear evidence that the reader has understood the text by applying both bottom-up and top-down reading strategies. Desilets (1997:7) notes that the need to create meaning by piecing together the various parts of text “adds an evaluative dimension of considerable instructional power, an element that operates even when the teacher isn’t around” and with regards to the use of puzzles in IF, posits that “the aesthetically-placed pauses for problems thus become, among other things, compelling and integrated reading comprehension tests, perhaps the only such tests that most kids will take voluntarily” (1999:8). Because of its lack of graphics, IF may initially seem like a hard sell to learners who are avid gamers. However, while there will be learners who will have limited interest because it is all text, they quickly realise the benefits of using IF as a language learning tool. A case study on student perceptions of using IF to practice language skills (Pereira, 2013) has shown that learners see IF as a more ‘fun’ and engaging way to practice reading for fluency and recognise the strong the focus on vocabulary, verbs and problem-solving/imagination building. IF can be used for digital game-based language learning because it in line with the principles of second language acquisition (SLA) and the communicative approach to language teaching (CLT). Of special importance, is the clear implementation of Krashen’s (1985) comprehensible input hypothesis and Swain’s (1989) comprehensible output hypothesis. For an in-depth appraisal of the language learning affordances of IF, see (Pereira, in press).
Conclusion IF is an engaging and challenging way to practise all four language skills, and can be used by learners in the classroom or at home for autonomous learning. Its use is grounded in current theories of SLA and the learning affordances of IF are very clear to both teachers and learners. For teachers, IF is an especially appealing way to begin using digital game-based learning with their learners. Because it is text-based and relies solely on language and problem-solving (areas that language teachers excel in) and not on confusing graphical userinterfaces or dextrous control mechanics, teachers with no prior gaming experience can feel empowered in a domain where learners often have the upper-hand. Load up 9:05, follow the lesson plan at IF Only and > PLAY INTERACTIVE FICTION. 1. Is Interactive Fiction free and where can I get it? Nearly all of the IF created since the mid-90s is available for free from the Interactive Fiction Database (http://www.ifdb.tads.org) and Baf's Guide (http:// www.wurb.com/if). 2. Is Interactive Fiction appealing to every type of learner? Like any book, IF has the potential to draw every type of learner into its story provided the reader finds it appealing. However, if the reader merely glosses over the text, she will not be able to form links necessary to solve the puzzles which bar the way to traversing to the text. IF will be enjoyed by leaners who enjoy challenges and have developed imaginations and some capacity for problem-solving. 3. How can IF be integrated into a course syllabus? As an authentic text, IF might not be easily integrated into a syllabus based on discrete language points. However, like literature, it can be used to focus on a theme or topic, or for specific literary analysis. Work on all four skills can be implemented into tasks in the preand post-reading phases. 4. How can learners be assessed when playing IF? If used primarily as an activity for practicing reading, IF inherently tests reading comprehension and gives immediate feedback. More traditional assessment can be done in conjunction with pre-, while and post-reading activities. However, O’Connell (2009) offers the following view on the need for assessment when using literature with learners: "once we engage the student in a text and treat them as readers, where the reading in itself is a creative act, forming a potentially dynamic partnership with the writer, then the individual, personal and subjective nature of the activity transcends any glib approach to assessment, such as right/wrong answers".
5. What is the best way to play IF (software or browser interpreter)? A software interpreter, such as Gargoyle (http:// ccxvii.net/gargoyle), offers a more visually appealing reading experience and is user-configurable. However, it may require administrator rights to be installed or prior installation on a USB drive. On the other hand, a web-based interpreter, such as Parchment (http:// iplayif.com), requires no setting up and is available wherever there is Internet access, including on mobile devices - but is also necessarily dependent on an Internet connection. 6. If learners play IF at home, how can they get support if they get stuck? Many of the higher-quality IF works have built-in hint systems, which players can access when they get stuck. Walkthroughs (step-by-step guides on completing games), hints and maps for most games are also readily available on the Internet. 7. Where can I learn more about IF and using it with learners? Visit IF Only: Interactive Fiction and Teaching English as a Foreign Language for guides on how to play IF, how to best use it with learners, and for access to in-depth lesson plans on carefully selected IF works. Lessons Learned • Make sure you have played (and finished) the game yourself before asking students to play, in order to be able to guide them/give support on language/ puzzles. • Provide students with a list of common verbs and commands, but remind them to think of synonyms and the need for paraphrasing. • Have the students play in pairs or small groups to stimulate computer-mediated collaborative learning (CMCL) in order to practise speaking/listening skills. Pair weaker and less-imaginative students with stronger/ more imaginative students. • Remind students to think in terms of microtransactions (eg. unlocking and opening a door before attempting to go through it, removing and dropping items of clothing before taking a shower). • Remind students to read and re-read passages CAREFULLY – important information (exits, useful objects) are often overlooked. • For geographically dispersed games, provide a map without descriptions and encourage the students to fill in important information (location names, useful objects) as they play. • Be attentive to students' progress while they are playing. If they seem to be continually stuck in the same situation, give them a hint so that they do not get frustrated and give up on the game. • Be sure to have Gargoyle installed on a USB drive in case Internet sites don't work. Bibliography:
Mini-Profile: São Tomé and Príncipe The archipelago of São Tomé and Príncipe lies some 300 kms to the west of the African mainland, off the coast of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The equator passes through the southernmost island of Ilhéu das Rolas. The two main islands and various islets combine to create a territory of just over 1000 square kilometres, and hold a population of 187,000. The apparent isolation of the islands, with no border with any country, is relieved by their proximity to the two nearest neighbours to the east, and also to Nigeria and Cameroon, to the north. The islands were uninhabited when discovered in 1470 by Portuguese explorers João de Santarem and Pedro Escobar. The Portuguese colony established in the 15th century continued until independence from Portugal was achieved on July12th 1975. It is a member of the Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa (CPLP).
enthusiasm, describing them as interested and dedicated students. The average class size is 30 and the students are Portuguese speakers and they are generally quite competitive about who speaks the best English language in the class fluent English is seen as quite a status to achieve. However, Lawrence feels that access to more course books, which are currently quite limited, would help matters, and he would particularly like to see audio and video on CDs and DVDs used to supplement the limited resources at his disposal. However, the school is proud of its small but useful library. Lawrence would like to see English only being used in English language classrooms but feels that there is a little way to go yet, with Portuguese still being used too much. To find out more about teaching English in São Tomé you can contact Lawrence Mbotte by writing first to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawrence Mbotte has been a teacher of English at the Liceu Nacional de São Tomé for 15 years, and is now the English Language Coordinator at the school. There are more than 5,000 students aged between 14 and 19 at the school, and Lawrence speaks of the students with
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Published on Mar 10, 2013