Game Buzz

Digital Play

Digital Play is an award winning Teacher Development blog, book and e-book aimed at language teachers who
wish to engage their learners and provide a fun way to practice and learn using a highly popular modern medium – computer games.

The book is divided into three sections:

 

Narrates how computer games fit into 21st century society and how they have been used in education.

 

Provides practical support in the form of recipe style lesson plans and a bank of activities.

 

Suggests how to integrate digital play activities into the syllabus and tips on teacher development.

 

Buy the book: Digital Play (DELTA Teacher Development Series) Print Edition

Buy the e-book: Digital Play (DELTA Teacher Development Series) Kindle Edition

Try an activity out: Digital Play (Quick Scan Blog Index)

 

The book is so much more than our blog. It includes:

  • Classroom management guidance.
  • Classroom layouts/ set ups.
  • Activities for one computer in the classroom (i.e. a connected classroom).
  • Activities for multiple computers (a computer room or class set of laptops/ netbooks/ tablets)
  • Activities for no computers at all.
  • A comprehensive list of gaming genres and a match to language teaching. 
  • Insight into how learners engage with gaming outside the classroom.
  • List to suitable game sites.
  • Advice and guidance for teachers who are interested in joining the digital revolution.
  • Original step-by-step activities to help teachers bring the world of gaming into the classroom.
  • Comprehensive bibliography for further reading.
  • System and network requirements.
  • Guidance on materials and resources.

Digital Play Around The World

Scoop.it is a great free tool to use in class by getting your learners to curate their own highly visual magazines.  They choose a topic they are interested in, source content for their scoop.it online, then they scoop.it. They can edit the links description and also write a personal reflection or comment below.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while and using some of the lesson plans and ideas we’ve been posting then you may now feel ready to jump ahead of the field a bit.  One way to do this is to read up on articles, news feeds and be on the look out for other interest groups on the web.  To make things a little easier for you Digital Play Scoop it sources many of these and delivers them on one attractive visual page.


As well as scouring the web for news and articles that are connected with using digital games and toys in the language classroom our Scoop.it team also wants you to stay up-to-date on any new content on the Digital Play blog.  You can also check out past postings by scrolling to the bottom and clicking through the numbered pages.

All in all, a great one stop place to go for all your Digital Play needs.

 

New in Town

New in Town (http://apps.facebook.com/newintown) is a Facebook game which has been getting a lot of attention recently, and was nominated for an award at the recent Gamelab conference.

It  is a life simulation game, similar to the Sims in nature, but with less of a focus on building and decorating your house.

About: You play the part of someone who has just graduated from college, who moves to a new town and starts to build a life there (hence the title). You find a job, build a career, study, explore places, make friends, and find love.

Level: Elementary+

Location: At home (and the connected classroom if you have access to an Internet-enabled computer). Mainly, it’s a game you’ll want to recommend students play in their free-time, and then you can use the game elements as examples in class.

Language focus: Various including vocabulary (clothes, shops, food, etc.) and directions, as well as being a platform for basic discussion.

New in Town is an engaging game that will no doubt appeal to your students if they like games and use Facebook.

How to use it: I recommend you start playing the game yourself to get an idea of how it works and become familiar with the gameplay, characters, and situations. Please note, if this isn’t something you think you can spend time doing, then this game is probably not for you or your students – most of the value of this game in the classroom is that you can use the places, characters, and situations in class later, but you and your students will need to be familiar with them for it to be worthwhile. So, suggest the game to your class, and if they take to it, then make use of it, and if they don’t then don’t force it on them. Having said that, I predict that many of the students will become hooked on the game, and even if it’s only some that do so, then they will pick up some useful English while they are playing even if you do nothing else with the game in class.

Example activity 1: Prepositions of Place and Directions

The students don’t have to be familiar with the game for this activity (so you can do this to introduce the game to them, for example). Use the town map (either live in the classroom or use a screenshot) to practise prepositions of place and directions. For example, show them the map and ask them to remember where everything is then, hide it from view and you can ask the following questions:

Where is the city hall? (answer = it’s in front of the Italian restaurant)

Where is the college? (answer = it’s next to / to the right of the pet shop)

Where is the cafe? (answer it’s between the solarium and the clothes shop)

As for directions, you can ask the students to give instructions how to get from one building in the city to another and then check the answers. If you have access to an IWB, you can annotate the route on the game using the pen tool.

Example activity 2: Daily routine

new in townThis relies on the students being more familiar with the game. You can ask them about their own daily routine in the game.

What do they typically do on both a working day and their day off. They should be able to talk about their job, studying to improve their skills, meeting friends, eating out (which of the places do they prefer?), going to the cinema, etc.

You can also look at the vocabulary (e.g. the food) available in the game and talk about this and the prices, etc. Which is best value for money? Which is the most healthy?

If the students really take to the game, then there are lots of other activities you can do to practise language with this game.

Language Teaching with Online Digital Games

Digital Play is pleased to invite everyone to participate in a free online course this December in Language Teaching with Online Digital Games held on the SEETA (South Easter Europe Teacher Associations) website.

The course is an introduction to using online games in the ELT classroom and is free for anyone who wants to attend. The idea is for us to explore the use of digital games in the classroom from 5th-15th December. There will be games to try out, questions to ask your students, discusssions about the value and classroom practice using digital games, and there will be an opportunity to create your own ‘Pick-a-Path’ game using the photo management software, Flickr, at the end of the course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There will be six topics during the course, which are:

  • Introduction to online games
  • Games to encourage speaking
  • Games to practise listening
  • Games for reading & writing
  • Games and grammar & vocabulary
  • Games projects with classes

Hope to see you there!

Reward or Punishment: Gamification with Class Dojo

Class Dojo (http://www.classdojo.com) is a realtime behaviour management system for teachers who have an internet-enabled computer and a projector (connected classroom)or IWB.

You start by creating an account and setting up a class by typing in the names of your students. Avatars for each student are automatically generated during this process.

In class, you select a student and award a positive point for behaviour such as creativity, hard work, presentation, etc.

You can also award negative points for bad behaviour, when a student doesn’t bring homework or if he/she arrives late, etc.

Think of it like a digital star chart with added extras. The points can be awarded individually or, by selecting all students, you can give everyone a point. On the board, you can show only the positive or only the negative points the students get.

You can also undo if you make a mistake or change your mind, and it’s possible to reset all points to zero too. So far so good, but what makes Class Dojo really interesting is that once the class has ended, the programme displays a pie chart with the results of all student behaviour.

If you use Class Dojo every class, then you can select periods of time (days of the week, terms, etc) to display records of. You can also choose individual students and display their progress.

These are report cards that you can print off (on paper or PDF) for your own records or to give to the students or parents. You can also add and change the behaviour categories when you select ‘edit class’. This way you can tailor make the programme to suit the behaviour you want to reward or stop in your own class.

All in all, Class Dojo looks like it is a great way of gamifying the behaviour of your class and could work well for many teachers. A great find! Please let us know here if you find it useful.

Get ya gaming mojo back

  1. Did you ever play computer games as a kid?
  2. Is there a game you remember that you always used to play?
  3. Would you like to play it again?

If your answer to any of these questions was ‘Yes’ then why not play it again?  Maybe you can’t.  Either you or your parents sold on your console or simply at some point it broke and never got replaced, became obsolete or you just moved on.  Nowadays, though, you don’t need to dust off an old piece of electronics from the attic or scour ebay to relive those digital days gone by.  Use an online emulator.  Here is a list of a few online emulators that allow you to play those games from years ago:


Screen shot 2010-04-22 at 1.36.14 PM

1 ZX Spectrum

If you owned a spectrum in the 80s or 90s then this is the site for you. This site has a listing of spectrum games through the golden years from 1982 to the mid 90s. What’s great about this site? Well if the errrr-eek sound of a loading spectrum game cassette holds a lot of nostalgia for you I’m afraid this site has got rid of that. However, if you get misty eyed at the mention of Manic miner or Elite then both these games and more can be played online and for free. Get playing now!

2 AtariScreen shot 2010-04-22 at 1.42.50 PM

Remember those clunky cartridges you had to shove in the machine at the top? Well, whether it was the Atari arcade games or one of the home cartridge games that you used to play then one of these sites is for you. Do you remember staring at awe at the amazing graphics? Well goggle no more if you’ve played any game from this decade.

Screen shot 2010-04-22 at 1.45.18 PM3 Commodore 64

I only knew one kid with a commodore 64 at school which may say something about the PC system or not. Nevertheless, I got the impression that Commodore owners were very much a minority. No doubt this debate is continued by our young learners with the xbox versus playstation debate. What’s the commodore equivalent then? If you had this system or would just like to see what all this fuss is about then play one of their games and get misty eyed with ‘paperboy’ or ‘ghosts and goblins’.

4 AppleScreen shot 2010-04-22 at 2.02.55 PM

Apple design has certainly got sexier over the years. Anyone remember this little number? Possibly not but for those of you that do then why not play a few of their old timey games on the virtual apple site.  Can anyone spot the similarities between this (picture on the right) and the new ipods and ipads? I don’t!

Screen shot 2010-04-22 at 2.02.24 PM5 80s 90s arcade games

Maybe you spent a lot of your misspent childhood playing or hanging around game arcades. I know john Connor in Terminator II did. Maybe you played Missile Command or After Burner like he did in the film. If you didn’t and another title was the joystick/roller ball of your choice then check out this 80s arcade game site – it lets you play your favourite 80s arcade game.

6 GameboyScreen shot 2010-04-22 at 3.23.54 PM

Over 20 years old now and superceeded by a whole generation of different handheld gaming platforms. Still, at one time you may have been that kid on the bus/train/ waiting room/ playground (delete as appropriate) and may want to see some of those Gameboy games again. You may have to configure the keys before you ‘Load ROM’ (the game you want) but I’m sure it’ll be worth that little inconvenience.

Now you have to ask yourself:

  • What would your learners think of you playing these games?
  • What would they think of the games themselves?
  • How do they differ to games nowadays?
  • What do they think of the look of the hardware itself?
  • Can they name 6 differences between the consoles and games of then and now?
  • How have the specifications changed?
  • How has gaming changed for them over the years?

Free Online Game Creator

This free downloadable game creator let’s you make your very own flash games.

If you’ve ever fancied turning your hand to making a simple flash game or perhaps you’re looking for a summer course project to run with learners then Stencyl could be just the program for you.  It’s free, online, simple to download and use and it’s available for either a PC or a Mac.  The program comes with a few examples to try out and customize.  They are pictured here on the left.

After a quick look I settled on the RPG (role playing game) option.  Why?  Well . . .

  1. the vocabulary looked a bit richer and there’s potential to exploit a narrative within the game.
  2. It also looked quite easy to understand and explain just by looking at the opening shot (see below)
  3. Learners could be away from computers and draw, design and discuss the game.

The game itself consists of a male or female game character (avatar) who can explore the game world (outdoors, which is pictured above, and indoors) collecting treasure, avoiding obstacles and fighting foes.

Your question may be ‘how do I take this and use it on a summer course?’  Well there are schools out there who are already doing it that may provide you with some ideas:

Summer camp at Cal State Dominguez Hill sets out a three week programme and lists what you will learn and the topics covered.

Emagination runs video game design workshops as well as others with a strong technology slant.

ID Gaming Academy has a more ambitious three week programme that you can watch here:

Video Game Design and Creation Summer Camp

Different ways to get language production from this could be:

  1. A learner game design journal where they reflect on things they have learnt and directions they wish to move in.
  2. Discussing game maps and content with partner or team.
  3. Writing the game instructions.
  4. Recording audio descriptions for their game.
  5. Producing a gaming dictionary for game content.
  6. Any story lines and narrative giving background to the story.
  7. Giving a presentation of the game using a presentation tool.
  8. Writing a walkthrough for other learners to use.
  9. Writing a review of a learner created game or the creator platform itself.
  10. Opening a wiki on which to save game images.

I’ve yet to try this as a syllabus elective course for language learners but I can see some great potential here.  Any pioneers out there who can give it a go then get in touch with us because we’ll offer you a guest blog post here.

Gamify your classroom with Chore Wars

Gamification

One definition of gamification is the use of features usually found in games in areas of life which are usually game free. Only time will tell if this buzzword becomes the next big thing as some people are predicting, but meanwhile, sites such as Chore Wars can help you make a game of some of the most uninteresting but necessary tasks of life.

Chore Wars

Although Chore Wars has been designed to turn housework into an adventure game, the site is flexible enough to let you customise adventures, which means it can be converted for use in the classroom.

Let’s look at this through an example.

I have a class of teenagers studying for the Cambridge First Certificate in English exam and in order to prepare yourself for this exam, you have to do a lot of practice tests. The problem is that doing these tests frequently becomes routine and repetitive, which is where Chore Wars can help.

Getting Started

I started by setting up an account on the site and creating a number of adventures. You can then create a number of adventures from scratch, which is what I did. I

I made each part of the exam an adventure that when claimed, earns the player XP (experience points) , gold coins and the possibility of finding treasure. The learners (players) can see the scores of the others too, which adds an element of competition to doing practice tests. I also made the rewards on the more difficult parts of the exam higher to motivate the learners into doing them.

Introducing Chore Wars to Students

The idea is to encourage the students to do more exam practice tests by making it fun. After I’d set up the adventures, I introduced the learners to the concept in the classroom and then we went to the computer room.

There, they created their characters, choosing what they looked like and giving themselves a name.

Joining the Party

They then joined my party of adventurers. The best way to do this is to give them the link to join on a simple webpage. I used http://pen.io for this, which lets you create a webpage instantly, without any need to log in. You can see the page I set up here: http://chorewars.pen.io/.

Adventuring

Once they’d joined the party, I asked them to start doing some practice tests on a site called Flo-Jo, and as they finished, they claimed the adventure on Chore Wars.

Student Reaction

Another reason why I chose to use Chore Wars was because I have a number of students who play online adventure games, and so the concept of XP, collecting gold coins, etc was familiar to them and they needed no introduction to the idea of turning the FCE exam into an adventure. It went down well with them and they happily ploughed through a number of practice tests and started to claim the adventures.

There are other students in the class, however, who do not play these games, and it was more difficult for them to see the point of the game. They seemed a little bit bemused by the concept, but I hope and trust this will change in time, as they become more familiar with it.

Managing the Adventure

I am the Dungeon Master (the game controller) of the FCE Ninjas Chore Wars adventure, which means I have control over what adventures to set, etc. I can change the number of XP, gold coins and possibility of treasure of each adventure. I’d do this to encourage the students to do part of the exam they are reluctant to do.

It’s early days, but I have already seen a potential problem that I have to deal with that could spoil the game if I am not careful: cheating

Cheating

Chore Wars is based on a trust system. Players claim an adventure and this relies on their honesty. However, I could see that some of the students were very interested in knowing how the game worked, and have just spotted that one in particular wanted to see how it was possible to increase his level and XP.

Look at the screenshot below and you’ll see that this student (abaairenjy in the game) logged in and continued playing after class. I know that by looking at the times he claimed the adventures. We were in the computer room for 20 minutes, from 6.00-6.20pm and he did two practice tests while we were there. But, he also logged into Chore Wars at home, at 10pm and played the game, increasing his XP and level from level 1 to level 3. I know that it’s impossible he did 9 practice tests in this time (10 minutes!) and so will have to call him on it next class.

The good news about this activity is that he’s interested enough to do it at home to see how it works, but this will destroy the game if his cheating is allowed to continue. This is what I have decided to do now:

  • I will draw the class’s attention to the cheating next time we meet. I’ll do this and ask them to decide how to deal with it. We’ll do this through negotiation and it’ll make for an interesting class discussion on honesty and what everyone thinks about cheating and of obeying the rules of games.
  • I have left a comment for Alejandro, so he knows I am onto him (see screenshot below)
  • I am going to suggest that all the class does what Alejandro has claimed, in the same order. That way, they too can claim them too, and they will get similar XP, treasure, and advance in levels. If they don’t like the choice of exercises, they have Alejandro to blame!

I hope this strategy will work. There are other things you can do, as Dungeon Master, to allow you to manage your adventures, which are particularly interesting if you want to manage the adventures in the classroom.

Classroom Management

You have various options with characters, giving players permissions to create their own adventures, etc. I have changed the role of the players’ characters to NPC (non playing character) which means that I can claim adventures on their behalf (see screenshot below). This means that the learners won’t have to log in to be able to claim XP, etc. When we do a practice test in the classroom, I can quickly run through the character list and claim points for everyone there and then. I am also planning to claim adventures only for those students who actually pass a particular practice test.

Final Thoughts

How successful Chore Wars is with my class remains to be seen, but I think the potential is there to increase the interest my students have in FCE practice tests, turning the completion of them into a game, and hopefully motivating them to do more homework (not just the tests I assign them). Whatever happens now, it’s already proving to be an interesting adventure for the teacher!

Gaming Statistics II

Source:www.gamingbolt.com

Gaming Statistics

Here are a few statistics on the video gaming phenomenon.  The source is quoted at the bottom of the page.

Source:www.vizworld.com