Gamification Is Reshaping The Language Learning Landscape
Keeping up with tech-savvy students has become the biggest nightmare of today’s teachers. In a tech-centric world, they are struggling to abandon the old, widely spread concept of learning for the learning’s sake. Moreover, they are investing a lot of effort to make their students recognize and appreciate the real-life value of traditional education.
However, in a google-friendly environment, keeping students captivated and fully engaged requires tremendous efforts on the part of teachers. In addition to offering more personalized attention and support to their students, teachers are also required to integrate contemporary literacy in their classrooms, that is, to build a suitable framework for boosting 21st century skills.
Essentials for the 21st century
The 21st century highly values critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication. However, in a google friendly world, creating collaborative relationships and fostering meaningful communication is a demanding task.
Preparing students for the 21st century also requires high level of their engagement. In order to recognize their interests, and discover their learning aptitudes and attitudes, students should be actively involved in the learning process. This is why making use of rules and principles of a game to enhance the learning experience seems to be a reasonable option.
Game mechanics, that is, rule based simulations, are employed to encourage students to explore the boundaries of their possibilities. At the same time, students are provided with valuable feedback in a safe environment. In other words, gamification of learning experience seems to be a powerful tool for preparing students for the requirements of the contemporary world.
Understanding Gamification: striving for excellence
While digital gadgets may be a novelty for teachers around the world, the concept of gamification is definitely not something unknown to us. Ever since our early childhoods, we have enjoyed game and play. They have opened a whole new world of options for us. To put it simply, they enabled us to explore our possibilities while breaking and moving boundaries of our knowledge. This represents the foundation of gamification.
But, what is actually implied by gamification of the learning process? Isn’t our education already providing the unsurpassed gamified learning experience? Students are graded for their performance and punished for their misbehavior. Moreover, students are required to achieve certain levels and, in a way, compete with their peers. However, given the poor students’ engagement and the lack of motivation for excellence, it is clear that the present learning environment is highly unsuitable for the digital natives.
Gamification in numbers
According to the painful statistics, people all over the world spend more than 3 billion hours a week fully immersed in the gaming environment. Another report states that at the peak of its popularity back in 2010 the number of users playing Farmville exceeded 80 million active users.
On the other hand, a closer look into the worldwide trend of foreign language learning shows that an astonishingly high number of language learners is turning to digital learning modes. The research conducted by the British Council shows that there are more than 1 billion active learners of English in the world. Their research also predicts that the number is going to be doubled within the next five years.
In a fast-paced world, they are all looking for the most convenient and efficient way to immerse into their target language. Therefore, the recent increase in popularity of language learning platforms and tools is not surprising.
Since it is obvious that classroom based activities are not providing unique experience for our students, the big question is: how to bridge the gap between traditional classrooms and the latest language learning trends? Is it possible to give purpose to gaming, while at the same time striving to quality? When it comes to language learning, the answer seems to be positive.
The missing link
Gamifying the process of language learning through educational technology can easily provide framework for achieving positive student engagement. Therefore, it is clear that gamification should be an intrinsic part of the undergoing revolution of our classrooms.
This is closely followed by building the sense of community and making and nurturing meaningful connections. As far as language learning is concerned, obviously, language enables students to engage socially. The developers of language learning platforms and tools definitely had in mind the fact that digital natives are socially conscious and crave for connections. Why don’t we utilize resources that 21st century provides and move boundaries of communication outside the classroom?
However, although striving to be a part of the group, generation Y, that is, digital natives, strongly appreciates its sense of individuality. Therefore, they should be faced with challenges specific to their needs. Our language learning classrooms are usually not the best place for tracking students’ performance. This is where the use of edtech resources reaches its full potential. They enable teachers to track students’ progress, and minimize the students’ mistake rate by helping them to focus on what is really problematic for them.
Finally, providing meaning is what really refreshes traditional classrooms. The sense that what is being learnt bears real value outside the classroom is what truly motivates students to strive towards excellence. Of course, this is closely followed with the active engagement of students in the learning process. Regardless of their fluency, students should feel that their contribution to the learning process is equally meaningful as the teacher’s. However, before this is done both teachers and students should unleash their creativity, since it is one of the most valuable skills for 21st century and explore endless possibilities offered by edtech resources they use.
Psychology professor Peter Green writes “People think of play as frivolous or trivial,” adding that “the enormous educative power of play lies in its triviality. When children are free to play, they play naturally at the ever-advancing edges of their mental and physical abilities.” Play seems to be built in our nature. There is no reason to neglect this in our classrooms, especially since we are living in a world where play has become intrinsic part in lives of millions. The only unanswered question is: are we going to keep fighting with windmills, or are we going to embrace the latest trends and make the best use of them?