Digital Game-Based Learning – Why Not!

As I already discussed in my previous posts digital era influenced all the spheres including the educational. Integrating Digital Game-Based Learning (DGBL) into the classroom gave a room to a lot of research aiming to find out whether Video Games could be used as an effective educational tool or not.

In general, computer games are becoming more and more widespread both as means of entertainment and as an educational resource. Though, many of us (parents) are probably concerned with the issue of  addiction and violence in video games, still, it is impossible to create an isolated atmosphere for the growing generation and keep them apart from all the innovative technologies.  From this perspective, we can make an effort to yield a positive effect or develop a strategy to determine what games can be effective for learning.

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As R. VanEck (2006) states in his study, the research should be done particularly to see why DGBL is engaging and effective, also to find out different strategies of increasing students’ learning potential through integrating games into the learning process. Leading specialists of this sphere advocate that computer games could be used as effective teaching aids prevailing over old-fashioned school lectures. J. Paul Gee in his interview points out that video games are simply problem solutions which empower players to develop their assessment skills. “Video games give an opportunity to do things which we can’t do in a real life” (Gee, 2008).

For me, and I guess for the majority of teachers thinking to incorporate DGBL one of the most challenging stages will be to pick appropriate educational games which are classroom-safe. One genre of video games which can really be effective for EFL classroom is Role Playing Games. S. Barab in his interview expresses an interesting opinion that using games for educational purposes helps kids to become literate in different disciplines, also, it means “creating future and giving kids an opportunity to choose their roles”.

Now let’s pick games which I can integrate successfully in my own EFL classroom and see what challenges my learners could face and whether the advantages will indeed outweigh. It is really difficult to choose just one game as long as the institution itself doesn’t implement DGBL based on a particular video game (For example, Quest Atlantis). From my own experience, I can say that playing The Sims 2 enhanced my English language skills such as learning instructions, new vocabulary on household and also other surroundings as well as taking roles. The Sims 2 is a game similar to real life where players take roles, perform different activities and form relationships. However, this could be offered to the learners as an out of class alternative due to its time-consuming nature. Most importantly, learners’ age should be carefully discussed once incorporating The Sims 2. Periodically, short sessions could be organized for discussing learners’ progress so that teacher could assess whether there is some learning going on. Parents also should be involved to guide the time spent on playing the game and the process of the game to avoid any kind of negative psychological effect.

For classroom implementation, there are a lot of interesting and interactive simple games which could be used based on the topic, purpose and, most importantly EFL context. For example, Big Describer (practicing brief reading comprehension), a number of games offered by British Council, Speak Easy (enriching vocabulary), Falling Clouds (Practicing grammar and word order) and other games.

To prepare our students for the 21st century and to make the best use of the time spent on digital games, let’s continue exploring and finding new solutions!

Be open-minded to make sure that the education you provide is always competitive!

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