Teaching English Through Video Games

タイトル:Teaching English Through Video Games
投稿者:Ken Poon(Freelance)

As an educator, I’ve always been interested in incorporating different kinds of media into the classroom. Movies and TV shows are common tools, and I have used them often in my lessons. But what about other kinds of media, for instance, video games? Is it possible to teach using video games?

In my class, we play a smartphone game called Spaceteam(2012). It can be played with up to 8 players. The game bills itself as a “cooperative party game”. The premise is simple: the players are pilots of a spaceship, and they must reach the goal in the allotted amount of time.

Each player uses their own phone to play the game. So if 8 players are playing, there are 8 phones. On the screen, there will be a variety of buttons, levers, and dials; akin to what you would imagine seeing on a spaceship’s control panel.

Players are given commands on their own phones that the other players do not see. For instance, player A’s phone will say, “Turn boosters to 5”, but their “control panel” does not show a dial labeled “boosters”. However, player D may see the boosters dial, but they cannot see the instruction that player A can. So, player A must yell out the command “Turn boosters to 5”, which will inform player D to perform the action.

The game will then give directions to a different player to execute a command that they may not be physically able to do, thus, they must shout out instructions to whoever can complete it. The game relies on information gaps to get players communicating with each other so they can reach the goal in time.

The usefulness of this game comes in a special free version called Spaceteam ESL. The gameplay is exactly the same as the original Spaceteam, however, there is an option that allows educators to create their own word lists. The game then uses these words as the label for the various buttons and dials on the control panel.

For instance, in the high school classes that I teach, students must be able to know and say vocabulary words from their textbooks. And while rote memorization and practice can work, many students may feel disengaged or uninterested. By using Spaceteam ESL, I can incorporate those vocabulary words directly into the game itself, which the students have been enjoying immensely.

So, if they are learning words that are used in a restaurant, instead of the game’s instructions saying, “Turn boosters to 5”, it may say, “Turn appetizer to 5”. Of course, the usage is nonsensical, and that is part of the fun of it. However, the students must properly read and say the words so that their teammates can listen for it and take the appropriate action. This gives students plenty of opportunity to practice their reading, speaking, and listening, and fosters communication between them. The game also works great as a team-building activity, giving shy students a chance to contribute, cooperate, and have fun with their peers.

While many see video games as an inappropriate tool for education, the variety of games has evolved immensely from their inception in the 1970s. Modern games give students new ways to play that we could have never imagine. By using video games effectively in class, I believe that we can engage students in the lesson in a way that other media cannot.