Thursday, April 4, 2013

ELT Ideas too good to be taken seriously

The idea: Gamification, that is the use of games or elements of gaming to enhance the language learning experience.

The problem: Often taken too literally by teachers to mean any game in class or misrepresnted by publishers and reduced to ‘listen and click’ style flash games which fail to appeal to today’s PlayStation/X-Box gaming generation.

How it should be done: Let’s face it - a school student who fills his/her free time with the likes of Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto (however age inappropriate) is hardly going to be enticed by the prospect of being instructed to click on the red balloon, find the hidden star or color the puppy yellow, is he or she?

This game aims to bring together target language and the type of games your students love to create a truly engaging listening experience. The student takes the role of either a mob hitman, a secret service sniper or a rogue agent (always important to offer them choices) and sets himself/hersefl up in a camoflagued location overviewing a crowded scene such as an enemy army camp, a political rally or a meeting of the local mafia.

Instructions are then received from the mysterious unseen ‘commander’ via the shooter’s earpiece like this:
“Can you see the short, fat, bald man who is wearing a green jacket and sunglasses? Shoot him in the leg.”


“Locate the red building. That is where they store their fuel. Hit it with an RPG.”

Or even…

“You see the boss’ wife? She’s holding a white puupy. Make it red!”

There is also the opportunity to recieve corrective feedback:
“Great shot! He won’t be walking for a while.”

“I said the RED building! You hit the oranage building - that’s the canteen where they eat lunch.”

Students of course have the opportunity to level up, receive new weapons and earn promotions. Topics to be covered potentially include colours, buildings, descriptive adjectives and, of course, parts of the body.

In order to avoid too much controversy, for very young learners, a version will be available in which the shooter uses a paintball gun as is instructed to splatter the given targets with different colours.
Would students enjoy it? Absolutely

But would it work? Alas, this one is destined to never make it intoı an ELT publisher’s catalogue. Parents, teachers and the media are likely to ignore the instense contextualised language practice on offer in a format similar to games we let kids play anyway to focus on the ‘controversy’ of it all…