Posted by Joan on June 16, 2017
2 – The Past and the Present – Putting Gamification in Context.
It’s important not to get carried away by the newness of something – at all costs we should avoid the baby and the bathwater scenario where whatever is ‘old’, tried and tested, gets thrown out in deference to the hip, the modern, the new.
Looking back we can see several fads that have come and gone: The Grammar-Translation methodology owed a lot to the study of classical languages and gradually fell out of fashion, The Communicative Approach enjoyed its heyday in the 1970s and early 80s and advocated that we focus on fluency at the expense of other linguistic issues.
As far as equipment goes, the language lab was in mode, from the 1950s on, to develop our fluency. You might still find banks of abandoned booths, generally having been relegated to the status of a paedagogic dinosaur – and they were cumbersome! Exercise types also go through phases of popularity: the cloze test was a favorite where every nth word or specific types of word (linkers, verb forms) in the text were blanked out, depending on the teaching focus. Another firm favourite was the cut-up-text, a linguistic jig-saw, where learners had to reassemble the parts to make a sensible text. If the original text is well written with good cohesion and clear topic development, then such a task is a useful for learners to develop their awareness of discourse features and of what elements constitute a good text.
I do recall on one specific occasion being horrified to find a text which a colleague was cutting up to serve s a jumbled text. It was a newspaper article about the horrific Yorkshire Ripper who had, with equal zeal, chopped up the body parts of his victims to avoid detection. The general coverage of the unfolding events was so gruesome in detail I could not read it. When I asked my colleague if he really thought this was appropriate for adolescent Intermediate students to read, his surprised response was, ‘Of course, it’s authentic!’
My point is this: it’s good to keep abreast of what is happening in our professional areas, to try out new approaches, techniques, equipment, task-types and see how effective they are. It’s commendable – if not mandatory – to bring the outside world into the classroom and not operate totally within an established teaching ‘bubble’- remote from the other facets of our lives. That helps maintain the interest of our students and stops us from stagnating at the same time.
That is precisely why, despite arguing with the stance taken by Dr Peter Diamandis, (see previous post) I strongly advocate bringing technology into the classroom. In today’s world, the use of technology has become indispensable in commerce, communication services and in medicine – especially in the domains of diagnosis and surgery. Many professions increasingly rely on programs and applications to operate more efficiently and effectively.
Unless we assist our students to become technologically au fait, they may not develop the skills that will be required of them in the market place.
Let’s now consider what exactly ‘gamification’ means. Most dictionaries agree it involves the application of elements of game into another area of activity. Such elements may be features related to
content – using the player’s knowledge or decision-making abilities e.g. Trivial Pursuit or
operation – where the player may be simply moving or using skills of matching, etc. e.g. Snakes and Ladders and card games , such as Snap, respectively
Essentially there will be a goal – to be first off the board, to win more points – and there will be a task to be achieved – throw the dice, answer the questions correctly – to be performed while observing the rules. These rules may dictate how you proceed – moving according to dice-throw, taking turns – or may be part of the game design – sliding down the snakes on the board, answering within a set time or on a specific topic.
Inevitably there are emotional elements involved: enjoyment, competition, motivation, excitement, all of which have us ready to play games and those are excellent reasons for introducing game-like activities into the classroom
But such innovations cannot be the be-all and end-all of the lesson. It is the teacher who always holds the steering wheel and drives the lesson forward to reach the specific aims in focus. No single approach, material, piece of equipment or task-type is sufficient in itself to do that.