Digital Games in Language Learning and Teaching

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Textbook Details:

Digital Games in Language Learning and Teaching

Edited by Hayo Reinders 2012, 256 pages,

Published by Pelgrave-Macmillan,

ISBN 1137022833 (pbk) 978-1137022837 (pbk)

There is an increasing interest in the use of digital games in language learning and teaching. Unsurprisingly this book was published simultaneously with Language at Play: Digital Games in Second and Foreign Language Teaching and Learning (Theory and Practice in Second Language Classroom Instruction) (Sykes et al., 2012). In a way, both intend to cover a gap in language learning that was grasped by different researchers (Garcia-Carbonell et al, 2001; Gee, 2003) but required a conceptual framework of application. In this sense, the book has been clearly divided into two different but mutually dependent parts: part I, "From theory to practice", which comprises chapters one to four, and Part II, "From practice to theory" that includes chapters five to ten. The approach is rather academic and more oriented towards general language arts--with some exceptions-than towards foreign or second language learning and teaching, so some of the readers may somehow be surprised by the fact that it would have been more appropriate to mention that it was intended for first languages than for second. Said so, the book is quite well theory-practice balanced and one may feel that there is a clear practical purpose in this volume.

Some of the outstanding premises in the book are, first, that learning through games, especially through the multiplayer online role-play ones and the commercial off-the-shelf ones, is mostly a problem based approach;, second, that it is necessary to provide learners "tools with which to solve the problems" (page xii); and, third, that learning, like gaming, is a circular process of error-feedback-reconstruction which requires the continuous reconstruction of the learner's knowledge. Thus, the book is clearly cognitive-oriented. Indeed, like any other cognitive approaches (p. 64) it also pays some attention to how learning is constructed through interaction especially through communities of practice (chapter 3). This is especially remarkable and visible when multiplayer modes occur (chapter 4). One of the ideas that is basic to this cognitivist approach is that games provide the player (or student) with a rich environment from which cognition is developed but is also enriched by the provision of rich input provided within the scenario itself (Smith, 2004). Thus self-directed learning is facilitated by "the adequate support, scaffolded reflection and critical thinking" (p. 55). One of the criticisms that can be done is that although chapter three intends to support some constructivist approach to learning, Filsecker and Bundgens-Kosten--the authors-recognize "finding a game that closely matches the PBL pedagogy or constructivist learning theory is not easy" (p. 56). The problem that can be understood from this perspective is that computer games are limited to suggest the kind of problems the students face, and also the limited role of human-computer interaction as mediator in human learning. It may also be valuable, however, for teachers or games in which behaviorism plays a significant role in self-learning, say by the interaction of stimulus-response dyads. Chapter four intends, on the other hand, to suggest how multiplayer interaction has the potential to improve learning through interaction. Again the problem is that mediation in this chapter is not clearly defined and although the author, Mark Peterson, somehow suggests how the interaction is done through the students' capacity to "adapt" their language by interacting with their peers, the impact of the Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 178; Kim & Blankenship, 2013 among many others) and its function in learning is neglected when, in fact, it could enhance the potential of the learners' interaction in learning. Overall, this chapter four acknowledges the importance of the social factor in increasing cognition and facilitating language learning, especially, in situations of second language acquisition. …