Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Against All Odds, The Refugee Experience

Although I will be a future ESOL teacher, I do question sometimes where my job even comes from. Who are the people that I will be teaching and what are their stories? After being assigned to play a serious game for my online class, I was answered some of these questions in the most haunting way. Although many of my students will be immigrants which is just as an intense experience, my eyes were opened to the path that a refugee takes to get here and even someone here on asylum. The game Against All Odds is a virtual simulation into the path a refugee takes to enter this country and even some tasks associated with it after already being here. The steps in this game are intense; Starting with hiding from military prosecution, to finding ways out of the country, finding places to sleep at night, fitting into a new life, and even constantly being judged by other people. This game offers an intense experience into what it might feel like to be a real refugee. Although this may not be essential to language learning in class, it hits a cultural objective to a tee. The best way I could use this is a classroom if I had only a few ESOL students in my class and the rest were mainstream students. I would make all of my students play this game hoping that they are humbled to the experience that someone needs to go through to get into this country and what their classmates are facing. I would use this exercise to be able to open the eyes of my students to show them a piece of culture of the other students in the class and try and connect us as a community.In the meantime, students are all learning to follow directions as per following the game. They must follow instructions and be able to use tact to be able to escape the situations that they are in. Personally I have played this game 3 times successfully, it wasn't without frustration at times. I had to keep repeating the levels over and over because I kept doing things wrong. But this is exactly how the game is supposed to be set up. It wants to portray the struggles and frustrations that refugees encounter. I found it to be a valuable source of a personal story as well as a learning experience. One NYS Standard that I could base this activity on is Standard 5. Standard 5 speaks to Students using language for cross-cultural knowledge and understanding. In focusing on this standard I would be addressing both a language need as well as a cultural need. We could practice using language to describe the encounter that we had with this game. We could kill two birds with one stone. To test students on their comprehension as well as success based on this standard, I would have the students write me a paragraph either describing to me their experience playing the game or either their own personal stories. They would not have to share these stories with others nor myself if not comfortable but there is that option for these students. I hope that I will be able to use this game in the future, I think it is an eye-opening game as well as a valuable piece of cultural knowledge. Just be aware of the age group which is playing this game, It's very graphic and emotional and should not be used for younger crowds.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Using the Game Escape the Room in a Classroom Setting

In this phase in my online class, we are learning about gamification. My previous post expanded on the notion of what gamification is and how it can be used in the class. I came across an article in our syllabus that talked about the nature of Escape the Room games and how they can be beneficial for ESOL students. If you aren't sure what Escape the Room games are, here's a basic description according to the article Focus on Genre: Escape the Room Games, "A point-and-click adventure game where players have to escape from imprisonment by exploiting their surroundings..." Players are asked to click on anything in their surroundings and gradually piece things together to be able to escape the situation in which they have been places. One particular escape game I found to be thrilling is the Phantasy Quest game. This is an escape game that depicts you being stuck on an island and having to use the tools and objects around you to be able to make it through safely. Although I've played many Escape the Room games before, I've only played this particular one 3 times. The first time, I tried to see as far as I could get without a walkthrough. The next two times I completed it with a walkthrough to make sure that the directions that they gave me allowed me to win the game. The first time took quite some time and required a lot of repetition and trying new things. I really liked this game. It has you hooked from the moment you start playing. This creates great possibilities for using this with students. The last couple times I played was using the Phantasy Quest Walkthrough. I did this to be able to create a working game for a potential future classroom. I never realized the potential of using one of these games in my class until I pondered about the walkthrough. To understand a walkthrough, you need to know directions, verbs, and so much vocabulary. If provided computers in school, this would be a great activity to help students listen to explicit directions. According to the NYS ESOL Standards, Standard 1 can be directly focused on by using one of these games in class. Standard one says that students will use language for information and understanding. This game is PERFECT for working on that task. While playing this game in an ideal classroom, each student would have a computer. You may have to get creative if there isn't one available to each students but if so this is how I see this game being used for an activity. First I would explain to the students what the Escape the Room games are about and how to navigate through the pages. After gaining the general idea I would let them play around on the site to be able to practice picking things up and making sure that their technical use of the computers is going okay. I would then have them restart the game to start at the beginning. My role as the teacher would be to be the reader of the walkthrough. I would hold the walkthrough and read the steps out loud to the students. From hearing my specific instructions, the students should be able to navigate through the specific task that I am asking for instance, turn left and pick up the bottle. After I've given students time to complete the task, I would walk through and make sure that the task is complete, checking for comprehension. If I see that a student needs help or hasn't completed the task I might repeat the directions again. If they still aren't understanding I would have brought in picture references so that I could show them what to do. Some of the vocabulary might be a little tricky. Some might struggle through one step while others breeze through it and vice versa. I don't expect every student to get every step right but as long as the majority they do I'll be happy. This is a great listening task and checks for understanding and comprehension. Students would be engaged playing a game but as the same time learning new vocabulary and learning how to follow directions. By checking the students after each step, I would be making sure that they are active in the learning process and making sure they are on task and understanding. From this, I could figure out which students are struggling from what and pinpoint helping points for future lessons. I would encourage all teachers to try out this activity in the class, students would love it, I know I did!

Monday, October 6, 2014


Gamification, a generally new vocabulary term, but a long-used method of learning. When I started this Mod for my online class, I wasn't sure what the title Gamification was exactly going to entail. Were we going to be playing video games the entire time? What does this have to do with learning? I was shocked to find out that gamification was present throughout my entire education as a student and in fact, still is. Gamification, in my best definition, means including game-like techniques into learning to encourage students to be involved in a reward and praise filled environment. One prime memory of this in my education is when teachers used Jeopardy in our classes to be able to study for exams. I know on the days that we played Jeopardy, I payed attention. It takes the monotony out of learning and gives education the spice that kids need to really engage in their own learning. 10 Gaming Genres to Adapt in Class Kyle Mawer gives multiple examples and various adaptable scenarios to bring gaming into live classroom situations. Among the great ideas, a few stand out to me: Pacman (Arcade) and Puzzle Games. Arcade games (specifically pacman) stands out to me because it transforms a classic and well-known game into a learning experience. Who would have thought that pacman could bring out so many vocabulary terms... Colors, directions, exclamations. It's a full learning experience and you wouldn't even know it. I love bringing traditional things and making them learning experiences. I like the puzzle game ideas for the same reasons. I've always had puzzle games in my education and they have really benefited me as a student. I would love to carry on using them. In the article Sculpting Flow and Fiero Zac Hill one quote stands out in particular to me. Zac Hill states that "...a game designer can create and share a core emotional experience with an audience." Gaming goes beyond a latent interaction with its players. Gaming elicits an emotional response that connects with its gamers. This is an extremely valuable notion and idea that can be connected with the classroom with great success. What student wouldn't want to learn and keep learning by playing games? It's a great great idea and needs to be further developed. So.. How is gaming being used in the classroom? I think the article 7 Things You Should Know About Gamification gives a great explanation to this question when they say " In academe, gamification
typically employs elements such as points, badges, or progress bars to engage or motivate students in the learning process." We can really use gamification to bring our education to a whole new level. I can't wait to be able to include these themes in my classroom and I hope you found this research educational to you as well!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Twitter in Education

Twitter, as per any blogging site, is a way to share information. As learners, we can't know everything. It's a great resource to have other people to seek information from. Twitter does exactly this. It's a pool of knowledge from people from your field with experience and years ahead of you!
A couple pieces of information on how to get the most out of twitter for educational and professional purposes comes from the article The Teacher's Guide to Twitter. Within this article it lists four important ways to get the most out of twitter: Create, Don't just consume, Connect and Network, Keep at it, and Share your resources. Aren't these all ways to valuable learning and being a teacher without even knowing that twitter was involved? Aren't we as teachers creators, networkers, persistent, and fountains of information? Twitter brings these all together on one website. It keeps us up-to-date and constantly learning without having to research multiple sites. Like other blogging and social media sites, Twitter provides learners with news and new ideas. I could definitely see myself using this in my classroom. I don't think that I would require its use among my students but for my own professional development as a teacher, I can see myself using it. It''s never a bad thing to build up your fountains of information and resources. Another valuable piece of information about twitter and micro-blogging comes from the article Using Micro-Blogging Platforms for Educational Purposes. One quote that stands out to me in this article is "You’ll also find stuff you never knew existed. Use it how it works for you and just take it from there. Enjoy the adventure!" This article mostly explains the way to get the most out of twitter and tips for using it as an educational blogging site rather than person entertainment. Again, Twitter is just a way to find new fountains of information and learn about things you never knew existed, Enjoy the ride and the learning :)

Twitter Chats!

Although unfamiliar to twitter before this activity, I found the twitter chat to be easier than I thought it would be. I was nervous to be a part of the chat all week because I was so unfamiliar with twitter. Where do I sign up? How do I post? How do I hashtag? It all came into focus while actually doing it! I was really pleased that it wasn't as hard as expected.
The chat that I followed was #langchat. This group chat is mostly comprised of language teachers that discuss language issues. The issue of the night was Learning vs Acquisition and how it impacts our teaching. While I am not currently a teacher, I do have some strong feelings about this topic which made it easier to blend in. It was really fun to me to see that people were responding to what I had to say as well as appreciating my words. I loved getting retweeted and favorited! It was mostly concerning how we stray away from straight learning in the classroom and bring students closer to a native level status. This to me speaks highly about pragmatics and ensuring that we bring in outside materials to ensure that our students are learning from as many "natural sources" as possible.
I definitely liked the twitter chats. I found them to be really interesting as well as full of potential ideas and debates. I think at any given time if the topic is right I would love to join in and learn some new information. This I could definitly see myself learning as it is important to form a community of learners.
As per twitter itself, I still am really confused by the site itself. I don't really know its potential at this point having only been a member for a few days. I have a lot of learning to do and information to gather but I think it would give me ideas as a teacher and help me to stay current. I don't think this will be my main fountain of information as a teacher and a learning but I could see myself using it for the chats or just to look at news and ideas.
Thanks for listening!