The only way to get students to want to work outside of the classroom
and outside of homework would be by fun engaging activities to use the
language. My previous explorations of games-based learning and
gamification in my classroom showed me that many of my students were
more engaged and excited about learning when they learned through
playing games or using elements of games to structure learning. So I
asked myself, what game can my students play in their target language
when they are not at school or doing homework? It has taken me years
of exploration, and studying and putting new ideas into practice to gain
understanding of what engages my students and what interests them and
causes them to engage more deeply in their learning. Asking students
various questions also helped me to start defining what the problem was
as well as start coming up with ideas for creating an app.
As we explored games-based learning, I started working with our Middle
School Technology Coordinator. We looked for video games that might
be fun and motivating for our students to play in the targeted language
they were learning. To our surprise, we didn’t find anything engaging or
interesting to use with our students. Where in the World is Carmen
Sandiego came to my mind as a game I loved playing on the computer as
a middle schooler, which helped me learn geography and reference skills.
I wondered if my students’ needed a game like that to engage them.
For the next two years, I continued to ask students about games they
played and why they were attracted to them. Some of their games I
played and others I read about. What I gathered was that students were
playing games such as Minecraft, Warcraft, and Airfraft because you
could build your own world and the level of challenge gradually went up.
Assasin’s Creed, another popular game, was built around a storyline and
a mission. Surprisingly enough, the social component was only a big
component for some students. My Carmen Sandiego idea needed to be
tweaked in order to fit my students view of engaging.
The last few years I have been playing language learning games hoping I
could find something for my students. What I found was that the games
in the market catered to young children from ages 3-9 or adults. The
games were mostly variations of matching and memory. All of them were