MMOs, English, and Experiential Learning
The computer games that appear to be most effective for the development of English vocabulary are those known as Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), a genre of role-playing computer games in which a large number of players interact with one another in a virtual world.
“As a player you simply have to be able to understand what’s being said, to read English and to interact yourself by both writing and speaking English,” says Liss Kerstin Sylvén, Associate Professor at the University of Gothenburg, who conducted the study together with Pia Sundqvist, Senior Lecturer in English at Karlstad University.
I’ve always considered localization to be the bottleneck in the globally connected society; though, I’ve never considered it’s use in MMOs. Maybe I just assumed that all players were connecting to local servers. Apparently not.
My little sister was adopted from China at age 9. She hadn’t had any experience with the English language at the time, nor had she acquired the ability to read or write in her native language due to the lack of adequate education in the orphanage. All of our initial communication was handled through Google Translate. However, within months of being immersed in an English speaking culture, her use and understanding of English skyrocketed at an extremely rapid pace.
On a simpler yet similar note, my own typing skills (not necessarily my grammar) greatly improved by the use of AIM, mIRC, and Battle.net outside if school. Mavis Beacon or other education based software didn’t hold a candle to what I was learning through practical, real world use.
When forced to learn a skill because the greater population or infrastructure will not conform to your own methods while their’s is efficiently serving the same function, you are forced to learn. I believe this is the trick with edTech and game-based learning. Build a “core” game with limitations and challenges where the player is forced to apply different skills or types of thought to win instead of a “game” that is purely and unabashedly focused on teaching a particular skill. Flashing lights, fun noises, and achievements can only go so far. It needs to be an engaging (and possibly addictive) game to teach. Experiential learning is key.