Applying For the Job: Using Work Simulators in the L2TL Classroom

The EFL Situation

ESL/EFL teachers will immediately recognize the theme of “jobs” as a staple of almost all ESL/EFL textbooks. Even very young students in most places recognize that their parents work or that there are people in their community like police officers or restaurant workers. It is this, assumed, shared understanding that makes “jobs” a very tempting content-subject for teachers.

However, most textbooks have a hard time, or fail completely, to contextualize and situate the content – jobs – with the language use the students should be learning. The following image is a very, very typical type of assignment that language learners might get. It seems well done. It provides images that associate directly to words and contextualizes the jobs in specific places (e.g. teacher – school). How or in what situation the student should need to use the language in the worksheet isn’t even a topic of concern. In fact, the only place such a task will be useful is in the ESL/EFL classroom context itself. Making activities like the one below very hard to transfer to real-world language use, to say nothing about its use in talking about or in those jobs or places.

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Take Your Learners to Work: A L2TL Review of “MyCafe: Recipes & Stories”

This review is part of a series of posts that examine different games for their usefulness in teaching ESL/EFL under a game-design enhanced approach to TBLT. Want to know more about that first? See this foundational post for background information and an actual example.

 Introduction

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Thank goodness… all we have is tea.

I have from time to time, played facebook games. I know to some gamers, that is.. like the most disgusting thing you can do. But I have found some of them fun and even, maybe.. engaging. Of those games, a certain genre generally gets my attention, the job simulator. These games put you in the position of worker, owner or designer of some sort of socially-acceptable job.

Unsurprisingly, jobs and work are often, very often, topics for second language learning and teaching (L2TL). This review then, is interested in discovering how well, if at all, casual job simulator games are for L2TL. this review will follow a basic format. First, I will explain basically the game and its core mechanics along with the communities that exist around the game. Then we will present an overall, table-form, evaluation of the main areas of game-design enhanced Task-based learning and teaching (TBLT) from Sykes & Reinhardt (2013). A detailed discussion of the evaluation follows with specific examples from the game. Part 2 of this review will discuss useful ways to leverage My Cafe: Recipes & Stories for L2TL.

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Using Games to Examine English L2 Learners’ Word Recognition Strategies

The following is a mini research project I conducted in 2015 using a simple card game designed for vocabulary learning, Word-A-RoundThis paper was never meant for actual publication and as such, the raw data for this project has been erased. But if you find the results here interesting, or the topic, this is might be a good jumping off point for your own work.

Introduction

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Garden-path jokes are a comedic staple.. and interesting linguistic phenomena!

Literacy and vocabulary knowledge, even in very young learners, has been suggested to predict future academic performance (Christian et al., 1998) and its importance both in education and the popular press has only increased over time. Additionally, literacy has been shown to improve cognitive functions and metalinguistic skill in ways that are similar to bilingualism (Hamers & Blanc, 2000). The interaction then, of education, reading and bilingualism has been a growing field of interest in second language acquisition (SLA) research.

Since the “sociocultural turn” (Johnson, 2006, p. 237) in SLA, literacy education focused on situated language use and the ecological affordances of the classroom have also shown new ways of understanding the role of literacy and learning. This turn, however, has often been viewed from the more general aspects of learning, considering fully contextual and authentic reading while ignoring traditional word recognition and decontexualized or perceived inauthentic reading. As such, little has been said in the new era of sociocultural SLA about word recognition in situated classroom environments.

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How We Hear Language: Representation and Direct Perception

  • The following is the first finished draft of the literature review for my Master’s thesis English Front Vowel Perception by Korean University and Elementary EFL Students: The Role of Syllable Codas and Foreign Living Experience. It changed in certain important ways after this, but I found the collection of information gathered here to be helpful.

Introduction

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And so science began – from SMBC

Knowledge and how we come to know has been a preoccupation of philosophy and science for centuries. The field of epistemology is entirely dedicated to this pursuit and still examines and re-examines what it means to know and if it is possible at all. A key tool, and maybe the most often pursued, is the knowledge that is available from our senses.

Speech perception clearly falls into the category of sense knowledge, being a specific form of sound sense. And while sound has often been given second-hand status by philosophers and scientists who more often build theories on the foundation of vision, many have begun to examine the specifics of sound sense itself and specifically the sensing of speech sounds (e.g. Nudds & O’Callaghan, 2009). Speech occupies an important place in the science of perception, language and knowledge because it has seemed to be unique to humans. Research into whether or not humans uniquely perceive speech and if so, how humans perceive speech differently has been approached from various perspectives.

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How To Give Effective Feedback to Language Learners?: An Example of Vygotskian Responsive Assistance

  • Previously, I wrote a piece critical of what many EFL teachers might think is good advice for giving student feedback. I mentioned in that post that a more effective method would be Dynamic Assessment. This post then is a follow-up to that post. Here I detail what exactly DA is and then provide an extend example with data of what it looks like in action.

Introduction

Since “the sociocultural turn”, the field of second language acquisition has seen a shift in the way many educationalists and linguists view the dialogic nature of the teacher-student interaction. The turn from traditional initiate, respond, evaluate forms of teaching has been replaced with a Vygotskian form of responsive assistance, in some cases called instructional conversations (IC). The core these IC communications, according to Meskill & Anthony (2010) is the dynamic relationship between two people and how they “recognize and respond appropriately to the myriad of teachable moments” (loc. 515).

In order to recognize and respond, much more than attending to the forms and function of a language in the classroom is necessary. Our sociocultural theory of education must also be ecological in viewing itself as situated in a particular environment, with its own unique and variable affordances.

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Rewards and Quests as Motivation and Tasks in L2TL: A Review of “Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft”

  • This review assess the potential for game-design enhanced second language teaching and learning of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. For background reading about the philosophical and linguistic-theoretic foundation for the approach used in this review, see here and here.

The Game

Hearthstone: Heros of Warcraft is an online competitive collectable card video game developed by Blizzard Entertainment first in March of 2014. It can be played from multiple platforms including a computer, apple or android phone and tablets. Hearthstone is a multiplayer, free-to-play, card strategy game with additional single player role-playing elements.  Hearthstone can be considered a traditional and casual game because of its dynamic player-matching system which intends on matching players against others of a similar ability. It is often promoted as “deceptively simple but epically engaging” because it can appeal to players unfamiliar with both the World of Warcraft universe and collectable card games, but at the same time fosters a play environment for serious, even professional, players.

Hearthstone, while two years old, maintains a high level of critical praise. Meta-review websites like Gamerankings and metacritic, which analyze multiple reviews from various websites in order to give a game a ranking give Hearthstone a 92.50% (out of 100%) and 88 (out of 100) respectively. Reviewers have consistently praised it’s easy to learn game mechanics, user friendly interface and general aesthetic design. The game is available in fourteen different languages including English and Korean.

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Using A Game-Design Enhanced Approach to TBLT: The Example of The Social Deception Tabletop Game “Coup”:

  • This essay attempts to both describe and motivate the Bridging Activities Cycle for game-design enhanced TBLT. For further foundational reading into the philosophical and theoretical motivations for using games and taking a game-design approach to TBLT, see here.

Introduction

Vernacular video games, or commercial video games, have in the last decade begun to be examined for their usefulness for learning. From a fundamental level, Gee (2007) claims that video games demonstrate excellent learning principles inherent in their design. To operationalize and capture the learning potential in games, Thorne and Reinhardt’s (2008) Bridging Activities (BA) provide an approach to language learning and teaching that utilizes playing games with principles of language awareness (LA) (Bolitho et al, 2003).

In particular for BA, language learning is never seen as something decontexualized or simply about language in some general sense. Instead, BA aims to build in learners an awareness of how multimodalic forms are utilized by a community to make sense, achieve specific goals and perform situated functions. In this way, LA is an awareness both of and about language (Reinhardt & Sykes, 2011). Awareness of language is related to experiences that users have in specific situations, such as saying “hello” in a marketplace. Awareness about language then is the analytic side that users of language use in order to know that saying “hello” to the clerk at the supermarket is different than they “hey” they say to their best friend at home. BA then, attempts to use the situated experience and natural learning potential of video games and the attendant communities (e.g. websites and forums) around specific video games to build LA in learners in this way.

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