Thank you to my followers!

Avatar sitting on a crescent moon
My avatar sitting on the moon in SecondLife.

With the new year, it’s time to reflect, plan, and show gratitude. Last year, my blog and Twitter accounts attracted more followers. Both now have 1K+ followers. It’s been a slow and steady increase, as I’ve engaged with educators worldwide since 2010 on Twitter, WordPress, and other social media tools. It’s not about quantity for me but quality. I want to thank you for your comments and positive responses!

New Academic Blog:  I invite you to read my guest blogs on the new AACE Review. AACE stands for the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. I’ve been involved with this organization since 2014. They host several teacher/IT conferences such as the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE). My first blog was on grit and learning. This month, I’ve written one defining computer-assisted language learning (CALL) and sharing media selection criteria for CALL from researchers. For next month, I’m preparing interview questions for a CEO about a new speech recognition API.

Tech Tip:  As for new tips, I’m using Grammarly for the first time and loving the free version. I have the Chrome extension. The application checks your grammar and spelling in all writing situations including emails, blogs, and learning management systems. Grammarly sent me a report on my usage that was very insightful. This is a great way to check your past work, too. I work as an instructional designer at my College. No one generally checks my writing unless I ask, so I’m going through all of my online content. I’m doing the same for my personal blog and website! And yes, it would be a great tool for students to use.

Happy New Year!

Sandra Rogers

Computer-assisted Language Learning and Media Selection

This blog was originally posted on the AACE Review (Rogers, 2018).

Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) is the interactive use of technology to foster second language acquisition by providing meaningful opportunities to practice a language in environments beyond that which is available in the confines of a classroom. It began with the stimulus-response of programmed instruction in the 1960s with the programmed logic for automatic teaching operations’ (PLATO) Latin courses for K-16. Nowadays, it’s based on the communicative approach to second language acquisition (SLA) with authentic communication derived from meaningful activities beyond academia.  Basically, the use of technology to practice a language in realistic contexts. Of note, non-language related computer learning, in general, is referred to as computer-mediated learning or computer-assisted instruction.

Computer-based or mobile applications of videogames are one type of CALL media. For example, Trace Effects is a videogame developed by the U.S. Department of State for juvenile English language learners to teach language skills and American Culture abroad. It’s a comprehensive language program based on the communicative approach to language learning (Rogers, 2014).  It also has a mobile application called Trace Word Soup for vocabulary development. CALL is not only about videogames. It also includes web-conferencing or other collaborative tools (e.g., blogs, podcasts, Minecraft) in which a person practices learning a language skill (reading, writing, grammar, or speaking) or combination of skills with the assistance of technology while engaging with others in the target language.

The Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Association has a CALL Interest Section that is very active. In fact, their annual, all-volunteer, free Electronic Village Online (EVO) workshop sessions begin January 14th and run for five weeks. See EVO’s 2018 workshop offerings to learn more.  I’m the technologist I am today because of the professional development I received from the EVO workshops and self-proclaimed ‘Webheads’. For example, I learned how to script and film movies in SecondLife and prepare an ESL lesson on the machinima (machine made cinema) production. Other professional associations that focus on CALL include EUROCALL and the Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO.org).

How do you select the right media for CALL for your students, context, and content? Chapelle (2001) developed the following media selection criteria for CALL: language learning potential, learner fit, meaning focus, authenticity, positive feedback, and practicality.  Jamieson, Chapelle, and Preiss (2005) modified these criteria by replacing positive feedback with a positive impact. I would include both positive/negative feedback from the computer interactions, as well as its positive impacts. The following excerpt from my SLA dissertation study describes the videogame EverQuest II’s (EQII) potential for CALL based on Chapelle’s (2001) media criteria: (Rogers, 2017, pp. 3-9)

  • Language learning potential–Provides text-based and/or live chats with native English speakers, model language from non-player characters (NPCs); written support of all communication in chat logs and speech bubbles (See Figure 1); animated environment to explore, raid, craft a profession, and experience player versus player or solo encounters in battlegrounds or world events; and audible alerts, meters, and signage enhance understanding;

  • Learner fit–Current literature indicates promise for massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) for educational purposes; EQII is rated T for Teen (ESRB, 2016) for a more approachable theme; scaffolded introduction to each player’s role;
  • Authenticity–Provides 5000 creatures to encounter on 8000 quests for situated learning encounters with NPCs and gamers; the possibility of failure (See Figure 2); capability to build your own virtual identity (See blogger’s gamer identity in Figure 3);

  • Meaning focus–Role-play takes on the meaning of several narratives on various kingdoms; encounters provide salutations, skirmishes, and humor (See Figure 4); NPCs provide quests, which serve as a cueing system;

  • Positive feedback–Provides level-up announcements, tokens for continuance in gameplay, game currency for quest completion (See Figure 5), praise from quest handlers upon completion, and rewards for being courageous; and

Figure 5. Quest reward, EverQuest® II screenshot image © 2004-2015 Daybreak Game Company LLC

  • Practicality–Provides free play; available online for ease of access anytime; tutorials available in-game (See Figure 6 for guide) and online hint books, websites, and community boards; in-game user-friendly tips and error messages provide instant feedback.`

References

Chapelle, C. A. (2001). Computer applications in second language acquisition: Foundations for teaching, testing, and research. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Entertainment Software Rating Board. (2016). ESRB ratings. New York, NY: Entertainment Software Association. Retrieved from https://www.everquest2.com/news/february-2016-producers-letter-holly

Jamieson, J., Chapelle, C., & Preiss, S. (2005). CALL evaluation by developers, a teacher, and students. CALICO Journal, 23(1), 93-138. Retrieved from http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1045&context=engl_pubs

Rogers, S. (2014). Program theory logic model of Trace Effects video game. Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education, 1662-1674. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Rogers, S. A. (2017). A MMORPG with language learning strategic activities to improve English grammar, listening, reading, and vocabulary (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 10265484)

Trace Effects Video Game for Learning English as a Foreign Language

Trace and other characters in the game called Trace Effects
Source: Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State

What is it?

Trace Effects is an educational 3-D multimedia interactive video game that can be played individually off-line from a DVD or online individually or with a group. There’s also a complimentary mobile app called Trace Word Soup, which is a vocabulary game. Trace Effects was designed for English language learners (ELLs) ages 12-16 by the United States Department of State (DOS), Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

What does it teach?

The game teaches American English and culture in the context of a student entering a university setting for the first time. For example, Trace, the main character, navigates the campus in search of the student information center to obtain his student identification card in order to access certain buildings and ultimately progress to the next level of play. This game (and all of its supporting material) is part of an outreach program of the Office of English Language Programs and the American English resource center, which supports the efforts of the Regional English Language Officers (RELOs) worldwide.  RELOs work directly with English language specialists to promote American culture and English language learning activities in public and private schools abroad.

Which learning principles and practices is it based on?

I was able to interview key stakeholders about the game’s program theory. Based on their comments and my review of the game and existing documents, I concluded that Trace Effects is based on the following major concepts: cognitivism, constructivism, the communicative approach to language acquisition, the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Technology Standards Framework, and gaming as an instructional strategy.  Moreover, the DOS’s vision (pillars) factor into the game. The following DOS pillars are embedded in the levels/lessons of the game: entrepreneurship, community activism, empowering women, science and innovation, environmental conservation, and conflict resolution.

Who is the target audience?

The game was designed specifically for secondary school students in various nations who are involved in the English Access Micro-scholarship Program. This is one of the State Department’s outreach efforts to provide English language skills to talented 13-20 year-olds from economically disadvantaged sectors of the world through after-school classes. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for participants to improve their English skills to increase their chances of better employment and/or entrance into post-secondary schools. For example, Access participants may compete for, and participate in, future exchanges and study in the United States.

How will one know if users improved their English language ability and/or learned about American culture by using the game?

In the Trace Effects’ teacher manual, teachers are encouraged to assess students before and after so many hours of playtime (pretest/posttest). There are numerous extension activities in the teacher’s manual to assess learning (alternative assessments). For example, the student worksheets associated with each chapter allow teachers to monitor student learning. Students can monitor their own learning through the passive game feedback of points, redirects, and level achievement (self-regulation). Students share their progress on an electronic log with their teacher. There are competitions held worldwide for the record of the highest scorer. Stakeholders reported that educators could conduct action research to compare a control group that does not play the game with that of the treatment group that does. Another idea is using think-alouds for qualitative research—taking notes on what students report on while playing the game (phenomenology).

How can I access this game for my students?

Visit the US DOS website to play the game and download the manual. If you teach English abroad, contact your local RELO for access to the Trace Effects DVD and supporting material to use in your classroom.

To learn about the program theory behind the game, see my logic model of Trace Effects.

P. S. A special thanks to the US DOS Office of English Language Programs for the use of this image.

Reference

Rogers, S. (2014). Program Theory Logic Model of Trace Effects Video Game. In Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2014 (pp. 1662-1674). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

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