English Learning in a Virtual World

T.H.E. Journal has an article from their latest issue of their magazine on using online role playing games to teach English to Asian students (a subject near and dear to our hearts here at PacRimX):

On a Quest for English

A quote from the article states the subject that was addressed:

Their message threw a spotlight on a relatively new area of investigation in the evolving relationship between education and computer games— namely, whether an MMORPG might serve as a pedagogical tool for students learning English as a second language.”

One of the teachers featured in the article ran a class where his American university students woke up in the middle of the night to interact with students in China:

“Basically, I told [my students] that they could teach them English using any game they wanted,” Schneider says. “Once a week, all my students would get up in the middle of the night, put on their headsets, and chat for two hours with 12-year-olds in Shanghai. The Chinese kids absolutely loved it. Their teachers told us it was their favorite class.”

This teacher’s observations on the experiences of his students with those in China are enlightening, and show the power of these platforms for education. The amazing part is that he was using World of Warcraft to teach Asian students English using university students:

“Schneider believes the Chinese students learned far more conversational English in WoW than they ever would have learned by using a textbook. “You can teach left and right in a classroom setting, but in World of Warcraft, they get a chance to use it,” he says. “They went from being afraid to say anything to telling my students, ‘This time, I’m going to kick your butt!'” Schneider also observed that the Chinese students were highly motivated to acquire English because it helped to advance them in the game. “Nothing is more motivating than these online games,” he says.”

Other projects are also featured in this article (as well as a new project just getting started).  This is an excellent article that everyone in education working with virtual worlds needs to read. Use the link above to jump over to T.H.E. Journal’s website to read the full article.

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