The Image Conference: Film, Video, Images and Gaming

The Image Conference is taking place at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, UAB Casa Convelescencia, Barcelona on Saturday 8th June. The conference has been organised by the IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG and UAB Idiomes, and it is the first conference exclusively on the use of film, video, image and gaming in language teaching.

Speakers include renowned experts in the field such as Jamie Keddie, Ben Goldstein, Paul Braddock, Ceri Jones, John Hughes, Kyle Mawer and Lindsay Clandfield. There will be 2 plenary sessions, 5 keynote sessions and 10 workshops all designed around the theme of film, video, images and gaming in language teaching.

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Amoeba, Amoeba: a hilarious game, fun to film

Also from last week's session in Zaragoza…

Here's one that my daughter Isabel brought back from Canada last summer and which I suggest as a fun activity to do with young learners, perhaps in the last 10 minutes of an "animal vocabulary" lesson. My example has amoeba, chicken, bird and eagle in it but you could have any animals and I'd play this on the first day that these are new words to my learners.

To play the game, you need space in which everyone can mingle (try outside in the playground if you don't have space in your room) and everyone begins saying "Amoeba! Amoeba!" over and over, and making a small swimming action with hands and arms. The amoebas then attempt to evolve to chickens… by playing rock, paper, scissors with a partner. Winners become chickens (and now have to repeat "Chicken! Chicken!" over and over, while making chicken wing movements with their arms), amoebas remain as amoebas (and carry on swimming and saying "Amoeba! Amoeba!").

To become a bird, you need first to become a chicken… and then mingle and find another chicken and beat him/her at rock, paper, scissors, after which you say "Bird! Bird!" and flap your wings.

The winner is the first person to beat another bird to become an eagle ("Eagle! Eagle!", accompanied by moving their arms like soaring wings).

What's the point of the activity?
Well, (a) it's a lot of fun; and (b) it's a great way of ensuring no one ever forgets the words amoeba, chicken, bird and eagle!

I'd suggest it for 9 and under but you'll find that teens love it too (though with older kids it would be hard to justify linguistically).

Where does technology come in?
My suggestion is that you could – with parental permission — film it (possibly on a smartphone or iPad, possibly something one of the learners could) and upload it to YouTube (where you might consider keeping it private, and just displaying it in class).

If you've got your learners to draw pictures of their animals and post those on a classblog or Edmodo group and can now also accompany that with your "Amoeba! Amoeba!" video, you and your learners have created and shared digital products, which is really what technology allows us to do nowadays.

See also Another version of the game (in which you become Diana Ross, not an eagle!)

Games for learning

From the excellent TechLearning blog, this selection of 40 Sites for Educational Games, not by any means all of them intended for language learning.

Specifically for ELT, there's the excellent Digital Play blog (Graham Stanley and Kyle Mawer) as well as the prize-winning book of the same title.

I'm not a big games-in-class player myself, though it's always been my secret wish to have a DoS tell me "I want you to teach this teens class; there's no coursebook, but you do have 15 copies of Age of Empires…"

Just to see if it would work, you understand :-) !

See also More on digital games

Minimally invasive technology

The next quotation I used in my conference talk actually came from Scott Thornbury's talk at the IH Barcelona conference last year, in which he talked about "minimally invasive education" and discussed Sugata Mitra's Hole in the Wall experiments.

Technology too should be "minimally invasive", though there is always the danger that classroom technology will take over, if we let it, and things like the interactive whiteboard will become the focus of attention, rather the learners and the learning.

Task
As a group, play an online game… slowly

3rd World Farmer: can you make the right choices to actually survive and keep your family alive?

With small groups of 6-8 adults, if possible all using the same computer, with one learner operating the keyboard and mouse, play the game, with a single rule: no clicks can be made until there is group consensus on what our strategy is to be.

Another game the task works well with is Spent and (though it's not actually a game) a similar technique can be used with How many slaves work for you?.

Commentary
With adults (including 1-to-1), the task works excellently, as such games give lots of ground for discussion of tactics that will/won't work and possible consequences, etc., and thus lots of opportunity for interaction, use of language and discussion.

With teens it doesn't work so well, as they tend to be in more of a hurry to click and obtain instant gratification.

But, I would suggest, with any classroom technology, a rough estimate of clicks per minute is a useful indicator of how much real interaction we're generating: the more clicks per minute, the less language being used, the less interaction we get, and the more technology has invaded.

Related post
Minimally invasive interactive whiteboards

Introduction | One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten

The ingredients missing in Second Life

Fifa10: now that's what I call a game!

An article on ASTD caught my eye this morning: Ten Ingredients of Great Games.

Which of those does Second Life not have?

While SL does have "self-representation with avatars" and "three-dimensional environments", obviously, what I found missing until I vowed never to return was "narrative context" (engaging narratives, in other words and feedback — which ASTD describes as "progress bars, zooming numbers, and status gauges, all in a well-organized dashboard that lets players know how things are going, good or bad".

Maybe I've just played too much Call of Duty, but my problem is precisely that Second Life not a game as I understand it. Who was it that said "I'm excited about any technology that excites the learners"? One reason why I'm not bothering with SL is that I just don't think it will, at least not learners brought up on Fifa10 and the like.

ASTD is the American Society for Training & Development, which modestly describes itself as "the world’s largest association dedicated to workplace learning and performance professionals". Its website will be of interest if you are involved in e-learning.