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MMORPGs for Second Language Acquisition


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Problem-based learning (PBL) in simulated environments such as massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) offers a variety of language-based scenarios with nonplaying characters providing model language support for cultural, vocabulary, and literacy development. Gaming provides situated learning of content in a PBL format (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Hung, 2006). This review focuses on the use of commercial MMORPGs (not specifically created for ELLs) combined with English language support material to determine whether they are an effective strategy for language learning. Games discussed include Ever Quest 2, Minecraft, The Sims, The Nori School, and World of Warcraft.

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MMORPGs for Second Language Acquisition

  1. 1. Can massive multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs) enhance second language acquisition?
  2. 2. 1. Define MMORPGs 2. Discuss 5 research studies utilizing MMORPGs 3. Share benefits & drawbacks of using MMORPGs as an instructional strategy for English language learners (ELLs)
  3. 3. Ever Quest 2 Nori School The Sims Trace Effects World of Warcraft Commercial adventure game Educational English language game developed by Korean company Commercial community game Educational English language game developed by US State Department Commercial adventure game Violent Non-violent Non-violent Non-violent Violent
  4. 4.  Gaming provides situated learning of content in a problem-based learning (PBL) format (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Hung, 2006).  PBL provides meaningful learning, resulting in deeper understandings & longer retention (Hung, Bailey, & Jonassen, 2003).  MMORPGs provide socially mediated understanding of role-playing within an online community of users.  Games motivate language practice (Crookall & Oxford, 1990; Rankin, Gold & Gooch, 2006)
  5. 5. Rankin, Gold & Gooch (2006) researched whether there was sufficient support for ELLs within the game.  Students played 4 hours a week for a month without any English language instruction, material or e-dictionary.  They analyzed their game log scripts & the language encountered through nonplaying characters (NPCs) for vocabulary testing .  No control group.
  6. 6. Participants increased their English language vocabulary by 40%. Why?  EQ2 provides opportunities for the characters to speak.  NPCs provided support by modeling language.  The more they modeled, the higher the accuracy in vocabulary meaning. (Rankin, Gold & Gooch, 2006)
  7. 7. Miller and Hegelheimer (2006) conducted a 5- week study with ELLs to test whether The Sims could be used with supporting material to teach vocabulary & grammar.  No English speaking opportunities, so they added specific vocabulary & information about cultural features in daily language support materials.  Groups: 1) game only, 2) mandatory daily English language support material+game, 3) game+voluntary support+e-dictionary
  8. 8. They found that participants in the second treatment group (with mandatory daily support) learned 30 new words through exposure with the game. Why?  The game rules, virtual shopping catalogues & various other nonverbal information updates supply a rich written language environment.  Supplemental ELL support material (Miller & Hegelheimer, 2006)
  9. 9. Ranalli (2008) replicated the Miller and Hegelheimer study with The Sims. DIFFERENCE:  Participants were paired with different language speakers to optimize their use of English language while gaming.  Groups: 1) game only, 2) game+ supporting English material, 3) game+ e-dictionary
  10. 10. All groups demonstrated a 14% increase from using The Sims. However, the treatment group with the English language materials-plus-game yielded the highest mean on the vocabulary posttest (Ranalli, 2008).
  11. 11. Suh, Kim, and Kim (2010) conducted a 2- month study in Korea with 220 fifth & six grade ELLs with a MMORPG and compared that to face-to-face instruction. They used the Nori School educational game, while the control group only received F2F instruction.
  12. 12. Students who participated in MMORPGS outperformed their peers in the control group in the following English skills: listening, reading, and writing. 5.4 % overall gain for MMORPG group. (Suh, Kim, & Kim, 2010)
  13. 13. Sylvén and Sundqvist (2012) conducted a vocabulary study in Sweden with ELLs in grades 4-6 using MMORPGs for extracurricular activities. Their study focused on whether the amount of time spent on extracurricular gaming activities correlated to their English language abilities.
  14. 14.  Different types of gamers emerged: non- gamers, moderate gamers, & frequent gamers.  Boys reported playing violent games, while girls played nonviolent ones.  Frequent gamers read fewer books.  The researchers found a positive correlation between game usage & English language ability. (Sylvén & Sundqvist, 2012)
  15. 15.  MMORPGs create a community of motivated language learners.  NPCs provide model language support for cultural, vocabulary & literacy development  Quickly increase participants’ vocabulary  Learner fit, meaning focus, authenticity, positive feedback & practicality (Chapelle, 2001)
  16. 16.  Students shared mixed feelings about how helpful the game and/or the supporting material were in language acquisition (Ranalli).  Limitation of learning grammar (Rankin).  A gender difference was identified with boys being more skilled at gaming; female ELLs who were novice gamers would be at a disadvantage if MMORGs were used in the ELL classroom (Sylvén and Sundqvist ).
  17. 17. Sandra Rogers PhD Student in Instructional Design University of South Alabama R. Burke Johnson Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies University of South Alabama
  18. 18. Brown, J., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32–42. Chapelle, C.A. (2001). Computer applications in second language acquisition: Foundations for teaching, testing and research. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Crookall, D., & Oxford, R. (1990). Language learning through simulation and gaming. New York, NY: Harper & Row. Hung, W., Bailey, J., & Jonassen, D. H. (2003). How effective is problem-based learning? In D. Knowlton & D.C. Sharp (Eds.), Problem-based learning for the information age. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  19. 19. Hung, W. (2006). The 3C3R model: A conceptual framework for designing problems in PBL. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 1(1), 55-77. Miller, M., & Hegelheimer, V. (2006). The Sims meet ESL: Incorporating authentic computer simulation games into the language classroom. International Journal of Interactive Technology and Smart Education, 3(4), 311–328. Rankin, Y., Gold, R., & Gooch, B. (2006). 3D role- playing games as language learning tools. EUROGRAPHICS, 25(3). Ranalli, J. (2008). Learning English with The Sims: Exploiting authentic computer simulation games for L2 learning. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 21(5), 441–455.
  20. 20. Suh, S. S., Kim, S. W., & Kim, N. J. (2010). Effectiveness of MMORPG-based instruction in elementary English education in Korea. Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(5), 370-378. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00353 Sylvén, L. & Sundqvist, P. (2012). Gaming as extramural English L2 learning and L2 proficiency among young learners. ReCALL, 24(3): 302-321. doi:10.1017/S095834401200016X Waters, J. K. (2007). On a Quest for English. T.H.E. Journal, 34(10), 27-28.