Teachers’ experiences with THE LANGUAGE MAGICIAN
7. March 2018
By Concha Julián-de-Vega, Rubén Barderas Rey y Jesús Hernández González
The LANGUAGE MAGICIAN has proven to be a highly motivating game for students, as shown by data analysed by the University of Reading (Courtney and Graham, 2017), because of the engaging story and because learners have the feeling of making progress in a game-based context without knowing they are being assessed.
The other important agents of this story are teachers. It has also been proved that learning processes are affected not only by the amount of time of instruction but by the quality of that instruction. On this, teachers are also the protagonists of this story! When playing the game, some questions arise not only about the final product: the game, but also about the learning processes in which children are involved and about their teachers’ perceptions when testing the game.
There have been a total of three piloting processes: two for level 1 and one for level 2. The first piloting of level 1 took place after the first version of the game became available, and the second one, after the publication of a new version incorporating the amendments once the results of the first testing were analysed. All three piloting processes had the same structure: playing the game, controlling time and completing language tasks and levels, and filling in two questionnaires (one for students and one for teachers). This means teachers were present when piloting the game and afterwards they kindly answered a semi-structured questionnaire on line. Four countries were involved in the piloting process: Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Most of the participating teachers were MFL teachers, who agreed that the game shows valuable data about the progress of their students while, at the same time, it was fun.
The teachers’ backend includes a back-up which provides teachers with information in real time of their students’ game progression. Data can be saved and subsequently used to revise or highlight areas where students need to work harder. An analysis of the students’ performance during the game has been carried out by one of the project partners, the University of Leipzig in Germany (Schlüter, 2018).
The vast majority of teachers thought the game was highly motivating for their students, according to what these teachers stated in the open questions section of the questionnaire:
Pupils called out ‘Yes’ in excitement when completing a task. They wanted to persevere. One pupil was disappointed when she was thrown out by the computer. I observed lots of smiles. Pupils looked at each other’s Avatars with curiosity and enjoyment.
They all found the test difficult because [sic] at first they did not read the question; after they did, they got the correct answer maybe at the second attempt…
Totally focussed and some cheered when they got a question correct.
Therefore, was the game useful? All the teachers agreed that it was a very useful tool, also mentioning very few games of this kind exist in the market, and almost none are free of charge. So, given the financial difficulties education has in all the countries involved in the project, this was great news! Further teachers’ comments include:
It is an excellent tool in order to assess and compare the performance of our foreign language learners.
It is motivational for kids and provides immediate and accurate information about students’ proficiency in FL.
It’s a perfect tool to assess those “Standards of Learning”.
I’m really happy my pupils can participate.
Only one issue came up from the teachers’ questionnaires, but it is a very important one: the necessity of having a device for each student and a proper connection to the Internet. We must admit that during the piloting some connection problems appeared, but they were solved immediately in most cases. This is an issue —we hope— that will be solved by schools or by educational authorities, as the necessity of an Internet connection not only for languages but also for other subjects and administration purposes is a must nowadays.
Finally, apart from the game itself, before- and after-the-game extra activities, as well as an oral task pack to practice speaking, have been developed for those schools who would like to use the game with their students. Teachers have celebrated the opportunity to have access to extra activities and the speaking pack in pdf format to be used in their lessons whenever possible. When asked about their overall opinion on the final product of this project, all of the teachers and students thought The Language Magician was fantastic as it provided them with a vast opportunity to play with words, structures and sounds, which is, in the end, what helps primary students learn a foreign language.
All of us are looking forward to the release of the game, which will be available free of charge, in our final conference in May. Once again, we would like to thank all the teachers who have volunteered for the sake of their students! Thank you very much for believing in The Language Magician!
Courtney, L. and Graham, S. (2017, July). Learner motivation and individual differences in language learning. Paper presented at The Language Magician Conference at the University for Foreigners of Siena – International University.
Schlüter, N. (2018). TML Data second level evaluation individual exercises.