Leveraging a spatial chat software to design gaming experiences for in-class instruction
Recently it has been argued that there is a lack of research on practical applications of digital games in the language learning classroom (York et al, 2021). This has inspired a movement to focus on ludic language pedagogy rather than on the design of digital games. Scholars have suggested that digital games are often not used in classrooms because schools lack the necessary resources (e.g. gaming computers, gaming libraries), teachers lack gaming literacy, and there is lack of control over game design. In this presentation, I will illustrate how teachers can use spatial chat software called Gather.Town to quickly design virtual gaming experiences that can be leveraged for in-class lessons. Gather.Town is a virtual chat platform that integrates traditional virtual conferencing with spatial chat functions and retro digital gaming environments. In Gather.Town users create an avatar which they control to navigate a digital space. Like other spatial chat platforms, when a user approaches another user, their video pops up allowing them to interact with those in their proximity. Unlike, other spatial chat platforms, Gather.Town allows teachers to customize complex environments, insert unique objects, and embed pedagogical materials. Further all of this can be done in a browser thus limiting the need to purchase additional software. These affordances allow teachers to quickly manipulate already existing virtual worlds to create simple games that can be leveraged for in-class instruction. In this presentation I will provide three practical examples of games that can be created with minimal design work. However, and more importantly, I will then illustrate how these games can be leveraged to promote meaningful language use in the physical classroom. While this presentation is not meant to be a tutorial on Gather.Town, I will provide a few tips and techniques for those who are new to the platform.
I am an Assistant Professor in the Master of Arts in Foreign Language Teaching program at Michigan State University. I received my Ph.D. in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences in the College of Education at Utah State University in 2020. I also earned a Master of Second Language Teaching Degree in 2015. My research investigates the implementation of technology for improving and assessing second language literacy skills and the effect of well-designed games on second language learning, teaching, and classroom dynamics.