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Effective, but too enjoyable? Japanese university students' attitudes towards digital game-based language learning
Since Prensky (2001) and Gee (2003) first brought the learning potential of digital games to the attention of mainstream educational researchers, dozens of studies in CALL have investigated how games of various genres may facilitate language learning. A central justification for the use of games in education lies in the notion of the “digital native”, which refers to young learners who grew up in the digital age and who, according to Prensky, tend to embrace digital technologies and games even for “serious” purposes such as education and work. But do learners at schools and universities today really consider digital games to be as effective as traditional class activities? And is it helpful to make broad generalisations about the learning preferences of particular generations, or could factors such as cultural context and gender play a more important role in determining attitudes?
In this presentation, I will address these questions through a brief overview of the literature on learner attitudes towards digital game-based language learning and also by presenting the findings of a mixed-method empirical study conducted at a large national university in Japan. Over a six-week period, 112 learners played the cooperative puzzle game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes in small groups. This game has previously been shown to facilitate processes of SLA (Hofmeyr, 2021) as well as vocabulary and grammar acquisition (Hofmeyr, in press). A pre-survey was carried out to collect demographic data and to determine how effective, efficient, and enjoyable learners considered game-based learning. After the final play session, participants were also given a post-survey to measure the effect of first-hand experience of in-class gaming on their attitudes. In general, learners expressed positive attitudes towards game-based language learning before and after the intervention, but some also expressed concerns that learning might suffer when class activities became “too enjoyable”.
I teach English communication classes (discussion and debate) as well as elective courses in general linguistics at Osaka University. My current research project is focussed on digital game-based language learning in the Japanese context, but I am also interested in critical thinking and language education policies and practices in Japan.