Language competence is a vital requirement for individuals aspiring to create vast and deep connections both in their private and professional life. Language skills are sought after widely, but few people have the resources to study a second language effectively. Lack of time, money, instruction and motivation create impediments in acquisition of communicative competence in L2 (second language). There is a vacuum for engaging alternatives that facilitate learning outside the bounds of academic schedules, funds and syllabi.
Research has proven that in order to read English fluently and smoothly, a learner needs to memorize at least two thousand commonly used English words. Obviously, vocabulary learning is a critical component in English language acquisition, because time spent in learning English in the classroom is limited and the teachers have to teach all the skills (listening, reading, writing and speaking); hence they seek alternative ways to help learners learn English vocabularies outside the classroom.
Mobile learning (m-learning) is one of such alternative and a smartphone is an effective way of independent learning because a learner can use it anytime and anywhere at his/her convenience. Apart from phones, games are also being used as viable alternatives to facilitate learning of grammar and vocabulary in the classroom.
As a concept, gamification has been around for a few years (2010) but only recently has it been applied in academic circles. Gamification is a relatively newer phenomenon that seeks to integrate some elements from games into other settings. According to Deterding, Dixon, Khaled, and Nacke (2011), gamification is “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts.” Sheldon (2012) offered a similar definition, in which he stated that “gamification is the application of game mechanics to non-game activities”. Gamification of learning is often confused with Game based learning. Gamification is turning the learning process as a whole into a game, while Games-Based Learning (GBL) is using a game as part of the learning process.
Gamification deals with fostering intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, which is necessary in the language learning experience. Moreover, research has found that Educational Gamification in language learning is basically new but its success in other disciplines made it adaptable to the development of second language acquisition (SLA).
Basically, any task, assignment, process or theoretical context can be gamified. The main objectives focuses on increasing the participation of a person, who most of the time is called a “user”, and motivate him/her by incorporating game elements and techniques, like leaderboards and immediate feedback. In theory, one can gamify any activity, not just learning ones. For instance, everything from fitness apps to LinkedIn’s profile pages can, and has been gamified to increase user participation and engagement.
Gamification turns the entire learning process into games taking game-mechanics and gameplay elements and applies them to existing learning courses and content with the aim of improving motivation and learner engagement. Examples of these mechanics include:
Gamification techniques leverage peoples’ natural desire for competition, achievement, status, altruism, community collaboration and so on. Rewards such as badges and points are used to showcase the talents, expertise and accomplishments of users. Competition is another key aspect in Gamification. The desire to appear on the leaderboard drives players to complete more tasks, and in turn, fulfill deeper engagement. Gamification taps into the basic desires and needs of users’ impulses related to status and achievement. If learners are not motivated, they may not be able to solve a problem, despite having the skills. Conversely, with motivation, even with limited ability, they find a way to solve a challenge and also improve on the skills. According to Fogg, motivation and ability alone are not enough. A “trigger” which is like a call for action, is also required so as to tell the user to achieve a certain behavior. Software applications serve as such triggers to change peoples’ attitudes and behavior.
Each game element used in Gamification enhances automatically the teaching and language learning process. Most of the games the public knows have these elements, but all of them follow a systematic plan. Every game integrates three basic elements: meta-centered activities, rewards, and progression (Dickey, 2005). Smith- Robbins (2011) mention that all game activities are meta-centered with activities oriented towards a specific objective, focused on winning by defeating obstacles and other conditions, in order to achieve or complete a quest. In addition, depending on the context, each game employs a mechanism for the player to receive rewards or reward system. Gamification, apart from providing independence, autonomy, competition and motivation for learners, has several other advantages:
Despite a host of advantages, gamification has its own pitfalls too; some of them being:
A typical example of gamification in language is “Belly,” (a part of Mindsnacks) voted the best gamification app in 2011, which is a picture recognition game where you help feed a hungry frog by pairing a word or phrase with its corresponding picture. The little frog then unleashes his sticky tongue to snatch the picture from the screen and into his belly.
Here are a few more examples for gamification in the real world:
Gamification has come a long way since its inception and is an increasingly default feature for multiple types of software, from learning management systems and performance tracking programs.
One of the major changes in modern gamification is how subtle it has become. One could have an LMS app that tracks completion and offers badge rewards or just add some little reward badges to a regular Moodle. The offerings are sleeker, more piecemeal, and more easily integrated than ever.
Progress trackers, time trackers, achievements, and leaderboards are all simple gamification elements that tell us about how our learners are performing, at a glance.
It is reasonably established that utilizing gamification techniques in e-learning has a positive influence on the users’ learning motivation. With proper integration of gamification in the field of e-learning into language education, a positive impact on the learning process can be achieved, such as higher satisfaction, motivation and greater engagement of students.
Author :Subha Pande- Freelance Corporate trainer, translator and Cambridge examiner for spoken English, based in Baroda.