Graham Stanley on making learning into a game

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Graham began with the premise, based on the work of Andrei Aleinkov (1989), that creative pedagogy leads to motivation and promotes lifelong learning. It leads to fluency of idea generation, flexibility, originality and elaboration (building new ideas on what is already known).

He went on to explain a classroom approach called Gamification, which involved making the classroom, and the tasks within it, resemble something like a computer game - possibly but not necessarily with the help of tech. Here, he explained an important caveat about context: he developed this approach in order to deal with teenage learners who had seemingly no intrinsic motivation to learn the language per se.

His first, and at first glance startling, suggestion was that we bribe learners to learn! He showed us his 'Graham Euros' currency which he uses for this purpose. Payments of Graham Euros work as achievement rewards, for example getting a right answer. Students can also be fined a penalty - eg for not using English in an activity where they've been specifically instructed to use English only.

Next, Graham showed us the idea of a scoreboard or Leader Board, where students scores for improvement accumulated over the weeks, leading to the award of badges at given levels of achievement. He showed how this worked to drive motivation in what had been the students least favourite activity. By using this extrinsic reward system, Graham was able to completely turn this around, to the point that instead of having to cajole the students to write, they would actively beg for it. Graham made the point that there were levels of achievement in the same way as in computer games, where you go up to the next level - but never down, only ever up. You don't lose the achievement level you already have.

In the remainder of the talk, Graham went on to demonstrate some very entertaining games which worked both with tech or without it. These included an imaginative game of inventing an island which would be ongoing during the term, a lying game called Werewolf, a visual dictogloss game called Droppy and a story telling game using Rory Story cubes.

Graham has a slideshare version of his presentation here.

On our map of ELT, I would locate this talk in the South West near the frontier with the  South East because there was a strong focus on a learning theory combined with a focus on classroom tools/means.


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