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Using Gamification and Gaming in Order to Promote Risk Taking in the Language Learning Process


Abstract and Figures

Taking risks is an important part of learning. The current study explores the relationship between risk taking and other pertinent factors in the second language acquisition process. Participants (N = 526) performed a foreign vocabulary learning task, followed by a questionnaire evaluating several aspects of their experience, as well as their tendency to take language-related risks. High levels of language risk taking were associated with improved performance in the task, increased self-confidence, and reduced anxiety, all of which are beneficial to learning. This indicates that the willingness to take risks is positively associated with learners' ability to successfully acquire a foreign language. The paper further examines the use of gamification and gaming as educational tools, which can be used in order to promote risk taking in learners. The idea of using gamification and gaming for pedagogical purposes is strongly supported by a theoretical framework, as well as by numerous real world examples where these techniques were successfully implemented. Overall, this paper highlights the importance of risk taking in the language learning process, and frames gamification and gaming as tools that can be used in order to promote it in learners.
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,רשע השולשה ל"טימ סנכ2015 Using Gamification and Gaming in Order to Promote Risk
Taking in the Language Learning Process
Using Gamification and Gaming in Order to Promote
Risk Taking in the Language Learning Process
Itamar Shatz
Tel Aviv University
Taking risks is an important part of learning. The current study explores the
relationship between risk taking and other pertinent factors in the second language
acquisition process. Participants (N = 526) performed a foreign vocabulary
learning task, followed by a questionnaire evaluating several aspects of their
experience, as well as their tendency to take language-related risks. High levels of
language risk taking were associated with improved performance in the task,
increased self-confidence, and reduced anxiety, all of which are beneficial to
learning. This indicates that the willingness to take risks is positively associated
with learners’ ability to successfully acquire a foreign language.
The paper further examines the use of gamification and gaming as educational
tools, which can be used in order to promote risk taking in learners. The idea of
using gamification and gaming for pedagogical purposes is strongly supported by a
theoretical framework, as well as by numerous real world examples where these
techniques were successfully implemented. Overall, this paper highlights the
importance of risk taking in the language learning process, and frames
gamification and gaming as tools that can be used in order to promote it in
Keywords: risk taking, gamification, video games, second language acquisition,
foreign language teaching.
Risk taking in the language learning process
Risk taking is defined as: “a situation where an individual has to make a decision
involving choice between alternatives of different desirability; the outcome of the choice
is uncertain; there is a possibility of failure” (Bebee, 1983, p. 39). In accordance with
this definition, the willingness to take risks is deemed as crucial to success in the
second language acquisition process (Cervantes, 2013; Oxford & Ehrman, 1995; Zafar
& Meenakshi, 2011). Ely (1986), who developed a scale used to measure language-
related risk taking, lists some relevant examples of risk taking in the language learning
process: lack of hesitancy about using a newly encountered linguistic element; a
willingness to use linguistic elements perceived to be complex or difficult; a tolerance of
possible incorrectness or inexactitude in using the language (Ely, 1986, p. 8).
Despite the importance of language risk taking, there are relatively few empirical
studies which investigate its role in the learning process (Burgucu, Han, Engin, & Kaya,
,רשע השולשה ל"טימ סנכ2015 Using Gamification and Gaming in Order to Promote Risk
Taking in the Language Learning Process
2010). The primary goal of the current study is therefore to explore the relationship
between risk taking and other factors in the language learning process. Furthermore,
the study seeks to examine the potential use of both gamification and gaming as tools
which can facilitate risk taking in the learning process.
The current study: the importance of risk taking
There were 526 participants (360 men, 166 women). Mean age was 22.75 (SD = 6.34,
Min = 12, Max = 53). The native language of the majority of the participants (67.3%)
was English.
Participants memorized the definitions of foreign vocabulary words (in Finnish) in a set
amount of time. Then, participants were shown the vocabulary words, and filled in the
definitions they remembered. Participants’ performance was judged based on the
number of correct definitions they were able to recall.
After completing the testing portion of the task, participants rated their self-confidence,
task motivation, and anxiety, all in relation to the current task. These factors were
chosen due to the important role that they play in language learning (Dörnyei, 2002;
Peterson, 2009; Shatz, 2014). Afterwards, participants filled a questionnaire which
gauged their language-related risk taking tendencies, based on a questionnaire
developed by Ely (1986). This questionnaire has been used for similar purposes and
with similar modifications in several studies on the subject (e.g. Liu & Jackson, 2008;
Saito & Samimy, 1996).
During data analysis, a tertiary split was used in order to divide participants into three
groups based on their language risk taking (LRT), resulting in groups of participants
with low, moderate, and high LRT. A MANCOVA was then used to determine whether
the groups differed in score, self-confidence, task motivation, or anxiety, followed by
Bonferroni-corrected pairwise comparisons across these factors.
The MANCOVA revealed a statistically significant difference between the LRT groups
in performance score, self-confidence, task motivation, and anxiety (F(8, 1032) =
7.527, p < .0005, partial η
= .055). This difference was significant for three of the
variables: score (F(2, 523) = 4.788, p = .009, partial η
= .018), self-confidence (F(2,
523) = 15.092, p < .0005, partial η
= .055), and anxiety (F(2, 523) = 21.400, p < .0005,
partial η
= .076), but not for task motivation.
The pairwise comparisons show that the high LRT group had a significantly higher
score and self-confidence, and significantly reduced anxiety levels compared to the two
other LRT groups. The moderate LRT group had significantly reduced anxiety
compared to the low LRT group, but did not differ from it on any of the other factors.
These results are illustrated in figure 1.
,רשע השולשה ל"טימ סנכ2015 Using Gamification and Gaming in Order to Promote Risk
Taking in the Language Learning Process
Figure 1. Difference across LRT groups
Increased willingness to take language related risks was associated with improved
performance, increased self-confidence, and reduced anxiety levels, all of which are
advantageous to learning (Dörnyei, 2009; Kohler, 2009; Wen & Clément, 2010). The
difference across these factors between the high and the moderate LRT groups was
greater than the difference between the moderate and low LRT groups, suggesting that
high levels of risk taking are more strongly associated with a positive change in these
factors than moderate levels of language risk taking. While further research is required
in order to establish the nature of the relationship between these factors, particularly in
terms of the causality between them, these results nonetheless show that risk taking
plays an important role in language learning, and that learners who are willing to take
language-related risk to a high degree are more successful at the second language
acquisition process than learners who tend to be risk averse.
It is important to note the fact that while the study looked at performance in a short-
term memorization task, these results are indicative of long-term learning processes,
as literature shows that there exists a powerful connection between the two (e.g. Ellis,
1996; Payne & Whitney, 2002; Williams & Lovatt, 2003).
Promoting risk taking through gamification
Gamification is “the application of game dynamics, mechanics, and frameworks into
non-game settings” (Stott & Neustaedter, 2013, p. 1), and both the research and the
pedagogical communities view it as a useful educational tool (Sombrio, Ulbricht, &
Haeming, 2014). One of the primary advantages of using gamification in an educational
setting is that it lessens the cost of making an error in the eyes of the learners, thus
promoting them to be more risk taking (Sombrio et al., 2014). Furthermore,
,רשע השולשה ל"טימ סנכ2015 Using Gamification and Gaming in Order to Promote Risk
Taking in the Language Learning Process
emphasizing the concept of ‘freedom to fail’ and encouraging learners to feel
comfortable to take risks, allows learners to shift from being mostly outcome oriented to
being able to focus on learning, and this shift in focus is viewed as favorable by modern
pedagogy (Stott & Neustaedter, 2013).
One example for the successful implementation of gamification is Duolingo, a free
online language learning site, where learners advance up a language skill tree and
translate texts in their target foreign language, collecting points as they progress in
their studies (Garcia, 2013). A study which examined Duolingo’s effectiveness
concluded that the element of gamification had a definite positive impact on learning:
“Gamification works: the learner feels a sense of achievement when getting the points
and challenged when not.” (Garcia, 2013, p. 21). Further support for this notion comes
in the form of anecdotal comments from learners, such as one who stated that “I came
here to learn Spanish, but I’m staying to gain the points.” (Garcia, 2013, p. 22).
In another case, researchers presented evidence supporting the use of gamification to
supplement the teaching of Polish as a foreign language, by listing numerous benefits
for its usage, such as increased motivation and improved understanding of grammar
(Danowska-Florczyk & Mostowski, 2012). In addition, while both these examples
pertain specifically to language learning, gamification has also been utilized for
educational purposes in other domains, such as psychology (Landers & Callan, 2011)
and personalized health (McCallum, 2012). Overall, the evidence stemming from the
successful use of gamification frames it as an effective educational tool, with one of its
primary benefits being the fact that it encourages risk taking in learners.
Promoting risk taking via gaming
Video games, both with and without an educational focus, are another instrument
capable of promoting risk taking in learners, as players are immersed in a target
language environment where they can engage in organic communication via listening,
reading, speaking, and writing, all in a manner which enables risk taking and reflection
in their target language (Rama, Black, van Es, & Warschauer, 2012). In this
environment, there is a reduction of social context cues, and this reduction can lessen
anxiety and pronunciation concerns, while enhancing risk taking (Peterson, 2009).
Massively multiplayer online games, for example, encourage risk taking by language
learners, and reduce inhibition in target language interaction (Rama et al., 2012).
Similarly, playing massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG) helps
reduce anxiety levels and encourage opportunities for taking risks using the target
language (Reinders & Wattana, 2014).
There are many examples for the successful use of video games as language learning
instruments. In the Forgotten World, for instance, English learners participate in an
online comic-strip drama that allows them to develop new linguistic skills while solving
an adventure story (Blake, 2011). In another case, by playing THE SIMS, a game
where players guide a virtual family through a simulated life, English learners were able
to efficiently learn new vocabulary (Peterson, 2009). A final example are Thai students,
,רשע השולשה ל"טימ סנכ2015 Using Gamification and Gaming in Order to Promote Risk
Taking in the Language Learning Process
who were able to improve their English while playing Ragnarok Online, a popular
MMORPG (Reinders & Wattana, 2014).
Overall, these examples illustrate several cases where video games were successfully
employed in order to facilitate language learning. Though there are many reasons why
videos games serve as effective pedagogical supplements, one of their primary
advantages is their ability to encourage risk taking, which aids those engaged in the
language learning process.
The willingness to take language-related risks is positively associated with several
important factors in the second language acquisition process, in a manner indicating
that increased levels of language risk taking are beneficial to learners. Gamification
and gaming are two possible methods to encourage risk taking, which highlights their
potential use as effective educational tools, and suggests that they should be
integrated into foreign language teaching practices.
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Duolingo, a free online language learning site, has as its mission to help users to learn a language while simultaneously using their learning exercises to translate the web. Language is learned through translation with, according to developers, Duolingo being as effective as any of the leading language learning software. For translating the web, machine translation is not good enough and relying only on professional translators, far too expensive. Duolingo, we are told, offers a third way, with translation as a by-product of its language learning. Translation which will be, if as promised, almost as cheap as if done by machines and almost as good as if by professionals. Launched in June 2012, Duolingo boasts already at the time of writing 300,000 active language learners ready for the task. This article independently assesses the extent to which Duolingo, at its current stage of development, meets those expectations.
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This paper reports on a study into the effects of digital game play on learners' Willingness to Communicate (WTC), or individuals' "readiness to enter into discourse at a particular time with a specific person or persons, using a L2" (MacIntyre, Dörnyei, Clément, & Noels, 1998, p. 547). Thirty Thai learners of English as a foreign language enrolled in a University language course completed six 90-minute lessons playing Ragnarok Online, a popular online role-playing game. The game had been installed on a private server and was thus only available to participants in the study. We modified the game to include special instructions, or quests (missions that players are assigned to accomplish in order to get items and progress throughout the game), designed to encourage collaboration and communication. To gauge participants' WTC, a series of questionnaires was designed, adapted from MacIntyre et al's (2001) WTC scale and previous studies on language and communication anxiety (Horwitz, Horwitz, & Cope, 1986; McCroskey & Richmond, 1982) and perceived competence (Compton, 2004; MacIntyre & Charos, 1996). These asked respondents about their (own perceptions of their) willingness to use English, as well as their confidence, anxiety, and perceived communicative competence in communicating in English. The questionnaires were administered at the start of the course, and again after six gaming sessions. Results on the first set of questionnaires showed that students had low confidence, high anxiety, low perceived competence, and low WTC. The second set of results showed a marked and significant improvement, with participants feeling more confident, less anxious, more competent, and more willing to communicate. We argue that the careful construction of tasks that draw on the affordances of games can have a positive effect on the language learning process.
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Teachers of second language, to be most effective, should be aware of who their students really are. It means that teachers must comprehend diversities among their students in many individual characteristics, such as age, self-esteem, motivation and motivation span, sex, cooperation, competition, language learning techniques, strategies, styles, and the last and one of the distinctive individual characteristics is risk-taking ability. All of these variables are directly related to achievement; however the general purpose of this study is to overview the links between learners' risk-taking ability and achievement on second language acquisition in a comprehensive manner. The study examines three stages. The first part of this paper presents the general overview of learners' risk-taking ability and behaviors on language acquisition process and its effects on learners. The second part introduces how it affects achievement, the proportion between risk-taking ability and achievement. The third part of the article is related to advantages and disadvantages of risk-taking on second language teaching. The article concludes with how teachers and learners use this character positively.
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This article proposes to discuss the theme of docent formation in the perspective of creativity and emergent technologies pointed by the Horizon Report 2103, specifically games and gamification. Based on a literature review about the themes, through a systematic research and reading of authors which refer to these, it presents reflections, inquires and provocations with the objective to contribute with the change of the actual paradigm in the purposes of the Licensure courses in the Superior Teaching Institutions, with a cutout to the Federal Institutes of Education, Science and Technology from Brazil. These considerations are made from the principle that we live in a digital age and that the education did not follow the step and, because of this, it still needs a more creative view to the docent actuation in this aspect. It concludes that the use of games and specifically the gamification as an example of emerging technology can be a possible step to remit the schools, the space of knowledge construction, to creativity with a view to innovate the forms of teaching and learning.
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This article explores research on the use of computerized games and simulations in language education. The author examined the psycholinguistic and sociocultural constructs proposed as a basis for the use of games and simulations in computer-assisted language learning. Research in this area is expanding rapidly. However, to date, few studies have critically investigated this body of work. The author reviewed key findings from influential studies. The author’s analysis reveals that, although these studies are subject to limitations, simulations and games present valuable opportunities for effective language learning. The contemporary literature on theories of language acquisition hypothesizes that simulations and games are beneficial methods for helping learners acquire another language. This article concludes by identifying potential areas for future research.
This paper argues that working memory is heavily involved in language acquisition as (a) a major part of language learning is the learning of sequences, (b) working memory allows short-term maintenance of sequence information, and (c) short-term rehearsal of sequences promotes the consolidation of long-term memories of language sequences. It first reviews evidence supporting this position. Next it presents an experiment that demonstrates that subjects encouraged to rehearse foreign language (FL) utterances are better than both silent controls and subjects who are prevented from rehearsal by articulatory suppression at (a) learning to comprehend and translate FL words and phrases, (b) explicit metalinguistic knowledge of the detailed content of grammatical regularities, (c) acquisition of the FL forms of words and phrases, (d) accuracy in FL pronunciation, and (e) some aspects of productive (but not receptive) grammatical fluency and accuracy. Finally, it describes possible mechanisms underlying these effects.
Two of the most examined dimensions of personality that have an affective influence on language learning are extroversion-introversion and risk-taking. In the paper we first define and look at the different studies conducted to examine the relationship between the two factors and second language acquisition (SLA). Results show that extroverts seem to take full advantage of language-use opportunities as they tend to be sociable, and are more likely to join groups, more inclined to engage in conversations both inside and outside the classroom. However, results have also concluded that a more introverted personality may be better suited to classroom learning, especially reading and writing skills. Risk takers; who are believed to be inherently extroverts, are more likely to take their existing language system to the limit. Such learners are more likely to change and more resistant to fossilization. Language proficiency is influenced directly by classroom participation which reflects, among other things, the contributing influences of risk-taking.
What are the affordances of online gaming environments for second language learning and socialization? To answer this question, this qualitative study examines two college-age Spanish learners’ experiences participating in the Spanish language version of the massively multi-player online game World of Warcraft. Using data culled from participant observation, interviews, logs of in-game chat, and student journal entries, we describe how the design of the game, cultural norms for its use, and participants’ own abilities interact to afford distinct opportunities for language learning for these two students. Discussion focuses on how online games might be used for language teaching and learning in ways that take full advantage of the medium's affordances for both experienced and inexperienced players.