This is a guest post in my continuing series of articles on using IF for language learning that I wrote for the fantastic Classroom Aid website. Please follow the link to read the whole article.
The first post in this series explored how digital games, and how text-based Interactive Fiction in particular, might offer language learners a potentially more engaging and interactive learning experience. Being both a digital game and a form of electronic literature, it encompasses the unique learning and cognitive affordances of both mediums, allowing for deeper interaction with narrative text and more authentic and meaningful reading/writing skills practice . You might even consider IF to be the ultimate ‘gamification’ of reading and literature. Before looking at the specific ways in which IF can be beneficial for language learners, we should first discuss where to get it, and how to choose an appropriate game for use with learners.
Where to find Interactive Fiction games (and yes, most of them are free!)
- The Interactive Fiction Database - http://ifdb.tads.org/
The IFDB is my preferred platform for finding IF games and learning more about them. The layout is attractive and very clear. Story files and information on games can be found by using a search engine (by game name, author or tags). The best aspect of the IFDB is its community-based wiki-like interface, where users can leave comments about games and create lists or polls of games based on topics, such as: Plot-Heavy IF; Active Non-Player Characters; Best Short Games; and First and Third-person narratives. These lists and polls make finding a game that fits specific criteria very easy and is a great way to discover new games to play. Users of the IFDB can also ask the community for recommendations or help in finding specific games or information about them. Each page devoted to a single IF game will contain downloads for various story files, any existing documentation (including walkthroughs) and links to play online. Additional links to reviews of the game and recommendations for related games can also be found. All in all, it’s an amazing resource backed by a fantastic community.
I recently gave a presentation on using Interactive Fiction for language learning at the 1st Story Sharing Web Conference, organised by the British Council, Turkey. The conference aimed to promote ways of getting language leaners and teachers more involved in the reading, writing and telling of stories – or in the conference organiser’s words, to:
“treat stories as they should be treated…That is to make students laugh, cry, get angry, be thrilled, be shocked, get inspired…Stories which enrich students’ experience of learning English both inside and outside the classroom.”
The term ‘Digital Storytelling’ appeared in many of the presentation titles -and if Interactive Fiction isn’t a form of Digital Storytelling – and possibly even THE FIRST form of digital storytelling, well then I don’t know what is!
Read/Write/Play: Digital game-based storytelling with Interactive Fiction
My presentation aimed to provide the participants with a quick overview of what IF is, it’s place in digital game-based learning, and why it can be used as a language learning tool. The presentation was done through the excellent Adobe Connect platform and the recording can be watched here.
You can download a PDF of the slides here.
Coincidentally, Alex Warren (creator of IF authoring software Quest) and Paul Sweeney, also gave a presentation on using IF as a storytelling tool, more specifically on the authoring of IF using Quest 5 (which I touch upon in my own session). You can check it out here.
Adam Simpson (who did an excellent job moderating my session BTW – in spite of some technical glitches) has posted his reflections on the proceedings at Teach Them English. More in-depth information on the speakers and the conference can be found here.
All in all, I think my session turned out well and the participants (from all over the world) were very kind. I just hope they try out some IF for themselves and give 9:05 a go with their students.
Maybe I need to go back to Turkey and give a few face-to-face training sessions to make sure they do