Is the 140 character ‘micro interaction’ enough?
Saturday 5 March 2011
by Nik Peachey
A few years back educationalists were getting extremely excited about the possibilities that computer games and virtual worlds had to offer within education. Even the mainstream press seemed to develop a fascination for Second Life, which was hardly out of the news and even inspired an episode of the TV crime series CSI.
Marc Prensky published his book ‘Digital Games Based Learning’ and we were all trying to come to terms with being digital immigrant teachers in a world of digitally native students. Gartner ( The internationally respected IT research analysts )were predicting that “By the end of 2011, 80 percent of active Internet users (and Fortune 500 enterprises) will have a “second life”, but not necessarily in Second Life”.
Then came Twitter. Twitter could not possibly be further away from the concept of a computer game or a three dimensional visually rich virtual world. Suddenly instead of learning to fly and exchanging our money for Linden bucks (the currency of Linden Labs’ Second Life) we were exchanging grammatically correct sentences for status updates of less than 140 characters! Who could have seen it coming? Perhaps Gartner, who also predicted that “90 Per Cent of Corporate Virtual World Projects Fail Within 18 Months”.
So, now that Twitter and Facebook are the media darlings and we are getting used to expressing everything we want to say within ‘micro interactions’ of 140 characters, does that mean that all that other stuff about gaming and virtual worlds was all wrong and a big waste of time?
Well I certainly don’t think so. Whereas I am a great fan of Twitter and have built quite a large professional network there, which I’ve learned from immeasurably, in terms of being effective as a teaching tool, I’ve yet to see any really impressive teaching / language learning going on there. Certainly, I think it’s a new genre of communication that our students need to be literate in and I don’t see the ‘micro interaction’ going away, but I still think there is an educational future in 3 D virtual worlds and computer games.
For one thing, the number of Twitter users under 18 years old is estimated to be around 1%, with more than 50% at 35 years old +. That hardly makes it the preferred platform of the digital natives. Has anyone had to ask their teen to stop tweeting and come have dinner? I certainly haven’t.
So perhaps we should be widening our focus a little more and looking again at the potential of computer games and virtual worlds, after all while we weren’t looking it seems like they have learned to talk to and understand us. Just look at Milo from Project Natal isn’t he more engaging for our students than 140 characters of text?
And it also seems that with the media focus away from virtual worlds like Second Life and with the specs of mainstream computers catching up with its demands, the truly committed educationalists have bedded down and started to make some real progress. In a recent trip back to Second Life after many months away for me I was really impressed by how much simpler and easier the interface was to use and how much the sound had improved. It just worked, without me having to do anything! And I have to say, it was really nice to sit around with people again and just talk, even though most of them were in different countries and continents.
So what do you think?
- Do you think virtual worlds and computer games within education are past or still for the future?
- Does Twitter really work for you as a language teaching tool?
- Is there something better than either of these two around the corner?
- Hey what about augmented reality??
Links for more information:
Delta Development Blog
This blog will be updated at least once a week, so add it to your bookmarks. You can also subscribe to the feed to be notified when it's updated.
Meet the Bloggers
- Bob Dignen & Steve Flinders (February to April 2013)
- Hania Kryszewska & Paul Davis (April to June 2012)
- Louis Rogers (January to March 2012)
- Ken Paterson (December 2011 to February 2012)
- Richard Brown & Lewis Richards (September to November 2011)
- Liz Walter & Kate Woodford (September to October 2011)
- Kyle Mawer & Graham Stanley (April to August 2011)
- Nik Peachey (from November 2010)
- Nicky Hockly (September & October 2010)
- Julie Pratten (July & August 2010)
- Gill Johnson (April 2010)
- Chaz Pugliese (March 2010)
- Luke Meddings (August 2009)
- Lindsay Clandfield (July 2009)
- Duncan Foord (June 2009)
- Scott Thornbury (May 2009)
Teaching Unplugged was awarded the British Council 2010 ELTons UK Award for Innovation. Teaching Unplugged is the first book to deal comprehensively with the approach in English Language Teaching known as Dogme ELT.
The Business English Teacher
From the multi-award-winning DELTA TEACHER DEVELOPMENT SERIES. The Business English Teacher is a book not only for teachers who are thinking of making a career move into the field of business English teaching but also for those who would like to increase their skills and develop their potential.
The Developing Teacher
The Developing Teacher has been awarded the 2009 Duke of Edinburgh/ESU Award for Best Entry for Teachers. The Developing Teacher suggests that teachers themselves are the most powerful agents of change and development in their own professional career.
The Company Words Keep
Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Company Words Keep is a practical and thought-provoking guide for language teachers, showing how the latest insights into “language chunks” can lead to learners acquiring natural and fluent English.
DIGITAL PLAY - 2012 ELTONS WINNER IN INNOVATION IN TEACHER RESOURCES! Digital Play is a pioneering book on the use of computer games in language teaching. Authors Kyle and Graham are experts in teaching with technology and training teachers in innovative classroom practice.
The Book of Pronunciation
Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Book of Pronunciation is a definitive account of the key role pronunciation plays in teaching and learning, providing a highly authoritative but hugely accessible overview of the essential elements of English pronunciation as well as a wide range of classroom practice.
Part of the Delta Teacher Development Series. Being Creative takes you on a journey that reveals how all teachers have the potential to become creative. Whether you are experienced or new to the classroom, Being Creative allows your teaching to take flight.
Culture in our Classrooms
Part of the Delta Teacher Development Series. Culture in our Classrooms acknowledges the role of culture in the English Language Teaching classroom and provides lesson content which is relevant, useful and engaging for students.
Teaching Online is essential reading for any teacher interested in online teaching and course delivery. It deals comprehensively with both the tools and the techniques necessary for online language instruction.
11 Feb 16
8 Jan 16
2 Jul 15
16 Jun 15
2 Jun 15
29 Apr 15
10 Apr 15
8 Apr 15
1 Apr 15
13 Mar 15
13 Feb 15
30 Jan 15
16 Jan 15
11 Dec 14
27 Nov 14