Any teacher worth their body weight in salt is already shaking up their classroom with a selection box of different multiplayer options, especially in an English class. Multiplayer options in videogames and the classroom are not too dissimilar. In those glory days of Super Mart Kart on the SNES there was a great deal of fun to be had battling friends one-on-one, or laughing hysterically as they slip off-screen because of a perfectly-timed banana skin.
Other games, especially First Person Shooters, offer players the fun opportunity to play in ‘co-op’ modes with friends and aim to destroy the enemy. The enemy can be two teenagers across the street or three middle-aged men in Hong Kong. The fun is in connecting to other players and feeling that Rudyard Kipling sense of triumph as a player emerges…triumphant. How can teachers bring that sense of fun to the classroom?
Wii-nning Together: Not too many students want to sit idly in the classroom as knowledge sinks into their brains via osmosis. The modern world is modern, but that Matrix-style knowledge acquisition is still years off. Instead, get them working with the other people in the classroom. If videogames prove anything, it is that most people want to interact with new environments and new people. Make that magic happen in the classroom.
Walk and Talk: Videogames are chock-a-block full of movement; watch any videogame being played in any PC room in South Korea and you’ll see that there’s lots of action. While sitting at a computer looks passive, the action on screen is not. Teachers can give students that same chance when they complete surveys, questionnaires, information gap activities etc. Move their feet and their minds will meet.
Co-Op Mode: “Put down your weapons: this is English class!” While cooperation is a key staple of First Person Shooter videogames, why not ask students to work together in teams? Instead of issuing students a quiz and giving them 5 minutes to finish it alone, teachers can put them in teams to work together. The same can be done for presentations, writing assignments and even exams. Cooperation is king.
A great teacher is already terraforming the classroom into a communication giant, with oceans full of talking and continents full of cooperation. It’s daily practice. Other teachers can learn to offer those same multiplayer experiences that appeal to students by using a tried-and-trusted ‘‘communicative approach’. That doesn’t just mean communication between teacher and students, but communication from student-to-student and eventually student-to-the-world.