Graham Stanley at the Teachers' Conference in Madrid
Graham Stanley spoke at the opening of the British Council Spain Teachers’ Conference in Madrid, after winning a British Council Award for Innovation this year. He writes about how English teachers are being encouraged to bring games into the classroom.
I was thrilled when I was invited to give the opening plenary at the British Council Spain’s Teachers’ Conference. In the past, I’ve participated by giving talks in Barcelona, but I’d never had the opportunity to speak at the Madrid conference. The talk was streamed live over the Internet to other British Council teaching centres in Spain – in Barcelona, Bilbao, and Valencia – and to a global audience through the TeachingEnglish website.
I arrived in Madrid the day before to find a deluge. Fortunately, the rain had mostly stopped on the day of the event, and the conference venue started to fill up with teachers eager for practical ideas to use in class at the start of term. Glancing through the program, I could see there was surely something for everyone here, and I definitely noticed an excited buzz in the air during the coffee break, as teachers met up with old colleagues, talked to other teachers and representatives from publishers about the sessions.
I’d chosen to speak about gamification, which was a new term for most people in the audience. It’s all about using elements of game design and game thinking in non-game contexts. In the language classroom, this can mean awarding points and badges to students for the work they do and, in the case of young learners, for showing good behaviour. For the more ambitious teacher, it can mean transforming your classroom learning context into a role-playing game, and I mentioned the efforts of three teachers in particular who have been doing this:
James York in Japan has been organising learning quests and rewarding his students with experience points rather than grading their work.
Daniel Brown, a teacher in South Korea, is blogging about a similar experiment he is conducting with his classes using characters, skills, and experience points to promote creative speaking.
Dave Dodgeson, who teaches in Turkey, has adapted and expanded upon an idea of mine to help him with classroom management and to motivate his students through an elaborate reward system.
Apart from gamification, I also spoke about using computer games for skills practice in the classroom, ideas which were based on the book, Digital Play: Computer games and language aims (Delta publishing), which I co-wrote with Kyle Mawer and which won a British Council Award for Innovation earlier this year.
I think that gamification and using games in the classroom are two new and exciting tools in a teacher’s toolbox and, given that so many of our learners are playing videogames, it’s worth our while exploring this area. It’s not just about young learners and teenagers, either – the average age of a gamer is now 33 years old!
After my talk, I participated in a round table about teacher training and teacher development, which generated a lot of interesting questions and answers both from the panel and the audience. As I mentioned before, there were also many other sessions to choose from, but, apart from these, I think that just being together with so many other teachers, and being able to talk and share experiences and ideas makes conferences such as this invaluable for our ongoing development as teachers.