Conversations on online learning

Episode 15. James York

May 31, 2021 Digital Support Partnership Episode 15
Episode 15. James York
Conversations on online learning
More Info
Conversations on online learning
Episode 15. James York
May 31, 2021 Episode 15
Digital Support Partnership

In our final episode of season one, we are joined by James York, lecturer at Tokyo Denki University. James conducts research on the application of ludic approaches to language teaching. He explores research on the use of tabletop games in a task-based language teaching curriculum, the use of Reddit in multiliteracies-inspired curriculum, and building community through online games. He also edits Ludic Language Pedagogy, an open-access journal that publishes research on the integration of games and play in language teaching contexts.

You can find James on: Twitter | LLP Discord | email

Links & resources

James’s methodology: Task-based language teaching (TBLT):

Problem-based Learning (PBL):

Bill Cope & Mary Kalantzis (Eds.) A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Learning by Design (Palgrave macmillan, 2016)



Massively multiplayer online (MMO) games:


Apex Legends:

Among Us:

Kotoba-rollers: see J. York (2019), “Kotoba Rollers” walkthrough: Board games, TBLT, and player progression in a university EFL classroom. Ludic Language Pedagogy, 1, 58-­114. & J. York (2021) ‘Creating playgrounds in online teaching spaces: Kanami and Nene’s “hero journeys” Lucic Language Pedagogy
Situated Learning:

Show Notes Transcript

In our final episode of season one, we are joined by James York, lecturer at Tokyo Denki University. James conducts research on the application of ludic approaches to language teaching. He explores research on the use of tabletop games in a task-based language teaching curriculum, the use of Reddit in multiliteracies-inspired curriculum, and building community through online games. He also edits Ludic Language Pedagogy, an open-access journal that publishes research on the integration of games and play in language teaching contexts.

You can find James on: Twitter | LLP Discord | email

Links & resources

James’s methodology: Task-based language teaching (TBLT):

Problem-based Learning (PBL):

Bill Cope & Mary Kalantzis (Eds.) A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Learning by Design (Palgrave macmillan, 2016)



Massively multiplayer online (MMO) games:


Apex Legends:

Among Us:

Kotoba-rollers: see J. York (2019), “Kotoba Rollers” walkthrough: Board games, TBLT, and player progression in a university EFL classroom. Ludic Language Pedagogy, 1, 58-­114. & J. York (2021) ‘Creating playgrounds in online teaching spaces: Kanami and Nene’s “hero journeys” Lucic Language Pedagogy
Situated Learning:

Louise Drumm  0:17  

Hi, I'm Louise Drumm, and welcome to conversations on online learning the podcast in which we discuss online learning and how to support it. In each episode, we'll ask our featured guests to relate their own particular area of expertise and experiences related to online learning. And we'll discuss how this has informed their understanding of online learning. We'll also ask our guests to share their advice for teaching and learning support staff who want to enhance develop their own online learning support. Our guest today is James York, who is a lecturer at Tokyo denki University in Japan. Welcome, James.


James York  0:50  

Thanks for inviting me. It's a pleasure to speak with you. And I hope we can find some areas of interest that we can give to the audience. So


Louise Drumm  0:58  

yeah, absolutely. I'm dying to get stuck into a lot of the things that you've been working on and hearing more about it. But starting off, what do you do? And how would you describe how you came to do that?


James York  1:09  

Okay, so what I actually do my day job is that I teach language and literacy skills at a science and tech university in Japan. So I'm essentially an English teacher. But I do teach kind of board game design and foundational game design stuff as well. And then at the evenings at the weekend, I teach Japanese, to a small community of learners using Minecraft and other games. So I have a couple of different projects. Regarding the day job. I'm most well known. I'd like to think for the use of games as a teaching tool, a language teaching tool, where I've used both video games and board games to help the Japanese students learning English.


Louise Drumm  1:51  

And and what has the last year been like for you in those roles? How has things changed for you?


James York  1:58  

Yeah, so the day job, we were shifted to 100% remote teaching from May last year. I should mention that in Japan, the start of the school year is April. So it goes from April until March. And so at the start of, of the, you know, the Coronavirus, getting pretty serious March last year, we will get we were getting ready to go back to just normal face to face teaching. And then obviously, there was lockdowns in a lot of countries around the world. But Japan didn't go into lockdown. But they did throw us into remote teaching. And so we were given a month to prepare. So the start of the semester was supposed to be April, but it got shifted to me. So I was teaching online from May until around January this year. So that's a full academic year of remote teaching. Yeah, it was a big change. And so we had to we were told to use zoom as a tool for communicating with the students. And I was initially very happy to do that, until I actually started to look at it. And notice that it was it's kind of limited, it felt very much like a business tool, like a tool for a CEO to meet clients, and then end the call. I was very kind of dismayed with zooms lack of community, I've since realized that it does have chat rooms and channels that you can make that a bit more permanent. But at the time, I was like, well, I've been using discord for a bunch of other projects that I am involved with. So maybe I'll just use this tool instead. And I guess that would be the the main topic of this topic. This section would be what is discord and why did they use it?


Louise Drumm  3:44  

Yeah. So that's my next question. What is what is discord? How would you describe discord and or what did it bring to the the teaching situation that other tools weren't bringing?


James York  3:53  

That's a fantastic question. Thanks. Yeah, discord is very similar to maybe what some teachers out there have used the idea of slack or Microsoft Teams, where it's a shared space, that you can create specific channels around a specific topic for users to chat around. So for example, you could have a Games channel, you could have a sports channel, or you know, you could have a serious talk channel. Whoa, you know, website is for having a politics channel. I mean, that wouldn't last very long. But so essentially, it's a customizable space. Like, if you want to take it even further to the most common denominator would be something like Facebook Messenger, or Skype, or even Instagram chatter. Yes. But imagine that with with many, many different channels where you can communicate about different things in those channels. That makes sense.


Louise Drumm  4:49  

Yeah. And would you use it primarily as typing in text chat or are there other media as well?


James York  4:55  

That's right. discord offers both text channels as On his voice channels, which also double up as video channels. So the real secret sauce to discord for a teacher is that you can create, for example, a chat channel and a voice channel for each class. So let's say you have four classes, you got class one, a, one, B, two, a two, B, you create these four voice and text channels. And then you assign students permissions to use the channels of their class. So only the one a students can see the one eight channels, only the two a students can see the two eight channels, and so on. So as a administrator, you have full view of all of the classes channels, yet they can't see each other's channels. So it you know, it cuts down on notifications. And it just keeps things much more specific. Additionally, you can allow students to create extra channels, so they can create things that interest them. So it's very customizable kind of text and voice chat area per class. On top of that, it's a permanent space. So that was my problem with zoom. It was, okay, what if I missed the last five minutes of the teachers speech? Or, you know, what if I didn't get what the homework was? Or what if I need to remind students about homework very quickly and holistically? Well, this code is permanent, it stays after the class is finished. So it's a space where you can go back in and say, oh, by the way, you can tag all the students say, oh, by the way, don't forget Tuesday, you've got to do this homework or stuff like that. So it's permanent, it's customizable, and students can create their own spaces within it. So that's why I used it as my main tool of communication,


Louise Drumm  6:41  

right. So I can see a number of things there going on. So you've got this customizability, there's a personalized personalization aspect to it that students have a certain amount of control over the spaces that they create. And there's that autonomy there. And I can see how with communities and how building communities and getting students to feel part of something and contributing activity to something that's quite powerful. It also has an aspect that there are smaller groups as well. And I think that in online spaces, that seems to be something that's really quite productive, if you've got a big class in a one big space, it can be problematic, not quite private, but private to the group, not private from you, I suppose. And the persistence, so you've got that idea of asynchronous things. And I imagine and I'm conjecturing here, but you as a language teacher, students will need time to think and to formulate their thoughts, particularly if they're typing or in a in a space that isn't in a language that isn't their first language, that it gives them that ability to stop and pause and think before they do something, and that the pressure is off slightly. Is Is there anything else there that that I've missed? Or is there a what are the affordances, I suppose of that kind of a tool, particularly in the teaching that you do.


James York  7:54  

I think one of the benefits of discord again over other pieces of software is the fact that it's very, it's student centered in the way it's user centered compared to zoom, where you I mean, again, I really kind of dismissed the zoom quite early on. So I may be mistaken in assuming this. But with zoom with with discord, you, let's say you've got five voice channels that are constantly there, you've got like voice channel, General, then you've got group one, group two, group three, group four. So you've got these voice channels that you can see, and it's like, everyone's in the classroom. And then instead of assigning them to breakout rooms, it's like, okay, go to your group room now. And they can kind of, you know, jump around the place and not feel so restricted or so controlled. It's very kind of flexible in that in that manner.


Louise Drumm  8:41  

And I think you're right, I think there's something about some tools have very strict hierarchy. So you know, this, there's a host, and there's, that's the person who has control over the screen and over things, and everyone else it is placed into a passive role. Yeah, and I think those spaces where the the usability is such that students can type in emojis, you know, and I know you've done a lot of work around that, that the reactions that you can give are quite quick. And as it's that feedback loop as well. And I think this is where we get into things like people complaining about students having their cameras off. How do you try as as, as you would in the classroom, kind of get that feedback from your students about how it's going, how our understanding is happening? What are the things that you use in these spaces to be able to just gauge where your students are at and how they're feeling on what's going on with them?


James York  9:30  

Yeah, that's a great point. I'd like to mention two things. The first is the use, but the second will be the use of reactions. But first, to be thrown into a teaching environment. where normally in a classroom face to face classroom, we would focus on speaking skills, and we talk with each other and we'd interact via, you know, voice communication, essentially. But with the you mentioned the word affordances here with the affordances of having this tool that not only support voice communication, but also supports text communication, I actually started my classes extremely slowly. For the first couple of classes, I literally only typed, I wanted them to learn about typing in English for some of them that they'd never really done this before as well. So I was teaching them how to do like slash commands. And you know, there's a difference between English emojis and Japanese emojis as well. So I was teaching them, you know, English culture through colon and closed parentheses that some of the students had never seen this before. So I started super slow and build their confidence up to then go into voice. And then after voice, we did only very little video, face to face communication in Discord. And the reason for that is that while it is a science and tech university, but also my own experience, as a discord user, is that it's kind of this tool that you use while you're doing something else. Typically, discord was marketed heavily towards gamers. So when you play in a game, you're not really looking at your, your buddy's face. So for me, discord was kind of text and speech. And that was it. So there was never any forcing of like, you must turn your cameras on, it was like, if you feel like it, it's okay. But I'm probably going to be looking at the worksheet anyway. So that's how we dealt with that. So yeah, in terms of communication, it went very slowly from text, to looking at gifts, and then to voice and occasionally video when they were in their small groups. And then in terms of feedback loops, then I would occasionally have students screenshare, because you can do multiple screenshots at the same time. And the use of reactions, like you just mentioned, reactions, if people don't know is that if most of the audience and are familiar with zoom, it's a very different thing. So a reaction in discord is that imagine the text bar, sorry, the chat channel in in zoom, but you can right click on a message and add a emoji to that message. This is something that exists in slack. I'm not sure if it exists in teams.


Louise Drumm  12:12  

Yes, it does. Okay, so maybe you are similar to a Facebook Like, but the like, you can change the different things only it's a wider range of reactions, isn't it? Yeah,


James York  12:21  

that's a great point. It's a huge range of reactions, which is, which means that you can actually have students choose their own emoji, and then you know, who's reacted then as well, which is kind of cool.


Louise Drumm  12:32  

What kind of questions would you ask to get to, to ask them to react to or what would be the text that you'd be asking them to react?


James York  12:39  

I mean, it could be anything, for example, how you feeling today, and then you just get a bunch of different faces of like sleepy faces, essentially. Or you'd say, do you understand you have any questions, thumbs up, thumbs down this kind of thing, just to gauge feedback. And also, you could use that as attendance as well, because you knew how many people in the voice channel? And it's like, are you listening? Give me a thumbs up reaction. And like, oh, there's only 12 This is no good. We need to stop. So yeah, that kind of thing.


Louise Drumm  13:09  

It's nice. It's nice dynamic kind of live, but low, low threshold interaction. It's not very high focused or pressured. Yeah, it's lovely. And so maybe we could move on to your, your other your other area of expertise, which I suppose is game based learning as well. And and the things that you do, and for this, and I think, I think there's obviously there's been an awful lot written around this, a teaching at various levels, whether it's further education, higher education, or in or in other levels. But what do you what do you bring to that in terms of what are your overarching ideas about what how is this a useful way to think about teaching and what do you do with it?


James York  13:48  

Yeah, so thanks, games, games, games, games are there and misunderstood beast, I think in the research on game based learning, and they seem to be hyped to hell and back is like, games with this magic bullet that you know, will give you epic engagement and cure all your, your, you know, woes in the classroom. But I tried to take a step away from that, to be honest and look at games more as a media. I mean, we have books in the classroom, we have movies in the classroom. And there's you know, pedagogy that surrounds using a book in the classroom or using a movie in the classroom yet, for some reason, it seems that many people think that if you just give a kid a game, then they're going to learn. So my focus is more on, you know, really pedagogically sound uses of games in the classroom. So yeah, my approach is, look, this is what I'm doing with games. It's not just a Friday afternoon treat. It's not gamification. It's like a whole course built around playing playing Apex legends or something. So that's my approach. It's not about the tool itself. It's more about What I do and the curriculum and the things that they do before and after play. So that's probably what I bring to the table.


Louise Drumm  15:08  

I think that's a really important point, because there is this technological determinism about the tools that we use. And I think that's very strong when we talk about, about gaming or using games. So if you're just imagining now, if you were kind of approaching designing a curriculum, and you wanted to not just to be gamified, but you wanted it to be deeply embedded, what would be the things that you would you would be looking for? How would you approach that if you were designing a new classroom?


James York  15:36  

Brilliant question. So my idea is not to reinvent the wheel, there are fantastic teaching approaches out there already, you just need to pick one. And for me, as a language teacher, I was heavily interested in this teaching methodology called task based language teaching, which I don't know if it exists outside of language teaching, but the idea of you know, doing activities like active learning, do an activity rather than focus on drilling and focus on using forms correctly, Instead, focus on meaning transmission. And, and the the idea of the task based language language teaching model is that it's a real bare bones framework of a pre task, like do something before you do the activity, do the activity, and then do a post task. So do something after the activity, and you can throw in many different activities at these different stages. And so you can imagine that, when you think about gaming to learn the language, then you can say, Well, what should we do before we gain? Why should we do after we gain? How can we improve our language and just, you know, put the focus on those kind of pedagogical constructs around it? So and then if I was doing another project that I have with, I don't think I mentioned to you is, I use Reddit as a teaching tool as well. So tell


Louise Drumm  16:57  

us a bit more about that. What do you do with red Reddit? And what is Reddit So?


James York  17:01  

So Reddit is a news website where all of the content comes from users. And the news website, the Reddit website is divided into 1000s and 1000s of sub communities. So for example, I know you're based in Edinburgh, so there is an Edinburgh subreddit where you can find news about Edinburgh. But there's also subreddits for knitting the German language, money, cryptocurrency, Kindle, Britta, I'm just looking at things. There's literally a subreddit for everything. So the idea of my curriculum around Reddit is that I want students to complete a multiple, multi literacies framework again, so the pedagogical framework is already decided it's going to be multi literacies, where we're going to get students to experience the new experience the unknown, and then participate in a community. So the Reddit project is, students consider what their interests are. They'll find a subreddit that matches those interests. They'll collect many posts, and look at the language that's being used. Once they have a good understanding of the subreddit, its culture, its language, the kind of posts that are common, then they participate in the subreddit themselves. So they'll perhaps ask a question, or they'll perhaps give some information from the point of view of a Japanese person, they'll perhaps share a meme. And then once they've posted in the subreddit, they look at the comments that they received. And they give a couple of presentations around the class like this is what I learned. And the reason that this project works, I think, in a language teaching context is that I'm asking students to join a community that they already have a strong interest in. So the bar to entry is much lower, instead of having them say read Shakespeare, which would be insane and impossible. But, you know, one of the best products I've had so far was a student was really interested in plastic models of Gundam figures. Gundam is a it's like a robot fighting machine thing, a mecca. And he made I think, in the UK, we generally make, you know, war ships or, you know, fighter planes out of plastic model kits, right. That's the I think that's the image in the UK, but in Japan, you make mecha robots, and that was his interest. And so I told him that, you know, there will definitely be a subreddit of people doing that, you know, hoping at least, and there was, and so, he went to this subreddit where they were doing the thing that he was really into, and he was like, oh, wow, look, there's all this stuff going on overseas. I'm going to and then after he he looked at the Project the Reddit subreddit for a while, he said that his participation project was to share an image of one of his best creations. And I said, Great, and then he titled it. And it just said, look at this. And I was like, have you really like understood the culture? Like, look at all these other posts, people are writing things like, what do you think? Give me your opinion. So we looked at the language use there as well. And he formatted a nice title that I want a competition in Tokyo, what do you think? And he got, like, you know, eight, 900 upvotes. So he was over the moon. And he had all these comments. And you know, he continued to participate after the fact after the class had finished, like he, he got addicted to camera. Yes. So that that is the that's another project that I'm doing with online tools. Yeah.


Louise Drumm  20:49  

That sounds fantastic. And there's so many, so many really positive things about them. The two things I pick out is what you're saying there about it starting with, with the student as where their interests lie, where they're, you know, you know, where their motivations are, to engage with something. And then also it's real world, it's authentic, it's out there, you know, it's not just in the classroom, it's something that is a genuine experience, and and working with, with other people outside of the classroom. Oh,


James York  21:13  

it's fantastic. 100% I think one of the scary things about this for teachers is that we're not the experts of the content anymore. But it's a really, really good opportunity to show how you would Google it, like, just to teach Google skills, you know, as on a language class on a language. In a language course, students are kind of obsessed with Google Translate, they'll just throw in a word, and it gives them the they'll throw in a Japanese word, it will give them the English although throw in a Japanese an English word that will give them the Japanese. And they're like, yeah, I still don't know what it means. So you have to show them that you Google. And then you look for articles which explain it in detail. And it's like whole array. Okay, so. But yeah, it's often quite an interesting. I feel like, you know, Sherlock Holmes looking for the answer myself, I what is what is this mean? I don't even know what this English is like, What's going on here? Let's have a look. And like, it gets quite exciting.


Louise Drumm  22:11  

Yeah, and it's situating the language in a real world context. And, and, and it's also a digital literacy stuff as well. Absolutely. going in there. So absolutely. Fantastic, really good. And maybe moving on to some of the other the other things that you've used, and I'd love to hear a little bit about how you use Minecraft as a virtual classroom. Can you tell us a bit about that?


James York  22:33  

Yeah, absolutely. This started in around 2012. I wanted to teach in Minecraft, I looked around. Well, this is when I started my PhD, actually, I looked around at different virtual worlds as places where I could bring students and I could have English speakers or, you know, I could have different people from around the world join the same place. And I looked at social worlds at the time, like Second Life open Sims, all these kind of, you know, very janky worlds where the, the barrier to entry for second life was that the hood, the screen was very cluttered. And it was very difficult to make content for me at least. So I just felt that the barrier to entry was very difficult. And then at the opposite end of the spectrum to that word, MMOs, which, you know, they're very, they're governed, they're created by a company that designed artifacts that you can't really create your own activities in. But they have a huge fan base and, and user base problem with those, again, is that it's very difficult to get in the screens very cluttered, the, the vocabulary is very specialized. And then around the time, you know, Minecraft was just kicking off as a, as the, you know, one of the biggest games in the world. And it just really spoke to me, it was very simple, very simple controls, the vocabulary wasn't too complex. And the best part about it was that I could very quickly knock up a activity for two students due to, you know, carry out, for example, we could, you know, just make a wall on one side of the wall, I'd have an empty space. And on the other side of the wall, I'd create a small kind of room environment like a kitchen or a bedroom. And then one student would have to relay to the other student how to create that in their own space. So it's very simple and quick to get these kinds of focused language tasks created. So yeah, that's why glommed onto Minecraft,


Louise Drumm  24:39  

and were you using something like discord to have live voice chat at the same time? Or were you solely using the chat function within Minecraft?


James York  24:47  

Yeah, so at that time, disco didn't even exist. So it was Teamspeak that we were using. But yeah, now we do use Discord. Yes,


Louise Drumm  24:54  

yeah, there's there's so much about that, I suppose in terms of the adaptability of Minecraft. I'm setting up very structured spaces are also very open spaces. And certainly I know I think some of the things around the different versions of Minecraft that we have now there's increasing possibilities around the Education Edition as well, which now obviously being owned by Microsoft, some, some office 365 licenses allow for that to be used as well. And I think it's been used quite a bit in certain school level settings. But


James York  25:28  

yeah, I never got involved with the education version, because it seems like you can only use it if you're at a certain institute that has a license, whereas the the teaching that I do in Minecraft is open to anybody. So I basically just run run a Java server in my office, and it just broadcast to the world where anybody can join. So we meet there, I meet people from the States, people from the UK, I've had people from Malaysia and Indonesia, and places like that Australia, come and join classes. So it was it really. So this is the point I'd like to make, actually about the use of virtual worlds for teaching is that there really needs to be a use case for it. You can't just go, Oh, I'm going to use Minecraft to teach because it sounds cool. I think you need a better use case than that. And the use case that I had was that I had students from all over the world who were not able to practice, you know, oral communication skills in Japanese, in the locality. So the virtual world really fulfilled that need where they could come together and do a language class. That's why I don't use Minecraft in my teaching at university. Because, well, at least until COVID was because we had the affordance of the classroom where we could be face to face and talk to each other. And also, it's quite a logistic nightmare to have 20 students in 20 boxes. And yeah, that's why I went on to board games. So


Louise Drumm  27:03  

I'm going to ask about that. So I think one of the things as well that I'm interested in having, you know, been been dabbling with, you know, Second Life, you know, 13 years ago, and the affordances, the presence and you know, the social presence, that, that bit that that kind of feeling of engagement or simulacra of being in presence of other people, I think is really is really quite powerful. And then layering on top of that, you have a task, you know, a very specific thing that you're asking your students to do. What kind of what kind of feedback do you get from your students about about Minecraft in particular?


James York  27:43  

Let's think the students that I teach in Minecraft are attending because they want to learn Japanese, and the curriculum has been created many years ago. And it's been iterated and added on to I've had a student from the UK, actually, that comes specifically to mind from from Coventry, he mentioned that, just like you're mentioning here, the the embodied element of it really was a plus epic, again, from a language learning perspective, and it's probably true of other educational fields as well. But the idea is that the more of your senses that you're using to learn, then the kind of deeper it's embedded or the more quickly, it's embedded as something that you actually know that so that, you know, that cognition is quicker. And so he was saying that by actually being in Minecraft and walking around, it felt very real. And so yeah, it really helped him learn.


Louise Drumm  28:36  

Yeah, and I like that idea of the different senses. But also there's an emotional impact as well of that of feeling like you're, you're somewhere with other people or you're connecting with other people isn't there? And that those the emotional layers of how that can can help you when you're learning to? I agree. Yeah. Great. Okay, so board games. Tell us a little bit about how you use board games,


James York  29:03  

or board games with the start of my current teaching project, which I call cutterbar rollers. And kotoba is the Japanese word for word. So it's kind of a play on words like word rollers, like we're learning words by rolling like a bit cheesy, but it came off the back of me doing the PhD. while collecting data for my PhD, which had 28 like I mentioned 20 students in a classroom playing Minecraft and you know, routers not working power going down Teamspeak recordings not working properly, not knowing how to do push to talk like that the tech


problems just got quite severe that I wanted none of it anymore. And around that time, I mentioned this, this idea of task based language teaching where we have a pre task, a task and a post task. And this just aligns so well with board gameplay. I find I feel so before you play a board game, you have to learn the rules by reading the rulebook or at least watch a rules explanation video. And this is a perfect pre task you are equipping yourself with vocabulary that you may be using during the task itself. So you're learning what the pieces are, how they move, what the actions are. So the verbs, and also the gameplay itself acts as a kind of test of your knowledge of having read the rules. So if you can't do the reading comprehension, you can't play the game. So it's just this beautiful staircase, if you like, from not knowing anything about the game, having a really hard test at the start. And then kind of ramping up into the gameplay. So I use board games because they, they don't break down. They don't take batteries that cheap. You can have, you know, one board game between four or five people. And yeah, so the board game class that I teach, it started really poorly. I should mention this, it was a failure. It was bad at the start. And that's why I think it's worth saying, I my idea was that I was going to have students read the rulebook before coming to class like a flipped classroom kind of idea. So they would read the rule book by themselves at home before coming to class, they would play the gaming class. And that would be it, then that would repeat every week. And it was just way too intense. You'd have students that couldn't understand the rulebook at all, because it was very complicated. You'd have students that wouldn't read the rulebook, and then just come to us like, Hey, what are we doing today. And if the game's changing every week, there's no reflection, there's no chance to improve. It was just, it just didn't work. So I went back to square one. And what I like to say is that I vapor waived it. So vaporwave is this genre of music, which takes like 80s and 90s pop, and just slows it down. And so I slowed my class down, instead of playing a game every week, we'd went to playing the game once every three weeks with a pre and post lesson. And that got slowed down even more to playing. Again, single game twice in a seven week cycle. So one game seven weeks. And that's that's how it currently stands. And the cycle is that the first, the first week, we will learn how to play the rules as literally a full week, a full lessons worth basically. And the reason I did that is because of the social affordances of reading the rulebook together. If you're at home, trying to do it by yourself, you perhaps get stumped on something and you give up. Whereas if you're in a group in the classroom, you can chat and say, Hey, what's does this rule mean? Or do you get that I mean, even if it's in the the mother tongue, there's the content is still English. So we spend a full week learning how to play the game, maybe even do a test play in the mother tongue as well. So it's like we read the rulebook, but can we actually play it? Let's try. Let's try in Japanese first. Okay, yeah, we can do it. And having that experience, then they will have some idea of what language they might use in the play session the following week. So yeah, we have learned how to play them play. And then the third week will actually during the play session, they are recording on their smartphones. And then they will transcribe that it's the first homework. So transcription means they listened to the audio of the gameplay and actually write it out verbatim. And because they're doing it in a group, they only have a small section of the Full Gameplay to to transcribe themselves. The third week is that where they're looking at the transcription of the gameplay to see what mistakes they've made, or where they spoke Japanese. And so they, that's where I come in, and I can give them some grammar advice, or send them some links to check out some different grammar bits and bobs. And then they'll also watch YouTube videos of native speakers paying so they get some more input. And also, that's how the native speakers are doing it. Okay, we need to copy that. And so, again, that that also opens them up to English culture, and as well at the same time. But the cycle doesn't stop there. We've done all that work. Then they go and replay the game. And I think this is what a lot of people are getting out of this framework. I've spoken to a few different people. And they've said, Oh, it's a really genius idea. Like have them do it again, like yeah, just do it again, right.


So yeah, they'll play again, that's that that's the speaking test. The second gameplay session is the speaking test, like, Okay, you've done all that work. Now show me what you've got. So I'll go along and grade them during the gameplay. After that, they'll do some more post play activities. Again, reflecting on their play, giving a presentation to the rest of the class to tell them what they they learned and what was difficult and whether they recommend the game or not. So that's the general framework that I use with board games.


Louise Drumm  34:56  

That sounds great and I love the kind of elongation of all of those asks, and it mirrors in a way, the asynchronous and synchronous sort of patterns of online stuff, even though that this, this is stuff that you're doing in a face to face classroom. And it's just bringing those tasks and aligning it to the learning in between times in between the classes as well. So you've got those those pre tasks and repeat tasks? Absolutely. I mean, there's so much value in that. And anything you wanted to add to that,


James York  35:24  

I can go on about how I change this into remote teaching environment, because, you know, go ahead, board games, what are you gonna do? What are you gonna do? You can't play board games on Discord. Or can you? So what I did last year was, it was really special. And I don't think I'm going to get the opportunity to do it again. But essentially, I gave students free range to choose whatever game they wanted to play, because usually it's them choosing a game from my game library that I have the board game library. But last year, we had a number of students that were very interested in these new games coming out. Apex Legends is one which is an FPS team game. And the second one is among us, which I've mentioned, which is a free mobile kind of hidden role game. So it was the same cycle. But the affordances of view of using discord and having an online space for communication meant that I could actually invite English speaking friends of mine, to come and join them for the for the English test. So it was, okay, you've done it a couple of weeks now you've had so they actually repeated twice. So they played the same game three times where the third time was with English speakers. And that was the kind of final test like you've gone through all of this, can you do it with real English speakers now, so that was a really unique part of the online environment. The second unique part was that, instead of recording audio, a lot of them were on their PCs at home. So they were recording their screen as they were playing. And so the evaluation like last year was based on pro gamer montage of videos, if you're familiar with the idea of, I mean, it was actually inspired by American football as well, where they, the high school American football students, they will create, like a video of their best clips from the year in order to get hired by or to get scholarship at a university. So what I had the students do last year was to show me their best clips, and send it to me show you send me a video of your best clips. And of course, some of the students got the wrong idea. At first they thought they wanted, they wanted me to see their awesome gameplay. I know. I want to see your best English speaking bits. And so I got a bunch of different montages last year that a lot of students actually let me put them on YouTube publicly, and I need to make them public. So I'll do that here pretty soon.


Louise Drumm  37:57  

That's fantastic. And I love the idea of of sort of a show reel, isn't it? Yeah, that's right. So was there anything that shifting to things like among us and Apex Legends? Was there anything unexpected that came out of now shifting to those kind of online games? Yeah,


James York  38:15  

I mean, it did carry on the same as, as the classroom, it just cut extra, which was kind of nice, I think.


Louise Drumm  38:22  

So if somebody was to say to you, oh, I, this sounds great. But I've done nothing in this area, for I'd love to introduce a bit of this into my online teaching, or maybe even, you know, sort of my if I'm doing blended stuff, if I'm doing stuff with with my students. What's what should I think about? What advice would you give? Where should I start?


James York  38:44  

Yeah, that's a great question. I read a couple of things down, but I think, yeah, I think there's two things to think of before even thinking about games. And that is the infrastructure like we've talked about the idea of, are you going to use teams? Are you going to use zoom? Are you going to use discord or whatever? And like, what are the communication affordances of the tool that you're using? Like, get the infrastructure set up first? And the second would be to consider how you're going to teach it like, what is the framework? What is the structure of the classes? Is this based on something that you know? Is it based on the PBL teaching cycle? Is it based on TBL? t? Is it based on multiliteracies? Is it based on I don't know, whatever framework, just pick one, and then think about where the tools like the games, for example, would fit into that. That framework, I always like to imagine it as literally hanging things on a barebone system that's going to go there that's going to go there. And you know, get your curriculum set up before you start. And the third one, I guess, would be, you know, just to slow things down and make sure that you've got plenty of time to, to reflect or to do things before playing even so. Yeah, it's fantastic. It's not rocket science. It's and also if you're an edtech if you're really into edtech Don't get edtech Twitter, it just seems like the most fickle thing in the planet. It's every other month, it's, this is the tool, this is the tool. Just stick with something, just stick with something, the new thing is not going to be better. I think we should have the meme that where he's looking over his shoulder at the girl in the red dress. It's like Google Docs, and a chat platform is probably what you're going to need. Yeah.


Louise Drumm

yeah and i think one of the things there that what you started with talking about infrastructure i think there's the infrastructure that you may have as an institution or whatever but there's also the thinking about the technology that the students have in their hands as well and their bandwidth and their capacity and whether you know they're they're doing things through touchscreen tablets or rather than full pcs and and you know we can think sometimes ourselves that we've got the setup in a particular way but actually right this is the experience for the students is very difficult so finding out what the students have is have to hand is so important too 


James York

yeah that would perhaps be like a 1.1 part then because we talked about infrastructure as number one i think it's also very critical and Louise you mentioned this is that i don't know i'm teaching 18 19 year old university students in japan um i don't know what it's like in the rest of the world but based on my um experience the digital literacies i'm 38 i grew up with the internet when you know i was in my teenage years so um i had to do urls and things like that and copy paste and stuff but a lot of students because of the tech that they're used to because of their smartphone obfuscating a lot of things um because they haven't used an actual you know keyboard in their lives that it's a real shift for these students so again that's a big part that needs to be slowed down i mentioned using discord and it it can be quite um confusing to newcomers so that's why i literally took like two or three classes to introduce discord and how to do things with the keyboard so that definitely needs consideration for online teaching um before you even start to do things because if you don't do that you're only going to be slowed down anyway when the students like well i didn't do that because i didn't know what to do and it's like oh man why didn't i just spend 10 minutes at the start of the semester to introduce this you know yeah yeah an experiment i suppose as well it's like it's all an experiment at the end of the day and some things won't work and failure is really important fail fast 


Louise Drumm

so before we finish up um James just um is there anything any resources any links any uh papers blogs anything you'd recommend for people to check out if they're um wanting to follow up any of the things you've discussed today?


James York

let's have a look what i wrote i think i just wrote yeah and then books on teaching like you know get get some some teaching books the pedagogy of multiliteracies learn more about that it'll blow your mind a very um progressive approach to education that it its goal is transformation of the student so and that in terms of the reddit project it was um you know the student learns about it and then becomes a participant in the community so it's linked to a situated practice which you're perhaps familiar with as well you know Lave and Wenger so that's great where can people find you then with you on discord of course no um well yes but so i actually am a co-editor of a journal which is where we publish work on um the cross-section of games and play in language teaching context so the journal is called ludic which refers to games and play language pedagogy so ludic language pedagogy and we are accepting uh papers on both second language and first language and any literacy skills that you teaching from you know with games all of my work is is on there and there's worksheets and we have a discord community where we're trying to create a community of practice around this topic so reaching out and getting advice and sharing lesson plans and this kind of thing so yeah if you're interested in the use of games in education then i'd recommend this place 


Louise Drumm

Fantastic and we'll include the link to that in the show notes well it just remains for me to say thank you so much James it's been an absolute pleasure and talking this afternoon and um best of luck and keep in touch 


James York

yeah thanks it’s been a pleasure thank you so much.