Comparing Two Teacher Training Courses for 3D Game-Based Learning: Feedback From Trainee Teachers

Comparing Two Teacher Training Courses for 3D Game-Based Learning: Feedback From Trainee Teachers

Michael Thomas, Letizia Cinganotto
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7638-0.ch012
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This chapter explores data form two online language teacher training courses aimed at providing participants with the skills to create and use games in 3D immersive environments. Arising from a two-year project which explored how game-based learning and virtual learning environments can be used as digital tools to develop collaborative and creative learning environments, two training courses were developed to support teachers to use two immersive environments (Minecraft and OpenSim). The first course was self-directed and the second was moderated by facilitators. Both courses provided a variety of games and resources for students and teachers in different languages (English, German, Italian, and Turkish). This chapter explores feedback from the teacher participants on both courses arising from a questionnaire and interviews with teachers and provides recommendations about the technical and pedagogical support required to develop immersive worlds and games for language learning.
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As computer-assisted language learning (CALL) has often been driven by technological innovation rather than pedagogy, a constantly recurring finding has been the need for more research on the effectiveness of CALL teacher training that aims to integrate technological and pedagogical literacies (Torsani, 2015). This chapter contributes to this gap in the research by investigating two online language teacher training courses, and is significant in that it examines the teacher feedback on the potential of digital game-based learning in two 3D immersive environments (Minecraft and OpenSim). In particular the chapter contributes to the knowledge base in this area by critically exploring the potential of immersive training for teachers who use the CLIL (Content and Integrated Language Learning) approach in two different formats: a self-study course and a teacher-led training course. The main difference between the courses was that the self-study course provided a theoretical framework for games design without the need for participants to develop technical skills to build games themselves. In the teacher-led course the participants’ goal was to design and create a language learning game in a virtual world. The two courses were designed as part of a two-year research project exploring game-based language learning funded by the European Commission, and included participating teachers from Italy, the UK, Germany and Turkey.

The chapter first briefly summarizes relevant research literature before describing the rationale, aims and scenarios that informed the planning and implementation of the two courses as examples of continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers in immersive worlds. The research was guided by the following two research questions which led to a mixed methods research design involving interviews, an online questionnaire and participants’ self-reflections:

  • 1.

    How beneficial and effective is CPD on game-based learning and immersive worlds for foreign language teachers?

  • 2.

    What are foreign language teachers’ perceptions of being trained in a community of practice (CoP) in an immersive world?


The use of digital games in different contexts has become increasingly popular over the last decade. Industry and educational professionals are regularly using digital games to foster users’ motivation and engagement, as confirmed by Johnson et al. (2013), who argued that “game play has traversed the realm of recreation and has infiltrated the worlds of commerce, productivity, and education, proving to be a useful training and motivation tool” (p. 21). Research has shown that games play a crucial role when it comes to education but it is important to reiterate that several categories and concepts have overlapping boundaries and they are not always clearly defined. Several authors, for example, use the terms gamification and game-based learning to describe the same concept (Callaghan, McCusker, Losada, Harkin & Wilson 2013). In order to bring more clarity to this fast changing landscape, in this chapter we define gamification in terms of a style of competitive learning related to the integration of ‘game mechanics’ such as badges, points, levels and leaderboards to non-game situations (Hamari, Koivisto & Sarsa 2014; Seaborn & Fels 2015) and game-based learning as the use of specifically designed games that have pedagogical or training content added to them along with defined learning outcomes (Van Eck, 2006). Game-based learning and gamification have become particularly popular in primary and secondary school contexts, thus the need for more effective and flexible modes of pre- and in-service teacher training to develop and sustain teacher competences in this rapidly moving area (Wiggins, 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Community Of Practice: or CoP is a group of people who interact to share a mutual interest or passion in order to improve their understanding and learning.

Minecraft: A 3D immersive video game in which users build structures and buildings from resources that they discover and mine. Depending on the mode (either game or survival mode) users can cooperate or compete against other users to achieve their objectives.

OpenSim: Or OpenSimulator is a multi-user open-source 3D immersive environment which enables users to create and customize content and can be used for education and learning via voice and/or text chat.

Game-Based Learning: Or GBL is a type of teaching in which the principles of games are used, often to improve learner motivation, engagement and/or performance. These principles may include points or leaderboards for example.

CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning or CLIL is an approach to foreign language teaching in which a content-based subject (e.g. business studies) is taught in the target language rather than in the first language or L1 of the learners.

Immersive Worlds: These are online environments that aim to mirror the physical and/or fantasy world, in which users can build and create objects and interact, often in spoken and written language.

Moodle: A virtual learning environment (VLE) or course management system (CMS), Moodle is an open-source learning platform that enables teachers to store learning materials and activities to organise courses.

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