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Possibly one of the most overlooked benefits of attending professional conferences is the simple clarity distances that these disruptions (in the Walter Benjamin sense) provide.  They allow us to step away from the daily drivel and remember why we went into the profession in the first place.  Or they just give a moment to reframe some of the instances of our daily professional life with a researcher’s eye. Yesterday while on the DC Metro subway to the Amtrak station to Philly, I was offered one of these clarity moments.  

The DC Metro during weekday rush-hour ranks quite possibly as the Most Literate Place on Earth.   Cultural norms dictate that riders remain silently reading during the entire duration of their rides.  People politely move to accommodate more fellow readers in the wall-to-wall swaying mass of bodies staring down into their reading materials.  Social graces of a nod and a smile as a new reader joins the pack are protocol, but after the brief acknowledgement, heads simultaneously drop back into their own literary worlds.  But not yesterday…..  there was an outlier.  A three year old boy was sitting near the door playing a game on an iPhone.  The game was silent, but the little guy was clearly using his emergent language acquisition to process each new character he met in the game ‘Mommy is that a witch?”  “Yes, it is a witch.”  The literati were mesmerized.  They peered over the tops of their books, magazines, newspapers, and Kindles to watch the game-based learning the young rider was engaged grinning at his amusement and the sheer speed of his vocabulary development.  A true Montessori moment.    I can only hope that there was at least a handful of policy makers on the train who realized where our education plan should be going.

 

Game-based learning is one of my main research areas, so I really devoured this week’s readings.   Masie’s (2010) “Gesture-base learning” provided me a great excuse to purchase four new XBox 360 games.  TPR (Total Physical Response) has been a very popular technique for beginning a new language.  It seems like a matter of time before Microsoft will capture this “freebie” and make a multilingual game for the Kinect.   Li’s (2010) article on Smartphones and augmented reality also got my wheels turning as a possible language and literacy tool. 

I have been pondering the uses of Second Life in language learning for over a year and so Young’s (2010) “After frustrations in Second Life” article was a must read.  This article spurred me into further research about the use of Second Life for language learners who also have disabilities that may make the normal communicative experience necessary for full acquisition more difficult.  Second Life really does seem to have mitigated many of these accessibility hurdles, so I am even more committed to exploring how it can be used as a community enhancing tool in a distributed learning environment. 

And for my $260 conference fee, I learned of the Dept. of State’s English Language   3D game Trace Effects  scheduled for summer roll-out.   

Here is my Gaming Blog started last semester.  Elearning and mLearning in ESP

I’ll be blogging about the newest Xbox games here. 

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