AF Network Gets Serious About Gaming!

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Based on an interview with Laurent Elisio Bordier (Academic Director of Alliance Française de Bombay) initially published in French in Le Café du FLE.

Serious Gaming, or the utilisation of video games for teaching, is an increasingly influential development in the field of learning – especially for teaching languages. Last year, Alliance Française de Bombay had embarked on a mission to incorporate serious gaming as part of the various tools it offered for learning French. The project was conducted with help of the Plan d’Appui aux Médiathèques (PAM) provided by the Institut Français.

S'orienter avec Octodad

Learning to navigate with Octodad

Given the phenomenal success of the program, the project has been extended to the entire network of  Alliances Françaises in India and Nepal. The Institut Français allocated a grant of 25,000 Euros – the largest PAM attributed in 2016 this year – for the project Serious Gaming FLE India-NepalThe project is being piloted by the Alliance Française de Bombay for the entire network in the subcontinent

A training session to acquaint teachers from the entire India-Nepal network with serious gaming was recently conducted at Alliance Française de Panjim (Goa). Reproduced below are some excerpts which offers some insights into the training session along with the scope and impact of this project:

Hello Laurent! To begin with, what exactly is a serious game?

Simply put, a serious game mobilizes concepts inherent to gaming (competitiveness, motivation, the principal of pleasure etc.) with the aim of helping the player – who in this case is also the learner – acquire new skills, whether linguistic or otherwise. Many professional fields including medicine, marketing and aeronautics already use serious gaming as a learning tool.

Can you tell us more about this project and its scope?

The project was conceived by the pedagogical team of Alliance Française de Bombay – an Alliance which often uses digital and communication technologies for teaching. We are always on the lookout for new tools and new experiences. We had enthusiastically been following some initiatives of the Goëthe Institut which was working towards using consumer games for educational purposes. It was hence that we decided to launch this initiative ourselves and obtained the initial support from Institut Français (Paris) in 2015. The funding was used for equipping the multimedia library at AF Mumbai and for trying to integrate the use of the game Sims in our courses. This was done primarily for the beginner and intermediate levels with the help of some professors who had volunteered.

Se décrire avec les Sims

Describe yourself with the Sims

The results were extremely positive and we proposed to coordinate on the project for the entire Alliance Française network in India and Nepal (a total of 15 Alliances). The Insitut Français (Paris) has extended their support for this phase of the project as well.

Today, the project has become bigger than we ever imagined and represents an investment of more than 40,000 euros – of which 60% is managed by the Institut Français (Paris). This fund has been used to purchase equipment (PlayStation 4, portable or fixed screen video-projectors  for the multimedia centers, gaming catalogues), for gamification teacher-training (or ludification as we call it in French) and for training the people in-charge of the various multimedia libraries to help them integrate this new tool in their own spaces.

But why use games that already exist in the market? And how do these help in learning French?

This was a conscious decision which represents a specific choice in terms of how to teach languages. The debate is clearly ongoing among experts – however, we were not very keen on working with serious games which had been explicitly designed by teachers for learners (Les Éonautes, for example, is the most well-known game in this category). There is no doubt that such games are very well conceived. However, one soon realises the pitfalls of a tool (aimed at teaching and learning languages) which works only under the pretext of simulating a behaviour or relies excessively on reformulating a disposition as strictly pedagogical. Such tools end up only mimicking a certain reality and in the process lose many qualities of this reality. In India, we have already experienced this to a certain extent on exclusive social networks dedicated to learning French. The learners, as well as the teachers, get bored of them quickly and the tool struggles to carry on – reduced to simple practice forums. Thus, this time, we chose authentic documents i.e. the public catalogues of video game arcades which are constantly replenished, revisited and adapted for the general public, for the European Framework, for accommodating progress, different kinds of spaces etc.

Learning the Imperative using the game Escape Plan

Evidently, it is here that the true difficulty arises – which games should be used and how can they be best integrated? Which elements of these games can catalyze what kind of learning? That’s the whole goal of gamification. Hence, we constituted a team of trainers comprising of Mukta Paranjape (an Indian educational engineer based in England), Prachee Palsule and Vincent Robin-Gazsity (the two heads of the annexes of AF Bombay who managed the project last year) along with Alexis Hassler (a young professor and an arts degree holder who is a FLE/FLS professor in the Parisian suburbs). Alexis regularly experiments and theorizes on various aspects of serious gaming. Finally, the most recent addition to the team is Anaïs Cayzac (Head of the beautiful multimedia center at AF Delhi).

The first training session at the network level was thus an Indo-French collaboration consisting of feedback gleaned from the experiences of using the game Sims in Bombay and an introduction of games suggested by Alexis (Octodad, Escape Plan, Soldats inconnus, Journey etc.). The guiding principle was to come up with questions together – What all can we do? What does it mean to gamify a course? How to choose? For which levels etc. Twenty seven pedagogical coordinators and referred teachers from all over India and Nepal participated – clinging to their joysticks for 4 hours at a stretch at Alliance Francaise de Panjim in the state of Goa.

Participants at the Serious Gaming Training Session at AF Panjim

All said and done, we did not stick to any fixed formula or standardized educational documents on one game or another. Neither were these games chosen by the Center Heads or the In-charge of the multimedia libraries. Instead, the approach adopted was to give teachers full liberty to discover the entire PlayStation Store as per their discretion and with their learners. It was upon them to make the relevant pedagogical choices based on certain criteria as the universe offered, the type of game (platform games, FPS, Point and Click), the required age and number of players, the tasks to complete, the duration of the game, the degree of autonomy, progress pertaining to the European framework etc. We have, of course, established virtual learning spaces. As an outcome of this first success, we have made these virtual learning spaces available online to continue the exchange and the collaboration.

In sum, these games facilitate the learning of descriptions, dialogues, narration, prepositions of space and time, representations, intercultural aspects, the vocabulary of body parts etc. We soon realize that video games present an almost infinite source of linguistic learning from the beginner level itself.

This project was put in place with the help of Plan d’Appui aux Médiathèques (PAM). On which aspects is it important to invest?

PAM aims to modernize, enrich catalogs, and diversify the target demographic of French media libraries outside of France. It is dedicated to support the modernization and the evolution of  these media libraries and thereby forms an integral part of the mission of Institut Français.

In fact, it is essential to invest in the development of multimedia libraries abroad in a general manner, to promote the diversity of their activities, their tools and their catalogs. They are a veritable minefield of both francophone cultures and french innovation. Often, they can be the only local representational body in an Alliance or an Institut Français representing francophone cultures, its only access point and the very heart of cultural cooperation.

What perspectives and follow-ups can we envision?

This project has triggered very interesting perspectives. The development and integration of access procedures and video-game banks in multimedia libraries and the continuity of teacher-training to integrate this TICE tool in a FLE class are just the tip of the iceberg.

Take for example Ubisoft, an important French video game brand, which is establishing its presence in India. Evidently, we are trying to look for ways to collaborate with them. On this front, Alliance Française de Bangalore (in the state of Karnataka) is going to open a Gaming Lounge in its premises in September which is going to be partially funded by the company. We are also looking at the possibility of independent gaming stations within the ambit of the the Indo-French festival Bonjour India. This festival unites artist, scientists and experts from various fields apart from mobilizing thousands of audience members in all the major metropolitan cities of India. Bonjour India is thus intrinsically linked to the innovative character of how French is taught and learnt in India. In any case, in Bombay we have received several requests by academic organizations teaching French to organize serious gaming sessions in their premises and for their learners. Evidently, an excellent prospect for our multimedia centres and teaching staff!

Participants engrossed at the Serious Gaming Training Session at AF Panjim

Participants engrossed at the Serious Gaming Training Session at AF Panjim

Interesting. How can one find out more about this project ?

Many articles regarding this project, both general and educational, have already been published on the network’s webzine AF Magazine India Nepal as well as on la salle des profs which is a website for the professors of French in South Asia.

One can also follow the Twitter hash tags #seriousgaming, #seriousgame, #fleasie and #fle.

Alexis Hassler’s blog is a veritable treasure trove on the subject. FLE enthusiasts recently interviewed him for a show as well which can be found here.

An Indian professor of FLE from Bangalore recently started her very own blog on the subject which can be found here.

For people who are keen to get more concrete and detailed information, contact Alliance Française de Bombay on Twitter @AFMumbai!

Related Articles :

Plan d’Appui aux Médiathèques 2016: Intégration du «Serious Gaming» dans le réseau Inde-népal. (Fondation Alliance Française)

Formation réseau Jeu Sérieux à l’AF Panjim (La salle des Profs)

Mumbai Serious Gaming FLE (La salle des Profs)

Jeux sérieux : retour d’expérience (La salle des Profs)

Jeux sérieux et progression pédagogique (Le Mag AF Inde-Népal)

Focus 2016 – Serious Gaming FLE (Le Mag AF Inde-Népal)

 

Translated by Aarushi Rameshchandra (Editorial Intern, AF Magazine India-Nepal)

Reviewed by Siddharth Bhatt (Editor and Coordinator, AF Magazine India-Nepal)

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Rédaction

Directeur de publication : Délégation Générale de la Fondation Alliance Française en Inde et au Népal

Rédacteur en chef : Laurent Elisio Bordier

Rédacteur/Coordinateur national : Siddharth Bhatt

Rédacteurs, contributeurs : Guillaume, Abhirami, Alexandre, Chintan, Cléa, David, Eleonore, Elie, Kanika, Karine, Nita, Thomas, Malvika, Marie-Joëlle, Meera, Mayuri, Mitushi, Alice, Prutha, Romain, Ritika, Manas, Supriya ...