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A study of design and implementation of the game-based English e-learning environment for elementary school students

Fu-Wei Lin Shelley S.C. Young

(1. Tsing Hua University, HsinChu 300; 2. Tsing Hua University, HsinChu 300)

【Abstract】The purpose of this study was to design a game-based online English vocabulary learning
environment entitled “Magic Rainbow English Island”. This learning environment consists of game-based courseware and competitive activities for elementary school students' self study outside the classroom setting. This game also adopts Artificial Intelligence technology to provide adaptive individualized learning materials, challenges and advice to satisfy the various needs of different learners, and to achieve the various goals of different individuals. Two game modes are provided, namely barrier mode, and multi-battle mode. There were 28 fifth grade students and two teachers who participated in the evaluation. The outcomes of this research are presented in terms of the following dimensions:(1)The environment can enhance student’s learning motivation; (2) students can improve their English vocabulary abilities through this learning environment; (3) the multimedia learning material can assist students’ vocabulary development in terms of listening, pronunciation, reading and spelling; and (4) the competitive activity, multi-battle mode, is more enjoyable than barrier mode.
[Keywords]: E-learning, Game-based learning, Competitive learning, English vocabulary learning

English has been a formal course in elementary school in Taiwan since 2001 (Wu, 2005). However, some problems have arisen due to insufficient teacher resources and limited instruction time. In a study by Wang (1998), it was found that too great a teaching load and not enough teaching hours are the main challenges for elementary school English teachers. Chen (2000) also pointed out that the most serious problem in elementary school English instruction is a lack of certificated teachers and teaching time. Provide more certificated teachers can better this situation. On the other hand, applying information and communication technology to language learning has received considerable attention. Online learning is a popular approach to establishing a flexible environment which helps to improve student learning opportunities at their own pace, thus transcending the boundaries of time and space. However, the majority of recent studies in IT in education have concentrated on higher education, with only a few studies discussing the use of Information Technology to meet young learners’ requirements. Wu (2005)



(2) Interpersonal motivation: cooperation. Children find these activities time-consuming and boring. 2005). learning ability and learning object. 1983. or has an academic feel that has little user appeal.. with less consideration for student’s needs.Malone. in order to engage students’ learning and to increase their English vocabulary and improve their usage. improving their performance in this way. and control their learning strategies. Considering web-based learning material design. and the creativity of play (Betz. Modern education theories also entail such attributes. children commonly use trial and error approaches. computers are generally used for small drill and practice programs. Participants in the development of the game were comprised of three parties: (1) ZX elementary school. Some scholars (Lepper & Malone. This study addresses three questions. Underwood. Vincent and Adams (2005) stated that there appears to be a close association between play and learning. 1995). competition and recognition. 1970). Smith & Mann (2002) indicated one problem. Kiili described the web as usually being used as an information channel. 2005). stating that learning should be a self-motivated and rewarding activity (Kolesnik. 1980. and (3) a research group from a university in Taiwan. Naicker. For the above-mentioned reasons. 1999). However. namely that much instructional technology has minimal interface. one of the challenges is to engage students (Kiili. these problems can be overcome if the courseware designs involve the concept of games. 1992). DESIGN OF THE GAME-BASED ENGLISH E-LEARNING ENVIRONMENT The English online self-learning game platform is entitled “Magic Rainbow English Island”. In addition. Malone & Lepper. Computer games enhance learning through visualization experimentation. Amory. and which motivate children to play. and Underwood (1994) stated that at school. The promise of educational games is that they engage and motivate players through direct experiences with the game world (Kiili. (Downes T. Billingham. (2) a software development company. Learning with fun appears to be more effective (Lepper and Cordova. Learning motivation has high relation with learning outcomes. this study attempts to design an online English vocabulary learning platform consisting of game-featured courseware and competitive activities. Games are fun for children. they set their own goals. as follows: (1) Dose the game-based e-learning environment which integrated those design principles can motivate students to learn English vocabulary actively? (2) What are the student’s attitudes after they use this system? (3) Do students get more vocabulary knowledge through using this e-learning platform? 2. .has noted that there are wide differences in English learning between Adult and Children in terms of motivation. this learning environment can help to reduce the teachers’ teaching load. curiosity and challenge. These elements can be classified into two categories: (1) Individual motivation: fantasy. 1983) have identified six elements that make games fun. During game playing.

1 Learning content design Based on 1. Learners will be able to understand the meanings of the words and understand more about their usages in actual living contexts. Teachers in the ZX elementary school divided the vocabulary and sentences into 12 levels based on the frequency of their appearance in the textbooks. reading and spelling. role-playing and the plot of the play are important components of the game design. The learning materials in the game were separated into two major parts. challenges and advice to satisfy the various needs of different learners. and the students’ real learning situation. To provide a “multi-battle” model as a tactic to promote learners’ motivation. To ensure the learners’ commitment to the game. To create a more enjoyable and comfortable environment. pronunciation. 5. as stipulated by the Ministry of Education for students below junior high. To be a useful vocabulary-building. audio and video components. and example sentences (Fig 1). the colors and the scenes of the game are designed to fit the learners’ age level. The design principles are as follows: 1. 2. as identified by ZX elementary school. 2. which integrates games and English learning. 6. the plots of the play. To be adaptable to learners’ different abilities. To provide different level difficulties of barrier-battles for learners to compete with each other. including: words. 4.000 basic English words.The goal of the platform is to provide students from grades 3 to 6 with better English learning functions. pronunciation. the related exercises and questions have been integrated into the learning content. the goal of the game-based English courseware is to provide instruction in and practice with vocabulary and common sentences. Learners can set their own learning goals and tactics as their abilities grow. multimedia learning material combined text. The system uses a strategy-tactics model. 3. and to achieve the adaptive goal of different individuals. . The two major zones provide multimedia learning opportunities for learners. and 500 common sentences. To evaluate the learners’ abilities in listening. and a “sentence-practicing zone”. graphics. a “word-building zone”. The software development company adopted Artificial Intelligence technology to provide individualized learning materials.

These magic elves also demonstrate 12 different vocabulary learning levels. The elves are represented by 12 rainbow-like colors. Multi-battle mode: Arena . One is barrier mode. and demonstrate not only the 12 different learning levels.These icons of Display Menu represent different type of information. Figure 3. The other is multi-battle mode. where learners compete with either themselves or others in the “Magic Island”. The vocabulary competition is controlled by the computer which generates questions based on the learner’s vocabulary level. Students can easily switch the information as they In the vocabulary material display areas. want to read. Two game modes are provided.. Figure 1 Sample screen of vocabulary learning material 2. where learners (as players) can play different roles to set out on their English adventure journey. The multi-battle mode is called “Arena”. graphic. Figure 2. and example sentences. they learn more vocabulary that empowers them to pass 12 different challenges represented by 12 different elves in the barrier mode (Fig 2). Through the learning-by-playing process. orange. but also the 12 different challenges. including word meaning. Different players can compete with each other. Peer competition is viewed as an important method to enhance learners’ motivation. arena is a place for learners to learn the vocabulary in the game. from red. and green …up to elder elf.2 Game design The game was designed using the metaphor of a “magic island” game model.Barrier mode:12 different elves. yellow. the learner/players should answer the questions correctly and faster than their competitors in order to win the game. from low to high. pronunciation. two types of information will be juxtaposed after the learners clicked on icons in the “Display Menu”.

The study needs to evaluate children’s learning performance from this game-based English learning material. the researcher set a three-month evaluation session in the fall semester. The score was generated from an overall test function in this game.79. through those data from questionnaire and interview. OVERALL RESULTS OF EVALUATION 5. METHODOLOGY Based on research questions. a posttest during evaluation session.79 Std dev 2. Result of pre-test and post-test Means(N=28) Pre-test Post-test 4.6183 Std error Mean 0. and how the design principle effect the learner’s motivation.3058 Figure 2. the researcher can understand students can get learning performance or not. 6 1 2. descriptive statistical data was provided based on pre-test and post-test score. it represent by what level dose the student is in the 12 level. where. 15 of the participants were boys and 13 were girls.1 Learning performance To measure student’s learning performance. and after three-month use of “Rainbow Magic English Island”.29 2. students used this platform to learn English vocabulary after class time. quantitative and qualitative instruments was employed for data collection. During evaluation session. English teacher also can arrange “Gaming Time” for students to use this platform if it’s necessary in instruction. 8 7 3 8 4 4 2 7 5 1 1 6 2 1 7 1 4 8 0 2 9 10 0 1 11 12 According to Table 1.4. Distribution of pre-test and post-test Level Number of Pre-test Number of Post-test 1. In order to create a nature learning setting. For these purpose.4420 0. Subjects were asked to fill out a five-point-Likert-scale questionnaire and some of subjects were have a focused group interview with researcher. Table 1. it’s means most student’s vocabulary ability are located between level 2 and level 3. 5. The subjects involved in this evaluation were 28 fifth-grade students in one class from the ZX elementary school. After evaluation session was over. According to variation of level from the result of overall test. There was a pretest. no matter when. average score of pre-test is 2. .3390 1. the teacher and researcher didn’t limit their usage. The results of pre-test and post-test are showed on Table1 and Table2. and which function. researcher will understand student’s perception and scarification.

level 1. level 2. gi S 0 0 0. But in objective situation. The results show that students have better English vocabulary knowledge than the time before they start to use the learning platform. and 3 has decreased. Table 3.)50. 1.0=ά 0 0 0 5. 1 t s et er P-t s et t s o P .00 Std dev 1. Mean 3. 8. 4 n a e M r orr e dt S 7 0 5 3. Question 1. 2. students thought this learning platform as a game. this reduced the boring feel compare to traditional vocabulary learning. Subjects also told the researcher their progress of the barrier-mode. not just a instruction software. 72 . 1 nae m The researcher conducted a paired sample test to clarify the significance of improvement. The results are present as below.90 tseretni erom si gniyalp hguorht yralubacov gninraeL 2. this learning platform provided fun to students. there are several finds revealed. Students may have several channel to learning English vocabulary. those founds show that student use game playing as mindset to learning English vocabulary. 7.000 < 5.2 Analysis of questionnaire and interview This study use statistical analysis to examine student’s performance in English vocabulary learning. and level 3 contained 79% of subjects. the researcher can not exclude other factors from nature learning setting. “Rainbow Magic English Island” can provide me fun in the game. Figure2 provide more detailed information about pre-test and post-test. The data in the Table 2 also reflects most students can get more learning performance in this platform. which elf they are playing. and level 4. The SPSS summary table for these data indicates that there were statistically significant of improvement of learning performance (P=0. Table 2. not just a few students.68 4. 0 fd t 7 2 2. these factors will also affect the final learning. subjects located in the level 1.19 0. the researcher uses questionnaire and interview to understand how “Rainbow Magic Island” help student’s English vocabulary learning. SPSS statistical software was used to analysis. In the pre-test. In the two game activities. Therefore. This game-based e-learning environment can provide fun during English vocabulary learning. 0 v e d dt S 9 5 5 8. Paired Samples T-Test of pre-test and post-test (N=28) Paired Difference .the average score of post-test is 4. 10 has increased.29. Student’s evaluating of learning through game playing. but in the field of post-test. To summarize the results of questionnaire and interview. multi-battle mode has more acceptances from users.

According to student background information survey. 3. The learning material in this platform seems not necessary for those students. The improvement of game activity should consider learning purpose. In the group focus interview. I always want to play with my classmate in the multi-battle mode. but also another way to exam student’s vocabulary learning.57 0. statistical data also proved these results. students who attend crime school consider “Magic Rainbow English Island” enhance their motivation. they can improve their vocabulary skill through this platform.20 3. 7. subject described that hope we can provide more game activities like those computer games sell in the market. Bur for students who have no another opportunity to learn English outside school. not just provide funny game.classmate in the . In this study.17 4. game activity is to attract learner’s motivation.18 1.71 0. but from the point of developer. barrier-mode was used in provide different level of learning progress.69 4. 4. Every time I enter the “Rainbow Magic English Island”. the students provide many recommendation for system improvement. . we must to make sure those game activities can benefit for learning.96 1. The role of “Magic Rainbow English Island” is to enhance student’s motivation and provide students a additional opportunity to learn English vocabulary. engage them learn more English vocabulary in order to win in the competitive activity or pass the barrier.96 1. competitive activities not only enhance learners motivation. I like playing in barrier-mode more. But through group focus interview and questionnaire. it’s interest than barrier-mode 2. I think compete in the multi-battle mode is very funny 6. the most important thing of the educational game development is to meet the education goal first. Huang (2003) has noted that in considering use game theory in CAI (Computer Assist Instruction) software design.16 4. 3.29 2. I like to have a word competition game with my 8. through this way to learn different level of vocabulary. many students have attended the After-school care institution to learn English. I like role playing and pass different barriers.moorssalc ni taht naht 3.61 1. most students can get benefit from this learning platform. 5. not the most important part. “Magic Rainbow English Island” is a free learning platform. As shown in the user evaluation questionnaire (Table 4).12 . I can enjoy game playing and learning English in the “Magic Rainbow English Island”.

1968). 3. I can learn more English vocabulary. Mean 4.02 4. and writing. not limit in classroom. 2.61 3. learner can have better memory if knowledge encoded in verbal and non-verbal information. compare to English course in school.31 1. I can understand meaning of the word in learning material. Question 1.96 3.88 1. Multi-battle mode can motivate me to strengthen vocabulary learning. After I learned a new vocabulary in the learning Mean 3. 3. “Magic Rainbow English Island” was constructed on internet. 4.00 3. teacher can let student use this platform to perform some routine practice activity which usually performed in classroom.82 3. Barrier-mode can attract me to browse the material in it. the advantage of internet-based environment is to provide a flexible and interactive environment for student’s learning.10 1.89 3.12 0.94 1. Question 1.00 Std dev 1. 3. Therefore.06 1.68 0. to strengthen my vocabulary ability. “Magic Rainbow English Island” provides me a good channel for English self learning. “Magic Rainbow English Island” provides an internet-based multimedia learning environment for vocabulary learning. I can understand word pronunciation after browse learning material.68 3.Table 4.15 2.57 1. non-verbal information (audio and video) components. my English vocabulary knowledge has improved. reading. multimedia learning material integrated verbal information (text). This is the application of dual-code theory (Pavivo. On the other hand. pronunciation. I can hear all the word pronunciation clearly. more teaching time can be saved for teacher.07 . 5. After learning in “Magic Rainbow English Island”. Table 5. “Magic Rainbow English Island” is very helpful for vocabulary learning. 6. 4.68 Std dev 1. Both “Magic Rainbow English Island” and English course in school can complement each other.82 3. Multimedia learning material enhances learner’s vocabulary skills in listening.

I can spell the vocabulary correctly. and the development of game-based English vocabulary e-learning environment: “Rainbow English Magic Island”.material. pronunciation. The role of the educational expert in the university is to give advice based on relevant learning theories. the following recommendation can serve as some direction for future study: (1)This study was limited by subject acquisition. has received users positive feedback. not just in a few students. questionnaire. After I heard the pronunciation of the word. student’s English vocabulary abilities have significant improved. Due to the limitations of Information Technology resources. they can understand word means and spell the word. this learning platform can decrease the gap between high ability students and lower ability students. The three-party collaboration can serve as a model for reference for other schools which are also attempting to deploy the online learning mode in their educational settings. three finds are summarizing: (1)The environment can enhance student’s learning motivation According to results of acceptance questionnaire. I can speak this word.96 1. the design of vocabulary learning material which consider about listening. The word collocate with pictures. (2)Students can improve their English vocabulary abilities through this learning environment. reading and spelling. Based on pre/post test score and result of statistical analysis. This study has its limitation. a software development company is needed as a partner to assume the system development work. one elementary school can not develop an entire learning platform independently except by offering well-designed learning material. the researcher use pre/post test. Beside. The learning material display area which can juxtapose also increase connivance. more than half of students enhanced their word knowledge. 6. both multi-battle mode and barrier-mode can enhance student’s motivate. I can understand word means more easily. reading and spelling practice. 3. the university research team and the software development company. According to results of multimedia learning content questionnaire. only one fifth grade class was selected as observe subject. future researcher can choose different . Therefore.61 3. they also can recognize word pronunciation. the “Rainbow English Magic Island” can motivate students to learning vocabulary. multi-battle mode. and group focus interview to evaluate. (3) The multimedia learning material can assist students’ vocabulary development in terms of listening.07 CONCLUSIONS This study presents the collaboration between the elementary school. and speak out. is more enjoyable than barrier mode.20 1. 5. but this platform is designed for 9-12 years old children. the competitive activity. pronunciation.

for example. (2)More variables can be used in exam how they affect the learning performance in this platform. .age of subject for study. different subject can be used in the game-based platform in the future. whether the information technology resource is accessible? Or whether students have other learning opportunity? (3)This platform is focused on vocabulary learning.

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