Kafka and Spore

It’s still quite rare to find video games based on literature, which makes another game based on a Kafka story so remarkable.  I’ve previously shown Kafkamesto to our German department.  It’s a very well done point and click game that incorporates elements from several of Kafka’s most famous stories.

Today, I read about an expansion pack for Spore based on The Metamorphosis.   The Metamorphosis scenario is a download for an expansion pack of Spore.  Unfortunately, the game itself doesn’t involve much language usage, but perhaps the scenario will be different.  Here’s to hoping we can find a language rich German version.

New Flickr Image Search

Flickr has updated their search function as well (Thank you Mashable).  They’ve also add the ability to search for Creative Commons under the Advanced Search link.  For most of the searches in languages, you’re probably best off searching by Tag.  You’ll see this option under the Advanced Search as well.  Use the target language for your class instead of English to find more culturally appropriate photos.

Keep in mind as well that many images in Flick are geo-tagged, which means you narrow your search by location as well.  Do this from the main page and under the Search dropdown, choose Location.


Google Image Search, Creative Commons

Google has updated their image search to include license type.  This means you can click the advanced tab on Google Image Search and narrow your selection of images to those that permit reuse.  If you’re just showing an image on the web to your class, this doesn’t really matter.  This is for instances when you need an image to publish with a paper, show at a conference, or produce any other work that will be publicly available.   You can check it out here:


Keep in Flickr in mind as well.  The photo sharing site also allows you to search by license type.  The number of images are smaller than what you’ll find in Google Images, but the images themselves are usually of higher quality.

New Virtual World (Berlin) – Twinity

Received news via Bryan Alexander’s Twitter about a virtual world that’s in beta called Twinity.  They’re going to create virtual worlds based on real cities.  The current beta version is Berlin.  At first glance, the layout seems very accurate and there is even a Google Map of Berlin embedded into the virtual interface.  The controls are similar to SecondLife, though a bit more clunky at the moment.  It is beta, afterall.  There is in world voice communication as well and there are options for different languages.

SecondLife still gets a fair amount of press among language teachers who are using it as a environment for speaking practice.  I’ve never been much of a fan of the idea, mostly because the technical overhead, reliability, griefers, and the learning curve for SecondLife never seemed to justify the the activity of speaking via an avatar within a representation of the real world.  With this version of virtual Berlin, the challenge would be to find an activity that took advantage of the representation and was engaging enough to justify the extra classtime.  Ideally, this would involve interacting with native speakers as well.  If anyone has suggestions, I’d appreciate comments.

Alice and Kev

I just spent an hour reading the blog “Alice and Kev” which I found via a link Jason Mittell submitted to diigo gaming in education group.  The author does a very good job of using a game to tell a story.  Usually when people use games to tell a story they capture the video and add their own audio soundtrack.  This is often called machinima.  This blog is a little different.  It uses screenshots from the game “The Sims 3” along with text describing the scene.  The story revolves around a homeless father and daughter.  The “sim” aspect is relevant, since the creator has tried to create a situation that mimics homelessness within the game and then passively follows the characters and describes the events.  It’s surprisingly moving.

We will have “Sims 3” in the Arthur Vining Davis language classroom by the fall.  Although this example is in English, the game itself can be set to other languages as well.

Academic Intersections

I ran into a tweet that caught my eye from the NMC conference this year.  There was a presentation about an online peer-reviewed journal that allowed for the integration of multimedia called Academic Intersections.

One of my favorite places to publish is Academic Commons, an online journal with funding from a Mellon grant.  The “essays” for Academic Commons are not peer reviewed, though there is a submission and editing process.  The lack of a recognized peer review in a subject area doesn’t matter much to me, but for professors and people in other positions that have tenure, this is a significant advantage for Academic Intersections.

I did a quick perusal of the site.  On the positive side, in addition to the peer review, the site receives roughly the same amount of traffic as Academic Commons according to compete.com.  The articles are also viewable by anyone online.

The negatives include it’s own “story” format for publishing, which means you could write your piece, have it rejected, and be stuck with a format that isn’t applicable elsewhere.  Other aspects of the journal don’t appear as professional as well.  The bad clip art for the journal issues doesn’t inspire confidence, nor does the lack of a homepage set on the  OSX server (http://edcommunity.apple.com/).   Of a more serious note are the irregular release of the issues, and the obvious prominence of Apple hardware or software in the articles leads me to question the role of Apple in the whole process as well.

I’ll be sticking with academic commons, but if you’re intrigued you can see the presentation here, https://mywebspace.wisc.edu/alanwolf/web/AI_NMC_2009_Final2.pdf

IALLT 2009, Class as Study Abroad Sim

I just returned from IALLT 2009.  There were several good presentations, but the highlight for me was poster session on games and simulations by Edie Furniss at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.  She has started a wiki on the use of games and simulations in the foreign language classroom.


Most of it was already familiar to me, but the section on Global Simulations was almost entirely new.  You can read about it yourself, but the very brief summary is that students blog, post pictures to Flickr, etc as if they were spending the semester abroad.  The professor prompts them each day with a scenario, “Today you met your roommate for the first time.”, and students describe their imaginary encounter.  Since the students will also describe the actions of other students in the class, they have to read each others stories to be consistent.  The students end up creating a sort of mini-drama/(non)reality tv show by the end of the semester.   With the new version of the Mixxer, we’ll be able to invite native speakers into this extended role play as well.

It sounds like fun, and there are countless ways to add Web 2.0 utilities as well.  If you’re interested, let me know.

Google Search Updates

Google has updated two of it’s search function in ways that will make it easier for language teachers to find content.

Google Video now allows for a language specific search in the advanced form.  It’s not 100% accurate, but it’s still a great time saver.

Google labs is working on using image recognition for the image search function.  This is particularly useful when you’re searching for a keyword that can have multiple meanings.  “Paris” as in the capital of France or Paris Hilton is one of the examples given.  Now users can select the image that suits their keyword, and similar images will be shown.

Another Digital Collection

Another website has appeared looking to provide digital material online for free.  This one is sponsored by U.N.  So far it’s a tiny fraction of the size of Europeana from the E.U.  Clearly there would an educational benefit were these collections to release an api that would all for searching across the collections.  In meantime, add this one to your Delicious links.

World Digital Library

White paper on Designing Games for Foreign Language

Ravi Purushotma, Steven L. Thorne, and Julian Wheatly had published a white paper, “10 Key Principles for Designing Video Games for Foreign Language Learning“.  Although it’s written with game design in mind, the same principles could easily apply to selecting games for education as well.  Among the key points that are particularly relevant for evaluating games:

  • Multiplayer games should allow players to have distinct roles.
  • Games should provide some form of tracking for assessment and feedback
  • Games should allow player to spend more time in areas of interest
  • New concepts should be interspersed with other content and introducted gradually
  • Learning content should be task based

Read more… 10 Key Principles for Desiging Video Games for Foreign Language Learning