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Tom Cobb Université du Québec à Montréal “Does My Word Coach coach words?” This PPT at

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1 Tom Cobb Université du Québec à Montréal “Does My Word Coach coach words?” This PPT at

2 2 Video Game use – exponential increase A great deal of some kind of learning no doubt happens But can targeted learning be made to happen? Can we exploit this trend rather than fight it?

3 3 Many learning claims get made

4 4 Few games have specific learning goals Claims are about “new ways of learning,” not about any particular content Few (any?) claims are based on empirical investigation But more in glossy books than dull research papers

5 5 To design a game with concrete learning goals Based on learning principles In one’s own research area And investigates its effects empirically An interesting opportunity therefore…

6 6

7 7 Game contains all the non-specialist words of English  Sequenced by frequency/range in the BNC Yes-no test determines start-point in sequence Words are introduced in six coordinated word games Games focus on  Form  Meaning  Verbal efficiency (speed of access) Words are dropped only after six correct uses  Principled recycling Games are integrated within a tutor-model  Choice of tutor  Goal setting, record keeping, error review Game incorporates a level-appropriate dictionary  CALD My Word Coach - description

8 8 Belief: Discovery is not a sufficient strategy to grow an L2 lexicon Some type of vocab focus is demonstrably necessary Computer /video game is an ideal start to this job  Although maybe not finish My Word Coach - philosophy

9 9 Predecessors 1

10 10 Predecessors 2

11 11 Predecessors 3

12 12

13 13 Word Coach’s Pedagogy

14 14 Behind-the-scenes pedagogy

15 15 Word Coach’s Coaches

16 16 Content – 3 strands 1. Form of words

17 17 2. Meaning of words

18 18

19 19 3. Processing speed

20 20 All packaged in a small box … and announced to the world in a huge publicity campaign -

21 21 Are more word meanings known  both immediately + after delay Are more words used  in oral production Are words accessed more quickly? Research Questions Following substantial use of the game…

22 22 Grade 6 primary school in suburban Montreal  Feb-June 2007 Two intact classes, same teacher, n=50  Condition 1: both groups get to use game  Condition 2: testing sessions not to exceed 1 hr 60%+ immigrant children, some quasi-bi/tri- lingual  French, English, another Instruction is in French,  2 hrs/wk ESL Game is integrated into ESL classwork  Parents solidly behind experiment DS players + game disks from Ubisoft Subjects and setting

23 23 1. For meanings known  Paul Nation’s BNC-based 14k Levels test  10 levels used, then 5 2. For words used  Boy, dog and frog story (Mercer)  Analyzed with VP-kids 3. For word access  UNESCO method –Read words aloud from 60-word list in fixed time Instruments

24 24 1

25 25 2

26 26

27 27

28 28

29 29 (60 words) 3

30 30 Research Design

31 31 Results To note first: Equal game use between groups (despite considerable variance)

32 32 Results 1 1a. Levels Test (pretest, both groups, no diffs) About 2350 word meanings known from first 5000 families but only just over half at key 1k level (600 words, SD 150)

33 33 Results 1b. Levels post-test Significant gains for first 5 k-levels combined at T3

34 34 Results 1c. Levels Test (3 times, both groups)

35 35 Results – Levels Test - Summary Initial state: No significant difference Baseline (602, T1-T2): No significant difference Following game use 601: 459 words average gain, **sig – but at T3, not T2 602: 178 words average gain, * sig Note: These are average gains Incorporating wide range of variance

36 36 Results 2 2a. Frog stories – new words in use

37 37 Results 2b. Frog stories – where are these gains?

38 38 Results 2c. Frog stories – story size

39 39 Results 2c. Frog stories – the main difference

40 40 Listen & compare Which Frog story is T1, and which is T3? From same user Just above average use-record Francophone but no code-switching issue Press on to see VP-Kids profiles 

41 41 Results - 2e. Example

42 42 Results – 2f. Example

43 43 Results – Frog stories - Summary Initial state: No significant difference (n.s.d.) - In # families used - In # tokens (=story size) Baseline (602, T1-T2): n.s.d. Following game use Despite variance: - Average 3 new word families - Average 35 more word tokens - Average 45% reduction in # of L1 words used

44 44 Results 3 3. Access – number of words read in 1 min.

45 45 Results 3. Access – number of words read in 1 min.

46 46 Results – Lexical access - Summary Initial state: No significant difference (n.s.d.) Baseline (602, T1-T2): Small but sig gains * Practice effect Following game use Despite variance: - Av. 23 more words read/minute - Statistically significant **

47 47 Results 4 – qualitative + post-hoc 4a. Beyond our means

48 48 Results – qualitative + post-hoc 4b. Winning profiles

49 49 Results – qualitative + post-hoc 4b. Winning conditions

50 50 Are more word meanings known  both immediately + after delay Are more words used  in oral production Are words accessed more quickly? Research Questions Following substantial use of the game…

51 51 For this population, results are significantly and meaningfully positive on all three measures  Esp. compared to baselines  e.g., Milton & Meara (1995): 550 wds/yr in classroom on recognition measure But paradoxical  Lexical development is at opposite ends of the spectrum  Recognition – gains throughout first 5k  Production – gains in first 250 words Conclusions

52 52 Source of productive gains unclear  Learning or activation of existing knowledge? Apparent confirmation that lexical access is trainable  Small effect for practice with format; big effect for time-pressure processing As known since SkiJump days but never widely exploited First successful use of Levels Test as pre-post measure  Unsurprising since game and test derive from same wordlists Conclusions 2

53 53 Significant prior vocab knowledge from somewhere  2350 known words at pretest  … but not in use Frog stories of 100 toks / 40 fams (cf. age 6 NS: 350 toks / 91 fams,)  … and distributed so that half the words are unknown at key 1k + 2k levels (# 32) Which explains weak reading levels Which reflects neglect of lexis in MEQ curriculum Conclusions 3 – Interesting portrait of Quebec ESL learner

54 54 Can Word Coach compensate for any of this? Effects of moderate-to-heavy users of the game Word knowledge: 1k and 2k levels rise to equivalent age native speaker (NS) levels (80% plus) Word use: Story size of 250 word, pushing age= NS average of 350 Access: 85 words read aloud/minute is approaching NS average of 110 A lot of compensation in a short time! Conclusions 3 – Interesting portrait of Quebec ESL learner

55 55 Two possible directions 1) More of the same Game 2 which extends Word Coach approach into collocation, context, idioms, specialized domains 2) Integration of Word Coach principles (whole lexicon, sequence, recycle, review) into a full adventure narrative “Look out ! They’re shooting from the balcony !!” Next steps for Word Coach

56 56 “Look out – the other one’s in a garbage can!”

57 57 Further reading 1 Frequency lists –Leech et al, Word Frequencies in Written & Spoken English Lemmatization procedures –Nation, unpublished 20k as size of adult educated lexicon –Goulding, Nation & Read (1990) Yes-No Test –Buxton & Meara (1987) Spaced recycling –Mondria & Mondria-Wit de Boer (1993) Reaction-time & practice –Snellings, van Geldeen, & de Glopper (2002) Easy and hard spelling –Connor (c.1986), N. Ellis (c.1996), Cognitive processes in spelling

58 58 Further reading 2 Baseline 550 words/year classroom –Milton & Meara Pet-200 study –Cobb, 1997 PET-2000 study –Cobb, 1999a+b Francophones and cognates in Levels test –Cobb 2000 Notion of a fixed order of lex growth –Biemiller and Slonim, 200x Need for delayed post in vocab studies –Cobb, 1999b

59 59 Goulden, R., Nation, P., & Read, J.(1990). How large can a receptive vocabulary be? Applied Linguistics 11, Meara, P., & Buxton, B. (1987). An alternative to multiple choice vocabulary tests. Language Testing 4, Nation, P. (2007). How large a vocabulary is needed for reading and listening? Canadian Modern Language Review 63 (1), Mondria, J.-A. & Mondria-De Vries, S.(1993). Efficiently memorizing words with the help of word cards and 'hand computer': Theory and applications. System 22, Snellings, P., van Gelderen, A,, & de Glopper, K. (2002). Lexical retrieval: An aspect of fluent second language production that can be enhanced. Language Learning 52 (4),

60 60 Cobb, T. (2000). One size fits all? Francophone learners and English vocabulary tests. Canadian Modern Language Review, 57 (2), One size fits all? Francophone learners and English vocabulary tests. Cobb, T. (1999a). Applying constructivism: A test for the learner-as-scientist. Educational Technology Research & Development, 47 (3), 15-33Applying constructivism: A test for the learner-as-scientist Cobb, T. (1999b). Breadth and depth of vocabulary acquisition with hands-on concordancing. Computer Assisted Language Learning 12, p Breadth and depth of vocabulary acquisition with hands-on concordancing. Cobb, T. (1997). Is there any measurable learning from hands-on concordancing? System 25 (3), Is there any measurable learning from hands-on concordancing? This PPT at

61 This PPT at


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