Bringing Digital Games into the Classroom

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Faculty Article

Frederick J. Poole

Using games in the classroom is not foreign to language teachers. Most language teachers have a number of games in their back pocket ready to use if they need to liven up an activity or as a transition to another unit/lesson. These might include games like ‘werewolf’, ‘hot potato’, ‘heads-up-seven-up’, among many others. There are a number of books that highlight the various games that are often used, and in fact, you can check out my list of games that I frequently use with varying age groups here. These games are commonly referred to as either classroom games or communicative language teaching games. They require very little prep, are easy to learn, are adaptable, and are free, which is probably why they are so widespread.

In contrast classroom games, board games and digital games tend to present more obstacles for integration into the classroom. You have to purchase copies of the game, you have to train learners on how to play them, you need space and/or equipment, and after all that, such games tend to be quite rigid in terms of how they can be played thus limiting their scope. This is even more so for digital games. Yet, as I argue with a few colleagues in a recent Foreign Language Annals article, a majority of the research on games tends to focus primarily on digital games (York, Poole, & deHaan, 2021). Even more problematic is that such studies focus more on the game itself rather than how it is used and leveraged by the teacher in the classroom.

Opening scene of game developed by Dr. Poole and colleagues

This idea led me to explore how a teacher might use/leverage a digital game in the foreign language classroom and further how such experiences might benefit language learners. A few weeks ago, I published an article in the Journal of Technology and Chinese Language Teaching on how bringing a digital game into the classroom affords unique opportunity for interactions between teachers and learners. While this study does not address the issue of cost, space, and time associated with digital games, it does provide a model for how one might teach with and around digital games in the classroom. I argue that by focusing on practices associated with games rather than on the games itself, research can provide models for designing lesson around games that are less dependent on features of the game.

If you are interested in teaching with games I encourage you to take a look at the article. I’d be happy to discuss it further with those interested.


Poole, F., Clarke-Midura, J., & Ji, S. (2022). Exploring the Affordances and Effectiveness of a     Digital Game in the Chinese Dual Language Immersion Classroom. Journal of Technology and Chinese Language Teaching.13(1), 46-73.

York, J., Poole, F. J., & DeHaan, J. W. (2021). Playing a new game—An argument for a teacher‐ focused field around games and play in language education. Foreign Language Annals54(4), 1164-1188.