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Play to learn: self-directed home language literacy acquisition through online games

Author(s)

Eisenchlas, Susana A. -

Moyes, Gordon -

Schalley, Andrea C.

Periodical

International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism

Volume

19

Number

2

Date

2016

Pages

p. 136-152

Language

English

Countries

Australia

Notes

Special Issue: Multilingualism and Literacy: Practices and Effects

Home language literacy education in Australia has been pursued predominantly through Community Language Schools. At present, some 1000 of these, attended by over 100,000 school-age children, cater for 69 of the over 300 languages spoken in Australia. Despite good intentions, these schools face a number of challenges. For instance, children may lack motivation and perceive after-hours schooling as an unnecessary burden. Trained teachers and suitable teaching materials are often not available. Moreover, not every language can be offered in each city or region. Hence, home language speakers’ needs are often not met. This situation has detrimental effects for children, families and communities, and entails a loss of opportunities for the country. Reporting on an alternative approach, this paper presents a pilot study conducted in Australia with English–German bilinguals. We sought to investigate whether primary school-aged children can self-direct their home language literacy acquisition through playing online educational games in the privacy of their homes and with little adult input. Results indicate that the games can be effective in promoting emergent literacy development. Thus, such a grassroots approach could become a viable option for multilingual societies, addressing some of the practical challenges faced by, for instance, Community Language Schools.