Experiences of an English Language Teacher

“Digital Play”: Book Review

It was a wonderful feeling to finally have “Digital Play” (DELTA Publishing), land on my doormat and I was keen to start reading the book.  The book is co-authored by Kyle Mawer and Graham Stanley and interestingly Graham has a “Digital Play” blog which contains a wide source of teaching ideas and posts dedicated to digital learning in English language teaching.  Meanwhile Kyle has created a Wikispace dedicated to teaching pedagogy and the incorporation of popular online and console gaming and it has been awarded an Edublog Award.

Nevertheless, “Digital Play” is predictably split into three sections each called Part A, Part B and Part C.  As with other books in the DELTA Teacher Development Series, Part A provides some background knowledge to technology and gaming with language learning, Part B offers a range of activities and lessons to incorporate digital play within the classroom and finally Part C suggests areas of reflection and consideration for schools and educators to consider syllabus design and the inclusion of digital play in language classrooms.

Part A
The key concept behind the inclusion of digital games and language learning is not necessarily new but there are some terms, such as ‘edutainment’, which “cause some educators to shudder” (Mawer & Stanley 2011, p.7) and have some negativity associated with them.  When I was teaching in South Korea, edutainment was offered to many language learners and it was considered by many students to be more beneficial than the traditional language classroom.  However, many teachers based in Korea negatively viewed edutainment and that the teacher was considered to be more of an entertainer than a teacher.  Nevertheless, if language lessons are considered by the learner to be entertaining, it would be plausible to suggest that the learner’s affective filter is reduced and the lesson (or the key purpose) is more memorable.  The authors also suggest that many learners’ lives are dominated by computer games, the internet and game consoles with “much of [the learners’] … talking about them with friends” (p.7).  Furthermore, the authors consider, within Part A, the appropriateness of computer games and society with various issues such as violence and stereotypes.  The interesting response to violence within computer games, among many, view “the relationship between violent computer games and aggressive behaviour” (p.8) as clear.  More recently, a scientific study attempted to link computer games to changes within childrens’ brains that causes detrimental effects (Telegraph 2011).  However, there is an awareness that some games, particularly those that have an educational benefit, which assists children or language learners such as “treating post-traumatic stress disorder, boosting intelligence and developing the memory” (Telegraph 2011).  Mawer & Stanley (2011) highlight the educational benefits of computer games and digital play within the language classroom and suggest that many schools have been slow to respond to advances within technology: “pupils sitting in rows with textbooks” (p.9).  This is also supported by Sir Ken Robinson talking about changing the paradigms of education:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U]

Much of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk about the disadvantages of the 19th century structure of education is also expressed within Part A of the book and it is wonderful to see Mawer & Stanley (2011) consider changing the traditional language classroom to the benefits of their learners.  Nevertheless, towards the end of the first section of the book, Mawer & Stanley (2011) provide a glossary as well as a guide to digital play, pages 21 to 32, in the language classroom, which is invaluable for those new to incorporating games in their lessons.

Part B
The following section of the book offers various ideas and activities for the reader to consider when deciding on using digital play within the language classroom.  The authors provide activities for the connected as well as the non-connected classroom, with four chapters within this part of the book and over 90 lesson suggestions for activities.  Personally, I found the book a great source of inspiration and I decided to prepare my own lesson with the use of an iPad, iPod or iPhone based game within my personal classroom.  When combining the book with Stanley’s blog of Digital Play, there are over 100 teaching activities and ideas to consider.  It is such a wealth of information, possibly too much for the new teacher, but well worth the investment to read and consider for future lessons.  One of my favourite lessons available on Stanley’s blog was related to gaming soundtracks and can really prompt students to converse in a subject that is of immediate interest to them.

Part C
The final section of the book provides some further information to consider and reflect upon, such as classroom management (setting up the classroom, classroom layout, etc) for using digital play with learners.  Other areas of this section include pedagogy and references to further reading, which also complements the first section of the book.

Finally, “Digital Play” has become one of my most popular books to refer to when planning or reflecting on the use of technology in my own classroom and I would recommend any experienced, or non-experienced, teacher to consider purchasing it in the future.  It is a great book that complements other DELTA Teacher Development Series such as “Teaching Online” or “Teaching Unplugged” and is a wonderful resource for any budding technophiles.


  1. Thanks so much for the review, Martin – both Kyle and I are very happy that you recommend it and that the review is so enthusiastic – we've put so much into it and the blog (which is also by Kyle btw – in fact, he's been writing more there than I have!) that it's great to see it all seems to have been worthwhile.

  2. Glad you like both the blog and book Digital Play, Martin. I'd just like to point out that my wife, who is a bit of a technophobe (or at least anti-gaming) cites them as being very popular, motivating and useful teaching tools in her teacher training sessions entitled 'Motivating Teens to Communicate in English'. It's not just limited to teens and kids though as I've also successfully used them in classes with adults too. 🙂

  3. Thank you Graham and Kyle for the encouraging words and the wonderful book. It is so great to see that you have really pushed the boundaries of ELT and the incorporation of technology. I look forward to any future updates. I have been in touch with DELTA Publishing and I believe that they will be linking the book review to their website. I look forward to hopefully meeting you both in the future (possibly at the IATEFL Conference in Glasgow or at other events). Finally please feel free to link or copy this book review on your own blog or social networking platform.

  4. It`s great to see such a great review of this great book. I have used a few ideas by Kyle and Graham from their blog and my students and I have thoroughly enjoyed them!Congrats to them both!

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