Using Facebook to Learn English
They can read others’ messages, ask questions, have discussions, post their own responses, and share ideas and opinions about learning English. Students can broaden their views about societies and construct their own perspectives. In this context, social contact can intrigue students to really use the language in Easy commands and flash cursors lead players step by step to access the games or get to higher levels easily.
With many activities to attract their attention, they are easily motivated to play on. Moreover, they won’t have fear of failure, Just because they stop playing the games or because they are unable to move up to higher levels in certain games. There are a lot of English-based applications and games on Backbone, such as Vermeil, Pettily, Cafe© World, Restaurant City, and many others. Playing the games is not only fun, but also educational. For example, students in the Department of Food and Beverages can benefit from playing Cafe© World, Restaurant City and Hotel City.
When decorating their own virtual restaurant or hotel or preparing all sorts of dishes and serving customers, students can have opportunities to unintentionally absorb English at the same time through these interactive multimedia games. Players learn about activities or status of the English-based games they are playing through email sent by Backbone and flowing news on the frontage. Since all commands and messages in the games are in English, reading these messages and news can be beneficial for improving reading skills. Besides, scapulars, sentence patterns and grammar usages can be picked up.
Take Vermeil as an example, it gives students specific themes and settings for building up vocabulary about a farm, such as names of farm animals, plants, farm houses, and vehicles. Pictures and their English correspondents are clearly shown on the screen, which stimulates learning and makes it easy and fun. Many activities invite players to become “dedicated farmers,” to purchase seeds, plant seeds, harvest crops, sell crops and so on. And they are constantly congratulated or rewarded for their participation. It is easy to develop a great sense of achievement.
Resulting, constant and large exposures to the English-based games can help students to emerge in English. Vermeil also informs and introduces the players upcoming social and cultural events accordingly. For example, on occasions like Christmas, Chinese New Year, SST. Patriot’s Day, Earth Day, or Mother’s Day, players are encouraged to exchange gifts and plant special seeds. In so doing, they become conscious of the holidays and social events. At the same time, they can learn to appreciate different customs and different cultures. The game also creates collaborative activities for players to participate in.
They help one and another and gain more experiences in farming. So they develop a sense of collaboration which helps them to realize that they can achieve a goal or finish a task together and that they can extend the experience further to learn English with their peers and teachers. Nevertheless, there are pitfalls of playing games on Backbone. Since the games are free, players tend to spend a lot of time playing them. On top of that, numerous activities are designed to rouse their interest in playing the games. Therefore, once they are hooked on playing, they will definitely find it very time-consuming.
In addition, if they want to advance quickly to higher levels, some games encourage them to purchase virtual cash with real cash. Teachers do not encourage students to spend money on the games to learn English. Rather, teachers emphasize an alternative way of learning English through the games. A questionnaire consisted of 12 questions in Chinese[l] was designed and posted on Backbone to explore users’ attitudes about using this website and answers to the ultimate question: Is using Backbone beneficial for learning understand the questions.
And it was conducted online because I got the statistical results immediately.  25 participants filled out the questionnaire online. Some results deserve to be illustrated and analyzed. All participants play at least one game on Backbone, but only 44% of them use English to chat with friends. And even fewer of them (16 %) are members of English groups. Over 88% of participants think the English-based games are helpful for learning English, especially for learning vocabulary (84%) and reading (48%). They don’t think it’s very helpful for learning sentence patterns, grammar and writing, as shown in Table 1.
Table 1 16. Which skills do you think these English-based games are helpful for learning English? I Frequency 18 13 112 II I Percentage I I Vocabulary 184% 132% 12% I Sentence patterns I I Grammar I Reading I I Writing Regarding this, teachers’ guidance becomes important here. Even though only 76% of participants agree that teachers can give homework or assignments through Backbone, they can be guided to pay more attention to the messages, newsletters, email, announcements of activities so that they can be familiar with specific sentence patterns and grammatical usages.