Clever adaptation of problem solving computer games by teachers can provide interesting, challenging, and personally relevant contexts in which second language learners can improve their writing skills. More than just fun and playful activities, problem solving computer games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? can provide challenging, interesting, and meaningful contexts for learning by involving second language learners in listening, reading, writing, researching, and decision making exercises---all of which can help improve their ability to deal with complex literacy situations in writing. The writing skills learned through the classroom activities I have outlined elsewhere can be transported to other writing scenarios in other content areas.
Of course these potential benefits can be hampered by the limited availability of computers and/or computer programs, resistance by students, and reluctance by teachers to incorporate technology into their pedagogies and curricula. But, as John Mayher suggests, teachers must develop the "capacity to learn from their teaching by being in continual conversation with it" (283). As a writing teacher, I've learned that I need to continually examine and evaluate new ways to promote the teaching and learning of writing. One way I try to do this is by using the problem solving computer game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? to stimulate conversation, decision making, and other writing-related skills; active participation in the learning process rather than passive observation; identification by learners with a realistic context and the assumption of different roles within that context; the acceptance of some degree of responsibility for the consequences of decisions made within these roles; the formation and testing of strategies and guiding principles and the exploration of the effects of modifying both; and the promotion of chance or sudden flashes of insight.
All these points are important, I believe, for the teaching and learning of effective writing. Problem solving computer games cannot and should not replace direct student-teacher interaction, but their use in second language writing classrooms seems to point to desirable results. Further critical yet creative investigation of using problem solving computer games for teaching second language writing will, I'm sure, prove interesting, as well as productive.
"Improving Second Language Writing Skills with Problem Solving Computer Games" (Conclusion)
by John F. Barber, Ph. D.