Inspired by his experience with Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games James York started a research project that involved the creation of a virtual language learning environment. Modeled on the gaming engine in Minecraft, Kotoba Miners brings together English-language and Japanese-language learners to cooperate, exchange knowledge and effectively communicate in order to navigate the virtual world and complete in-game achievements. "Kotoba" (言葉) is Japanese for "word" and is the impetus for the game's theme of mining for words. The project has seen great success and has provided York with new insights into the effectiveness of implementing gaming as part of course curriculum.
Assistant Professor James York was a Featured Speaker at The Asian Conference on Technology in the Classroom 2016 (ACTC2016) in Kobe, Japan.
James York is an Assistant Professor at Tokyo Denki University, Japan where he conducts research on the use of games in language learning contexts. He is also a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester (UK). His PhD research is an investigation into the potential of virtual world tasks as a way to improve beginner learners’ oral proficiency. The aim of the study is to look for both quantitative and qualitative differences in output when learners complete similar online and offline tasks. The results, then, should help educators be aware of when employing virtual worlds as a domain for language learning. Additionally, James has started research on the application of analog games in the language classroom as part of a wider game-based curriculum. James is also the founder of Kotoba Miners, an online Japanese learning community which uses Minecraft as a domain for teaching.