Are digital games being overlooked in ‘digital education’ reform?

The use of digital games in education has been a topic of scholarly research, discussion and debate since Prensky’s works on Digital Natives (2001) and Digital Game- Based Learning (2003). Despite Prensky’s convincing arguments in 2001 about the need for educators to embrace the potential of video games, most have had only recent, if any, experience in implementing such tools in the classroom. Despite this lack of integration and associated lack of research into the use of digital games in the classroom, it is not clear that these tools have been completely ‘overlooked’. Recent developments in web 2.0 technologies and the adoption of open source platforms have arguably resulted in an explosion of gaming applications for various pedagogical environments.

The associated academic research into digital game applications for education has focused on their pedagogical integration into the classroom (Hainey, Connolly, Boyle, Azadegan, Wilson, Razak and Gray, 2014; Big Think, 2011; Extra Credits, 2014). The gamification of online learning resources like MOODLE Learning Management System courses can increase student motivation and provide a vehicle for learners to develop their knowledge and skills in an engaging way (iTeachWithMoodle, 2013; Nevers, 2013). More subject specific content can be focused on with courses utilising ‘Serious Games’ to help motivate students in the development of course knowledge and skills (Apperley and Beavis, 2011) and literacy/ digital (Beavis, 1998).

Jennings (2014) highlights the relevant nature of digital games not only for students but also for teachers who are challenged with integrating technologies into the classroom. Modern digital games such as Minecraft (or the free Minetest equivalent) have a range of affordances that relate closely to the NSW Quality Teaching model (NSW Department of Education and Training [NSW DET], 2006) because they can promote higher order thinking and increased significance for digital natives (Turkay, Hoffman, Kinzer, Chantes and Vicari, 2014; de Freitas and Maharg, 2011; Miller, 2012).

Ifenthaler (2010) and Miller (2012) suggest that games are part of a new global culture that teenagers are participating in through collaborative critical thinking. Developments in the ubiquitous nature of collaborative gaming design are evident in the active co- creation of culturally meaningful and significant video games such as Never Alone (Williams, 2014; Matheson, 2015). Gee (2003) and Williamson (2009, 2013) argue that games have a significant role to play in the development of education curriculum and that gaming technologies can sustainably facilitate the co- creation of curriculum by learners and policy makers for a sustainable future.

It is in this globalised context of gaming development that teachers in NSW need to utilise the motivational opportunities of video games in the classroom and their affordances to address the Quality Teaching model (NSW DET, 2006) by making learning more relevant and significant in students’ education. In Music lessons that focus on outcomes related to duration the video game Guitar Hero has provided a valuable context for students master their individual skills as well as collaborate and help each other with the game’s challenges. Knowledge about note lengths and rhythm that can take much longer to present and explain with traditional instruments and activities has been fun and enjoyable with the Guitar Hero video game. Challenging uncertainties will need to be faced when utilising the affordances of such video games that are marketed in our globalised corporate world toward children. Children ‘look up’ to their heros and these cultural factors will need to be balanced carefully when explaining and justifying the pedagogical usefulness of Guitar Hero.

Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero



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