In Australia, the contemporary digital landscape has impacted educational systems. According to Carrington, students today are surrounded by ever-evolving digital technologies and practices (as cited in O’Connell, 2014, para.2). Consequently, the curriculum must now be “built on a view of literacy that encompasses but extends beyond traditional print and oral forms to include digital [and] multimodal forms” of information (Beavis and Apperley, 2012, p.12).
Digital games are one form of media that have been introduced to classrooms as learning tools (Van Eck, 2006, p.16). Because of this, Beavis, O’Mara, and McNeice suggest we need to investigate how digital games function as new forms of text and literacy (2012, p.4). Unlike traditional literacy which is largely inactive, games require a combination of understanding text, images, and sound as well as physical activity. To understand the literacy of digital games, Beavis and Apperley maintain that we need a model that considers games as both action and text (2012, p.13). to this end, Galloway states that “while games’ meanings are negotiated and produced in the interaction between text and reader, as is the case with any text, it is important to understand how the are enacted and instantiated through action (as cited in Beavis and Apperley 2012, p.14).
In conclusion, digital games have expanded our definition of literacy to incorporate physical interactions. It will be interesting to observe how other emerging technologies that integrate sensory and immersive experiences and augmented reality further alter future definitions of literacy.
Beavis, C., & Apperley, T. (2012). A model for games and literacy. In C. Beavis, J. O’mara, & L. McNeice (Ed.). Digital games: Literacy in action (12- 23.). Kent Town: Wakefield Press.
Beavis, C.,O’Mara, J., & McNeice, L. (2012). Literacy learning and computer games: A curriculum challenge for our times . In C. Beavis, J. O’Mara, & L. McNeice (Ed.). Digital Games: Literacy in action (3- 11.). Kent Town: Wakefield Press.
Van Eck, R.(2006). Digital game-based learning: It’s not just the digital natives who arerestless. Educause review, 41(2),16 – 30. Retrieved fromhttp://er.educause.edu/articles/2006/1/digital-gamebased-learning-its-not-just-the-digital-natives-who-are-restless
As a student of INF541, I have been encouraged to explore games in order to understand the dynamics, features, appeal and the educational value they may offer to modern curriculums and pedagogy. Prior to undertaking this subject, I had very little experience with digital games and so have been purposefully playing around in order to expand my knowledge of these environments. Here are a few I have tried out:
This game is downloaded as an App and requires the participant to set a self-identified challenge and then to invite others to compete to achieve the goals or join a pre-existing challenge. This can be used for anything including changing a habit, a fitness challenge, setting study goals or saving money. Categories of existing challenges that a participant can join include health, relationships, career, creativity, finances, lifestyle, spirituality and just for fun. This game counts on the motivation of competing against others to reach the top of a leaderboard. This is much like the current trend of wearing a fitness tracker such as a Fitbit.
Quandary is an ethical decision-making game that sets a context where players lead a new human colony on a distant planet. The establishment of the colony requires the player to make difficult decisions that do not have a clear right or wrong answer. The developers of the game, claim that it develops skills such as “critical thinking, perspective-taking, and decision-making”. This game is quite text heavy and although I quite enjoyed playing it, when I trialed it with a focus group of year eight students, they expressed mixed reactions to the game.
Freerice is a game that provides learning with social activism. The game allows participants to choose a subject that interests them and then answer multiple-choice, content knowledge questions on that topic. Subject include English, Humanities, Maths, Chemistry, Language Learning, Geography, and Sciences. For each correct answer, the participant earns 20 grains of rice that will be donated to feed the hungry. Freerice is a non-profit website that is owned by the United Nations World Food Program who claim that they have goals: “to provide free education and to help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free”. This game and the resultant food donation is made possible through sponsors who pay to advertise on the site. In terms of fun, this game is really drill-and-practice quizzes and can become quite repetitive. It receives a positive rating from Common Sense Media who rate media based on both age appropriateness and learning potential.
Spent invites players to experience what it might be like to have to survive living on the poverty line. Players are given $1000 to live on for one month. The game throws a number of difficult challenges at the player and asks them to choose from two, often equally unappealing options, for example, Do you hope your sick daughter gets better on her own or risk your job by leaving early to take her to the doctor? Developers aim to raise a player’s’ awareness of how quickly changes in employment, housing, medical costs and other expenses can have disastrous consequences.
Rocket League for Xbox
I was encouraged to play this game “just for fun” by my fifteen-year-old son. Rocket League is a physics-based multiplayer-focused soccer game played by high-flying vehicles. Sound ridiculous? It is – it is but also ridiculously fun! As a novice gamer, I found it quite difficult to get the hang of steering and scoring goals but it was addictive and I couldn’t stop laughing (and maybe swearing a little) the whole time I was playing. While the motivation to keep playing is a strength due to the design feature of challenge and mastery, I would have to use my imagine to see how this game would meet learning the goals of any traditional curriculums.
Like Rocket League, I tried Trivia Crack just for fun. When I was having a look at what games are popular, this one kept coming up in reviews. It is really a basic trivia game modelled on Trivial Pursuit that allows a player to play against known and unknown opponents to obtain six characters. Trivia Crack receives a positive rating from Common Sense Media who state that “answering trivia questions, on the whole, can be a fun way to test yourself and maybe learn something too, but when you make it competitive, it raises the stakes and makes it a lot more fun”.
How might games be used to develop a more socially inclusive classroom using Gee’s viewpoint?
In the article Good video games and good learning, Gee suggests that “challenge” and “learning” are what makes video games motivating and entertaining (2005, p.34). He also asserts that schools fail to engage many of the learning principles he identifies as characteristic of games (pp. 34 – 37). Furthermore, Gee challenges the reader to consider how we might make learning in schools more game-like (p. 37) and by extension, more intellectually stimulating, progressive and socially inclusive. In particular, Gee’s article identifies customization and cross-functional teams as two learning principles that might be used to develop a more socially inclusive classroom.
Customization, Gee states, occurs in video games when the player is able to choose from different difficulty levels in order to match their ability and individual problem solving style (2005, p. 35). Paul Anderson supports the use of customised learning through game-based pedagogy, stating that this allows students to move at their own pace through a mastery system. This, he would argue, is more socially inclusive than a traditional teacher centred classroom where the teacher decides the pace with mixed results for students, leaving some bored and others confused (2012, 3min.30sec.). This argument for game-based learning would appeal to educators who embrace cognitive theories of learning because user-based flexibility allows players to adjust the learning to fit their cognitive needs over time (Turkay, Hoffman, Kinzer, Chantes and Vicari, 2014, p.7). Gee’s viewpoint takes customization of curricula one step further stating that it should go beyond self-pacing and include “real intersections between the curriculum and the learner’s interests, desires, and styles” (2005, p.35). Such customization to match students’ abilities and personality has been found to increase motivation and depth of engagement and improve learning (Turkay et.al, 2014, p.10) and consequently results in more inclusive classrooms.
Games belonging to the massively multiplayer online (MMO) gaming genre require players to be part of cross-functional teams. Within such teams, each player must have a specialist skill set that is different to the other members of the team. Players must also understand that problem solving within these games requires the integration of the different skill sets of the other players in the team (Gee, 2012, 1min. 26sec.). Such games might be viewed by Gee as socially inclusive because they value an individual’s skill and knowledge as well as encouraging a commitment to a common endeavour (2005, p.37). Baumeister and Leary (as cited in King, Defabbro and Griffiths, 2009, p.106) support this viewpoint, stating that MMOs satisfy a fundamental human need to belong to social groups. The potential for such games to develop a socially inclusive classroom can only be realised, however, if teachers are able to evaluate, select and implement games in classroom settings and Turkay et al argue that many fell ill-equipped to do so (2014, p.3). Consequently, although Gee asserts that modern schools must be more like modern workplaces who value the forms of affiliation encouraged in gaming environments (2005, p.37), he does not provide any research or advice on how teachers might integrate such games into their curriculum and pedagogy.
The evidence that games have potential to impact positively on learning is compelling (Beavis, Rowan, Dezuanni, McGillivray, O’Mara, Prstridge, Stieler-hunt, Thompson and Zagami, 2014, p.569). From Gee’s viewpoint, one such potential is that games could be used to develop a more socially inclusive classroom because they incorporate the learning principals of customization and cross-functional teams. Such potential will be reached when teachers feel equipped with the knowledge and practicalities of implementing game-based learning in the classroom.
Anderson. P. (2012, April 24). Classroom game design: Paul Anderson at TEDxBozeman. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qlYGX0H6Ec
Beavis, C.,Rowan, L., Dezuanni, R., McGillivray, C., O’Mara, J., Prestridge, S., Stieler-Hunt, C., … Zagami, J. (2014). Teachers’ beliefs about the possibilities and limitations of digital games in classrooms. E-Learning and Digital Media, 11(6), 569-581.
Gee, P. (2005). Good video games and good learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 85(2), 33-37.
King, D.,Delfabbro, P., & Griffiths, M. (2010). Video game structural characteristics: A new psychological taxonoy. Int J Ment Health Addiction, 8, 90-106.
Turkay, S.,Hoffman, D., Kinzer, C., Chantes, P., & Vicari, C. (2014). Toward understanding the potential of games for learning: Learning theory, game design characteristics, and situating video games in classrooms . Computers in the schools, 31, 2-22.
As an opening activity in INF541, we have been asked to create a statement about our current knowledge and understanding of game-based learning. I would have say that I feel my use of game-based learning and understanding of the potential of games for learning is quite limited. Just as Griffith University professor of education Dr Catherine Beavis identified that schools still have a way to go before they can harness the full educational potential of video games (Jennings, 2012), so too do I.
What is the context of your learning?
As a Teacher-Librarian and Curriculum Leader in a secondary school setting, I am looking forward to being immersed in Game-Based Learning (GBL):
for professional growth;
to explore the research on why educators believe it is necessary to incorporate games, game design and programming into contemporary education and investigate how they are going about doing this;
to spend time playing games;
in order to better understand and prepare students for work, study and life in modern society, by learning if and how games can build critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity; and
to mentor, resource and support colleagues to experiment with GBL in their own classrooms.
What are your personal aims in this subject?
My personal aims for participating in the subject INF541 – Game Based Learning are to investigate what games are currently being used for learning, to try out playing some of these games and to think about how I might use these games in my own classroom. The hope is that I too will experience being a learner who is building capacity in critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. Participation in GBL, will be an experience in the “new culture of learning” which is described by Thomas and Seely Brown (2011) as a necessity for understanding the skills, mindsets and dispositions required for academic and career success in today’s climate.
How do you see game-based learning fitting into your practice?
According to the Australian Library and Information Association (ASLA), the role of the teacher-librarian is three fold: curriculum leader; information specialist; and information services manager. It might be argued that undertaking a course in game-based learning fits into a teacher-librarian’s professional practice because it meets the following criteria where ASLA stipulate a teacher-librarian must:
raise staff awareness of the need for students to acquire information skills and of the importance of resource-based learning in developing these skills;
maintain literacy as a high priority, engaging students in reading, viewing and listening for understanding and enjoyment;
interpret information systems and technologies for students and teachers in the context of curriculum programs;
provide specialist assistance to students using the school information service facility for independent reading, viewing and listening. (Australian Library and Information Association, 2014).
What challenges are you hoping to meet for yourself?
Due to my very limited experience with gamed-based learning, INF541 is one subject that will take me out of my comfort zone, expand my knowledge of research into the efficacy of gaming in education and extend my pedagogical practice. In How games prepare you for life – Education: 21st Century, we are told that games will fail to impact on the lives of young people unless they can make the connection that lessons learned in games are applicable to life. Schools too, we are told, will only harness the potential of games for learning when teachers make the knowledge learned in games meaningful. (Extra Credits, 2014) It is a key goal that I will be on the path to becoming a teacher who enables these lessons by the conclusion of this semester.