Posts Tagged ‘21st Century’

Using games to develop socially inclusive classrooms

How might games be used to develop a more socially inclusive classroom using Gee’s viewpoint?

socially inclusive classroom pic

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, 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

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.

Gee, P. (2012, March 21). James Paul Gee on learning with video games. Retrieved from

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.

Digital Lifestyle = Public = Digital Citizenship = Digital Learning Environment


A digital lifestyle

The Students I work with live digital lifestyles. They attend a BYOT school that requires them to own a laptop. Additionally, the majority of them also own personal mobile device such as a phone or tablet. Some of them also have wearable computers such a smart watches and fitbits. They use social media and belong to online communities. They are often texting, downloading, updating and searching and they are always looking for Wi-Fi and chargers. Come to think of it, this same lifestyle is lived by their teachers, parents, grandparents, coaches and employers. It’s just the way life is for many in modern society.

Public roles as media makers & community participants

Modern society requires people to take on “increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants” (Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison, & Weigel, 2006, p.3). Preparing students for the modern workplace and academia requires adding non-traditional skills, knowledge and cultural competencies to our curriculums. To be best prepared for their futures, students will need to:

  • understand right behaviours and build the practical skills required to use technology in healthy, responsible and safe ways;
  • be able to learn from and build knowledge with peers and teams of people, often whom they may never meet face-to-face;
  • value intellectual property in order to use the work of others legally and ethically and also to license their own work appropriately;
  • be critical users of information so that they choose authoritative sources and are aware of the ways that media shape perceptions of the world; and
  • understand how to contribute to the collective in order to develop meaningful solutions.

Digital citizenship education

In Australia, the Digital Education Revolution saw laptops put into the hands of students. As this initiative has reached its conclusion, schools across the country are implementing BYOD policies (Smith, 2014, Para.2). Given this, it is time for education to shift the focus from the equitable provision of digital access to the equitable provision of opportunities to use technology to develop the social, academic and cultural literacies required for digital participation. Furthermore, teachers who simply use devices as electronic notepads or textbooks will fail to provide opportunities for students to build digital citizenship competencies and attitudes such as those outlined by Mike Ribble (2011, p.11):


Digital learning environments

Authentic digital citizenship education requires digital learning environments. By enabling students to communicate, create, collaborate, disseminate, store and manage information in these environments digital citizenship knowledge and skills are not a choice for students and teachers to adopt, they are a necessity. Schools that are preparing young people for 21st century pathways understand the need for such environments and their responsibility to “develop the skills needed for critical evaluation, online collaboration and communication and behaviours which support safe, responsible and ethical use of digital technology” (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2010, p.8).

What does this mean for my students?

That brings me back to my students and what I need to consider for their learning. One of the things that I think is important for authentic digital citizenship education is for students to engage in environments beyond the Content Management System (CMS). This means we need to use Web 2.0 tools and social media in our classrooms. By doing so, we can lead our students towards positive digital footprints. Furthermore, if we don’t guide students to participate in authentic online environments and communities, we risk the proliferation of ignorance about the consequences and permanence of their online interactions.


Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2010). Digital learning statement. Innovation and Next Practice Division, Melbourne. Digital Learning Statement [Fact sheet].Retrieved from

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century [White paper]. Retrieved from MacArthur Foundation website

Ribble, M. (2011). Digital Citizenship in Schools : Nine Elements All Students Should Know (2nd Edition). Eugene, OR, USA: ISTE. Retrieved from

Smith, A. (2014, February 21). End of free laptop program means it’s BYO device now for many high school students. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved March 14, 2015.

Image attribution

Stokpic, Person Abstract Ipad No Face Sky Clouds Man, CC0 Public Domain



What are the right questions for digital literacy?

For some time now, we have been talking about the need for Information and Communication (ICT) capabilities in our schools and that we must establish ways of embedding these into our curriculums and pedagogies, as it is important to the success of our students at school and beyond (ACARA, 2014, ICT capability across the curriculum, Para 1). Such discussions have centred on the skills and tools necessary for digital participation but some are starting to question if we are focusing on the right things. Instead of focusing on the technologies, it is argued, we need to concentrate on the literacies made possible by the technologies. Howard Rheingold tells us that such literacies can “leverage the Web’s architecture of participation, just as the spread of reading skills amplified collective intelligence five centuries ago. Today’s digital literacies can make the difference between being empowered or manipulated, serene or frenetic” (p.3). What then, are the questions we should be asking if we are to build digital literacy into our teaching practice?

I have constructed the following list of essential questions based on the reading I have been doing for my Masters (Knowledge Networks & Digital Innovation) at Charles Sturt University (CSU). Some of the authors I have consulted in my quest for these essential questions include: John Seely Brown, Howard Gardner, David Buckingham, Mike Ribble, Douglas Rushkoff, Douglas Thomas, and Howard Rheingold. I have included some of these readings in the reference list for this article. The questions generated here are neither quoted nor paraphrased from these references but rather synthesised from the ideas they contain. These questions will be a starting point for how I think about assisting students to navigate digital environments in 2015.

Are you a participant?

Participation rather than theory is necessary to understanding digital environments. To build digital, network, media, information and computer literacy and understand how, when and where to pay attention to the flow of information contained within these environments, we must be involved. When we participate in networks, it requires a two-way exchange in which we obtain information from others and contribute to the collective knowledge. Participation may take many forms, including joining conversations in social media, writing a blog, creating a website, doing a course of study, joining creative communities, gaming, taking a political stance or the commercial activities involved in buying and selling.

What does your participation say about you?

Imagine if someone could view all of your online participation – what would it say about you?

Would it show someone who is in control of their participation or someone who is being manipulated?

Would the amount of time spent online be healthy or unhealthy?

Would the information you accepted as truth demonstrate someone who is smart or gullible?

Would the agreements you make by joining particular social media environments and using Apps be legal or in breech of policies and rules?

Does your participation demonstrate an ability to use online environments for learning?

What values would your interactions demonstrate?

Would the way you treat others and their contributions be ethical or unprincipled?

Does your participation demonstrate an understanding of how online environments work and who controls them or does it demonstrate someone who is at the mercy of others?

Do you know how to protect yourself and others online?

Finally, what of your own contributions online – are they creative or uninspired or even destructive?


ACARA. (2014). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capability. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

ACMA. (2011). Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media (Rep.). Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Bawden, D. (2008). CHAPTER ONE: Origins and Concepts Of Digital Literacy. In Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies & Practices (pp. 17–32). Peter Lang Publishing.

Common Sense Media. (2013, September 30). It’s never too early to teach kids online skills [Web log post]. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is not enough: 21st-century fluencies for the digital age. Kelowna, B.C.: 21st Century Fluency Project.

Gardner, H., & Davis, K. (2013). The app generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy, and imagination in a digital world. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Hague, C., & Payton, S. (2010). Digital Literacy across the curriculum handbook. Retrieved May 24, 2014, from

Heick, T. (2014, February 27). Are you teaching content or teaching thought? [Web log post]. Retrieved May 20, 2014, from

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2008). Digital literacies: Concepts, policies and practices. New York: Peter Lang.

O’Connell, J. (2012). So they think they can learn? Scan, 31(May), 5-11. Retrieved May 26, 2014, from

Rheingold, H. (2012). Net smart: How to thrive online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Ribble, M. (2011). Digital citizenship in schools. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education.

Rushkoff, D., & Koughan, F. (Writers). (2014, July 21). Generation like [Television broadcast]. In Four Corners. ABC. Retrieved January 12, 2015, from

Seely Brown, J. (2012, November 21). Learning in and for the 21st Century. Lecture presented at National Institute of Education, Singapore. Retrieved January 12, 2015, from

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Thomas, D. (2012, May 24). Provocative new questions about education: TEDxUSC. Retrieved January 12, 2015, from

Thomas, D. (2012, September 12). A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM. Retrieved March 4, 2014, from

Valenza, J. (2011, August 27). TEDxPhiladelphiaED – JoyceValenza – See Sally Research. Retrieved May 25, 2014, from

Image Attribution

Open Clips, CC0 Public Domain