Are digital games being overlooked in ‘digital education’ reform?
My personal video game history is rather historical. It centres around the early video games of the 1980s; Pong, Space Invaders, Frogger, Pacman and Donkey Kong. As video games developed in the late 1980s I was more interested in music and impending adulthood and lost interest in video games.
“Atari 2600” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by moparx
As a teacher librarian I have watched students play games in the library for entertainment and learning but have not been involved in curricular decisions or been motivated to learn more about game based learning. I was first made aware of game based learning in the 1990s when secondary students were involved in playing the Sharemarket Game . Students were so engaged and rushed into the library to check whether they had made “money” or lost it. The Sharemarket Game demonstrated to me that games with an educational intent could also be highly motivating (Jennings, 2014).
I admire proponents of game based learning such as Rebecca Martin (Jennings, 2014) who are willing to integrate games into learning however I feel unqualified to do so. I am not a gamer and admit that up until now I have had little interest in becoming one because I have so many other interests. I am not part of the culture of games (Jennings, 2014) and I don’t speak the language so I feel inadequate. I am out of my comfort zone.
I am certainly not anti-games but like Dr Beavis I have some concerns about their affect on learning (Jennings, 2014). I see the potential games have for practicing 21st century skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity (Extra Credits, 2014) but believe more research is required. In recent years public libraries have embraced video games and makerspaces to appeal to the community and makerspaces are becoming more common in school libraries too. Professionally I need to up-skill so that I can make informed decisions.
The popular media and my own professional reading around digital education is dominated by the word coding. Coding is considered a future work skill by governments and a way of moving students from being consumers of technology to creators (Turnbull, 2014). The focus on technology and STEM may give more legitimacy to digital games for learning and result in more research.
My personal aims:
overcome my lack of knowledge and experience of game based learning
understand the applicability of games for learning within a library setting
be able to confidently share my learning with my colleagues
do I have to be a gamer in order to embrace games for learning?
lack of experience and confidence with recent video game technologies
maintaining a growth mindset when things get difficult
Extra Credits [User name]. 2014 May 14. How games prepare you for life – Education: 21st century skills [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/0hoeAmqwvyY
Jennings, J. (2014, November 30). Teachers re-evaluate value of video games. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from http://interact.csu.edu.au/sakai-msi-tool/content/bbv.html?subjectView=true&siteId=INF541_201730_W_D
Print and online reading coexist in my personal and professional life. I fluctuate between different formats for reasons that are common to many people such as convenience, immediacy, nostalgia and comfort. My reading devices include a Kindle, iPad, iPhone, computer and printed material. I enjoy reading reviews and sharing my reading with friends on Goodreads and in person.
We are in a time of transition, the reading landscape is changing and I am experiencing reading in new ways. In the last twenty years “the internet has brought about a period of rapid, continuous technological change in the nature of literacy” (Leu, 2011, p. 6). My interactions with digital reading mostly involve web pages, digital newspapers, journals and e-books. With the exception of web pages, most texts I read online are linear and are a reproduction of print delivered in a digital environment. Until commencing this subject I had not explored enhanced e-books and iPad apps where “a text can be supplemented with media – audio clips, timelines, maps, contextual links” (James, 2013, p. 108).
The debate over whether enhanced e-books detract or enhance the reading experience is interesting and one that I am not experienced enough to enter into yet. Reading Inanimate Alice gave me a taste of what is possible with transmedia and that “when handled intelligently and sensitively – there are instances in which the embedded media are capable of creating a heightened sense of immersion and engagement” (James, 2013, p. 118). James also contends that digital conventions are no longer outside the schemata of young people but in the future the traditional book may be (James, 2013).
I am not a parent and I work with senior students so I have had limited exposure to the new wave of apps designed for young children. Regardless, I do understand that selecting and evaluating the quality of an app or e-book is crucial for me as a teacher librarian. Yokota & Teale say “it is important to develop a new lens for examining digital forms of picture books” (2014, p. 580) in addition to using the existing criteria for assessing print literature. The purpose for choosing a particular format should also be considered. Walsh (2013, p.185) states that teachers must consider whether “the text will augment stories read in books, motivate students to read further and enhance their response to literature, whether in print or digital form”.
With my return to formal study I have been experimenting with reading across devices. In my first session of study I printed many of my readings and made lots of written notes alongside some screen reading. I wasn’t confident in my ability to comprehend what I read from the screen so I stuck to the learning methods I was familiar with from my undergraduate days in the early 1990s. Studies into how our brains respond to reading on screen are inconclusive. (Jabr, 2013) As I became more familiar with tools such as Evernote and Endnote, I decided to reduce my reliance on printing. Wherever possible I am reading and annotating PDFs on the screen in conjunction with handwritten and typed notes. I am trying to bring as much mental effort to the screen as I would to paper (Jabr, 2013).
A large flat digital signage screen is mounted on a blank wall in the school library where I am the teacher librarian. It was installed when the new school building was built four years ago. Two more screens are situated in other parts of the school. The screens are operated by the Information Communications Technology Department (ICT Department) and feature content provided by administration. After the staff member who was responsible for operating the digital signage left the school about two years ago, the screens have been used less frequently.
The school is fortunate to have digital signage equipment in place but it is currently under-utilised. This is a problem that I would like to seize for the screen situated in the library. The content displayed needs to be suited to the students and teachers so I need to “place people at the centre of things” (Leifer, 2013, p. 4) and interact with these stakeholders (Kuratko, Goldsworthy & Hornsby, 2012).
Digital signage screen and the view of the library from it.
My inspiration has come from seeing how other libraries leverage this technology. Inspiration is the first step in Tim Brown’s elements of design thinking (Kuratko, Goldsworthy & Hornsby, 2012). I am excited by the possibilities of digital signage but realise there will be constraints and difficult learning ahead and I will need to “persevere through the difficult paths that are likely to arise” (Kuratko, 2012, p.111) by being proactive (second step). The benefits of having a dynamic space to communicate with students and staff will firstly require training in the software. Humility, the third element, is knowing what you don’t know and being able to admit it. I don’t know how the digital signage screens work yet, however “when you approach others for knowledge that would be useful to you and ask for their thoughts on your project, you accelerate the design process” (Kuratko, Goldsworthy & Hornsby, 2012, p.112). The final two elements of design thinking I must keep in mind are flexibility and focus. To fully realise the opportunities of digital signage I must have an open mind, seek feedback and understand that criticism about the idea isn’t a criticism of me.
Digital signage can provide a dynamic way of communicating (Larson & Quam, 2010) and is increasingly used in libraries. I want to utilise the digital signage screen in the library as a promotional and learning tool. In order to make use of this digital space, this week I made enquiries with the ICT Department about contributing content. They suggested a software demonstration so I could become familiar with the capabilities of the software. The demonstration is going to take place next week, with further software training sessions to be scheduled soon after.
I am excited by the prospect of learning how to use the software so that I can promote library services, school events, student work and highlight the school’s commitment to thinking and learning. I am also apprehensive because I do not have a design background and digital signage requires visual appeal. Once I have received the necessary training, I intend to experiment, create and prototype presentations. I will then seek feedback and redesign where necessary (Razzouk & Shute, 2012).
Created by K. Malbon based on Razzouk & Shute, 2012.
Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in Innovation acceleration : transforming organizational thinking. (pp.103-123). Boston : Pearson.