One aspect of children’s enjoyment of playing games, is related to Gee’s principle that game players are immersed in an affinity group were learners constitute a group bonded through shared endeavours, goals, and practices.
Good games incorporate learning principles which are highly relevant to 21 century pedagogy (Gee 2005). My job is not simply delivering the content and facts required, I need to prepare students to be active, positive members of a variety of communities by developing a range of social skills, most of which have been identified by James Gee as the learning principles which good games incorporate. Games have the potential to develop the social skills which are neglected in our obsession with content and facts and build socially inclusive learning spaces.
Modern technology and recent developments in online gaming have led to games which engage massive groups and develop communities. These virtual environments are highly social, collaborative and spaces where age, race, gender and social class, all the usual divisive factors, are seldom apparent. According to Hall, by allowing learning through games and with peers, we can strengthen ideas of friendship when striving to achieve a common goal. (Hall 2010)
A good game is a powerful communication tool, students learn to interact and develop relationships, learning to value and better understand social interaction. “In a massive multiplayer game, players work in teams where each member contributes his or her distinctive skills. The core knowledge needed to play the game is now distributed among a set of real people ” (Gee, 2005, p 37) Playing in teams where characters often have different skill sets teaches how to coordinate and understand the importance of different types of affiliations. Direct interaction in the digital world can augment face-to-face interaction. Engaging students in important purposeful interactions with diverse others is a way to expand the horizons of education by expanding interpersonal and inter-cultural understanding. (Daiute, 2013)
Games lead to social interaction. Those with expertise gain social status among their peers enhancing self- esteem. Considering the variety of learning styles, games offer opportunity for different students to shine. Encouraged risk taking, and the idea that “failure is good” (Gee 2005) promotes social acceptance and a healthier attitude to learning. Using qualitative research and interviews, Tapscott (1998) shows how children are empowered by new technology. Online interactions – including email, chat, gaming and multi-user domains (MUDs) – are ‘laboratories for the construction of identity’, as Turkle (1995: 194) puts it.
To harness the potential for a socially inclusive classroom, there are some important considerations for achieving success.
We must consider how we set up our students’ entries into virtual worlds. When talking about the successful use of technology in education, we are reminded that, “novelty does not equal effective educational scaffolding…and that virtual spaces require a heightened awareness of scaffolding techniques. ( Moore, K., & Pflugfelder, E. H. (2010).
Encourage students to ‘buy in’ by offering choices allowing them to “become committed to the new virtual world” (Gee 2005, p 34)
Invite outsiders in. Broaden the scope for social inclusion, encourage experts, invite peers and open up the potential for cultural exchange.
Games definitely have the potential to develop my classroom into a socially inclusive learning space which prepares students for the real world
Daiute, C (2013). Educational Uses of the Digital World for Human Development. LEARNing Landscapes, Vol. 6, No. 2, Spring 2013, 63-85
Gee, J.P. (2005). Good video games and good learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 85(2), 33-37. http://dmlcentral.net/sites/dmlcentral/files/resource_files/GoodVideoGamesLearning.pdf
Hall, R. (2010). The Magic of Online Games. International Society for Technology in Education: Eugene.
Heim, J. and B. P. B. and K. B. H. and E. T. and T. L. (2007). Children’s usage of media technologies and psychosocial factors. New Media & Society, 9(3), 425–454.
Miller, C. T. (2008). Games: Purpose and potential in education. Springer Science & Business Media.
Moore, K., & Pflugfelder, E. H. (2010). On being bored and lost (in virtuality). Learning, Media and Technology, 35(2), 249–253.