Video Games as Forms of Viable Digital Literacies

Steinkuehler, C. (2010) Video games and digital literacies. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. International Reading Association. Vol. 54 No. 1 pp. 61 – 63.

This article explores the perceptions and misconceptions of video games in the field of education. Many parents and educators prefer traditional pedagogical strategies for literacy instruction via the use of conventional print texts because video games may decrease literacy. However, a growing body of research suggests that video games are a viable instructional tool to assist with literacy and a significant component of students’ learning ecologies. Video games provide high levels of interactive narrative and questions in a digital literacy setting, which should be considered as effective options for literacy. Furthermore, online video gaming communities provide multimodal options of creating and receiving various enriching communication, which adheres to learners’ interests. Since teenage boys are some of the most avid gamers, Steinkuehler (2010) conducted research regarding them and discusses it as follows: “The goal of our program was not to build curriculum around games per se but to create a quasi-natural lab space in which we could study this disconnect between the in-school versus in-game literacies of teen age boys (and generate ideas for bridging them).” (p. 62) One particular eighth grade male student exhibited success in online writing regarding gaming. However, he only read on a fifth grade level based on standardized measures and did not like his teacher’s literacy instruction. However, when he was given the choice to select a reading passage, he chose a twelfth grade passage and successfully read at that level. This study revealed that choice and interest had a positive impact on literacy acquisition and reading level performance.

This article is significant to the body of educational research because it reveals the disconnect that many teenage boys who enjoy video gaming literacy feel to traditional literary instruction. The student in this research felt that the instruction was geared towards girls’ interests and minimized his interests. Educators must teach standard literacy curriculum and direct instruction regarding reading comprehension, writing, grammar and mechanics to ensure that students can perform at or above their grade levels. However, it is also important to add choice, student interests and multimodal instruction that appeals to a variety of learners. Therefore, the findings of this research can help to facilitate strategies that can reach a broader group of students.

As an educator, I believe that video games can be an effective instructional strategy. However, it should also compliment direct instruction of curriculum standards. Therefore, students should receive instruction infused with best practices, and also incorporates video gaming that correlate to standards, is age appropriate and engages students into literacy instruction. Education must continue to find ways to effectively maintain traditional instruction while incorporating students’ growing interests in video games to reach a broader range of learners.

Digital Game Based Learning & Elementary Science Instruction

Meluso, A., Lester, J., Spires, H. & Zheng, M. (2012) Enhancing 5th graders’ science content knowledge and self-efficacy through game-based learning. Computers & Education. Vol. 59 pp. 497-504.

This article explores how game based learning could increase science and STEM performance of 5th grade students. Researchers believe that simulations embedded in game based learning can provide enhanced cognition through virtual real world experiences of abstract STEM concepts. It can also increase students’ motivation and interests in science careers. The researchers conducted experiments allowing students to participate in video games individually or collaboratively to determine if there was a difference in self-efficacy and learning acquisition. The research for this study was conducted at a magnet school with 100 fifth graders. The students participated in the Crystal Island game based learning regarding science concepts of North Carolina’s landforms. Pretests and posttests were administered to measure achievement and self-efficacy. According to Meluso, Lester, Spires and Zheng, “Results indicated that there were no differences between the two playing conditions; however, when conditions were collapsed, science content learning and self-efficacy significantly increased. It is possible that the collaborative group did not outperform the single-player group due to the lack of specificity of the actions that the collaborative players engaged in Shih et al. (2010).” (p. 502)

This article provides significant research that helps to propel educational technology research regarding game – based learning.  This is important because there is limited empirical evidence to validate the achievement of game based learning in science. Therefore, this study sought to add to the growing body of research. Additional research must continue to be conducted to make the results more reliable.

Game based learning in fifth grade instruction can be a motivating and engaging instructional strategy to assist students with acquiring science curriculum. Digital games such as Crystal Island can be a great activity in conjunction with traditional science instruction.