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Video Games: A Paradigm Shift in Learning?
I have looked at the pros and cons of various studies on how technology and video games are affecting learning and literacy.  My goal from this point is to bring in more real life examples of how games interact in the cultural story that is our everyday life.

There is a revolution happening in education that may change what parents, teachers and the general public think about video games.  In an article from 2004 on the PBS site, Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked MIT professor Henry Jenkins, director of Comparative Studies, trashes the commons myths surrounding video games and their effect on children.  Changing perceptions aside, there is a growing body of evidence that children are learning new skills from playing video games.  Quest to Learn, a small public school in New York, has designed their curriculum around video games, turning upside down the premise formerly supported by some research (and, no doubt, shared by many parents around the world), that many video games are a harmful, even violent influence on children’s psyches.  Gamestar Mechanic, for example, is part of the curriculum of the school, that opened in New York City this fall.  Its focus is on game-based learning . A nonprofit group called the Institute of Play set up the school, and its executive director, Katie Salen, helped design the game with financing from the MacArthur Foundation.  The goal of the funding non-profit organization is to develop a new paradigm in learning, one called “game-based literacies”.  Here is the definition of game-based literacies from the Institute of Play website:

The term refers to a set of skills, tools, and experiential “dispositions” that come from the design, culture, and play of games. Examples include the ability to read, write, and act within dynamic systems, to think procedurally within computationally rich spaces, to build worlds and navigate complex information networks, and to engage in collaborative peer-to-peer learning. A gaming disposition cultivates an attitude oriented toward:

Critical reflection

Meaning creation
Non-linear navigation

Problem-solving and problem definition

We think these literacies and attitudes form the basis of a kind of “gamer intelligence” that is remarkably relevant for productive citizenship in the 21st century.

It looks like the old view of video games as non-productive and anti-intellectual is beginning to change.   The video game player is emerging from the screen as an equal participant in the learning process, collaborating and making choices with others within a new virtual instructive environment—the game and her fellow video game players.  A revolution of our concept of literacy and learning?  We’ll just have to see how the game plays out …   

Below are the urls on James Paul Gee (the author of “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy”), a Gee interview and the organizations mentioned in the post.
The acquisition of skill and expertise in MMOGS

The authors of this fascinating study argue that studying massively multiplayer online games as possible learning environments signals a paradigm shift in thinking about videogames and has potential implications for education. Instead of learning from games, which implies that education is a monolithic and unilateral “filling the void” activity, we must think in terms of learning in games such as the virtual environment of the MMOG.

MMOGs are described as highly social and community-based activities, rather than individual pursuits. The users in these games interact with thousands upon thousands of like-minded goal driven individuals. What the authors point out is unique in this online MMOG community is that users locate, evaluate, and apply information from hundreds of texts and hypertexts. Based on these attributes, the authors state that researchers argue that the education community should examine “variables linked to learning as a process following interactions with community members and the system itself”. Such variables and behaviors include those associated with intrapersonal collaboration , authentic perception-action dynamics, literacy and critical evaluation of information, and development of competence and skill.

NOTE: The authors state that the statistical data is self report because of the use of a Likert-type scale. Specifically, it is impossible determine the extent to which participants behaved as they indicated or their motivation for participating in the study by looking at the self-report responses in such an instrument of measurement.

I believe the authors did an admirable job in describing their study methodology, findings and conclusions of this interesting study. Perhaps the most important finding, in my opinion, was the indication of the continued intrinsic value in researching MMOGS as an ideal context in which cognition and learning may be studied. Importantly, MMOGS provide equivalent “deliberate, functional epistemology” towards developing expertise, which may be a good starting point for researchers to investigate its potential as a developing learning environment. Learners do gain skills in the dynamic and interconnected process of the virtual world “that scaffolds both technological skills sets and content knowledge” to accomplish goal-oriented tasks.

In my opinion, the most valuable implication of these findings are its compelling argument for the need of further research into the possibility of MMOGS as valid, bona-fide and dynamic learning environments. As the learning paradigm must change with the advent of new technology, we must be prepared to use virtual worlds to develop learning within a new virtual paradigm and embrace learning as a communal, dynamic and interactive game.

Schrader, P., & McCreery, M. (2008, October). The acquisition of skill and expertise in massively multiplayer online games. Educational Technology Research & Development, 56(5/6), 557-574. Retrieved June 10, 2009, doi:10.1007/s11423-007-9055-4.

Digital storytelling: integrating technology with student learning

In this journal article, the author describes a project that engages Egyptian teachers in a constructivist project of developing teaching and learning through the application of a digital technology, digital storytelling. She brings up the important point that computers in the classroom can go beyond CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction) and create a mindful and purposeful intersect and application of students’ knowledge. The category of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) tools that are known as “constructive tools” are the most useful for engaging students funds of knowledge in the classroom (PowerPoint, Word, iMovie, etc.).

Digital storytelling is the ideal activity in the classroom for engaging students’ knowledge as it draws from their own experience and can also become a communal activity that unites the class in a common purpose with creative learning, critical thinking and the analysis of cultural and democratic ideals.

To assess the extent to which students were engaged in authentic learning using digital
storytelling, the Student Digital Story Evaluation Rubric (Assessing the digital story’s (1) Point of view; (2)Content; (3) Resources; (4) Curriculum alignment; (5) Organization; (6) Student cooperation; (7) Camera and images; (8) Titles and credits; (9) Sound; (10) Language; (11) Pacing and narrative; and (12) Transitions and effects) was used to assess student-produced
digital stories. Other more complex instruments were used, but this remains the principle method of measurement. According to the rubric, 65 stories lasting about 5 minutes long in MS PhotoStory were scored with averaged ratings. Most of the students’ projects showed that their stories met many of the didactic and technical qualities of digital stories. As far as classroom integration of digital storytelling, the teachers did not have adequate technical expertise to effectively teach the software package. A majority of the students (75%) had some difficulty organizing and managing their groups to develop the stories.

In my opinion, the most significant finding of this study was the need to change traditional assessment models, which are inadequate for measuring and evaluating digital technology projects in the classroom such as digital storytelling. The author does a good job of describing this research project, her methodology, and the findings and conclusion of her study.

Sadik, A. (2008, August). Digital storytelling: a meaningful technology-integrated approach for engaged student learning. Educational Technology Research & Development, 56(4), 487-506. Retrieved June 10, 2009, doi:10.1007/s11423-008-9091-8

Integrating Tech into Everyday Learning

This article is a regular column in the Technology and Children journal by the International Technology Education Association. It is written by a practicing teacher, and is geared towards providing in-service teachers with ideas on integrating technology ideas into regular classroom activities. The focus of the article is to provide ideas to integrate the idea of nanotechnology across the curriculum. The author gives examples of projects students can do in the classroom in language arts, math, science and social studies. One such example is math, where the children first receive the definition of the nanometer, which is 100,000 times smaller than the human hair! Then the children are directed to browse through sites that give them an idea of this infinitesimal scale, and URLs are provided. The sites measure scales in powers of 10, which allows the opportunity to reinforce and practice metric measurement and base ten addition/subtraction/multiplication and division. An interesting math activity the author provides is the calculation of the amount of nanometers in a sugar cube (10,000,000).

The social studies project is interesting as it engages the kids in a hypothetical discussion about the potential risks nanotechnology can pose for the environment. The focus of the discussion would be what safety precautions could be put in place to prevent potential problems with nanotechnology.

I think the author did an admirable job in providing in-service (and pre-service!) teachers with hands-on ideas for classroom projects that integrate the concept of nanotechnology in the classroom. What was lacking in the article was more theoretical analysis of why these activities would be successful in teaching the concepts of technology in the classroom. If teachers are going to use these projects for “integrating technology education into everday learning” then we would be at a disadvantage without a theoretical framework from which to expand learning activities and perhaps conduct further research in this unique opportunity of learning in the classroom.

Jones, K. (2009, March). TECHNO TIPS: ideas for integrating technology education into everyday learning. Technology & Children, 13(3), 19-21. Retrieved June 10, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.