Connecting Games and Learning
Digital technology is indisputably here to stay. Educators cannot ignore students’ most popular texts – games. As educators attempt to bridge the gap between their personal digital technology practices, and the practices of students, they must acknowledge that digital games are a very important part of a student’s life.
According to an infographic published by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, 35% of teenage boys play video games a few times a week, while 54% of them play every day. At the same time, 49% of teenage girls play a few times per week, and 20% play every day. Adolescent boys are highly plugged in, and the number of girls who consider themselves avid gamers is increasing. Digital literacy can serve as a bridge between gaming and learning experiences. Gaming experiences build specific types of schema which can be used as entry points for students’ understanding of sophisticated curriculum concepts.
William Shaffer proposes a format referred to as “epistemic gaming” where kids engage with simulated environments in order to learn by doing. He argues that “When children learn important concepts- and the words that go with them – to solve problems that are meaningful to them in the world around them, the words go from empty jargon to solid preparation for future learning (Shaffer, p.60) .” Instructing students using computer and digital technology prepares them for their future.
Gamification of Education
Another popular concept gaining attention is “gamification” of curriculum through DT, where game characteristics (design, strategies, badges, and leader boards) are adopted in order to create a game environment for educational purposes.
Engaging Our Students
At this point in time, the vast majority of Canadian schools are unequipped for the incorporation of an “epistemic” or “gamified” environment, as the ratio of digital devices to students is very low. However, this is a worthwhile pursuit for teachers, particularly those with significant access to the school’s computer lab or to class sets of laptops or tablets. The argument for using “epistemic games” or “gamification” is that it will engage a majority of our students, as it is a familiar format for adolescents. Using digital games increases student motivation, and taps into a familiar realm that adolescents can relate to.
Games as Subject Matter
The use of games as subject matter is also an interesting concept, as it increases the potential to bring concepts adolescents are familiar with into the classroom setting.Games played at home have the capacity to build schema that will support students’ understanding of subjects studied at school. “Educators can help students profit from their video gaming by drawing upon their experiences and possible connections. This would involve finding ways to elicit student reflection, and showing students how their digital literacies outside of school can inform their understanding of classroom material (Abrams, p.345).”
Before we dismiss students’ gaming habits and fascinations, it is worth listening to what our adolescent students are saying.
What schema do our students bring with them as a result of their gaming experiences, and how do we as educators tap into that knowledge base?
Photo by Ian D.