This chapter explores changing conceptions of learning brought about by technological changes and opportunities and examines more closely the understanding of video game creation as a learning experience. Based on the first year of a three-year ethnographic research study of the educative value and potential of video games within a school setting, this chapter examines the powerful learning and teaching practises in classes of information technology and programming in which video game creation has been used as entry points into learning programming skills. Observations, interviews, and video recordings coupled with students’ articulation of their process were used to examine the depth of students’ learning and revealed the development of their multi-literacy skills, social skills, and their learning process awareness. Suggestions within this chapter include how a social constructivist classroom involving technology and popular culture can be developed and valued.
This chapter explores changing conceptions of learning brought about by technological changes and the opportunities these afford. In this chapter we examine more closely the understanding of video game creation as it relates to learning through an ethnographic study of two high school information technology and programming classes. Video games are a powerful learning tool (Gee, 2003; Johnson, 2005), and we explored the learning involved with video game playing and creation in multiple ways, examining operational, cultural, and critical aspects of literacy (Green, 1997); we believe that we must find ways to enable teachers and students to raise critical questions relating to these texts as well as gaining proficiency, technological expertise, and social capital in video game play and design.
Designing and creating video games in a high school classroom is a fantasy-come-true for some students, but it is a reality in computer classes at a large-sized Western Canadian high school. Classes of information technology and programming have been using video games as the entry point into learning programming skills. Powerful learning and teaching practises are apparent and through observations, interviews, and video recordings, coupled with students’ articulation of their process, we have been carrying out the first year of a three-year ethnographic research study of the educative value and potential of video games within a school setting. We consider how a social constructivist classroom incorporating technology can be developed and valued, how skills learned in these technological places can transfer to other learning experiences, and how spaces for reflection are critical for both students and teachers as they engage so intensely with computers.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Scaffolding: Support offered to a learner to build their skills and confidence to have them become competent at one stage and ready to move onto the next stage. Scaffolding can be in the form of teacher modeling, texts, guidance, or feedback.
Operational Literacy Domain: Basic competence with the skills of reading and writing.
Recognizable Literacy Practices: Traditional literacy practices are understood to be mostly reading with some writing practiced, and literature to be the most referenced texts.
Multi-Literacy: A term used by the New London Group (1996) to review the complexities of literacy so to recognize and value the various ways of meaning making (reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, representing) and to be aware of how meaning moves between cultural and linguistic contexts.
Mod: Video game modifications that video game players can make to some computer games that include adding new weapons, characters, or even entire new environments or story lines.
Operational, Cultural, and Critical Aspects of Literacy: Green’s (1997) theory of the three domains of literacy practices:
Content Fetish: James Gee’s term for the traditional practice of schools to separate subject areas in school and assign definitive content to each subject area that can then enable knowledge and knowing to be evaluated in a standardized test.
Socio-Political Critical Thinking: Consideration of the complexities of issues in light of social, economic, political, racial, religious, gendered perspectives.
Machinima: Artistic films created using video game tools such as characters, weapons, and environments.
Cultural Literacy Dimensions: Competence with the meaning system of literacy as social practice.
Social Constructivist Learning: Theory that meaningful learning is constructed in social contexts because knowledge and knowing exists within individuals (past experiences, cultures, and beliefs) and continues to be co-created through social interactions.
Critical Literacy Dimensions: Awareness that all social practices, and thus all literacies, are socially constructed and “selective”.