In this qualitative study, literacy practices of “struggling” seventh and eighth graders were recorded on videotape as they engaged in both traditional and new literacies practices in an after-school video games club. These recordings were analyzed in the context of building comprehension skills with video games. The students struggled with reading and are characterized as unmotivated and disengaged by the school, which may be at the root of their inability to use comprehension strategies. Playing video games is viewed here as a literate practice, and was seen to be more engaging than traditional activities (such as reading school text, writing journals, etc.). The conclusion of this observation makes connections to current research in comprehension and provides a basis for teachers to use games to develop comprehension and learning.
Games are designed to be accessible and can be used to develop print-based comprehension in reluctant and struggling readers. The goal of this chapter was to help make those connections clear, and demonstrate the need for this approach through observations of an after-school video game club where game-play was examined from a theory of comprehension and then examined in a non-laboratory context from the perspective of cultural cognition, often known as cognitive ethnography (Hutchins, 1995).
The after-school games club was created for the enrichment of students who had been pulled from mainstream classroom instruction to help them become more successful readers with comprehension strategies. Two videotaped sessions of the games club were analyzed in the context of games being new narratives that depend upon comprehension processes.
Comprehension is transmedial. It is not dependent upon a specific medium. It is a cognitive process that is an artifact of cultural and socially-mediated cognition. School and academia have their own cultures of cognition, and when we look at school, we need to remember that not everyone uses academic language or has experience with academic cultural values at home. Academic culture at school is another culture with a different language and different values for many people.
Comprehension translates across cultural boundaries based upon the way we share information. In its most basic sense, comprehension is pattern recognition, and this can be found in games, texts, dance, and whatever composed cultural communication and expression. The socio-cultural implications of the way these students approached games may be of assistance in helping educators to build upon informal learning to develop traditional academic learning.
With an understanding of this, we can begin to teach for transfer and recruit prior experiences, and perhaps become strategic in our use of games for developing comprehension.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Event Indexing Model: Made up of interconnected representations of situation models, readers monitor five aspects or indexes of the situation. This can be important for learners who have not had success with complex narratives, and who have struggled to decode complex texts into connected scenes where they can look at causality and interaction.
Level-Up: When your character in a game gains a level in a class-and-level system.
Decoding: To analyze spoken or written symbols to ascertain their intended meaning.
Construction Integration Model: Model that suggests there are three levels of representation of text: surface level, where we decode from words and letters; propositional level, where we make meaning form the words; and the situation level, where a mental image connected to prior experience and what we might predict as coming.
Button Mashing: A term used in console gaming contexts to refer to quick, repeated, and generally random button pressings. It is a technique most commonly employed in two genres of game: athletic, where the faster the buttons can be mashed translates into the better the athlete will perform; and fighting, where the technique is used often out of desperation or unfamiliarity with the controls, with players relying on barraging the opponent with random blows (and the occasional accidental special move) to win.
Interaction/Interactive: A kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction, as opposed to a one-way causal effect. Combinations of many simple interactions can lead to surprising emergent phenomena.
Knowledge Act: To verify comprehension though an act or performance.
Self-Monitoring: The conscious awareness of the reader’s own progress and understanding of a text, marked by rereading and reflection on features of the text needed to communicate.
Ludic: Derives from Latin ludus, “play.” Means literally “playful,” and refers to any philosophy where play is the prime purpose of life.
Walk-Through: A thorough explanation (usually accompanied by a demonstration) of each step in a procedure or process.
Comprehension: Comprehension of an object is the totality of intensions—that is, attributes, characters, marks, properties, or qualities that the object possesses—or the totality of intensions that are pertinent to the context of a given discussion
Transmedial: Across many types of media like newspapers, dance, video games, and other forms of composed expression.
Situation Model: Representations of an event or situation with a mental representation of a described or experienced situation in a real or imaginary situation, using time, motivation, protagonist, and place.