Using Video Games to Improve Literacy Levels of Males

Using Video Games to Improve Literacy Levels of Males

Stephenie Hewett (The Citadel, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-120-9.ch018
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This chapter examines the differences in the educational needs of males, the origins of video games, and the issue of the decline in literacy achievement levels of male students worldwide. It promotes the idea that a new literacy which includes computer technology and visual literacy has changed the scope of literacy and that males have succeeded at developing the new literacy skills. The chapter is intended to inform educators of the literacy skills involved in video games, make connections with video game literacy and traditional literacy, and to encourage teachers to integrate video games into their curriculum.
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According to the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) females scored thirteen (13) points higher on average in reading than male students (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2005). Gurian (2001) also cites statistics indicating that boys:

  • Earn seventy percent (70%) of D’s and F’s and fewer than half of the A’s,

  • Account for two-thirds of learning disability diagnoses,

  • Represent ninety percent (90%) of discipline referrals,

  • Dominate such brain-related learning disorders as ADD/ADHD, with millions now medicated in schools,

  • Make up eighty percent (80%) of the high school dropouts, and

  • Make up fewer than forty percent (40%) of college students.

The current educational system around the world is failing to meet the educational needs of males. In the United States, Black males are three (3) times more likely than white students to be labeled as mentally disturbed (, 2005). Males are more often classified as being mentally retarded, having learning disabilities, and having attention deficit disorders.

Girls performed better than boys academically in the thirty-five (35) countries who participated in a three (3) year study of knowledge and skills of males and females. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) studied males and females in industrialized countries including the United States, Canada, European countries, Australia, and Japan. The results show that reading and writing skills brought the male scores down the most. (Gurian & Stevens, 2004) The dismal educational achievement of males continues in the high school dropout rates and graduation rates of males.

The difference in graduation rates for males and females widen within minority groups. There is an eleven percent (11%) difference in graduation rates of African-American males and females, nine percent (9%) fewer Hispanic males graduate than Hispanic females, five percent (5%) fewer white males graduate as compared with white females, and three percent (3%) fewer Asian males graduate from high school than Asian females (Greene &Winters, 2006). During the past decade, the graduation rate for Black women improved while the rate for Black males slipped. Fifty-six percent (56%) of Black women graduate from high school compared with forty-three percent (43%) of Black males (NAEP, 2005). The differences in high school graduation rates of males and females lead to differences in college attendance rates. Women earn an average of fifty-seven percent (57%) of all BA’s and fifty-eight percent of master’s degrees in the United States (Conlin, 2005). The United States Department of Education predicts that if the current trend continues that by 2020, there will be 156 women for every 100 men earning college degrees. The college attendance rates for African-American males are even lower with only thirty-seven percent (37%) of Black males being enrolled in college (NAEP, 2005). The college graduation rate of Black males is lower than any other group.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Instructional Technology: The use of any type of computer software programs or computer components such as LCD projector and SMART Boards to teach students educational concepts.

Brain Differences: The variations found in the male and female brains.

New Literacy: The increased requirements of literacy, not only requiring understanding of the written word, but understanding of computer images, languages, software, and hardware.

Educational Video Games: Software programs designed to provide instruction, practice, and feedback of educational concepts.

Visual Literacy: The ability to look at charts, graphs, pictures, and other visual images to grasp an intended message.

Traditional Literacy: The ability to read the written word to gain understanding and meaning.

Computer Assisted Courses: Software programs designed to provide extra instruction and practice on educational concepts. For example: extra computer based drill on multiplication facts.

Reading Assessments: Diagnostic tests to determine levels of reading.

Edutainment: Entertaining ways to teach educational concepts typically through games.

Cultural Gender Differences: Ways in which males and females are expected to act and are treated in different cultures.

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