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Research Reviews

Teachers, students and digital games

Posted on 12 Feb 2015 with 0 comments
21st century skills Collaboration Computer games Multimedia

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There are opposing views about the benefits and value of digital games in education. However, we are aware that digital games play an important role in children’s lives. Even before children start school they learn to navigate digital tools and play digital games therefore developing transferable skills that can be applied in the classroom. Today’s children acquire knowledge and skills through role playing, observing and experiences in virtual worlds. Games impact significantly on children’s lives, ‘yet gaming is rarely discussed or used in schools as a method of connecting with students or for teaching and learning’ (p.1).

A short paper by Dr. Robyn Gibbes, presented at the 2014 Australian Computers in Education Conference , considers the overarching question: ‘How can primary school teachers acknowledge and connect with students’ personal gaming culture to build learning relationships and teach critical multiliteracy skills?’ (p.1). The paper, Teachers Connecting With Students Through Games, is based on the author’s doctoral thesis which explored:

  • building relationships with students around their gaming
  • enhancing student learning through connecting with their gaming, and
  • teaching students critical gaming literacy skills.

This case study research consisted of single gender group interviews of 20 children from years 3-7 as well as a general questionnaire completed by all year 3-7 (110) students of a primary school, to obtain information about their ownership of computers and game consoles, their game preferences and time spent gaming. Small group discussions enabled the researcher to delve deeper as well as the opportunity to shape the discussions and encourage children to consider their gaming through different lenses.

The author asserts that group discussions with the children canvassed issues such as identity, gender and ideological messages and it was through their gaming experience that they were able to reflect and talk about issues such as family values, violence and learning (p.2). In this regard the author points to two key influences of digital games: identity formation and value systems/attitudes.

In terms of identity the author states that gaming, particularly through the creation of avatars, allowed children to define themselves as they thought others would perceive them, displaying a strong connection between personal identity and the avatar. Importantly, Gibbes alerts that virtual identity play can aid or undermine identity formation and it’s something that teachers should address with students (p.2).

Examples are provided of focus group discussions focused on aspects of influence and the embedding of value messages in digital games. The author notes that some groups of children were able to critically engage in discussions with support from the researcher and further points out that established beliefs and values were necessary in order to ethically reflect on the games.

The second part of this paper focuses on the creation of digital games, by children, to teach multiliteracy skills. The researcher used the multiliteracies map developed by the Department of Education and Children’s Services and University of South Australia in 2004 which classifies users as: functional user, meaning maker, critical analyser, transformer, and which was ‘designed to enable educators to plan, observe, analyse and assess children’s development in each of the four quadrants’ (p.4-5). In general students acquired new skills, became engaged and motivated by this activity and as a result began to examine other digital games more critically.

Through feedback mechanisms established for this activity, students became more vocal and critical about particular selections of other students’ games. For example, reflecting on the ‘value message’ of games, they were able to critically analyse the selection and use of particular imagery and sounds.

The paper also references a useful list of cultural competencies and social skills, developed though collaboration and networking, which the author suggests should be considered by schools (p.6).

In summary, this short research paper on the importance and value of digital games in classroom teaching provides some key messages:

  1. Digital games engage students in critical dialogue
  2. Activities such as the creation of digital games enable the development of critical skills and collective intelligence (knowledge is shared – no one possesses all the skills and knowledge)
  3. When children play games they are highly motivated.

Research Report:

Gibbes, R. (2014). Teachers connecting with students through games.  Australian Computers in Education Conference. Retrieved from http://acec2014.acce.edu.au/sites/2014/files/attachments/ACEC2014_AuthorTemplate%20V5%20Refereed%20paper%20final.pdf


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