Game Literacy: Games in Education – Should We Teach Game Basics? – Extra Credits

Game Literacy: Games in Education – Should We Teach Game Basics? – Extra Credits

September 24, 2019 100 By Ronny Jaskolski


As James has talked to more and more teachers about integrating games into the classroom, It’s become increasingly clear that there’s at least one major challenge to bringing games into education That he never anticipated facing. The question of game literacy. [Extra Credits – Intro Music] When James began really pushing to try to use games To make school something that every child looked forward to going to, The biggest stumbling block, I mean, besides the massive cyclopian burocracy worthy of a Createn maze builder, Was techology, and that’s still a huge problem. Many classrooms in America simply don’t have enough computers for the students, And often what computers there are are incapable of running any games made after the early 2000’s. I mean, James has seen a number of schools still running Windows XP, And the occassional classroom computer sporting good old Windows 95. But this is a known problem, a problem which, while far from solved, is ever so slowly improving. And surprisingly, as small in roads have been made on this issue, It’s exposed another issue entirely. As some counties start to make tablets ubiquitous, and provide laptops or tablets for every student, We’re finding that the technology alone isn’t the only major barrier. Another one is game literacy. Now, what do I mean by “game literacy?” Well, by the time a child is in 4th grade, the expectation, in general, Is that they have the basic skills required to read and understand whatever text is on their homework. The same is not actually true when it comes to their familiarity with games though. Right now, how familiar a child is with the conventions of games by the time they’re 10 or 11, can vary wildly. Some children will have had a console in their home since before they were born, And were playing with a tablet by age 2. But other kids will never have held a controller in their life. And not know what abbreviations like “XP” or “HP” mean. And this creats a huge problem for using games in the classroom. Because, in a classroom setting, you can’t leave any child out. You can’t give work that any given child in the room may not be prepared for, And that the school has, in fact, done nothing to prepare them for. Now, this idea of “game literacy” may seem odd to anybody who would watch a channel like this one, But have you ever handed a controller to a relative? One who doesn’t really play games, and seen what happens? Sometimes it’s hilarious, but sometimes they just end up frustrated, In a way that we don’t want any child to be while learning. Now, there are a number of potential ways to solve this. One of the best is actually to use physical games: card games, or board games. These rely on no technology, immediately overcoming one hurdle. And they also don’t rely quite as much on skills practiced outside the game, Such as controller use. Or on specialized knowledge, such as understanding that the little arrows at the periphery of your screen Indicate where you’re getting shot from. Now, that said, card and board games aren’t the perfect answer. Unless they can be printed up, pieces are gonna get lost or destroyed in a classroom setting. And often, there’s also the problem of having to gather all the students around one copy of the game to learn it. Rather than simply letting them watch it projected at the front of the classroom, Like you could easily do with a video game. Additionally, as these games don’t have a computer making sure that players follow the rules, They require that the teacher have a very thorough and exact understanding of them. And it’s way easier for students to missplay or simply to cheat. And that’s a big deal when the game’s rules are your teaching tool. Another possible solution would be to have the class just play the game together in a classroom. Of course, this isn’t practical for all games, But for games that are focused on specific decisions, especially dialogue choices, As in the the Telltale games, This can create a fantastic oppurtunity to use the game as a platform for discussion. And it only requires the teacher to have the basic skills neccesary to play through the game. Having the students play together in groups is another option, But this can be frustrating for some, as those who are better at game playing, Will have to have a lot of patience with those who are worse at it. And while this can be an excellent tool for teaching homework, It has its own risks. Any students who are less confident in the topic they’re studying Might simply rely on those who have a better handle on it, rather than learning it themselves. And any students who are timid about their gameplaying skills might feel alienated. But this all leads to the big question: Should we actually teach game literacy? And that just leads to an even larger question, Of whether we should teach media literacy in general at a young age. I’m gonna sidestep that larger question for right now, because that could be a whole episode by itself, But as for the question of whether or not we should teach students game literacy early on, James’ initial reaction was, “No.” Which, admittedly, even surprised him. I mean, we’re the ones pushing for more games in school all the time. But at a young age, there’s just too much for it to compete with. There are so many things which young children really need to learn, And he couldn’t see anything he’d feel comfortable swapping out for game literacy. Then he thought about it some more, and realized that perhaps he was looking at this backwards. I mean, we talk so much here about games helping to teach us other things, Perhaps we can teach basic game literacy while teaching other things. James watched his nieces and nephews learn addition And practicing the letters of the alphabet through games when they were incredibly young, No one had yet taught them how to play games or made them feel comfortable with them, But because of these game’s basic nature, They were something the kids could instictually get a handle on. And these games naturally led them to other games, and to a natural facility with games as they grew. So, perhaps to really integrate games with schools, We shouldn’t be so focused on bringing them into current classrooms. We can’t just focus on dropping them into the lives of students Who are already halfway through their academic career. Perhaps instead, we should start thinking about what happens if we integrate them from a young age, And allow students to grow up familiar with them. Then, we could actually rely on that familiarity, that literacy, The same way we do with reading when assigning textbook assignments. Which would allow us to utilize games without the risk of leaving anyone behind. Now, this is not to say that we should give up on integrating games Into classrooms up and down the chain, I’d love to see that happen! But, perhaps it’s time to think longer term. Perhaps it’s time to really think about game literacy, and how it can be aquired at a young age, While students work to learn other things. So that we can then use the literacy they gain to really make school something everybody wants to go to. See you next week! [Extra Credits – Outro Music]