The Literacy of Gaming: What Kids Learn From Playing
“When people learn to play videogames,” according to James Paul Gee, “they are learning a new literacy.”This is one of the reason kids love playing them: They are learning a new interactive language that grants them access to virtual worlds that are filled with intrigue, engagement and meaningful challenges.Although games can be immensely entertaining, it would be a mistake to consider them as only a form of entertainment. Games are fun, but their real value lies in leveraging play and exploration as a mode of learning the literacy of problem-solving, which lowers the emotional stakes of failing.In Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity?, he reminds us that our educational system has stigmatized mistakes. As a result, kids are frightened of being wrong. Yet if we are not prepared to be wrong than we won’t be able to come up with anything creative or solve complex problems. Videogames, on the other hand, embed trial and error into the foundation of gameplay.Kids aren’t naturally great at gaming the first time. They develop mastery through disciplined practice — a path marked by dead-ends, wrong turns and blunders. Yet gamers aren’t angst-ridden about making wrong decisions because games encourage a growth mindset. Mistakes are how one figures out what doesn’t work and provides the impetus to zero in on what might.Games are based on problems to solve, not content. This doesn’t mean that game-based problem-solving should eclipse learning content, but I think we are increasingly seeing that a critical part of being literate in the digital age means being able to solve problems through simulations and collaboration.Videogames, and the type of learning and thinking they generate, may serve as a cornerstone for education and economies of the future.While there could be a long list of recommended practice, for simplicity sake I’ve reduced the list to three preliminary suggestions.
- Play games. Otherwise how can you have meaningful conversations about them? Not learning how to play games would be akin to talking about “The Lord of the Flies” without having learned to read.
- Connect games to books, movies, TV and the world around them. By thinking about games beyond their boundaries we can cultivate pattern recognition across media platforms and parlay the problem-solving of gaming into the real world.
- Have your students or kids collaborate with other peers to analyze and interpret games, as well share strategies. There has been a raft of research in recent years that extols the wisdom of the crowd and the logic of the swarm. Through collaboration and networking kids can learn to enhance their own perspectives, ideas and, perhaps, contribute to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Image Source : sean dreilinger
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