In Digital Literacies: Video games and digital literacies, Steinkuelher (2010) defines a problem around parent and teacher perceptions of video games. The author explains that despite the less than savory perceptions teachers and parents hold about video games, there is a growing body of research in literacy studies investigating their merits (Gee, 2007). Contributing to the unsavory perception of video games is The Reading at Risk report (Bradshaw & Nichols, 2004) that situate games in direct opposition of reading. Steinkuelher claims that such reports ignore evidence that contradicts or "problematizes such claims" (p. 61). Taking an information ecology perspective, Steinkuelher seeks to explore through her paper what the relationship between video games and literacy, print or otherwise is.
She writes that there are two perspective on games and literacy. The first asserts that video game play is a form of digital literacy. The second perspective can be observed when "we widen our focus" (p. 61). Steinkuelher writes that "If we widen our focus from the 'individual player + technology' to the online community that emerges around any successful game title, we find that video games lie at the nexus of a complex constellation of literacy practice" (Steinkuehler, 2007, p. 61). Working from this perspective, the author concludes that video games and literacy have a strong mutual relationship. Working from this assumption, the author questions why there is such a disconnect between games and classrooms.
To illustrate how for some boys gaming works against them at school, Steinkuelher shares a story about a student named Julio. Through this story, she connects the dots. Julio identifies as a gamer. His brother is into games and his mother is described as ambivalent towards them. Julio is also failing English language arts and described as "entirely disengaged" (p. 62). Despite Julio's failing English language arts grade, outside of school he's an avid reader of video game narratives and the author of three books of his own. Julio is an avid reader and writer of fan fiction. This gives him "authority and social capital" amongst a group of his peers. Julio checks facts for his books using online texts, he expands his knowledge by choosing television shows that that support his interests, he plays games from various time periods and narratives that he's interested in, and shares his knowledge with his peers. Despite Julio's obvious digital literacy outside of school, he refuses to engage in assigned readings in class.
Steinkuelher explains that when Julio reached the eighth grade, she measured his reading level and found that he was reading three grade levels behind. When asked to read from a social studies text the results were the same. However, when Julio was given permission to choose the topic he would read about, he read independently at a twelfth grade level. Steinkuelher concludes that story shows that "Video games are a legitimate medium of expression" (p. 63).
One critique of this article is the blanket statements the author makes about parent and teacher perceptions around video games. Steinkuelher asks "Why, then, is there such immense disconnect between games and classrooms? Parents and teachers typically loathe video gaming and go to great lengths trying to curb it rather than cultivate it" (p. 62). As a teacher I have never loathed video games nor have I found that my colleagues typically loathe them either. I also think the emergence of eSports has started to shift lingering unsavory perceptions that the author discussed in the introduction. I won't say that all parents and teachers embrace gaming, but I certainly wouldn't claim that the immense disconnect that may have existed when this article was published remains immense today.
Steinkuelher, C. (2010). Digital literacies: Video games and critical literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(1), 61-63.
In Enhancing 5th graders' science content knowledge and self-efficacy through game-based learning, Meluso et al. (2012) explains that "there is a growing interest among researchers in the transformative potential of game-based learning technologies, especially in STEM education (Prensky, 2001; Spires, 2008; Whitton, 2007). Well-designed educational games can have a transformative impact on STEM teaching for several reasons:
For this reason, the purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of a game-based learning environment (i.e., Crystal Island) in fostering students’ science content learning gains. A secondary goal of this study was to contribute to a larger understanding of the affordances of game-based learning environments when students play them collaboratively along with classroom curricula.
In addition to the growing interest around the transformative potential of game-based learning technologies, another "fruitful area" for game-based learning research is centered around science self-efficacy. Meluso et al. (2012) assert that this area of research is significant for the following reasons:
The researchers of this study are working from the belief that improving young students' science self-efficacy may increase overall interest in science education and in turn heighten interest in careers in the field of science. For this reason, the literature review focuses on developing relationships between three big ideas--game-based learning, self-efficacy and learning, and collaboration and game-based learning.
In the materials and methods section the researchers explain that the study took place at a public magnet school. The school served grades K-5 in a large district in the south-eastern part of the United States. Thirty-five percent of the students that attend the magnet school receive free or reduced lunches. The sample consisted of 100 fifth graders (45 boys and 55 girls). Students were randomly assigned to either a single-player or collaborative gameplay condition across the classes.
Students played the game-based learning technology Crystal Island after they were exposed to state curriculum for North Carolina for fifth grade science focused on landforms. Meluso et al. (2012) describe Crystal Island as "an online computer game consisting of an immersive, 3-dimensional intelligent learning environment with a cast of characters situated on an island within a story world" (p. 499).
Pre- and Post-test assessments
With the focus on gains in students' science self-efficacy science and content knowledge, questions were designed to require students to indicate to what extent they found each item to be "like" them. Fourteen multiple-choice questions were also used to measure STEM content knowledge about content covered in the game.
Items were adapted from the Sources of Science Self-Efficacy scale (SSSE) (Britner & Pajares, 2006) and from the Self-Efficacy for Self-Regulated Learning Scale (Bandura, 2001).
Science content knowledge
Measured through identical pre- and post-test assessments that aligned with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study. FOSS (Full Option Science System) was used to construct assessments for content knowledge items and the fifth grade end of grade questions.
Data collection took place in sessions that occurred once a day over the course of four days. The following occurred on each day of the study:
Results indicated that there were no differences between the two playing conditions. However, the researchers assert that when conditions were collapsed, science content learning and self-efficacy significantly increased. The authors also connected their findings back to the studies theoretical base when they make connections to Howard et al. (2006). They use this connection to support their findings that as expected "students valued the usefulness of discussion with their peers while playing games, indicating that it is important to continue investigations that center around understanding the effects of collaborative gameplay" (p. 502).
Meluso, A., Zheng, M., Spires, H., & Lester, J. (2012). Enhancing 5th graders’ science content knowledge and self-efficacy through game-based learning. Computers and Education, 59(2),497-504.
In "What immigrant students can teach us about new media literacy: understanding how immigrant students use digital media outside of school could help develop digitally connected forms of pedagogy in schools" Lam (2012) explains that in the United States, "relatively little educational research and innovation in new media literacy has dealt with the cultural practices of young people who come from immigrant families." Lam's research shows that a significant number of adolescents with immigrant backgrounds are using social media to develop language, literacy, and social skills through interactions with people and information sources from diverse communities that differ from their own. Lam refers to these as "transnational digital practices" and argues that if schools leverage these practices to promote new media literacy they will service students well.
Research has shown that adolescents can use digital media in innovative and productive ways that promote learning as they seek out interests and develop friendships online (Ito et al., 2010). For example, adolescents use social media to maintain and further develop relationships with peers that they interact with in their lives offline. In terms of interest-driven practices, adolescents engage in online gaming, music, fan fiction, and fan art through interactions in online spaces with peers that share their passion and can offer support guidance. According to Lam (2012), "this re-search has led some scholars to advocate "connected learning" (http://connectedlearning.tv/what-is-connected-learning) to harness different support structures across online and offline spaces and to do so across institutional boundaries to promote more robust and personalized learning." In other words, by leveraging the affordances of digital networks, adolescents are able to connect resources across school, home, and their community. Lam says that studies have shown that when connections are made between school learning and students' cultures, native languages, identities, and communities, gains in academic engagement and achievement can be observed (Gutierrez, Morales, & Martinez, 2009). For this reason, better understanding the role of digital media in immigrant students' learning experiences outside of the classroom may help educators begin to develop "connected forms of pedagogy" that are at the same time culturally responsive.
Lam's research team surveyed 262 students and interviewed 36 students at an ethnically diverse Midwestern high school. At the high school, over 50 different languages were spoken by students in their homes (Lam & Rosario-Ramos, 2009). The research focused on students ranging from those who emigrated to the U.S. in their early childhood to mid-adolescence. Of those students, 72% used the internet to communicate with people across countries (peers and family in the U.S.) and in the students' countries of origin. The study also found that 47% of students who came to the U.S. before the age of six indicated they were communicating online with people in their country of origin. Student interviews also revealed that these students conversed in multiple languages online as they interacted with peers and sought out information sources across geographical boundaries. It was also found that most students who participated in this study gathered news from U.S. websites as well as news websites from their native countries. Students were able to gather diverse perspectives because of the choices of information they encountered by navigating to news sources from various geographic locations.
Lam also closely studies seven youths' practices with digital media in their home and community settings. This research revealed understandings about how youth generate and draw on their online network for the purpose of learning. Consider the following understandings that were revealed this research:
Lam argues that "understanding how these young people access resources could lead us to reconsider how our educational practices could enhance their language and literacy development." The research shows that students are using multilingualism productively through digital media practices online such as developing and maintaining peer relationships and seeking out information sources across geographical boundaries. More research to help us better understand these digital practices is needed. In particular, Lam argues, "how much they participate in cross-border digital practices and how different social and demographic variables affect levels and types of engagement."
Lam, W. S. E. (2012, December). What immigrant students can teach us about new media literacy: understanding how immigrant students use digital media outside of school could help develop digitally connected forms of pedagogy in schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(4), 62+.
In Authenticity, Interactivity, and Collaboration in VR Learning Games, Thompson et. al (2018) explains that "decreasing cost and increasing technology access in schools places 3D immersive virtual reality (VR) within the reach of K-12 classrooms" (Korbey, 2017). This is because the affordances of virtual reality allows educators to overcome traditional limitations to K-12 classroom environments. The authors of this article have gained insight on the benefits and challenges of using VR to create authentic, interactive, and collaborative experiences that help students through the development of several learning simulations and games. In particular, the development of a game to introduce students to cellular biology. The authors explore three key ideas in this article:
Despite the fact that cells are a critical topic in biology standards and curriculum materials, the authors explain that they are often oversimplified in introductory resources. To circumvent this issue, they suggest incorporating 3D visualizations such as immersive VR into biology curriculum to improve student learning. While some scholars have argued greater visualization positively impacts student learning, others argue that too much visualization can quickly lead to "cognitive overload" thus impeding student learning. As a solution, the authors propose interactivity (the ability to stop, start, replay, and manipulate visuals). Spatial understanding as well as problems that require perspective taking and understanding structure are also well suited for VR use the authors write.
The need for designers to "balance the user's attention to their own experience and explore how to create a sense of shared presence, or co-presence, in the virtual world" is also discussed (Campos-Castillo, 2012). In VR environments, paying special attention to interdependence, purposeful formation of groups, individual accountability, and attention to social skill development are important considerations. The creators of Cellverse have taken these ideas and applied them in the development of their VR environment. They draw connections between the aforementioned effective practices found in the literature and leverage the affordances of VR in their project. The game-based format of Cellverse provides high levels of interactivity between student and the concepts presented in the VR experience. Aspects of biology are also presented within the game environment as well as opportunities for students to build interdependence among team members.
This project has not been without challenges though. For example, users may become nauseated if there is too much activity. Another challenge has been creating a balanced flow of information between two players. And finally, scientific understandings are continually advancing. This makes maintaining authenticity an ongoing challenge. The authors suggest that "when moving forward, researchers, developers, and educators should investigate how each of these factors can be fashioned to optimize learning, identify affordances and challenges that may emerge as VR becomes more widespread, and incorporate findings and feedback into future development" (p. 5).
Thompson, Wang, A., Roy, D., & Klopfer, E. (2018). Authenticity, Interactivity, and Collaboration in VR Learning Games. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 5, 133–133. https://doi.org/10.3389/frobt.2018.00133
In "Using Peer Feedback to Enhance the Quality of Student Online Postings: An Exploratory Study" Ertmer et. al (2007) begins with the role of feedback in online environments noting the fact that it is even more important than in traditional settings. This is because in online environments lack of feedback in online courses. Due its importance, Ertmer et. al (2007) make several recommendations for increasing the effectiveness of feedback. First, feedback should be skill focused rather than focused on the end product. Second, feedback should be prompt and timely. Third, feedback should be ongoing/formative. Fourth, it should be summative. And finally, it should be constructive and consistent. When feedback meets this criteria, Ertmer et. al explains that feedback can improve the quality of online discussions and responses. The problem, they explain, is that this type of feedback is time consuming. As a potential solution, Ertmer et. al proposes the use of peer feedback. There are several advantages to using peer feedback. It can be more timely and create a sense of community in an online course. It can also create new learning experiences for all parties involved as well as humanize the online learning experience (p. 415). In terms of receiving feedback, peer feedback increases the number of meaningful interactions in the course which in turn leads to greater learner satisfaction. Instructor and peer feedback, when done right, can also increase the quality of discourse which in turn Ertmer et. al claims will increase the quality of learning in online courses. There are also several benefits to giving peer feedback. Specifically, students progress beyond the cognitive processes that were required to complete the assigned task and engage in higher order thinking to give feedback (e.g. questioning, comparing, reflecting, etc.). Giving feedback also promotes autonomy as each learner comes to give and receive feedback and recognize the instructor is not the only one who can. This is said to over time increase learning.
While there are clear advantages to giving and receiving peer feedback, using peer feedback is not without challenges. Before using peer feedback can add value to the learning process in a traditional classroom setting, students must overcome the anxiety of giving and receiving feedback to peers. Ensuring reliability is also a concern. Ertmer et. al note that it is unclear whether or not these challenges will be mitigated or exacerbated in an online environment. In part, this is because communicating complex ideas in an online environment can be challenging with limited face-to-face interactions.
With limited research conducted on the impact of using peer feedback to shape the quality of discourse in an online course, the purpose Ertmer et. al's exploratory study was to examine "students' perceptions of the value of giving and receiving peer feedback regarding the quality of discussions posting in an online course" (p. 416). The research questions included:
Ertmer et. al used a case study framework to conduct a semester long study on the use of peer feedback in an online environment. The research team used pre and post surveys as will as interview protocols as data collection instruments. A scoring rubric based on Bloom's taxonomy was also used to give feedback. The use of this rubric to provide feedback was first modeled by the instructors for the first six weeks of the course. Fifteen participants were then required to give peer feedback using the Bloom's taxonomy rubric. Participation points were awarded for giving feedback. Peer feedback scores counted towards students' final grades. Prior to using the rubric to give feedback, participants were given sample responses that were scored with the rubric to mitigate variation amongst participants when giving feedback. Surveys were used to collect data on perceptions of giving and receiving feedback. Interviews were conducted to gather individual insights on the process. Scores were used to determine the impact of peer feedback on DQ quality.
The following results are discussed by Ertmer et. al:
Several explanations for the results are shared in the discussion. First, the scoring rubric for determining the quality of discussion board responses was only two points. With a two point spread, there is little room for growth. Especially for students that started with relatively high scores on their two required posts. Second, many of the questions were not crafted in a way that invites students to respond at high levels of Bloom's taxonomy. This likely impacted students ability to demonstrate growth in term sof the quality of their responses. Third, feedback was channeled through the instructor which causes a significant delay (two weeks) in receiving feedback. The authors explain that this lag time may have canceled the proposed benefit of providing more timely feedback through the use of peers.
Ertmer et. al point to the small sample size, duration of the study, and the limited two point scale of the quality rubric as limitations of the study. While they suggest that conducting the study over a longer period of time with a rating scale that allows for greater improvement could result in a measurable difference in the quality of student postings, this suggestion for future work also ignores their earlier concern that using a larger scale would also increase the amount of variation amongst scores weakening the reliability of the instrument.
Ertmer, P. A., Richardson, J. C., Belland, B., Camin, D., Connolly, P., Coulthard, G., ... & Mong, C. (2007). Using peer feedback to enhance the quality of student online postings: An exploratory study. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(2), 412-433.
In "Reimagining Literacy Assessment Through a New Literacies Lens", Forzani et. al (2020) highlight the potential and necessity of assessments influenced by new literacies. Specifically, they consider the internet and the many ways of "making meaning within and across varied sociocultural contexts made possible by this important digital context" (Coiro, 2020, p. 352). Forzani et. al (2020) acknowledges the importance of reliability as an assessment quality, but criticizes the means through which it has been achieved. They argue that the use of technocentric applications in the field of literacy assessment has ignored the complexities of new literacies that make it difficult to measure what it means to be literate with consistency. It is also noted that large-scale assessments assess traditional literacies that vary greatly in comparison to the literacies that exist outside of testing environments. Because schools value large-scale assessments, the literacies they measure become the literacies that are valued, taught, and assessed in schools. Forzani et. al (2020) propose four social values that should influence how practitioners reimagine assessment practices to from a New Literacies Lens.
Participatory cultures include technologies like email, chat, wikis, and social media platforms. Such technologies call for a shift in how and what we assess. Forzani et. al (2020) advocates for inviting students into the assessment process, giving them agency to co-construct knowledge and co-design their learning and assessing new social practices like strategies for participating in social communities and collaborating on ideas.
The rise of participatory, Forzani et. al (2020) writes, calls for greater criticality. Teaching students to navigate the variety of perspectives found online with a critical eye is an important aspect of developing new literacies. A traditional assessments lens may shy away from controversial issue found on social networking platforms like Twitter. A New Literacies lens will account for making a shift to assess students' ability to navigate multiple perspectives critically.
According to Forzani et. al (2020), "assessing with multiplicity in mind means that we must shift what we assess to include students' ability to engage with multiple practices, platforms, and modes in constantly changing contexts" (p. 354).
Forzani et. al (2020) claim that the internet calls for a tighter integration of reading and writing practice. They feel that reading and writing become a part of the same construct in reading and writing assessments. Therefore, both must be assessed together.
Grappling With Complexity
The authors conclude that these four factors suggest greater complexity. However, assessments informed by New Literacies encourage experiences that empower students to thrive in a digital age. This in turn enables them to thrive in their lives beyond the classroom.
Forzani, E., Corrigan, J.A. & Slomp, D. (2020). Reimagining Literacy Assessment through a New Literacies Lens. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 64(3), 351– 355. https://doi-org.cmich.idm.oclc.org/10.1002/jaal.1098