The Influence of an Educational Computer Game on Children's Cultural Identities

Article excerpt

Introduction

Culture recognition starts from a very early stage of life. Some studies have confirmed that different children hold perceptions about culture differently (Nixon & Comber, 2006). These cultural perceptions not only shape and determine a person's way of perceiving and reasoning (Hofmann, 2006), but also influence one's learning (Nixon & Comber, 2006). Moreover, these cultural identities contribute to group dynamics and the growth of institutes or communities (Ledoux, 2005). Thus, many efforts from a local level, such as a community (Brooklyn Historical Society, 1990), or from national level (Laitin, 1997; Van Gorp & Renes, 2007), have been made to increase the knowledge and understanding of the culture around individuals. In many educational systems, e.g., California State in US and Taiwan, explicitly or implicitly use cultural recognition and respecting different culture as the core of cultural learning (California State Department of Education, 2000; Ministry of Education, 2006).

However, national or state formal curriculums have been doubted for their function on cultural learning. Many studies have maintained that the incorporation of informal approaches into formal learning is a necessity (Kopong, 1995; Ninnes, 1995). It is reasonable to assume that teaching cultural identity may not be successful, if the formal curriculum is the only approach. A value system needs to be built up holistically. Value learning and/or cultural learning need some additional and perhaps more innovative approaches. We believe that giving students opportunities with active involvement and spontaneously emotional attachment, such as those in video games, have more potential to make cultural learning more meaningful than traditional schooling.

Purpose of the study

This study adopted an innovative approach by using a culturally enriched educational game, FORmosaHope (FH), to ascertain the relative effectiveness of gameplay as a form of cultural learning. The research questions of this study are the followings:

1. How effective is the educational game, FH, on Taiwanese student learning of cultural identity?

2. Do students' gender or their family's societal status influence the growth of cultural identities in an educational game environment?

3. How do students feel about the educational game, FH, after they have experienced it?

Theoretical Framework

An important declaration on cultural policies has been made in an UNESCO-based (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) conference held in Mexico City (World Conference on Cultural Policies, 1982). It asserted that "the cultural identity is a treasure that vitalizes mankind's possibilities of self-fulfillment by moving every people and every group to seek nurture in its past, to welcome contributions from outside that are compatible with its own characteristics, and so to continue the process of its own creation". This declaration also appealed that "the equality and dignity of all cultures must be recognized" and "the international community considers it its duty to ensure that the cultural identity of each people is preserved and protected (World Conference on Cultural Policies, 1982). Nowadays, developing one's cultural identity has well recognized as human nature right and protecting this right has also become universal value.

To preserve and to protect this important dimension of culture, an instrument to measure individual's culture identities was needed. However, after reviewing related literatures, this study found that there is no instrument has been developed. Tracing back to the definition of culture, the Mexico declaration stated culture as, "the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features, that characterize a society or social group (World Conference on Cultural Policies, 1982)." This highlighted rough components of "culture. …