Video Games as Digital Learning Resources: Implications for Teacher-Librarians and for Researchers

Article excerpt

For many teens of both genders in industrialized countries, video gaming is an integral part of their play and of their informal learning. This qualitative study explored the learning experiences of adolescents as they played recreational video games of their choice in their homes, with the intent of understanding how they came to believe in their ability to learn in informal learning situations. These teens perceived their learning as evolutionary, constructive, embedded in context, and most satisfying when self-solved. This report concludes with implications for teacher-librarians and implications for further research on bridging the gap between formal and informal learning.

Introduction

To thrive in today's world of rapid change, individuals need to believe they have the ability to learn in a variety of settings or circumstances (Bandura, 1997; Ellyard, 2002). Children develop this cognitive self-efficacy not only in school settings, but also in informal or out-of-school learning situations (Bandura, 1997) such as digital (computer and video) gaming. If, as researchers such as Sherry Turkle (2004) claim, technology changes the way we think, then digital games, one of the most pervasive of technologies in today's wired and connected homes, have an impact on our children's cognitive processes. Our children bring their informal learning experiences with them to the classroom, yet we know little about how those experiences shape the way they think and learn. Indeed, there is little research at the basic education level (Kindergarten to Grade 12) on bridging the gap between school or formal learning and informal or out-of-school learning (Sefton-Green, 2004). This is an unacceptable vacuum, especially when one considers the amount of leisure time spent by many children on digital games that can be effective informal learning tools (Gee, 2003). In addition, research on the implications of digital games for education has been conducted primarily with adults and computer-based games.

Overall, limited research examines the implications of console-based or handheld-based video gameplay for children (Anderson, 2004; Blumberg & Sokol, 2004; Carr, 2007; Inkpen et al, 1994; Sanford & Blair, 2008; Walton, 2002). The problem, then, is that the significances of recreational video gaming for formal learning are largely ignored by educators. In this paper I discuss the learning experienced by eight adolescent videogamers during gameplay (the gamer's interactions with the actions, objects, and meanings of a game). I begin with a brief overview of the research literature and then present the design of the study, the findings, and the implications of these learning experiences for teacher-librarians and researchers.

Literature Review

Good digital games are effective instructional resources that foster engaged learning (DeMaria, 2007; Galloway, 2006; Gee, 2007, 2003; Newman, 2004; Shaffer, 2006), and adolescents of both genders are avid gamers (Newman, 2004). Children in most industrialized countries have abundant access to digital games (Chou & Tsai, 2007; Facer, 2001; Gavin & Noguchi, 2006; Lenhart et al., 2008; Nielsen Games, 2008). Little wonder that Maria von Salisch, Caroline Oppl, and Astrid Kristen (2006) claim that in technology-oriented countries, "playing computer and video games has become one of the favorite leisure-time activities for boys and (less so) for girls" (p. 147).

Digital games, regardless of platform, are not easy to play; they are complex and demanding learning activities (Clarke & Duimering, 2006; Stapleton, 2004). In recent years, studies connecting digital gaming and learning have become more numerous. The majority of studies have focused on adults and computer games but an increasing number are now examining children and digital games, primarily computer games (Agosto, 2004; Carr, Buckingham, Burn, & Schott, 2006; de Castell & Jenson, 2003; diSessa, 2000; Kafai & Resnick, 1996; Squire, 2004; Sutherland et al, 2004). …