Video Games as Reconstructionist Sites of Learning in Art Education

By Parks, Nancy S. | Studies in Art Education, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview
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Video Games as Reconstructionist Sites of Learning in Art Education

Parks, Nancy S., Studies in Art Education

Art education has been in the midst of a transformation shaped by several factors, including changes in contemporary art theories, political and economic factors, and technological developments. Film, music videos, advertisements, video games and other forms of popular culture are shaping how students learn today.

Discussions about video gaming typically have turned ro concerns about a recurring narrative, focusing on violence with sexist and racist content, found in games such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004). Today, educators and researchers recognize the potential of video games to engage players in multi-sensory, complex learning processes. Games that promote social action have become popular over the past 5 years and have represented a new genre of games that researchers from a range of disciplines are beginning to investigate. This discussion of video games examines simulation, situated learning, and social realism gaming schemas as well as social reconstructionist art education. Specifically, the article explores the videogames Peacemaker (2006) and Darfur is Dying (2006) and their potential for learning in a social reconstructionist art education context.

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.


Art education has been undergoing a transformation from disciplined, comprehensive approaches, to a range of approaches that recognize the increasingly visual world we live in and the role of technology in reshaping teaching and learning in the 21st century. Over the past decade, scholars in the field have been calling for a re-envisioning of art education. Taylor (2007) provided an overview of activity that has taken place in support of a visual culture approach, including conference presentations, articles, texts, and awards. Similarly, Freedman (2003), Duncum (2000), and Tavin (2003) proposed a visual culture approach, while Bolin and Blandy (2003) proposed material culture as a more inclusive, useful approach. Freedman and Stuhr (2004) described a revision of art curriculum that engages students in forms of popular culture, such as advertisements, film, digital video, video gaming, and interactive electronic environments, as well as work defined as fine art.

Scholars such as Hicks (2004) used the concepts of play and finite and infinite games as tools for re-envisioning art education. Hicks made the following comment: "Indeed, I believe that art education has an obligation to consider ways in which art and, more broadly, visual or material culture, affect and are affected by the broader social world in which it exists" (p. 286). She further stated, "Social responsibility in art education presupposes a willingness to play" (p. 295).

Sweeney (2004) provided an analysis of simulation as it pertains to the Internet, artistic practices, and for the purposes of this article, art education, in the hopes of "practices that are socially relevant and technologically critical, that help us to think through current moments of unthinkable complexity" (p. 75).

A common thread shared by many of these visions of art education has lain in the recognition that social aspects are a fundamental part of how we come to know the arts and the impact of media and technological developments on art and society. In her description of social perspectives in art education, Freedman (2000) noted:

These perspectives in art education reflect a concern with issues and interactions of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, special abilities, and other body identities and cultures; socioeconomics, political conditions, communities, and natural and humanely-made environments, including virtual environments, (p. 314)

Within the vast realm of media and technology, video games have played a critical role in specifically shaping how our students learn and perceive the world. Roberts, Foehr, and Rideout (2005) made a key revelation in a study sponsored by the Kaiser Foundation; the study indicated that youth between the ages of 8-18 spend almost 6/4 hours per day with media.

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Video Games as Reconstructionist Sites of Learning in Art Education


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