Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Exploring African Student Video Game Play from a Connected Learning Theory Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Exploring African Student Video Game Play from a Connected Learning Theory Perspective

Article excerpt

Introduction

Different theories have been used to explain and investigate learning that occurs in video games. Theories such as socially situated learning theory, situated, and distributed cognition theories have shown that players learn and acquire skills during game play that can be transferred from the game world to the real world (Squire, DeVane, & Durga, 2008). Yet, studies investigating video games and learning mostly consider students with western-cultural background to explain and describe the learning that takes place during video game play (Squire, DeVane, & Durga, 2008; Hommel, 2010). Although, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) in 2013 reports an increasing diversity among video game players in the US, few studies explore video games play among other groups such as African students in US-based institutions. For this reason, this pilot study inquiry concerns African undergraduate students playing a game called FIFA 15 and uses the connected learning perspective to interpret and define the learning that takes place during these students game play.

Video Games and Learning

Research into learning and video games was energized by the works of authors such as James Paul Gee and Marc Prensky. Gee (2003), in his book, argued that commercial video games such as Deus Ex and Arcanum engaged players in reflective practice, complex problem solving and critical learning. Using learning principles from cognitive science, in his observation of his son and drawing on his own playing experience, Gee (2003) demonstrated that video games are learning spaces as they push players to identify and establish relationships, to construct meaning through various modalities (images, texts, symbols, interactions, abstract design, sound, etc.) and not only through words. In the same vein, Prensky (2006) contended that the change in learners that grew up playing video games called for changed in the way people learned. Games in his view are teaching tools, a positive media that should be incorporated into schools to engage learners because while playing, gamers are learning on their own (Prensky, 2006). Examining popular games such as Grand Theft Auto III, Prensky (2006) argued that in video gaming, players acquire skills such as problem solving, language and cognitive skills, strategic thinking, and multitasking skills.

The works of Gee (2003) and Prensky (2006) have excited the educational community and attracted media attention. The fact that students are not always interested in learning difficult things in schools, but are eager to pay (i.e., buy games) to learn long, new, complex and difficult games shows the learning value of video games (Gee, 2005). For example, problem solving skills players develop while playing games are essential outside the game context and for learners in the 21st century (Gee, 2005; Prensky, 2006). Hommel (2010) adds critical thinking, decision making, and intertextuality (i.e., the complex interrelationship between a text and other texts taken as basic to the creation or interpretation of the text) to describe some examples of learning that occurs in the video game play and environment. Game playing has also been proven to promote academic engagement in students by stimulating them to find resources outside the game to help them gain a better understanding of the game storyline (Squire, DeVane, & Durga, 2008). Indeed, investigating the potential of Civilization III to teach world history to American students often alienated from school, Squire et al. (2008) found that participants not only acquired new vocabulary, but were also able to use that vocabulary in their discussions about events related to the game. Gee (2005) goes further to show that principles built into the games by game designers such as customization, well-ordered problems, and co-design (i.e., player participation in the development of the story) trigger learning. Still, most of this study focused on participants with a western cultural background. …

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