Video Games as Reconstructionist Sites of Learning in Art Education

By Parks, Nancy S. | Studies in Art Education, April 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Video Games as Reconstructionist Sites of Learning in Art Education


Parks, Nancy S., Studies in Art Education


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

-Plato

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. According to Lantz (2003):

At the dawn of the 21st century, interactive systems surround us not just as the material reality of our lives but also as a key conceptual model for understanding the world and our place in it, just as mechanical systems did for the Victorians, (p. 11)

The Media Generation, Gaming, and Art Education

Computers, digital media, and video games have revolutionized the way young people today communicate and make meaning with the world. Although a divide between the quality and nature of access has persisted (Becker, 2000), new media's presence has increased in the lives of young people today. According to Roberts, Foehr, and Rideout (2005):

More than eight in ten (83%) young people have a video game console at home, and a majority (56%) have two or more. About half (49%) have one in their bedroom, and just over half (55%) have a handheld video game player, (p. 36)

In addition, the study showed that young people between the ages of 8 and 18 are increasingly using more than one media at a time. This study also revealed that an increase in satellite TVs, in the number of DVD players in the home, and media located in the bedrooms of young people have helped to enhance media's presence in the lives of young people today. …

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