Friday, 1 September 2006

Game On! The Future of Literacy Education in a Participatory Media Culture

by Henry Jenkins, Head of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program.

Here is a re-ordering of Henry's words for my own understanding. First the background:

In this new landscape of video games, cell phones, podcasting, blogging, instant messaging and other kinds of media-intensive experiences, children are participants – not spectators, not even consumers in the traditional sense of the term....Let’s be clear that participation is related to but different from interactivity. Interactivity is a property of technologies; participation is a property of cultures. Games are interactive; game culture is participatory.

An important sentence in the essay is:
Through games, young people are learning how to play, perform, express themselves, and collaborate in large-scale communities.

He further elaborates:

Play refers to a process of exploration and experimentation. Think of games as problem sets. Each step forward involves trying out possible solutions: some work, some don’t, all must get refined through further play.

Games also involve trying on and performing different identities. Game identities are a complex mix of fact and fiction, self and other.

Expression refers to the ability to create new content, often inspired by the culture around us. In the new games culture, players are encouraged to design their own characters, make scrapbooks of their game play experience, animate movies using game avitars and share them with other consumers, take the game design tools and make their own additions to commercial games.

Collaboration describes how members of online communities share information, pool knowledge, compare notes, evaluate evidence, and solve large scale problems.

However, the most important we should consider is:
Yet, there is another skill often missing -- judgement. Researchers using games in the classrooms are finding that children are adept at learning new content through games but the game itself remains largely transparent: few kids ask about the motives or accuracy of the ways games depict the world. [my emphasis]

In my previous post Why Most Off the Shelf Commerical Games Will Not Work in Education? And What Is The Alternative?, I rejected off the shelf commerical games as a good approach to learning based on the black box nature of the underlying world depicted by the game. here Henry provides a good reason why my rejection is off the mark. To use selected off the shelf commerical games as a vehicle for learning, we must, at the same time, "teach" learners about judging the content - the world depicted by the game, how real or how accurate the game world reflects the real world. Most importantly, game world is game world. Game world is NOT real world! If we can get this message across effectively, I withdraw my objection to using off the self commerical games in learning situations.

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