Video Games in Adolescent Learning

Steinkuehler, C. (2010). Video games and digital literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(1), 61-63.

The author suggest that youth today is situated in a complex digital information-based environment within and outside of school. Although video games and reading have often been diametrically opposed by some, Steinkuehler asks the question of “What is the relationship between video games and reading”? According to Gee (2007), gaming is the production of meaning within the semiotic resources of a game. Thus, the author suggests that video games are about a back and forth between reading the game’s meanings and writing back into them with gaming tools (p. 61).  That means that video games occur in a narrative space that a player or group of players inscribes with their intentions.

Steinkuehler raises a very valid point in wondering why there is such an immense disconnect between games and classrooms. According to the author, there is little to no evidence that the highly literate lives of “gamers” have any positive effect on their in-school identity or performance. Given a lack of research, Steinkuehler offers an illustrative anecdotal story developed from running a quasi-natural lab space for adolescent gamers over a two-year time span. The student highlighted is a seventh grade boy from a working-class, single-parent family. In the casual learning lab, the student avidly read novels based on video game narratives and wrote three books of his own. The author described that the student’s reading and writing gave him authority and social capital from his peer group. Whereas, in the school setting, the student refused to finish a single reading assignment, complained about his teachers, his assignments, the school, and his entire identity. As the student progressed to eighth grade, Steinkeuhler and the casual learning lab team performed some testing that showed when the student was given what he chose to read, he could read four grades above his diagnosed reading levels instead of the three grade levels below with his social studies textbook. The author posits that the difference lay in his self-correction rate (p. 63). Thus, when the student self-selected a topic, one that he intended to use to improve his game-play, he persisted in the face of challenges, struggling through until he got the meaning.

I think that video games have gotten a bad reputation and that student gamers are often negatively stereotyped in schools and I’m not so sure that it is warranted anymore. In my opinion, video games are just like a good novel, they have themes, key characters, a storyline or two, play on emotions or virtue, etc. With that said, educators need to adjust their mindsets and consider ways in which video games can become a legitimate learning medium for students if they desire to go that route. There is something to be said about taking somebody’s passions and letting them learn school through them. The current literacy practice of just-right reading is not paying off for some middle school students. Maybe the intervention is not reading more just-right reading books, but possibly letting students play a video game to interact and grow their reading skills. We won’t know if it works, until we give it a try!

Works Cited:

Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave.

Gamification in the Workplace

Robson, K., Plangger, K., Kietzmann, J. H., McCarty, I., & Pitt, L. (2015). Is it all a game? Understanding the principles of gamification. Business Horizons, 58(4), 411-420.

Robson et al., provide a detailed article about how the game design principles in a non-gaming context can be used in a business environment with employees. The authors note that organizations have long motivated their employees and customers with game-like incentives. However, with much of what organizations do these days being mediated by digital technologies coupled with a variety of social media tools, gamification has potentially widespread application in contexts such as healthcare, sustainability, government, transportation and education (p. 412). Robson et al., define gamification as “the application of lessons from the gaming domain to change behaviors in non-game situations (p. 412). Thus, gamified experiences can focus on business processes or outcomes and can even involve participants, or players as they are called, from within or outside an organization or institution. Although gaming has been around the work environment for many years, the authors posit three recent developments that have brought a heightened awareness back to gamification in the workplace including: 1) better studies on gaming mechanics, dynamics and emotions, 2) the pervasiveness of social media and web-based technologies, and 3) the need for organizations to look for new and impactful ways to better connect with their employees.

Robson et al., make a compelling case for “why” gamification works in workplace. The authors suggest that gamification can change stakeholder behavior because it taps into intrinsic motivational drivers. Also, they indicate that since gamification usually involves the repetition of desired outcomes, that habits can be formed that require less cognitive resources each time a desired activity is reproduced. Additionally, the authors claim that gamification can create a desired behavior change in work contexts through rewarding desired employee behaviors thus leading to more satisfying outcomes. Therefore, as purported by Robson et al., by tapping into rewards and emotions, an effective gamification experience will motivate individuals’ behavior changes in a workplace setting. Furthermore, to take gamification to scale, Robson et al., suggest the gaming framework must include: 1) input from designers, players, spectators and observers, 2) game mechanics set by the designer, known before the experience starts and remain constant throughout the game, 3) offering players game dynamics that encourage strategic actions and interactions where players are less likely to quit, concede or settle, and 4) gaming that yields emotions that are fun-oriented and appealing. In the end, the authors highlight that all organizations need to motivate and engage their stakeholders and that gamification is an approach to help meet that need.

I feel that organizations, whether businesses or non-profit institutions such as educational entities, need to look for different ways to motivate employees, boost morale and built learner capacity. All too often the easiest way to do this is by providing large group professional development sessions or purchasing a pre-packaged online module for employees to passively participate in or individually complete. Although these approaches result in organizations and institutions being compliant, these traditional training supports are sub-par given the technology mediated resources available today. Although I believe that a process should not be gamified just because it can be, I do think there are many opportunities in the workplace where gamification would add value to adult learner capacity, organization measures and targets as well as create a more positive and joyful workplace.