Teacher’s perceptions and experiences of using narrative video games to teach literacy

Jen Aggleton, The Open University

Mona Aljanahi, United Arab Emirates University

Chrisitian Ehret, Emily Mannard, Tobias Ma, McGill University

Research strongly supports the incorporation of videogames across literacy learning contexts, illuminating how the complex, multimodal texts can foster engagement, collaborative socialization, and connection between in-and-out-of-school lives in ways traditional textual mediums cannot (Gee, 2003; Steinkuehler, 2010; Berger & McDougall, 2013; Ostenson, 2013; Burnett & Merchant, 2018; Lenette, 2019). As players take on an active role in decoding and interpreting a range of semiotic systems, they can hone a “constellation” of literacy practices (Steinkuehler, 2007). Additionally, fostering literacies through the contemporary digital texts many students use outside the classroom provides an opportunity to transform teaching-learning processes toward youth-focused, generative, innovative practice (Cope & Kalantzis, 2017; Thompson et al., 2017). 

However, whilst empirical studies in Australia, the USA, and England have shown the potential for videogames to develop literacy in classroom contexts (Apperley & Beavis, 2011; Ostenson, 2013; Maine, 2017; Theodoulou, 2019), there is also acknowledgement that using gaming narratives is a challenging step for many teachers (Maine, 2017; Theodoulou, 2019). This research therefore aims to address the practical, pedagogical, and cultural concerns of teachers about using narrative videogames in the classroom. In doing so this study will create a link between research findings and the practicalities of everyday teaching to provide teachers with guidance on how they can successfully use videogames as part of literacy learning.

As literacy learning takes place in many different contexts, this study takes a qualitative multiple case study approach, working with teachers in the UK, UAE, and Canada, who are teaching learners between the ages of 7 and 18. In each country a lead researcher works with four teachers who will be acting as participant-researchers. The teachers will be supported to undertake their own action research project in which they use a videogame in the classroom to support literacy learning. This approach enables an exploration of both the barriers teachers face in using videogames, and potential solutions to overcome these barriers. It also allows for an assessment of how effective teachers feel using a videogame to teach literacy is in their context.  By exploring these different contexts, we will identify common themes related to videogames as a medium for literacy development, as well as a wide range of local factors. This range will enable the findings to be applicable to a greater number of teachers than could be achieved by exploring a single educational context or a single country. 

Research Aims and Questions:

Aim: To identify teacher’s perceptions about the benefits of and barriers to using narrative video games in the classrooms of three different cultural contexts

Research Questions:

  • What practical barriers do teachers face when using narrative video games in their classrooms?
  • What solutions do teachers find to using video games in their classrooms?
  • What do teachers think are the benefits, if any, of teaching with video games in their context?
  • Do these benefits outweigh the difficulties?

For further details, please contact Jen Aggleton at jen.aggleton@open.ac.uk

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