Skip to main content

PhD reading: videogames, digital play, makerspaces

 This week, I have been reading...

  • Digital games and libraries, James Gee (2012)
  • Emergent digital authoring: playful tinkering with mode, media and technology, Becky Parry and Lucy Taylor (2021)
  • An interview with Gunther Kress, Eve Bearne (2005)
  • Makerspaces in early childhood education: principles of pedagogy and practice, Jackie Marsh at al (2019)
Quite an eclectic list of reading for this week. I intend to adopt a more systematic approach to reading but, for now, I am happy to keep an open mind and read through things that have been in my #toread folder for a while.

A summary in ten words: Playing with digital technology invites rich social interaction and learning.

Word of the week: tinkering 

How much I understood: 65% (Gunther Kress dragged down my average)

***

Quite an eclectic list of reading for this week. I intend to adopt a more systematic approach to reading but, for now, I am happy to keep an open mind and read through things that have been in my #toread folder for a while.

It is James Gee season here in Meanwood. I have just finished reading his influential book What Video Games have to Teach us about Literacy and Learning (Gee, 2003). Aside from the strong case he argues in favour of video games as a powerful medium for learning, it was a witty and insightful journey through the video games of the early 2000s. It deserves its own blog post but I’ll wait until I have digested it fully first.

His article Digital Games and Libraries (Gee, 2012) builds on the ideas from his book: that video games encourage active, critical and collaborative learning in a way that many schools (in America, twenty years ago – although still relevant to my mind) do not. He argues convincingly that far from a “waste of time”, gaming finds the balance between teaching content relevant to a wide range of semiotic domains - areas of learning e.g., geology, narrative, the game genre itself – while building in a learning experience that rewards risk and persistence. Indeed, in Digital Games and Libraries, Gee argues that video games have developed a ‘new school system’ alongside that of the classroom. They provide a digital space where children can learn, often, in his view, more effectively.

He proposes the software itself (the ‘little g’ game) must be seen alongside the wider collaborative community (the meta-game) where players discuss, mentor each other and share ideas about games online. The communities he describes as ‘affinity spaces’ are where the collaborative and social aspects of learning, absent from many experiences of schooling, blossom.

This is why I am so interested in video games. I see them as a medium that promotes agency and authorship: children telling stories, imagining and finding a space to share things that matter to them and learning something valuable in the process.

Playfulness and collaboration are (unintentional) themes of the other readings this week. Emergent digital authoring: playful tinkering with mode, media and technology (Parry and Taylor, 2021) again explores the social aspect of effective learning through digital technology. The authors build the case for greater recognition of the importance of digital play or ‘tinkering’ in children’s emergent literacy. Often this play happens informally in the home and validating and foregrounding these experiences in formal education settings remains a challenge.

Parry and Taylor’s article plays on themes explored in Makerspaces in early childhood education (Marsh and a long list of others, 2019) which looks at the potential of makerspaces – collaborative, interest-driven making and design – in young children’s development. This is something I heard a lot about – especially in relation to ‘hack spaces’ - but had not considered the role of digital technology as a central part of the experience.  As a teacher, I had run them in school but with non-digital materials as part of DT lessons.

The researchers here consider the potential of makerspace workshops to foreground children’s agency as makers (independence and ownership), and consider the personal, social and institutional impacts of these experiences (drawing on the work of Rogoff, 2003). This has potential for my research. Linking Gee’s affinity spaces with the playfulness and purposefulness of the makerspaces feels like the right environment to think about authoring.

Through the tinkering and playful engagement with the tasks (such as VR, green screening, circuit building, and light play) children’s collaborations help develop their knowledge funds, their ideas of how materials work. Equally important for the learners is how they are able to draw upon home learning experiences and bring them into this space – again, something practitioners find challenging. While I know much pearl-clutching occurs when imagining that digital play is somehow eclipsing the non-digital, the authors here make the case for post-digital play: that the two coexist in children’s experiences. There was much, much more in these two articles which I will certainly revisit once the focus of my PhD becomes clearer.

A brief word on the Interview with Gunther Kress (Bearne, 2005). He discusses the concept of ‘literacy’ and how, in recent times, this understanding has become more blurred. He discusses the role of digital texts in literacy and language is understood, especially how technology has reshaped the representation, production and dissemination of texts. There was a lot in here about mode and linguistics that I didn’t understand fully so my next stop will be Kress and Van Leuven’s Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. I am hoping that will help!

One prescient point, however, was the place of knowledge in learning. He argues that the digital age has given rise to a knowledge economy which is reflected on the obsession with school curricula to deliver ‘content’. Kress argues that, far from being the end in itself, a knowledge economy is underpinned by innovation. This is something that doesn’t fit with the culture in education to train students training to conform. Such a powerful point that captures my entire motivation to take on a PhD.

Popular posts from this blog

Filthy wretch or poor thing? Rethinking the Island, KS2, Week 1

A treat for the final half term - a new workshop at a delightful school in Leeds! This half term I am working with two Year 5 teachers to develop a cross-year group, cross-curricular writing project based on my favourite picture book, Armin Greder's The Island . I've done this book many times and every time the response is different! This week, we got to grips with the facts, possibilities and mysteries of the story. What do we know about the story so far? (we only ever read up to page 6 to leave it on a knife edge...) What doesn't this story tell us and what could we infer or predict?     We looked at the crowd of islanders who 'welcome' the stranger's arrival. As in every class, country or community, no group ever sees the world the same way and we discussed how the islanders might react differently to the man. Is he a poor thing who needs to be rescued? Is he a curiosity? Is he a threat? We each adopted an islander and took on their perspective f

Creative writing based on Hokusai's The Great Wave

The Great Wave - Creative writing workshop, Year 6 Week 1: Vocabulary development Inspired by Japanese artist Hokusai's masterpiece The Great Wave , Year 6 are starting on a creative voyage to bring the iconic print to literary life! We spent some time poring over the features of painting: the spray, the wave, the boats and, well hidden, Mount Fuji. After reading an account of Ellen MacArthur's sailing voyages, we began to generate some cutting edge vocabulary to give our writing some sparkle. This was the process: Children labelled the features of the picture, including parts of the wave (crest, barrel, swell, lip) We chose personified verbs for the different features. 'Grabbing', 'scratching' and 'grasping' for the finger-like lip of the wave; 'screaming', 'slapping' and 'whistling' for the wind. The group selected similes for each of the features. The wind became 'a bellowing dragon', the boats w

Open? Reflecting on an experiment to give away my teaching resources

In August 2019, I started an experiment . Rather than sell my teaching materials online via a platform, I would share them in a pay-as-you-can arrangement. One year on, I reflect on the experiment and why (spoiler alert!) it has left me poorer. ⌚ 7 minutes Last summer, I read the excellent book called Open: how we'll work, live and learn in the future by David Price. This book discussed how developments in technology are altering how we share and gather information and, as such, have transformative implications for how we live, work and learn. These implications are relevant now, Price argues, and will become even more so in the future. It's a fascinating book. Price argues that the spirit of open enterprise (also called Creative Commons) allows traders and service providers to cut out large consultancy agencies, publishing platforms and so on by speak to their clients directly. If you have a training course to sell, for example, avoid an agency: instead promote it via socia