STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM: Video Games are a powerful new solution to address the problem of media literacy in our educational institutions. There is a need to teach new generations to be media literate and engaged in their civic life; using games is an innovative and effective approach for teaching, providing new alternative methods rather than the old, strict, and standardized process. Games are proven to effectively improve learning across all demographics and most age groups (U.S. Department of Defense), and deeply engage their users in active, non-passive ways. Furthermore, video games have become the largest entertainment media in the modern world, considering that children from the age of 11 to 18 play an average of 10,000 hours of video games in nations with strong gamer cultures (Germany, South Korea, Brazil, USA, etc.) (McGonigal 2011), a number roughly equal to the amount of time they spend in school. As economist Edward Castronova calls it, this “mass-exodus”4 to virtual worlds has great implications, and similarly great potential. Gaming isn’t going anywhere; it is up to us how we hone this new media to improve the future.
The Institution of Education is also insufficient in its current form to address the issues of media literacy among youth and older citizens alike. Not only do we need to shift the current educational method, but expand it if we intend to educate all citizens on media literacy, not only youth, since a healthy society is a well-educated from top to bottom. Incidentally, the average age of gamers is about 34 years, providing a perfect media outlet to reach citizens outside traditional education institutions.
A STATEMENT OF THE CASE
In the specific case of providing outlets in schools for media literacy and civic engagement, the game Community PlanIt was developed and distributed in Salem MA, Detroit MI, Malmo Sweden, and elsewhere to actively engage citizens in their local government’s activities, not only giving them a voice, but also directly distributing power to citizens through play. Community PlanIt is an ever-evolving online platform developed by the Emerson Engagement Lab, which will continue to be implemented in school systems and cities globally.
The premise of the platform’s design is two-fold; players must participate in surveys about their local urban planning processes in order to become informed, gathering “coins” while doing so, and then they may use their virtual currency to directly vote on which projects they wish to support. This encourages a meritocracy system wherein those who make choices are necessarily informed (having merit), while the platform also provides instant feedback which encourages participation. In the case of Community PlanIt’s Salem initiative, the North Shore Community Development Coalition (NSCDC) and Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)3 reported 57% of participants were of high school level education, and 33% of participants being beyond secondary education institutions. Twenty two percent reported incomes of less than $75,000, and 11% reporting more than $75,000; it this implies a powerful multi-demographic reach. An amount of 27% reported they wished to participate with the goal of sharing their ideas on improving their communities, 9.9% wanted to meet other members of their community through the platform; 24% reported wanting to learn about issues in their community; 7.3% wished to connect to their local decision makers. See the full report here.
These numbers indicate interesting trends, where traditionally social media and media in general have been criticized for damaging our sense of local community, yet here in Community PlanIt, local community is sought after and strengthened. Recognizing that games, social impact gaming in particular is a young medium which can only expand far beyond these few initial cases. Media Literacy requires an engaged, entertained, and curious citizen body; games can provide the space to facilitate such traits in a deep, meaningful way.
BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT
This article talks about educational video games in the home, but is still relevant for this study. It talks about games being part of a potential “flipped classroom” model of learning, where students study the topic alone before learning in class. The author recognizes that educational games must be of good quality – comparable to entertainment games – and must allow the users to think critically. It is a fairly unbiased and positive article towards educational games and says they could be introduced soon.
The author reiterates the view that games are more engaging than traditional teaching methods, but he admits he is a keen gamer, so there is a certain bias to the article. This can be seen when he states that “all good games” are good for education, which is open to debate. He gives... The headline is “defending” educational games, implying they have received criticism and are seen as an unrealistic option for learning.
This short article does not give much information except for stating how popular games are and talking about the significant possibilities of their impact in the classroom. It refers to one case study – an apparently successful attempt to bring games into the classroom at Pennsylvania State University. The article is on the website of a software developer and for this reason there is likely to be a bias towards using technology in education.
The author writes very positively about the potential for games in the classroom, but is mainly interested in achieving the best possible learning experience for the students involved. He puts emphasis on the way that games are not standardized and that people play them in different ways, and so should be more engaging than “dull” and “boring” traditional methods, as he calls them.
The author believes that games have an issue with perception – that they are not viewed as an educational tool. He speaks positively about games and backs up his views with evidence from academic studies and experiments. The article is short and does not provide a counter- argument but does give a detailed account of the progress educational games are making.
In summary, most recent media coverage of video games in education is limited to minor news websites or blogs. This shows how the subject is not causing a particularly widespread debate. There is clearly some subjectivity in the articles because of who has written them, but this does show that people are backing the argument for games as educational tools and publishing articles in the media.