Digital Literacy on a Global Level Through Games
Bev Vaillancourt, M.Ed, Educator, Instructional Designer
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has established six comprehensive technology standards for 21st Century students. These include
- Creativity and innovation
- Communication and collaboration
- Research and informational fluency
- Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making
- Digital literacy
- Technology operations and concepts
My travels to work with teachers at Manav Rachna International School _ Sector 46 in Gurgaon, India, underscored the global interconnectivity defined by these technology standards. During training, teachers accessed Zulama’s Learning Content Management System and navigated through its many components. Soon their students will be doing the same. The joy of playing games, understanding the value of learning game design, gaining proficiency in digital literacy, and managing content delivered online are coming together at three MRIS schools in Gurgaon thanks to a joint initiative between MRIS, Zulama, and iCarnegie Global Learning. It was a joy to work with these very dedicated and skilled teachers during my all-too-short stay in Gurgaon.
The ISTE standards noted above are a corollary to the skills identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and critical knowledge in order for students to benefit from the advantages offered by the global learning network. My work with the inspiring teachers at MRIS also highlighted the universal language of games. What better way to achieve the advantages identified by the ISTE standards and 21st Century Skills, and connect students globally, than through participation in game design curriculums?
With a focus on collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity, students proficient in 21st century skills take ownership of and accountability for their learning. Importantly, curriculums, such as Zulama’s, produce students who are highly engaged and able to work with others in any subject area and within new and challenging learning environments. Layer that with the software skills needed to manage 3D design, or the computer programming skills necessary to produce digital games, and the opportunity to share creative expression on a global level occurs with the ease of keystrokes.
No matter where games are played, the experience carries with it a sense of optimism, challenge, and the desire to learn from mistakes in order to improve one’s strategy and game play. Individuals enter game play on a voluntary basis, share commonly understood and agreed upon rules, and desire the same goal of successfully completing the game. Games are universally viewed as enjoyable experiences. A well-designed game brings to the player an experience that balances risk and reward, offers advancement in skill, and presents a fair opportunity for success. Games reflect the critical thinking required to do well in math, science, social studies, and the fine arts.
When students design games, they are looking to challenge the player and bring to the moment the desire on the players’ part to play again. For some game designers, this is as simple as designing a new card or board game for friends. For others, the advanced technology skills needed to design computer-based games are not only an intellectual offering, but also an open door to the ever-expanding game industry.
Today, the game industry offers students with project management, art, marketing, and computer programming skills an amazing array of employment and advanced study opportunities fostered by a global video game market that at present eclipses the film industry. According to a 2012 CNN Money article, video game design is among the top six “cutting-edge” jobs in the United States. With a predicted and impressive ten-year job growth hovering around 32 percent, it’s no wonder students of all ages are looking to gain entry into the digital game market.
While working with the teachers from Manav Rachna International School, we talked about how mutually beneficial it would be to have students from India taking the Evolution of Games course communicate with students in the United States taking the same course. Students separated by thousands of miles would be able to share their gaming experiences with games from ancient times, such as Ur and Senet, and share their game design ideas. This global communication and collaboration based on games and game design could foster a global understanding of cultural diversity and deepen an understanding of heritage – all through the unlimited advantages that come with standards tied to technology and through expression of 21st Century skills. Embracing diversity though global connections made possible by the study of the Evolution of Games. What an awe-inspiring possibility!