Digital Literacy on a Global Level Through Games

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.

Manav Rachna International School (MRIS) Sector 46, Gurgaon, India

Manav Rachna International School (MRIS) Sector 46, Gurgaon, India

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.

MRIS teachers participating in Zulama training in preparation for teaching the Evolution of Games

MRIS teachers participating in Zulama training in preparation for teaching the Evolution of Games

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!

ISTE 2011

Overwhelming Technology on the Show Floor!!!

Lots of the same hardware at ISTE this year. Not too many practical examples of how all this hardware is improving learning, at least not from the vendors. I attended some terrific sessions in which students and teachers shared their tips and techniques for real learning that happens through their digital devices or the web. Seems as if the real value that technology brings to education can be found in the classrooms of a growing number of innovative, creative teachers.

I’m biased because Zulama is a content company, and to us learning is all about the content. Technology is a delivery mechanism, a way to enable rich, interactive experiences with subject matter. Students and teachers use mobile devices, tablets, the web, etc., to get to the content, interact with it, and “own” it. Learning takes place through hands-on experiences, whether that’s clicking through a slideshow and manipulating 3D images on a screen, or building a real-life model or game prototype.

Life-changing, project-based learning is what Zulama is all about. How about in your classroom?

Teachers’ Digital Jam, Doing Real Learning

ISTE Closing Keynote Address

Jeff Piontek delivered a rousing closing keynote address at ISTE.

Collaboration, problem-solving, and team-building are some of the most important skills we can teach our kids. Forget “teaching to the test”–it’s a waste of time.

When he describes Zulama’s Video Game Academy courses, Don Marinelli of Carnegie Mellon University proclaims that we need not just STEM. We need STEM+A. The arts are an important part of a 21st-century technology team.

STEAM is Jeff’s version of STEM+A. He shares Don’s opinion that we must not cut out the arts, rather we need to make sure creative and technical students can work together. Through left-brain and right-brain collaboration, the problem-solvers and innovators of tomorrow will succeed.

What’s your PASSION? was one of Jeff’s questions. It’s something we ask ourselves every day at Zulama, and we’re committed to helping students FIND their passion.

Jeff made an interesting observation that when teachers are in the classroom, the culture they are dealing with is not their own. It’s a bit of a different spin on the same old idea that our students are more technologically advanced than our teachers.

Jeff made the assertion that it’s way past time for reform, it’s time for a revolution in education. That’s probably true, but how is revolution going to happen? If education in the U.S. is anything like health care (which is also way past time for reform, and instead needs a revolution), then do we have any hope? We’ve already demonstrated that we are incapable of overhauling the health care system, so what makes us think that we can overhaul the education system?

Session: The Future of Ed Tech in the Obama Administration

My notes from this presentation by Hilary Goldman, lobbyist for ISTE:

What in the world is authorization and re-authorization? Answer: legislation that establishes or continues a Federal operation or agency. Legislation authorizes how much can be spent. Authorization does not provide funds. Appropriators can provide less funding than what is authorized.

For Fiscal year 2011, the Obama administration combined spending recommendations for the Dept of Ed with ESEA reauthorization recommendations (NCLB). This in effect blends the authorization process and appropriations process.

ESEA reauthorization (formerly known as NCLB) is in the process of happening right now. 

President Obama’s proposal will infuse technology throughout ESEA programs and eliminate a dedicated program for educational technology. Three major points in Obama’s proposal:

  • shift from formula to competitive funding streams
  • consolidate programs
  • continues Race to the Top and I3

ISTE’s concern is that if we lose a funding stream devoted directly to Ed-Tech, we will lose the great momentum that has been gained. Schools need math experts, learning experts, ESL experts, etc. We also need Ed-Tech experts, and Obama’s blended approach will most likely make this more difficult.

The shift from formula spending to competitive funding raises the issue of the “not have” districts who don’t have grant writing expertise continuing to lose out while the city districts who have terrific grant writers will get the funding. This could create a bigger gap between the “haves” and “have nots”.

Schools can budget more effectively when they receive money though a funding stream, while competitive funding can’t be budgeted because schools don’t know if they are getting the money up until the day it’s awarded.

Check out this link for more information on ISTE’s political action and initiatives.

My parting thoughts:

Philosophically, I agree that Ed-tech should be blended into the curriculum. Technology isn’t separate from how we learn, or what we do in life, so why should we continue to think of it as a separate entity? Students don’t view technology as something separate from learning, it is part of their way of life and integral to the way they learn, communicate, and play.

In practice, it will be difficult for schools to make this shift, but it is imperative that they rise to the challenge that the competitive funding streams pose. The “have-not” districts will need to be even more creative to win competitive grants, and use their dollars even more wisely. Zulama provides a solution to funding issues. High schools can outsource their elective courses to us, and realize cost savings while providing their students with the creative, demanding, and interactive experience that prepares them for higher education and career. 

How does the option of outsourcing your elective classes sound to school admins, teachers, parents, and students?


ISTE Keynote Address

Denver, CO, June 27, 2010

Part I: Helen Padgett,  ISTE President

ISTE Learning is a new teachers’ learning community, professional development workspace, and marketplace on the ISTE website. will be relaunching in September 2010, and the new website will include more ways to engage with members and educators.

International distribution of ISTE print products has been expanded over the last year, and more titles are available in languages other than English as well as in e-reader formats.

ISTE will be placing special emphasis on the Young Educator Network, for educators in their 20s and 30s. These “rising stars” exemplify ISTE’s mission—they are already making an impact on the field and they serve as role models for educators of all ages. Continue reading