News: Video games teach kids ‘new literacy’: Do you buy it?

Dakshana Bascaramurty reported in a recent Globe and Mail article, “Video games teach kids ‘new literacy’: Do you buy it?” that children basically need to play video games in order to learn ‘new literacy’:

A new article on PBS’s Mediashift web portal presents a different argument: our definition of literacy is outdated. Kids may be learning a “new literacy” through playing video games.

Bascaramurty goes on to cite studies that support the notion that the exploration and problem-solving qualities of video games make them excellent learning tools.

I agree – to an extent. Here’s the comment I left on the Globe and Mail blog in response to the article:

I’m a big fan of educational technology and using games for educational purposes. In her TED talk, Jane McGonigal makes a strong case for using video games for learning and I think she’s on to something. In our house, games like Assassin’s Creed and Halo are among the favorites. So, basically, I’m a techo-geek-educator.

Having said that, research also shows that what is missing, at times, is the link between using technology for entertainment and using it for education. Authors Oxford and Oxford in their 2009 book on “learning in the net generation” caution that students’ comfort levels with technology do not always transfer successfully to pedagogical settings. Hourigan and Murray in their 2010 study published in the Australian Journal of Educational Technology, (vol. 26, issue 2, pp. 209–225) state that even digital natives require instruction on how to use technology for educational purposes. They note that self-regulated learning and personal accountability are key themes for today’s students in helping them make the link between using technology as entertainment and using it for learning.

Our job, as parents, educators and even just grown-up gamers, is to help the next generation make the link between the virtual world and real one, showing them HOW to transfer their skills, knowledge and problem-solving abilities to every day life.

Here are the articles I cited in my comment on the article:

Oxford, R., & Oxford, J. (Eds.). (2009). Second language teaching and learning in the net generation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii.

Hourigan, T., & Murray, L. (2010). Using blogs to help language students to develop reflective learning strategies: Towards a pedagogical framework. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(2), 209–225. Retrieved from

What do you think? Is there such a thing as “video game literacy” and if so, is it important for today’s children to be literate in these games?


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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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