Virtual Games in Nontraditional Settings

In recent years, technology has taken a starring role in the classroom. This new perspective is something that I have just recently gotten comfortable with. Some forms of technology are easier to integrate in the classroom than others, and up until this semester, I had never even thought about entertaining the idea of using video games in the classroom. I can easily see the benefits of using social networking websites, like YouTube, Twitter, even Facebook, in the classroom, but video games as a learning device seemed a little too far-fetched. Rebekah Shultz Colby, Richard Colby, and John Alberti offer enlightening analysis about how using video games in the classroom can have a positive effect on students.

In the article, “A Pedagogy of Play: Integrating Computer Games into the Writing Classroom”, Rebekah Shultz Colby and Richard Colby demonstrate how adding a virtual game into a classroom setting can add a refreshing element to a traditional, stale learning environment. This article is very interesting, because Colby and Colby offer a new outlook that could reach the learning styles of different students. An overarching theme that I have been noticing from the readings that we have been doing is the importance of being able to adapt and reinvent your teaching style and classroom to stay relevant with what is happening. With the presence of technology becoming more apparent, it is only natural to integrate this aspect into the classroom. By adding virtual games in the classroom, this can “open up a gap for computer game theory to inform pedagogy that can be practiced in a writing classroom” (Colby and Colby 300).

For ‘old-soul’ individuals, like myself, if I were to use virtual games in my classroom, it would probably only be for a couple of class meetings. While I do see the benefits, I also do not want to appeal to one type of student. It is important for teachers to diversify their teaching style, but if a radically different style is the primary emphasis for an entire semester, it will be a waste of time. “The question of video games being taken seriously as cultural texts certainly involves the typical process of acquiring cultural capital that goes along with any new discursive medium…” (Alberti 260). Right now, in 2013, there probably are classrooms that are using video games as teaching tools, but it is not a practice that is widespread. With technology’s role becoming more and more prominent in the classroom, the use of virtual gaming as a teaching tool might become an aspect that will be popularized in years to come. But to get to that point, we must question the state of the traditional classroom setting. “What does it mean to re-imagine the writing classroom as an arena of play, to pursue the metaphor of writing as gaming?” (Alberti 267).




5 comments on “Virtual Games in Nontraditional Settings

  1. All this talk about video games has left me feeling like I’ve missed out on an incredibly valuable learning experience. I have never really played a video game, not even Mario Brothers. A large part of me wants to go try my hand at it, but an even larger part knows that I would give up far too quickly and lose all sense of motivation. For this very reason, I would not use video games in a composition class. I do, however, think the experience they provide the learner is one we should all strive to create in our classrooms: clear goals, automatic feedback, socialization, and real challenge. For me, that’s where the lesson is and how video games will continue to influence my pedagogy.

  2. I think you’re absolutely right that using games throughout your entire class might alienate many students. I agree that in most classes, it’s important to have a variety of activities and teaching styles.

    I was pretty nervous reading the Colby article at first because I was afraid that they were going to ignore that, or argue that their class model was something appropriate for everyone. I was SUPER relieved when they started talking about how a teacher who wants to do this kind of class should advertise it extensively, etc. It sounded very much like they saw it as a kind of “experimental” class that might need department approval, but would be worth doing, and not simply something ANY composition teacher could just suddenly start doing in all their freshman comp classes.

  3. Instructors definitely need to be comfortable with how they read, understand, and play video games. I get your point of having video games for just a few class semesters, but I also see a possible pitfall: gimmick. I feel like if instructors are to introduce games, it will also depend on the context and the purpose of such a lesson. As we discussed earlier this semester, technology and other non-traditional classroom media can have the reverse effect if the students feel that the game is a cheap gimmick.

    That being said, I agree with the comment above. A video game class needs to be advertised. There are tons of gamers on each campus, so awareness that this stuff exists would be best.

    Side note: whenever I start teaching composition (or English by extension), I’d love to try and integrate games into the classroom. But that’s just me.

  4. I think your intuitions are right when you state that the extent of video game technology in your classroom would be a few class meetings, maximum. I also hold a view that the ‘gaming as writing metaphor’ should be limited in the application and incorporation of video games into a Composition classroom. This is to say that, as teachers we should strive for integrative practices that avoid privileging one approach above another, whether that approach is emergent and or academically more conventional. The idea is to think strategically about how as teachers we can necessarily utilize the various approaches to teaching writing that provides students with an expanded sense of self and world while familiarizing them with writing within a variety of contexts for different purposes. If video game literacy is one approach, that’s perfectly okay, but it isn’t the only one, as I understand your point. I agree with this entirely.

  5. I completely agree with commentor “tevengco” about some experimental forms being gimmicky and having a reverse effect than originally intended. If we look at the majority of educational video games available, I think we can all agree that most of them are poorly designed attempts to disguise learning as fun. So do we include more mainstream games and then discuss continually changing forms of literacy in the classroom? I’m still not completely sold on the idea of integrating games in a freshman composition classroom. While I do believe that there are interesting lessons to be learning from reading video games, I think that it would be difficult to successfully implement them within a freshman comp course.

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