HomeIDIOM back issue reviewsReview - Digital Games: Literacy in Action

Review - Digital Games: Literacy in Action

Karen B. Johnson, Camberwell High School

Editors: Catherine Beavis, Joanne O’Mara and Lisa McNeice

Publisher: Wakefield Press, 2012, 152 pages.

RRP: $29.95

Digital Games presents a broad collection of articles, investigations, and teacher experiences pertaining to the use of digital gaming technologies in the classroom. The central premise of the book focuses on two theoretical perspectives, ‘games as text’ and ‘games as action’, and the ways in which these may interact together in order to enrich teaching and learning. The text acknowledges the digital landscape our students operate in, and posits ways to create meaningful and engaging connections to curriculum and pedagogy, so as to develop and improve student literacy through the use of gaming technologies.

The contributions here contend with various ways to address issues with literacy education, student engagement, pedagogical practice, and the digital world our students increasingly find themselves in. Digital Games confronts the digital culture that is so prevalent today in education, and shares the action research of teachers across the English domain. Central to the project is the overarching spirit that learning occurs when students are ‘having fun and being challenged’, just as when they are exploring the virtual worlds in which they are often immersed.

In ‘Game-O-Rama!’ (Chapter 10) by Maureen Cann, computer games are used to create an ‘instructional environment with a social learning network’ that encourages collaboration, exploration, analysis, and engagement, and makes use of the philosophical frameworks of ‘learning to learn’. Chapter 13, ‘Narrative and computer games’ by Clare Bradford, explores the ways in which video games contain extensive narratives and ideologies. ‘Computer games, archetypes and the quest narrative: Computer games as texts in the Year 9 English classroom’ (Chapter 3) details a 10-week unit experience of three teachers, Lisa McNeice, Andrea Smith, and Toby Robison, and their students as they explored digital worlds. Each chapter of Digital Games is compelling, practical, and data-driven. The research and experiences shared are invaluable to teachers as learners.

The breadth of contributions within Digital Games is such that it would appeal to teachers of English, Media, Humanities and, one hopes, other disciplines across the Australian Curriculum. It is this diversity of applications that personally appeals to this reviewer, as it represents a tool to develop and support digital literacy and learning within the curriculum, whilst encouraging the development of a range of skills outside the curriculum. The frameworks gathered here break down the barrier for those who may be somewhat apprehensive about technology use within the classroom, and instead provides clear, consistent and relevant advice and ideas for even the most novice digital users.

As a gamer and a teacher with a firm belief in the educational benefits of gaming, this reviewer recommends that Digital Games would augment any teacher’s professional library of resources by providing a compelling guide to engage with the digital world around us. A further word of encouragement – you personally may not know all the techno-babble but don’t let that deter you from diving in: your students will work with you, providing a truly rewarding learning experience for all.  

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