“Research suggests … educators should use the Internet not so much to teach the same thing in a different way, but rather to help students enter into a new realm of collaborative inquiry and construction of knowledge” (Kern: 2004, 254).
In an exponentially growing world of internet and mobile media, education has somewhat lacked in taking advantage of the gateway of communication that is freely offered. Often times, use of mobile media is discouraged or banned in the classroom, which as we all know very well, doesn’t hold up among most students. It is not a rare sight to see someone texting or playing a game under the desk, attempting to hide it from the teacher. In his article, Kurt Squire describes the possibilities and detriments of mobile technology in education. He begins with describing that mobile phones are lightweight, easy to use, generally fairly priced, and easy to upkeep yet they are also fragile, have small screens and have complicated input mechanisms. Despite their negative features, however, there is a growing rate of cellular phones among K-12 students. Since they have them, why not use them for educational purposes? Cellular phones are becoming more and more common with no sign of decrease in popularity. They are taking more of our daily time and attention than ever before. Squire describes how people are now in multiple places at once through the invention of this technology. We are able to follow sports games and chat with friends while sitting in a work meeting. Educators often times feel uneasy about this as, “mobile media may threaten basic power dynamics, such as control over information, expression, and literally ‘where’ the student is” (Squire 2009: 78). Instructors are rightfully wary of such technology as they are concerned for whether their students are receiving a useful education or whether they are completely absorbed in their technologically-mediated world. Integration of education technology, in my opinion, would aid the instructor in regaining their previous position of power in the classroom.
Gamefication of educational content, for example, is a great way to amalgamate technology with the classroom. In my own experience as a foreign language student, one of the most frightening aspects of practicing another language is the possibility of making a mistake. Although error is one of the most common and effective ways of learning a second language, students tend to shy away from any possibility of mistake, and in my case, completely avoid speaking in fear of misunderstanding. This fear of mistakes is not limited to language learning, but is found in all aspects of education. Purushotma imagines various ways to combat this feeling of unease by examining the video game The Sims. Will Wright, designer for The Sims, describes how players can explore failures in a fun and imaginative way, giving equally entertaining content as when the player does something considered “correct.” Purushotma begins to illustrate how such techniques could be used in second language educational programs saying, “The more creative responses give players highly memorable cues to understand the real meanings of the choices they make…The reason the designers have put so much creative thought into the system’s failure responses is because they fully expect players to make mistakes – and that’s all right” (Purushotma: 2009, 8). Learning is equal parts of success and failure and gamefication can reduce the anxiety associated with failure while encouraging exploration and curiosity.
It was with this idea in mind that Destiny and I decided to create a gamefied version of a social studies instructor’s African American culture lesson plans. The game is place-based and requires students to physically be at the locations that were so important to the African American culture in the 1940s. They are comparing and contrasting the information fed to them by the game with what the area looks like currently. It was our hope that the students will be able to learn about the struggles of the African Americans in Portland and gain a better perspective of their cultural history.
Kern, Richard, Paige Ware, and Mark Warschauer. “Crossing Frontiers: New Directions in Online Pedagogy and Research.” Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 24 (2004): 243-60. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.
Purushotma, Ravi, Steve Thorne, and Julian Wheatley. “10 Key Principles for Designing Video Games for Foreign Language Learning.” Lingualgames (2009): 1-40. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
Squire, Kurt. “Mobile Media Learning: Multiplicities of Place.” On the Horizon 17.1 (2009): 70-80. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.