Computer Games and Education: A Multidimensional Relationship



As in many countries, the Flemish government has for some time been facilitating the integration of information communication technology into primary education by providing funds to purchase equipment and train teachers. However, in terms of content, schools are uncertain how and to what degree to employ these tools. In 2004, the Flemish Ministry of Education published a best-practices document (Dienst voor Onderwijsontwikkeling, 2004) containing examples of how to integrate educational software into regular school instruction. In these examples, much of the software consisted of video games, such as memory and labyrinth games. However, no coherent strategy for the integration of games into the curriculum was proposed. More recently, however, there have been indications of a more targeted approach. For example, in 2011, in response to concerns about bullying, the Minister of Education launched a government-sponsored antibullying video game for use in classrooms, entitled “Poverty Is Not a Game” (PING). At the same time, he incorporated the game into the specifications of targeted final attainment levels for media literacy, stating that this was “the first attempt to introduce and stimulate the potential of video games as an educational tool” (Smet, 2011, p. 30).

In a wider European context, in 2009 the European Schoolnet published a report based on six case studies in different European countries, commissioned by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, on the pedagogical possibilities of using video games in European schools (Wastiau, Kearney, & Van den Berghe, 2009). The results indicated that most of the surveyed teachers (n = 528) were already using both educational and entertainment-oriented commercial video games in their classes, mostly in the context of mother-tongue and foreign language teaching. Further, teachers reported heightened motivation and advancement in a wide range of general skills among their pupils (cf. Pivec & Pivec, 2009).

However, the report also noted that the surveyed teachers were tentative with regard to the impact of video games on specific course skills. The report further cited the educational context and the amount and quality of teacher guidance as important mediating variables.

In a wider international context, Gee (2003) found that video games can provide an inherently motivating context for learning and there is a considerable body of empirical evidence (e.g., Rosas et al., 2003; Castel, Pratt, & Drummond, 2005; Green & Bavelier, 2007; Blumberg, Altschuler, Almonte, & Mileaf, 2013) supporting the view that such games can have a positive impact on specific skills and forms of learning. However, far less research has situated game playing within the broader context of adolescents’ orientation to and experience of schooling. It is this aspect which forms the focus of this chapter.

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