Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On Interactions with the Community


Roel Cantada

Learner-Community Interactions

We could think of the community as a group of players, a group of students, or a school. Whereas the interactions between learner-learner are interactions between individuals, we are dealing here with an individual interacting with a group. That group has norms and values. Much had been said about the norms and values held by groups of players in the previous post (Steinkuehler, 2005; Siitonen, 2007) but there is still the matter of how these norms affect the use of games in teaching and learning.

Gamers' communities are seen as social networks (Steinkuehler, 2005; Siitonen, 2007) wherein reciprocal forms of teaching and learning occur in all directions throughout the social network (Steinkuehler). I think that the issue is not only how the individual as an agent will create ties with an existing network but also how the network (with pre-existing structure and rules of linking) will constrain or promote ties.

The ideal community is a community of practice. This community is not only a group of people sharing similar interests but a group that is actively participating to advance the knowledge and expertise about a topic. There is evidence that a community of gamers can socialize novice players but the culture of gamers appears to contrasts with school culture. School experience in the Philippines are organized into 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours subjects. Around six subjects a day. Each subject is usually taught by a single teacher. In my opinion such an organization of student experience is a hindrance to the openness, persistence, and length of time needed to play games and develop gamer culture that fosters collaborative learning. The idea that games need to be adapted to the school culture appears to limit how games can be used in teaching. On the other hand changing the school culture to afford the use of games e.g. providing flexible time and allowing open enrolment (class scale is not limited by teacher/student ratio) may be difficult to achieve in traditional face-to-face education. There may be hope for distance education where these barriers are being broken down but I think the traditional model of credit-hour class is still strong. Clearly there is a need for advocacy on the acceptance of games among stakeholders in education in the Philippines. This post will not deal with these socio-cultural and policy issues and leaves it to future researchers to study.

Teacher-Teacher Interactions

Teacher acceptance of the use of games in their classroom may be influenced by other teachers. In the case of the non-digital game in Hanghøj study one of the teachers who was reluctant to participate eventually did after hearing the experience (2008) of his colleagues in using the game. But this may also work in reverse; teachers who had failed in their use of games in the classroom may influence others not to adopt video games for teaching.

In Italy it has been reported that teachers had organized themselves into a community of practice in the use of video games in the classroom. The COP's formation had been briefly described this way:

First, a group of teachers who design educational games is set up, and brings in other people with more technical expertise; then a larger community of teachers tests these games in their own classrooms to identify their strengths and weaknesses and recommend or suggest improvements; and finally the improved games are made available online for a large group of teachers to use them in their everyday teaching. (Wastiau, Kearney, & Van den Berghe, 2009)

I believe that organizing such a community in the Philippines will not only improve pedagogy with educational games, but may also be used to produce games that are affordable and accessible to students. Opensource games projects may provide models of software production for such a COP. Hopefully other researchers will be able to explore this topic further.

Community-Game Content Interactions

The community being referred to in this section is the society in general. It appears that video games gets bad press in the media which reinforces the negative attitude of teachers and parents about video games. Of course this is not without reason as described in the post that mentioned video game overuse. This is especially acute when parents experience their children going to internet cafes and spending their allowances there instead of going to school. I wonder how parents would react when they are told that the video games will now be brought to school?

A concern among adults about video game content is the presence of sex, violence and bad language in commercial video games. The United States of America, Canada and Europe had responded to this by setting up rating systems similar to that used in film and television. The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating system use age categories and content categories. The age categories are 3, 7, 12, 16, and 18. While the content information includes violence, bad language, fear, sex, drugs, discrimination, gambling, and online (Felicia, 2009).

In the U.S.A. and Canada the self-regulatory agency Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) provides age and content ratings (ESRB-FAQ, n.d.a.). The age rating symbols include early childhood, everyone, everyone 10+, teen, mature, adults only, and rating pending. The content descriptors are more detailed than PEGI's and includes alcohol reference, blood, violence, comic mischief, crude humor, drug reference, language with moderate profanity, sexual content, simulated gambling, etc. (ESRB, n.d.b.).

Although providing tags or metadata on the affordable learning actions of video games will not substitute for the teacher play testing the game it may still be useful in game selection especially if there are many games on a particular topic. Teachers may create an online database of educational games and tag them for pedagogy, topic covered, length of game play, etc. The games may also be linked to researches on those particular games that will guide teachers on its effectiveness and problems that need to be resolved with out-of-game extensions. Exploring this possibility is outside the scope of  my project.

Teacher-Community Interactions

To overcome the apprehension of the school community in the use of games in teaching and learning it is recommended to inform and even involve parents and the community in the evaluation of the implemented video games. The community should be regularly briefed about how the games are being used, the objectives, the outcomes and the evaluation (Wastiau, Kearney, & Van den Berghe, 2009).

Game researchers in the United States of America and Europe seem to be more concerned with educators interacting with the commercial/prorietary games developer community. Projects had been set up to encourage commercial game developers to invest in the development of educational games and to dialogue with researchers and educations stakeholders. It is said that commercial game companies avoid educational games because of the collapse of the first wave of the popularity of educational games in the market in 1990's (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2005). I am not aware of a similar effort with  opensource games developers.

Community-Community Interactions

I believe that a COP of teachers and learners advocating video games for learning and teaching will give the educational community a voice in the development of educational games. It will allow the educational community to dialogue (and be taken seriously) with game developer communities, parents, and the media about the realities of video game use for teaching and learning. Again this interaction and that preceding it are beyond the scope of my project. I can only hope that future researchers and practitioners will explore this topic further.


Egenfeldt-Nielsen, S. (2005). Beyond edutainment. Exploring the educational potential of computer games. Doctoral dissertation, IT-University of Copenhagen.  Retrieved March 8, 2010, from

Entertainment Software Rating Board. (n.d.b). Game ratings & descriptor guide. Retrieved July 7, 2010, from

Felicia, P. (2009). Digital games in schools: A handbook for teachers. Belgium: European Schoolnet. Retrieved July 1, 2010, from

Hanghøj, T. (2008). Playful knowledge: An explorative study of educational gaming. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Southern Denmark. Retrieved March 13, 2010, from

Siitonen, M. (2007). Social interaction in online multiplayer communities. Doctoral dissertation, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Retrieved May 10, 2010, from; Available at

Steinkuehler, C.A. (2005). Cognition and learning in massively multiplayer online games: A critical approach. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved March 30, 2010, from

Wastiau, P., Kearney, C., & Van den Berghe, W. (2009, May).  How are digital games used in schools? Complete results of the study. Belgium: European Schoolnet, EUN Partnership AISBL. Retrieved July 1, 2010, from

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