Opening the Bottleneck: Descriptive examples of teachers integrating video games for learning.

Seann Dikkers


Using digital games for learning has a ten year history of documented potential (Connolly, Boyle, MacArthur, Hainey, & Boyle, 2012). Classroom and informal trials show that learners can be more engaged in learning (Salen, 2011), think critically about semiotic systems (Gee, 2003), and participate in high levels of discussion around game spaces (Steinkuehler & Duncan, 2008). Games have great potential, but mainstream educational adoption of those games relies on a robust understanding of teacher appropriation skills toward use. Little work has been done to document or provide working descriptions of how teachers 1) find, 2) validate, 3) test, and ultimately 4) use digital gaming as a pedagogical device. This information is essential for both teacher professional development (PD) experts and for those that design games for learning with the hope that they will get used in classroom designs. What may seem to be a 'bottleneck' for widespread adoption, may just be a design problem. We ask how teachers that already have used games in the classroom came to that professional decision and how they prepared themselves for classroom adoption? This study is a multiple case analysis of teachers (n=17) that, despite common barriers to adoption, have fully integrated the video game Minecraft into a variety of learning contexts, subject areas, and ages. We find that there are indeed common patterns of 1) discovery, 2) trusted network and student reaction validation processes, 3) trial and iterative practices resembling a developmental PD pattern, and 4) multiple pedagogical approaches for the role of video games for learning. We suggest that each of these elements can be easily integrated into teacher training programs and/or can be a guiding set of principles for the design of future educational game designers. Final rounds of analysis will be ready for presentation by Fall 2014.