• The University of Sheffield
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Teaching Digital Literacy: Videogames in Education

Dive into the fascinating world of videogames in education and discover the positive impact games can have on children’s learning.

Three children in blue school uniform hysterically laugh as they play with a Virtual Reality headset.

Discover how children learn through playing and creating videogames

Learning to journey through digital stories by collaborating and communicating with others can teach children the literacy skills they need in the 21st century.

On this four-week course from the University of Sheffield, you’ll explore new ways to teach digital literacies with videogames, helping you to use videogames and game design as an educational tool.

Explore how to teach digital literacies through videogames

Through this dynamic course, you’ll discover the 5 Cs model of teaching digital literacy:

  • collaboration,
  • cultural access,
  • creativity,
  • criticality, and
  • computational thinking.

Using these skills, you’ll be able to enhance your teaching and use videogames in your classroom to provide important new opportunities to children.

Uncover the creative power of videogames

From books and films to TV shows and, of course, videogames, children engage with narratives in all shapes, sizes, and frame rates.

You’ll look at how videogames enrich children’s experiences of narrative while also developing new approaches to literacy and learning.

Children can collaborate on quests with friends in RPGs, walk through the park catching Pokemon through AR, and design and build their own worlds in sandbox games, but teachers and educators have an important role to play in supporting children to engage critically and creatively with videogames.

Challenge the preconceptions of videogame playing in childhood

Despite being around for so long, videogames still hold a stigma, especially about their impact on children.

This course will guide you through this debate, sharing research, case studies, and developer interviews to help you challenge concerns and inform your decisions about using videogames in your context.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 2 seconds Game begin. How much do you know about video games? Would you consider yourself a gamer? When I was growing up, video games were considered, at best, a passing fad that was a distraction from the real world and something that our parents generally disapproved of. But no more. These days the games industry is worth billions, and video games are one of the most influential media formats in the world. In this open online course from the University of Sheffield, we’ll explore the value of video game playing in education and the wider world.

Skip to 0 minutes and 36 seconds We’ll speak to games designers, players, academics, educators, authors, folklorists, as well as the team behind the National Videogames Museum here in Sheffield, about what exactly makes video games so important, engaging, and a cultural force to be reckoned with. We’ll help dispel some of the myths and preconceptions around video games and look at how video game thinking, design, and gameplay are central to children and young people’s digital literacies. We will share case studies, research, and anecdotal experiences from those working at the forefront of video game design, as well as from the next generation of designers, and look ahead to what the future holds for this most exciting of digital technologies.

Skip to 1 minute and 22 seconds Digital literacies are increasingly important means of participating in a global society. This course is written and presented by academics from the School of Education and is directly connected to our taught masters on digital literacies, culture, and education. So come and join us, and learn about the fascinating world of digital literacies and video games in education. Game over.

Syllabus

  • Week 1

    Videogames and Childhood

    • Videogame Biographies

      Videogames are hugely popular and are now played by the many rather than the few. It is important to understand the role of videogames in all of our lives, so we begin to sharing examples of videogame biographies.

    • How do children play in videogames?

      Children learn about themselves and the world through play, but digital technologies create new and different opportunities for play which we need to understand better. In this section we introduce a typology of digital play.

    • Introducing Minecraft

      Minecraft is a phenomenally popular game among children and adults alike, allowing the player to build their own worlds. We explore the varying ways in which children interact with Minecraft and why.

    • Videogames and conflict

      Videogame critics will often claim they can lead to aggression, hostility and conflict among younger players, but is this the case and how can games be used to defuse conflict?

    • Key Reflections

      We look at the key themes for the week and look ahead to the next week of learning.

  • Week 2

    Videogames as Storytelling

    • Avatars and Characters

      This week we will think about the way videogames enable us to digitally 'become' characters or avatars, who enter fictional worlds and have adventures in a shared online space.

    • Imaginary worlds

      We can see the influence of videogames in other forms of media and in this activity we will look at how games have impacted 'traditional' fiction formats and how fans are using videogames as shorthand in communication.

    • Plot and structure

      Just as we develop narrative literacy through the reading of stories and the watching of films, videogames compel us to explore the mechanics of plot and structure in new ways. How can educators develop this latent potential?

    • Interactive storytelling

      The interactivity of videogames is what stands them apart from other mediums, but how do you design an open story that players feel they have control over?

    • Key Reflections

      We review the course material for the week and look to the learning ahead.

  • Week 3

    Videogames as Literacy and Learning

    • What can videogames teach us about learning?

      We explore what videogames can reveal to us about the learning process and assess the importance of collaboration for young learners.

    • Literacy in the digital age

      How far are our assumptions about literacy still rooted in the 20th century? We explore whether our understanding of literacy needs to change for the digital age.

    • Designing and creating videogames

      Why should children be taught how to code and create videogames? What skills can it bring and how can it teach them about the computational mindset and developing maker skills?

    • Key Reflections

      We review this weeks key points and look ahead to our final week of learning.

  • Week 4

    Videogames are for Everyone

    • Who gets to Make Videogames?

      Videogames represent people, places and ideas in ways that reflect the point of view of those who make them. We ask who is present in videogames and who is absent and how can we change this.

    • How do Videogames Represent People?

      Who is represented in videogames, and how? We explore the diversity of representation in videogames today and the composition of the industry which create them.

    • The Future of Videogames

      With the invention and widespread adoption of XR technologies and the metaverse, we ask if videogames are about to take their next big leap forwards.

    • Key Reflections

      We review the week and the course, plus look forward to further learning opportunities at the University of Sheffield.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore the role of videogames in childhood
  • Critique negative preconceptions about game playing
  • Create activities to support children's learning

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for primary and secondary school teachers interested in using videogames to enhance their teaching.

It may also be useful for anyone working in the video games industry looking to create games for children, and for educators and practitioners in museums, galleries, and art organisations.

Who will you learn with?

Lecturer in Digital Literacies, The University of Sheffield

Who developed the course?

The University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield is one of the world’s top 100 universities with a reputation for teaching and research excellence.

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