Systems-based literacy practices: digital games research, gameplay and design

Walsh, Christopher (2010). Systems-based literacy practices: digital games research, gameplay and design. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 33(1) pp. 24–40.



Few spaces exist in schools that require students to research, play and design digital games. This paper presents two suburban case studies exploring the introduction of digital games into the English curriculum with students who traditionally struggle with literacy. The students' research, gameplay and design of digital games enhanced literacy teaching and learning because the curriculum resonated more closely with their lifeworlds. The article moves the field of literacy research forward by introducing the term systems-based literacy practices to describe youths' new literacy practices emerging from their digital gameplay experiences. These practices reflect students' proficiencies in programming as well as the technical, kinetic, social and linguistic knowledge necessary to play and configure different digital games for maximum gaming pleasure. Digital games are a medium requiring students to interact with machines across various platforms, to understand their interfaces and become familiar with different virtual worlds. The case studies illustrate how two teachers came to rethink digital games and students' participation in digital game culture as valuable and integral meaning-making activities. The important findings concern the increased degree to which students engaged with the content of the English curriculum, the design of multimodal texts and their conscientious production of traditional school-based literacy practices still necessary for academic success. The paper argues students did this through transformed practice, where they transferred and re-created designs of meaning from, and across, one context to another drawing on their experiences as gamers and their systems-based literacy practices.

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