“Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock n’ roll.”

For many years the use of video games have been looked down upon, and been thought of as a waste of time, or something that will “turn your brain to mush.”

Through recent studies and research however, we have learned that there is something about the environment, culture, and mindset that surrounds video games and other forms of gaming, that has enthralled children, taught them, and helped them improve countless skills ranging from hand eye coordination to collaboration, and even confidence when it comes to making a mistake and trying again. There are many students who in a classroom are humiliated and embarrassed after fumbling or making a simple error, however when faced with making a mistake that either takes them back a level, or restarts their video game, they are met with nothing more than a more intense and severe determination.

These complex games require each player/character to develop a deep skill set in a specific domain and know how to collaborate with other gamers.  Users are inspired to use the same skills that they hate using in school and in class with such ease in the game. Video games require the learner to think in many unique ways that are not found in school.  Gee explains to us that learning should be both a “frustrating and a life enhancing” experience.  The video game industry is very successful because their product has evolved with the expertise of its consumer.  The creators continuously make games more complex and difficult to understand and yet people are still buying them; the business is booming.  Gee explains how on the contrary, education has moved in the opposite direction – over simplifying or dumbing down tests to make it easier for every student to mold themselves into this linear 20th century model.  Gee refers to the idea of gaming becoming more complicated and difficult to achieve expertise to darwinism.

Check out this clip of James Paul Gee sharing his thoughts on the video game world.


When watching the clip of Gee we noticed one theme that was consistent between here and the other reading which is the concept of handing “ kids the manuals without the games.”

The fan communities that surround video games are instrumental to developing the literacy practices.

In Steinkuehler’s article “Video Games and Digital Literacy” he, like Gee in the video above, discusses the importance of fan-based collaboration. “Members of fan communities”, he writes, “collectively read and write vast cascades of multimodal text, as part of their play from communally authored user manuals, to online discussion threads, fan sites, fan fiction, and digital fan art” (61). Therefore, there is much more to the field of video gaming than just the games themselves; rather, it is the world that we, as communities, build around the games in order to create meaning. Video games, by themselves, are tools – the world we establish around them is what gives them meaning and importance in the development of our literacy and education.

On another note, Whitmore’s article discusses the actual, physical layout of an arcade space versus a school classroom. Oftentimes, teachers arrange their classrooms in ways that don’t allow for the optimum amount of student collaboration. In their case study, Whitmore and her colleagues discovered that Jeff (the teacher they observed) was well intentioned and enthusiastic, but the way his classroom floorplan was arranged could not compare to the layout of an arcade. In arcades, they describe, video games (especially the more difficult ones) are placed near one another so that children who are playing can easily look on with a friend, help someone who is stuck on a difficult level, or reach out for help themselves without having to leave their games. Even though actual video arcades are growing fewer and fewer these days, we can still see these elements of collaboration in new and emerging video games. A few of my friends play games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft and, throughout the entire game, they are constantly engaging in conversation and strategy with countless other players from all over the world. Now, instead of the limitations of the physical arcade, players can can collaborate with thousands of others from anywhere in the world without ever stepping outside their front doors.

Just think  – if our students collaborated half  as much in the classroom as they often do when they play video games, who knows what they might create or achieve?!

As it turns out, students, educators, and video gamers have already been forming these types of collaborations both in and out of the classroom. As the field of STEM education grows and more schools develop makers spaces that promote invention and design (even at the elementary level!), educators are beginning to see the important role that video games can play in our students lives.For the past several of years, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center has put out a challenge to young video game enthusiasts to build and create their own video games. Last year, they received over 4,000 entries from students of all ages and abilities, working with different systems and platforms to actually code and create their very own games. AND, while many critics out there complain that our children are obsessed with violent, destructive types of video games, the judges learned differently. After the results were in, 46% of the contestants created educational video games on topics ranging from math to community service.

Below, you can see screenshots from a couple of the winning games. In the first image, a tenth grader named Aaron Gaudette has created a game called “Crystal Physics” where the players attempt to gain crystals by knocking down a tower. At each level, the game teaches its players a new physics concept that they must use in order to knock down the tower:



“Crystal Physics”, created by Aaron Gaudette, a tenth grader from Germany.


Another finalist, Janice Tran (12th grader) created a game that she calls “Little Green Planet”. In the game, players must create a robot made of self-sustained materials in order to help stop a pollution-hungry villain. They must develop an extensive knowledge of environmentally-friendly tactics in the process to do so:



“Little Green Planet”, created by Janice Tran, a 12th grader from Palmdale, California.


If you want to see more of the games created by last years contest finalists, just click here!

Being that this has recently become a hot topic in both parenting worlds, and in teaching circles when thinking about children’s screen time and the integration of violence in games, there have been many researchers who have begun to look more closely into the effects action games have on their users. Below is a TED talk given by Daphne Bavelier. She researches the effects that video games have on  people when looking at skills that are prevalent when involved in general learning and information processing. Through her research she has found that those who play action packed video games have significantly better visual discrimination skills, multi-tasking skills, and  overall better ability to process a question asked about a visual and find the answer faster than peers who do not play action packed video games. She explains many of the tests and her process in testing the individuals in her lab in a clear and concise way. One of the tests she gives, and even gives to the audience is something you may have seen online often. An example would be seeing the word “red” written, however it is written in the color orange and you need to respond by stating the color of the text. While watching the video you have a chance to take these assessments. See how you score!


When watching the assessment seven minutes in…



Get the Picture?!

Picture Splash

According to Robyn Seglem,”Visual literacy is the ability to understand and use images, including the ability to think, learn and express oneself in terms of images.”(Seglem,2009, p.38).
When you first glance at a newspaper, what is it that tells you whats going on in the world? Hello, we all know it’s pictures.As adults we use visuals to aide our understanding and spark our interests. What more do we need to say pictures tell there own stories. Do you agree?
Think about early readers do they pick up novels? Hahaha,absolutely not! Illustrations grab an early reader’s attention and help the story come to life.

According to Lalitha Vasudevan, “Recognize that children’s identities- who they imagine themselves to be and who they imagine they could become- are inextricably bound with learning”(Stornaiuolo,Hull,& Nelson,2009.p.384) Picture books and visuals allow students to use their imagination and form their identities. According to Seglem, picture books allow student to draw conclusions, make inferences, recall details and engage in their learning. Let’s be serious,young children are now reading books on iPads rather than taking out books from the library. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? As educators today we should be open and knowledgeable to the multimodal world our students live in today.

In the article written by Vasudevan,Digital literacies allow for “greater collaboration, participation and distribution with respect to the production of knowledge, meaning and attendant literacies” (Vasudevan,2010, p.44). Technology allows students choices such as reading books online, researching from home rather then in a library. Students are provided with the resources and tools to complete tasks in school using different forms of technology.Do you remember the days when we went to school and were only given a pencil and paper. It was only a few years ago when computers became a learning tool in classrooms. Technology has changed our society with visuals and text and multimedia outlets from children through adulthood. Vasudevan explains that,
“Technologies rapidly transform many of the everyday practices of youth. Their modes of communication, information access, and representation now routinely include the use of texting, instant messaging, microblogging(e.g.,Twitter), blogging, creating social networking profiles and commenting on friend’s online profiles, just to name a few” (Lenhart,Arafeh,Smith,& Macgill,2008). Basically this proves that children can communicate through social media.

As teachers we need to be aware that if students are not understanding what they are being taught, we need to change the way we are teaching. Some ways we can do this is by incorporating technology and visuals into our classrooms. As adults would you want to be limited to just text? We prefer having the choice to choose what resource we want to use at work, in school and at home. Due to this we shouldn’t limit our students to one option. If children can learn how to use technology then they should be given the chance.
Ipad picture book
Dr Seuss

Monique & Talia

21st Century Multiliteracies

You’ve just received a new pair of shoes in the mail, and you’re so excited to open the box. However, when you do, you realize that these aren’t the shoes you ordered. What do you do? You immediately get on the phone and call the company. While on the phone, not only are you speaking to customer service but also you’re writing down notes, listening to the customer service representative, and searching the website for the correct pair of shoes all at the same time. This mundane act of calling customer service in order to rectify the horrifying issue of receiving the wrong pair of shoes in the mail actually represents the multiliteracies that we engage in on a daily basis.

According to Michele Anstey and Geoff Bull, multiliteracies “…refers to the range of literacies and literate practices used in all sectors of life and how these literate practices are similar and different” (Anstey & Bull, 2006, p. 20). The New London Group, which included James Gee, met to discuss the changes in “…increasing globalisation, technology and social diversity…” and created the term multiliteracies in order to develop a path for literacy teaching in an ever-changing society of technology (Anstey & Bull, 2006, p. 20).

One of the most important things that we can do as teachers, especially with the implementation of the rigorous Common Core State Standards, is allow students to “play” while incorporating literacy. The CCSS can still be met through various play-based activities, especially in the lower elementary grades. According to Karen Wohlwend, “the multimodal quality of play offers children multiple ways to expand meanings of the messages they produce. When a message is conveyed in several modes, the combination of modes amplifies and/or complicates the separate strands of monomodal meanings” (Wohlwend, 2008, p. 128). Literacy Centers, Writer’s Workshop, and Choice Time, which are all part of the daily routine in the classroom and are learner-directed activities, allow children access to a variety of materials, such as books, writing and drawing implements, and manipulatives, in order to make meaning for themselves (Wohlwend, 2008, p. 129).

Playing off Wohlwend’s ideas, in the article Rereading the Signs: Multimodal Transformations in the Field of Literacy Education, Marjorie Siegel introduces us to the idea of semiotics, which is defined as an “[an] interdisciplinary field of study that examines how meaning is made through signs of all kinds – pictures, gestures, music – not just words” (Siegel, 2006, p. 65). As we can see, literacy is “mutlimodal”… it takes on more forms than simply reading and writing. There is a “change in the literacy landscape that puts images, gestures, music, movement, animation, and other representational modes on equal footing with language. We need not only consider the ease with which children today can not only draw, sing, and dance but also produce their own digital movies, master the intricacies of computer games, and participate in fanfiction or interactive websites such as Neopet.com to recognize that literacy today means more than ‘knowledge of letters’” (Siegel, 2006, p. 65). As teachers in the 21st century, we will need to keep up with the several modes of literacy our students will be taking part in, in our new “digitalized” world. Literacy is, and will continue to go beyond traditional print texts to a whole new form of digital communication.

To learn more about multiliteracies in the 21st century, check out this video. While watching the video, think of some ideas that come to mind about the many different forms of literacy shown and how we, as teachers, can both keep up to date on them and include these in our classroom. What does this mean for literacy pedagogy?

-Kristie & Kori


Today was just like any other.  I woke up, checked my texts and Snapchats, looked on Facebook, and sent out a tweet about the Superbowl.  Although I’m not interested in any of the teams playing this year (the Giants aren’t in it… boo), Superbowl Sunday is a time to get together with friends, eat some yummy snacks, and laugh at commercials.  Needing to bring something to this gathering, I hopped on Pinterest to see what wonderful creations others have made and crossed my fingers in hopes that mine turns out looking half as good as what is presented on that site.  I found a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Dip and figured that would be perfect.  Then, I went to lunch with Megan to figure out what to write this blog on.  We discussed our mornings and realized how much social media and technology we use in our everyday lives.

We are curious about how much social media affects others everyday lives, as well. Take a minute to think about how many social media outlets you use on a general basis. Take the poll below.

According to Sweeny, technology is about staying connected. She states that people “use technology in two distinct ways: to socialize and to seek out information” (Sweeny, 2010, p.124). Thinking about my morning, these were the two goals I achieved by using these various technologies- seeking out the perfect Superbowl snack and communicating with others through various applications. Today, students are considered “digital natives”.  If the use of technology is a norm for us as teachers, as well as our students, shouldn’t we find a way to incorporate these multimodal texts into the educational setting?

“The current information and communication technologies (ICT’s) are fundamentally changing the ways in which youth today read, write, and communicate” (Sweeny, 2010, p.121).  The problem is that teachers are afraid that using forms of technology for literacy instruction will have students not take the work as seriously.  We believe that many teachers do not view social media as being a quality literacy resource.


There is a disconnect between how people view literacy and the most effective ways to teach these particular skills in the classroom setting. Before reading these articles, if asked about literacy, we’re not quite sure we would have considered technology or social media a valuable tool for instruction.  Now, we believe that teachers should embrace these tools and use the technological advancements that are available in order to differentiate instruction and bridge the gap between the changing world and school. What do you think?  Is social media something that can be used effectively at both school and home?  How?

Social media provides a means for self-expression.  Think about Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Snapchat.  These are all social media applications that allow us to make decisions that reflect who we are and how we communicate with others.  As Gee would say, it’s how we express our multiple identities.  According to Gee, “there are four ways to view identity, that is, what it means to be a certain kind of person” (Gee, 2000, p. 100).  These four identities include the Nature-identity, the Institution-identity, the Discourse-identity, and the Affinity-identity.  How can your students express their identities in an effective and productive manner in your classroom?  Can social media be used as a tool to help students recognize these identities?

These articles helped us think of new ways to approach literacy instruction and presentation in our own classrooms.  Rather than limiting students to a paper and pencil or a typed format approach, teachers can offer options and flexibility for assignments.  With an end goal in mind, students can express and identify themselves through the use of multimodal texts such as pictures, video, and audio.  Do you think, with our world becoming so technologically advanced, we will see more social media and other outlets appear in the classroom?  We look forward to hearing your ideas and thoughts!

TTYL- Alex and Megan