Chapter 13 Critical Pedagogy for the Media Generation

Youth Media Use and Computational Literacy through Game-Making

In: Education for Democracy 2.0
Milena Droumeva
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Jennifer Jenson
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An ongoing challenge of the neoliberal concept of “21st century learning” is ensuring everyone has the requisite skills to participate in a digital, knowledge-based economy. Critical pedagogy, on one hand challenges the technological up-skilling of students, while at the same time advocates for democratic capacity-building towards more equitable social and technological futures (; ). Once an anathema to parents and teachers, digital games are increasingly at the forefront of conversations about ways to address student engagement and provoke challenges to media pedagogies in advance of both critical citizenship and “21st century” skills. While advances in game-based learning are already transforming educative practices globally, with tech giants like Microsoft, Apple and Google taking notice and investing in educational game initiatives, there is a concurrent and critically important development that focuses on ‘game construction’ pedagogy as a vehicle for bringing computational literacy to middle and high school students. This contemporary moment then begs the question, can we carve out a space for an empowered STEM/STEAM curriculum that is not a training program for neoliberal cyber sweatshops? Founded on constructionist learning model and developed over nearly 2 decades, there is compelling evidence that game construction can increase confidence and build capacity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, especially in already marginalized populations. This chapter presents a research-based challenge to the by now widely questioned but surprisingly persistent presumption that students in today’s classrooms are all, by default, ‘digitally native’ () and that those ‘digitally native’ children are learning just by using media and playing games: a notion challenged by many (). Through a survey of 60+ students at a largely-immigrant middle school in Toronto, Canada, this chapter presents three inter-locked themes: youth media and technology engagement/competence; the relationship to baseline knowledge of computer technology; and the (potentially) empowering role that a game-based curriculum might have on the development of core computational literacy in middle school.

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