Im(possible) Literacies: Integrating Digital Games across Content Areas in Secondary Education

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The colloquium will share findings from three studies on the effectiveness of using on-line digital games and texts to deliver secondary school standards-based curriculum across multiple subject areas. These subject areas include: Science: Using a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) based digital game, we investigated how the middle school students engaged in the process of scientific inquiry through interactive computer simulations. Social Studies: Through an online browser-based nation simulation game (Cyber Nations), we explored how we could engage secondary school students in bridging in and out of school literacy practices. This is a text-based digital game in which each player constructs a nation and can also choose to build alliances with other players. Mathematics: Using two video games (Demolition Division and Meteor Multiplication), we conducted a comparative case study that asked how students are able to gain information through interactive goal based video games with the same efficiency as they would through direct instruction from their teacher.

Our research question asked: What are the effects of digital games on (a) student engagement in secondary school; for (b) enhancing students’ capacity to integrate multi-modal new literacy texts within standards-based curricula? and for c) bridging in-school and out-of-school new literacy practices? We use the term (im) possible literacies to mark the complexity of defining literacy in a digital age. Teachers are not immune from the anxiety that comes with incorporating and using new literacy practices within their curriculum. Our findings suggest the importance of integrating 21st Century new literacy practices into secondary school curriculum. This symposium gives evidence of the productive tension between new and old literacy practices in schools and how as teachers and researchers we can support the bridging of new literacy practices through on-line reading and manipulation of digital texts and games in schools.


Keywords: New Literacies, Action Research, Teacher Education
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: 60 minute Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Sarah Twomey

Assistant Professor, Curriculum Studies
College of Education, University of Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Sarah is an Assistant Professor at the University of Hawaii with her primary teaching responsibilities in the Master of Education in Teaching program. Her research interests include new literacies, teacher learning, and feminist poststructural theory. She was a high school teacher for 15 years in Canada. Her B.A. (Theatre), B.Ed. and M.Ed. (Curriculum) are from Queen’s University in Canada, and her Ph.D. (Language and Literacy Education) from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Joanna Kobayashi

Graduate Student, Master of Education in Teaching 
College of Education, University of Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Joanna Kobayashi holds a Bachelors Degree in Biology. She is currently a secondary Science education teacher candidate with the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) Masters of Education in Teaching Program. Joanna has worked as a Research Associate in the Zoology department at UHM. Her research interests included early embryo development and population genetics in invertebrate models. Currently, she is doing her student teaching at both the middle school and high school level and is interested in developing strategies using technology to inspire interest in the sciences.

Julianna Leung

Graduate Student, Master of Education in Teaching
College of Education, University of Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Julianna was born and raised in Honolulu, lived in Seattle for 8 years, and lived in Kochi, Japan for 2 years. She received a B.A. in Political Science and Drama from the University of Washington in Seattle. During the 2 years in Japan, she taught English at a public rural high school through the Japanese Exchange Teaching Program (JET). This teaching experience in Japan sparked her interest in teaching high school in her hometown. Her research interests are motivated by finding engaging and effective ways of teaching secondary Social Studies in Hawaii.

Richard Tumin

Graduate Student, Master of Education in Teaching
College of Education, University of Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

I am interested in researching new ways to teach mathematics in the upper grades; including computer use, simulations, and hands-on activities. While I am originally from northern California, I decided to pursue my education and career in Hawaii. I graduated from the University of Hawaii at Hilo in 2004 with a mathematics and history degree, and plan to pursue teaching in both fields. After graduating in 2010 from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a Masters of Education in Teaching, I hope to use the current research to help my students better understand and appreciate mathematics and its applications. I feel that mathematics is best understood if it is taught in its context with real world situations and examples and I hope to be able to pass on my enthusiasm for mathematics to my students and colleagues.

Karon Hansen

Teacher, Kaimuki Middle School
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Karon is a middle school science teacher at Kaimuki Middle School and an adjunct professor at Chaminade University in Hawaii. Her primary teaching responsibilities include teaching middle school science through interdisciplinary instruction, and training secondary science teachers. Her research interests include assessment methods, teacher mentoring models, and digital learning. She has been teaching science in grades 6-12 for 15 years in Hawaii. She has a BA in Social Ecology and a BS in Biological Science from the University of California at Irvine; and a MST in teaching from Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Ref: L09P1121