GAMING AND LITERACY

L. Kajee

University of Johannesburg (SOUTH AFRICA)
Schools, workplaces, families and academic researchers have a lot to learn about learning from good computer and video games (Gee, 2003). Games allow players to adopt identities that are multiple: real and virtual selves, and provide a new context for the exploration of identity. To the benefit of designers and players, games offer players an opportunity to explore their literacy practices in multiple and ideological ways. People construct their identities in relation to the communities in which they participate, and move along a continuum of learning, from legitimate peripheral participation, to full participation. The same applies to gaming communities. Legitimate peripheral participation refers to the “relations between newcomers and old-timers, and about activities, identities and artefacts, and communities of knowledge and practice” (Lave and Wenger, 1991:29). Peripherality also suggests that there are varied ways of being located in fields of participation. Lave and Wenger (1991) view the move from peripheral participation to more intensive participation as an empowering position, as is the prevention from participation a disempowering one. They also emphasise that legitimate peripheral participation is not in itself an educational form or pedagogical strategy. LPP takes place whatever the context. Learning therefore implies involvement in new activities, the ability to perform new tasks, and the ability to master new understandings. These, according to Lave and Wenger (1991), do not occur in isolation, they are part of a broader system of relations, which arise from social communities. This paper explores, through observation and interviews, a group of young ESL learners who play computer games with participants across continents, and examines ways in which these young people construct their identities and expand their literacy practices. The paper recommends the use of gaming as a literacy tool.