I spent much of June talking to teachers and other folks about video games in schools. I spoke about play and alternative texts with amazing educators at the recent 2013 COCA Retreat. And I had a blast at the Academy of the Impossible talking digital learning and games with some very cool people.
At both discussions, the topic of “educators resisting video games” came up. And at both talks, I looked back to when I had met the same resistance from educators around another new “alternative text” the kids were all crazy for: comics.
While the alternative texts have changed, the struggle remains the same. And that’s good because it means I know how it will end.
But first, let’s step into the Wayback Machine and set it for the distant past. All the way back to 1999 . . .
1999: Comics NOT Welcome in Schools
In 1999, two very cool things happened to me. System Shock, my very first book was published and I was introduced to the amazing world of Teacher-Librarians.
I worked at a book wholesaler that sold kids books directly to schools. Every week, Teacher-Librarians from schools across Ontario arrived at our showroom to buy books for their libraries.
One question I was always asked was: “Do you have anything for my boys who won’t read?”
My response was always the same. I handed them a copy of System Shock and told them about the wonders of comics. Many TLs loved the book and snapped it up.
But just as many had this view of comics:
And this view of books:
I was told there was no learning value in comics, kids read too many comics already and much more.
2009: Comics ARE Welcome in Schools
Over the next ten years, alternative texts like comics for kids continued to grow in popularity outside of schools. I created Max Finder Mystery and the Graphic Guide Adventures series for kids. Comics did make their way into schools, thanks to some forward-thinking teachers and TLs.
Then in 2009, a series about a trio of weird brothers was repackaged by Scholastic and this happened:
Suddenly, comics were accepted in school libraries. Even mine!
Which means today, the Comics in Schools Landscape looks like this:
In 2013, every decent school library has a graphic novel section packed with titles. And if they’re anything like my libraries, the graphic novel shelves are always busy and usually picked clean. Teachers and students now have tools to make their own comics. Using comics as part of the learning in other subjects is now a standard practice for many, many teachers.
Comics in schools is no big deal. In a few years, we’ll say the same about videogames.
2013: Videogames are NOT Welcome in Schools
These days, while alternative texts like comics are enjoying wide use in schools around the globe, videogames are playing like it’s 1999.
When I speak to other educators about how I and my GamingEdu colleagues use videogames at school, I get the same stares and questions from 1999.
I’m told there is no learning value in videogames, kids already spend too much time playing them and much more.
What I will say is that I’ve seen path of resistance before with alternative texts and acceptance by schools. First with comics, then with social media and now with videogames. I’ve seen the skeptical looks and answered the moral-panic questions. And I’ve seen amazing engagement with the most disengaged students all because of a text that doesn’t belong in school.
2015: Videogames ARE Welcome in Schools (I hope)
So, it’s with much optimism that I’m hoping this will be the future:
Help Shape the Future
If this is a future you’d like to help shape, then check us out at GamingEdus.org and help shape how videogames are used in your classroom.
So, what to you think? Have I got it all wrong? Let me know in the comments below!
As an award-winning children’s author, gamer-geek and elementary school teacher, I often have teaching ideas and writing news to share with fellow educators. I deliver these resources and ideas to your inbox in my e-newsletter Reading Change.
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