Video Games and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

The first article from this week was “But That’s Just Good Teaching! The Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.” In it, Gloria Ladson-Billings supports the argument that a culturally relevant pedagogy should be implemented by teachers in order to support the learning of students from all backgrounds, not just those in middle-class Caucasian neighborhoods. She describes this ‘culturally relevant pedagogy’ as requiring academic success, cultural competence, and critical consciousness from the students. These things must both be expected from and developed in the students, and the author details multiple examples from her study that follow these criteria, specifically with regard to teachers in low-income, predominantly African American communities. The second article was “Teaching Social Studies with Video Games” by Brad Maguth, Jonathan List, and Matthew Wunderle. They describe how the video game Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings can be used to reinforce the concepts in a seventh-grade Social Studies class, as the game has many themes and facts that align with the mandated curriculum. This description is in support of the larger case that video games have value and should be explored as educational tools in an age where nearly all children play video games in some form or another.

I enjoyed reading about the strategies in Ladson-Billings’ work, as I know it will have to be a conscious effort to teach with a culturally relevant pedagogy, as a straight, white male from a middle class background. I especially like that Ladson-Billings included critical consciousness as a criteria for the pedagogy, because I think it is important for students, as they are getting their education, to be able to criticize the status quo. It means that they are able to see what flaws may be in the world, and it usually leads to at least someone trying to figure out how to fix those flaws. I found Maguth, List, and Wunderle’s article very interesting as well, since I have played Age of Empires before. It is interesting to have a background with a game in a non-educational context and see that game used for education. But, I still remember the game being about historical figures, and you could battle through actual historical events. The version I played had less diplomacy and trade than it appears the version in the article had, but I did feel like I learned a bit about historical figures, even playing it outside of class.

My question to the class is: do you think video games can be a part of a culturally relevant pedagogy, and if so, how?

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