I love how blogging provides an opportunity for discourse and a look at different perspectives. That said, often when we write blog posts, and provide questions to inspire debate — or even just conversation — there’s often a lot of agreement with the initial post. This is why I love what happened during dinner on Wednesday night.
After a jam-packed day of talking and sharing at Minds on Media, I was thrilled to go out for dinner with some fellow educators at the conference. I got to spend the night with Timothy, his amazing son, Max, who helped present on virtual reality at the Minds on Media event, and Michelle.
— Timothy King (@tk1ng) November 9, 2017
During our dinner conversation, we started to talk about reading. I made a comment that I’ve made many times before: that it’s really sad to see the limited amount of “for pleasure” reading that happens nowadays. Very few children seem to read — and finish — books just for fun, and I continue to contemplate why this might be the case. Usually when I make a comment such as this one, fellow educators agree with me, but Michelle did something great on Wednesday night: she pushed back. She disagreed.
Michelle gave an alternative perspective. She said that maybe the problem is how we view “reading.” We’re looking at reading as “finishing a book,” but what about the reading that happens in video games? Some games require so much reading and thinking that completing a game would be equivalent to finishing an incredibly long book. And students need to read, and think about what they read, in order to meet with success, finish the game, and get the points. Michelle, Timothy, and Max all discussed different games where this is the case. As somebody that has very little knowledge of video games, I still cannot remember the names they mentioned, but they all agreed that the reading requirement was huge.
Is this kind of reading good enough? I initially pushed back. Shouldn’t children have to read books? Aren’t they better? I shared my concerns about the amount of time in front of a screen — and I still have these concerns — but then Michelle mentioned how much reading is done on a screen. She’s right. As I spoke about the benefits of books, I thought about the great mystery novel waiting for me on my iPad that I was hoping to finish reading that night. This is the kind of reading that excites me, but maybe video game reading is the kind that excites other people: both adults and children.
I then started to think about the EQAO Reading Surveys that students complete in Grades 3 and 6. Often there are many children that articulate that they don’t like to read, but would these results change if children (and adults) considered video game reading under the “reading umbrella?” Even if these digital text forms are taken into account, I wonder how many children think about this when they complete these surveys. I wonder how many adults would consider “video game reading” as valuable reading time. Michelle asked me if this matters, and I think that it does.
My own concerns around video games and screen time impacted on how I viewed this kind of reading. This made me wonder though, what’s the message that I’m giving to kids? If children work through more difficult decoding tasks as part of these games, but struggle with some lower level texts, do they still see themselves as capable readers or do they see themselves as struggling? How do we perceive them? Michelle is making me wonder if our opinions on video games — and sometimes even our lack of understanding over how the games work and the skills needed to succeed at them — impacts on the message we give to kids and how children view themselves.
Our deep conversation continued throughout dinner, and ended with Michelle sharing her thinking around media literacy as an “umbrella for all other literacies.” It’s really how we take in information and interpret the world. Michelle shared The Association For Media Literacy Website, which includes fantastic blog posts that really link reading, writing, oral communication, and media literacy. This made me think more about how I’ve addressed media literacy in the past. It was often an afterthought. Usually a quick viewing of a video with students or the creation of a poster, allowed me to assess this language strand. But what kind of disservice was I doing here for kids? Could a deeper, more critical look at media literacy, actually help address the reading goals that our Board is focused on achieving? I wonder if it’s time to re-think reading and the impact that media has on reading AND on student success at reading. What do you think? Let’s extend this conversation that started on Wednesday night over The Falls!