With our society changing and technology evolving, digital games played by children and young people, too, are evolving into modern and complex systems that reflect societal development and practices. These activities are very similar to those needed in today’s society and world of work, the learning of which constitutes part of the national core curriculum for basic education as areas of broad competence. A new study concludes that digital games, and especially the related metagaming, often require skills similar to those needed to be successful in modern society.
In addition to actual gaming, digital games also involve plenty of other activities. Nowadays, games are seen as more than just a piece of programming: they are complete game systems that include not only the actual game but also the metagame. Metagaming refers to social interaction within or outside the game, such as watching YouTube videos related to the game, engaging in conversations on forums related to the game, or reading strategy guides for the game.
The new study explored children’s metagaming activities, focusing on them from the perspectives of broad-based competence. The results show that metagaming is a very broad entity: there is great variation in people’s ways of metagaming, requiring different levels of commitment and participation.
“Overall, the results show that metagaming often puts children and young people in situations where they are expected and offered opportunities to use the broad competence referred to in the national core curriculum,” Project Researcher Juho Kahila explains.
Examples of these skills include coming up with gaming strategies and assessing gaming performance either alone or together with other players. Children and young people look for games-related information from different sources, and they also create and share gaming-related content.
“This is how children build their competence related to the game. They are also open to collaborating with other players and they establish online networks without being hindered by less-than-perfect language skills,” Professor Teemu Valtonen points out.
Technology is creatively used for communicating and creating gaming-related content. In addition, children and young people take responsibility for their in-game purchases, and they often take care of the equipment needed for gaming, and for games themselves.
“As the national core curriculum nowadays emphasises pupil orientation and the use of pupils' own experiences and leisure technologies in education, it would be appropriate to examine metagaming more extensively as part of formal school education,” Valtonen says.
Children and young people do not necessarily recognise or attach value to things they’ve learnt by playing games.
Previous research on gaming has mainly focused on in-game learning. The new study shows that the scope of research should be expanded to metagaming.
“Children and young people do not necessarily recognise or attach value to things they’ve learnt by playing games. However, it would be important to make them see the importance of the broad-based competence attained in the context of games in order for them to learn to appreciate and use their skills and expertise also in the school environment,” Kahila notes.
In other words, the results suggest that when children and young people are engaged in metagaming, they are using what are known as the 21st century skills. Valtonen says that these include, for example, collaboration, communication, management, problem solving and ICT skills.
“Modern game systems often put players in situations where all of these are needed. Over the years, this new landscape of learning has emerged both as a result of the interest of children and young people, and thanks to being facilitated by new technologies.”
Compilation of articles on the changing landscapes of learning
The landscapes of learning are changing, and for example metagaming provides new and less explored perspectives to the matter. The new compilation of articles addressing the changing landscapes of learning, Oppimisen muuntuvat maisemat (available in Finnish only), approaches learning and teaching from a variety of perspectives and fields, and by using a variety of methods. Learning and teaching are developing and being developed, and this process is also studied in close collaboration between teachers and researchers.
“The most important thing about these articles is their close link between research and concrete development, as many of them are based on one or more development projects,” University Lecturer Sini Kontkanen, one of the editors, says.
The compilation includes 11 articles which, in addition to metagaming, deal with assessment, the Sámi languages, early childhood education and care, learning environments, interaction, emotions and cooperation between schools and homes.
“All of these are topics that have been discussed in Finland in the past year. The compilation covers all levels of education from early childhood to primary education, and from secondary to higher education. Attention is also paid to learning outside the formal system. The perspectives of teachers, learners and guardians are included,” Doctoral Researcher, Satu Piispa-Hakala, says.
According to Professor Sari Havu-Nuutinen, the metaphor “landscapes of learning” was chosen for this very reason:
“The landscape of learning is broad, and lots of things are taking place at the same time.”
Oppimisen muuntuvat maisemat (2023). Sini Kontkanen, Satu Piispa-Hakala & Sari Havu-Nuutinen (eds) Suomen kasvatustieteellinen seura, Kasvatusalan tutkimuksia 84. The authors represent five universities (Turku, Eastern Finland, Helsinki, Lapland, and Jyväskylä), and the City of Jyväskylä. https://www.ellibs.com/fi/book/9789527411223/oppimisen-muuntuvat-maisemat
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Philosophical Faculty, School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Education