Creat ive Educati on
2012. Vol.3, Supplement, 25-30
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2012.38b006
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Gamers versus the Index
Thomas Westin, Gö r an La nge
Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University, Kista, Sweden
Received 20 1 2
This paper presents an ethnographic study of pupils within a trial programme (P2), aimed at developing
an upp er sec ondary educa ti on for so-ca lled ‘ga mers’ who had ‘dr opped out’ of school . It was done to fol-
low up a pr evious tr ial progr amme (P1 ), sinc e many young p ers ons have pr obl ems with school . The main
quest ion examined here is: When we found situations where the lear ning worked, b y means of s ocial re-
spons i tivit y, wha t comp onent s wer e a ct ive? How w ere mea ni ngf ul a f for da nces cr ea ted? The t ria l s may be
understood from a historical perspective on orality and literacy. Print enabled words to be embedded in
space as indexes (tables, lists etc) rather than in t ime (as orality implies). The index is practic ed at the cor e
of traditional school today, with attendance lists and schedules (controlling time and space) and school-
books (fina lizi ng the word) . Digi ta l cult ure chal lenges t hese s truc tures where the w ord is not a s fina lized,
and literacy may include other modalities than writing. School is a culture conservative context, which
fights back this transformation with more control, through the use of indexes and constraints on digital
culture. As contrast, P2 replaced the schedule with full workdays. This enabled the use of commercial
off-the-shelf (COTS) computer games, especially massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, as re-
placement for schoolbooks (not all books). The study is based on interviews with the pupils as well as
dail y par tic ipat or y obser vat ions f or two years . Fur t her, data ab out attenda nc e over t wo year s and gr a des at
the st art a nd end of P 2 are pr esent ed. The resul ts show tha t most of the p upils retur ned to s chool, beca me
inter est ed i n lea r ning aga i n and got gr a des. The y expres s ed a sense of freedo m, whi c h is clos el y rela t ed to
the voluntary aspect of playing a game. In other words, to do things for the sake of the actitivity itself,
rather than some external learning goal. The paper concludes with a comparison between P2 and tradi-
tiona l school, b ased upon the st udy and sugges ts futur e researc h. A review of r elated res earch is al so in-
Key words: Games; Educati on; Knowledg e; Learni ng; Culture
During 2008/09, 2 to 3 ‰ of pupils (aged 13-15) in Sweden
had not attended school at all, for at least one month up to more
than one year, without legitimate reason. In bigger cities the
number was almost 6 ‰. (Skolverket, 2010). Behind these
figures there are many young persons; hence it is highly rele-
vant to understand the dropout phenomena from the perspective
of the pupils. The current school policy seems to focus on more
attend ance, testing, grades and text li teracy. A recent legal case
(repo rted by Swedish media), may be d escribed as indirect paid
work: If a pupil has too low attendance, the social support may
be reduced, which mainly hurts families with low or no income.
Huizinga (1971) explains the word school: “Meaning originally
‘leisure’ it has now acquired precisely the opposite sense of
systematic work and training” (p.148). Robinson (2010) argues
in a tal k for the need of a paradigm shift i nstead of in cremental
improvements of the current model which traces back to the
renaissance and the industrialism. This can be related to Löf-
berg (2000) who argues that with a culture conservative ideol-
ogy both adults and children are marginalized if they deviate
from the norm; i.e. the tradition and the heritage. The school
s yst em has shown an inherent inertia since it was formed in the
19th century during the pre-industrial era. In Sweden, public
education was started in 1842. In that economic context it was
needed that workers were able to follow instructions (as in a
schoolbook) and be at a specific place (th e factory/school build-
ing) at the same time (the schedule). This is an obsolete model
in Sweden where factories are moved abroad, and focus is put
on design and research. In another talk Robinson (2006) argues
that creativity, numeracy and literacy should be viewed as
equally relevant. Today math and literacy has a high status in
school, while the arts does not. Related to the change in the
industry, this is a highly relevant point. It raises the question
how education is performed. Qvarsell (2005) argues: “It is true
that education is a right for all children, but education may be
interpreted in different ways, not just as schooling, or as measures
taken by teachers towards learners” (p.106). While Qvarsell’s
work focus on pre-school children, the quote may equally well
be applied to older children, even adults. This paper presents an
ethnographic study of a trial programme (P2), aimed at devel-
oping an upper secondary education for so-called ‘gamers’,
who had ‘dropped out’ of school. Almost all of the pupils at P2
were both gamers and so-called school dropouts, not school
dropouts in general. As such they may be the best informants
for what works or not in general, regarding the relationship
between the traditional school and the digital culture; both are
contexts in which most young persons in Sweden participate.
P2 was conducted during 2010-2012. It was done to follow up a
previous trial programme between 2002-2006 (P1). In P1 Wik-
lund & Ekenberg (2009) found that it “is clear that all 21 stu-
dents in the programme perceive their situation as very posi-
tive” (p. 43). Fur ther, P1 “was see n by teachers an d local school
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
authorities as an experimental way of reaching students who
would otherwise have a low probability of undertaking upper
secondary education” (p.39). In both P1 and P2, schoolbooks
(not all books) were replaced with commercial off-the-shelf
(COTS) ga mes, esp eciall y massivel y multip layer on line (M MO)
games. Further, schedules were replaced with full workdays,
and the learning environment was based upon the game worlds,
not the classroom. P1 and P2 were done in two different sub-
urbs of a big city, outside of a school building. In this paper,
school is used synonymously with traditional school, which
generally implies schedules, schoolbooks and physical atten-
dance in a school building.
The Index as a Perspective on Scho ol
Ong (1982) argues that societies were originally primarily
oral, and hence writing is dependent on the oral. Society today
is transforming from typographic (print) culture into digital
culture. This process is similar to the previous transformation
from oral to written culture. Writing enabled words to be em-
bedded in space as indexes (tables, lists, pages etc) rather than
in time (as orality implies). Writing also introduced a final state
of words, which is not present in oral storytelling. Print enabled
words to be mass-produced. A secondary orality with e.g. mass-
media and computers emerged, where the written became pri-
mary. (Ong, 1982) The index is practiced at the core of tradi-
tional school today, with attendance lists and schedules (to
control time and space) and schoolbooks (finalizing the word).
Digital culture challenges these structures where the word is not
as finalized. In this context, li teracy may include other modali-
ties than writing (Kress, 2009). As computers are part of the
secondary orality, they excel in indexing the world with e.g.
search engines. P erhaps a more p rofound con sequence of com-
puters is that binary digits (bits) may represent virtually any-
thing. Computers may be used to create game worlds. A world
is in constant transformation; an index is merely trying to
measure a sel ection of the world, as a sn apshot at a given time.
A digital index may more easily be updated than a typographic
ditto, but the index is still based on a sample. Put differently,
computers may be used to either 1) further the typographic
culture or 2) to focus on play and develop the archaic digital
culture, in Huizinga (1971) terms. It is mainly a matter of
mindset of which approach is chosen. According to Ong (1982),
this is also the main issue, as technology transforms our minds
and cu ltur e. The au th o rs clai m that t he ga mer’s mi nd , i .e. fra me
of reference, is within th e digital culture. Man y teach ers’ frame
of reference is still within the typographic culture. With the
concept of the index, it is possible to make these frames clear.
This is rel ated to the d esign o f P2 where th e in d ex was replac ed
by games and digital culture. E.g. P2 replaced the schedule with
full workdays. This in turn, enabled the use of commercial
off-the-shelf (COTS) computer games to replace schoolbooks
(but not all books). In his talk, Robinson (2010) refers to a
study about divergent thinking and concludes, that children
loose their ability of divergent thinking through education.
Pupils are punished by the grading system due to the idea of
learning goals, if they respond with divergent thinking; i.e not
answering the question in the way it was meant. Asplund (1987,
translated by the authors) defines social responsitivity as “hu-
man soci alit y and her willi n gn ess t o ‘r espo nd ’ wh en ‘qu est i ons ’
are asked of her” (p.29). Peculiarly, to be socialized h e says, is
equal to have your “social responsitivity strongly reduced”.
(ibid. p.29). To respond is according to Asplund, not a reflex as
in stimulus-response; rather it is based upon an interest and
motivation, and can be of any modality. School is the institu-
tion in society, which socialize pupils and the school system
use the index to control and reduce social responsitivity. Grades
are part of th is index for control. Björnsson (1979) explains that
grades emerged during the 17th century when the nobility en-
joyed privileges at state employment, over the bourgeoisie.
These conditions are now gone, but the idea and practice of
grades persists.
Research Questions
The main question examined here is: When we found situations
where the learning worked or not, by means of social responsi-
tivity, what components were active? How were meaningful
affordances created ?
Related Work
Rice (2007) identifies six different barriers to use games in
education. These are mainly related to the preplanning of P2,
where similar barriers were identified and budgeted for, based
on exp erience from P1. These may be described as follows:
1) Problem: COTS games are not within the norm of educa-
tion today. Outcome: This problem was predicted but not poss-
ible to handle beforehand. It resulted in an anonymous notice
about P2 being submitted to the Swedish Schools Inspectorate
(see Resul ts).
2) Problem: Games made for educational purposes do not
afford what the pupils’ expect of games, e.g. high-end graphics.
Outcome: P 2 used COTS games only.
3) Problem: COTS games hardware requirements can’t be
supported in school. Outcome: P2 had gaming capable computers
instead of schoolbooks (which made the cost approximately
equal )
4) Problem: The schedule makes long gaming sessions im-
possible. Outcome: P2 replaced the schedule with full work-
5) Problem: Gee (2007) defines a “problem of content” (p.22).
Outcome: This is elaborated in the analysis section.
6) Problem: Games are not aligned with the school curricu-
lum. Outcome: This also relates to the problem of content (Gee,
2007), but is further related to the index (in the sense of con-
One perspective is that games should be viewed as valuable
in themselves. (Buckingham & Burn, 2007). This was the case
in P2, where games were the base of operations. By using games,
the teacher may use the ‘cultural capital’ (Partington, 2010)
which the pupils bring to the classroom. Such capital may be
game literacy. Literacy at P2 was used culturally in game
worlds and creatively by creating game worlds and characters.
A study of a pilot program of game design in a poor, rural area
in the US (Reynolds & Caperton, 2011), has some similarities
to P2 , e.g. r egarding meaning-making and student engagement.
They co nclude: “a learning environment that many students find
relevant, motivating, and in many cases fun, as well as quite
difficult” (p.285). This relates closely to the results of the pupils
view on P2. Another study with some resemblan ce to P2 u sed a
game engine with a game editor tools (Robertson & Good,
2005); in P2 the pupils also created game levels. A study by
Kim, Park, & Baek (2009) concludes: “a commercial off-the-
shelf game in game-based learning in conjunction with meta-
cognitive strategies can be an effective learning environment
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
for increasing students’ performance” (p.808). P2 did not use
think-aloud but ob servati on was made o f the wor k with creat ive
assignments, as well as participatory observation. Charsky &
Mims (2008) argues: “Players’ perceptions of the game evolve
from a game to learn—to a game to play—to a game of
rules—to a game of strategy” (p.40). This is related with Gee’s
(2007) “problem of content” (p.22); the learning goes beyond
the game con tent itself (Gee, 2007).
Games may be viewed as Egenfeldt-Nielsen (2007) con-
cludes: “games actually need to be tailored much closer to the
actual learning content” (p.276). This tool-view is different
from P2, where COTS games were the base of operations. The
tool-view is also present in a paper by Hsu and Wang (2009)
who argues games in school may help develop new media lite-
racy; however, while having a focus on the classroom, games
are viewed as someth ing valu able in itself as p art of new medi a
literacy. Another paper studied a game physics engine to inves-
tigate how this could be used for physics education, which
found both possibilities and constraints. (Price, 2008). While
that study put focus on game technology, it was still closely
related to a specific school subject, while P2 had a more the-
matic approach. Salen (2007) focus on the role of the game
designer: “game-making is especially well-suited to encourag-
ing meta-level reflection on the skills and processes that de-
sign e r- players use in building such systems” (p.319). In other
words, the process of developing games as a tool, but for learn-
ing game design, which brings it closer to P2 and the value of
games in itself.
This study was ethnographic with quasi-experimental inter-
jectio ns. The metho d was abductive and retroductive; the study
oscillated between empirical data and hypothesis testing (man-
dated breakdowns) (Qvar sell, 1 996). A breakdown refers to the
work of Heidegger, and what is ready-to-hand versus present-
at-hand (Winograd & Flores, 1986). This study was based on
four different types of data collection: 1) Individual semi-
structured interviews were conducted with all 18 pupils at the
end of the first year. 2) Daily participatory, less structured ob-
servations with a logbook during two years. 3) Data about at-
tendance over two years and grades at the start and end of P2. 4)
Various meetings around the education with school staff, the
Swedish Schools Inspectorate, the municipality and other re-
searchers. The focus was on the pupils to tell their perceptions.
A written survey or a structured interview would perhaps ex-
clude important parts of what the pupils would say in a less
structured format. A few structured questions were asked about
the pupils’ age and media habits as background data. The study
was done with permission from the school, as some pupils were
minors (below 18 years old). Interviews were recorded with
smartphones. The recordings were essential in capturing the
quotes included and perform coding. Memoing of observations
was done in a logbook format. Quotes and memos were read
closely, to find categories (such as ‘freedom’). Various quotes
and memos could then be organized and discussed. Tentative
hypotheses could be formed and tested, e.g: freedom and crea-
tivity are active when the learning works by means of social
responsitivity. Arranging and observing quasi-experiments with
clay-based 3D character modelling, was a way to test this. An-
other tentative hypothesis was: computer gaming and game
development are active when learning works, by means of so-
cial responsitivity. To test this, a quasi-experiment with 3D
game develo pment was conducted for almost a year, as well a s
English teaching through in-game text chat and voice chat.
Literature reviews was made mainly during the process, not
prior to the study. Seminars with other researchers were held a
few times to discuss the coding and concepts as they had
emerged. One of the authors was the project manager for P2
who came to know the pupils very well by participatory obser-
vation; e.g. by playing computer games with the pupils or dis-
cussing society. This enables a deeper understanding of the
interview quotes, which is elaborated in this paper. Further, the
observations are used to illustrate and confirm what was found
in the interviews. All data about the pupi ls are presented in such
a way as to not reveal the identity of the pupils or to not relate
opinions to a specific person.
The results are presented in three sections; interviews, ob-
servation s, grades and at tendance. As context, a brief summar y
of the pupils’ background is presented first.
About the Pupils
Most of the pupils lived in the suburb, and several had a so-
cially challenged situation. All of them had significant but dif-
ferent problems in traditional school. They had a diverse cul-
tural background. Almost everyone had an explicit interest for
computer games. There were 20 pupils (at most), 16-19 years of
age. All b ut one was male.
Interviews about the Pupils’ Perc eptions
The pupils’ perceptions of P2 in contrast to traditional school
may be summarized as follows. The non-scheduled, defrag-
mented time and space, i.e. full workdays, made it possible by
design to respond to the pupils interest almost immediately.
This way, the pupils were able to build a better relationship
with the teacher, as communi cation was possible unrelated to a
predefined schedule. Most of the pupils spontanously expressed
a sense of freedom but also a responsibility for learning. They
started to do assignments, which they would not have done in
the traditional school, precisely because they did not feel con-
trolled, but trusted. One of the pupils said: “Here they say you
get a computer and you are responsible for doing your assign-
ment. They don’t nag as they did in the old school. Then you
think that you must grab it with your own hands. That is why I
started doing the tasks they gave me.”
The responsibility and freedom was in part expressed by the
affordance of an individual path to subjects. The pupils were
allowed to choose where, when and how to appro ach a subject,
to make it meaningful. Some pupils said this leads to lifelong
learning and to get different perspectives. As one pupil ex-
pressed it: “Here I may choose who I should write about and
that enables me to h ave t hat knowled ge for the rest of my lif e.”
Most pupils expressed that it was fun to learn at P2, which
was a major difference to their previous experience of school.
They related to the rel axed atmosph ere where col laborati on and
discussion was encouraged. An observation made by the project
manager i s th at the atmosp here was cr eated by the group pro cess
and socialization in the games they play. This is especially true
in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs).
The pupils didn’t know each other when they started, but they
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
created a strong group by playing together. The strong group
creates the conditions for learning. This is confirmed in the
interviews where some pupils said that there are no brawls (as
in their previous schools): “It creates a peace of mind among
many if you compare with the old school where there is a lot of
chaos, but here it is very calm, no brawl and everyone learns
from each other and a big part of that is this freedom.”
A month after the interview presented above, six pupils were
interviewed in-gr oup by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate. This
was done to follow-up an anonymous notice. Both the inter-
view questions asked by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate, and
the situation (in group instead of individually) were different
than the first interview. Still, the pupils expressed similar opi-
nions in both interviews, which strengthens the result. In both
interviews some of the pupils expressed that P2 was the best
thing that had happened to them. The freedom and own respon-
sibility seems to be one key to why P2 worked, and why their
previous schools have not worked. By being treated (almost) as
responsible adults they had realized that it was up to them to
learn, and nagging was not needed. In contrast they expressed a
will to learn, which was a clear difference to their previous
school experience. In both interviews the pupils expressed that
they learn more than in their previous schools. It seems that the
way the y le ar ned was another ke y t o why P2 was p er ceived as a
better school, e.g. the removal of the schedule and the school-
book (but not books in general). The pupils expressed that they
got good feedback from teachers and were also able to learn
from thei r peers.
Observations of Social Responsitivity
Asplund’s concept of social responsitivity (Asplund, 1987,
translated by the authors), provides a perspective on ADHD,
which some of the pupils had been diagnosed with. Not being
able to sit still may be beneficial in a different environment, and
is not exclusive for pupils with ADHD. In fact, most of the
pupils could not sit still and just listen. For instance, a lesson
with a teacher who spoke for more than ten minutes was ob-
served; most of the pupils left. Some pupils didn’t attend the
session at all, which Asplund (1987) would call asocial res-
ponselessness. However, when creativity and discussion was in
focus, the social responsitivity was very different; they attended
and participated. Three examples should suffice to illustrate
1) The teacher in English played together with the pupils and
observed how they expressed themselves, i n text chat and orally
via a voice-over-IP (VoIP) application. Post game play, she
commented on their progress in writing and discussed with
them how to improve. As she was a gamer she was accepted
among the pupils.
2) The pupils were introduced to a professional and free
game development environment. The pupils were able to learn
how to make game levels with assistance of a university stu-
3) All pupils got the opportunity to design their own 3D cha-
racter, with the purpose of integrating it as a statue in a game
level. Si nce 3D character mod elling has a steep learning curve,
the pupils used clay and a wire skeleton. The clay characters
were 3D-scanned by the pupils and then imported into the game
engine. An artist and one of the authors assisted the pupils dur-
ing two days.
They learned in a creative p rocess, withou t trying to achieve
external goals in the curriculum. The assignments encouraged
divergent thinking and discussion. These goals were later as-
sessed using a large matrix, where the various creative results
were mapped to learning goals. This matrix was made as a
spreadsheet, and a visual chart was rendered as a ‘high-score
list’. Related to Huizinga (1971) this made the hand-in of crea-
tive results into a contest (a game), which motivated most of the
pupils to hand-in files without nagging. The assessment matrix
was later used as the basis for the grading. The matrix was a
necessity since P2 had to r elate to the current school s ystem and
it’s goals. It was a breakdown of the formative evaluation of
knowledge, which was done continiously through dialogue and
creative as signments.
Grades and At tendance
The data in this section were provided by one of the teachers
and summarized by the authors. At the start of P2 (autumn
2010), 8/20 pupils were qualified to attend upper secondary
studies. At the time when P2 started, grades in math, Swedish
and English were sufficient to qualify; 12/20 pupils were not
qualified in. Of these 12, 7/12 were qualified in all subjects,
4/12 had but one subject left, 1/12 had two subjects left; at the
end of the second year. An important note is that during the
second year of P2, the new school system in Sweden (‘Gy-11’)
required 12 subjects to qualify. This formal change was re-
troactively applied to the pupils who started in the old system
(‘Lpf-94’); the consequence was that they had to grade in
another 9 subjects to qualify.
In addition to the three qualifying subjects, all pupils had got
a grade in Multimedia A, Digital media, Computer literacy,
Communication and History A. 15/20 pupils had also got a
grade in Virtual environments. 13/20 pupils got a grade in Mul-
timedia B.
While P2 was run as a project outside of the school building
in the suburb, attendence was approx. 75%. After the move to
the school building in the city, attendence was approx. 55%.
Before attending P2, most of the pupils had very low atten-
dance. E.g. one pupil had (according to himself) previously
approx. 2% attendance in secondary school.
Games and E ducation
The freedom as expressed by the pupils, may be understood
philosophically by the deterministic rule-based nature of games.
Game rules may be tested similar to a hypothesis. While tradi-
tional school also has rules the school system doesn’t encour-
age testing of those rules. On the contrary, pupils who do test
rules in traditional school may be viewed as problems; e.g. by
not following the schedule. At some points school rules are
bent to avoid problems, which creates a non-deterministic con-
text where t he school can b e in control. E.g. all pupils are sup-
posed to attend every day, but it was found in one case, that
attending one hour per week was enough to fulfill the rules.
Finally, the fact that some of the teachers played games with
the pupils may have contributed to the sense of freedom; a
co-player which didn’t value (or index) the achievement. Epis-
temologically, the focus was on communication and under-
standing as in a Socratic dialogue, rather than testing if external
goals had been achieved.
Huizinga (1971) explains that the word ‘school’ originally
meant ‘leisure’, and sophist philosophical debate was play: “It
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
was pure play, catching your opponent in a net of argument”
(p.147). “Only when play is a recognized cultural function – a
rite, a ceremon y is it bound up with notions of obligation and
duty” (p.8). The second quote captures perhaps the essence of
usin g games in schoo l. The moment the game-pla y ceases to b e
play and becomes obligation and duty, games transform into
tools to achieve external goals. Using games in school presup-
poses game-play in it’s own right, including the voluntary as-
pect of play. In other words, to do things for the sake of the
activit y itsel f rat her th an so me ex tern al go al. A ‘ grassh op p er’ i s
someone who chooses to die rather than stop playing games;
because t hen he would no lon ger be a grasshopp er, a fate worse
than dying (Suits, 2005). This may illustrate why the pupils
(who were gamers) in this study returned to ‘school’ in P2,
where playing games was not only allowed but a prerequisite to
partici pate.
Related t o Rice’ fifth barrier (R ice, 2007) and the fifth prob-
lem predicted in the preplanning of P2, Gee (2007) explains
that facts or concepts (often viewed as the content) is not the
most important content in an academic discipline. Rather con-
tent “is generated, debated, and transformed via distinctive
ways of thinking, talking, valuing, acting, and, often, writing
and reading” (p.22). In a game it may be to understand a com-
plex mission or quest, evaluate information and take action,
discuss problems with other gamers etc. The game rules are
learned too, of course, to be able to play the game, but that is
just one part of what is being learned. This mixup is what Gee
(2007) defines as the “problem of content” (p.22).
Creativi ty an d Education
Robinson et al. (1999) defines creativity as: “Imaginative ac-
tivity fashioned so as to produce outcomes that are both original
and of value” (p.30). Related to Gee’s (2007) reasoning about
the “problem of content” (p.22): The pupils created and dis-
cussed t he con tent they generated in the game en gine o r the 3 D
character modelling sessions. Related to Asplund’s (1987) so-
cial responsitivity: The pupils participated and responded, they
were interested and motivated. Related to Robinson’s (2010)
referral to divergent thinking: The pupils made their own inter-
pretation of the task at hand; e.g. a 3D character could be a
large dragon, a warrior with a strong pose etc. This may be
called a d evelopment task; however, the scho ol organizat ion in
which P2 was conducted, said the pupils were not ready for
development tasks in e.g. English or Math. Given the results
above with the advanced tasks of game development, it seems
school underestimates pupils’ abilities.
The pupils had what could be called ‘1337 literacy’. The
word ‘1337’ (pronounced ‘leet’), is an encryption of ‘elite’. It
has different meanings; one is someone who excels in a game.
It is also the name of this form of encryption of English, which
often is used in text chats (also outside of games). It is, as
Huizinga (1971) would put it, a way to demarcate the secrecy
of play as something for us, but not for them. The non-gamers,
the ad ults, the teacher s ar e excl uded fro m th e communicat ion.
This play with language is part of the creative process in dig-
ital culture, but the authors dare to say this is not to be found in
any schoolbook of today. The written words (in a schoolbook)
are finalized. Affording creativity in education takes skilled
teachers who dare to leave the schoolboo k and have a dialectic
approach, a dialogue in which, knowledge is created by dis-
cussing various perspectives. For instance, a dialogue about
language, where English as we know it is developed or trans-
formed into ‘1337’. This is merely one rather simple example
of how the cultural capital (Partington, 2010) may be used in
education. Related to Robinson et al. (1999) definition of crea-
tivity it affords pu pils to imagine (‘what if language was in this
way?’) and produce an original outcome about language that
has value (learning english by means of their gaming expe-
rience). Th is was sho wn in th e result s, wher e th e teach er played
and co mmunicated with the pupils, and the pupils got grades in
this process.
In so-called profile subjects, such as multimedia and virtual
worlds the creative process was part of the subject. However,
the implementation of these subjects in school was still hin-
dered by the school system. The third problem of using games
in school, i.e. lack of game hardware is one aspect, but pupils
also do not have administrator rights, a prerequisite to be able
to experiment with and learn computer technology. Further,
many schools in Sweden have outsourced the administration of
computers, where all software (e.g. games) must be tested and
approved with an extra cost attached. One of the schools in-
volved in the project got their IT costs doubled with this system
(in general, unrelated to the P2 project and games). These is-
sues were worked around in P2 by having an externally funded
project, which enabled buying consumer gaming PCs. This way,
the pupils were able to administer their own computers, an
effective way for both learning and keeping the costs down.
The pupils’ perceptions about P2 in contrast to traditional
school have been presented, as well as observations of social
responsitivity. It was found that the pupils preferred P2; they
attended, participated and got grades in the process. To under-
stand why P2 worked, the following matrix presents theoretical
categories, which emerged from data ab out two social contexts
for learning in the study, and relates to the other research and
literature presented in this article.(Table 1)
To answer the main question, active components in situations
where learning worked by means of social responsitivity in-
cluded Games in it’s own right, The pupil is in control, Dialec-
tic approach and Creative assignments. While the traditional
school wants to be in control, P2 gave the pupils Freedom and
responsibility, similar to worklife. The Culture in P2 afforded
experimentation in a sandbox context, related to the Cultural
capital by using Games in it’s own right. The pupil could then
be in control, in the domain of games, which they knew signi-
ficanlty more about than the teachers in general. Creative as-
signments were used for Validation of the pupils’ knowledge.
All these activities were performed with a Dialectic approach
where different perspectives were discussed. The categories in
Tabl e 1.
Comparing theoretical categories an d soc ial contexts for learning.
categori es
Social contexts for le arning
P2 Traditional school
Culture Games in it’s own ri ght,
Pupils cultural capital Econom ic utility vie w on
Freedom The pupil is in control,
Deterministic system The system is in control,
Non-deterministic system
Learning Dialectic approach Schoolbook instructi on
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
categori es
Social contexts for le arning
P2 Traditional school
Validation Creative assignments,
Development tasks Tes ting learning outcomes
the first column are related to the game world as a social con-
text for learning. The index may be related to all items in the
second column.
The active components described above were the building
blocks of the environment in which the pupils were able to
create meaningful affordances. A straightforward example is
the defragmentation of time by replacing the schedule with full
workdays, which made it possible to play MMORPGs.
Given the pupils’ preferences of P2 (which validated the re-
sults from P1), it seems that P2 may be a concept for how to
solve initialization to society for many pupils, in a digital cul-
The concept of P2 may be summarized as:
Remove the schedule to integrate time, space and teacher
resources into one simple structure: a full workday, which
benefit dialectic feedback.
Replace the schoolbook with meaningful affordances of
the pupils’ own learning path, based upon their common
interest in computer games.
Learning should be based upon collaboration and discus-
sion (as opposed to control), between pupils and between
teachers and pupils. This creates a relaxed atmosphere,
where it is fun to learn.
It is vital to point out that P2 is not about creating a virtual
classroom in which all pupils must be; that would be to repli-
cate the issues with traditional school. The design of the learn-
ing must be based upon motivation and a common interest such
as games. A si milar concept may be used in other contexts, for
other groups of pupils with other types of interests; this may be
a subj ect for future research . Other future research would be to
make a study based upon interviews with the project manager,
to get more in-depth discussion of what worked and not, and
more importantly, why. Further, another study would be to make
a survey with questions based upon this study, to get other pu-
pils perceptions regarding school in relationship to learning in a
digital culture. Yet another study would be to make a similar
survey to teacher stu dents, regardi ng the need for game st udies
at teachers colleges. Finally, a follow-up interview with the
pupils at the end of the third year is planned, to compare the
situation before and after the transition into a school building.
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