New media is usually considered to mean non-print media in modern society. Then we have the broad notion of literacy, which people have attempted to broaden beyond its application to the written form. In educational cultures, literacy is now a broad and vague synonym for competence and skill — in the things that schools preference. The upshot of that is that for many students, the use of technology simply doesn’t resonate with them because it doesn’t characterise the kinds of multi-modal texts they use as a result of convergence.
So why bother with games and not just stick to making Google Docs? – The answer lies in the fact that games should not be seen as a resource. What makes a game different to Google’s apps? Well besides, writing, games function in two ways that Google’s tools don’t from a linguistic stance.
1. They show kids the world (indicative mood)
2. Taking action upon world (imperative mood).
If as a teacher you’re consciously using a multiliteracies approach to teaching (good idea), then games are a rich way of critically framing the topic under-discussion. Why does this matter? — Because it enables students to distance themselves from what they have learned — to take into account its social and cultural aspects allowing them to reflect, critique and expand on what they are learning.
If as a parent you want to know why Minecraft is so interesting to kids — it’s because kids learn very well when immersed in multiliteracies, because to them, being literate means being creative.
The key to remember is that kids combine social and symbolic approaches to how they learn. They use media to make meaning and well as consume things which (apparently) have meaning in them why are supposed to agree or comply with.
Games have social process and social processes which make them a much more powerful ‘literacy’ than Google docs, but they don’t as easily tick the ‘has learned to’ boxes that schools insist is a hallmark of learning.
So in summary, if you want to use new media, then you will also want to use a multiliteracies approach and frame the use of that in a social and cultural context that kids recognise. In other words, playing Mincraft will help kids learn maths in and out of the game, because good teaching with media (beyond writing and print) is multimodal.