You are here:

Digital Game Building: Learning in a Participatory Culture

Educational Research Volume 52, Number 4, ISSN 0013-1881


Background: The emergence of a participatory culture, brought about mainly by the use of Web2.0 technology, is challenging us to reconsider aspects of teaching and learning. Adapting the learning-as-digital-game-building approach, this paper explores how new educational practices can help students build skills for the 21st century. Purpose: This paper examines elementary students' learning experiences through digital game building and playing. The following research questions guided the study: (1) What emotions do students experience during the process of building digital games for others to use?; (2) What traits do students display when they learn through digital game-building?; and (3) What do students learn from the digital game-building experience? Sample: The participants were 21 elementary students (19 boys and two girls), aged between seven and 11, who were on a summer camp at a university in Canada. Design and methods: This small-scale study made use of enactivism (Li, Clark, and Winchester, Instructional design and technology grounded in enactivism: A paradigm shift?, “British Journal of Educational Technology” 41, no. 3: 403-419, 2010), a new theoretical framework, as a basis for analysing the students' experiences and responses as they created computer games to teach others the concept of Issac Newton's Three Laws of Motion. Quantitative and qualitative data collected included student and parent surveys, teacher and student interviews, field observations and the digital games created by the students. Data were subjected to quantitative and thematic analyses. Results: The results indicated that only a small minority of students reported never feeling the positive emotions excited/happy or smart/proud during the process of building digital games. In addition, analysis suggested that “creativity”, “engagement” and “new identity” were the three salient traits displayed by the students when learning by digital game-building. There was also evidence that students increased their understanding of the subject matter in question (mathematics, science and technology) and enhanced their general problem-solving abilities through the process. Conclusions: This small-scale study suggests that student engagement in the game-building experience can enhance not just the learning of the game design process but also subject matter and generic skills. Thus, the learning-as-building approach can empower students to “take over the technology” and become creators rather than passive consumers. (Contains 4 tables.)


Li, Q. (2010). Digital Game Building: Learning in a Participatory Culture. Educational Research, 52(4), 427-443. Retrieved April 24, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ERIC on April 19, 2013. [Original Record]

ERIC is sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education.

Copyright for this record is held by the content creator. For more details see ERIC's copyright policy.


View References & Citations Map

Cited By

  1. Using Diffusion of Innovations Theory to Optimally Plan Professional Development on Game-Based Learning

    Joseph Runciman, Towson University, United States

    Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2019 (Mar 18, 2019) pp. 855–861

  2. A systematic review of literature on students as educational computer game designers

    Kevser Hava, Bozok University, Turkey; Hasan Cakir, Gazi University, Turkey

    Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia Vol. 27, No. 3 (July 2018) pp. 323–341

  3. Do you say that we can use digital games to fight bullies?

    Qing Li & Arkhadi Pustaka, Towson University, United States

    Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2016 (Mar 21, 2016) pp. 579–583

  4. Perception, Equity and Accessibility: Comparing Student and Professional Perspectives on Game Development Courses

    Lisa Castaneda & Thomas Swanson, foundry10, United States

    Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2015 (Mar 02, 2015) pp. 745–750

  5. Teacher Designed Games: Leading Innovation in Classrooms

    Yang Liu, University of Calgary, Canada

    Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2014 (Mar 17, 2014) pp. 665–669

  6. Learning through Playing: The Relationship between Learning Outcomes and Experiences

    Meng-Tzu Cheng, TzuFen Su, Wei-Yu Huang, Jhih-Hao Chen & Li-Ying Liu, National Changhua University of Education, Taiwan

    EdMedia + Innovate Learning 2013 (Jun 24, 2013) pp. 1882–1888

  7. The Relationship between Academic Abilities and Internal/External Thinking Styles on Digital Game Flow Experience

    I Hua Chen, Ya-Ting C Yang, Wan-Chi Wu & Wei-Chun Chiang, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan

    E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2012 (Oct 09, 2012) pp. 911–918

These links are based on references which have been extracted automatically and may have some errors. If you see a mistake, please contact