Learning Tool or Dangerous Distraction? How Reading About Gaming Can Give Students Fresh Perspective
Type “Students, gaming, and Fortnite” into your favorite search engine and the results will be definitive: the online game is a huge part of students’ lives. With recent headlines running the gamut from “Educators Battle 'Fortnite' for Students' Attention” to “Fortnite: schools warn parents of 'negative effects,'” it’s clear that gaming is a force to be reckoned with in and outside of the classroom.
It’s no surprise, then, that in Newsela’s recent analysis of the most popular articles for elementary, middle, and high school students, titles that explore gaming rank highly. In a list of the top 20 most-viewed articles, four of the 20 spots belong to pieces on gaming, including the second and third most popular stories.
The popularity of gaming as a reading topic is even more prominent when it comes to younger students. Nine of the top 20 articles for elementary school students explore stories related to gaming, a number that drops to three out of 20 for middle and high school students. The game Fornite in particular is a big draw, with top titles including “‘Fortnite’ shoots up gaming charts,” “Drake and friends play ‘Fortnite,’” and “‘Fortnite’ big hit in baseball.”
It’s easy to scoff at these articles’ popularity, especially when they skew towards celebrity and sports. But taking a careful look at the full list of gaming-related stories we see that students are grappling with the topic in more complex ways, exploring the pros and cons of an activity that’s overwhelmingly popular and often defines their social lives.
In “‘Fortnite’ shoots up gaming charts,” for example, the author delves into the business strategy behind the free game, how the company has grown, and how Fornite will likely expand its market reach going forward. In “Are video games good for you? New research suggests the answer is yes,” readers are introduced to neuroscience studies on the effects gaming has on students, prompting us to think carefully about how gaming may, in fact, provide ways for students to learn important skills.
Students are also reading about the potential downsides of gaming, with articles like “The negative effects of video games,” “Video game violence,” and “Too young for Fortnite game?” all appearing on top age group lists. This reinforces the takeaway that while students may be attracted to lighthearted references to their favorite games, they’re also interested in understanding alternate viewpoints on the larger social impact gaming can have.
With an article in Education Week describing Fornite’s dramatic jump from 40 million to 200 million players in 2018, it’s clear that gaming will continue to influence classroom dynamics for years to come. In light of that, it’s encouraging to see that students are interested in exploring different views about one of their favorite pastimes—even if Drake also makes an appearance.