Identifying Protoform Practices: Leadership
Steinkuehler, Constance, Elizabeth King, Sarah Chu, Esra Alagoz, Aysegul Bakar Corez, David Simkins, Yoonsin Oh, Bei Zhang. 2009. Identifying Protoform Practices: Leadership. International Journal of Learning and Media 1(2)
A growing amount of evidence points to a literacy crisis among teenage boys in the United States. Nationally only 65% of all boys graduate (Greene & Winters, 2006), and of those who persist, by age 17, only one in seventeen can read well enough to understand information from a specialized text such as the science section of a newspaper (Thinking K-16, 2001). Overall the “typical boy lags a year and one-half behind the typical girl” (Kleinfeld, 2006). On the bright side, a growing body of research points to the potential of games as routes toward literacy learning (Steinkuehler, 2007), and as we know, teenage boys comprise a large share of their market. If boys love games and games, under the right conditions, foster literacy, then can we use games as a way to re-engage young men in reading and writing digital and print text?
We’ve spent the past two years exploring this question in the context of an after school online games based lab using World of Warcraft. We work with boys from working-class and low-income populations who are either at-risk of failing literacy related courses at school or report feeling disaffiliated with school in general. Our goal has been to tap into the boys’ passion for gaming and develop a bridge toward those literacy practices that should serve them well in school and in life (Steinkuehler, 2008; Steinkuehler & King, 2009; Steinkuehler, King, Fahser-Herro, Simkins, & Alagoz, 2008). Our approach is to homegrow a learning community where boy culture (Newkirk, 2002) and gamer dispositions are nurtured and valued; these interests and dispositions then become the basis for cultivating literacy practices as a means toward their own ends.