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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

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Video Game Players Hold A Digital Advantage? An Investigation Into ICT Disposition, Learning Styles, And Online Activities

Boaventura DaCosta (Solers Research Group, USA)
Additional Authors
Soonhwa Seok (Korea University, Korea)
Session Information
October 15, 2015 - 11:15am
Technology and Emerging Learning Environments
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Discovery Session
Atlantic Hall
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Discovery Session 2

A study (N = 1,258) is presented which compared digital disposition toward ICT, learning styles, and online learning activities between video game players and nonplayers.

Extended Abstract

The notion that today’s students are adept at all things digital as a result of their exposure to and experience with information and communication technology (ICT) has become a widespread and common sense belief, with many holding onto an implied expectation that these students will instinctively engage in learning because of the availability of such technologies (Kerawalla & Crook, 2002). It has been submitted that video games are one of these tools because they hold numerous educational benefits (Gee, 2007; Prensky, 2006). What’s more, it has been reasoned that gamers could develop a disposition from game play. That is, playing games could give gamers an advantage over their nonplayer counter parts, allowing them to do well with change, acquire new insights, and develop skills so they can overcome obstacles (Brown & Thomas, 2008). Skills and knowledge which are believed to be central in today’s digital information age (Watson, Mong, & Harris, 2011). This is important because in addition to the propositions made about students’ propensity toward technology, there has been much said about the need to prepare young people to successfully learn, work, and live in the 21st century (Trilling & Fadel, 2009).

However, a disposition or interest in ICT (or in video games for that matter) does not necessarily equate to interest in the use of these technologies in educational contexts. There is research to suggest that the majority of students are rudimentary technology users, showing little knowledge in the application of advanced technology skills (e.g., Kennedy, Judd, Dalgarno, & Waycott, 2010; Margaryan & Littlejohn, 2008). What’s more, it has been proposed that youth do not expect or want to use technology in educational settings in the same way that they do at home or in community (Lohnes & Kinzer, 2007; McWilliam, 2002), but instead use their knowledge of technology for personal reasons.

Toward the goal of examining the digital propensity of gamers and whether or not this propensity applies in educational contexts, we present the findings of a study (N = 1,258) which examined this so-called disposition in the context of ICT between video game players and nonplayers as well as comparing the online learning activities and learning style preferences of these two groups. Overall, the findings were consistent with previous research, while at the same time, offering new insights. That is, the participants were characteristic of the traditional gamer—predominately male, dedicating time to playing these games, but not necessarily an adolescent profile, instead played by a young adult demographic. More importantly, the findings revealed that players used ICT more frequently than nonplayers. A finding that adds credibility to the idea gamers may be more adept at all things digital. Furthermore, the findings revealed that players were more involved in online learning activities than nonplayers. For example, they were found more likely to communicate with instructors and classmates, share content and knowledge, read and contribute to blogs, and use the Internet to learn about topics of interest as well as complete school assignments.

At face value, these findings appear to suggest that video game players have a stronger preference for online learning than those who do not play (in addition to a stronger propensity toward ICT). However, with regard to the learning styles examined, most were favored by the nonplayers more so than players. That is, nonplayers reported a stronger preference for courses or training that are online rather than face-to-face; multitasking while learning; lessons than are presented graphically first and play centric; and the ability to navigate a lesson in a nonlinear fashion. These findings are a departure, as we had expected players to have shown a more prevalent interest in not only the online learning activities, but also the learning styles.

These findings suggest that propensity toward ICT or video games does not necessarily translate to interest in using specific technologies in educational contexts or that today’s students prefer different learning styles as a result of their exposure to and experience with certain technologies. This is not to discourage those interested in the use of video games in instructional settings. But instead a call for much more in-depth quantitative investigation before conclusions can be drawn. The purpose of this presentation is to open a dialogue between policymakers, educators, practitioners, and researchers who are interested in the propositions made about today’s students, their propensity toward technology, and the importance of preparing youth for success in the 21st century.


Brown, J. S., & Thomas, D. (2008). The gamer disposition. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2008/02/the_gamer_disposition.html

Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave.

Kennedy, G., Judd, T., Dalgarno, B., & Waycott, J. (2010). Beyond natives and immigrants: exploring types of net generation students. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(5), 332-343.

Kerawalla, L., & Crook, C. (2002). Children's computer use at home and at school: Context and continuity. British Educational Research Journal, 28(6), 751-771.

Lohnes, S., & Kinzer, C. (2007). Questioning assumptions about students' expectations for technology in college classrooms. Innovate, 3. Retrieved from http://innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=431&action=article

Margaryan, A., & Littlejohn, A. (2008). Are digital natives a myth or reality? Students’ use of technologies for learning. Unpublished manuscript, Glasgow Caledonian University.

McWilliam, E. L. (2002). Against professional development. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 34(3), 289-300.

Prensky, M. (2006). Don’t bother me Mom—I’m learning: How computer and video games are preparing your kids for twenty-first century success—and how you can help! New York: Paragon House Publishers.

Trilling, B., & Fadel, C. (2009). 21st century skills: Learning for life in our times. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Watson, W. R., Mong, C. J., & Harris, C. (2011). A case study of the in-class use of a video game for teaching high school history. Computers & Education. 56(2), 466-474.