Designs for Learning: South African Youth’s use of Micro-blogging, Online Portfolios... and Computer Games.

This panel reports on the use of online portfolio, micro-blogging and computer game software in varied contexts in Greater Cape Town. Contributors explore local youth’s uses of Carbonmade, Twitter and gaming software, identify the technical and social issues affecting software’s use at school and at play and theorize how youth interpret, appropriate and use international software services and gaming products.

List of participants



A range of collabarative studies investigating formal and informal youth and digital media use.


computer games, PlayStation games, children, games, game literacy, ludoliteracy, ludology, game rules, play, learning, literacy, online gaming, public access venues, communities of practice.

secondary school, youth, visual arts, online portfolio, e-portfolio, multimodal analysis, modes

Video games, gate keeping, children, Film and Publications Board, classification, assumptions.

Key readings:

Buckingham, D. & Burn, A. (2007). “Game-Literacy in Theory and Practice,” Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 16(3):323-349.

Burn, A. (2009). Making New Media: Creative Production and Digital Literacies. New York: Peter Lang.

Caillois, R. (1961). Man, Play and Games. Trans. Meyer Barash. The Free Press of Glencoe, Inc.

Gee, J. P. (2003). What Videogames Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, New York: Palgrave.

Gee, J. P. (2009). Learning and games. International Journal of Learning and Media, 1, 21–40.

Lave, J. (1996). Teaching, as Learning, in practice. Mind, Culture and Activity , 3 (3), 149 - 164.

Payne, M. (2010, June 10). Playing the digital Divide: how the video game form can address ICT "skills and usage" gaps. Retrieved May 9, 2011, from Kairosnews: A weblog for Discussing Rhetoric, Technology and Pedagogy:

Pelletier, C. (2005).”The uses of literacy in studying computer games: Comparing  students’ oral and visual representations of games” English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 4(1): 40-59. Available:

Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Game-Based Learning, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Putnam, C., & Kolko, B. E. (2008). Computer Games in the Developing World: The Value of non-intrumental engagment with ICTs, or Taking Play Seriously. The Human Development Report , 1-9.

Salen, K. (2008). Toward an Ecology of Gaming. (K. Salen, Ed.) The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. , 1 - 20.

Sefton-Green, J. (2004). Literature Review in Informal Learning with Technology Outside School. Futurelab, WAC Performing Arts and Media College. London: Futurelab.

Squire, K. (2008). Open-ended video games: A model for developing learning for the interactive age. In K. Salen (Ed.), The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning (pp. 167–198). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of Practice and social learning systems. Organization , 7 (2), 225 - 246.

Yates, S. J., & K. Littleton (2001) ‘Understanding Computer Game Cultures: A Situated Approach’ in E. Green and A. Adam (eds) Virtual Gender: Technology, Consumption and Identity, London: Routledge, pp. 103-123.

Zagal, José P., "Ludoliteracy: Defining, Understanding, and Supporting Games Education" (2010). ETC Press. Paper 4.


Chetty, I., & Basson, A. (2007). Survey of public perception and use of FPB classification guidelines in making viewing choices for children. Film and Publications Board Research Report, March 2007.

Goldstein, J. (2005). Violent video games. In J. Raessens & J. Goldstein (Eds.), The Handbook of Computer Game Studies. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 341–358.

Livingstone, S. (2007). Do the media harm children? Journal of Children and Media, 1, 5-14.

Olson, C. K. (2004). Media violence research and youth violence data: Why do they conflict? Academic Psychiatry, 28, 144-150.

Barrett, H. 2011, May 16, 2011-last update, Why isn't there more E-Portfolio Development in K-12 schools?. Available: [2011, July 18, 2011].

Barrett, H. 2008, The REFLECT Initiative Research Project Final Report.

Buckingham, D. 2007, Beyond Technology: children's learning in the age of digital culture, Polity Press, Cambridge, UK.

Kress, G. 2010, Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication, Routledge, New York, USA.

Kress, G.R. & Van Leeuwen, T. 2010, Reading images : the grammar of visual design, Routledge, New York, USA.

Lankshear, C.K., Michele. 2006, New literacies : changing knowledge and classroom learning, Open University Press, McGraw-Hill International, California, USA.

Manovich, L. 2001, The language of new media, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Manovich, L. 1999, "Database as Symbolic Form", Convergence, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 80-99.

Owen, H. 2009, "Portfolios Have Long Been a Part of Learning, Teaching and Professional Practice: Why Use E-portfolios And What Do Web 2.0 Tools Have To Offer?", Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts, , no. 2: e-Portfolio Edition.

Grand Theft South Africa’: Approaching game literacy in South

African primary schools

Marion Walton and Nicola Pallitt , Centre for Film and Media Studies,

University of Cape Town (UCT)

This paper reports a pilot study of gaming among Grade 6-7 boys (N=103) at a middle class all-boys primary school in Cape Town.  The study contributes to a digital literacies project documenting children’s practices in relation to differential access to ICTs, media

literacy and involvement in consumer culture. The pilot study documents primary school boys as game players and consumers, and suggests approaches to developing games literacy within the South African Arts and Culture curriculum. Games literacy was approached in terms of understanding what research and pedagogic techniques would help boys of this age group to talk analytically about games and gameplay in a classroom context.  

For boys in this school, computers and PlayStation consoles are the medium of choice for play within a primarily male peer group, which also extends online. Digital gaming

takes place across a plethora of devices and networks.  The meanings of the boys’ play are approached through an analysis of their visual and verbal representations of their favourite games, notably FIFA10 and the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series, as well a game design activity. The boys’ drawings and game designs demonstrate how globally distributed games are interpreted locally and redesigned. Although games are part of these children’s cultural capital, they are only part of their media ecologies (Ito, 2010). The boys’ drawings exemplify the creative dimension of media consumption, as their knowledge and experience with different media are made salient in these texts. While these may reflect middle class interests and pleasures, they also present local and social meanings of games for boys of this age group.

Games and Learning: a perspective on low-income,

resource-constrained youth and PC gaming

in Cape Town

Anja Venter, Centre for Film and Media Studies: University of Cape Town,

This paper reports on pilot findings from an April - May 2011 in an on going ethnographic study of PC gaming amongst low-income, resource-constrained, urban male teens in a library in Cape Town, South Africa.  Framing their activities using the communities of practice model as outlined by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger , I explore how the popular definitions of “gamer” and traditional gaming communities of practice are challenged in a resource constrained environment. The paper describes the socio-technological ecology currently found in this venue. Findings include the material and social limitations of gaming in such contexts,  challenges to successful collaborative play and evidence of gamers appropriating technology and social relationships to create learning communities.

Harm in video games: An analysis of the guidelines for classification of the Film and Publication Board of South Africa

Marion Walton and Muya Koloko, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town,

Game classifications are intended to protect children from potentially harmful experiences of media by targeting particular categories of disturbing, violent or sexual material. This paper analyses the institutional gate keeping policies used regarding video games in South Africa. Specifically, we focus on the interpretation of the guidelines used by the Film and Publications Board to classify games in terms of the presence of ‘classifiable elements’ such as violence and sexual content, the use of public input, and raters’ interpretation of the guidelines. This forms part of a greater study on children’s responses to the representation of violence in video games. This phase identifies how rating practices and policies make particular assumptions about games - what games are, the contexts in which gaming takes place and how they construct a specific narrative of childhood. The regulatory policies are compared to some actual gaming practices in South Africa, and both are situated in relation to current discussions of children, media, vulnerability and agency.

The Multimodal Choices Visual Arts Students Made in Creating their Online Portfolios

Travis Noakes, Centre for Film and Media Studies: University of Cape Town,

There is a research gap in the multimodal choices that Secondary School Visual Arts students make when using online portfolio software. This paper contributes to closing this gap by exploring the modes and modal combinations that three students used in their varied online portfolios. These students were chosen following a multi-modal analysis of year-end screengrabs from the entire grade ten class’ online portfolios. The educator’s syllabus instructed all students to create showcase Visual Arts electronic learning portfolios (e-portfolios). Despite following the same syllabus and using the same online portfolio software, there was great variety in students’ modal choices. These have been illustrated by showing how the divergent interests of three students were reflected in multimodal choices that had different resonances with professional, school and teenage practices; as well as with online social networking practices. It was argued that the students had created a “Visual Arts Showcase Drawing E-portfolio”, a “Visual Arts Showcase Mixed Media E-portfolio” and a “Teen Media Interest Showcase”, respectively. The paper’s findings suggest that educators and other decision makers should accommodate a variety of student interests when designing e-portfolio syllabi. As a result, it is recommended that these syllabi include a broad and flexible range of guidelines. These should best enable students to showcase the particular mediums, subject-matters or themes that their personal interests favour.