Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




DeCoito, Isha


Scholars have acknowledged the potential contribution of video gaming to complex forms of learning, identifying links between gaming and engagement, experiential learning spaces, problem-solving, strategies, transliteracy reflectivity, critical literacy, and metacognitive thinking. Despite this movement toward the inclusion of video gaming in literacy teaching, concerns about certain risks raised by scholars have slowed the adoption of using video games to foster learning.

Using a multiliteracies lens, this multi-case study examined the experiences of four boys engaged with video gaming in two different contexts: a community centre and an after-school video club. By drawing on Feminist Post-Structural Theory, Vygotskian, and video gaming technology, I have gained an understanding of the nature of boys’ behavior and learning in social settings while they engage in video game play. Studying the ways in which boys make meanings through multimodal ways of learning can offer insights into strategies that can potentially reinvent traditional literacy pedagogical boundaries and establish new ways and practices for building knowledge.

These ethnographic cases, along with their naturalistic aspects, strengthened the authenticity of the social-contextual-cultural experiences of the four, adolescent-aged boys and allowed an understanding of their everyday experiences. Interpretations of the cultural meanings made by each of the boys, based on their individual unique experiences engaging with video games, can provide readers with insights into how to approach adolescent aged boys’ literacy development. This study describes how these four boys developed their multimodal ways of learning by engaging with visual perspectives of video games. My methodological approach documented what boys are saying, as much as possible, which is currently understudied in the literature surrounding boys and their video gaming practices. There were a number of findings emanating from this study, including the following: (i) boys use their video gaming practices for meaning-making and collaborative efforts in order to gain an understanding of several knowledge processes (such as decision-making, predicting, analyzing, strategizing, etc.), (ii) boys extend and apply their cultural knowledge as creative innovators, producing and publishing YouTube instructional videos for video game players and designing video games for a history project, (iii) boys demonstrate peer mentoring through storytelling, face-to-face interactions or in their online community of practice, (iv) boys make meanings using metacognitive literacy skills in a variety of ways, and (v) boys focus on cultural preservation and narrative storytelling. While acknowledging concerns related to video gaming, such as negative identity construction, violence, distraction, and time commitment for integration, this study seeks to contribute to the scholarly discussion about the use of video games in classrooms by explicitly considering the ways in which gaming may support boys’ meaning-making and cultural knowledge.


Available designs, boys, community of practice, cultural meaning-making systems, literacy, multiliteracies, multimodal meanings, video gaming