With the support of an innovation grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CCT conducted a two-year project to design, develop, and field-test two Nintendo DSi handheld video games to help improve the general literacy and reading comprehension skills of struggling middle-grade students. We also developed associated support materials for teachers, including text and video components to be delivered via smartphones.
In the Portable Wordplay work we sought to leverage electronic games to address the critical need for more innovative approaches to teaching and learning, with games that combined engaging, creative forms of play with instructional impact that teachers would recognize and value. This project had two specific goals:
- To develop two instructionally rich games for the Nintendo DSi that would engage seventh-graders in sustained, playful literacy practices directly relevant to improving their reading comprehension skills.
- To develop multiple models for integrating these games into in-school instructional practices that were logistically manageable for teachers.
Portable Wordplay games do not involve students in the review of existing knowledge, as in vocabulary drills or quiz games. Instead, the games help players to develop and rehearse new word-learning and comprehension strategies through game play.
Findings from the Portable Wordplay project will inform our thinking about the potential of handheld devices and of relatively small-scale, casual, interactive games as mechanisms for building students' reading comprehension skills in the middle grades. This work also will contribute to a broader conversation about the role of electronic games in formal school settings, offering an innovative model of instructional design and implementation approach.