WorldBuilders: Digital Literacies and Media Arts in Primary Education

The WorldBuilders project, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, is a two year action research programme that aims to build teachers’ confidence in using media arts to teach digital literacies.

School children using digital tools

A consortium of Yorkshire schools and artists will form a learning community with colleagues from The School of Education and the Maker{Futures} programme at The University of Sheffield and  The National Videogame Museum to develop activities which position children as the videogames makers of the future.

The WorldBuilders project is part of the University’s Maker{Futures} programme driven by the University’s School of Education and the Literacies Research Cluster. Maker{Futures} aims to promote maker education and develop digital literacies in schools, libraries and museums. 

Videogames are a highly popular and dynamic art form, featuring imaginative fictional 'worlds' in which stories unfold. When children play videogames they are involved in the reading of complex multimodal narratives and when they make videogames they become digital authors. Teachers need support and inspiration to ensure that more children can access and benefit from these opportunities. Working with Maker{Futures}, artist practitioners and the National Videogames Museum, teachers will undertake a programme of continued professional development and learning in order to be able to incorporate videogames into their teaching of literacy and support children's development as digital authors. Teachers will be encouraged to adopt new approaches to designing engaging learning experiences for children, informed by an understanding of sound, music, moving image and design of videogames.

Alison and a school girl digital learning

The project asks:

Our inquiry questions will enable us to retain a strong focus on pedagogy and arts-based practice. We believe the current shift to online learning and broadcasting, provides a timely opportunity to review how we all approach teaching and learning and the role of the arts in this context. We propose the following inquiry questions:

  • How can teachers be supported to develop knowledge and understanding of the ways in which videogames tell stories?
  • How can teachers be supported to develop skills, experience and confidence in adapting the arts-based practices associated with videogames for their own literacy teaching?
  • In what ways can videogames be used to engage disaffected learners in school based literacy teaching?
  • In what ways can videogames be used to support children's holistic learning about storytelling?
  • How can the computing curriculum be reimagined and embedded in the literacy curriculum?

The programme will be led by Dr Alison Buxton with an advisory group chaired by our lead school (Northfield Junior School) Headteacher Rebecca Timperley. Leah Dunghay and Claire Mead from The National Videogames Museum will be key partners. Dr Becky Parry is PI for the research and main contact for this aspect of the work.

Interested in applying for this project? If you are a games, music or sound designer, an animator, a digital artist / storyteller or a VR/AR specialist, we would love to hear from you. Find out more


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