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Achieving digital literacy through game development: an authentic learning experience

Mark Frydenberg (Computer Information Systems Department, Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)

Interactive Technology and Smart Education

ISSN: 1741-5659

Article publication date: 16 November 2015




This paper aims to argue that the process of making an original game develops digital literacy skills and provides an authentic learning experience as students create, publish and deploy interactive games. Teaching students to create computer games has become common in both K-12 and tertiary education to introducing programming concepts, increase student engagement and recruit majors and minors in technology fields. This study describes a project where first-year college students in an introductory technology concepts course use a visual game creation tool to develop original games to play on their computers and mobile devices.


The author created a game development exercise which was implemented in three different sections of an introductory technology course. Students who participated were surveyed about their experiences. In addition, the author considers information technology (IT) skills and aspects of authentic learning which are achieved through this assignment.


Initial findings suggest that students found the gaming assignment offers an opportunity for students with no prior programming skills to create software within a controlled and supportive environment. It allows them to demonstrate their understanding of coding principles, including identifying objects and interactions, and that creating software requires a developer to specify exact instructions for the computer to follow.

Research limitations/implications

This study is limited to results from one semester and a small number of students participating. In addition, student frustration with the complicated process of publishing games online may have influenced student attitudes toward the assignment.

Practical implications

Challenges of implementing this study on a larger scale are discussed.

Social implications

Creating games encourages collaborative learning through trial and error, and students who share their games with friends to play on their devices achieve a sense of pride.


While most studies of game development emphasize the programming skills that are developed through creating computer games, this paper looks at a larger scope of digital literacy and IT skills achieved, as well as opportunities to perform tasks often completed by IT professionals.



The author acknowledges Michael Cummings and Gavin Baumann, Microsoft Academic Evangelists, for their enthusiasm and continued support of this project. A version of this paper titled “Creating Games as Authentic Learning in the Information Technology Classroom” was previously presented at the IADIS Elearning Conference in Gran Canaria.


Frydenberg, M. (2015), "Achieving digital literacy through game development: an authentic learning experience", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 256-269.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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