Up Skilling Teachers for the 21st Century: Teaching with Digital Games


Funding Program:

SSHRC Partner Engage Grant

Funding Amount:


The 21st century, technological advancements and a shift toward an increasingly participatory knowledge economy have drastically redefined the skills and competencies required for success in and out of school. The pressing need to foster students' development as digitally literate citizens who are creative collaborators, critical thinkers, and successful communicators has been widely called for in education, articulated most recently through research and policy work that highlight innovations in teaching and learning as an essential part of the equation. Yet, as is too often the case, transformative teaching occurs in isolated pockets, with few opportunities for teachers to get together, collaborate, build professional capital, and model and share resources and strategies for supporting 21st century learning. Policy makers argue that support for professional development is urgently required to ensure that teachers are receiving the training they need to activate innovative pedagogies in their classrooms in meaningful ways.

The primary goal of this partnership project is to address an immediate need in the Peel District School Board (PDSB) to document existing teaching and learning practices around 21st century competencies in classrooms, to create effective professional development for teachers in innovative teaching practices, and to foster a network of creation, collaboration, and communication around transformative pedagogical practices. Together with Cristyne Hebert (University of Region,) and Dr. Thumlert, Dr. Jenson will draw on the combined expertise of York University researchers and the PDSB in delivering teacher professional development and supporting student learning in digital literacies, 21st century competencies, and game-based learning. These interventions will help us obtain a deeper understanding of how teachers can best be supported in teaching and learning in a 21st century knowledge economy.

The proposed research project will:

  • evaluate teachers according to their current understanding and adoption of pedagogical practices that support 21st century competencies;
  • provide professional development for teachers on 21st competencies using dynamic, interactive video games that can foster rich and deep learning; and
  • evaluate the impact of professional development on teachers' classroom practice.

The outcome will provide much needed empirical evidence on the efficacy of professional development on teachers' educational practices and their implementation of 21st century competencies, as well as their uptake of innovative pedagogical models and tools. Digital games have been selected as a focus point as research demonstrates their effectiveness for increasing student engagement and for cultivating 21st century digital literacy competencies.

This proposal responds to Peel District School Board's learning technology strategy and aligns with its Empowering Modern Learners policy. The policy, specifically, highlights the need for teachers to create student-centered inquiry inclusive of 21st century competencies and game-based learning. In addition to producing data that will impact board policies and practices, the project will also provide knowledge dissemination materials that can be utilized across the board, including web-based instructional videos on digital learning and a dynamic toolkit to support ongoing and future professional development.