Graduate student uses video games to help tutor students in reading

SUNY Oswego’s Keri Frazer, a master’s candidate in the literacy program, thinks digital technology—even video games—can turn the key to unlock reading and writing for struggling students.

Keri Frazer with iPad“Doing my research as an undergraduate was an ‘Aha!’ moment for me,” said Frazer, who recently completed a summer literacy clinic at West Genesee High School under the mentorship of Maria Murray, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the SUNY Oswego School of Education’s literacy education program.

Frazer, who graduated from SUNY Oswego in May with a bachelor of science degree in adolescence education with an English concentration, had no classroom to work with at the time she began her graduate literacy research seminar. So for her research project, she fell back on what she knew well—digital technology.

“Basically, I played video games for a semester. It was a perfect semester,” she laughed.

Frazer developed a research paper titled “Digital Literacy and Dragonborn: Observing a World Within ‘Skyrim’,” under the mentorship of Dennis Parsons, an associate professor in Oswego’s School of Education.

“Technology is so vital in the 21st century if used appropriately,” Frazer said.

Lore and literacy

Preparing for the project, she began reviewing research literature as well as observing student behavior with video games. Her younger sister, Lindsey, then 19, came under Keri’s scrutiny.

“Lindsey is incredibly comfortable with technology and ability to problem-solve,” Frazer wrote. Lindsey was, in the words of researchers, “a digital native.”

Frazer noted that her sister played a video game called “Skyrim”—a lore-driven game formerly called “Elder Scrolls”—and connected her game playing with fictional books she writes. “Skyrim” also includes books of lore to read, which Lindsey frequently did to advance in the game.

Keri Frazer’s detailed observations and exploration of research on video games and literacy led to a 28-page paper, which went on to win a Dean’s Writing Award at the college.

This summer, working with 5th- and 6th-grade reading students at West Genesee, Frazer put game-playing to the test: She used an iPad app with a theme of races—space races, running and car races, the Iditarod dog-sled race—and students developed lists of words to describe the action.

“Each student came up with his or her own list, and we rated the responses,” Frazer said. “We’d take a picture of the lists and put it in the app. Each student would read his own slide, essentially. I think the power of that is that the students have control over their own learning and they progress to reading out loud. Plus, the kids love it.”

After graduate school, Frazer plans to move on to a part-time job in Sodus teaching the literacy component of high school English in grades 10 and 12.

For more information on literacy education and other programs of the SUNY Oswego School of Education, visit or call 315-312-2102.

PHOTO CAPTION: Digital assistance—SUNY Oswego literacy education graduate student Keri Frazer used her iPad and an app with the theme of racing to help tutor 5th- and 6th-graders this summer during her clinical literacy work at West Genesee High School.

(Posted: Aug 30, 2013)

Tags: school of education, literacy, education pipeline, education