Building new social futures in video game play: Co-designing pedagogical prototypes for imagining beyond inequity
Arturo Cortez

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Colorado

Primary Discipline

Historically marginalized communities frequently use everyday technologies to design new social futures, imagining beyond society’s most pressing inequities. Thus, it is necessary for educators to be prepared to design and leverage future-oriented—speculative—pedagogies with young people’s everyday use of digital technologies. In addition, given that learning is profoundly relational, the importance of designing for equitable relationships between educators and learners should become central in how educators are prepared across formal and informal learning environments. As such, this design-based research project explores how after-school educators learn to develop and iterate upon pedagogical prototypes as they implement robust relational practices necessary for future-oriented work with youth. Within this orientation, this study examines how designed gaming environments, organized around socio-cultural notions of learning, have particular affordances for teacher learning where educators, alongside youth, creatively prototype agentic identities, equitable forms of participation, and embed new values and social relations into just virtual worlds, within the context of video game play. In leveraging a social design-based research methodology, this study draws on critical approaches to the learning sciences and speculative frameworks as they orient us to a social analysis of extant and everyday practices, to reimagine possibilities for the preparation of educators, while they also encourage practitioners and researchers to design for more expansive, just, and creative learning ecologies. The central conjecture of this study is that the tools and participation frameworks of designed gaming environments will support educators in developing robust frameworks for equitable relationship-building as part of their larger conceptualizations of speculative pedagogies.
About Arturo Cortez
Cortez, Arturo
Arturo Cortez is an Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development and a Fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. Drawing on critical approaches to the learning sciences, Cortez explores the possibilities of co-designing for consequential learning in intergenerational and transdisciplinary learning environments that include young people, educators, researchers, game designers, and social media content creators. In particular, he is interested in how young people and adults speculate new possible futures, opening up opportunities for building imaginary, real, and equitable worlds, while using everyday technologies. In line with this inquiry, Cortez founded The Learning To Transform (LiTT) Video Gaming Lab to help build models for equity-centered educator and student learning through the design of deeper relationships across the various learning ecologies people traverse in their everyday lives. His work has been published in Reading Research Quarterly (2024), Mind, Culture, and Activity (2019, 2023), Cognition and Instruction (2022), the Journal of Futures Studies (2022), the Association of Mexican American Educators Journal (2020), and the Review of Research in Education (2017). Furthermore, his research has been supported by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation. In addition, Cortez has been recognized as an honorable mention for the 2024 Jan Hawkins Award for Early Career Contributions to Humanistic Research and Scholarship in Learning Technologies (AERA Division C). Cortez is a former public school educator and holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

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