Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Learning the game - James Paul Gee

James Gee is a professor of literacy at Arizona State University - from his job description you would expect him to be a fan of dusty texts and heavy leather bound tomes.  You’d be wrong.  Gee has some really interesting things to say about the relevance of video games to education - all the more interesting as Gee is a few generations away from the tee-shirt wearing pierced-eyebrow type who you would normally associate with this view point.

In this short video Gee makes some interesting observations - some new, some not so new, but all worth thinking about.  Gee reminds us that testing drives teaching and that we won’t get genuine reform of teaching until we have genuine reform of our testing - not new but none-the-less worthy.  Gee also says that traditional education systems now have rival - 24/7 teaching delivered on line and tailored to your learning style and lifestyle.   Although in its embryonic stages Gee says that the new form of education is outperforming traditional schools.

This is where Gee’s video gets really interesting – he draws a parallel between education and video games.  Video games are challenging and require sustained effort and concentration to master. But children will play them for hours. They will even pay significant amounts of money for the privilege of doing so.   One of the characteristics of effective games is that they build in feedback at regular intervals DURING the game. In order to master the game players have to absorb the feedback and apply it.  That is the only way that they can be effective.  Players also EXPECT to get the feedback through the process – a game that doesn’t in effect teach you how to play it would not last long in the market place.  Gee states that it would not make sense to test players at the end of the game to see if they had learnt the required skills – they simply cannot finish the game unless they have learnt them.  Finishing the game is itself evidence that the skills have been acquired. Yet in schools we test at the end of units of work – often too late to provide useful performance feedback to students.  Gee’s point is that if our feedback followed the model offered by video games then school reform might be one step closer.
Rather than summarise the video further I’d simply recommend that you watch it. Gee is a softly spoken character – this video is well worth viewing more than once as he delivers great insight in such a gentle manner that the significance of what he has said can slip past.
Perhaps the old adage is right – “It’s not winning or losing that matters – it’s how you play the game”.

Original prompt for this blog =  http://henryjenkins.org/2011/03/how_learners_can_be_on_top_of.html
Video - details contained on video

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