What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Second Edition Paperback – Dec 26 2007
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“Gee astutely points out that for video game makers, unlike schools, failing to engage children is not an option.” ―Terrence Hackett, The Chicago Tribune
“These games succeed because, according to Gee, they gradually present information that is actually needed to perform deeds.” ―Norman A. Lockman, USA Today
“James Paul Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy has been a transformative work. Gee might be described as the Johnny Appleseed of the serious games movement, planting seeds that are springing new growth everywhere we look. More than anyone else, he has forced educators, parents, policy makers, journalists, and foundations to question their assumptions and transform their practices. Gee combines the best contemporary scholarship in the learning scientists with a gamer's understanding of what is engaging about this emerging medium.” ―Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
About the Author
James Paul Gee has been featured in a variety of publications from Redbook, Child, Teacher, and USA Today to Education Week, The Chicago Tribune, and more. He is Professor of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Described by the Chronicle of Higher Education as "a serious scholar who is taking a lead in an emerging field" he has become a major expert in game studies today.
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Top Customer Reviews
Very worth reading for educators and parents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This book is NOT a methods book. You will NOT learn techniques on how to design better games or better instruction. But you WILL learn how video games encourage deep learning (i.e., a deep understanding of the game and how to be successful) and develop critical thinking skills that players use to become successful at playing a specific game AND video games in general. You will learn that game designers deliberately develop deep learning and critical thinking skills, NOT to make players experts in zombies or war, but to set them up to be successful at playing the game and to have a great game playing experience. That gamers foster learning that develops self-esteem and self-efficacy through game play. Gee will also share his opinion of how the educational system might incorporate these elements in the classroom to foster critical thinking and deep learning of subject matter.
If you don't play video games, this book will give you insight in to the kind of learning that is deliberately encouraged in video games.
If you DO play video games, you'll develop an understanding of why the games you play are designed that way.
If you design instruction (or video games) you'll now have a framework and a vocabulary you can use to design and discuss those elements that make learning engaging and effective.
He makes excellent points that I, and I am sure others, will relate to. Learning through hands-on experience can be so much more rewarding and long lasting, and the scenarios which video games players find themselves working within, activate situated cognition and social learning. In other words, Gee shows us how video games help players learn how to pick up on patterns, learn through the situations they engage within, and operate within a social network where they can synthesize their skills and strategies as a main character in the drama of the game. What I have learned from reading this book is how transformative video game learning can be as compared to passive or outside experience of, for example, listening to a teacher lecture, because players can actually become one of the characters and therefore activate higher levels of learning.
He does mention the issues of violence and gender (how women are depicted) in video games (an area of concern for parents and educators), and in that chapter he briefly provides readers some research based evidence to consider on the effects of violence and gender issues on players. I understand that he is asking readers to re-consider pop culture's sometimes overblown concerns of video gaming, and take a good look at really what is really going on in video games.
It is a fascinating read and it has caused me to reconsider the hours my teens spend on their video games. Although balance is neccesary, I am priming myself to not be so judgemental in my thinking that they are just "wasting their time" and not being productive. There is more going on than I ever realized!
That's not to say that every video game on the shelf will meet the above criteria, but as James Gee points points out: many do. After all, if they don't, they're out of business. In the meantime, our educational system could really benefit from picking up a few of the techniques described in this book - ever wonder why so many "ADHD students" can't sit still in class, but then spend hours concentrated on a video game? Perhaps it's not the students, but rather the method of delivery and the content itself? The book offers 36 principles that are often found in great games, and which can help us build both better classrooms and computer games -- or, even better, classrooms with engaging computer games.
I'd like to note that Mr. Gee's book does not advocate the use of video games in classrooms. Instead, he argues that well designed video games require players to learn and think in new ways. If the game does not teach players have to survive and thrive in its virtual world, the game will be a failure and the company producing it will not see a return on its investment. Thus, failing to educate its players properly is not an option for video game makers. He then works through how video games make use of his 36 principles of learning and relates these examples to more traditional classroom learning.
Throughout the book, Mr. Gee makes some interesting arguments. Among those I found most interesting are his claim that good video games allow for effective learning in players because they follow a cycle of "automatization, adaptation, new learning, and new automatization (p. 67)." In this cycle, players automate a skill or strategy through constant practice, but are forced to rethink it when faced with a new challenge. This routine then becomes automated, but players are once again forced to alter it when faced with a still different challenge. It is through this cycle that players become quick thinkers capable of getting by in an ever changing world.
Similarly, Gee argues that good video games present players with challenges that are tough enough to be compelling but not so hard that they are seen as insurmountable. This allows players to effectively develop new and higher-order skills. When learners deal with skills that are too easy, they may increase their fluency with that skill but will struggle to learn the higher-order skills. Conversely, when the challenge is too hard, players give up because they are too frustrated.
Later, Mr. Gee uses video game instruction manuals to show one of the problems many students have in school. He found that, after reading the instruction manual for first-person shooter Deus Ex, he realized that, while he understood all of the individual words, he did not understand them in context because he had no experience with that type of game. In effect, this is what happens to many students when they read their school textbooks. They may understand what the words in their Biology textbook mean, but because they have little experience within the world of biology, they have no "situated meaning" and are unable to fully understand and apply what they've learned. Even students who do well on tests may have this problem, though they are able to succeed because they are able to repeat the information even if they are unable to apply it.
What I found most interesting, and had never considered before, was just how effective some of my favorite games were at teaching me how to survive in their worlds. Gee's dissection of the techniques used by these games makes it sound as though the designers were sitting in some of my Education classes with me. I can't count how many times I stopped because I came across a principle employed by video games that would make my college professors proud. My notes from the book look like some of my old college notebooks in their content.
On the negative side, the book could have used a little more editing. There were a few spots where I had to go back and read paragraphs multiple times to completely understand Gee's point. There were also a number of times in which his parenthetical asides got in the way of what he was trying to say. While these problems weren't necessarily severe, they did at times stand in the way of my enjoyment of the book.
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