A Mouse's Tale

Random scurryings of a writer.

Video Games & Learning

Now, I know these two tend not to go hand-in-hand for some people, but a while ago (about two years now) I read a rather interesting book about this topic: What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee. Lately, my mind keeps drifting back to this topic whenever I try to do anything close to teaching, including filling out applications and all that jazz. So, with this little gremlin eating at my innards, I went back into my teacher’s notebook from way back then and looked through some of my notes. I’ve decided that it would do well to copy these notes not only for my sake as a learner (since that’s the way I learn — writing over and over again) but for other teachers that may be interested. On that same note, I feel that those that read this that are not teachers may equally find all of this somewhat interesting.

  • “We learn a new semantic domain in a more active way, not as passive content…three things are at stake:
  1. We learn to experience (see, feel, and operate on) the world in new ways.
  2. Since semantic domains usually are shared by groups of people who carry them on as distictive social practices, we gain the potential to join their social group, to become affiliated with such kinds of people (even though we may never see all of them, or any of them, face to face).
  3. We gain resources that prepare us for the future learning and problem solving in the domain and, perhaps more important, in related domains.” (Pg. 23)
  • Both grammar and video games are created by a person. Designers and producers determine the “grammar,” players create how this grammar is used. (Pg. 32)
  • “‘Good repair work’ is a more intense version of ‘good teaching’ and is for all learning types of students, including those who need no particular repair work. This is a matter of 3 things:
  1. The learner must be enticed to try, even if he or she already has good grounds to be afraid to try.
  2. The learner must be enticed to put in lots of effort even it he or she begins with little motivation to do so.
  3. The learner must achieve some meaningful success when he or she has expanded this effort.” (Pg. 61-62)
  • “The storyline in a video game is a mixture of four things:
  1. The game designers’ (authors’) choices.
  2. How you, the player, have caused these choices to unfold in your specific case by the prder in which you have found things.
  3. The actions you as one of the central characteristics in the story carry out (since in good video games there is a good deal of choice as to what to do, when to do it, and in what order to do it).” (Pg. 81-82
  • In really good video games, players engage in a four-step process:
  1. The player PROBES the virtual world, looking around at the current environment, clicks stuff, and engages in action.
  2. Based on reflection while probing and afterward, the player must form a HYPOTHESIS about what something might mean in a usefully situated way.
  3. The player REPROBES the world with that hypothesis in mind, seeing what effect he or she gets.
  4. The player treats this effect as feedback from teh world and accepts or RETHINKS his or her original hypothesis. (Pg. 90)
  • “In the end, then, while I don’t have the skills to build a game, I think a good deal, while playing (reflection in action) and afterward (reflections on action), about what new and better games ‘ought to; look like.” (Pg. 99)
  • “A game like Deus Ex has a great many texts inside the virtual world it creates, texts you find along the way, like notes, e-mail, dairies, and messages you hacked from various computers.” (Pg. 100)
  • There are 2 different models of what counts as being or doing “good.”
  1. Determined by a character’s own goals, purposes, and values, as these are shared with a social group.
  2. What counts is determined by the values and norms of a “wider society” that includes multiple, sometimes competing, groups as well as generalized rules and principles about behavior. (Pg. 141-142)
  • “Who is to say what a ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ teenager is or does? Different cultural models hold different implications.” (Pg. 144)
  • Games are constantly based off from cultural models. (Pg. 153)
  • “The final goal is important, defines the learning, and good learners move toward it without being distracted by other things,” is an example of a linear model, whereas video games stress cyclical models. (Pg. 164)
  • Patterns seen in video game players:

* Feel as though they are connected to a larger community that is very diverse but actually has something in common, namely the game.

* Knowledge is distributed, meaning many others know this knowledge and can be readily called upon for help.

* Knowledge can also be accessed through technology, not just people.

* Attitude towards the game is highly meta-reflective.  (Pg. 175-176)


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