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    what video games have to teach us about learning and literacy

    Started to write a capsule review on James Paul Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, a book I finished in January, and it quickly sprawled into a longer post. In any case, here it is:

    Interesting thesis: Gee identifies thirty-six principles of learning, and argues that playing video games helps to stimulate all thirty-six. The argument that follows is well-written and mostly convincing, although in order to complete this argument, Gee needs to expand out from simply playing video games to becoming a member of the "affinity group" of gamers, which dilutes the focus of the argument somewhat.

    For instance, the book seems sharper to me when it discusses a skill like nonlinear exploration preceding movement towards a goal --a skill that Gee convincingly argues that video games develop, as well as one that has an obvious relevance in the classroom. To an educator (like myself) who teaches students who were raised on video games, this information is useful, and it gives me ideas on how I might tailor my assignments accordingly.

    By contrast, we have something like learning the rules of a "semiotic domain" or "affinity group." Gee is right to say that gamers learn "to see themselves as the kind of person who can learn, use, and value [a] new semiotic domain" (in this case the "semiotic domain" of the gaming subculture). I also think that Gee is correct to say that a science teacher, for instance, is asking students to do similar work with reference to the semiotic domain of "science," and that students who have learned how to integrate themselves into a domain through gaming might be at a light advantage here. But it seems at this point like we're no longer dealing with "what video games have to teach us," and more dealing with a broader concept of subcultural orientation: certainly a student who belongs to the "affinity group" of, say, Honda aficionados would have had an identical experience and an identical advantage.

    Other than this minor quibble (and some other quibbles about the way Gee thinks about narrative in video games, which I may say more about later) the book is an engaging read, one that I'd readily recommend to those interested on the topic.

    Note: my notecards on this book (and a few on James Paul Gee more generally) are available as a Dabbledb export, here.

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    Wednesday, February 28, 2007
    12:36 PM


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