Video Games & Education
November 25, 2005 12:04 PM   Subscribe

What can video games teach us about learning and literacy? A lot, says James Paul Gee whose recent book approaches the question armed with three different discourses (situated cognition, new literacy studies, and connectionism). [mi]
posted by panoptican (23 comments total)

Before Every Child Is Left Behind: How Epistemic Games Can Solve the Coming Crisis in Education [PDF] or [FlashPaper] or [HTML Abstract]

A large collection of essays.
posted by panoptican at 12:04 PM on November 25, 2005

As an aside, I really enjoyed the WOW article if only for all the unintentional comedy (or maybe it was intentional).
posted by panoptican at 12:14 PM on November 25, 2005

Example of game-induced literacy:

        im in ur base im killing ur mans!
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:32 PM on November 25, 2005

I actually used to work for, and am finishing up a freelance contract with, a new york based company that makes educational software. In our material and discussions we were warned very carefully not to refer to the software as 'games', even though that's pretty much what they are. The stigma was such that we didn't want teachers thinking we were trying to get Doom into the classroom. It's nice to see some of the stigma is dissapearing.

The interesting thing was working there around the research department. They pretty much had to do a lot of the studies about our stuff from scratch, since there hasn't been much in the way of large scale studies done about this stuff. The programs are really cool and kids seem to simultaneously enjoy and benefit from them a lot. Made me proud to work on them.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:00 PM on November 25, 2005

posted by graventy at 1:05 PM on November 25, 2005

Sorry, lumpenprole, not directed at you.

So what if video games are actually teaching stuff? Anyone who has played a strategy game of any sort could have told you that.
posted by graventy at 1:06 PM on November 25, 2005

Well, the old adventure games from Sierra taught me how to type really quickly (the games didn't use to pause during text input) as well as spelling.

Computer games have also taught me to watch out for friends/allies turning on you at the earliest and most inopprtune moments...
posted by PurplePorpoise at 1:17 PM on November 25, 2005


I'm currently a pre-service science teacher, and I've had to read several chapters of this book for class (Gee also gave a talk at our school recently, but I missed it).

I think the point of his book is not that people learn while they are playing games, but rather that the way they learn can be translated for use in traditional classrooms. Students' lack of interest and retention of material can frustrate teachers, while their ability in a game like WOW to memorize all the characteristics of items or the attributes of enemines seems so easy. In the chapters I read, Gee reflected on himself as a learner while he played a game, and then contrasted it with situations that students are typically faced with in school. In each chapter he plays a different game (I read chapters about Everquest and Deux Ex), and details what it can tell us about learning.

Gee's writing is fairly readable for an academic, with a decent dose of humor thrown in. Recommended reading for educators and interested laymen.
posted by mikeweeney at 1:28 PM on November 25, 2005

A close friend's five-year-old son taught himself to read so he could understand what was going on in Final Fantasy VII.
posted by Hogshead at 1:53 PM on November 25, 2005

Anyone who has played a strategy game of any sort could have told you that.

Welll, playing a strategy game teaches you strategic thinking, which I'm not out to minimize. But it rarely teaches you literacy and math skills, two things the American education system is desperately in need of. There's a been a school of thought that games could never teach you these things because they weren't compatible. Although any gamer could disagree on an anecdotal basis, it's only recently that the research is starting to catch up.

And if you're in charge of purchasing for an entire school district, it's important to have numbers and research to back up your decisions. So yeah, this is important.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:59 PM on November 25, 2005

Hogshed of course, provides the anecdote counter to my point as I'm writing. Oh well, my point stands that the research makes a difference.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:00 PM on November 25, 2005

Yeah, but Hogshed's example is "I want to read so I can play a video game," not "I learned to read from playing a video game." Still pretty damn impressive.
posted by panoptican at 2:53 PM on November 25, 2005

Learning isn't about memorizing isolated facts. It's about connecting and manipulating them... A straw man. Good education has never involved memorizing isolated facts. I, and I suspect many other people, have had great teachers who could make concepts come alive with nothing but chalk and talk.

I'd like to find the video game that teaches why Nabokov is a great writer.
posted by QuietDesperation at 2:53 PM on November 25, 2005

As an aside, I really enjoyed the WOW article if only for all the unintentional comedy (or maybe it was intentional).

Intentional - "content="America's least favorite twisted humor site." [from page source]. Subtle enough to fool the Education Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas website though.
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 3:41 PM on November 25, 2005

The intentional/unintentional is directed at the Central Kansas website. Wasn't sure if they linked to the article intentionally as a joke or unintentionally because it was so subtle (except not). Either way it made me laugh.
posted by panoptican at 3:48 PM on November 25, 2005

I remember the WOW article causing a bit of debate on Monkeyfilter, about whether it was serious or not, when it was posted there. I agree it's pretty hard to tell if the Kansas website thinks it's a joke or not themselves.
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 4:13 PM on November 25, 2005

QuietDesperation, I'd like to make the video game that teaches why Nabokov is a great writer.

But I don't think "Lolita: The Interactive Experience" would make it by the ESRB.
posted by lumpenprole at 5:46 PM on November 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

I drove JDr. Gee to the airport a short while ago. Wonderful.

QuietDesperation, maybe that idea would make more sense if Gee had been more clear about how he describes the cognitive acts of "learning" and "acquisition". It seems for the purposes of his article here he conflated his terms.

Learning is the active thing, the thing you do when you are memorizing facts and making sense of things. Acquisition is the subconscious kind of retention that comes with exposure, among other things. This is actually Krashen, but Gee expands on this.

So your video game can be the reason a kid learns, and that game can help the child acquire habits of mind that will later allow him or her to appreciate Lolita when a teacher introduces it.

No one, including Gee, thinks it is a good idea to replace all traditional schooling with games. however, games are so successful and appealing for a reason. How can we replicate this interest in school?

I have his What is Literacy? article if you want me to send it along.
posted by oflinkey at 7:33 PM on November 25, 2005

I have his What is Literacy? article if you want me to send it along.

I'd like to see it. This is the first time I've run into Gee. What I've read so far has been fascinating. In the meantime, I'll see if I can track it down myself.
posted by panoptican at 7:41 PM on November 25, 2005

In case anyone was curious, What is Literacy?
posted by panoptican at 8:47 PM on November 25, 2005

Small children do not differentiate between learning and play. The worst obstacle for the older student is the loss of this mindset.

One cannot critique one discourse with another one (which is the only way to seriously criticize and thus change a discourse) unless one has meta-level knowledge in both discourses.-from What is Literacy?

This reminds me of many a Metafilter thread, and perhaps explains why so many thrash about only to change nothing.

"It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:53 AM on November 26, 2005

That WOW article is interesting. Thx panoptican.
posted by jcruelty at 6:14 PM on November 26, 2005

see also: recent Mefi discussion of "serious games"
posted by jcruelty at 6:16 PM on November 26, 2005

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