Like Megan, I really wanted to like this book. In my experience as a high school teacher, I saw the affect video games had on my students’ work habits and was hoping to come away from the reading with some strategies to get my students as interested in Steinbeck as they are in Sims.
Unfortunately, I did not find any “ready-made” strategies to use. Instead, I have 36 principles that I’m going to have to stretch my mind in order to make these principles apply. I know that Gee didn’t have to have classroom application examples for every principle, but he hardly had any at all. When I did see some application tips, they were usually for math and science classes. I’m really hoping we have a discussion like we did last class on possible ways to put theory into practice
This book read like a book about video games with some references to teaching rather than a book about pedagogy with some references to video games. For me, it was the most difficult reading we’ve been assigned because there was so much of it, and I just didn’t always see the point, honestly. I busted my ass this week trying to read this book, hoping at some point to glean something useful, but Gee spent too much time explaining video games instead of how to use video game principles into practice. I started seeing red every time I had to read about another video game summary.
What he SHOULD have done was take his principles and write a few paragraphs about how to use the techniques in class to help kids learn using video games as examples as how the principles work to engage kids. I don’t think his readers needed to be convinced about why video games are an okay place to look for teaching inspiration. Kids like video games, but I am never going to be able to compete with a video game unless Fairfax County hires me a pyrotechnics crew.
One activity I used that might fit a few of Gee’s principles* is one I used for Romeo and Juliet. I divided the class up into two groups, the Montagues and the Capulets. Every day I would keep track of who had his homework, who was on time to class, even who got good scores on assessments. I would award each team points based on their efforts. The teams were highly competitive and wanted to beat the other team. It created a rivalry similar to that in R&J while also bolstering interest in a subject that was sometimes stale (Shakespeare is not as interesting as Sonic). Team members also encouraged one another and texted to remind each other about assignments and screamed to get people to come to class.
The downside to this assignment is that it felt like my workload doubled. It was a lot of work to plan and even more work to count points. When it came time to teach R&J the next year, I opted not to do the assignment because I just couldn’t muster the energy to do it again.
I think good teachers are going to try to make their class engaging and in doing so, yes, their class might contain elements that good video games do, but I don’t think using video games as a model is necessary. Thanks for playing, Gee.
*Semiotic domain principle, identity principle, text principle, affinity group principle