What Shakespeare and video games have in common

In response to What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, by James Paul Gee, I would have to first point out the line which hooked me into his thought process: “For heaven’s sake, why would you do that alone?” (8). This quote, from a 21 year old, points out one of the simple truths about effective learning, it is not a process to  approach by one self. This is observed at all levels of instruction; with the exception of independent study, actual learning only happens when one person develops a greater understanding with the aid of another’s support.
I was also happy to see the statement: “In such multimodal texts … images often communicate different things from the words” (17). This made me consider our future reading of Baker’s Nat Turner and reconsider my first reading of that graphic novel. Did I pay enough attention to the images? Did I use the images to support/confirm the words? Or, did I use the images to add to the words and speak for themselves? Gee’s statement, “If you can’t read the images, you will not be able to recover their meanings from the words,” makes it clear that visuals must be carefully considered. It is not the artist’s intention to obfuscate the meaning, and a reader’s responsibility is to pay close attention to each element of a text. My 9th grade students clearly recognize this with our ongoing reading of “Romeo and Juliet,” where we are both reading and watching the play. The play without images would be incomplete. Following Gee’s concept of semiotic domains, it would be my best guess that a Shakespearian play includes multiple modalities: oral and written language, images, gestures, etc.. But this line of thought made me question if I am testing my student’s on their ability to comprehend Shakespeare based only on his writing or if my assessments are inclusive of the multiple modalities the play expresses. Gee’s “content” discussion did not do much to alleviate my concerns. Now I wonder if my students are simply learning to memorize content (blank verse, monologue, soliloquy), rather than learning to read/process the multiple modalities, as in the “Newton’s law” example on 23-24. The logical conclusion to this line of thought, following Gee’s experiencing, affiliations, and preparation, would be testing my students on a play not discussed in class to see if they make an affiliation with their experiences from “Romeo and Juliet.” I can only hope the experience sticks with my students and the “preparation for future learning” is assumed through their effective affiliation (24).