Category Archives: Week 7 – Gaming

Quit gaming around – We have work to do – Goals & Realities of Learner Theory

Reading Gee’s book often had me thinking that some of his principles of learning were an act of re-inventing the wheel (saying something other disciplines have said in other ways before).  The more learners I engage with throughout my graduate studies or in my day job the more engrossed in learning theory I find myself.  At work my students vary from young administrative staff to older lawyers and corporate executives.  I teach my corporate students how to work with my company and maintain their intellectual property portfolios with respect to international IP law.  Therefore, I currently find it hard to relate to the sentiment that “Learning should be frustrating and life enhancing.”  Not only is the landscape of my “classroom” constantly changing, but the “affinity groups” and existing domain knowledge of my “students” is either unknown or unlike my own.  I suppose if I help a client understand the aforementioned business factors more readily they will have improved day-to-day practices both within their roles, but also in relationship with others sharing that domain content knowledge/experience.

Like many others, I have little experience with “gaming” and I consider myself a novice at best of very old games (but I can play a guitar decently and sing).  I also have my own opinions on some of the psychosocial drawbacks of gaming that are not mentioned in Gee’s book.  That being said, I’d love to have time to devote to practicing things that are entertaining as well as brain exercises that would lead to greater critical thinking skills.

No matter the type of learning being examined (Gaming, Academia, Corporate America/Earth), the concept of situated cognition is fundamental to any sort of individualized analysis in relation to the personal, material, social, and cultural world (9).   But without the psychological and emotional make-up of our learners we’re viciously lacking in variables, left to guess and check (probe-re-probe-re-think) ourselves.  At work, I called this the adaptive training service model.  Despite this, Gee’s taxonomy of learning principles is quite comprehensive even though his examples are drawn from only one domain and very few test subjects.  The multitudinous connections that are identified through such studies are difficult to generalize upon even when only looking to himself and his son as learners.  Even more essential to his points on critical and active learning is the fact that both he and his son are motivated learners who regularly actively reflect and strive for new meaning.  Their meta-cognition likely far surpasses half of the population that is considered below average.

Don’t get me wrong, I promise I am not always this cynical (maybe I just had a particularly futile day at work).  Perhaps, I am just skeptical and left with several doubts when trying to apply these principles outside of the domain of video games.  Learning Principle No. 6: The “Psychosocial Moratorium” Principle states that while the learner is learning the consequences are much lower than they would be in the real-world.  I would compare this to any simulated training environment such as N.A.S.A. space simulation or practice projects in the workplace.  Both are used to create a “safe” space for learning.  Additionally, Learning Principle No. 10: Amplification of Input Principle state that as a learner applies him/herself to learning their level of effort or time spent practicing (input) is exponentially rewarded with “outputs.”  I’m left wondering: Can a learner discern the outputs from within the realm of the psychosocial moratorium?  Is the learner being rewarded in their room with the padded walls?  In real-life, in a workplace, are the outputs of learning your job always tangible?  Of course not!  So, despite learning how to make learning fun from video games we are still left to confront reality.  I am willing to put reality aside in lieu of critical learning, even if the only output is annihilating your previous “regime of competence.”  It seems to me what we have to impress upon our students is not learning in the guise of a game/design space, but learning in a goal space.  Whether or not a person is goal-driven may be because of their nurture (i.e. how they were brought up/their experience), but I’d hope that it is open for revision.  Gee would likely hone in deeper to discuss the differences therein of process oriented individuals vs. reflective learners.  Considering only about half of our population is goal driven and an even smaller percentage actively reflects and reassesses those goals, the task at hand is lofty. Needless to say… I am left wondering.

Heroes of Might and Magic, boys, and lesson pacing

I’ve only played one computer game: Heroes of Might and Magic.  To build my army and buy the castle I wanted, I needed large amounts of minerals.  I remember most of the game I would hit refresh over and over again so that I could replenish my ore and sulfur mines.  Most of the people I know (including my students) who regularly play video games are men and boys.  I don’t have a hypothesis for why this is the case.

I’m curious though, about how Gee’s work on video games and learning might relate to boys’ academic performance and engagement. There is a lot of talk in education right now about girls surpassing boys (in K-12 at least). I wonder how this fits into the conversation, or could be applied to what’s been deemed by many as a big problem.

My experience with video games is limited, but Gee’s explanation of “active learning” and “critical learning” in semiotic domains gave me a new perspective on what and how I’ve learned as I get older and my scope of experience gets a little wider.

Gee’s descriptions convinced me that some video games could make literary concepts more visible for students.  I can understand how it would be easier to see the conventions of various video game genres than the conventions of a film or a novel.  If you have to participate in a first person shooter game, for example, it’s hard to miss that your character is just part of your arm.  Asking a student to explain the possible effects of first person perspective in a novel is trickier.

Gee’s “Explicit Information On-Demand and Just-in-Time Principle” made me think about how important pacing is in a lesson.  One of the more difficult parts of lesson planning is figuring out when and how to present new information, and how much new material to present at one time.  I liked Gee’s succinct take on this balancing act in his chapter on telling and doing.

The summer of Tomb Raider

I approached the James Paul Gee text with curiosity and skepticism, given my own experience with video games. I have to admit that my last true dedication to a video game was when I “wasted” a whole summer playing Tomb Raider with my sister on our PlayStation. At the end of our video game experience I can remember feeling an odd sense of accomplishment (having successfully battled oversized rats, and winged zombie-like-monsters as I remember them) but I don’t recall feeling like I benefited from some insightful learning experience. In fact, when I reminisce about that summer it has always been with a small sense of embarrassment. When I think about all the other productive things I could have done during that time, there is a small shame. I enjoy a game of Super Mario Bros every now and then on my Nintendo DX during a long ride (and even finished my last game, yea me!) but in general I really don’t devote much time to video games. Reading the Gee text forced me to look back on that “wasted” summer and rethink my whole experience.

The version of Tomb Raider that I played was different from the one Gee describes in his book, but I found myself wondering if there were things that I was learning, even unconsciously, as I played the game. Gee writes that playing certain video games like Lara Croft can give players the experience of “trying new identities that challenge some of their assumptions about themselves and the world” (117). He also explains that taking on another character can make you, at least while you are playing the game, become more like them than yourself. I can see how taking on different perspectives can make you a better learner, but I don’t remember having such an experience when playing video games. In fact, when I played Tomb Raider many years ago I never felt like I was becoming more like the character while playing. My goal was to conquer the game by any means necessary because I was interested in how the story would unfold; I don’t think the experience challenged any of my views about my surroundings or myself. I also must admit that as a female playing video games I am often concerned and agitated with how women are portrayed. I think this concern has kept me from fully identifying with the characters that I have previously played.

Overall, there is value in engaging in a conversation about video games and learning. Playing video games can definitely be challenging, and Gee correctly points out in the beginning of his text “confronting a new form of learning and thinking can be both frustrating and life enhancing” (7). We have discussed previously in this course how working through frustration can deepen our understanding of things, and does add value to the learning experience. The particular game that I am most familiar with may not have opened my eyes to new knowledge, but I do believe that there are video games out there that can certainly accomplish that task.  For this reason I do see the merits in Gee’s argument.

On The Fence

I have always been on the fence about video games. I personally never ventured off further than an occasional game of Pacman with friends in the 90’s. I watched others in my family discuss the dangers of kids losing themselves in video games and their parents losing their wallets over purchasing those games.  The topic of video games was never a big issue to me until I had my children.  I tried my best to veer my son, Dylan, away from the world of video games.  I only chose the games that were “educational” and “healthy”, like the Smart Bike. I warned Dylan about becoming like his cousins, my sisters’ sons, who locked themselves in their bedrooms for hours playing their Xbox 360 and PlayStation.  I was doing very well until Dylan was hospitalized. He had to have an open-spine surgery, which rendered him in the hospital bed, flat on his back, for days. My family and I did not know the seriousness of his medical condition, which left us all in a panic mode. My sister ran off and bought him a Wii system. I went to BestBuy to him purchase a 3DS and an Ipad. My nephew drove up from Charlottesville to deliver his Xbox 360 for Dylan.  Thank goodness, Dylan’s surgery went well, but now I was faced with a recovering kid at home who was glued to these games.  I wish I had read James Paul Gee’s book, “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy”, earlier.  I would have had many restful nights considering video games from an academic viewpoint. Clearly, Gee takes a positive view on computer games and tries to explore contribution of games by listing 36 learning principles found in games. He outlines the different chapters, which all draw on theories on learning and education.

Like Gee, I tried to share my son’s world by watching him play his video games.  Over time, Dylan slowly learned to improve his gaming skills.  Learning was not easy for him since he failed a great deal.  Unlike his school homework, Dylan did not give up on achieving the next level of the game. He started over again and again immediately after failing. He was relentless in his efforts to complete each game.  During his breaks he insisted that I played in his place.  Like Gee, I was not prepared to “learn and think in ways at which I was not then adept.” (Page. 4) Unlike Gee, I gave up! I shared the frustration experience with Gee, but I did not feel the “life-enhancing experience” that Gee underwent.  Maybe if I did not give up, if I spent hours playing the game, I too would refer to the game as “pleasantly frustrating”. That said, I do find Gee’s statement to be true, “The key is finding ways to make hard things life enhancing so that people keep going and don’t fall back on learning only what is simple and easy.” (Page 3)  Why is it that I gave up on transforming a difficult game into a life enhancing experience when Dylan does not stop to even question his option to quit the game or to buckle down and win the game?  Is it due to our age or generational difference? Is it due to our different social environment (Most of Dylan’s friends are engrossed in video games whereas none of my friends even think of playing games.)? Or, is it due to our different levels of interest and purpose?

In the chapter on Semiotic Domains, Gee argues that like other activities in life, computer games are a semiotic domain that you slowly learn over time. Gee believes that video games offer better opportunities for critical learning and problem solving and that computer games are definitely not a waste of time, because they are a germane domain.  Since Dylan began playing video games about a year ago, I notice an improvement in his reading skills (he is forced to read the instructions during the game and the communication between the characters in the games), in his thinking skills, and in his ability to sit still and focus on an assignment.

In the chapter on Learning and identity, Gee explains how computer games give new opportunities for learning experience and student engagement with the material. Computer games spark critical thinking and learning that matters. Since Dylan identifies with his environment in the game, he is that much more engaged in the learning experience. In the games, there are not real consequences for failure; if Dylan fails a level, he is encouraged to continue trying.  How can we create a learning experience for students keep them engaged in learning without the fear of failure?

Gee asserts in Situated Meaning and Learning chapter that video games are encouraging new forms of learning. Dylan interacts with the game world through exploring different ways to learn and to perceive things in a context. He builds on his prior knowledge (other games he played, reflecting on his successes and failures) with each new game he encounters. Learning cannot be complete without touching up on the Social Mind. Dylan is becoming a better gamer because he networks with better game players – his friends. This rich social environment around computer games, as Gee points out, is a form of peer learning that would be very beneficial in schools.

Gee attempts to analyze the learning structure of computer games, but he builds on theories from his field and does not dive deeper into real connection to existing research. For example, Gee is overly optimistic in his views of video games in relation to the violence in our society. I understand that the book was written in 2007 and is perhaps a bit outdated on some new research, but I am still on the fence about video games and violence. I believe that video games, such as the Grand Theft Auto, does impact our youth – they can become desensitized to violence if they are engaged in these types of games on a regular basis.

Learning and Identity (and Birds, which thankfully are not angry)

A number of posts so far have addressed the “now what?” factor of reading Gee’s text in the context of our course on teaching literature.  While I am also vexed by this, I wanted to take a stab at translating some of Gee’s ideas into a lesson plan of sorts.

In Gee’s third chapter on learning and identity, I think I could take his ideas about understanding video games as having “worlds” and ask students—already familiar with this idea of videogames as having worlds—to draw this same parallel with the novels we might read in class.  Gee challenges us to perceive that a video-game character has three different identities:  virtual identity, real-world identity, and projective identity.  Some of these are harder to transcribe than others, but I think all of them are adaptable/transferrable.

Let’s say I’m teaching the novel Jane Eyre.  This is a text that—like basically every text written before 1990, it seems, right?—a lot of students might complain is unapproachable to them because it’s so outdated, they can’t relate to it, the characters aren’t like them, the world in which the novel is set is unfamiliar, etc.

I could start by leading the class in a conversation about understanding the “setting” of the novel as a “world,” much the way we understand the world of, erm, Sonic the Hedgehog to be a “world.”  I could ask the students to describe Jane Eyre’s world.  What are the rules of this world?  What does this world look like?  How do you “play the game of life” in this world?  These would be questions that I hope would open up the “world” of the novel and get students engaged as readers of this “world.”

Then, I would ask students to consider again that in a video game’s “world,” you have access to that world through the lens of a certain character.  So in Tomb Raider, our lens into that world is the character Lara Croft.  But in Jane Eyre, our lens to that world is—no surprise in the title here—Jane Eyre.  (Similarly, a lot of video games are named simply for their main character.)  So, if we want to better understand Jane Eyre’s world, we should try to understand Jane Eyre herself.  And this is where the three identities would come in…

A discussion question about virtual identity might be:  What is Jane Eyre’s virtual identity?  That is to say, within the world of Jane Eyre, what role does she play?  How does she fit into the hierarchy of that world?  (Having already described/defined the world, now students are ready to place Jane Eyre within it.)

Real-world identity is harder to translate, because students aren’t actively engaged as “builders” of Bronte’s novel, but here’s what I came up with for a discussion question:  In what ways is Jane Eyre like or unlike you, the reader, who lives in the real world?  How do those differences and commonalities affect your response to the character Jane Eyre?

Projective identity (harder still to translate, for the same reasons), to me seems like an opportunity to ask students to “project” the character into the “real world” of the reader.  So this discussion might focus on questions like, What would a modern-day Jane Eyre be like?  What clique might Jane be in at school, or how might she dress?  What would her Facebook profile be like, what kinds of things would she “tweet”?  What sort of modern problems would she have?

These interpretations of “three identities” have less to do with building worlds (which is how Gee uses them) than with interpreting worlds, but I still think they could be useful.  And really, the most useful thing of all is just the overall metaphor—being able to take something students know a lot about (videogames) and using that something as a lens or way into something that they are unfamiliar with (Jane Eyre) and/or resistant to because they think it has no relevance to the “worlds” they already understand.  It’s a way to take a literacy they already have (playing video games) to show them how to develop their literacy as readers.

I’ll sign-off with a non-sequitur:  Did anyone else think the section on birding (pgs. 192-6) was completely bizarre? I suppose I get Gee’s point, that learning is a social activity and so on, but, wow…  Then again, I guess I can’t criticize, because I did get an idea about teaching out of that section (though it may not be quite what Gee had in mind).  It would require a lot of collaboration with another instructor, which may or may not be feasible, but what if I were able to coordinate with another lit class that was the same level as mine and running concurrently with mine, and what if I were able to coordinate with the instructor of that class so that my first text was his/her last text, and vice versa…then in the middle of the semester, we could bring our classes together for occasional “norming” sessions, whereby the “experienced” class that already encountered the text could coach the students encountering the text for the first time, and they could compare their reading/birding notes?  This would give the students a chance to mentor each other and learn from each other’s textual interpretations rather than just mine and their own.  And this wouldn’t necessarily be something they were graded on, and as peers, the stakes might feel lowered (or not? Social anxiety still prevails in undergrad…), and this might be a way to achieve the “psychosocial moratorium principle” Gee advocates.  Anyway, just an idea…

To live the experience vicarious: gaming, reading, and the reading of games

I am not a gamer.
As a child of the 80s, this has always been a significant self-identification for me. In terms of its descriptive value, it ranks right up there with “child of divorce,” “coffee over tea,” and “lover of cake” as a way of communicating my identity. When I was younger, I thought there was something wrong with me for failing to appreciate the games that held universal appeal to members of my generation. I’ve had my hands on the controls maybe a half-dozen times in my life, though I’ve spent countless hours watching, with varying levels of engagement, my friends play video games. For some reason, it just never took. I could recognize that certain games had great visual styles and graphics or that others followed an interesting storyline but I never had any desire to play the games myself. I was pleased to note, then, that Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy not only helped me understand how video games encourage learning but also helped me to connect the experience of gaming with an interest more relevant to me personally: reading.

Early on in the book, Gee convolutedly states: “[Video games] situate meaning in a multimodal space through embodied experiences to solve problems and reflect on the intricacies of the design of imagined worlds and the design of both real and imagines social relationships and identities in the modern world” (40-41). Blah blah blah. What he means, in essence, is that if people learn best through experience, what better way could we learn than by experiencing for ourselves a variety of identities, actions, and events? If we learn best through experience, the most intelligent among us will be those who have had the most experiences and who have been able to reflect critically on both the situations and our own role within them.

This notion, which I caught myself thinking of as “vicarious experience,” is the basis for Gee’s defense of video games and it has helped me to recognize part of the reason why these games never appealed to me. I am not immune to the charms of vicarious experience: rather, I have used (and continue to use) reading as a way of indulging in multiple different personas and experiencing situations and events deeply removed from my everyday life. Although there are many differences between the execution of these skills, reading and gaming both offer vicarious experiences and the opportunity to reflect on both content and form in a way that leads to metacognitive understanding.

While I have never really considered video games a waste of time, I am guilty of failing to recognize their appeal. By connecting the basic goals and skills of gaming with the textual literary skills I am more familiar with, Gee has enhanced my understanding of the value of both interests.


OK, I’ll admit I’m clueless when it comes to video games. When I was young, our neighbors across the street acquired the revolutionary game of Pong, a version of tennis played on the TV screen. Awed by the sheer majesty of two moving lines and a little ball (along with the weird little “boop” sound effect), I tried once, twice, thirty times to volley the ball back to my opponent – and failed. (Auth. note: I suck at video games, even prehistoric ones.) So I opted out of the video game world, puny as it was back then, and never got back in as it grew more vivid, violent, clever, profitable and deeply engrossing (for others) than I could have ever imagined. Today, anything I know about video games stems from my teenage son’s love for them.

That said, I’m not hostile to the games or dismissive about their potential to help kids gain useful skills beyond eye/hand coordination. I thought the vast majority of Gee’s points about the ways video games address key principles of learning and literacy were valid. I especially liked his point about the “psychosocial moratorium” principle, wherein students can take risks in a low-consequence environment. I like the idea that learners can try out new ideas and approaches to problems, but also know that they can “save” a game if they get stuck, think about it and come back anew, hopefully with fresh ideas. And the committed learning principle, I think, is an incredibly important aspect of video games’ contributions. By virtue of their appeal to a large number of people, utilizing the games in some kind of learning capacity increases the chance that learners might stick with a subject longer and with great focus (one can hope). I like the way taking on an identity in a game and learning the semiotics involved parallel adopting an identity in the classroom (as a junior scientist, mathematician, psychologist, etc.) and learning the language, processes and behaviors that are employed.

Where I think Gee fell short is not making his book about the case for the educational value of video games … well, fun. That’s the place where the motivation to play video games comes from, isn’t it? Certainly, Gee’s work would have served its readers even better with some illustrations from the games he discussed and some more concrete suggestions of how video games might be employed inside a classroom environment (or outside, as part of an assignment). Beyond being aware of how their design and content aids learning, I think it would be great to use them as learning tools. I realize that Gee notes that this was not the primary goal for this book – I would argue that it should have received significant attention.

For my part, I am fully in favor of marshaling as many different kinds of media and entertainment pastimes as possible in the pursuit of learning: books (fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, comic books, etc.), websites, Facebook, Twitter, music, movies, television, radio, video games, board games, card games, and whatever else we can get our hands on. Far from Gee’s fear of “co-opting” youth culture, it is an acknowledgement that this is the world our students – and we – live in. When we find ways to approach learning that capitalize on learners’ interests, we can make lessons more immediate, meaningful and, yes, fun.





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).

Thanks for Playing, but…

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


Making My Classroom “Pleasantly Frustrating”

Gee’s thesis about video games being useful models for how children and adults can be faced with challenge and still, miraculously, stay interested in the game—is interesting. I admit that I was skeptical of Gee’s thesis, at first, and that throughout the text, he did convince me that video games are, in fact, good models for how to teach a learner how to “read,” interpret, and problem solve in a variety of situations (like pick up little pieces of a space suit from another planet, etc). But, I’m not sure how I can connect this to my classroom.

I agree, as Gee mentions that we should spend some time studying how game-makers create self-contained little learning worlds. We should spend time thinking about how they make decisions about the pre-level tutorials, and the in-game help pages. We should figure out the recipe they use to ensure that they achieve just the right amount of challenge (read: frustration), while still giving the player hope that they’ll succeed eventually. And of course, I agree, that these are all conditions that I would ideally like to reproduce in my literature classroom. But how?

I can see myself assigning students homework that involves them going home to play a videogame, then writing meta-cognitively about how they approached the game (with what attitude, what kinds of tools, what levels of expectations, excitement, frustration, etc). I could see, then, asking them to complete a similar kind of assignment for a short, challenging, text. Then, I suppose, I could bring that conversation deeper, asking students to identify what it is about difficult reading that is somehow more frustrating than a difficult game, or vise versa. In this way, I could initiate a conversation about the idea of difficulty, and about what we can expect to not understand as readers, and how we can transfer the patience (or at least willingness to try it again) we seem to use with video games, to reading a text.

I can also see using the idea of the video game tutorial, to talk about the “how to” of reading. What questions to ask yourself if you’re confused. What strategies to use when you don’t understand a passage. Etc. Which buttons to press when you want to use the bow and arrow instead of the shot gun. I might also use this opportunity to talk about how a text teaches us to read itself, and how we find those clues.

So, I see the video game comparison as an apt analogy, and I see Gee’s point, that the conditions game-makers create in video games make for really efficient, active learning Of course, I’ll try to reproduce those conditions as best as I can in my own classroom, scaffolding the reading, starting in Level 1. I just wish Gee had given me some concrete suggestions of how I might make my Literature classroom work like a challenging video game level—that is, “pleasantly frustrating.”