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.