Practical Applications of Gee

As you’ve probably noticed from my Twitter posts, I’m frustrated with Gee’s theoretical arguments.  I admit I was skeptical when I saw a book about video games on the reading list, but by the time I cracked it open last week, I was ready to give Gee the benefit of the doubt.  In fact, I read the first few chapters eagerly, ready to see learning in a whole new light.

Eventually, I realized that what he is saying sounds great theoretically (and I do “buy” it), but the practical application component is seriously lacking.  The examples he gives for science classrooms are wonderful; if I were a physics teacher I would be taking notes and brainstorming lesson plans, but I’m not a physics teacher.  I guess I was disappointed with Gee because after reading Linkon last week I had pages of notes, and (this is embarrassing to admit) I was literally dreaming of lesson ideas.  For some reason, the ideas just aren’t flowing this week.

So.  Because I’ve been struggling with the breakdown between theory and application, I decided to start this thread in hopes that others will chime in with ideas/suggestions/practical applications that they have envisioned for their classrooms.  I don’t mean to suggest that there aren’t any—in fact, I’m sure there are plenty, but I haven’t figured them out yet.  My disclaimer:  I haven’t finished reading the book—and Abbie’s comments about the end of Chapter Six have given me hope—so it’s quite possible that I’ll retract my previous comments later, after gaining greater insight (I hope).   In the meantime, I’ll get things started by including a few passages I’m keeping in mind as I grasp for practical applications:

 “Achievement Principle:  For learners of all levels of skill there are intrinsic rewards from the beginning, customized to each learner’s level, effort, and growing mastery and signaling the learner’s ongoing achievements” (64).  Varying degrees of scaffolding, based on different learners’ needs.  But don’t we try to do this already?

 “’Regime of Competence’ Principle:  The learner gets ample opportunity to operate within, but at the outer edge of, his or her resources, so that at those points things are felt as challenging but not ‘undoable’” (68).  Achieve the perfect balance of difficulty and “doability.”  Easier said than done!

 “One good way to make people look stupid is to ask them to learn and think in terms of words and abstractions that they cannot connect in any useful way to images or situations in their embodied experiences in the world.  Unfortunately, we regularly do this in schools” (72).  Relates well to discussion of video game manuals and textbooks written in language that is literally comprehensible but to which one cannot attach genuine meaning without having experienced embodied learning in that domain (99-104).  Idea:  Provide context/background for texts before beginning; relate to students’ prior knowledge.  But how do teachers encourage students to experience embodied learning (in this case, the reading of lit) before they are comfortable doing so?  This seems like a catch-22 . . .

 “It is my contention that active, critical learning in any domain should lead to learners becoming, in a sense, designers.  Some, like the players who build their own extensions to games, will actually design new things.  Others, like me, will design in thought and talk and let it inform their play” (96).  Idea:  Asking students to rewrite a story from a different perspective requires them to 1) be familiar with the original story, 2) form their own meaning, and 3) design a text (upon/against?) the original text.  Encouraging students to become writers/critics helps them interact with texts on deeper and more personal levels.

2 thoughts on “Practical Applications of Gee

  1. nikki Post author

    I definitely see the merit in connecting classroom literature to students’ embodied experiences, justifying the learning (in ways that make sense to students), and addressing learners’ identities, but I feel like all these principles could be better stated without the video game angle. I’m open to the idea, and I’d like to implement some of Gee’s principles in my classroom, but at times I felt like his statements/theories/principles were (at best) best practices couched in video game jargon (and at worst, simply paeans to gaming). Don’t other academics suggest similar ideas in different terms? For example, Sherry Linkon talked about students’ cultural identities in her inquiry project and the importance of allowing students to approach tasks from their own perspectives/experiences.
    I don’t spurn the “meat” of Gee’s ideas, but the angle feels a bit contrived (as Susanna mentioned on Twitter). It’s like a great analogy taken too far. Again, I’m not saying there’s no merit, because I do see it, but I think the same ideas/principles could be (have been) better, more clearly outlined by others in the English ed field. Is that a fair argument to make? I’ve started reading Blau’s TLW and I absolutely love it. I can tell his approach is different (and he makes some different points), but he presents principles as well, and for some reason I can’t get enough. I would hate to think that I’ve had this reaction to Gee simply because I’m not a gamer, but others in class who are gamers have had similar misgivings, so it must be something else. I’ll be interested to discuss both Gee and Blau next week because I bet people will have very different takes on the two (I see a Venn diagram in our future…). Bottom line for me: If I’d read a 25 page article concisely summing up the arguments Gee makes in his book, I think I would have walked away from the experience with a totally different opinion. As it is, I see the validity of the points he makes, but I feel a bit lead on.

  2. nikki Post author

    Sarah, I just realized it was you, not Prof. Sample, who posted that comment. I thought I was replying to him, so I addressed my general reservations about the text more than the thoughtful comments you made. Obviously I’ve been confused! (I guess I assumed it was him because the email alert came from his email address.) I realize now that my reply may have sounded odd as a result. Sorry!

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