As I read What Video Have Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, I started to imagine what I would say to Gee if I were to sit down to tea with him one snowy afternoon. I jotted down a list throughout my reading that would help me to remember the points of contention I wished to discuss with him. (Some of them have already been mentioned by other blog posts, so I feel as if I am part of an “affinity group” of doubters.)
Here is my list of points of contention, each followed by my post-reading reflection:
1) Gender? Sexualized females?
Just because Gee makes a disclaimer in the beginning of his book does not mean that we can toss aside the damage that such factors might cause in a learning environment.
2) Multiple intelligences?
I have to wonder whether Gee has taken into account the multiple ways that people learn. He does not seem to ever point out that while certain other teaching strategies work for some students, video games may also only work for some students. Students who are skilled in either visual-spacial intelligence or bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (two of Gardener’s list of multiple intelligences) may excel at video games, but what about the students who just flounder repeatedly with this kind of activity. I think adding video game-style learning to any curriculum can be useful, but I want to iterate that certain students would not reap the same benefits. Differentiating learning is very important, and I concur with Gee that we need to be more cognizant of gamers’ learning styles, but I can’t be sure that all, or even most, students would learn better with gaming-type curriculum.
3) Childhood obesity?
This may seem random, but one of today’s headlines explains that Michelle Obama is working to prevent childhood obesity so it was on my mind. As I was thinking about my students sitting at home over these snow days, playing video games, I got to thinking about their lack of exericese. We all know that chidlhood obesity stems, in large part, from the inactivity involved in many video games (as well as in TV-watching). I know that games like those played on the Wii might be the exception to the rule, but as Todd pointed out, don’t we also see people who suffer because of gaming? Sure, they may be learning and becoming better thinkers, but what are they doing to their health?
4) Addiction? Gambling?
Next on my list was the idea of addiction. I think I had, at this point, started skimming other people’s blogs, and after reading Todd’s I realized that I, too, attribute gaming to addictive behavior because, in certain cases, the game becomes life. This thought led me to yet another: sure, gambling is fun in the classroom, too. It certainly makes for a more interesting lesson, I’m sure, but it promotes something that many consider immoral and dangerous. While a lesson that incorporated gambling might really inspire students to learn, it also might inspire them to a life of addiction. Gambling certainly can indicate a high level of intelligence (as is clear in the movie 21 in which MIT students count cards and make lots of $), but it can also lead to a life of desperation.
5) Active learning? Technology?
In a sense, I think what I got most out of this book, aside from a higher appreciation of some video games, is the notion that we as teachers need to incorporate as much active learning and technology as we can into our classrooms. These days, our students’ lives are immersed in technology, and whether we old-schoolers want to admit or not, they learn better (in ways we may not even grasp) when lessons can be tied to some kind of active learning, particularly when that active learning involves technology.
For example, when I have students play group games in which they review vocabulary words or literary terms that are projected for them Jeopardy-style on the classroom TV or white-board, they get so into it that they forget they are learning. In essence, I have “tricked them into learning,” a phrase a mentor of mine shared with me and I continue to try to incorporate into my classroom. In essence, this is what Gee is talking about when he suggests we incorporate what he has learned about learning into our teaching.
In conclusion, I blame the snow for why I spent so much time on this post, but Gee certainly had me thinking, and while I won’t say I disagree with all he says, or concur for that matter, I do feel like I’ve been forced to think about learning in new and intriguing ways. That said, I’d like to get back to playing Grand Theft Auto IV now.