Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gaming is Learning!

         When I first saw the title of the James Paul Gee reading, I thought how is he going to connect video games to learning.  Since this class is about technology in the classroom, I don't know why I thought video games would be excluded.  So, I started reading with the image of a traditional educational computer game in my head.  Then I saw Halo. Hmm. Now I'm thinking, after about 2 pages in, this is going to be an interesting article.  I knew that my video game experience goes about as far as playing Gran Turismo 3 and some Wii games, and hearing about "World of War Craft" and "Zelda".  When Gee talks about learning "to play the game"; this really made a connection for me.  Everything has its own set of rules and ways of doing things, and the better one masters those rules the more successful they will be.  For example, getting into graduate school at the University of Michigan.  There are certain classes you take in undergrad, you write your essay in a way that makes you stand out, you make decisions about what to include in your resume and what not to include.  All of these decisions are made based on your understanding of "the game".  So, there are real life applications for how one approaches a game. 
          Incorporating the energy that video games elicit into the classroom I think would really make school more engaging.  In our education classes we are learning about creating a safe space for our students so they can share their ideas and take risks.  Video games do this automatically!  I know I don't like losing in a game, but I remember that all I have to do is hit "play again" and it's like it never happened.  That takes the pressure off.  As teachers maybe we can incorporate a "play again" atmosphere, or culture, where mistakes help you narrow down your options.  Could we take the game of school and make it more flexible and less intimidating?  
           Jane McGonigal talks about the energy around gaming.  Individuals who game are optimistic, more confident, and motivated.  I want all of my students to feel this way!  Her games are designed to put people in potentially real life situations and see how they adapt.  I especially like the game of living during an oil shortage.  When she mentioned that game, I immediately thought I would lose.  Then, I remembered it was a game and I was much more open to giving it a try.  Why was I so worried about losing? What would losing this game mean? Would it relate to my ability to survive in a "real" oil shortage?  These are questions I am not exactly sure how to answer, however, the answers could help us think about how are students approach failure.   

I'm excited to see how the culture of video games can be used in our classrooms. 

                                                            Is it safe to say he's just experienced an EPIC WIN?!


  1. Hey Musetta! I just posted about this whole gaming thing but forgot to comment on Jane McGonigal's TED talk. You sure hit the nail on the head about how you want all your students to feel the way she describes gamers. I actually watched her talk over the weekend and was really excited about her research. Have you tried out the Evoke game she was talking about? It's really groundbreaking in a lot of important ways. I highly recommend checking it out. Maybe we could get a group of us to play it together?

  2. Musetta - I've already posted my opinion about gamers, and agreed with Rachel's description of "those man-children who live in my mother's basement". And I admit that Jane's McGonical's premise is interesting, but back to education, and Mr. Gee's piece, and it's implication for education.

    Which is an interesting premise. I must work hard to get beyond my belief that gaming is a waste of time, and a destroyer of the mental and physical health of children. And adults. But if they spend to much time on video games, they're still children.

    Oops, I must watch my intolerance. But I must admit, given the time I've seen children devote to video games, that here is potential here. If only we could harness and redirect that energy, we might have something.

  3. I like the fact someone else mentioned man-children (though I believe the correct term is child-men). More than any post I've read so far, you focus on the zone of proximal development piece and I so wholeheartedly agree with you. As much as I hate getting anything less than an A, and as a teacher *hate* to give anything less than an A, there are real-life consequences in school. The higher you climb the further you fall, in fact. School is *not* a game. Life is not a game. The child-man who dies with the most toys does not win. We are playing for keeps in "this" world.

    1. There is sense of finality in the real world. How do we balance taking risks and not being afraid to make mistakes with knowing that you can't always try again? It's a very fine line :)

    2. Indeed. And "finality" is the word I was looking for. You ask how we balance risks and not being afraid of irreversible failure--and you answered the question perfectly in the following way: ":)".

      A smile, a positive attitude in the face of daunting challenges, is absolutely the key.

      Optimism is not a nicety. It is a necessity.

  4. Interesting that you mention "failure" as a component of the learning process in gaming. It reminds me of Bronson & Merriman's chapter about praise, and how children who are "properly" praised learn the value of failure in their efforts to achieve success.

    But in our current system, is failure a realistic component of the assessments we establish for our students? I don't recall many situations in which failure was an acceptable part of passing a class, much less the learning process. It makes me excited to approach this issue as a teacher, having been inspired by Tom Ward's "concept test" system. Is there a way that we can streamline our efforts to narrow the gaps of achievement and learning within the students of our classes?

    I think so! (Maybe gaming is a way to approach this...)

  5. Good stream of comments you've generated, Musetta! I really like your notion of having a "culture of video games" in the classroom.

    For the other posters:

    1. FYI, Women are gamers.
    2. Mike IS becoming more tolerant! Pretty soon he'll be online with NewOrator playing Evoke.
    3. Preston, it makes me sad to think school and life can't be a game. Can't we at least aspire to that? Even real life has a reset button. Some of us are going back to school to start a new career :-).
    4. In ERIC database, do a Quick Search on MMORPG. It's coming to a classroom near you.

  6. Musetta, I really like your positive outlook about video games in the classroom. I was much more cynical in my blog. I kept thinking, why can't kids just have an open dialogue? Write about it? Your blog reminded me that not everyone is like me, I have to remember there are many different type of people out there in the world. Dialogues and group discussions in class leave students vulnerable to scrutiny from their peers and the urge to maintain a specific image. The gaming world, as you said, allows them to break out of their shells and stop worrying about failing. Which makes one think about the research presented in Nurture Shock. Students will fumble over being perfect, but when you tell them they are pretending, they are filling a different role, that paralyzing fear of making a mistake tends to fall away. That being said, I still wonder what you think about having unlimited "redo" opportunities. If students can respawn whenever they make a mistake, will they carry that over to real life? Yes it could mean they are more willing to take risks, but it could also mean they always expect the chance for a redo. And life doesn't always have a "redo" button. Are we fostering imaginations until students can handle the obstacles of real life? Or are we shielding them from reality and making it more difficult for them in the future?

  7. I think situations like class discussions are great places to have a "redo" culture. Obviously tests do not have an endless number of opportunities. The hope is that during the presentation of new material and during class discussions, students are given enough wiggle room to test their ideas. Once they get the main concepts down then they can approach a test with more confidence and a higher chance of success.