Ten Surprising Truths about Video Games and Learning by Tina Barseghian

Barseghian discusses the points made by James Paul Gee at the Learning and the Brain Conference in her article, Ten Surprising Truths about Video Games and Learning. From our class readings it is obvious that Gee, a leading authority on literacy and education games, understands the connection between learning in the classroom environment in correspondence to video games. Gee questions our initial assumptions about learning and brain functions. Research has shown that experience and the memory we obtain through experience enhance our ability to progress and eventually succeed at learning, in the same way we learn to move forward in video games. Gee explains the ten truths about video games and why they are good for learning. The article summarizes the ten truths that were explained by Gee at the Learning and the Brain Conference. His theory is explained through the following truths; the first is to “feed the learning process”. Video games feed the learning process by giving feedback and to the player and allowing the player to understand the goal and how their mistakes interact with the game they are playing. The player should be motivated by the game when the game has immediate feedback that allowed the player to predict the outcome.

The second truth is to “obviate testing”. Gee believes that tests in schools are unnecessary and should be eliminated because of the way that video games allow the player to advance in a much more retaining way. The player in a video game will retain the information needed to get to the next level of a game because they have to do so in order to get to the next level. I definitely think this is an important point on Gee’s part, however I would also like to know how the same “playing by levels” would translate into the school environment. How would we replace tests with what we know about reaching new levels in video games? The third truth is to “build on experience”. This is Gee’s most obvious and most emphasized truth. From experience comes success by learning from previous interaction. The next truth I find interesting because it gives teachers a new position and allows students to look at teachers in a different ways. It forces the students to view teachers as the game makers rather than their boring teachers. This truth is called, “redefine teachers as learning designers”. This principle encourages teachers to design a lesson based on what they want to students to know. In this sense, the teacher would create an experience that would establish the outcome that the teacher intended for. I definitely like this truth, however I would have liked a further example from Gee explaining the type of Game Design a teacher would create.

The fifth truth to “teach language through experience.” This means that we need to use the same language in school that we are using outside of school and visa versa. In the same way that one forgets a language such as Spanish or French when they only use it in school, we need to use these language outside of school as well in order to retain the information. I definitely agree with this point that Gee makes, I believe it is important to apply what you learn to outside the school environment. Otherwise it is impossible to remember and eventually forgotten. Without this truth, most of what we learn in school is a waste of time. Why learn it if you cannot remember it? The sixth truth is definitely demonstrated in our education 222 class. This truth encourages us to “entice kids to love challenges”. We need to give students a reason to want to master the challenge. In our class now with the reading reactions, there are finalists and there is competition that is enticing because of the honor and points received in the class. There is also a theme to make the reactions more fun and interesting. Because there is a theme and a competition, this type of assignment resembles a video game and you want to play and be apart of it.

Gee’s seventh truth explains that students need to be motivated in order to learn. My question is how can we motivate them? School is often looked at as boring and homework is unappealing. What is the reward here and what type of motivation is Gee explaining? How is motivation achieved? Does there have to be an end goal or points earned in order to be motivated? The eighth point encourages us to “teach problem solving”. Gee suggests mixing facts and formulas through problem solving. This way the students remember the facts and formulas because they had to use them in specific problems in order to solve them. I definitely like this truth. I think that specific problems or situations involving facts are a lot easier to memorize the facts and at the same time learn how to solve the problem too.

The ninth truth can be applied to schools, but definitely not the workplace or a lot of areas beyond the classroom, in my opinion. This truth is to “encourage risk taking”. Although i agree that it is important to take risks, Gee explains that students should realize that the cost of taking risks is low in order for them to be motivated to take risks. In the classroom i think this is a good idea, however beyond the classroom environment i do not think this is realistic and taking risks often do have high costs. The tenth truth and the last truth is to “provide a valid learning model for schools”. This truth involves all of the truths. The learning model requires all of the nine truths that Gee has explained during the conference. By using these truths in-conjunction with one another, a school environment becomes a place where students are motivated to learn.

I definitely enjoyed reading this article and there are many truths I agree and disagree with. Many of the truths need examples which is ironic that more examples were not listed, as that is one of Gee’s truths to learn from example. 🙂

Here is a link to the article: http://mindshift.kqed.org/2011/02/ten-surprising-truths-about-video-games-and-learning/


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