Monday, July 23, 2007

James Paul Gee, University of Madison Wisconsin "Libraries, Gaming and the New Equity Crisis"

"Why does the army teach the way it does--with video games and simulations?Because they get the kids that failed at the school system, and if they teach the way our schools did our soldiers would die. And we should ashamed they did it better than we do."

Gee framed his talk on teh concept that there really is no more middle class, beginning with a list of things online that are not available in school, like computer training, hypertext/media,
interactive stimulation, intelligent tutoring systems, etc. He identified a number of gaps in learning:
Literacy (4 kids out of how many learn to read less well than their peers)
Application (Kids can spit back information (ie, cite a law) but can't apply it; the application gap is the reason that most kids feel.)
Tech Saavy (Tech saavy means you are not afraid of technical stuff ad you can use tech productively to produce stuff not just consume. Simply handing people the tech widens the gap not lessens it, and weathly & middle class families provide support and mentoring in a way that low income ones cannot.)

The role of the librarian is to proivde the support, the scaffolding, the mentoring - not just the tools.

A reminder: success at school is really a home based event. Early literacy at home = school success. Having a strong academic language from at home literacy is required to do well.

"Learning is a reward for intelligent creatures. Our society has made it a turn off"

Learning principles in games are the same as ones in schools. Gee invited us to consider the following 12 learning principles and consider, is it a good principle should we put it in school, or in a library?

  1. Lower the consequences of failure. Encourages risk-taking and innovation and new styles of learning. Every failure is a learning event. "Fail early, fail often" IDEO Credo
  2. Players are high on the agency tree. Your decisions and choices really matter. Your choices make you a co-designer of the game.
  3. Problems are well ordered. Immersion with support and mentoring
  4. Cycles of challenge, consolidation and new challenge. Give them a problem, repeat it til they have mastered it, and then give them a problem where it no longer works, so they have to revisit the problem and come up with a new skill. Super Mario Brothers does this very very well. Problem, practice, problem, practice, BOSS. This is the cycle not just for becoming a gamer, but for becoming a learner. The poor kids don't get enough practice and the rich ones don't get challenged
  5. Stay within but that the outer edge of the player's regime of competence. Games keep you pleasantly frustrated. Getting to the state of FLOW motivates.
  6. Games encourage players to think about systems, not just isolated facts.
  7. Empathy for a Complex system. A game is a simulation you are IN. When scientists talk about systems, they use "I"
  8. Give verbal info just in time when players need and can use or "on demand" when the player asks for it. There is a whole encyclopedia for Civilization but you have to ask for it.
  9. Situate the meanings of words and symbols and show how they vary across different actions images, and dialogues. Don't just offer words for words. Get beyond a definition and associate a word with an example. Kids only get books in schools. They can apply situated meaning to EVERY situation, they would succeed. All that's hard about academic language is trying to learn it verbally.
  10. Modding Attitude. Games come with the software so the player can change and edit the game. In Tony Hawk you can play the game, or make the whole game over again.
  11. Assessments. Kids will read charts show evaluation for a game, and not for school.

Q. Why is it had to get teachers in schools to get on board with games?
A. It's related to LABOR. Our schools are functioning quite well to produce service workers. 1/5 of people will be knowledge creators, 1/5 technical, and 3/5 will be service workers.

Q. A game does not have to be "Educational" to be educational.
A. Yes, these learning principles can apply on content you like OR don't like. Kids are learning tons of stuff that is not the traditional school based content. Kids say they are learning more at home; school is important because you need the certificate. We split up learning the way Aristotle did. he's dead! Let Aristotle's discipline go.

Q. Why don't I want to do it?
A. You weren't willing to put up with failure. Gamers see failure as a failure of the game designer, not themselves.

A kid who is behind in reading in first grade has an 80% chance of being behind in HS. Being behind in games is really hard to rectify too.

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