I was first up in presenting my book talk, which I did Monday of this week. The book I was discussing was Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy. A one page summary of my thoughts on the book can be found in my book talk paper, located in this link here: 20150221BookTalkPaperGuler-CarrasquilloCv3.
Starting off my book talk, I had my cohort write down practices involved in doing science and practices involved in playing video games.
I then asked what are common themes between both lists and one that stuck out was that both science and gaming are collaborative endeavors. Some members of the cohort mentioned that most of the elements of both lists are interchangeable.
I then went on to show a short video about education and video games made by a team of game developers interested in taking a critical eye towards games and their future potential. The topic of the video was that students desire instantaneous feedback that allows them to eventually solve the problem on their own terms, rather than being forced to give the right answer without the opportunity to revise.
While my cohort watched the video above, I asked them to write down interesting ideas and questions/concerns the video inspired in them. I have compiled some of the interesting ideas in a list:
- Designing educational experiences as a way to improve upon their knowledge vs. assessing if students possess that knowledge
- Innovation requires “failure as an opportunity to learn” mindset
- 21st century jobs require finding answers to new problems
- Rapid feedback->Response->Innovation
- “Do you know how to solve this?” vs. “What is the solution?”
I also compiled the list of concerns/questions and I will try to address them to the best of my ability. The video is only four minutes long, but there is a series of videos Extra Credits has on education and video games which elaborates a little more on their points and even providing practical applications of the notions they are espousing here.
What counts as a game?
I would define a game as a form of play, guided by a goal. The element of play allows for opportunities to how approaches the goal and the act of having the goal provides direction for the play. This direction occurs with negative feedback when an approach is taking one away from the goal and positive feedback when an approach is getting one closer to the goal. There is has been some controversy over whether or not video games without “lose states” (ex. game over, death) are actually games, because otherwise there is no negative feedback that stimulates a change in tactics. I would definitely say that an authentic inquiry-based learning opportunity has all the elements that a game has. There is problem solving, revision of previous approaches and ideas, collaboration between players, consequences in response to actions, and more.
How do we use games to do this?
You can utilize game design when deciding how to run your classroom. For example, in many role playing games the player character gains experience points after performing different acts such as defeating an enemy or reading a book. A certain level of experience points leads to the player leveling up, at they gain new skills/abilities at higher levels. Teachers can implement this in their grading system, where traditionally students start with an A+ and have no where to go but down. By instead making the system about gaining points, there is positive reinforcement that leads students not to worry about failing, but instead trying because each learning opportunity is a chance to gain more points. Also, you can include the skill system by explicitly stating when a student has shown proficiency in a certain skill such as “data analysis”. In this way, you make learning much more transparent to each student.
Do all jobs really require innovation or is it up to the employee?
I am not sure if innovation is required, but certainly having the ability to implement creative solutions is a useful skill in any field and should be a desired trait in an employee. Also, as a reform-minded science teacher who wants to ensure that their students leave the classroom being more scientifically literate than when they came in, it is my hope that I better prepared them to be able to be innovative in any challenge they may face in the future.
Really, use games in the classroom is the answer? W/o thinking about the strategies used in the game; its just playing a game, not learning.
As I have defined games earlier in this section, I would say that yes, games are an answer. In the way that I defined a game, much of the stuff we have been learning through the GRS program has been aligned with gaming principles. I would also push back on the statement that playing a game doesn’t incorporate learning when strategy isn’t being thought about. In a well designed game, the problems posed to the player require them to think critically about what went wrong and how they can account for that when they try again. There is identity development work at play, where the player is invested in the in-game goals of their avatar to the point where they set goals for themselves as well (ex. get better at making this jump in Mario). The sense of progression the player feels from where they started to where they ended up in quite clear in a game, especially in RPG’s where you can view your character’s stats. This information helps to display how far the player has come since the beginning of the game. When a player beats a game once and then replays it, they often times can blast through the earlier parts of the game because they learned more nuanced approaches later on when the game became more difficult. This all requires learning and many games implicitly give players the feedback that they indeed did learn how to get better at the game. Now if true learning requires the learner to be cognizant of the process, then that is where the teacher comes in. In the video, games didn’t replace the teacher, they helped free up the teacher’s time to provide that instantaneous feedback. We could replace “games” with “differentiated inquiry lesson” and I would see little difference between the two.
Video games, to me, are a powerful media that have great potential that needs to be tapped into. There are a wealth of learning experiences that many students have had through gaming and that prior knowledge could be used in a multitude of rich and meaningful ways. But this post has already gone long enough. Overall, I would highly suggest giving Gee’s book a read, his perspective is of an outsider that has only recently entered into the domain of video gaming, but it is nonetheless an interesting one. I find his more recent work on his blog to be a little more up to date. A link to his blog can be found here. See ya here next week!