Here is the bit I’ve composed today on what Gee had to say about using video games as learning support.
In addition to be interested in the way good games can provide a context for learning, opportunities for inquiry, and a framework for collaboration, Gee is also interested in the additional support games can offer for active critical learning.
Motivation is one of the key support elements games can provide, and Gee (2003) called good teaching and learning a matter of three things: enticing the learner to try, to put in lots of effort, to achieve some meaningful success (p. 61-62). He began Why Video Games are Good for Your Soul with a discussion of the motivating pleasures even simple games such as Tetris can bring a player (Gee, 2005, p. 13). He went on to say that â€œcognitive scienceâ€¦ has shown quite clearly that feeling and emotion are not peripheral to thinking and learningâ€ (p. 30), and that â€œif learners are to learnâ€¦ deeplyâ€¦ then they need to feel and care about the worldâ€¦ in which they are playingâ€ (p. 30). An interactive game space can offer â€œrewards from the beginning, customized to each learnerâ€™s level, effort, and growing mastery and signaling the learnerâ€™s ongoing achievementsâ€ (Gee, 2003, p. 67).
A game space, as opposed to a real space, may also allow learners to take risks where consequences are lowered (p. 67). Gee wrote about a â€œRegime of Competenceâ€ (p. 71) when he explained that good games allow learners to â€œoperate within, but at the outer edge of, his or her resources, so that at those points things are felt as challenging but not â€˜undoableâ€™â€ (p. 71). Later he reverted to Vygotskyâ€™s term, the â€œZone of Proximal Developmentâ€ (Gee, 2004, p. 66), and illustrated how games can â€œhelp learners (players) pull of more than they could on their own and yet still feel a sense of personal accomplishmentâ€ (Gee, 2004, p. 66). Gee even expected a game to be â€œpleasantly frustratingâ€ (Gee, 2005a, p. 26) such that â€œlearners feel â€“ and get evidence â€“ that their effort is paying off in the sense that they can see, even when they fail, how and if they are making progressâ€ (p. 26). Also, because â€œpeople donâ€™t like practicing skills out of contest over and overâ€ (p. 27), good games allow learners to â€œsee a set of related skills as a strategy to accomplish goals they want to accomplishâ€ (p. 27).
Gee (2003) was also interested in the ability of games to provide early learning situations that lead to â€œgeneralizations that are fruitful for later stagesâ€ (p. 137). He later wrote about the need for well-ordered problems that lead learners â€œto solutions that work well, not just on [the current] problems but as aspects of the solutions to later, harder problemsâ€ (Gee, 2005a, 26). In contrast, he also expected good games to allow learners to practice skills â€œuntil they are nearly automatic, then [to have] those skills fail in ways that cause the learners to have to think again and learn anewâ€ (p. 27) in cycles of expertise. In addition, virtual contexts can provide a greater amplification of input for the learner; in other words, â€œfor a little input, learners get a lot of outputâ€ (Gee, 2003, p. 67). Because of these elements, and because of the tireless replayability of a game (as opposed to a teacher who may quickly tire of explaining things more than once), games can offer learners â€œa context where the practice is not boringâ€ (p. 71) so that â€œthey spend lots of time on taskâ€ (p. 71). Learners should also be given â€œample opportunity to practice, and support for, transferring what they have learned earlier to later problems, including problems that require adapting and transforming that earlier learningâ€ (p. 138).
Though one of the benefits of games is that they can provide an authentic context for student tasks, they can also provide support within this context, such that â€œlearning even at its start takes place in a (simplified) subset of the real domainâ€ (Gee, 2003, p. 137). This Gee (2003) called the Subset Principle (p. 137), and later â€œfish tanksâ€ (2004, p. 61 and 2005a, p. 27), â€œsupervised fish tanksâ€ (2004, p. 65), â€œsupervised sandboxesâ€ (p. 66), â€œunsupervised sandboxesâ€ (p. 70), and simply â€œsandboxes” (2005a, p. 27), but this might have been called a microworld by Papert and others. In a well-designed microworld, learners will see, â€œespecially early on, many more instances of fundamental signs and actions than would be the case in a less controlled [context]â€ (Gee, 2003, p. 137).
Because â€œhuman beings are quite poor at using verbal information (i.e. words) when given lots of it out of context and before they can see how it applies in actual situationsâ€ (Gee, 2005a, p. 27), perhaps the most obvious form of support a game world can provide learners is the availability of â€œinformation both on-demand and just-in-time, when the learner needs it or just at the point where the information can best be understood and used in practiceâ€ (Gee, 2003, p. 138).
Thanks for reading.