This was written as part of a Learning Agreement for my first KAM (Knowledge Area Module, a three month, three part research project). It is a sample of what I will include in my annotated bibliography.
Gee, J. P. (2005). Learning by design: games as learning machines. The journal of media
James Paul Gee (2005) introduced a very clear research question in his introduction: â€œHow do good game designers manage to get new players to learn long, complex, and difficult games?â€ (p. 24) He explored the answer to this question in contrast to the solution used by many schools when trying to get students to learn long, complex, and difficult tasks; schools can force students to perform these tasks, and schools often â€œdumb downâ€ (p. 24) these tasks. In contrast â€œthe designers of many good games have hit on profoundly good methods of getting people to learn and to enjoy learningâ€ (p. 24). Gee also suggested that â€œthese methods are similar in many respects to cutting-edge principles being discovered in research on human learningâ€ (p. 24). Gee proposed thirteen â€œgood principles of learning built into good computer and video gamesâ€ (p. 25), and these thirteen principles he organized into three sections: I. Empowered Learners, II. Problem Solving, and III. Understanding. After stating each principle he offered a brief discussion of games in relationship to that principle and a comment on games that exemplify the principle.
With respect to Empowered Learners, Gee articulated four principles of learning. The principle of Co-design captures the idea that learners should â€œfeel like active agents (producers), not just passive recipients (consumers)â€ (p. 25). The customize principle rests on the concept of differentiated learning, that â€œdifferent styles of learning work better for different peopleâ€ (p. 25). The principal of identity, then, suggests that â€œdeep learning requires an extended commitment and such a commitment is powerfully recruited when people take on a new identity they value and in which they become heavily investedâ€ (p. 26). Finally, the manipulation principle draws on the deep inter-connection between perception and action (p. 26).
Under the Problem Solving section fell seven more principles. Good games provide learners with well-ordered problems that â€œlead them to solutions that work well, not just on [early] problems, but as aspects of the solutions to later, harder problemsâ€ (p. 26). These problems should also be pleasantly frustrating such that learners feel them â€œto be at the outer edge of, but within, their â€˜regime of competenceâ€™â€ (p. 26). Part of keeping the learner in such a place is to facilitate cycles of experience that include â€œpracticing skills until they are nearly automaticâ€ (p. 27) before they are once again challenged to grow. In games, information is given â€œon demandâ€ and â€œjust in timeâ€ so that it is received in context at a time when the learner can apply it. Using the metaphor of fish tanks, Gee suggested that â€œif we create simplified systems, stressing a few key variables and their interactions, learners who would otherwise be overwhelmed by a complex systemâ€¦ get to see some basic relationships at work and take the first steps towards their eventual mastery of the real systemâ€ (p. 27). Similarly, the metaphor of sandboxes suggests that â€œif learners are put into a situation that feels like the real thing, but with the risks and dangers greatly mitigated, they can learn well and still feel a sense of authenticity and accomplishmentâ€ (p. 27). Finally, â€œpeople learn and practice skills bestâ€ when the see skills as strategies to â€œaccomplish goals they want to accomplishâ€ (p. 27).
Gee shared two more principles concerning Understanding. In his discussion of system thinking he focused on the way â€œany experience is enhanced when we understand how it fits into a larger meaningful wholeâ€ (p. 28), and when discussing meaning as action image he related that â€œwords and concepts have their deepest meanings whent hey are clearly tied to action in the world,â€ or in the case of games and learning situations, a virtual or simulated world.
In his Conclusion, Gee suggested that many of these principles are not only missing from traditional classrooms, but also from so-called educational game, while they are clearly apparent in seemingly non-educational commercial games. As to why this might be, he blamed not only the monetary cost, but the cost â€œof changing peopleâ€™s minds about learning â€“ how and where it is doneâ€¦ this may also change some peopleâ€™s minds about computer and video game, as wellâ€ (p. 28).
The principles in this article are considerably more accessible that the 36 principles in his 2003 publication What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. The discussion of each is brief and includes up to date references to exemplars of each principle. While this work does not represent the results of a formal study, this article certainly makes an original contribution to the existing body of knowledge – a framework that others can use to discuss games and learning. However, the lack of a formal study makes it very difficult to judge his research methods and to adequately account for the researcherâ€™s bias. Still, due to the examples he shares, his experiences are in some sense replicable, and the principles he shares are designed to be generalizable to other games and other learning situations.