Before I watched James Paul Gee's video interview, I never considered that the mastery of mindless video games closely parallels the process of learning in a school environment. Trying to make a connection between the two never crossed my mind, for, as childish as this may sound, I've always associated video games with free time and fun and learning with...sweating in a stuffy classroom that lacks air conditioning and being forced to do tasks that I probably wouldn't do by choice.
Gee points out, however, that video games can, in fact, function as a learning tool. In a video game, a player starts out with a small set of skills. The player must learn to use these skills effectively in order to complete a small number of tasks. Once a player completes these tasks, he must test his ability to use his skills in a battle against a boss. After he defeats the boss, he can advance to the next level.
Similarly, when a student enters a classroom, he brings a set of cognitive skills with him. The teacher assigns him homework and projects as a means for him to utilize these skills. If he finds success in using these skills on homework and projects, he is also likely to find success on an assessment (ie: BIG TEST!), where he is asked to once again demonstrate to the teacher ("BIG BOSS") that he is ready to advance to the next step of his academic journey.
Okay, so the parallels between video games and classroom learning exist. But why are video games still generally more enjoyable to students than going to class? Why would I rather role play as a blue hedgehog and run around in loops trying to collect golden rings when I could just be myself and do my homework and hopefully feel the same sense of accomplishment?
Let's say that my life was a video game.
For our purposes today, this is me.
In order for this game to have a purpose, I need a task to perform.
Okay, we've got our task. Now let's carry it out by using my amazing set of questioning skills to find my quantitative article.
Hey, look at him!
He has a mustasche. Therefore, he MUST be a quantitative article. (Please don't ask me to explain my logic on this one.)
Good. Now the next challenge is getting him to go to class with me so I can turn him in for a Participation Assignment.
He doesn't want to go willingly, so I have to turn on my charm and make him a deal he can't refuse.
Oh hey, now we're facing the Big Boss. Hopefully my quantitative-article-finding skills are worthy enough to advance me to the next level!
AHHH! NOOO! I have to do that again?!
I think if I had to play this video game, this is the point where I would turn it off, throw it in the fire place, and ask my parents why they got me such a terrible Christmas present. What makes this game of my life so dull? Why would I much rather spend hours of my life lost in a foreign land as Sonic the Hedgehog or even as Pac Man, trapped in an endless loop of mazes? It's the fantasy factor, in my humble opinion. Sure, I have skills as a normal human. I can draw well, I can read, and I write - but what fun are those ordinary skills if I could be somebody else for a while who can shoot lasers out of her eyes or run at the speed of light or snack on others in order to attain their super powers (Kirby, anyone?)
Gee brings up a good point about one of the advantages of learning via a video game: those who play video games seem more encouraged to try failed tasks again. Video games come with extra lives, which serve as built-in tool to encourage gamers to go back and fix mistakes. Students do not always feel as encouraged to try again when they make mistakes in the classroom. Ordinarily, when a student makes a mistake, it sometimes takes a larger push to get that student to attempt the task again, especially if his failure to accomplish the task the first time took a toll on his self esteem.
I also read blog entries from the Cool Cat Teacher Blog. A particularly striking entry involved the questioning of why we, as people, don't always take a stand whenever something bad is happening around us. We commonly assume that somebody else is going to take action, and in many situations, nothing is done. That brings me back to a story I saw on the news a couple years ago. An elderly man was at the gas station and two younger men started to beat him up. Meanwhile, a large crowd of people stood and watched, nobody bothering to step in and do anything. What are we so afraid of? Responsibility? Embarassment? Are we just in shock that these situations can and do happen?
Something of a similar nature happened in Shari's class today. While our class was in the midst of "circle time," I heard a scream coming from outside. Nobody, including me, bothered looking out the window to see where it came from. Realistically, the scream probably came from a kid who was playing with another kid. But what if that wasn't the case? What if the scream was emitted by a kid who was being kidnapped? None of us would ever know, since none of us looked out the window. Therefore, nothing would have been done about it. Things like this make me sad. What makes me even sadder is knowing that I am part of the problem.
Anyway, to end on a lighter note: I did complete the quantitative article collection stage of my EDUC 695 video game and have advanced to the qualitative article stage. Wish me luck!!