Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

All Fun and Games?

July 15th, 2014 · 1 Comment

I was intrigued while reading the Gee article on gaming and education because I did not have a lot of experience with games. The extent that I had personally engaged in games was with Spyro or The Sims when I was younger; at first I did not think that these or any other “fun” games had any connectedness to education. This article really did prompt me to look at gaming in a new way, beginning with the line “keep in mind that a game such as Full Spectrum Warrior is a game when I buy it off the rack, but it is a serious learning tool when a soldier “plays” the professional-training version.” (p. 34) In this sense gaming could quickly become, at the very least, an introduction to multiple different occupations. While there are things that have taken the form and made fun of it, such as Goat Simulator (where yes, you play as a goat, doing goat-like things), there are also titles such as Surgeon Simulator or Train Simulator that attempt to mirror actual occupations. I can definitely see life-based simulation type games being used in the future in a class such a Planning during career exploration. They may be used for serious study or training, as mentioned in the above quote from Gee, or perhaps just to peak interest in possible routes students could go – for instance, when I was younger and thought being a landscaper would be cool, my favourite part of The Sims was designing the yards for my Sim’s house.

Gee also makes the connection between creating new environments or scenarios within games and having input in their classroom curriculum. While at first I was at a loss at how he made this connection, perhaps this creation/production aspect might manifest itself in choosing assignments. For instance, for a final project the teacher may give the students a set of four choices to select from, or the choice to create their own; just as in video games, students are either working within a set of parameters in order to create, or making their own scenario and following through on where that takes them. Gee’s discussion of agency correlates to this, as it gives students a sense of “ownership over what they are doing,” (p. 36) something that I’m sure we have all learned the importance of. After fighting some losing battles during my practicum with students who, even after being given these options for final projects, still did not care enough to do them, applying the principles Gee lays out may not always work. However, the article has helped me make some very strong connections between education and gaming, and I think that at the rate society seems to be going, these connections are going to become both more apparent and more important as time goes on.

Work Cited:

Gee, James Paul. “Good Video Games and Good Learning.” Phi Kappa Phi Forum 85.2 (2005): 33-37. Web. 14 July 2014.

Tags: gaming

1 response so far ↓

  • sarasince // Jul 17th 2014 at 12:26 am

    I agree with you that gaming does have a lot of practical applications to real-life professions. In the absence of a physical way to train yourself to do brain surgery, for example, it does seem useful to be able to practice on a simulator. However, at the same time, I wonder if making learning experiences virtual also distances students from those learning experiences. It is one thing to learn the procedural knowledge of surgery from a simulator, for example, but I think it will never replace physically working on an actual brain (even if it is from a cadaver).

    Games can and do teach skills to students, and I do not doubt that they are learning valuable lessons. However, I think that our heavy lean towards technology and the virtual has literally put us out of touch with our physical world. Buttons or a controller will not teach your body the muscle memory you can get from physical practice, just like sitting and reading a book about cooking will never physically teach you how to poach an egg.

    I would be fascinated by gaming that incorporates both the physical world and the simulated one. It would have the dual benefit of teaching students skills in a space where it is safer to make mistakes (the simulated world) but also give students a chance to learn physical memory of their experiences (in the physical world).

    One other aspect about some games that I would be inclined to change or modify is the fact that games usually have a winner and a loser, or losers. I am not opposed to winning or losing, perse. However, I do think that this dichotomy of winning vs. losing could be damaging, because it does not emphasize the importance of improvement. Also, some games use winning and losing flippantly, in situations where it would be inappropriate to assume that life is simply a series of victories and losses. Perhaps I am taking this dichotomy too seriously.

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