Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Thoughts on “Good Video Games and Good Learning”

July 15th, 2014 · No Comments

In Gee’s article “Good Video Games and Good Learning”, he touts gaming as being better at promoting learning than school. One of his arguments is that books and textbooks that are used in schools are passive, while games are able to talk back. In this sense games are interactive, while schools are not as they allow the players to, “ “write” the worlds in which they live – in school, they should help “write” the domain and the curriculum that they study” (35). I do not fully agree with this argument. Although students may not be writing they IRP, many teachers often consult them on what they are interested in learning. This feedback often helps to create the learning goals for the class. Another point Gee makes is that good video games lower the consequences of failure, so players can start from the last saved level (35). This then encourages players to take risks, explore, and try new things. Contrastingly, school allows much less space for risk and hinders exploration. This is an excellent point. Often school can stop students from being creative because they fear failing. However, with the current importance placed on formative assessment and assessment for learning, this fear should decrease.

Students must also have agency in their learning. Gee states that because players are able to choose the level of difficulty that suits them, and help “write” games, they feel far more agency in what they are doing. I agree strongly with the notion and feel that it is also possible, and present within classrooms through inquiry. Students who are allowed agency in their learning are able to participate in a more meaningful learning experience through the discovery of new knowledge. By allowing students to choose the topics they wish to study they will be encouraged to “learn how to learn” rather than simply memorize facts. Inquiry based learning allows students agency in their learning, encourages curiosity, and personalizes learning in an engaging way. In addition to agency, Gee also claims the games are superior at providing well-ordered problems. Gee draws on the fact that games have levels, which challenge the players, but not before they are ready to be challenged. However, school also has levels, they are called grades. Although, within a grade level students are at varying levels of strength it is the role of the teacher to teach within the student’s Zone of Proximal Development. This allows students to be challenged, but just enough so they are able to reach understanding without being frustrating and giving up. Gee points out many positives aspects of games. However, school is growing in its use of technology, and beyond the old school teaching model of rote memorization. Teaching is becoming more advanced and is continually changing and improving.


Anna Fenn


How can schools integrate student agency into the curriculum?


Gee, J. (2005). Good Video Games and Good Learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 85(2), 33-37.







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