Education Bookcast
Education Bookcast
Jan 25, 2021
103. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee
Play • 1 hr 30 min

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy is a book that I read early in my education research quest. At the time, I thought that it had interesting points to make, but I was unclear on quite how to react to it. After several more years of reading and research, it's clear to me that this book is deeply flawed.

First of all, the author redefines "literacy" in a very strange way. He takes any form of semiotic system to count as a "type" of literacy. So, for example, if you know how to use a smartphone, then you are "literate" in the layout, symbols, and conventions of smartphone user interface. This is obviously not the kind of literacy that most people are interested on or concerned about, and it is less valuable than "conventional" literacy, partly because of barrier to entry (learning to read is relatively hard, learning to use a phone is relatively easy) and partly because of utility.

Secondly, he coins a lot of new terminology for no apparent reason. During the recording I've had to translate some of his terms into more ordinary language, including the usual technical terms rather than his special ones. His terminology only serves to obscure his message and make it seem as if there is more content here than there really is.

Finally, and most importantly, his central point is misguided. He essentially says that learning a subject is mostly about socially getting on in that world - knowing how to get on with other artists, mathematicians, surgeons, or whatever other skill "community", depending on the domain. However, this completely overlooks the glaring difference in difficulty between getting to know social conventions and attitudes of a subculture and learning the requisite knowledge and skills in order to be useful and productive in that domain, let alone to actually understand what is being said by other practitioners. The former takes a matter of weeks or months of acculturation, and the latter years or even decades of dedication. If we focus on the social context of knowledge rather than the knowledge itself, to coin a phrase, it would be like making beautiful light fittings for a house that you haven't built - pointless in the absence of the larger task that is left undone.

Enjoy the episode.

***

RELATED EPISODES

Cognitive science (general): 19. Seven Myths about Education by Daisy Christodoulou; 52. How We Learn by Benedict Carey; 79. What Learning Is; 80. The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters; 81a. The Myth of Learning Styles; 81b. on the Expertise Reversal Effect; 82. Memorable Teaching by Pepps McCrea; 85. Why Don't Students Like School? by Dan Willingham; 86. Learning as information compression

Cognitive science (literacy-related): 41. What Reading Does for the Mind by Keith Stanovich and Annie Cunningham; 91. Vocabulary Development by Steven Stahl; 93. Closing the Vocabulary Gap by Alex Quigley; 95. The Reading Mind by Dan Willingham

Expertise: 20. Genius Explained by Michael Howe; 22. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle; 24. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell; 49. The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin; 97. The Polymath by Waqas Ahmed; 98. Range by David Epstein

Games and play (including computer games): 34. Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal; 35. Minds on Fire by Mark Carnes; 36. Fun, Play, and Games; 37. A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster

Other fads / critical reviews: 42. Do Schools Kill Creativity by Sir Ken Robinson; 53. Brain-based Learning by Eric Jensen; 59, 60 on Brain Training; 62. Brainstorming makes you less creative; 65. Beyond the Hole in the Wall (on Sugata Mitra); 71. Visible Learning by John Hattie; 81. on Learning Styles; 87. Experiential Learning; 88. The Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching

More episodes
Search
Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu