Tuesday, September 06, 2005

New Edition of Innovate is Online

The August/September edition of Innnovate is online with a few interesting articles. Gee's article has an interesting passage: Here we reach the central paradox of all deep learning. On the one hand, it will not work to try and tell newcomers everything. We, as educators, can not put it all into words because a domain of knowledge is composed of ways of doing, being, and seeing. When we do put what we know into explicit words, learners cannot adequately retain or even understand them because they have not yet performed the specific activities or undergone the experiences to which the words refer. On the other hand, simply turning learners loose to engage in the domain's activities will not work either, since newcomers do not know how to start, where to look for the best leverage, and what generalizations to draw, or how long to pursue them before giving them up for alternatives. We can hardly expect learners to create for themselves domains that took thousands of people and hundreds of years to develop. Unfortunately, our schools are still locked in endless and pointless battles between "traditionalism" and "progressivism," between lecture-style teaching and immersion learning, as if these were the only two alternatives. In contrast, given that good commercial games have been so successful in attracting and maintaining learners, it is clear that they appear to have solved this central paradox of learning. This is in large part because good commercial games are based on good theories of learning. Since different types of games use different theories, I do not have the space here to explicate the theory of learning behind each category of game. I will instead explore one theory relevant to several categories and, perhaps, most relevant to those interested in making serious games. It seems that Gee has hit the nail on the head - game designers have some knowledge of how to make people learn (as my students have seen in previous assignments) without the user really thinking that the activity is learning at all. They are thinking that it's fun and challenging. I think the big key is, as Gee states as well - that the information is given in context. In another paper, Richard Halverson points out that another key selling point for young adult learners is that games, in contrast to the schools that increasingly limit choice give a variety of choice, within a game world. We would all agree that students need to explore their world, but who is to say that the 5-25year old curriculum that is used in many places is still the way to explore the world that is now old after a few minutes, hours or days? Kurt Squire's paper seems to help pull things together: Educators hoping that digital games will be a "silver bullet" because they are exciting and motivating will be disappointed. The real challenge is not so much in bringing games—or any technology—into our schools but rather changing the cultures of our schools to be organized around learning instead of the current form of social control. This change would include: Organizing curricula around driving questions of personal relevance to students and open-ended, genuine intellectual merit, such as "what causes contribute to the long and short term fates of civilizations?" Opportunities for different students with different interests, abilities, and capacities to learn different topics, at different rates, and through different media, such as books, games, and film. School days and curricula not organized by the Carnegie unit but by rather students', parents', and teachers' goals for the student so that a student interested in history could study a topic at intervals different than "45 minutes per day, every day, every alternating semester" (which was my experience in high school). Not limiting the learning experiences in the classroom to the media that administrators or teachers find useful (i.e., books and film). In short, a teenage student who plays Civilization outside of school ought to be able to integrate this into his or her formal learning of social studies through building simulations or some similar activity. Treating assessments primarily as opportunities to support learning as opposed to evaluative structures that function largely to support social reproduction (cf. Mabry 1999). To use games effectively in the classroom, there has to be a lesson to help guide the student and pull in other knowledge from the game or related sources. These sources are not always those that are "blessed" by previous generations. These sources can be found by the students and with some training in critical thinking, the student can help to determine if the source is credible or not. Games seem to be the way that the passions of many people are sparked, is it right for the school system to extinguish these sparks? Edit - David Warlick has a interesting and related post here. Technorati Tags: , , , ,