In his opening keynote at the Game, Learning & Society 3.0 conference in Madison, WI last week, Professor James Gee set the stage for the year’s most substantive conference on learning games and simulations. Among other points made in his opening remarks, Gee observed that:
> Pop culture — the game business in particular — has managed to profit from selling products that present extremely challenging learning experiences which players willingly master, stuff that’s extremely difficult to get kids to do in school.
> When it comes to reading highly technical game documentation there are no differences in achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged kids. The motivation of _fun_ is so powerful.
> In MMORPGs success demands leading or participating in cross-functional teams and gamers willingly join them, while in business settings just the thought of participating in these kinds of project teams can be a major cause of stress.
> Games situates meaning to words and symbols in game texts, encouraging performance before competency. This is the opposite of the dominant pedagogy in today’s schools that stress the ability to recite facts to pass the test, before actually demonstrating competence in a particular domain.
> The gamers attitude to failure is “fail early, fail often” if it is in the service of learning something critical to success.
> Games are problem-solving spaces that cultivate a culture of learning, and learning complexity is an altogether legal drug that humans can’t get enough of.
> Games are “rule systems” and gamers seek ways to game the system, to leverage the rules of the game to their advantage. Game developers should design for this.
> Gamers learn to look past the eye candy to solve the underlying puzzle of the quest or mission that they’re on — just the kind of discriminatory abilities that are core 21 Century skills.
> Games, particularly MMOGs, are highly social systems where players are driven by a common passion or agenda, just as they must be on the cross-functional teams that are cornerstones of today’s globalized businesses.
So many other points were made in presentations and conversations during the week it was like drinking from a fire hose of ideas.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn how many school librarians, like Jenny Levine and Meg Canada, are supporting virtual worlds. Could libraries be the gateway for getting these powerful learning environments into the K-12 curriculum?
UCLA’s Yasmin Kafai asserted that cheating in video games is the opposite of cheating in other academic environments. Other participants in Yasmin’s session included Eric Zimmerman who wrote a chapter on this topic in Rules of Play, and Mia Consalvo, who has quite literally written the book on cheating inÂ games.
I’ll add more notes and links from other sessions as time allows. In the meantime visit these game sites, blog posts, slides and research from some of the other GLS presenters and participants for additional coverage of this excellent conference:
Lee Wilson – The Education Business Blog
Sasha Barab – Quest Atlantis
David Squire – DoomEd
David Warlick – 2 Cents Worth
Lisa Galarneau – Social Studies Games
Mark Danger Chen – blog
Dan White – Filament Games
Jenny Levine – The Shifted Librarian