I’m reading another book, and this one is a beast. I don’t think I’ve read anything so deep since I was in Graduate School, and I probably didn’t read that. It’s James Paul Gee’s, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.” Gee is an academic, teaching reading instruction at the University of Wisconsin, I believe. The book, so far, is more about principals of learning, than about video games. Maybe I’m just getting to the good part. But one thing that I have gleaned from the reading is the value of taking on an identity.
If I understand correctly, Gee seems to be saying that our identity, as a student, can be a barrier to learning powerful concepts. When I entered the classroom as a 9 year old child, and continued to be that 9 year old child as a learner, then I was limited to my perceptions of what a 9 year old child could learn. However, if I entered a video game, as a starship captain, then, according to my perceptions of what Gee is saying, I start to learn as a Starship Captain, breaking through the barriers of a kid’s perceptions of himself.
When this fiftysomething year old man, who can’t run across the street gracefully any more, gets on a snowboard, only one force of nature is accessible to my mind — gravity. However, when I dress up in a video game, as a 19 year old champion, wearing the logos of my sponsors, picking out my own board, detailing it to my liking, and then hit the slops along with other champions, concepts of angle, centrifugal force, spring, flight, gravity, and mass and momentum come into explicit play. Well, mass and momentum do occur to me when I’m really snowboarding. Well, there was only that one time! 😉
But it seems like Gee is saying that allowing or empowering learners to take on a new identity, provides a bridge to learning, and I suspect that this is not limited to a video game. In blogging assignments, we might ask students to write from the perspective of a newspaper reporter, political operative, world traveler, space astronaut, or 16th century explorer. From new identities, students might think in different ways, grasp concepts they didn’t before, and come out of it with a slightly larger perspective of their own identity.
Sharghi, K. “1080 On the PC.” Ksharghi’s Photostream. 1 Dec 2004. 15 Nov 2006 <http://flickr.com/photos/ksharghi/1841844/>.
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