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* Thursday, June 23, 2005

GLS02: James Paul Gee on New Paradigms for Learning

two crises that are relevant to our schools and our society

1. “the 4th grade slump” - there are certain ways you can teach young children to read, but by 4th grade they can’t read to learn so they struggle after that
2. “the college slump” – we’ve outsourced a tremendous amount of our work, every commoditized job (everything that can be standardized) because other countries are producing very smart people; so we’re left with those jobs that can’t be standardized and we hope they’ll keep doing the rest for us, but that’s not happening anymore; instead, they’re producing people for the non-commoditized work — everyone EXCEPT THE U.S.; this will be very destructive to us within 20 years; we have to be able to innovate and create, not just get a degree; that’s not enough anymore

the solution to these crises is in our face: it’s popular culture and games; this is where it’s getting solved, not in our schools

the 4th grade slump is caused by the fact that what is so hard about school is how hard the language gets; textbooks are NOT recreational reading; unless kids, starting at home, get ready for this language early, they will be lost; it’s like changing the language to Greek in mid-stream; it’s not the english you speak at home - it’s a technical language

interestingly, this language is being reflected in popular culture; eg, Yu-Gi-Oh cards (
gives kids incredibly complex culture by age 7; eg, showed a YGO card that had 3 straigtht conditional clause statements as explanations of powers
as an adult, Gee would rather take physics than figure out the YuGiOh rules! :-)
no failure rates, either – no research has found a failure for a minority group to understand this
where is the one place these cards are banned? SCHOOL

cutting edge assessment: the college slump problem

have to teach students to innovate and create; popular culture already represents a space that is solving this problem and we can learn from it

assessment is important - am I making progress, and why did I just fail? a multiple choice test is not fun and it’s useless  it doesn’t tell you anything or help you figure out what you did wrong; this is a different view of assessment

“Rise of Nations” as an example - showed screenshots, especially of online competitions against others
14 pages of statistical graphs of what you did, and kids read it for pleasure!
creates a lot of multimodal skills with graphs and numeracy
informative assessment - tells you what happened; helps you form strategies by telling you where you failed; assessing to create new strategies is part of the game; gives you ideas for how to do it better; you couldn’t get a better score – but shows where you could do better, which is an ideal assessment; the biggest assessment isn’t those graphs, it’s what you did with them – did you learn from them?

what if a kid got these kinds of assessments in school for science?

afffinity groups:
1. common endeavor, not race, class, gender, or disability, is primary
2. newbies and masters share common space
3. players produce content, not just consume it
4. content organization is transformed by interactional organization
5. encourages intensive and extensive knowledge
6. encourages individual and distributed knowledge
7. encourages dispersed knowledge – everyone (the help) is there somewhere
8. uses and honors tacit knowledge
9. many different forms and routes to participation
10. different routes to status
11. leadership is porous and leaders are resources

“Age of Mythology” – gets them reading more about mythology and planning

told story about his son in 2nd grade who said he and his friends were playing it; Jim didn’t believe it, thought they must be playing it with their parents; an  hour later, his son was explaining to the Jim how to play it; kids totally know it at a very early age

Jim decided he would print out all of the information that flows through the site in one day, but finally stopped on the 2000th page
all of this exists because people are creating content, not just consuming it

these communities speak to the college slump

learning principles: consider all of this as a way to organize a knowledge community (do this in the school!)

in schools, the kids aren’t building content; no dispersed knowledge; only one leader; one mode of learning and one format

incorporate the best of cognitive learning principles

the fun of the game is learning; once they’ve mastered it, they move on and buy a new game

our schools no longer support these principles

Learning in Games:
1. produce (nothing happens if you don’t do something)
2. customize (can totally mod the games; to your learning style; could even try a new style)
3. identity (no learning is done without a strong identity; games give you an identity, schools don’t)
4. interact
5. well-ordered problems (they aren’t liberal or progressive; the problems you face early set up good hypotheses for future play)
6. pleasantly frustrating (which is what keeps them coming back)
7. challenge (don’t get to move on until you’ve solved something; “cycle of expertise”)
8. “on demand” & “just in time” (info when you need it or can use it; don’t have to read things ahead of time; walking up to kiosks in games)
(my side note — ** librarians!!)
9. do, not just talk
10. system thinking (putting many elements in relation to each other)
11. encourage risk (games don’t tell you you’re worthless at the end)
12. explore, think laterally, rethink goals (new view of intelligence; faster isn’t necessarily better – eg, FPS games; want you to explore everything and rethink your goals; virtually every good thing you can find is off the beaten path)

produces learning where you MUST innovate and have to master what you do; you don’t get credit for nothing

we have on the plate models that have to be transferred; it’s not did the kid transfer it to algebra, it’s will we?

Questions for Henry and Jim:

one way of thinking about schools is that school is a game, too. certain ways of thinking, certain things across each area, certain identities – it’s just not a good game; but you’ll get a bad game if you try to change a game quickly or arbitrarily; since it’s already well-designed to do what it does, how do we change the game school?
Jim: for the first time in our history, our kids have genuine competition, which is the biggest crisis we’ve faced; the paradigm for schooling will have more competition than ever before; science and math is so poorly retained because you never got the roles and meaning; have to get a new game
Henry: if current school is a game, it’s CandyLand or Chutes & Ladders (go in a circle no matter what color you pick or slide down if make the wrong move by luck); poor games to prepare kids for the future; doesn’t know if we can reprogram our schools; need to become more open-ended; we widen the participation gap if do this outside of the schools; there ARE teachers fighting to make this happen

this discussion has been about what some kids do, but it’s a minority
Jim: that’s the participation gap; we’re not producing enough of these kids, whereas the rest of the world is; need research on who these kids are; the college slump is the first crisis that crosses class lines - can affect rich and poor; now there is going to be a price when they all grow up
Henry: need statistical information about the level of participation; our studies are asking the wrong questions – eg, the Kaiser study lumped all screen media together and didn’t ask what they’re actually doing;  have to recognize all of the different forms of participation (Will Wright’s chart of participation in The Sims); invariably, there’s a parent who cares behind these kids; plenty of roles for parents to enable and encourage this

what transformations have you made in your own programs to incorporate these ideas:
Jim: boomer retirement! the new faculty being hired “get” all of this; Jim has switched his style to teach how to enter the world, not how to read; “I’m on my way out”
Henry: hasn’t gotten into elementary or grade schools as much as he’d like to; trying to break down the barriers between media at MIT; integrating a range of media in every class (sound, vision, text, etc..); combine theory and practice in the classroom; all students are required to do some actual production in addition to theory; creating “creative opportunities;” don’t teach the skills, they use what they know for final assignments, so they don’t just make something in isolation; integrating theoretical and participatory work; collective problem-solving

what would a curriculum of the future look like, and are these examples really about relevance? what does a curriculum that addresses this look like?
Jim: liberals make the mistake of basing education on who you are; conservatives base it on stuff that’s irrelevant; future is giving kids strong identities; you’ll “become an urban planner,” which helps you learn facts and theories because that identity requires you to know those things; if you had learned a bunch of algebra to pull off an identity you really wanted to have, you would have learned it and been prepared for future learning
Henry: when developing games for classroom use, ask “what’s the knowledge used for” – gives you roles, etc.; MIT is finishing a game called “Revolution” now – you decide how far you will go for your freedoms, etc.; kids struggle; each kid has a different perspective based on their roles; kids are creating diaries where they mash what they’re learning in textbooks, in the game, etc.; kids are bringing things to the game to shape their interactions; told the story of a kid who showed up at a protest and was shot by her own side (“How could they do that to me?) – really brings home the history; understand history much better, make choices, gain context for them; the role of voices; these tools open up history and make it more relevant

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