GLLS2007: James Paul Gee Keynote

James Paul Gee: Libraries, Gaming, and the New Equity Crisis

Here are my notes from James Paul Gee’s keynote speech this morning at GLLS 2007. I am coming back to Gee’s speech later tonight in order to add some analysis and my thoughts on how we can start applying his recommendations in our academic libraries.

Gee was introduced as his new position at AZ State University

Libraries played a major role in old literacy and have a major role to play in new literacy.

Society develops cutting edge learning environments, but the are not available in schools. Current gaps in our schools & students:

  • Literacy Gap: Between 1970-84 the gap was closing, but in 84 the racial gap has widened
  • Applications Gap: can students apply knowledge to a problem, rather than just spit back facts; “why do most kids fail, but some get Fs and some get As”
  • Knowledge Gap
  • Tech Savvy Gap: not afraid of technical stuff, use tech to produce and not just consume; need to be both tech savvy and literate, necessary for success
  • Innovation Gap: Friedman’s “World is Flat” if we can’t innovate we will not be an econ power, school kill innovation

Just simply handing people technology will only widen the gap, we (parents, educators) need to help build the scaffolding and mentoring, increasing the knowledge gap translates into increasing the literacy gap.

Gee asks,“What predicts success in first grade?” The answer is early literacy at home; success past 4th grade = kindergarten vocabulary (academic language). This is the need to know school based words. Our children need to be ready to speak and understand this language. School based literacy is academic, it is not just decoding.

Yu-Gi-Oh & Pokemon: the detail and level of the text and instructions (three “if, then” clauses). 7 year olds reading this at home, they still struggle with simple decoding at school. Kids can learn and learn it well, but school makes it hard. There is no limit to kids ability to learn, it is just a desire. If this learning is possible with our children, how/why should we expect our academic students not to understand the concepts in our curriculum. It is not the content, it is the context.

“If you game, you are participating in the context of those you intend to serve.”

“How do you get someone to stick with something that is long and hard.” Game designers realized that good gaming principles are good learning principles. Gaming principles are better with learning principles than schools do. “The richness outside of school swamps those inside our schools.”

If Gee’s principles are good learning, should we put these principles in our schools & libraries. Gee covered 12 of his 36 principles:

  • Lower the consequences of failure; fail early, fail often-credo of IDEO; every failure is a learning event;
  • Performance before Consequences; games provide tutorials to help you along when you start, rather than providing text to read first, learn while doing and have help;
  • Players high on the agency tree; players choices and decisions really matter, individual choice shape the gaming experience, force players to live with choices; players are someone who matters
  • Problems are well ordered; neither immersion or straight instruction doesn’t not work, need some of both, order processes to lead to future paths; this is just level design in games, games need to do this to be successful, games often hide this order
  • Cycles of challenge, consolidation, and new challenge (expertise); order challenging problem, do it enough that it becomes second nature, routine mastery once achieved then bump up the challenge, gain mastery through practice, then test it with higher skill
  • Stay within, but at the outer edge, of the player’s “regime of competence”; “state of flow” games get players motivated by staying just on the edge of challenge
  • Games encourage players to think about complex systems; thinking about the inter-relation of variables;
  • Empathy for a complex system; difference between games and simulations- a game is a sim that you are in it; users see it from their point of view
  • Give verbal information “just in time;” information when players need and can use I, or “on Demand” when the player asks for it; you get the information when you need it
  • Situate “show” meanings of words and symbols and show how they vary across different actions, images and dialogues. Don’t just offer words for words; associate it with situated meanings (images and meanings) that go beyond the simple meaning of words; example multiple meanings of “coffee spilled”; game manuals do not have meaning without context, if every kids played the “game” of geology they would understand the situated meaning
  • Modding Attitude; “if you don’t like and think you can do better, then you make it” players make the game, not just expecting the game as is,

Assessment of games, people, schools: games give tests all the time; games provide stats and charts that show what players did, players enjoy the assessment because it is a service to them, not for the education system

Schools are forced on providing service workers, not knowledge workers, public schools create service workers, private ones create the knowledge workers (analyst)

We need to make the connection to what they are learning through games and outside of school, the “real” learning happens outside; don’t split up knowledge, share across disciplines

Quick notes on Gee's responses to audience questions:

  • “no middle class left” upper middle class, “in the west or east coast there are only 2 classes”
  • "The kids we got are the ones you failed with", from a general using “America’s Army” on why they use games to teach
  • Don’t tell kids they are behind, we need to help protect them through that process, why do we label they
  • Japanese created anime but the whole world understands and enjoys it, what is it doing? Why is it universal?