James Paul Gee on Grading with Games

Uploaded by edutopia on 20.07.2010

>>James: We really believe that in a developed country
like ours any person who has only standard skills
or standardized skills they can be taught anywhere in the world now,
and they can be done a lot more cheaply in low-cost centers.
And so people are going to--
if they're going to survive in a developed country outside
of low-level service work, they're going to have
to have innovation and creativity.
And so the form of schooling that we engage in basically privileges people
who know a lot of facts but can't solve problems
with them is on its last legs.
It will not be economically prosperous form of schooling for us.
>>Interviewer: What's next?
>>James: Next will be schooling that stresses the ability
to solve problems but not just to solve problems but to be able
to do it collaboratively so that you can work in a group
where the group is smarter than the smartest person in the group,
and also where you can innovate with the tools you've learned
and not just do standard solutions to problems.
That's where we're going to go and that's one
of the reasons people are interested in video games
and related technologies, because again, they put you into worlds
where you have to solve problems.
All a videogame is, is problem solving.
It's just a series of- if you think about it
in some weird way a videogame is just an assessment.
All you do is get assessed every moment as you try to solve a problem,
and if you don't solve it, the game says you failed, try again
and then you solve it and then you have boss
which is a test, and you pass the test.
I mean games essentially are a form of assessment.
The thing that is probably the most painful, ludicrous part of schooling,
but in a game it's a lot of fun, right,
because it's handled in a very different way.
One thing games don't really do is separate learning and assessment.
They don't say learn some stuff and then later we'll take a test.
They're giving you feedback all the time about the learning curve
that you're on so they're not the only solution to this problem
by any means but they're a part of the solution of getting kids
in school to learn not just knowledge as facts,
but knowledge as something you produce,
and that in modern worlds you produce collaboratively.
>>One of the first games I played was a great game called Deus Ex,
very complicated game and like any good baby boomer I read the
game manual.
And the game manual is just as technical as a textbook
and I couldn't understand a word of it.
It was boring, it was technical.
It had lots of definitions that would cross reference other definitions
and I threw it away and said "I can't play this game.
I can't understand a word of this."
And then I decided to do what any kid would have done is I played the game,
And after a few-I didn't play it well, but after a few hours I picked
up that little book, that little manual and everything
in it was completely clear.
Why? Because I had seen the reference to every word in it.
I had seen what it was referring to.
I was seeing what it was about.
Well, my argument is the same with your chemistry textbook.
Chemis-- the words in a chemistry textbook are tied to a game,
the game of chemistry, what chemists do when they want to solve a problem.
The words are tools for problem-solving.
They're not just facts to do trivial pursuit with.
And if you played the game of chemistry you come
to understand why people use the words as tools to do things,
to engage in actions, and to label images.
>>Now if you played the game, what you do with the manual is use it
as a reference to look up stuff that you need to know to get better
or to understand something in the game
that you don't think you fully understand,
and that's the same way a textbook ought to be used.
You ought to be using your chemistry textbook
when you've already understood that there's something you need to know
about chemistry and you go and use it then proactively.
So I don't think it's a radical proposal, actually.
I think that scientists have always learned the language
of science by doing science.
Videogames just allow kids to do a lot more things,
things that would be too expensive to do in the real world
or that we can't get everybody to do in the real world.
>>In games like Civilization you know where it comes
with an encyclopedia people don't read the encyclopedia and then play.
They're not motivated to read the encyclopedia until they've played
and then they play and they get into something like Egypt
and then they want to go read about it.
Or they mod the game and they want to go change some part of it
and they go read about that part that they're going
to change or learn stuff.
So it's language on-demand instead of being forced on you.
The other thing games do
with language is they give it just in time.
If you're in a game and the game needs
to give you some language it gives you just the language you're going
to use in the next few actions.
System Shock, a very classic game, really had no manual.
What it did is in the first levels of the game you had little kiosks
and it would tell you just something you needed to know
and in the next room you applied it.
And if it didn't work, you'd go back and read it and apply it again
and so it's language just in time.
>>Loads of games today come with the software by which they were made
so the kids can modify them, redesign them.
Kids want to produce.
They don't just want to consume.
There's a whole emphasis now on production not just consumption.
So Spielberg's new game, Boom Blox is not just a game.
It actually has a whole engine
in which every level you play you earn more characters
that you can use to build your own games.
You can design your own games.
So production, as Henry Jenkins has pointed out, participation.
Kids want to participate in communities
and when social networking software like Flicker and Facebook and MySpace
and many, many more kids and adults too can organize into groups faster
than they've ever been able to do in history.
They can organize into groups that don't have to be supported
by formal organizations, and those groups are often they are what I call
passion communities.
People have a passion for something and the way those can be-
passion communities are being organized are very different
than school.
They're different in that they're not age-graded,
in that anybody can both teach and learn.
At certain times you're mentoring at other times you're being mentored.
>>I think the other thing is that while baby boomers tend to look
at things like games and other media separately,
modern kids see all these medias converging.
So if you take something like Pokemon, that's books and card games
and video games and television shows and movies.
That's true of all the anime stuff,
so to kids it's really cross-platforms,
cross-modalities, cross-media.
It's not about one thing.
People have bemoaned that kids do not do much writing in school.
Some people even say that games are killing reading and writing.
Far from it, they're actually engaging kids with reading
and writing more than ever.
So fan fiction sites where kids write genre stories
about a particular anime character or any possible thing
that they have a passion for, they are flourishing.
There's hundreds of thousands of Harry Potter stories for example.
That you couldn't name a television show, a game, an anime series
that doesn't have fan fiction written about it.
And those people have organized themselves
into fan fiction writing groups and even colleges
where you could take courses free to learn how to do the fan fiction.
So we're finding out that loads of people are learning English that way.
They're coming in and they're stigmatized in their ESL class
at school but they're getting on the computer and they're engaged
in a fan fiction writing site in English and they're getting a bunch
of feedback and they're learning to write.
>>Now interestingly these passion communities like designing clothes
for The Sims or engaging in civic activism if that's what you're doing,
they tend to set very high standards.
We whine about the standards in school
but these communities hold you to a very high standard.
And if you want to enter the top part of that community,
they will give you copious feedback but they don't dumb anything
down for you and they hold you to very high standards.
>>Using digital tools in the classroom, in games
but other digital tools including even these social networking tools
that allow people to get into groups to do stuff is right now risky.
Risky because our schools are many
of them are test-prep academies doing the skill and drill.
When we start to stress in order to compete with China
and India we stress innovation
and creativity this can be a lot less risky.
You know the United States has had a good track record when it gets scared
of trying to change its schools.
When Sputnik went up we were really eager to start teaching.
When in the '80s when Japan was beating our economy we were really
ready to start teaching.
We are going to get a new Sputnik and that is this global competition
and you will then see people willing to innovate.
And but teachers of course have to be rewarded for innovating themselves,
for bringing new tools into this stuff.
The other thing that we've done that is to me the root of the problem is
that we have de-professionalized teachers.
We have allowed a bunch of text books and tests and politicians and schools
of education to supervise them and to do curriculum for them in ways
that take away their professional responsibilities
to build their own curriculum and to think strategically
about how learning works in their classroom.
We've got to re-professionalize teachers.
Now that's right now anathema for people who want scripted instruction,
but it is inconceivable that we could be using these digital tools
with teachers who are not professionals.
>>How are we really going to reform schools when the people going
into teaching are not really digitally savvy even
when they're young, not as savvy as the kids?
I think it can be a potential advantage
because if they're learning along with their kids
and modeling learning you have really a very good world for learning.
Very often you don't learn that much from an expert.
You can learn a lot by learning with somebody else and remember most
of these passion communities engage in that type of mentorship.
You get to watch other people learn and you try out stuff
and people give you feedback
so there's no reason why we can't put teachers in that domain.
The other thing though we've got
to do is make teaching a much more sexy job.
You know Americans don't, unlike some other countries,
Americans don't think of teaching as a really sexy job.
"Wouldn't that be a cool thing to do?"
But that's because our schools aren't very cool.
If we begin to create learning environments that are not
like the traditional school where people are learning
in all different physical spaces with all different tools engaged
in collaborations to solve real problems in the world,
I could imagine teaching becoming a sexy enterprise and a cool enterprise
that people would want to do.
>>We have now an economy with many businesses
and many organizations including educational organizations
and universities that are now ready to produce
with digital tools learning 24/7.
In ways that are often as we've talked about more productive
and more focused in 21st century skills of schools.
So schools have a new competition they have never had at this level
in history, and if that competition I think will put tremendous pressure
on them for the first time to change in a profound way.
When we add the innovation crisis to it,
I think we might be I think we have like a 50 percent chance of seeing
for the first time in over 100 years a genuine paradigm shift
in education.
It's probably going to start in colleges.
It might start in colleges.
Colleges are profoundly out of kilter with their undergraduates,
and they have a financial interest in keeping them,
but I do think it will eventually affect all parts of the system
from kindergarten right through college.
>>Narrator: For more information on what works
in public education, go to edutopia.org.