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What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy [Hardcover]

James Paul Gee
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1 edition (10 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403961697
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403961693
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,095,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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James Paul Gee begins his new book with "I want to talk about video games - yes, even violent video games and say some positive things about them". With this beginning, one of America's most well respected professors of education looks seriously at the good that can come from playing video games. Gee is interested in the cognitive development that can occur when someone is trying to escape a maze, find a hidden treasure and, even, blasting away an enemy with a high powered rifle. Talking about his own video gaming experience learning and using games as diverse as Lara Croft and Arcanum, Gee looks at major specific cognitive activities: how individuals develop a sense of identity, how one grasps meaning, how one evaluates and follows a command, how one picks a role model and how one perceives the world. This book takes up a new electronic method of education and shows the positive upside it has for learning. The audience for this book will be parents and teachers interested in finding out just what the hell is going on in their son or daughter's head while they're playing video games.

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"I WANT TO TALK ABOUT VIDEO GAMES-YES, EVEN VIOLENT VIDEO games-and say some positive things about them." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic book review 10 Sep 2003
Gee is very much an academic, and this book, although largely readable, can be tough going in patches. He's a fan of computer games and the book extracts 36 learning principles from game playing to show us that games have much to teach us about learning. In this he succeeds, although a good third of his principles are debatable.
I warn you now; Gee is a disciple of the semiotic movement. This is the theoretical grounding for many of his 36 principles. However, if you're not a follower of 'semiotic domains' or 'text-internal relationships' you can cluster this stuff under 'media literacy'. Much is made of a new type of visual literacy in the form of symbols, images, video and so on. This is valid to a degree, but falls down somewhat when applied to the business of acquiring the skills of reading or writing, which have standard practices that must be learned in order to function in most professions and, indeed, in everyday life. However, even if you disagree with the sociological theorising, there is still much to gain from this book, as many of his principles stand alone from his semiotic theory. Gee is at least open and honest about his underpinning theory, pointing out that in three major areas 'many disagree with each one and, indeed, all three.'
The opening chapter is an excellent read as he takes the high ground on games, showing us their virtues, but few of their vices. It dips somewhat as the semiotic analysis takes hold, but if you persevere, the book is excellent in uncovering those key ingredients of computer games that have made them so successful - producing an industry that now makes more money than the film industry.
Again, like Prensky in Digital Game-Based Learning he's light on counter-arguments.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting addition to the field 8 Aug 2003
James Paul Gee's book 'What Video Games Have to Teach us About Literacy and Learning' contains a number of interesting ideas and opinions about how computer games can aid in education. This book interested me, since I am the Psychological Research Manager at Team Play Learning Dynamics (TPLD) a new company who design and develop educational computer games.
I welcome the fact that someone has taken up the challenge to examine this critical area and believe that it will be interesting for those who are new to the field of video games and for those who want to understand gaming, it is a good starting point.
However this book lacks a scientific basis and is primarily focused on Gee's individual experience of playing video games. Although Gee produces some interesting points I would like to see a more in-depth analysis of the cognitive processes that occur, from a larger sample basis. Overall I think the book is an interesting addition to its field.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant 16 May 2003
By Miles Jacob - Published on Amazon.com
I read through the entire book today, enthralled that an academic of the same generation as my parents finally "got" what made videogames (focusing on action, adventure, and rpg games) a fascinating medium both for players and creators. Furthermore, the author was then able to apply this knowledge to his area of expertise, educational theory. I knew videogames could be art, I knew that as simulations they could be political, but I never quite saw what seems to me perfectly obvious now, that good videogames of almost every variety teach us how to think and learn, and that they do this much better than our school system.
This book should be loved by anyone with a strong interest in videogame theory or educational theory, as it impressively doesn't simplify either area to fit the demands of the other.
I also applaud the organization of the book, as each section centers around a few key concepts of educational theory which are repeated in the appendix giving everyone who has read the book an easy way to recall the '36 learning principles'.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Teachers and Administrators should read this book. 9 Nov 2003
By Marjee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a science teacher, I have asked myself (as Gee points out...many teachers and parents do) why it is that the same students who sit listlessly in my classroom will go home and spend upwards of 8 hours engaged in frusterating video-game play.
Gee effectively answers this question and makes a strong case in favor of video games being more akin to agents of learning (like recreational reading) as opposed to mindless entertainment (like really dumb movies).
Videogames are an interesting window through which we can study issues such as learning theory, motivation, and development of expertise. Fellow game players will recognize themselves in Gee's descriptions of what makes games so compelling, and nonplayers will be surprised by how far games have come since PacMan. I recomend this book to parents, administrators, and anyone else interested in education.
58 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good theory of education, vague video game argument 31 Jan 2004
By Will Jordan - Published on Amazon.com
The book is primarily a criticism of 'traditional' school-based learning methodologies, using observations of children playing video games and the author's own play sessions as representative examples of the 36 principles of good learning he describes. He uses primarily 3d shooters and RPGs as his examples of 'good' video games (meaning that they encourage learning things about and within the world of the game). The author defines and conceptualizes his principles of learning and contrasts it with the school-based education process, noting the vast differences between the two. On this topic of criticism of school-based education, the author makes a strong argument.
His second argument, that these principles missing in school are demonstrably present in video games, is very vague and unfulfilling. The author often stresses elements of learning that can easily be found everywhere in life and social activity and in other forms of media, not just in video games. One point he makes in the middle of the book about incremental difficulty and the player's dynamic 'regime of competence' was a good topic consistent with video game design (although easily found in other places, such as golf handicaps), but it was not good enough to warrant his emphasis on video games in the other ~150 pages of the book. He repeatedly mentions that kids enjoy playing video games but don't enjoy learning in school and suggests that school should be like playing a video game, but he leaves it at that. Because he focuses on the process of learning and assumes videogame content and classroom content to be of an equal nature, the burning question of how to make learning calculus equations as fun and desirable to learn as advanced combat strategies to annihilate your friends in Starcraft remains unfortunately beyond the scope of this book.
If the intention of the book was to show that video games have the capability to encourage learning of arbitrary content, it succeeded. However, watching TV or movies or playing non-video games with your peers can be just as conducive to learning (and, depending on the content, just as mind-numbing). Having been weaned on Mario and Zelda myself and already appreciating the incredible complexity and carefully tuned learning curve of videogames, this book was somewhat interesting for its general theory of education but not as thought-provoking regarding video game theory as I had hoped.
This book is probably a better read for older generations that didn't have video games as an integral source of learning during their formative years and have as a result never taken them seriously.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Information from entertainment 12 Aug 2004
By Jack Sindoni - Published on Amazon.com
Video game sales exceed the movie industry's annual box office draw, now by a significant margin. The popularity and sophistication of today's video games demonstrate an important modern phenomenon. This is the admixture of information and entertainment. Many people-particularly young people-now get their "news" from non traditional sources-often associated with entertainment. Players of video games elicit information about their world from video games. War games, action adventures, sports games, even role playing games actually (even if sometimes inadvertently or as an unintended result) teach.

As the author of this book points out, they have to. Otherwise, players would not learn to play quickly enough or well enough to become proficient enough to enjoy the game. Furthermore, players must learn unobtrusively. They have to learn without it seeming a chore-and they certainly are not going to read or spend a lot of practice time. Given how important sequels are in the video game industry, failure to learn and to enjoy a first game results in lost sales for many games.

What Gee is really getting at is "just in time learning" and "learning in place." When you juxtapose the sorry state of our public school system with the importance of video games as a milieu for learning, gaining experience, and obtaining information, you see this is a serious subject.

It is imperative for people interested in these things to read this book. This book is well written. The author has a feel for the subject because he has a passion for gaming and a sincere interest in "gamers"-who, to him, are "students."

I have read a number of Gee's other works-aimed at academics, and I am very happy to see that this book is accessible to a popular audience.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Video Games Help Us Learn 22 April 2005
By Brent - Published on Amazon.com
James Paul Gee gives a different and interesting form of learning in his book. Gee shows how video games can actually help people of all ages obtain knowledge through many forms of learning. Gee argues that many schools can actually take note from video games on how to teach children and to actually hold their attention during class time. Throughout the book Gee highlights 36 learning principals that he feels video games possess and that many traditional schools should use to teach the youth of the world. According to Gee schools can learn a lot from the techniques used by video games to keep people interested in playing the same game over and over again.

One of the 36 principals that Gee represents is how video games help kids learn the use of patterns and how important they are in everyday life. Patterns help people beat video games by recognizing what methods could be useful by relating the game to parts of other video games they have played. Patterns are also present in the classroom in all subjects and Gee argues that if students could learn to recognize patterns in school material like they do in video games then students would learn the material much easier. Gee believes that schools should be responsible for helping students to recognize the patterns that exist in the material they teach.

As a teenage college student I thought the book started out a little slow. It seemed like another text book that I was forced to read for class but it quickly grabbed my attention after the second chapter. This book shows how video games are anything but a waste of time and actually can be considered to be a useful learning tool much like books. It changed my opinion on learning and teaching. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in different teaching methods or video games.
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