Nov 28

James Gee’s chapter in What Video Games Have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy helped to deconstruct a subject that i’ve been curious about for a long time. i found that i agreed with Gee’s basic point that video games, within their own “semiotic domain,” can effectively teach both active and critical learning skills, but i wished he had gone further to suggest potentially innovative ways of bringing video games into the classroom. The fact that video games teach skills that develop students’ various learning sensibilities isn’t worth much if it can’t be directly implemented in the classroom. i agree with the conclusion that Gee draws from his anecdote about students excelling in a physics course but being incapable of applying their knowledge (23, 24)–passive learning is mostly outdated.  But i also know that students today tend to be hyper-engaged with technology (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc) in a way that can undermine focus and act as a deterrent to sustained engagement with longer texts and more complex ideas a professor might be attempting to teach. Video games seem to be able to hold students’ attention for a sustained period of time as well as engage them in complex tasks, which is why i’d be curious to see Gee’s attempt at designing say, a physics-based video game targeting college-age students. i think the contemporary classroom calls for a careful balance of tried and true pedagogical methods and engagement with current technological mediums–without one undermining the other.  Andy Selsberg’s article “Teaching to the Text Message” touches on this idea.  Selsberg advocates incorporating technology into the classroom as a vehicle for teaching concise writing–a great idea! What i like best about his engagement with eBay (seller descriptions), Youtube (video comments), and Amazon (reviews) in his classroom in the service of concision is the fact that he doesn’t have to completely rely on these exercises for the entire course. They can be brief, recurring assignments that strengthen students’ ability to write well and briefly, a skill that is perhaps overlooked in many university settings. Selsberg *does* end up suggesting that entire courses be designed to cater to this brief idea, something that i think would do more harm than good to college students. Specifically, i think it would stunt the growth (and natural learning curve) of first-year college students who would need sustained attention to the area of writing most likely unfamiliar to them–academic prose. i do think it would be an amazing elective for college seniors–who had already, presumably, mastered academic writing–and who could really benefit from that type of supplementary training in expressing ideas “succinctly and eloquently”. Selsberg’s senior course could serve as a practice for, as he mentioned, cover letter writing, or abstracts, letters of inquiry, or a million other writing tasks that require brief writing in the professional world.


Works Cited:

Excerpt from Gee, James. What Video Games Have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave, 2003.

Selsberg, Andy. “Teaching to the Text Message.” New York Times. 19 March 2011.  

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2 comments so far

  1. 1 Yair Solan
    3:30 pm - 11-28-2011

    I had a similar reaction, Zakia, and similar reservations about the James Gee chapter from his What Video Games Have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy. As Gee suggests, there is no doubt that video gaming is — or, perhaps more accurately, can be — utilized as a form of “multimodal literacy par excellence” (18). Nonetheless, I felt like Gee’s chapter did not fully flesh out all the possibilities of using gaming for this purpose. Though he points out, unsurprisingly, that many avid gamers go on to master “other semiotic domains tied to computers and related technologies” (40), there is little in the Gee piece which suggests how (or if) video gaming can be used in the composition classroom (obviously more our concern here), which you can argue occupies an entirely different “semiotic domain” than, say, computer science. In fact, it may be completely irrelevant for our purposes here, and more useful as a polemic on technology’s place within education. The Selsberg piece and Tougaw’s article on class blogs were more productive for our purposes; interestingly, they both address how technology can be used in the classroom to elicit a kind of writing that came out of these very technologies (informal blogging, Twitter-sized writing). These technologies, then, are not simply supplements to composition, but effectively yield yet another ‘genre’ of writing which can be introduced into the composition classroom.

  2. 2 camilamsantos
    4:15 am - 11-30-2011

    Hi Zakia,
    I also was intrigued by Selsberg’s article and on the ways in which we can integrate technology into the classroom. I loved his idea about writing a book review on Amazon and commenting on Youtube videos. It got me thinking that these could be great activities for the beginning of the semester, a way to engage students, let them write in their own voices and give them confidence. Then, we could start layering in the more “difficult” writing tasks and introducing them to the “academic prose” they’ll be using throughout their time at Queens College.

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