Games Learning & Society Conference – On Site Blog

The Games Learning & Society Conference (GLS) kicked off this morning in Madison WI with a packed breakfast sessionat 8 AM.

gls_logo.gifThe conference has about 350 attendees and is an interesting mix of academics, teachers, and some business types. The agenda is so rich that it choosing sessions is agonizing.

James Paul Gee gave a great summary of the state of things as we munched on bacon and looked out over Lake Monona. He reminded us of the gaps that exist between kids experiences with games and their experience of school. One of his main points was that literacy is far more than phonics and decoding. The real challenge is helping kids master the complex academic language they need to succeed in Middle an High School. Young kids have no problem navigitating rich complicated technical text as they play today’s games. He got a good laugh by reading instructions from the back of a Yu-gi-oh card. These same students are not challenged in the same way at school. The money quote:
biopic-jim-gee.png“The dirty capitalists trust our children more than the schools to learn complex language.”
He also did a great job of reviewing the differences in how learning is viewd in gaming culture and in school culture. Some of the major points here were:
* Performance before competence – kids don’t read manuals they just jump in and do it. This gives context when they do go look at the reference materials. This is the opposite of how schools approach it.

* Gamers embrace failure. They know they need to fail early and frequently to learn, and they embrace it rather than holding back.

* Gamers love to transgress. When a player transgresses the rules it proves that they have internalized them. Schools punish this behavior, games reward it.

* Gamers don’t look at eye candy. To play a game well you have to look past the eye candy and grok the deep underlying model. This is same way Scientists see the world, they look past the pretty surface to see what system underlies things. Compare this with the role of flashy graphics in today’s textbooks.

* Gamers value information as a guide to action not a collection of truths. What Gee calls a Design Mode of information – how can it use it – underlies gaming culture. Schools are far more about Belief Mode – who said it, is it true. The problem today is that information is coming at us so fast that belief mode only isn’t practical. We need to filter information based on how it can help us accomplish things.

* Collaboration is non-heirarchical. n3wbs and experts mingle seamlessly in the social networks around games. Tacit knowledge is valued. There are many routes to participation and status where schools have limited routes. Leadership is also highly porous.

It was a great talk and a good way open the next couple of days. More to follow.