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What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Second Edition: Revised and Updated Edition Paperback – December 26, 2007
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“Gee astutely points out that for video game makers, unlike schools, failing to engage children is not an option.” ―Terrence Hackett, The Chicago Tribune
“These games succeed because, according to Gee, they gradually present information that is actually needed to perform deeds.” ―Norman A. Lockman, USA Today
“James Paul Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy has been a transformative work. Gee might be described as the Johnny Appleseed of the serious games movement, planting seeds that are springing new growth everywhere we look. More than anyone else, he has forced educators, parents, policy makers, journalists, and foundations to question their assumptions and transform their practices. Gee combines the best contemporary scholarship in the learning scientists with a gamer's understanding of what is engaging about this emerging medium.” ―Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
About the Author
James Paul Gee has been featured in a variety of publications from Redbook, Child, Teacher, and USA Today to Education Week, The Chicago Tribune, and more. He is Professor of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Described by the Chronicle of Higher Education as "a serious scholar who is taking a lead in an emerging field" he has become a major expert in game studies today.
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That's not to say that every video game on the shelf will meet the above criteria, but as James Gee points points out: many do. After all, if they don't, they're out of business. In the meantime, our educational system could really benefit from picking up a few of the techniques described in this book - ever wonder why so many "ADHD students" can't sit still in class, but then spend hours concentrated on a video game? Perhaps it's not the students, but rather the method of delivery and the content itself? The book offers 36 principles that are often found in great games, and which can help us build both better classrooms and computer games -- or, even better, classrooms with engaging computer games.
He makes excellent points that I, and I am sure others, will relate to. Learning through hands-on experience can be so much more rewarding and long lasting, and the scenarios which video games players find themselves working within, activate situated cognition and social learning. In other words, Gee shows us how video games help players learn how to pick up on patterns, learn through the situations they engage within, and operate within a social network where they can synthesize their skills and strategies as a main character in the drama of the game. What I have learned from reading this book is how transformative video game learning can be as compared to passive or outside experience of, for example, listening to a teacher lecture, because players can actually become one of the characters and therefore activate higher levels of learning.
He does mention the issues of violence and gender (how women are depicted) in video games (an area of concern for parents and educators), and in that chapter he briefly provides readers some research based evidence to consider on the effects of violence and gender issues on players. I understand that he is asking readers to re-consider pop culture's sometimes overblown concerns of video gaming, and take a good look at really what is really going on in video games.
It is a fascinating read and it has caused me to reconsider the hours my teens spend on their video games. Although balance is neccesary, I am priming myself to not be so judgemental in my thinking that they are just "wasting their time" and not being productive. There is more going on than I ever realized!
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.
The only place I would ding the book is that his examples are slightly outdated and this can be expected considering how quickly the video game industry moves but his observations still hold up. Gee has some very interesting ideas about video games without getting too caught up in theoretical terminology, so even though it tends towards the academic, it is still open to more casual readings. It's a good resource for critical theory on video games and well worth the cost.
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(This is my 'in-game' appreciation for Dr. Gee's research. Love this book! )