What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy

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WHAT VIDEO GAMES HAVE TO TEACH US ABOUT LEARNING AND LITERACY
James Paul Gee

W H AT V I D E O G A M E S H AV E T O T E A C H U S A B O U T LEARNING AND LITERACY

JAMES PAUL GEE

WHAT VIDEO GAMES HAVE TO TEACH US ABOUT LEARNING AND LITERACY

Copyright © James Paul Gee, 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without writtenpermission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. First published in hardcover in 2003 by Palgrave Macmillan First PALGRAVE MACMILLAN™ paperback edition: May 2004 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010 and Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, England RG21 6XS. Companies and representatives throughout the world. PALGRAVE MACMILLAN is the global academic imprintof the Palgrave Macmillan division of St. Martin's Press, LLC and of Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. Macmillan® is a registered trademark in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries. Palgrave is a registered trademark in the European Union and other countries. ISBN 1-4039-6538-2

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Gee, James Paul. What video games have to teach us aboutlearning and literacy / James Paul Gee. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-4039-6538-2 1. Video games—Psychological aspects. 2. Computer games— Psychological aspects. 3. Learning, Psychology of. 4. Visual literacy. 5. Video games and children. I. Title: What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. II. Title. GV1469.3 .G44 2003 794.8’01’9—dc21 2002038153 Acatalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Design by Letra Libre. First PALGRAVE MACMILLAN paperback edition: May 2004 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Printed in the United States of America.

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I dedicate this book to my six-year-old son, Sam. I originally tried to play his computer games so I could teach him how to play them, but in the end, things worked outjust the reverse and he taught me how to play. More, he taught me to take learning and playing games seriously, all the while having fun. I also dedicate the book to my twenty-two-year-old son, Justin. He didn’t play computer or video games much as a kid, though he had no trouble thoroughly trouncing me when we last visited an arcade. Justin’s early fascination with StarWars was my first guide, Sam’swith Pokemon, my second guide, to the powerful and creative learning people can bring to the aspects of “popular culture” with which they choose to identify and which they often choose to transform for their own ends. The children, teenagers, and neotenic adults, including my identical twin brother, and now myself, who play computer and video games were my third.

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CONTENTS

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Introduction: 36 Ways to Learn a Video Game Semiotic Domains: Is Playing Video Games a “Waste of Time”? Learning and Identity: What Does It Mean to Be a Half-Elf? Situated Meaning and Learning: What Should You Do After You Have Destroyed the Global Conspiracy? Telling and Doing: Why Doesn’t Lara Croft Obey Professor Von Croy? Cultural Models: DoYou Want to Be the Blue Sonic or the Dark Sonic? The Social Mind: How Do You Get Your Corpse Back After You’ve Died? Conclusion: Duped or Not?

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73 113 139 169 199 207 213 221

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Appendix: The 36 Learning Principles References Index

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INTRODUCTION: 3 6 WAY S T O L E A R N A V I D E O G A M E

I WANT TO TALK ABOUT VIDEOGAMES—YES, EVEN VIOLENT VIDEO games—and say some positive things about them. By “video games” I mean both games played on game platforms (such as the Sony PlayStation 2, the Nintendo GameCube, or Microsoft’s XBox) and games played on computers. So as not to keep saying “video and computer games” all the time, I will just say “video games.” I am mainly concerned with the sorts of video games in which...
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