Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Learning through Gaming

In this video American researcher, James Gee makes two main points regarding the value of game playing in relation to learning, and infers a strong relationship between language learning and being part of the world in which that language is used.

The first main point regarding game playing and learning is that people who play games do not simply play the game and that's all they do. There's a social aspect beyond the game where learning through discussion takes place. Game players discuss the game, the concepts of the game, how to beat the game etc. It's through this discussion that learning takes place. Understanding of the game is enhanced through the discussion of game specific content and concepts, and ultimately through the use of associated language for explaining those concepts.

The second main point made in this video is that games are engaging. They draw people in and as a result they want to learn more. Subject specific language and concepts that are only offered in books have little relevance to many students without a context in which they make sense. Games can provide that context. The idea that by incorporating key subject language and concepts into well-designed, concept specific games, an invaluable context for learning is created.

A key idea that Gee offers near the end of the video is that language belongs to a world, whatever that world may look like. In terms of actual spoken and written languages of communication, such as English or Chinese, the idea that to try and learn without understanding the culture, without living in the world of the native speakers of the language, makes the task so abstract that for many people there is no buy-in. For example, without living in the world of Chinese native speakers the ideas that the Chinese language represents are easily lost to non-Chinese learners. People do not have the same reasons for saying things in their own cultures as the learner may have in their culture. Direct word-for-word translations do not translate concepts. So, immersion into the culture of the target language offers so many more opportunities for understanding why things are communicated, just as immersion into the worlds of games offer those learners insights into those concepts and language of those worlds. 

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