Breakfast of Champions at G4C

| May 18, 2010

jenkins gee b_e

The first event of the second day of the Games for Change (G4C) conference featured two giants of academia. The James Gee and Henry Jenkins conversation was dubbed the ultimate breakfast and they were the bacon and eggs of the AM. The main focus of their conversation revolved around technology enriched learning communities. Some of the highlighted points from their talk included:

  • Games as the entrance to communities- Gee.
  • Jenkins supported this notion by describing the fact that games provide passion points for people and the communities provide support for this. Within the communities they sustain reciprocal role relationships, which is a feature that education especially should pay attention to.

  • Learning communities standards are clear -Jenkins.
  • However, within schools standards remain vague- an area which education falls short in comparison to these informal learning communities. It is also the idea that we must ‘take what we need to know and turn it into what we need to do’. If this is done the standards must become clear because there is a specific outcome tied to it.

  • Gaming as a process not a product- Gee.
  • It is about learning through activity and implicitly, not just learning content on the surface but engaging in a process and discussion. Games can provide emotional ties that support deeper cognitive learning and it can embody an emotional experience because there is something at stake.

    They continued to describe features of these learning communities that reflected a Vygotskian perspective. Gee described the communities as not age specific, the roles being dynamic and changing all the time-you can be a mentor at one time and a mentee the next, there is not fixed status, peers are looked at as colleagues and resources as well as the information is on demand based on needs and sought out-not already planned to be given.

    Jenkins agreed these features are very hard to replicate within schools and directed the discussion toward what is needed for school change. He offered two options: is it going to be incremental? or a complete paradigm shift to embody some or all of these principles?

    Gee advocated for a paradigm shift and suggested that the movement of putting games in classrooms would damage the current school system in place, but that is what we should be doing.

    Jenkins also extended the discussion toward a project called the ‘learning libraries’taking teachers into account, creating spaces for teachers to have access to open sourced materials saying “what scratch does with code we do with culture”. It is the response to the current shift, helping teachers survive.

    Overall, these technological learning communities are providing competition to the way schooling happens and Gee predicts that the 21st century curriculum will have to respond. Jenkins contributed the very relevant point that the current reaction is attempting to ban these technologies and tools in schools, by filtering YouTube, banning social networking sites, and Flickr (just to name a few). As well as projecting Wikipedia as fake information and not a valid source.

    So we were left with the future of schooling as food for thought. Is schooling headed toward a major paradigm shift? What we can do to push it in that direction? or will inevitable changes emerge incrementally? and what support is needed so these subtle changes can be put into place to embody good learning communities within schools?