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Monday, August 29, 2005

James Paul Gee, Video Games, and 21st Century Skills

Still drawing from What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, the more conservatively titled Situated Language and Learning, and the more iconoclastically titled Why Video Games are Good For Your Soul here is my discussion of Gee's work in relation to the 21st Century skills I've mentioned here before. This is only addressing ideas that did not already find their way into my previous posts last week.

Gee has discussed many potential benefits of video games in education which are not neatly categorized within the framework of context, inquiry, and collaboration, yet are also too significant to be described merely as support. These additional benefits may, however, be described as helping students to develop twenty-first century skills such as digital age literacy, inventive thinking, effective communication, and high productivity (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 5).

Twenty-first century skills include a variety of digital age literacies, such as basic (reading, writing, and calculating), scientific, economic, technological, visual, information, multicultural, and global literacies (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 13). Gee (2003) touched on several of these. He described the way that video games can help develop a student’s multimodal literacy (p. 14). This idea reappeared in his semiotic principle, which expressed the way in which students understand “interrelations within and across multiple sign systems (images, words, actions, symbols, artifacts, etc.)” (p. 49).

Gee (2003) also considered the metalevel thinking involved in mastering a semiotic domain; he felt that “learning involves active and critical thinking about the relationship of the semiotic domain being learned to other semiotic domains” (p. 50). This principle concerns many of the same values as the twenty-first century skill of inventive thinking, including curiosity (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 38), “thinking about problems from multiple perspectives” (p. 34), and “higher order thinking and sound reasoning” (p. 44). Gee (2003) also explained that through playing video games and reflecting on the experience, students can learn to become self-teachers, an inventive thinking skill called simply self-direction by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group (2003, p. 33). Later, he discussed the appropriateness of video games as a way to teach systems thinking (Gee, 2005a, p. 28), a skill that helps students to be adaptable and to manage complexity, both of which constitute twenty-first century skills (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 33).

Gee’s (2003) Semiotic Domains Principle touched on the importance of learners being able to participate in an affinity group associated with a domain of study (p. 49). This includes elements of effective communication (a twenty-first century skill), such as “teaming and collaboration” (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 48), “social and civic responsibility” (p. 54), and “interactive communication” (p. 56).

The design principle discussed by Gee (2003), explains that students “learn[ing] about and come[ing] to appreciate design and design principles is core to the learning experience” (p. 49). This is also a part of the twentieth century skills of high productivity, particularly those of “prioritizing, planning, and managing for results” (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 60), but also “effective use of real world tools” (p. 62) and the “ability to produce relevant, high quality products” (p. 64).

Gee (2003) was particularly interested in games that challenge learners’ thoughts and values (p. 56), that help them develop a sense of ethics (p. 79), and to come to a greater degree of self-knowledge (p. 67). These interests are not only related to the digital age literacies of multicultural and global awareness (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 15), but also to the personal, social, and civic responsibilities of an effective communicator (p. 47). The alignment of these concepts is even more clear in Gee’s (2004) discussion of affinity spaces (p. 98) and networks (p. 99).

Thanks for reading.



At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Hall Davidson said...

Welll, yes. We're mammals. Meet, plan, track (hunt), use motor skills,eat.

Matches the evolution of our hardware.

More data at


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