Reimagine Learning

Games and Active Learning (J. Gee Retrospective Part 3)

Posted by Annie | Feb 17, 2015 7:07:00 AM

Welcome to Part 3 of our James Paul Gee retrospective, where we reflect on quotes from Gee's book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, first published in 2003.

We are proud to be sponsoring edWeb's 50th webinar, featuring Professor Gee, who will be discussing game-based learning. To learn more and register, visit:


Forces celebration Celebration screen from Martha Madison: Forces

“Video games have the potential to lead to active and critical learning.” – p. 46

The idea of "hands-on" or "active" learning may sound like just another educational buzzword or fad - a new approach that's different or flashier or newer than traditional methods such as lecture or textbook assignments.

In truth, active learning is an ancient method of teaching, one that we often engage in without even knowing it. Paul Corrigan argues in this clever post that in reality, "active" learning as an approach is as old as the act of human learning itself. Humans have always learned very well by engaging in tasks and reflecting on their actions; this has been shown time and again across countless domains.

What was new in Gee's book, at least a the time, was the idea that active learning through gameplay can prepare students for learning. In fact, Gee asserts that games help take learning even one step further, by allowing students to think about games as design spaces. This sort of thinking can allow students to construct new strategies, new ideas, and new ways of going about things. Gee terms this "critical" learning, just the sort of learning that our students are not demonstrating in national and international assessments.

Today, researchers are busy investigating the learning that happens in gameplay, and increasingly we are seeing that Gee was right (look here and here and here for just a few examples). Games do lead to active and critical learning, and in turn the demand for high-quality serious and educational games is only growing.

We are proud and pleased to be part of the growing number of developers answering Gee's call for bringing critical learning, through video games, into the classroom. At Second Avenue, we have designed Martha Madison, a set of games that encourage students to take an active role in science and invite students to engage in the game as a design space. We are not alone: Filament Games is creating multiple science games that promote critical learning. Glass Lab Games is exploring the use of commercial entertainment games such as Sim City in the classroom. Virtual Heroes is building digital simulation games that allow students to learn through immersion in real-life situations. Schell Games is dedicated to "bridging the gap between gameplay and learning" through rich videogames that are built upon academic content.

And this is just the beginning.

We believe the future is ripe with opportunities for bringing together ancient approaches to learning with the marvelous new technologies that are rapidly becoming part of our educational landscape. Professor Gee helped us take the first steps on this journey. Now it is time for all of us, students, parents, teachers, and developers alike, to continue on the path toward realizing all that game-based learning has to offer.



Topics: Blog, learning, Education, Gee, preparation, webinar, Game-based learning

Written by Annie

Anne Snyder, Ph.D Though I have worn many hats over the years, I find that my favorites always involve teaching, learning, reading, and writing. I am always eager to collaborate with others in the pursuit of new, creative, and effective ways to help others learn.

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