Friday, April 29, 2005

beyond print literacy

reading and writing is still very, very important but no longer enough

my students are better than me at playing games, especially MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing games), but I'm still better at them at looking up a Help Manual or storing my bookmarks on

we need a new way of looking at literacy without throwing out the baby (reading, wrting) with the bathwater

I bought 'What Video Games have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy' by James Paul Gee a while back but stopped reading it because of some academic language he was using which turned me off

I had another look at it this morning and now think I understand what he is getting at and that it's important

he's saying that print literacy is not enough and tries to define literacy in the broader sense - something like symbolic and representational multimedia genres or subcultures

examples - rap music, modernist painting, first person shooters, basketball

the above bit is hard to communicate - Gee uses the phrase 'semiotic domains' which turned me off his book - but the list of examples makes it clearer, each of them has their own special language (sometimes including but not just words) that you master along with learning the discipline

rather than read / write we now have recognise / produce

the latter is much broader and we need it to describe all the various multimedia genres that have become our new learning environment

I think where he is headed is that games encapsulate the enormous variety of new literacies (whereas a generation ago the book might have been sufficient), so games are now much closer to defining what literacy is for the new generation

it's also powerful because it helps explain why the older generation (the average age of teachers) are slow to pick up on it, it's a very big shift and it involves older people opening themselves up to domains that younger people are better at because they have grown up with them

literacy is a central concept to all educational thinking so if we can get this point across then we have a very strong foundation for promoting educational reform - MMORPG school anyone?


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