Designing games as Vernier Probes

Many moons ago when Jim Gee first published What Video Games Can Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, he painted a portrait of a gamer engaged in an immersive world where the gamer is lost, for hours, in meaningful play as a soldier in WW2 or a Greek god.

Probes help teachers do what they were all ready doing, but a little bit better
Probes help teachers do what they were all ready doing, but a little bit better

What Gee was talking about  is that schools should rethink their design to be more akin to games. What if curricular design had as much depth as the design of major commercial video games? For the most part, this topic was never explored. Instead, media and foundations alike concentrated on funding the development of educational games. Fair enough. I certainly won’t complain because this is my passion and livelihood. In our excitement, however, some critical ideas were confused…

…Here is the problem. Gee argues that games, unlike schools, offer deep, meaningful, and somewhat inefficient learning experiences. This is in contrast to schools, where we go for shallow and aim for efficiency. Standards, for instance, are all about efficiently know which kids will know what key information by when.

So realistically, what does that mean about the games we design for schools? If schools won’t dedicate 40 hours a week to history or science, why design games that demand just that? This is where the original funding for games in education started to head: trying to recapture the magic of best-selling commercial platform games. Continue reading “Designing games as Vernier Probes”