Ch. 5

My group members noted the terms horizontal and vertical learning. Sometimes students engage in horizontal learning where it may seem like progress isn’t being made, but Gee points out that often this horizontal learning lays down the foundation for future learning. One member pointed out that too often teachers focus on the vertical learning, creating extra pressure for their students and perhaps a feeling of failure if those goals are not met.

Next, Gee goes into the fish tank and sandbox tutorials that good game designers incorporate into their game. Both of these allow the player to learn the basics of the game in a safe setting.

Ch. 7

Chapter 7 addresses story elements and video games. Video games, just like in traditional forms of literacy, incorporate story elements such as setting, character, plot, etc. The unique quality of video games, however, is that the player becomes directly involved with the story—often being able to change certain parts of the plot and character.

Salon Question

How do games create motivation and engagement? Linda noted that this is due to the natural interactive function built in to video games. Players interact with and co-author the game. As they do this, they put in an investment of time and energy. This investment makes the students feel like they are in direct control over their learning thus increasing their motivation to finish.

Connection to Experience

Linda has observed students persevering in tasks even in the face of frustration. She noted that the students wanted to complete the task (learn new game, etc.), so continued in their efforts even if they were not immediately successful. Linda’s observations remind me that satisfaction is sweetest when you have to struggle a bit to achieve what it is you want. In the end, you can feel better about yourself and proud in knowing you pushed yourself to meet your goals. Students need to be in that zone where they feel challenged and pleasantly frustrated, but not so overwhelmed as to make it overly difficult for them.

Kim talks about the value video games have in relating nonfiction content. She recalls her husband learning about mythology through the game Age of Mythology. In addition, through her own experience and that of the group, we discovered that playing video games is difficult without some horizontal learning—further proof that horizontal learning is critical for future success.

Question to Extend Learning

A question that came up for Linda is the issue of the horizontal learning experience. How can teachers help students understand that horizontal learning is sometimes necessary for future gains?

This is a very good question and one that becomes more important as students get older and competition becomes increasingly more intense. Students may feel frustration because their peers understand something, but they don’t. I think it’s critical that we provide students with a variety of tasks, activities, and assessments to increase their opportunities for success and vertical learning.

Kim came up with another great question and that is do students have to play a game in its entirety in order to gain the learning experience we want them to have?

We discovered that many of these games take up to 50 hours to complete. Schools and teachers already have so much content to plow through. How could we squeeze in an entire game unit?

Ideas for Classroom Use

Linda provides one possible answer to her question above. If teachers track students’ progress on a chart, then they can point out to students the gains that they have made, especially if it occurred following a horizontal learning experience. I think this would be great for younger students because of the very visual explanation.

Kim suggests developing more video games that focus on nonfiction content such as the American Revolution.