Video Games and Theories of Learning: Spotlight on JP Gee and Howard Gardner

Plenty of people in all stages of their lives are fascinated by video games. The games practice can be long, difficult, and challenging, yet the players consider it fun and inspiring. It is hard not to admit that playing games has social and cultural significance in our society. According to J. P. Gee (2003), there are learning principles (LP) that are built into good video games. But these principles do not necessarily boost learning. Several factors are necessary for learning to occur in games and perhaps develop intelligences in the semiotic domain of the daily life. Gee teaches that there are thirty-six learning principles possible to be found and developed in games.

To explain this, Gee defines games as semiotic domain (SD), which, in turn, is part of the wider SD of everyday life. So to speak, a SD is a certain division of the world (whether a location, practice, field of study, etc.) and it can encompass sub-domains. For instance, first and third-person shooter games are a well-defined sub-domain of the games SD. By introducing the concept of SD to games studies, Gee gives us examples of SD like rap, modernist paintings and games of the genre first person shooter. Gee believes that to achieve learning from a SD is necessary three things: 1) learn to experience the world in different ways, 2) learn to form affiliations with members of the SD, and 3) learn how to gain the necessary resources for future learning and problem solving in the domain, as well as in related domains. As we can see, Gee seeks to approximate games to a broader definition of literacy that involves different types of “visual literacy.” Following this notion of literacy, people are literate in a domain only if they are able to recognize and produce meanings in the field. Furthermore, Gee proposes that we think of literacy as inherently connected to social practices. In fact, in the contemporary culture, articulate language (spoken, gestural, or written) is not the only important communication system. Nowadays, images, symbols, charts, diagrams, equations, artifacts and many other visual symbols play a particularly important role in our daily lives. For example, it is important to learn visual literacy to “read” the pictures in an advertisement. Furthermore, words and images are juxtaposed or integrated in many ways: in magazines, newspapers, textbooks, software, etc. Images take more space and have meanings that can be independent of the words in texts. In this sense, games are multimodal texts. They combine moving images and music with language.

Given the various forms of human activity in the complex society we live in, it becomes necessary to develop a new model of intelligence that allows us to embrace a pluralistic view of intelligence. Howard Gardner’s (1983) influential definition of intelligence was developed by means of a model of seven basic intelligences known as the theory of multiple intelligences (MI). MI represents a broader and more pragmatic view of human nature. The eight intelligences are defined as the following skills:

1) to use language with competence (linguistic),

2) to use logical reasoning in mathematics and science (logical-mathematical),

3) to perceive details of the visual-spatial world and to manipulate objects in mind (spatial),

4) to understand, create and enjoy music and musical concepts (musical),

5) to use the body skillfully (bodily-kinesthetic);

6) to recognize subtle aspects of the behavior of others and respond appropriately to them (interpersonal),

7 ) to understand the one’s own feelings (intrapersonal), and

8) to recognize patterns and differences in nature (naturalist).

These categories or intelligences represent elements that can be found in all cultures, namely music, words, logic, paintings, social interaction, physical expression, inner reflection and appreciation of nature. Thus, unlike a learning style, which is a general approach that the individual can apply equally to any content imaginable, intelligence, to Gardner, is a capability with its own processes that are geared to specific contents in the world (e.g., musical sounds or spatial patterns).

From this perspective, Gee (2003) and Gardner (1983) value the interplay between learning and skills present in everyday life (culture) of people. So when we think about the SD approach, as developed by Gee, we realized that the interaction between both theories, the SD of everyday life, the largest existing set – where the intelligences are located – encompasses the SD of games. Note that Gardner points out that one of the goals of his endeavor is to examine the educational implications of a theory of multiple intelligences. Considering that, Gee listed thirty-six learning principles present in games, and considering the importance and popularity of games in contemporary culture, it seems interesting to begin to investigate how the learning principles can relate to the multiple intelligences. So we discuss here some possibilities of association between these theories. To accomplish this, the question we want to take up is this: What can the learning principles built into good games could do for the development of multiple intelligences, which are so important to everyday life? In other words: What is the relationship between these semiotic domains? To answer this, we have used the following research methodology: literature review, research on websites, observation of games, construction of the model of interaction between the two learning proposals, and analysis of the model.

Gee describes thirty-six learning principles which can be found in games. It is noteworthy that not all learning principles listed by the author are necessarily found on a single game – there is the possibility that a game conveys one or more of these principles. The analysis shows that to develop one or more intelligences, the learner must be immersed in one or more semiotic domains which have the conditions and qualities needed to facilitate its development. For example: there is no use to an apprentice of a sport modality to have access to only one modality for the full development of his Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence, he needs to have access to various sports, namely various sub semiotic domains which are part of the larger semiotic domain of the sports. Besides that, there are other extrinsic and intrinsic factors (motivation, injuries, and appropriate training materials, etc.) that are important to succeed in the entire domain, like a sport modality. Examples of several prominent athletes demonstrate this fact: Formula 1 drivers, MMA fighters and Olympic athletes. In this sense, our research shows the existence of a binomial unexcelled: without learning principles, there are no good games, while without the valorization of a domain in the semiotic domain of everyday life there is no way forward within that domain. Thus, multiple intelligences cannot be fully developed in certain cultural contexts and the learning principles are worthless in these contexts

Moreover, the Interpersonal intelligence is very important in learning. We found that it is associated to thirty of the thirty-six learning principles. The Interpersonal intelligence clearly arises from cooperative work, community involvement, simulations of large groups, dedication to social issues, etc. Precisely the importance of Interpersonal intelligence, as Gardner notes, has been reduced in the contemporary educational scene: the sensitivity to other individuals as individuals and the ability to collaborate with others are increasingly less important now than it did in the past. Thus, we believe that the results of the comparison between these theories put into question the ways we design and manage education in its various spheres. For this reason, we believe that further analysis of the intersection of the theories studied here may help us in both the use of games as a pedagogical proposal and in thinking about education.

The association between both theories seemed productive for us to reflect on games and learning in general. Firstly, it should be noted that not all games can promote all learning principles. This is because there are many factors in the semiotic domain of everyday life that can hinder learning and development of multiple intelligences. And this occurs even when the game conveys the learning principle or the basic conditions to develop them, which demonstrates a close association between the principles and intelligences.

Secondly, the Interpersonal intelligence is associated to thirty learning principles. This demonstrates the complexity of learning and consequently shows the challenges that contemporary education must face. In fact, the study of the interaction between the theories can help us think about new ways of teaching and learning inside and outside of school. It seems that the relevance of Gee’s is in highlighting the importance of games culturally and for learning, while Gardner’s learning theory emphasizes the necessity of favorable conditions (environment, mentors, cultural appreciation, etc.) for the development of skills. We should remember that skills or intelligences are valued differently between cultures.

We believe that good video games represent, in fact, opportunities for direct and indirect learning of content and skills in the semiotic domain of everyday life, given its intimate link to the majority of the intelligences.

Work cited

Howard Gardner. Frames of mind. The theory of multiple intelligences (New York: Basic Books, 1983).

James P. Gee. What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (New York: Palgrave, 2003).

The Future Of Human Cloning Cometh – Should We Prevent It?

Humans are making big progress in the bio-sciences and that’s all well and good, however we’ve also opened Pandora’s Box in a number of BioTech subsectors. Not long ago, our Think Tank was discussing the future of cloning, large cloned families, super families, cloned armies, human-like organisms for long-term spaceflight, and how that might affect the rest of the world – so much for diversity right? Well, there you go.

In our continued Think Tank dialogues on this topic, well, as far as cloning and those possible futures, I was merely taking current technology and throwing it into the future. We don’t know what will happen. I am not comfortable with outlawing cloning 100%, as there are many positives to it also.

Although, humans may in fact be ending their evolutionary process and taking it over for themselves. Can humans do a better job? Hard to say, wisdom would say NO, and if humans are in-charge of their evolution from here on out, they will make serious mistakes along the way, that I have no doubt, why just look at all the mistakes and dead ends of our evolutionary tree and those of other species – some of their predecessors with us today, most lines long extinct.

Cloning and controlling life in this way for humans will allow us to travel to the stars, live longer, and opens up a whole new set of possibilities, opportunities, problems and crisis – yes, all of that it seems. Re-cloning and cloning on cloning may lead to more problems – as a copy of a copy of a copy gets fuzzy, hard to say, clones may want to delete their mistakes and make a clone one-better, in their minds, choices.

Yes, religions will want to preserve the natural order of things and prevent progression into the future of cloning, but religion will not be able to stop it, not even science will stop it, so it will happen and if we don’t help brave into this future, others with ill-intentions will and that will be to mankind’s detriment.

It would be hard to keep cloning within a “Desired Framework” as we have no knowledge of where it is going. In the US they tried to prevent “Stem Cell” research and that may have caused decades delays in science to cure diseases. Harvard recently had a ‘closed meeting’ on some issues of Synthetic DNA: “After secret Harvard meeting, scientists announce plans for synthetic human genomes,” Washington Post Article, June 6, 2016. Not sure I trust a secret group to meet and make decisions for all humankind, but it’s probably better than a bunch of corrupt politicians and global socialist elitists – problem is most all of these people are of similar mindset – pretend I didn’t say that – but you know I am right – after all this meeting was at Harvard. Doesn’t take an MIT or Cal Tech rocket scientist to see the problem there.

The Third Vatican Is Desperately Needed

The First Vatican Council began on June 29, 1868. This Catholic system existed until October 1958. Its primary purpose was to deal with contemporary problems such as rationalism, liberalism, and materialism at the time. Next, the Second Vatican Council was started in January 1959 and primarily deals with equipping the church to more effectively re-evangelize the world through a language that the world can understand. Both councils have never fully addressed three prominent dilemmas of the church that remain to continue to this day such as the accessibility to the Eucharist, homosexual preferences, and a women’s right to choose. Therefore, this document addresses these three problem areas of the church and also provides reasons requiring a Third Vatican Council. My reasons for such a radical change thus follows below.

To begin, the current state of the Eucharist is such that only Catholics can partake in its glory. This is extremely wrong. The main reason being that this is a violation of Christ’s sacrament based upon Padre Pio’s description of Satan trying to dissuade Jesus’ sacrifice while he dealt with his agony in the garden (The Holy Rosary And Padre Pio, National Center for Padre, Pennsylvania, February 11, 1985). Thus not allowing all people to have full access to the Eucharist violates Christ’s most probably wanting to have perfection over it. This added greatly to his dismay. In addition, Christ’s institution of the Eucharist was himself significantly wanting all people to adore him by remembering both his body and blood not what miserably fails under both Vatican I and Vatican II. Consequently, it is for these reasons that both Vatican I and Vatican II fail to provide a correct offering of the Eucharist.

Next, homosexual preferences are also not considered correct under the conditions of both Vatican I and II. Individuals that are gay do not have access to the Roman Catholic Church. This is an improper stand because in my opinion I believe that these individuals, that desire a different type of sexual preference, should not be treated as outcasts of the church. Similarly, to the newly wanted change in the churches position over the Eucharist, the church should also maintain better symphony for these people because they cannot help their differences in a sexual preference and so they should not be held responsible or discriminated against. It is for this reason that the church must now institute a Vatican III proclamation.

Finally, a third Vatican must be implemented to care for women’s rights. Although Vatican II condones women that are raped, the church now must change its position in regards to other aspects of women’s rights such as birth control as well as its wrong stance on contraception. Birth control is definitely required in many third world countries because the issue of Planned Parenthood is needed to maintain a healthy balance overcoming overpopulation as an example. Thus, a Vatican III, if implemented, could more than properly address this situation. It is for this reason that I believe that a Vatican III is desperately needed.

To conclude, the newly elected Pope Francis needs to now carefully look at past failures of Vatican I and II due to its stringent policy and subsequently institute new reforms. These reforms are offering the Eucharist to all people and changing its position on how gays are treated and how women are treated. I will pray that the current Pope moves in this direction and I hope that you will join me in my prayer. What a wonderful improvement would be achieved if this new Vatican happened. Finally, what an incredible opportunity exists for the Roman Catholic Church.

By: Richard C. Barton

Can Solar Energy Power Up Our Future – Maybe Someday, But Not Yet

It is considered noble to dream of an alternative energy future, I myself enjoy thinking here, but I also realize that the law of unintended consequences is as real as Murphy and that too must be taken into consideration. Far too often dreamers throw away reality and the laws of physics without considering the road ahead, and for this reason I’ve recommended the book; “Physics for Future Presidents” by Robert Muller to more than a few people at our think tank.

Let’s take this conversation to a higher level, and talk about the Sun and solar energy potentials using our current technology. You see, there was an interesting article published in Physorg (dot) com on August 6, 2013 titled; “Report firms up land-use requirements of solar: 1,000 homes would require 32 acres,” and it would appear to me, that if this is so, then solar energy can’t work for our needs currently. Now then, recently it was debated that in essence it is feasible, here is the debate issue:

“The article indicates, 1000 homes require 32 acres, so that’s 0.032 acres per home. 1 acre = 4047 m^2, so that’s 130 m^2 per home, much less than the roof area of a typical home. So don’t we have enough space for solar? I don’t see the need to allocate more space than we’ve already covered with houses, office buildings, and parking lots. And transmission lines already reach these sorts of places.”

Yes, but the current technology isn’t sufficient for that level of efficiency. Indeed, much of the realities to roof top solar might look good on paper, but it doesn’t pan out, roof tops require special alignment to match Sun’s path, plus shading of vegetation, etc., it’s not as stellar as formulated. And, I must ask; what about LA, I don’t see 32 acres per 1000 homes worth of space anywhere, and for solar to work you need it for large cities, where a high percentage of homes are to be efficient.

Now then, someday when solar technology is more efficient, let’s say 40% and you can coat playgrounds, roads, buildings and spray it on like paint, which may be possible at those efficiency levels, then it will work in the city. But if you put the panels in solar farms in the desert it could costs billions to build transmission lines and land use issues are everywhere, they can’t even make solar farms work with all the regulations, environmental restrictions, costs and bureaucracy – and look, I am not a naysayer, I am just saying. Please consider all this and think on it.