Skip to main content

How gaming is revolutionizing education

December 05, 2012

It's the 21st century. Teenagers, on average, play 30 to 53 hours (depending on rules) of video games on consoles, PCs and mobile devices. Technology and gaming is changing the way we learn, which was the question asked at a Zócalo Public Square event. 

James Paul Gee, the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies, co-founder of the Center for Games and Impact and member of the National Academy of Education, first answered the question, "What does a game really do to the brain?" before an overflowing audience at Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Dec. 4.

"Depending on how you play," Gee said, "you can waste your time with a game, just as you can with a book. Yet games are essential for learning."

Gee touched on his meaning of big G Games, which, by nature of design, promote a platform for 21st-century skills. These skills include “system-making, innovation, the ability to think like a designer, and collaboration.”

Gee was joined by Richard Lemarchand, game designer and USC Interactive Media Division visiting associate professor, along with Kaveri Subrahmanyam, Cal State LA psychologist and associate director of the Children’s Digital Media Center @L.A. The three panelists gathered to discuss how gaming is revolutionizing education.

"Games can also be a powerful tool for social learning," said Subrahmanyam, referring to her research in how virtual avatars change people’s real-world behavior. 

Lemarchand shared his insight as a game designer, exploring the intersection of the “very energetic boundary between technology … and the spaces of human play, where games really happen, in the spaces between human beings.” 

Gee reminded the audience, "digital literacy must avoid mirroring the equity gap of traditional literacy, with poor kids reading less. We’re on the way there already, but we have a social choice. ... It’s a cutting-edge issue for our future.” 

The evening closed with the panel's viewpoints on digital badges and the place of achievements in recognition of skills and development. All of the panelists agreed in the need for badges to keep people honest and reflect the student's ability to find their passion and then relate this passion to career interests and goals.

Watch the entire discussion and view pictures from the Zócalo event. Zócalo Public Square is a project of ASU's Center for Social Cohesion.

Written by Sierra Campbell,