Week 2 Readings:
- De Castell, S. & Jenson, J. (2006). Paying Attention to Attention: New Economies for Learning. Educational Theory,54, 381-97.
- Gee, J.P. (2007). Are Video Games Good for Learning? In Worlds in Play: International Perspectives on Digital Game Research. New York.
De Castell and Jenson (2004) draw our attention to the value of “paying attention” in a new “attentional economy”. Attentional economy is defined as one “in which anyone, adult or child, with ‘access’ (to television, movies, advertising, computer games, and, above all, the Internet) owns and controls a full economic share of her or his own attention” (De Castell and Jenson, 2004, p. 381). In discussing the idea of attention, De Castell and Jenson (2004) examine virtual environments for learning as environments that heavily depend on the attention of learners. In the environment of a classroom, “paying attention” is especially important to critically examine because teachers are traditionally seen as “the center of attention” (p. 382). However, changes are occurring in educational practices, shifting the importance towards student-centred teaching and learning. As a result, children are given greater power and choice “in what they can see, think, and do, because now their attention, as we seem to like to say, ‘adds value'” (p. 382). De Castell and Jenson go on to examine the place where students’ attention is commonly captured: video games. They look at how video games capture the attention of students while simultaneously enabling learning. The reasons they identify for games capturing and holding the attention of students are “pleasure, choice, and immersion; speed and efficiency of learning; and finally, meaningfulness of topic, subject matter, and experience” (p. 394).
Similarly, Gee (2007) examines whether video games are good for learning. He states two claims as his focus:
The first is that good commercial games are built on sound learning principles (Gee 2003) that are supported by research in the learning sciences (Bransford, Brown and Cocking 2000). The second is that video game technologies hold out great promise for moving beyond entertainment, to building new learning systems for serious purposes in and out of school. (Gee, 2007, p. 2).
Gee (2007) argues for the need to repurpose video games beyond the element of entertainment to incorporate new ways of learning inside and outside of the classroom. For example, Gee (2007) notes that video games allow meaning to be situated, which is important for contextual learning. In examining “problem games” and “world games,” Gee (2007) also notes that “other games are designed to allow a variety of styles of learning and playing, by providing multiple ways to solve the problems in the game” (p. 13). Thus, game-based learning is situated and contextual learning, specific to the needs and interests of the student who is engaging in play. Gee (2007) and De Castell and Jenson (2006) both retheorize attention and the value of attention on learning. Gee (2007) states, “in an ‘attentional economy’, where diverse products and messages, not to mention school subjects, compete for people’s limited attention, video games can draw our deep attention” (p. 9). Essentially, Gee (2007) asks, “how could we use video games to achieve a marriage of ‘in game’ goals (the goals that flow from an academic area or from the teacher) with students’ personal goals and learning styles, for use in school learning and for learning in other contexts?” (p. 8). While both of these articles consider video games as providing a new medium for learning, they don’t provide all the answers. It is up to teachers and students to experience the power of video games for learning themselves through first-hand experience and ludic play/experimentation. Ultimately, it is evident that both articles highlight the idea of “attention” and critically examine what captures the attention of students (e.g. video games) in order to facilitate, engage and drive more meaningful learning.