Saturday, December 16, 2006

Epistemic Frames and Games

Epistemic Games: Building the future of education is the website.

How Computer Games Help Children Learn is the book.

From the forward we hear some great stuff from James Paul Gee. Here's one of the many great quotables:

"We have known for years now that most kids who can pass these tests...cannot actually apply their knowledge to the real world"
And from the Introduction David writes:

" not about computeres and video games themselves. It is about learning, and about how new technologies make new kinds of learning possible."
And at the end David writes:

"Most people study mathmatics every year beginning in first grade, but many can't do much more than perform (often poorly) the functions that are already built into a 99-cent calculator."
(There is so much to quote it's crazy to judge the book simply on these little snippets that I pulled out...they struck me and I noted them. But I also noted something on every single page.)

One of the most well stated comments on our current system of education from K through PhD is given by Ken Robinson at the TED conference. Watch it here.

But back to the book...

James does a great job laying the ground work for why this book is important. He was the perfect choice for the forward.

I think our industry (Learning Professionals in general: corporate and academic) is currently struggling to find a collective voice. And to find something to cling too as a solution to fixing what we all see is so terribly broken. We all know the models of old are not working. They don't produce innovative thinkers for the digital/creative age. Look at how many of the great success stories of our time were/are college dropouts. Does anyone remember that Bill Gates guy?

Epistemic Frames - I love this term. It took me a while to get used to it, but by the end of the book David had me hooked. I also love the term SKIVE - That's something we can all hang our collective hat on. (Read the book or wait for me to find time to post about it.)

Another University of Wisconsin researcher, Constance Steinkuehler, offers this quote from one of her young gaming research subjects (but not in the book):

"School is just a game. I'm just not very good at 'School'".
Maybe you didn't use these exact words but you can't tell me that you didn't learn to "game the system" while growing up. The school system that is...or should I say, the game titled school?

Thankfully, David gets to the same conclusion:

"It is certainly possible to imagine that schools might someday be more about epistemic games and less about the game of school."

and to wrap up this post I'll leave you with this quote:

"epistemic games...are a fundamentally different way of thinking about learning based on a fundamentally different way of thinking about thinking."

Anyone with kids, working in education, or simply is a passionate, life-long learner should read this book. Will this change everything overnight? NO! But at least we will all agree on what general direction we should be headed and start the process of change to make it happen.

1 comment:

David Williamson Shaffer said...

Hi, Brent,

Thanks for the thoughtful and enthusiastic comments on How Computer Games Help Children Learn!

I've posted some thoughts in response on our own blog ( -- the specific post is at

I look forward to continuing the conversation!