So, we are given yet another of Professor Gee’s writings, “Learning by Design” and I have yet another long list of grievances. And again, I don’t think it is necessarily about his theories of learning per se, it’s just the way he generalizes education into this big ball of bordem and bumblings…let me discuss a few things I find fault with for just a moment:

  1. page 6: “Good learning requires that learners feel like active agents (producers) not just passive recipients (consumers) – this one, I tend to agree with except for one major problem: aren’t we, as a capitalist society, raising our children to be good and thoughtful consumers? Thus, this would seem to contradict that teaching, no? And, while I tend to be more socialist than capitalist these days (and this strikes me as a socialist mantra: everyone in society having a stake in it and thus, contributing in some way to it), this mix and match seems to be an issue. I’d almost prefer going one way or the other, but just pick one!
  2. page 7: later, in the same section on “co-design,” Gee claims that “forced and enforced group discussions are about as far as interactivity goes in most classrooms” – now, I may just know or had too many “good” teachers and I realize this is purely anecdotal, but are not many classrooms filled with role-playing (esp. in the humanities), team debates, mock trials or meetings (like the U.N. thing almost everyone I know did in grammar school), group projects and presentations, and much more?
  3. page 9: he is basically asking the question whether students actually use the knowledge taught to them in “practical” situations, and again he brings up science as a way they don’t (i.e. learn “facts” without any context or visible use for them) – did this guy ever have a Lab??? I mean, every school I have ever been at or attended had labs associated with their intro science classes and most, if not all, had them as requirements that went along with the lecture. Now, I am in favor of making sure they coincide more perfectly (I remember one where I had the lecture in the fall and the Lab in the spring, and that DID NOT WORK AT ALL), but this seems to be something that is already being done. Even in grammar and high school, I recall several projects like building an encasement for an egg to prevent it from breaking using several laws of physics to do so (gravity, momentum transfer, parabolic trajectory and others that I cannot remember because it was so long ago!).
  4. page 11: he says, “games let learners experience expertise, schools usually don’t…[this] allows learners to learn how to manage their own lifelong learning and to become skilled at learning to learn” – I couldn’t agree more, but is this not what we already tell our kids (at least I was told it and still subscribe to it today)? In other words, isn’t most pre-college learning not about learning content at all (high school being some of both), but learning the skills needed to learn efficiently later on? If not, I agree that it definitely should be!

Okay, I could go on, but I won’t. But before I stop piling on ol’ Gee, I will mention one more thing. I decided, after reading this article, to look at his endnotes (for both the article and his book) a little more closely. First of all, they are not endnotes, it is bibliographical information (which any historian will usually be a bit suspect over right from the beginning). Second, his article cites WAY too many of his own works! Third, and most serious, many of the places in the book where I disagree with him most vigorously (i.e. the way he depicts physics classes as only learning Newton’s laws and never applying them), he is using sources that are anywhere from 15-25 years old. So, I then begin to wonder, is this guy just too far removed from his school days to really know what the heck he is talking about???? Has learning passed him by????????

As for Ferguson and Myst IV, I include that in the next Blog post so folks can pick the one they wish to read, since when I first published this one I realized how long I went on about Gee, sorry…