Saturday, April 11, 2009

Gee's Chapter 6 & 8: Cultural Perspectives

Culture is important in the society. It is what defines patterns or behaviors among each group. We act according to what is expected from us. There are also times that we challenged the norms and moral standards of the society. In Gee's perspective, he defines cultural models as images, story lines, principles, or metaphors that capture what a particular group finds "normal" or "typical" in regard to a given phenomenon. In his example on what is "normal" or "typical", I am intrigued with these statements, "Normal teenagers rebel against their parents and other authority figures," and "Normal children respect their parents," made me reflect on the definition between "normal" or "typical". It is true that these theories are usually unconscious and taken for granted. I am one of them. Once a teenager rebels to authorities, it is "typical" to them. However, they are expected to be respectful and obedient. Most of the time, people accept what is "typical" instead of what is "normal". This is where conflict comes in because we know what is right or wrong.

On the other hand, playing video games has a different perspective in terms of defining what is "good" or "bad". Gee mentioned that people in real life and games playing as virtual characters differ. In playing video games, it is the final goal that is important. It is just like the soap operas that we watch on the television. This reminds me of an incident in my country. An old woman was so devoted in watching this soap opera and hated the antagonist so much. When she saw her in one of the malls, the old woman approached her and spanked her in public. She was so mad! Just like in video games, we have stereotypes that once a child plays first-shooter games or Counterstrike he/she is violent. Now that I have played some of these games personally, this is the challenge - educating the parents on their child's interest of playing video games.

Jim Gee's book educates people who hate video games. His perspective on how video games can be used in the classroom opened new opportunities for students to learn more and better.

Gee's occasional critique of traditional education makes me reflect on my teaching practices. He mentioned that allowing students to master a set of facts and memorizing information from teachers and books are not bad at all. However, learning does not only stop here. He is advocating to involve active and critical learning in classroom teaching. Students should also learn and understand the why and how questions and not only the what. This challenges me to give students the opportunity to be actively involved in their language learning. Allowing them to play video games and immerse themselves in learning the language through following instructions as well as communicate with the other players would widen their experience.

The two principles that I would like to highlight in Gee's work are Discovery Principle and Situated Meaning Principle. Discovery Principle allows my students to explore new things. It is allowing ample opportunity for the learners to experiment and make discoveries. Also, Situated Meaning Principle allows the learners to know the meanings of signs like words, actions, objects, and the like for an embodied experience. They do not only see it but also experience, at least virtually. Playing video games allow these learning principles to be experienced by the students. I experience it myself. Thank you Gee for this life-changing experience!

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