I mentioned the Games, Learning & Society Conference in Madison, Wisconsin back when a call for papers was put out. Michael Abbott of the Brainy Gamer has some interesting notes on the conference, which was held this past Thursday and Friday. The wrap up of the keynote speech, delivered by James Gee of Arizona State University, is an interesting meditation on the role of games (and not just 'edutainment') in education:
Gee sees broad implications for students in this regard. "Give students smart tools and let them use them and modify them to suit their purposes." Such self-motivated learning moves students away from merely consuming knowledge and encourages them to produce knowledge and apply it in meaningful ways. Furthermore, Gee observed, when communities form around these activities, they are linked by a common endeavor, rather than by race, class, gender, or disability.
Gee clearly situates video games within an overall theory of learning and literacy with genuine power to transform students and equip them to address complex problems. If passion communities could be formed to solve real-world problems like hunger and environmental degradation, Gee believes we would be much better equipped to face these issues head-on. The challenge, according to Gee, isn't just about teaching our kids; it's about ensuring they have a viable world to live in.
Abbott's discussion of the environment of the conference — sounding quite different from your typical academic/professional gathering — is also worth a read.
GLS - Beyond Games and the Future of Learning [The Brainy Gamer]