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Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning

by James Paul Gee

Pub Date: Feb. 12th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-230-34209-5
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Thinking about thinking in education and the digital age.

The subtitle suggests that the primary focus of the book would be the roles technology can play in the classroom. Gee (Literacy Studies/Arizona State Univ.; What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, 2003) has a larger agenda, as he gives ancillary consideration to the technology involved and instead takes a broad look at ways of thinking and learning. He weaves over the line between the ills and the benefits of technology, finding examples of rapid collaboration and increased agency through online forums, social media, webcams video games, search tools, virtual worlds and similar connections. At the same time, he considers the shifting relevance of traditionally defined expertise as noncredentialed "amateurs" leverage the Internet to produce expert-level work. Gee’s anecdotal stories are worthy examples of "thinking outside of the box”—e.g., the project to make modifications to the popular game The Sims in an effort to use it to simulate the life of a poor, single mother. The prevailing tone around these anecdotes, however, leans toward a frustrated lecture about these innovative ideas being the exception to the rule. For the most part, it seems, we have become a culture of nincompoops with the cognitive tools necessary to become smarter, but we're either misusing them or disregarding them. “Do we have the will to save ourselves?” asks the author in conclusion. “Will we each sink in our own boat, however large or small it is, or will we bail water together in a journey to a better future?”

Gee makes a compelling case for reframing methods of teaching and learning, but the pedantic tone may put off some readers.