I recently discovered the gamebasedlearning web site, which contains articles, information on events and a series of discussion forums. There doesn’t seem to be that much there at present (I’m assuming the site will grow over time) although there is a really interesting article on Public Pedagogy through Video Games by James Paul Gee and Elizabeth Hayes.

The authors put forward the idea that there is a longstanding myth associated with informal learning: it does not involve teaching. They say that, in fact, three aspects of teaching are present in informal situations: design (e.g. by modelling good game design), resources (e.g. tutorials and supportive media artifacts) and ‘affinity spaces’ (i.e. real or virtual spaces where people ‘interact around a common passion’). They argue that the presence of teaching in informal learning and popular culture means that it can be considered to be a form of ‘public pedagogy’, and consider the importance (or existence) or criticality of the dominant social values.

While I agree with the central thrust of the argument, I’m not sure I see how affinity groups differ greatly from Lave and Wenger’s idea of ‘communities of practice’ (albeit perhaps particularly passionate ones).  The model of learning through good design, resources and community also seems to be one that is established in terms of formal education, through paradigms such as problem- or enquiry-based learning. The authors suggest, towards the end of the paper, that “learning how to produce and not just consume in popular culture … is one good way to start the critical proces” and this ties in very strongly with my own thoughts on learners as designers rather than players.

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