For me, as a college writing teacher, paying attention to the ways in which people embody learning means
One prominent thread in Human Development concerns "constructivist" education--essentially, classroom situations in which students are encouraged to be active co-creators (rather than passive receptacles or mimics) of "knowledge." A central term in this research is Experiential Learning (“EL”), a pedagogy that involves students in a "direct encounter with the phenomena being studied rather than merely thinking about the encounter, or only considering the possibility of doing something about it" (Smith 2005). The EL approach attempts to balance expert and novice contributions to understanding by giving more emphasis to students than to information:
The process typically proceeds as follows:
Though not designed to be linear, the EL process, by virtue of beginning with activities and ending with abstraction and (see above: non-emotional) reflection, does seem to construct knowledge within an Enlightenment “rationality,” a narrow conception of what it means to make sense of the world. As Tara Fenwick explains, the way the written reflection is often structured in EL pedagogies
While there is obvious value in giving students “something to do” besides be passive spectators/note-takers, the downside to EL, as Fenwick explains, is that in some applications it “depersonalizes” the learner and “decontextualizes” the learning, leaving the focus where it has always been in traditional schooling: on what students (conceived uniformly as apprentice thinkers) can do with disciplinary knowledge.
It is useful to think of embodied learning (“M-BOD”), as Gee conceives it, as a dimension of EL since the pedagogy constructs learning as active and interactive, but it would be a mistake to conflate the concepts. M-BOD is a framework, a set of principles, for understanding how people become motivated to engage and re-engage cognitively challenging tasks--to "practice" at something--but this is not thinkable as an operation of (again in Fenwick's words) an "autonomous rational knowledge-making self, disembodied, rising above the dynamics and contingency of experience."
Condensing and simplifying some of Gee's ideas, I came up with the hypothesis that practice is pleasurable when it involves people in making choices that reward them somehow--choices about
EL, as the following illustration shows, does pose opportunities for people to make rewarding choices.
In general, people "embody learning" in the institutional setting of school by fitting into social relationships (hierarchal differences) and knowledge paradigms (what counts as useful contribution, evidence, beauty?). EL pedagogies are sometimes really effective at demystifying those relationships and paradigms so as to make a little room for students to find their own creative and critical agencies, to embody learning in the particular way that Gee discusses, but too much empahsis on "applying" expert knowledge to fledgling experience ends up reassigning everyone their proper place.
A considerable part of the experieinces in literacy and learning that students arrive in the colege classroom with are shaped by primary and secondary school contexts (whether they tend towards TS, EL or M-BOD), but there's more to the story and the subjectivty of learning and literacy than school. Ludology, the study of games, offers valuable insights on where/how/why challenges become (i.e, are designed to be) engaging.
Many studies of play tend to approach the subject developmentally--as an index of a child or civilization's maturity. Parten classifies play according to social involvement: onlooker play, solitary play, paraellel play, and group play. Piaget identifies different stages of play appropriate to different ages: functional (physical), pretend/make-believe, and games with rules. Caillois suggests that the development of a child's play parallels the advancement of a civilization, with babies and primitive cultures practicing paidia (disruptive and pointless frolick) while older people and advanced socieites finding their enjoyment in ludos (the mastery of "conventions and techniques" in games). Lever finds that boys and girls play differently in a number of ways that seem to codify or reinforce gender dichotomy:
The sociological or anthropological approach to play is useful for theorizing learning because it reveals that playing is as much about relating to others (experiencing an interdepednent identity) as it is about shaping outcomes (making decisions). It is important, however, not to oversimplify the social implications of play, to construct it either as a complete break from, or rehersal for, what is presupposed to be ordinary life/culture. One of the most famous theorists of play, Huizinga, assigns play a radical subjectivity:
A recent cultural critic, Pat Kane, echoes Huizinga's notion of play as counter-culture in his manifesto, The Play Ethic,
It may also be valuable to leave aside developmental categories and social generalizations of play in order to focus, as Jesper Juul argues, on games rather than "the players who play them" (11). For exmaple, if we approach children playing games expecting to find gender inscribed into every aspect of the play, then we tend to see all decisions as driven by emotional proclivities. People have taken Caillois' categorization of games into agon (compettion), alea (chance), mimicry (make-believe) and ilinx (vertigo) as the basis of understand why girls' games tend towards mimicry and boys towards agon, but Juul observes that many games present not choices between agon and mimicry (etc) but rather varying design principles that include competition, chance, etc (10). Much has been made of the fact that most video games "encourage demonizing the opponent" (Koster) and if we've already decided that this is a stereotypical masculine way of relating/playing, then we might ignore, as Stephen Johnson argues, that "its not what you’re thinking about when you’re playing a [video] game, it’s the way you’re thinking that matters” (4). He continues:
What Johnson describes here the "collateral learning of playing" others call "gameplay". Juul explains:
Game theory encourages us to approach the question of how practice becomes pleasurable by attending to both gameplay (which Meir explains in terms of choices that result in different outcomes and Johnson explains in terms of the problem-solving modes of probing and telescoping) and participatory culture, what Jenkins defines as a social environment
In the following analysis of my son's card game, I draw on the broad conclusions I've reached in situating M-BOD in relation to EL and Game Theory, but my focus is on how the game illustrates several of Gee's learning principles.