University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

What Guitar Hero can teach us

Guitar Hero

THE GREEN /
EDUCATION

What Guitar Hero Can Teach Us

For her most recent book, Fayneese Miller, dean of the College of Education and Social Services, called on a number of members of her faculty to tackle a wide range of critical issues facing education. The book’s overarching question: What is needed within systems of education to prepare the next generation of leaders for a competitive global environment?

Miller, who wrote the introduction and served as editor of the book, reached out to eighteen experts, including ten from UVM, to contribute chapters. The answers that lie within the pages of Transforming Learning Environments: Strategies to Shape the Next Generation (Emerald Books, 2013) focus on online learning, technology, leadership, curriculum innovation, and English language learners to show the challenges facing traditional educational practices and the ways learning environments are responding to the new reality of globalization.

“The chapters are a spectrum of what is going on in the world of higher education at this critical juncture in our history,” Miller says. “If those in higher education are not amenable to change, as imposed by the outside world, they could be rendering themselves obsolete. As John Dewey states, ‘knowledge and habits have to be modified to meet the new conditions,’ so do the authors of the chapters in this volume.”

A chapter by Laurie Gelles, director of technology and communication in CESS, titled “From Pong to PS3: How Video Games Enhance Our Capacity to Learn and Build Community,” offers an interesting perspective on this brave new world. Gelles focuses on ways technology can help build capacity for learning, in both traditional and non-traditional settings. She teaches about this concept in a UVM course titled “Video Games and Learning Theory” that focuses on conducting new research related to multisensory learning environments.

“There has been a huge push to integrate technology into learning environments in order to replicate the way that people most regularly experience and interact with information,” Gelles says. “The real trick is figuring out why we are so drawn to interactive technologies in the first place.”

Her most recent study made use of the video game Guitar Hero II in an attempt to measure the effects of multisensory learning. Following John Dewey’s ideas around rich learning environments and making meaning through experience, Gelles explains that technology allows for the simulation of real-life experience and provides people with ways to mimic sensory environments that would otherwise be unavailable.

“Video game designers have figured out how to create sensory-rich environments that don’t overload our cognitive abilities,” she says. “Cognitive load theory talks about the importance of balancing the way that we process information. Taxing one area with too much information can slow the learning process. Our next steps should be applying these types of ‘gamification’ strategies to our curriculum design and learning environments. By doing this, we can enhance both our capacity to reach our students, and perhaps their capacity to learn.”

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