In light of the recent discussion about gaming technologies and learning (see Where I Disagree with George Lukas and Two Fascinating Books) it was coincidence to run across James Paul Gee's article, Learning by Design: good video games as learning machines, in the lastest edition of E-Learning, a year-old, online peer-reviewed journal.
Gee posits good video games build their success on the backs of good principles of learning. He says, "Under the right conditions, learning, like sex, is biologically motivating and pleasurable for humans (and other primates)."
He outlines 13 principles, describes how video games exploit them, examples, and then how education can apply the same principles. He groups the 13 principles in three broad categories:
Empowered Learners: Co-design, Customize, Identity, Manipulation and Distributed Knowledge
Problem Solving: Well-ordered Problems, Pleasantly Frustrating, Cycles of Expertise, Information 'On Demand' and 'Just in Time', Fish Tanks, Sandboxes, Skills as Strategies
Understanding: System Thinking, Meaning as Action Image
Gee finishes by pointing out that while we think of learning as work, good games show us that deep learning can be fun. He leaves it to instructional designers to guide and scaffold learning through the lessons being taught to us by video games.