how to access Fred Benenson, “On the Fungibility and Necessity of Cultural Freedom”; and Michael Mandiberg, “Giving Things Away is Hard Work: Three Creative Commons Case Studies” in Mandiberg, The Social Media Reader, Part V: Law.

I was trying to access the article “Fred Benenson, “On the Fungibility and Necessity of Cultural Freedom”; and Michael Mandiberg, “Giving Things Away is Hard Work: Three Creative Commons Case Studies” in Mandiberg, The Social Media Reader, Part V: Law.” However, when I clicked the link to the E-book, it requires that I should log in by selecting my institution from a list, and CUNY GC doesn’t seem to be there. So I was wondering how to access the file. Thank you.


Provocation on James Paul Gee’s What Videogames Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy

First I apologize for my belated provocation. James Paul Gee’s What Videogames Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy is inspiring to me in ways I cannot even articulate – I guess I can say, in a joke that, after reading his theories in chapters 1, 2, 4, and 7, that I have gone through a “tacit learning” process, the results of which are very valuable to personal learning and growth in spite of their underappreciation in traditional education, where the evaluation and assessment are based on students’ explicit performance, according to Gee. Having grown up in a small conservative place in China, where playing games is a sin for students, whose only task is to study hard and do well in standard tests. Video games were seen as an evil monster by parents as “a waste of time”, as was said by the grandpa in Gee’s book, because first, in their opinions, it is “playing” and has no function of “learning” at all. This binary thinking stems from a very special historical background in China. It was only in 1977, a year after Mao had passed away, that the Chinese government restored the College Entrance Examination system, which completely came to a halt during cultural revolution, when the “extreme leftist” claimed that the educational system was “capitalist” and educators were tortured and beaten to death because they were “rightists” and “capitalists”. A small group of people were admitted to universities in China, where only “revolutionary students”, which was a synonym of “economically poor students with ancestors who were all peasants”, could be accepted through “recommendations” from people in power in the communist parties. This small group and students who were accepted through the College Entrance Examinations in the following years later became the most successful and influential in China and a lot of them are still playing very important roles in various fields domestically and internationally. Common Chinese people then suddenly found their path to success other than becoming a faithful Chinese Communist Party member and climbing a social ladder set up by chairman Mao and his entourage, which had no clear path at all. Then kids around China were expected to perform extremely well in standardized tests, which were seen as the most “fair” way of social mobility. All things related to “play” were seen by “good” parents and educators as the enemy of their children’s academic and ultimate “success” in life. Arcades were deemed by them as places where “bad kids” went and there was never a lack of stories of such kids stealing money from their parents to play videos games in the arcades, where they were picked up by “bad people”. Video games were also considered “addictive” and conducive to lower academic performance of academic performance and decreasing moral standards in children. Seldom had anyone associated video games with “learning” and until when I went to in college,  when online games became popular with the development of the internet, media coverage about such games were still very negative: gamers of online games were always so addicted to online games that they died in “internet cafes” from exhaustion caused by excessive sleeplessness. Nowadays, there is a tremendous turn of the attitudes toward “gaming” in China because after neoliberalism has gained control of people’s lives and pressure for making money has made everyone as exhausted as playing games too much, games have become not only a tool for releasing tension and anxiety in their daily life, but also have become a wealth-generating industry that has produced rich CEOs of gaming companies as well as winners of international game contestants. However, it seems like such change of attitudes for the general public is influenced mostly by the counterforce of “capital”, which happens to be balancing the negative impacts caused by excessive political dictatorship reigned over China. A book like What Videogames Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy that thoroughly analyzes “gaming” from the perspectives of learning and education is very inspiring to me because it is calm and rational articulation of what some of the values and advantages games have in learning and education and how we could use those features to improve the deficiencies of the modern education system. In Chapter 2, Gee uses the concept of “semiotic domain” to as a basis of qualifying video games. I think this is a great concept because it neither demonizes nor glorifies video games. Rather, it sees video games as every other “semiotic domain”, which has its own “content”, “design grammar”, and one needs sufficient “literacy” to understand and use it, like one learns the language system. The biases towards games, be it positive or negative,  stems from failure to recognize this commonality that games share with other “semiotic domains”. To be literate in games, one has to learn to “read” multi-media sources and how they interact to function in the gaming environment, and thus the principles behind such literacy. Therefore, it is not only “playing”, but also “learning”, in its unique way that is different from traditional learning. According to Gee, games are advantageous compared to traditional learning because it encourages active learning through creating embodied experiences that enable game players to participate in a process in which they are interested. In order to achieve their purposes, which can be multiple in the games they play, they will need to learn actively how to use the tools provided in such games to solve problems through their own experiences. And they are willing to articulate the results of their “tacit-learning” – how they solve those problems- in communities through writing strategy guides, which will be learnt critically by other gamers who may have similar experiences, and whose feedbacks may strengthen the existing theories of playing the games, and thus, a “probe-hypothesize-reprobe-rethink” process, which is a process similar to conducting scientific research, is formed naturally and organically. This process helps a child to become a “self-teacher”, and it is significantly different from traditional learning, where students learn passively about knowledge in which they have very limited embodied experience, and memorizes the answers they don’t understand because of the reasons mentioned above to complete standardized tests consist mostly of multiple choice questions, which seriously ignores the precious fruits of students’ tacit learning and instead focuses on the “performance” of answering questions testing imposed knowledge that they can hardly digest because of a lack of embodied experience. Above all, I love the analysis of the educational features of gaming and I highly recommend the learning principles summarized through the author’s experience of playing games at the end of each chapter of this book because not only are they useful for understanding the educational features of video games, they are also useful in instructional design with or without video games because they are essentially about how to activate students’ agency to engage them in participating in an active, embodied and communal learning experience that will kindle the fire for learning and they will be motivated by a burning desire to learn for the rest of their life.

An Example of Using Theater as an Educational Tool for “The Oppressed”

As we were discussing “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, it occurred to me that there is a video for an ESL program created by NYC Mayor’s Office and CUNY. I used to be a volunteer facilitator for this program, teaching ESL classes to immigrants in NYC. This video is about how to use theater to teach immigrants and the victims of domestic violence how to stand up against it. I think it exemplifies how to use art as an educational tool for “the oppressed”. The video is free to download and the file is not big.


Sugar Cane Alley

Although I cannot find the link for a full movie of “Sugar Cane Alley” (, I still think it is a great movie that may be of some help for us to “experience” the “colonial/post colonial” education discussed in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire.

Experiential Learning


Dewey discussed the importance of “experience” in the education process. This concept is important for the development of modern education because it suggests that learning should be in a “context” instead of happening in the vacuum. It should be an “embodied experience”. As Dewey says in his article, “There is no such thing as educational value in the abstract”. In practice, students should be exposed to as much “educative experience” as possible, instead of being taught abstract knowledge and tested only for their grasp of such knowledge through standard tests. For educators who would like to create such experiences to facilitate students’ learning, the question is not only to have the awareness of implementing “experience” as part of the pedagogical approach, but also “what experiences will benefit students’ learning, how could teachers create ‘educative experiences’, and how much ‘experience’ do students need from the to be ‘educative’”. After all, it is not necessary, or impossible, for one to “experience” everything the “educate experience” may offer, and it is also important for students to engage their own “experience” in their learning process and interpret the “educative experience” offered by in the classroom. For example, if students are learning “the Second World War”, it is unrealistic that students should actually go to war to experience it – and even if they had been in a war before, their “experience’ is only part of the war. However, does that mean that they cannot “experience” war to understand it at all.and it is important that they have some “experience” of what the Second World War is like to understand its historical meanings.

In view of this situation, technology can serve as a powerful tool to help students “learn through experience”: First, teachers can use their knowledge and understanding to select the experiences that they deem may benefit students’ learning. And then, as Schivelbusch says in his article, Railway and Journey, technology has the effect of “shrinking and expanding spaces”. It is not only true about railways, from which he drew the above conclusion, it also applies to the multi media and and interactive technology that people are using today in an educational setting. With technology, teachers can expose students to the “experience” they are not familiar with through the “shrinking and expansion of space and time”, and make the experience “educative” according to the teacher’s understanding.

I was observed an instructor teaching a class about Japanese Americans during the Second World War in Queens College during the “Open Teaching Week” held by the Teaching and Learning Center of The Grad Center, and I feel that he vividly demonstrated how a teacher could use technology to help students to learn history through “experience”. While introducing to the students about how Japanese Americans were “relocated” to Hawaii and eventually sent out of America after the Pearl Harbor attack, the instructor presented photos shot during the years when the historical event happened, propaganda videos made by the U.S. government about the “relocation program”, and the transcript of the video to the students in order for them to “experience” what it feels like if they were in the shoes of Japanese Americans at that time, who had grown up in the U.S. and had to face the reality of being sent “back” to a country they hardly knew. While presenting the multimedia materials, the instructor also asked questions to encourage the students to think critically about how the U.S. government presented the whole “relocation” program in order to “attract” Japanese Americans to “voluntarily” to be sent out of the country eventually. This is a great example of using technology to provide “educative” experience to students through its “shrinking and expanding” space effect: The students were exposed to experiences that they may or may not be familiar with – they were very young and a lot of them were not Japanese Americans, and they were situated in New York and may or may not have been to “relocated” to Hawaii to face the reality of being expelled out of the country. However, instructional technology, well blended in the verbal instruction, shrinked the time and space for students, brought them back to the very time and space of the historical event, contextualized and historicized the knowledge they were learning, and then expanded the time and space in the classroom through engaging their existing experiences and their thinking.

The following are a few questions inspired by the readings of this week:

  1. Dewey’s theory of experiential education reminds me of the popular “task-based” learning ( If you are familiar with “task-based learning”, do you think it is a pedagogy inspired by and embodied the concept of “experiential education”? Why or why not? If not, then what do you think experiential education actually means in teaching practices? Is it meaningful to educational practice? Why or why not?
  1. As Dewey says: “It is a ground for legitimate criticism, however, when the ongoing    movement of progressive education fails to recognize that selection and organization of subject matter for study and learning is fundamental”. What kinds of subject matters should be selected as part of the curriculum? Do you agree with the current trend of cutting budgets for arts in the united states, represented by President trump’s budget plan ( ? Why or why not?

3.How do Dewey’s chapters about “Social Control”, “The Nature of Freedom”, and “The Meaning of Purpose” speak to the critics of “the banking method” in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed? What do you think the “purpose”, or “means and goals of education” is?

4.In Dewey’s article, he talks about the following aspects of experiential learning:

“It is a sound educational principle that students should be introduced to scientific subject-matter and be initiated into its facts and laws through acquaintance with everyday social applications”, and Subject-matters should not be “learned in isolation”. Reflecting upon your own educational experiences, do you think the science education you have received observed or reflected, to some extent, this principle? What you think are the advantages and disadvantages of this principle?

  1. Dewey says “The future has to be taken into account at every stage of the educational process” in addition to the past and the present. How do you think teachers can, as Dewey said, “look into the past, the present and the future” in their educational practice? Is it too much to ask from a teacher since teachers nowadays usually have great workloads? How realistic do you think Dewey’s educational beliefs are to the teaching practice today and why?

How Important is Teaching in a Modern University?

In his book The Uses of the University, Clark Kerr mentioned several times that the modern university- or muti-versity as he calls it- places more emphasis on research over teaching:


(p6)“Teaching is less central than it once was for faculty members; research has become more important. This has given rise to what has been called the ‘nonteacher’-’the higher a man’s standing, the less he has to do with students.’ and to a threefold class structure of what used to be ‘the faculty’: those who only do research, those who only teach, (and they are largely in an auxiliary role), and those who will do some of both. In one university I know, the proportions at the PhD level or its equivalent are roughly one researcher to two teachers to four who do both.”


(p32) “It [UCLA] will soon have 100,000 students- 30,000 of them at the graduate level; yet much less than one third of expenditures are directly related to teaching. ” (p68) The mark of the university ‘on the make’ is a mad scramble for football stars and professional luminaires. The former do little studying and the latter little teaching, and so they form a neat combination of muscle and intellect.”


(p78) “If the faculty looks on itself as a guild, the undergraduate students are coming to look upon themselves as a ‘class’’; some may even feel like a ‘lumpen proletariat. Lack of faculty concern for teaching, endless rules and requirements, and impersonality are the inciting causes.’”


(p79) “Student pressures for better undergraduate instruction may be supplemented by the complaints of parents, who think their children are being sacrificed on the altar of research. Also, the public at large, whose attention has been riveted on the elementary and secondary schools as the ‘population bulge’ has affected them, may now turn its attention increasingly to the university level when the ‘bulge’ reaches there. Generally the public is more interested in quality of instruction than in quantity of research. The spotlight which the universities have helped turn on the teaching of others at lower levels may now be turned on their own. ”


(p83) “Teaching loads will be competitively reduced, sometimes to zero, although more teachers are needed and students are complaining about lack of attention. ”


(p85) “The balance is not equal treatment, the provision of equal time in some mechanical and eternal way between teaching and research.”


Clark Kerr is obviously concerned about the deterioration of the quality and quantity of teaching in modern universities in his book. What are your opinions on this issue? What do you think about the quality of instruction of the universities you have attended? Do you think the same thing as Clark Kerr mentioned in his book written in the 1960s is still jeopardizing and plaquing the modern university today? If you are the president of a university, who is supposed to be a “supergiant” balancing various aspects of the university, how would you balance the contradictories among research, teaching, administration, and public engagement? What kind of status should teaching have in a modern university- or multi-veristy, where external factors such as industry, society, government, and internal factors such as research, administration, and student development all exercise great impact on the university? And if teaching should indeed be improved and given more attention, what do you think are some of the measures that could be taken to achieve this purpose, from a policy level, the instruction level, the administration level, and from the students’ level?