Thursday, April 21, 2011

are video games the answer to education?

Some say yes. A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool, By Judy Willis MD. I am curious what you all think. There are obvious things happening when a kid practices basketball. He or she has a clear way of measuring success reaching goals that are clear and attainable. And thus you can see a kid standing at the hoop for hours after school perfecting his or her free throw technique. Now, we see kids playing video games with the same focus and intensity and we would like to capture that for their education. Besides, it would be cheap and the video game producers could make a large fortune by displacing teachers in the classroom. Are they missing something in their machinations? Are there dangers of the Einstellung effect and of children becoming narrow-minded, wide-bodied, anti-social pinheads from too many hours fixated on computer screens when there is a real world that might be calling them to attention? We are about to find out, as that seems to be the direction things are going.

On this same depressing subject, Microsoft and Edutopia have teamed up to sell us on the idea that gaming is the new future of education. In an upcoming Edutopia conference, Jane McGonigal is keynote speaker. Her premise described in her book, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World is that real life should be made as exciting as video gaming. A review of her book can be read here: Upgrading the World: Could real life be made better by making it more like a videogame? For many of our children and young adults, perceptions of reality HAVE been broken or at least twisted out of shape. Video gaming has already changed some things for the worse. Children are having increasing difficulties paying attention to lessons that come from real people and involve reasonable shared cultural values and that require interpersonal face to face problem solving. Don't hold your breath for things to get better. When Microsoft dollars are invested in change it is hard for reasonable people to stand up to the buzz.
The photo is of a Japanese maple, as a reminder that there is a real world out there that might interest kids if we were to take the time to engage them in it. The tragedy of American education is that we do not.

Today the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade students have been teamed with high school mentors for their fossil and rock hounding adventure using the mallets and chisels the students made in wood shop. We could have them anchored to keyboards instead. Which strategy do you think works best to create students ready for real world adventures in learning?

Make, fix and create.

1 comment:

Chris Sagnella said...

Fortunately I am not a video game expert. I think the only real reward that video gaming offers is the feeling that you've accomplished something without actually breaking a sweat or exerting yourself (other than pushing some buttons). If we want to continue to produce depressed, unhealthy citizens that lack self confidence and social skills, then video games are a brilliant tool to use for education.