Thursday, December 17, 2009

video game based education

A new school, "Quest to Learn" in New York City is using video games as the central element in children's educations. As described by an article in Popular Science magazine, Foundations and Universities have poured money into the concept.
"Games are exceptionally good at engaging kids," says Quest's main designer Katie Salen, a game designer and technology professor at New School university. "They drop kids into complex problems where they fail and fail, but they try again and again."
Some might wonder, "engaging kids" in what? And to what purpose?

According to the article in Popular Science, the school's model draws on "30 years of research that shows that people learn best when they're in a social context that puts new knowledge to use." I can't disagree with that premise. I am assisted in my learning about education by having the opportunity to share what I learn with you. And no one can question the effectiveness of modern technology at engaging children and adults in self-directed learning. After all, I use technology daily to write, edit text, photos and video, and to keep track of business and finances. I never took a class in any of these things. You keep trying and failing and after awhile you learn to avoid making the same old mistakes over and over again.

But is playing games anything akin to teaching children to become a meaningful contribution to community and life? Are the lessons of manipulating mice and game controllers the same as real world problem solving that has physical and tangible effects? Will the gaming education truly contribute to the qualities of men and women that our culture requires to thrive? The following is from Felix Adler, 1884:
A short time ago I spent an afternoon with a poet whose fame is familiar to all. There was present in the company a gentleman of large means, who, in the course of conversation, descanted upon the merits of the protective system, and spoke in glowing terms of the growth of the industries of his State and of the immense wealth which is being accumulated in its large cities. The aged poet turned to him, and said:

"That is all very well. I like your industries and your factories and your wealth; but, tell me, do they turn out men down your way? " That is the question which we are bound to consider. Is this civilization of ours turning out men—manly men and womanly women?
And so as we dive headfirst into the implementation of gaming technologies, there are still a few questions we might want to consider. Are we teaching our children to accept real responsibilities within human culture?

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