Thursday, March 21, 2013

Emily "Brawlin" Bronte V. Tom "The Sandman" Sawyer: Using video games to market education.

Before I continue with my ramblings about Reading, Writing, and Video Games, let me clarify something that I said yesterday. To quote myself: The day a teacher is unwilling to learn something new to support her students is the day she needs to retire. I did not say: the day a teacher doesn't use technology, she should retire.

The day a science teacher refuses to learn new, proven scientific facts because she prefers the old ones that she's gotten used to, she should retire. The day an English teacher refuses to read a new book that engages students because she still thinks Shakespeare is the only thing worth reading, she should retire. The day any of us refuse to learn and expand our own knowledge and understanding in service to our children, we should retire because the most important thing a teacher teaches is how to learn.

Moving forward. Point Four:

News Corporation plans to introduce in schools a new tablet computer ...Take-home games for the device include one in which Tom Sawyer fights the Bront√ęs. (Lest children avert their attention to the actual books.)

To suggest that students who play a game inspired by literature will somehow limit their exposure to literature is just plain backwards. Most kids wouldn't read Tom Sawyer anyway; they'd read the SparkNotes. Kids who are exposed to literature through video games at least stand a chance of having their curiosity piqued. I'd say they're far more likely to develop an interest in literature than they would otherwise.

Like it or not, we're in a brave new world with options. That means that even Shakespeare needs good press to beat out the competition. Good press agents know to target their audience. If the audience isn't buying their wares, press agents don't say, "Well, they're stupid if they don't like this campaign. This is the same campaign we've been using for twenty years, and it's always worked before, so we're not changing it now." They don't approach marketing that way because they'd lose business.

Literature has lost business. Video games are the new marketing.

So all I'm going to say about this is: a battle royale between Tom Sawyer and the Brontes? Bring it on.  I freaking love it.  

My money's on the Bronte sisters. They got their game faces on.

Then there's this.  Point Five:

Alarmists warn that schoolchildren won’t excel in the i-economy if they aren’t steeped in technology. 

Alarmists are abso-freaking-lutely right. I doubt any alarmist would suggest that children should be steeped in technology twenty-four hours a day. You can steep a tea bag for fifteen minutes and get a perfectly good cup of tea. Extrapolate.

And this. Point Six:

Many schools boast of their iPad-to-kindergartner ratio on the theory that children should learn early on how to use a touch pad. Really? Any parent with an iPhone can tell you how long it takes a small child to master the swipe.

If a small child can master the swipe and every other app on an iPhone by the time they're three (I've seen it, people) and yet fails standardized tests by the time they're in the third grade, then the folks at Mac need to be giving the prevailing powers in educational policy-making some lessons on how to design curriculum and assessment.

Point Seven:

Many of the games marketed as educational aren’t as much fun as video games children would play if left to their own devices. 

Then we need to make better educational games. 

Point Eight:

But the added bells and whistles still make it harder for them to focus on plain old boring work sheets and exams. Imagine how flat a work sheet would seem after a boisterous round of Zap the Math From Outer Space.

Kids like bells and whistles. I don't know what to tell you. I'll wear bells and whistles in class if it'll keep my kids' attention. I'll also incorporate technology because I know they like it.  

And also: I hate worksheets. I hated worksheets before Zap the Math from Outer Space was even born. Kids should not have to endure worksheets just because they somehow look more academic than Zap. If they learn from Zap, give them Zap. Worksheets are flat. And boring. We're better than that in the 21st Century.

I promise I will be done with this tomorrow, and then I'm going to talk about how much I love things other than technology. But I still feel compelled to address this cheery exhortation to students:

Deliberate practice of less-than-exhilarating rote work isn’t necessarily fun but they need to get used to it — and learn to derive from it meaningful reward, a pleasure far greater than the record high score.

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