February 13, 2006

Conversations about gaming and technology in schools

Often good conversations aren’t documented or available for others to witness. This conversation began live with a colleague and shifted to email as my colleague’s spouse got into it with me. So here’s the transcript of our discussion.

Dean: I sent this article to Joyleen who passed it on to Dan.

Dan: Joyleen shared the info with me that you sent her. It was an interesting read… This would be the counterpoint…

http://www.cfah.org/hbns/news/video03-17-04.cfm

http://www.apa.org/science/psa/sb-anderson.html

I think there are better ways to develop hand-eye coordination such as hockey, baseball, etc. This would also help combat the obesity epidemic in our society. I fear that many of our young kids are going to develop into a generation of people that can think about things a great deal, but can’t do anything.

thoughts?

Dean: Well taken, here’s another argument.

http://www.wired.com/news/games/0,2101,67868,00.html

It seems to be another issue of moderation. There are many who are “anti-games” or “anti-TV” and take the position that it’s an either or argument. I think the majority of educators take the stance take this view. My approach is to recognize that some video games are of an extremely high level of thinking and strategy and as such we should be promoting this type of gaming. No different from TV in that few would say all TV is bad. Too much TV is bad and watching certain programming has negative effects as well.

I think we need to recognize that just like TV, video gaming is not going to go away so given that fact, what do we do as parents and teachers to promote healthy, balanced lifestyle? Simply dismissing video gaming as a totally negative experience is neither realistic, true or helpful.

I’m just looking for balance.

Dan: agreed… all things in moderation. Where I am coming from is that too often the kids get the games and the parents are happy because they are quiet. We sit down as a family and play ‘scene it’ Disney. That is a much more productive activity in my eyes. I am a firm believer that we need to decide what we need to accomplish before we buy things. I am sure you are familar with Alan November. He talks about going to the store to buy a drill because you need to make a hole in your wall. You can’t buy holes at the store, so you buy a drill to make holes. Likewise, we should first decide what we want to accomplish and then go out and get the correct tool. The correct tool for hand eye coordination and critical and creative thinking skills may be something other than video games. To go out and buy a gaming system because your three year old’s friend has one seems like a bad idea. If a child wants to communicate with somebody in Russia for a good reason, one now has the impetus to go shopping. Finally, I have no doubt that you can get positive results from playing countless hours of video games, but at what cost? I am not convinced that the positive effects warrant the results of the negative effects. Like I said, all things in moderation. The problem is that it is very difficult to moderate. Kids are quickly addicted to the games, and moderation is tough to enforce. I guess I just think that to allow my kids to use video games at the age of three calls into question my judgment as a parent.

Dean: So having said all that which is hard to argue with, what should our response as educators be?

I’ll give you an example of why I think this is a critical question. An educator was asking me the other day about some of the new web technologies that are out there and some possibilities for his school. I mentioned podcasting as a possible way to harness the use of the ipod and other mp3 players that many students already have. He said, “We’re trying to keep the ipods out of our school”.

To me that’s wrong. Obviously at this point, schools have not addressed how they can properly deal with this type of technology so the easy answer is keep them at home. Same with cell phones. So the message we send kids is those type of technology have no place in schools. The ipod, cellphone, computer, TV, video games all fall into the same category as far as I can see. They are tools that serve different purposes. But all of them, if used correctly can be powerful learning tools.

We are not as teachers going to promote balance and wise use of technology if our response is simply to state or infer that these tools are bad. That’s the message we give when we tell kids to leave keep your technology out of the schools. Most of these tools are as communication tools and often misused. We need to get in there and utilize all these tools as learning opportunities. Not at the expense of real world experiences and activities but as part of our world.

Thanks for engaging.

Dan:I couldn’t agree more. Schools are about maintaining the status quo. For example: School in 1915 was guided by bells. All students went to one building where one adult led the activities. A bell ended the day. Sound familiar? Ever wonder why educators got computers in their classes before phones? We need to get the message out that the status quo is not on. Teachers need to let the students run with what they know. The days of checking your brain at the door are over. Students need to learn how to manage information rather than knowing everything since information is changing daily. We need to focus on communication rather than technology. If the technology helps you to communicate more effectively, then you should use it. Herein lies the problem. What if the students begin to question our all-knowing attitudes as teachers???? Finally, there are some issues with phones, cameras, ipods, etc at school. What if indecent pictures are snapped in a locker room without anyone knowing and then they are posted on the net? But, what we need is ethics education on the use of technology rather than banning the technology.

see… we’re on the same side after all…haha

Dean: Beautiful