Monday, March 22, 2010

Chain of Fools

One of the things I've most loved about the Internet is the way you can slide easily from one topic to the next.  Surfing the web it used to be called, and maybe it still is, though I've long since aged beyond a reasonable expectation that I will know or understand the modern parlance and jargon choices.  Maybe they call it sliding now, or 3littn@.  Who knows. 

I was researching some topic ideas for this morning's blog, after taking the weekend off to really focus on getting the house tip top for our first showings.  We had to cram three into a short, beautiful weekend, so we had a lot to do in very little time, and there was no room in my brain for deeper thinking until now.  As I was reading recent news articles, I came across one regarding Shigeru Miyamoto's desire to get consoles into the classroom to help with experential learning opportunities.  He proudly promoted the Nintendo DS's use in museums and galleries as an example of how it can be used as something other then a gaming rig.

But this quickly led to an op-ed piece by Ian Bogost, who is a designer who specializes in social and political games such as airport security or the oil industry.  Dr. Bogost was deconstructing government involvement in video game design and creation, noting that the current push under the auspices of first lady Michelle Obama is just a load of political pandering, and attempt for the government to seem "cool" and "with it" without any meaningful attempt at change or reform.  We get a great deal of this from our leaders, and only once in a generation do we get truly meaningful action and reform as we just did with the passage of the Health Care bill.

I happen to agree with Dr. Bogost, it's something I've already written about to some degree in response to the books by Gee lauding experiential learning.  It's not enough to say "we got a game, now go learn."  That reduces learning to simplistic measures of response time, twitch factor, or who can best find the cheats to get around a level.  Life is a complex web of interactivity, one thing tugging the strings of thousands of other things.  It's messy, difficult, painful, and perplexing, and to say we can learn something from Mario or from Snake is silly. Most existing games do not build the right types of learning experiences, do not exercise the proper parts of our brains.

But, there are examples of games which CAN learn, CAN teach.  I happen to think the SimCity series is one such franchise.  Yes, it boils down running a city to a few dozen main areas, which are further broken up into more steps.  Water, traffic, zoning, tax rates, etc.  But there is a rich complexity to all your decisions, a thick web that grows as your city grows, that changes your focus over time, that teaches you some of the complex decisions that city planners are constantly faced with (but minus the messy political arguments, or the term limits). 

I do not think we will ever get to the point where computers, tablets, consoles and their descendants replace the oral tradition for learning.  We are a vocal species, and we learn best when we can combine the visual with the linguistic.  Until computers can think on the fly to answer tangential questions that might evolve during a gaming experience, there will be no reason to think that we have to move faster towards this model then we already are.  The government can keep going with its happy happy, joy joy "we can build games, too" concepts, until such time as the real scholars and tinkerers and developers have found what actually works, which of the multitudinous gaming concepts works to lead students towards real knowledge and solid school foundations.

Until that time, I'm browsing on, following links and links of links.  Looks like Jennifer Lopez is going to star in a remake of "Overboard".  Oh gee... there's a must see...  Browsing the internet is like having attention deficit disorder, you never know what's going to happen next.

And on and on we go, down into the rabbit hole...

No comments:

Post a Comment