Rant on Education

I’ve been thinking about Education a lot lately. Two reasons: my partner commented to me some weeks ago about an idea he had for making videogames to be used on schools. And secondly, I had one of those interviews about games & violence where the questions went on the direction of asking “but, do you seriously think is good for kids to play games?”.

Probably I’ve said this to many times, but I’ll say it once again: We are genetically designed to train and gain knowledge through play. Cats play with a ball of wool, dogs dramatize biting each other and we, mammalians homo sapiens, play in many many ways as well. We do so because Play is the framework nature gave us to gather the skills we’ll need to survive in the natural and social world.

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And the main thing with traditional education is that we are too scared to change it. It’s changing how we were shaped, it’s changing the future of our kids. But what’s really scaring is realising that if you go check the compositions and writings you did in your teens about biology, chemistry, history or you-name-it, chances are that you won’t remember a single thing that you wrote back then.. and the reason is simple: you just didn’t care about those topics. And after a single glance to the Wikipedia you’ll understand those topics are so damn limited!

High School education is terrible. Probably because teenagers are annoying as hell. But also because of its competitive design: Students constantly suffer the pressure of achieving good Results instead of focusing on the process of real Learning. That leads to classic end-justifying-the-means situations and thus, an average individual can’t tell what he’ll do for the rest of his life when he’s 18 years old.

That needs to get fixed. And Games and Play can be part of the solution if we add to that cocktail the power of the Internet. Working on real solutions on this field sounds like an exciting solution for technologists that want to do something more than just money. And hopefully, One Laptop Per Child is only the beginning…

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7 Responses

  1. Kids in West Africa will be getting better educations for free than kids in the USA.

  2. Patrick: and that´s …. ?

  3. Santiago I agree with you in all that, but the computers part. The PCs are obviously an incredible tool, but what would be the place for thechnology in your new paradigm? cause I dont see the relation between the tools used on education, and the education paradigm…

  4. I fully agree that educational institutions need major work. During my summers, I work at a program for gifted young people through The Center for Gifted that creates an environment for the students to learn through experience and play. One of the ‘classes’ that I’m most involved with is called Historical Boardgames of Strategy and Diplomacy. They play a wide variety of boardgames, and it’s excellent.

    As far as XO goes, Warschauer’s Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide is a sobering but insightful analysis of some of the general problems this type of project can have.

  5. Given your example, computers aren’t needed. Children can play with board games, card games, sports equipment, and many other items. All of these are much cheaper than video games and provide the same benefits. In fact, children have been using them for play even before video games were invented.

  6. I fully agree when it comes to children. But thinking about teenagers and even university students, computers are a tool that can bring access to the whole world’s knowledge through the internet. And that can be combined with the intrinsic interactive capabilities of a computer to deliver exciting games. Think of civilization meeting Wikipedia and what could that do to classrooms worldwide.

  7. Apologies for the blatant self-promotion, but I think you might be interested in some of the stuff on my blog Myomancy.

    The blog is mostly about ADHD, Dyslexic and autism and new treatments for them. Of particular interests to me are movement and rhythm based treatments that have shown some real potential in tackling the causes of these problems. I’n particular, I’m fascinated by the idea that these treatment could be delivered through games and cheap technology such as the Wii.

    This article rhythm games from the Independent Games Festival [ http://www.myomancy.com/2008/04/rhythm-games-are-taking-over-the-world ] and this one on how the iPhone’s technology can be used in education may also interest you [ http://www.myomancy.com/2008/02/how-the-iphone-will-change-education ]. Here is a list of all the relevant posts [ http://www.myomancy.com/category/digital-fitness/ ].

    Cheers.

    Chris

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