Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Art + Science = Game
November 17, 2007

It has always been told that games are the perfect marriage between art and science. The best and most simple empirical proof of such statement is made by Helsinki’s great talent Petri Purho with this little game over here. I remember meeting him at this year’s GDC after he made a brilliant presentation on the Experimental Gameplay Project. If you love experimental games, keep a close eye on his blog.

Probably one of the inspirations behind this great ludic idea was MIT’s magic blackboard. An awesome tool that could be applied to teach Maths and Physics in a more interactive way.

The marriage between these concepts -game and educational technology- is the piece of proof I needed for my previous post.  The techniques and ways of thinking from people involved in entertainment industries such as videogames, could shape entire generations if we start using those ideas for making schools a place were students want to go rather than imposing them the pressure of having to go. Education has been stuck in the 19th century for too long…

Rant on Education
November 8, 2007

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…

When Books Were Technology
October 1, 2007

In a world of exponential technological growth, inventions from the past can sometimes be perceived as a common thing from nature. Books in particular, have been with us for so many centuries that we often forget they are one of the most important pieces of technology ever created.

The greatest contributor to books in the spanish language from the last century by using these to artistically express himself (just like games exploit computers for that very same expressive purpose and in many languages as well (C, Actionscript or Java)) was, without any doubt, Jorge Luis Borges. Few like him make me feel proud of the nationality I never chose.

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A particular short essay from him got my attention a few weeks ago. In his book Other Inquisitions he explores the birth of reading, he reminds the reader that back in the egyptian times books were received with reactionary comments, for them, they were “like painted figures that seem alive but never answer a single question asked to them” and they eventually provoke that “people stop using their memory and become dependant on symbols”.

The voice, in all cultures, was regarded as a sacred sound that had more power than symbols themselves. Reading was always a communal excercise were one read for the others to hear.

Borges finally recalls a writing from Saint Augustine from the 2nd century were he witnesses that precise moment when man seemed to begin reading in silence:

When Ambrosio read, he passed his view over the pages penetrating their soul, in the sense, of not conveying a single word nor even moving the tongue.

We already know how computers are changing our culture and  law as we know it. How is it changing our minds?

Montessori Method
June 23, 2007

Last week, the famous Montessori Method celebrated its 100th anniversary. Created by Dr. Maria Montessori, it consists of a philosophical and educational method that aims to change the way we acquire knowledge when we are kids. Today’s educational system perceives children as “adults in little bodies” and the goal of this revolutionary dogma is to stimulate children to explore their own natural curiosity.

Why am I so interested on this? We live on an era of Information. We can get access to the history and theories of absolutely any subject through a simple search on Google or Wikipedia. And the biggest asset an individual can have in post-industrial age is Knowledge. At this moment of history no one doubts that Education is the key for survival; but in a world that has changed so much in the last 10 years, educational models haven’t evolved at all.

Like many others, I have constantly defended games for their huge educational attributes: The very essence of gaming is about learning. Dogs play to learn. We play to learn. A few posts ago I’ve mentioned a stat that says that people remember 20% of what they see, 40% of what they hear and 60% of what they interact with. Maria Montessori found a nicer way to express the value of Play through a very similar and elegant proclaim:

I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I learn.

Montessori taught me the joy of discovery…It showed you can become interested in pretty complex theories, like Pythagorean theory, say, by playing with blocks. It’s all about learning on your terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you. SimCity comes right out of Montessori—if you give people this model for building cities, they will abstract from it principles of urban design.
Will Wright