How do we create virtual entertainment that’s meaningful, yet still fun enough without guns or sex? Is it possible? This is the question we asked three weeks ago, when we invited many game designers, education specialists and anyone interested in the future of our young generations to share their thoughts.
We received a very balanced variety of thoughts on the subject. Here, I will outline some of the thoughts that were presented, and, of course, announce the winner of this particular Bloggers Challenge, before letting you know about the next theme.
I follow Rik’s blog Betterverse: Nonprofits in the Virtual World, where Rik covers issues relating to virtual worlds and education. His post Are Kids Abandoning Toys for Online Worlds a Good Thing? really grabbed my attention right at the time when I was asking exactly the same question myself. As a mother of two young boys I experience the same thing. Kids would rather play on the computer, Wii or their Nintendo than with their Playmobil or Lego. I try to limit the amount of time they spend each week and all this time still question if the electronic games are in any way harming or actually simulating my kids. Rik’s entry to the Blogger Challenge was on What Online Education Projects Can Learn from Popular Games.
Rik states that: ‘In fact, a lot of learning happens even in the most violent games like Grand Theft Auto and God of War.’ He claims thatthinking, strategic focus, resource allocation, and other skills beyond simply reaction time and hand-eye-coordination are all being developed through the gameplay. But at what expense? In my opinion, games that make crime look cool to young people should not be allowed. I do agree with Rik that there are lot of things that educators can learn from video games, and I am a great fan of his wonderful series I Dig Science (check out the short video about their first camp, I Dig Tanzania). I believe we need more educators like Rik to get our kids involved in science in different ways.
The second entry was from Iggy O who is a faculty member in Rhetoric & Communication Studies at the University of Richmond who has been active in virtual worlds since January, 2007.I also follow his thoughts in his blog In A Strange Land regularly. His entry to the challenge, More Than a Game, suggested getting students involved in roleplay, and creating areas in the virtual world for literature. I can not agree more with Iggy O on his thoughts about incorporating both virtual and real life experiences in education. “What if, instead, we took what is best about that sort of learning–critical thinking and research–and employed them in genres students would forget were “for a class”? I’m not advocating the end of reading Shakespeare; I am advocating “living” Shakespeare while reading the plays.” His project to honour Edgar Allen Poe is simply amazing, and from the look of it it’s been appreciated and well explored by the students too.
The third entry was from Rebecca‘s Hot Tap Media blog withAre Educational Games without Guns any Fun? Rebecca comes in with her personal experience as a non-violent-gamer and explains very clearly why the mainstream games bore her to death and why she is still searching for a game that will make her cry. I think we all would agree with Rebecca on this “By separating entertainment and education we suggest that the two are mutual exclusive, which is just not the case. At pre-school, there is as much emphasis on playing catch or finding out what a policeman does as there is on learning maths and the alphabet everythings educational. Its the same for us grown-ups.” All I can add is that finding the balance right is the hardest challenge.
The next entry is from the wonderful people in eModeration and the blog entry wasSex, Guns and Education? I am more than delighted to find out that we managed to get most people in eModeration to question the subject and managed to hear several opinions on the subject, if not a single clear answer. I had to sympathise with Tia, who wrote: “Oh, Ok, perhaps I’m being a bit overly sensitive! But the violence is SO ubiquitous and just really, really, really tedious to see it played out between my two small humans when screen time has finished …It’s a lively debate that doesn’t look likely to be settled in a hurry” I would highly recommend that you also read the other views on the blogpost, which make an interesting read.
A surprise entry was from a long time gamer Prad Prathivi on Metaversally Speaking and the blog was Learning Through Pixels:Can Education Mix with Games. I found it very interesting that Prad puts great emphasis on the need for games to be addictive. He writes: “So how much education can you fit in a game before it loses that addictive ‘must..complete..now’ feeling? Can you be learning and still stay up 48 hours straight to make it to the final boss?”. I really enjoyed reading about the different examples that he brought into the discussion, and I liked the way he ends his post: “Technology is the future, and education is the key. Can the two be combined? Of course. Interactive games will redefine the way children are taught and as it stands, its a market for the taking“.
Time to Announce the Winner…
The above entries all offered different, interesting thoughts and opinions, and it was difficult to select a winner. However, we thought that the very last entry, by Livius from The History Blog, expressed a particularly strong and balanced response in: How to make history appeal to the gaming generation. I really enjoyed Livius’ in-depth study of the history-based virtual games that are available from different sources. There is one point he makes that I thought was particularly valuable to this discussion: “The question then becomes how do would-be educators tap into this parallel world of learning. Virtual online environments are a great way to explore cultural and historical landmarks that you cant see in person, or which you couldnt possibly explore in the kind of detail the virtual replica provides.”
Livius wins five books of his choice from Thames & Hudson’s current catalogue. He also scoops the usual 100 points for entering, plus a whooping extra 500 points, putting him well on his way towards winning a fabulous holiday in Turkey for two. So congratulations Livius – I will add your points right away.
Still Chance to Win!