May 06 2005
This is my first mini review of a talk from IT conversations, it is an interview by Moira Gunn with Dr. Henry Jenkins and explains how he thinks video games will revolutionise education. Dr. Jenkins is the director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the co-editor of Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition (Media in Transition). The talk is truly fascinating, and pretty scary when you think about the dramatic affects it will have on the capability and outlook that the kids of the future. Surprisingly this talk and others point out that the gamer generation will have different attitudes to work and will need to be managed differently, this talk by John Beck, a Senior Research Fellow at USC’s Annenberg Center of the Digital Future, is on that topic.
I particularly liked the description of the teacher, as more of a coach and leader, and the emphasis on experience as a tool for learning. In the games that bring history to life it is interesting how it will be possible to provide a real insight into what life was actually like for those experiencing key events from different perspectives, it will no longer to a sequential textbook description. He also talks about a science game where students try and master magnetic fields by learning to navigate through them, the teacher then explains the theory and the kids can try again this time with an evolved understanding of the underlying theory. He mentions that in the classroom of the future kids will use textbooks as “cheat sheets” that help them play the game better. This is much more true to life in the real world which is of course all about doing things and researching to do things better.
The best part of the talk was where Henry talked about about the process of producing a game. The producer asks the teacher “why are we teaching this – what is its purpose” ie what is the relevance of the knowledge learned to some real activity. You would hope that the teachers had a good answer but invariably I suspect the answer is “it’s important”. As someone who likes to learn by experience and apply what I have learned the whole talk was music to my ears.
That said I am not a gamer! why? because I am worried that I will get drawn into it and never get any work done or spend time with my family etc, I have an addictive personality and games certainly sound addictive!