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More Videogames, Fewer Books at Some Schools? 252

Posted by Zonk
from the if-you'll-turn-to-level-3-3-in-your-text dept.
A News.com article highlights a plan that may please word-weary students: more games, fewer books in some educational settings. That's one plan put forth by some educators who feel that current learning plans don't fully engage today's classes. By offering real-world dilemmas in a virtual setting ('discover why fish are dying in a park'), teachers hope that games will turn kids onto the idea of learning, and eventually lead them back to books. The article covers several of the projects geared towards exploring this idea, as well as research on the subject. "A game designer, Salen is working with a group called New Visions for Public Schools to establish a school in New York City for grades 6 through 12 that would integrate video games into the entire curriculum. 'There's a lot of moral panic about addiction to games. There's a negative public perception, and we know we have to deal with that. But teachers have been using games for years and years.'"
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More Videogames, Fewer Books at Some Schools?

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  • My take on this... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 18, 2007 @08:17PM (#18397393)
    This is a brilliant idea. Obviously there are many things to be concerned about... it's not necessarily a good thing to just get games so that the kids will be entertained, but to get them to learn something, to develop thinking skills, and to keep them interested in the subject being taught.

    Obviously when talking about games, and school, many of us think of calculator games [calcg.org]. For [calcg.org] the [calcg.org] most [calcg.org] part [calcg.org], the use of graphing calculators to play games has just been a way for students to not be bored during class, or for the lonely students to not be bored between class. There are also many calculator games that serve educational purposes in some ways, and they can easily be implemented in the classroom, since the a lot, if not the majority of high school students already own a graphing calculator.

    The purpose of going to school isn't necessarily to learn, but also to learn how to learn. And there are many [detachedsolutions.com] puzzle [calcg.org] games [calcg.org] that help that cause - they develop the brain in ways that traditional school just can't do. Reading helps the memory, but playing puzzle games help the way the brain actually approaches certain problems and situations.

    There is a certain level of interest that is absolutely necessary in order for a student to learn. The difference between the gifted students and the not so gifted students is generally their interest level.

    Generally what I saw when I was in high school was that the teachers always fought against the use of graphing calculators (especially playing games on them), but if I ever become a teacher (which I probably won't, and this might be the reason for that), I will utilize the technology available to the greatest extent, and gaming will likely be a part of that.

    And... a poll:
    Do you think your education would have been better had the teachers utilized games in order to help the students understand?

    Yes, [impoll.net]
    Maybe. [impoll.net]
    They DID! and that's why I turned out so great! [impoll.net]
    They DID! and that's why I turned out... the way I am... [impoll.net]
    No. [impoll.net]
    • by ClaraBow (212734) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @08:34PM (#18397519)
      I agree with many of your assertions, but as an educator, I see too many students in middle school and high school who lack basic reading and writing skills. It is extremely important for students to have a strong foundation in cultural literacy and in the "basic skills" or it becomes extremely difficult for students to succeed. It takes hard work to become proficient in reading, writing, and arithmetic. It seems to me that too many young people today want everything to be fun and easy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I agree. I would say that this would be a "subject to subject" thing. In English and language classes, the students should be reading and writing. In math and science classes, I think the "gaming" principal would apply better. Perhaps that would make them hate their language classes even more, but their problem solving skills would imrpove greatly. I don't know if there would be a way to incorporate the "gaming" into math and science and still allow the students to have an interest in reading and writi
        • by miskatonic alumnus (668722) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @09:31PM (#18397829)
          I agree that reading and writing is much more important than math and science in the real world...

          Your employer does too. That way he can pay you for 30 hours when you work 40, and you'll never know the difference. And let's not EVEN get into telephone bills.
          • by Cecil (37810)
            Uh, I'm pretty sure the guy is referring to math like calculus, advanced geometry, statistics, etc. That has nothing to do with whether you can add integers and read a clock. And reading is still more important, because if you didn't read your contract how do you know whether you've done what you've agreed to do for that paycheque anyway?
      • by MBCook (132727)

        Of course, if you can make something half-interesting, the kid may just start doing something (like reading) on their own. This is the problem I have with this kind of stuff. I didn't get into reading more until I was near the end of high-school. I could read well (thanks to my parents pushing me), but I "hated" reading. The reason is simple. I've never really been one to get into fiction books (although some Sci-Fi grabs me). But I had been forced to read so many books for school that were just terrible I

        • But I had been forced to read so many books for school that were just terrible I didn't have much interest.

          I know exactly what you mean. When I was in High School, I was supposed to read Alan Sillitoe's Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Hal Borland's When the Legends Die, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. These were all terrible books, and I never got more than a few pages into any of them.

          I dropped out of High School.

          Years later, I bought these and several others and read them just for my own purposes. Thank God I waited! The books had gotten much better by then.

      • > It seems to me that too many young people today want everything to be fun and easy. ... back when I was young, we wanted everything to be boring and difficult!

      • by loid_void (740416) *
        I've been around the teachers, school administrators and IT for the school. What tech says is that all the programs being pushed at the schools only do 2 things: (1) Give the teachers more work that they already have. (2) Do not engage the students. Gaming, or, toward gaming - yes, but what this article fails to reveal, and what those developing the programs aren't getting is that there is more to gaming than "Video Games." Bidding on Ebay is a game, uploading to You Tube or posting on MySpace or Facebook i
      • I'm not a native English speaker, and I started learning English in order to play text adventures (a.k.a. Interactive Fiction). Having fun is a very good motivation to learn an otherwise harsh material.

        Actually, people who read a lot of books usually do so because they find it amusing - conversely forcing children to read is the worst way you could teach them communicating skills.
    • As long as they don't try to remove reading from the curriculum, I think this is a great idea. Kids need to be required to read, and as they move up in grade levels, to read faster while retaining the same amount of content.
  • by User 956 (568564) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @08:19PM (#18397409) Homepage
    A New.com article highlights a plan that may please word-weary students: more games, fewer books in some educational settings.

    Look, I learned everything I need to know about the Great Western Expansion by playing Oregon trail. Such as, it is very easy to die of dysentery.
    • by 56ker (566853)
      Suits me - I run a popular website about video games. However on a more serious note, some of what I learnt while playing games such as Settlers and Civilisation were of use in say geography classes. Being 26 though now I've kind of grown out of video games somewhat as I lack the imagination I had when I was younger (yes when games required imagination in the 80s/90s and weren't so near photo realistic!)
    • by the_humeister (922869) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @08:35PM (#18397527)

      Look, I learned everything I need to know about the Great Western Expansion by playing Oregon trail. Such as, it is very easy to die of dysentery.


      The part that irks me is that no textbook I've seen ever mentions that farmers who made the trip successfully were awarded triple bonus points at the end.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by PhrankW (1077411)
        As she was being home-schooled, my daughter also first learned about the Western Expansion by playing Oregon Trail. She also learned that you do much better in the game if you always get as much information as you can from those who have gone before.
        Actually, I suspect the best use for videogames in education is as bribes. Once a student shows he has learned the material
        taught in a class, he doesn't have to sit still watching other students fail to learn, but can have a little fun while playing games, rea
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by thinsoldier (937530)
          Actually during the summer between 4th and 5th grade I met a family who every other year made their kids attend summer school so that when regular school started they would be well ahead of everyone else. The benefit the kids saw in this was the freedom to stay home from school sometimes 3 days a week if they felt like it. And even though the missed days had an adverse effect on their report cards due to school rules regarding perfect attendance, they were still the top students in their school up until the
    • by Pollux (102520) <speter AT tedata DOT net DOT eg> on Sunday March 18, 2007 @09:12PM (#18397709) Journal
      It may sound humorous, but the parent makes an important point that these educators don't seem to understand. Kids see games as entertainment, and they will only engage themselves insofar as they remain entertained. In Oregon Trail, there was always that option to "Talk With People," where you would learn historical facts and viewpoints, but that only slowed me down from getting to Oregon. The point I'm sure the parent post was trying to make was that kids only absorb information in a game when it's directly a part of gameplay, and even then, they're only snippets of information. (To be absolutely honest, I still don't know exactly what dysentery is, even though I can attribute probably 500 character deaths to it over my lifetime of playing Oregon Trail.)

      I think many educators do not understand that engagement in a game does not mean a child will be learning anything from it. Here's the difference:
      • When a child is engaged in learning, learning is the goal they set upon themselves, and they seek information to further their understanding of what they are studying. Since learning is the goal, information they find on their research brings them further to their goal.
      • When a child is engaged in a game, winning the game is the goal they set upon themselves, and they seek information to further their understanding of what they are playing. Since winning is the goal, information they find during their gameplay brings them further to their goal.

      The information you gain when playing a game is very fragmented, because you only absorb enough that you need to get you closer to winning. As the parent poster noted, you don't know what dysentery is, you only know that it's bad and it kills your characters.

      Teach these kids how to learn, not how to play a game. (Perfect example: MadTV Hooked on Phonics Parody [youtube.com])
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Traa (158207)
        ...To be absolutely honest, I still don't know exactly what dysentery is...

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysentery [wikipedia.org]

        You feel any better now that you know what you made 500 virtual people go through? ;-)
      • by davecrusoe (861547) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @09:44PM (#18397907) Homepage

        Ok, so a caveat: I was a researcher of educational gaming... but I quit the field when I realized how poorly gaming could translate into the kind of learning that kids need to succeed in the world. Some questions to consider:


        How do you transfer game learning to test contexts? After all, standardized tests matter to governments. If you teach in one context, it is very hard to utilize the skills in a different context. Moving from screen to paper is, for instance, tough.

        A game requires simplification. What happens to history when it's all burnt into a 15 minute game? While simulations can be helpful for testing dangerous or invisible things (such as genetic combinations, hazmat training or airplane simulation), they're generally poor at proving background.

        Some educational games are built on a research base. For instance, there is a math game that will build upon a learner's growing base of rote-memorized solutions (automaticity; measured in Sec. to answer) by scaffoling new and old together. These games are few and far between. MOST games are simply multiple choice, or weird adaptations of Doom-for-math-learning.

        End point:

        Does what we can teach through gaming actually matter in real life? What does, and what doesn't? Therefore: what should we continue to teach with books and discussion, and where can gaming be used positively?

        Anyhow, that's some general food for thought... without raising issues of gender bias, stereotype threat, etc etc.

        • Any problem which can be defined as a conflict which requires learning a skill or collection of facts can be made into a game. The question isn't how good can a game be at teaching, but how fun can a good teaching game be made?

          The Carmen Sandiego games for instance were exceptionally good at providing trivial geographic and historical knowledge, but poor at providing a comprehensive amount of information about any one problem. However, they encouraged initiative in problem solving, proper time management,
        • What happens to history when it's all burnt into a 15 minute game?

          You make the game longer. Example: Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego. Fun. Educational. The biggest issue is that this is still trivia, not knowledge. 1969, Neil Armstrong lands on the moon. Nothing about why the Space Race happened. On the other hand, that trivia is exactly what you need for standardized tests. So, while the education may decrease, the test scores will probably do even better. I am against this move, and not just be

        • > Does what we can teach through gaming actually matter in real life? What does, and what doesn't? Therefore: what should we continue to teach with books and discussion, and where can gaming be used positively?

          There are only a handful of games I believe I learned anything from:

          1) Number Munchers [pcgaming.ws] -- You have to solve simple math problems quickly during the game (e.g. "eat all multiples of 5"). I got plenty of practice figuring out multiples and such while playing that game as a kid.

          2) Binary Blitz [ganns.com] -- Y
        • Games with an ability to teach has a good test case known as Japan. Part of the reason the Nintendo DS Lite can't be kept in stock there despite an average $160 price-tag, and the Lite revision being out over a year, is due to the less game like games being put out like the math, writing/Kanji, and dictionary games that have come out (the Kanji games are the main reason I pass my Kanji Kentai exams). Games can't be the sole form of learning for the student, but they can be extremely helpful as an outside su
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cgenman (325138)
          Caveat: I've always wanted to get into educational gaming, but never have.

          Fundamentally, gaming can teach one thing: the game. Number munchers was very good at teaching how to quickly solve math problems while avoiding ghosts. Sim City taught resource management in a constrained system, as well as the civic arrangements that the city bothered to model.

          In other words, gaming teaches you HOW to do something. And if how you do something requires knowing facts, ala Carmen San Diego, then those facts can be l
      • by rhsanborn (773855)
        Another point to be made is that kids, eventually need to learn how to learn. Their bosses aren't going to give them video games to get their jobs done. And they are going to be loathe to find video games on how to solve real world problems.
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @08:25PM (#18397437)
    Thats easy, its cos I keep rail gunning them.
  • by SpaghettiCoder (1073236) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @08:27PM (#18397453)
    .. by introducing principles in games like ZZT, for instance. ZZT came with ZZT-OOP (ZZT Object Oriented Programming Language) so that you could create your own rooms with puzzles involving monsters that interact with the player and other monsters (or other objects). Each monster could be programmed with its own set of instructions (where it's told to start or react to specific events). ZZT is a great teaching and learning tool. I have 2 decades of programming experience (starting with BASIC on an 8-bit Amstrad), and the stuff I did as a child left the deepest impression (although it was, unfortunately, the BASIC language). So teach them when they're young.
    • by Bemopolis (698691) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @09:11PM (#18397703)
      I also learned a lot from ZZT-OOP — women have legs and know how to use them, and they're crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man.
      • by jamie (78724) * Works for Slashdot
        assert( $watch->is_gold );
        assert( $ring->is_diamond );
        assert( $self->num_missing( $thing->single ) < 1 );
    • by fermion (181285)
      While such games are good for introducing concepts, they are often not good for abstracting concepts, which is the critical skill in programming. Understanding that the variable represents a physical entity, and that the variable is going to model how that entity works, is best done by working abstractly. The biggest problem I see is that kids are not forced to move from the playing with blocks phase to the generalizing concept phase. At one time, and still in some places, such generalizations are requir
  • I object. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakusha (441986) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @08:29PM (#18397469)
    I strenuously object to the hasty, ill-concieved rush to computerize education by turning everything into a video game. Pretty soon, everyone will think science only takes place inside a computer. Let me give an example.

    One of my favorite childhood memories was going to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Up on the second floor, there was a permanent display of historic scientific apparatus, like a Wimshust Generator about 20 feet in diameter. I went back to visit it about 10 years ago, all those exhibits were gone, replaced with computer kiosks. Really BAD computer kiosks, uninspiring, ill-planned junk that had all the bells and whistles, but little educational content. I thought about the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on developing and deploying those horrid, amateurish kiosks, and how they replaced a whole museum wing that represented the technological development of America, and I can only consider it the greatest educational tragedy I ever saw. I remember being inspired, as a little child, seeing those monuments to science, but that will never happen again. And it's a damn shame.
    • there was a permanent display of historic scientific apparatus, like a Wimshust Generator about 20 feet in diameter

      I hear you. In a museum, those computer kiosks need to be restricted just to the kinds of things it is not practical to demonstrate "live" on-site. Like a Tokamak reactor. Otherwise, you might just as well have stayed home and surfed the same content there.

      Imagine going to a live concert, but you get the seats so far from the stage, that you have to watch it on the video screen, with piped-i

      • by Cadallin (863437)
        Sure, you can't put a decent sized Tokamak in a public museum, but there's no reason to not put something like Philo Farnsworth Fuzor, which IS a tabletop sized Fusion reactor. A Sonoluminescence display would also be quite cool, although as far as I know its still unsettled whether it can actually be used to produce locally hot fusion.
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday March 18, 2007 @09:15PM (#18397727)
      Games are written. Just as books are written. And the writer has his/her own biases.

      If you read a book, you can read two books. You can read a dozen books. You can find the biases.

      If you play one "educational" video game, you've pretty much played them all. There aren't very many. So you'll be stuck with whatever bias the person who wrote it had.

      That's not education. That's programming.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aztektum (170569)
      Maybe kids would engage more if parents weren't so focused on satisfying every little whim and fancy of their kids anymore. Turn of MTV, limit their playtime on the Xbox and make them go do some real world shit, like play outside, or hell even board games require more attention span.
      • More like if parents actually had time for the kid. Now I know that an anecdote isn't exactly data, but let me tell you how it worked for me.

        I learned to read and write long before I got to school, because my grandma took the time to teach me that, and to make it interesting. I can't remember much from that age (she started with it when I was 2-3 years old), but from what I'm told it involved pictures of animals whose name started with that letter, and stuff like that. Kids are pretty much pre-programmed to
    • I had the same experience when I went back to visit the Royal Tyrrell Musem [tyrrellmuseum.com] in Drumheller, Alberta -- perhaps the premiere dinosaur museum in North America, if not the world -- and was shocked to see how it had changed in the fifteen years since I'd been there.

      I had the same experience as the parent -- the well-made dioramas and informative visual displays and had been replaced by literal flashing lights, kiosks, ominous music and so forth. I actually did learn something, but that was from an old exhibi

    • by Animats (122034)

      One of my favorite childhood memories was going to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Up on the second floor, there was a permanent display of historic scientific apparatus, like a Wimshust Generator about 20 feet in diameter.

      Me too. Did you ever see the "million volt lightning generator", which was a Marx generator? I saw it working. The steel-ball-on-steel anvil setup that would bounce for minutes? Telerama, the old Bell Telephone exhibit? The working Linotype machine?

      The Henry Fo

      • by sakusha (441986)
        Hmm.. the steel ball sounds familiar, and I mean that literally, I remember that banging sound clearly as if I could hear it right now. Telerama seems vaguely familiar, and the lightning. I don't recall the linotype, but I've seen one before, when I was a little kid and I took a tour of my hometown newspaper which still used them even as late as the 1970s. I still have a scar on my finger from the burn I got when I tried to swipe a hot lead slug... ha.

        Anyway, when I went back to the Museum of Science and In
  • Well kids can't read but at least they know how to kill space mutants.
    • by EEBaum (520514)
      Well kids can't read but at least they know how to kill space mutants.

      The irony of that reality will be realized eventually, when the space mutants that have infiltrated our society and rendered our citizens completely illiterate through the creation of educational game software finally reveal their true nature, assuming control of society in its entirety quite easily due to our lack of basic literary aptitude, only to be foiled by the mutant-killing skills of the otherwise completely helpless populace.
  • its very simple.. after teaching the theory, make the last part of a given unit contribute to real world application.

    this kind of apprenticeship will require a little bit of checking, but could probably relieve labor costs a bit in the local community.

    it will also help break down that wall separating academia from reality by integrating actual "practice" of that theory.
  • Fewer books? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Etherwalk (681268) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @08:37PM (#18397535)
    "Fewer books" is not the right answer. Educational videogames can be a lot of fun--I'm reminded of Rocky's Boots (digital logic for kids) or Fraction Action (Okay, so graphics have improved over the years)--but "Fewer books" is almost always the wrong answer. There are so many incredible books out there--books that are written with beautiful language, books that can be enjoyed and explored.

    (On a tangent, schools which assign BAD books to be read are pretty criminal--there's so much good stuff out there the last thing you need to do is assign a book that's going to turn someone off of reading before they've graduated grade school.)

    I applaud the use of video games for education--and I have no problem with having video games to play, for children or adults. But how much would we gain by simply having a month each semester, or each year, when all the children at a school were told "No television and no video games." With more books assigned in that period--even if it's a question of asking each student to pick five or ten books out of a hundred choices. Television and video games are more immediately engaging, and maybe you need to starve someone of them for a little while to make them be more willing to try a book. If there's nothing else to do, even the most avid watcher of cartoons might eventually pick up a book and read for a while.
  • by SavedLinuXgeeK (769306) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @08:50PM (#18397601) Homepage
    This seems like a never ending cycle of catering to attention deficient children. Western culture is so much more media driven, than ever before, that attention spans are dwindling. There is a reason we didn't need jazz up science 100 years ago to get people interested. That is because science is interesting. If we start catering to an inability of focusing and building desires by yourself, we are more hurting the children then helping. They will get to a point where they expect everyone and everything to cater to them, especially if they show a lack of interest about something. It just seems like a bad idea. It almost seems like dropping computers altogether, and getting back to basics in a way that forces them to focus would be of utmost benefit. The only downside is the lack of information sharing that the internet brings, simulation capabilities that computers offer, and disability services that computers give.
    • It's because we didn't expect people to know about modern science and they didn't have to. If we want to remain a democracy we need to increase the education level of the populace, and that means engaging more of them. I dread the day we have to make a decision as a society involving category theory.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by thrawn_aj (1073100)
      +1. Parent has the right insight into this. At what point in this charade are we going to expect the students to show some initiative for their own education? This disease is spreading right upto high school and even unto college now. If it takes such extreme measures to get students interested in their own education, perhaps we should rethink our goals here. Have a merit based education system (golly gee what a novel concept :P) and impress upon the students the reality of the outside world. Given a choice
    • by metlin (258108) *

      There is a reason we didn't need jazz up science 100 years ago to get people interested. That is because science is interesting.

      That is an extremely insightful statement right there.

      Science and nature are inherently interesting. When I was younger, I used to be fascinated by numbers. And whenever I could, I would play around with numbers, trying to do weird things.

      And as I grew up, I built Tesla coils and other things and learnt science by doing something with my hands, which is so much more fascinating. Or

      • There is a reason we didn't need jazz up science 100 years ago to get people interested. That is because science is interesting. ... That is an extremely insightful statement right there. Science and nature are inherently interesting.

        I don't know about that. 100 years ago, leading-edge hard science was a lot more interesting and relevant to the common folk than it is now. You had people like Tesla and Marconi using brand-new principles from scientists like Hertz and Maxwell, duking it out to see who coul
    • by dosius (230542)
      I am bound to agree, and most of what I was taught was out of a book or out in the world (field trips aplenty) and I spent very little of my non-free time on computers in school. (A lot of my free time otoh...) I did quite well, considering that I do have a classified learning disability - I was special ed and took a few Honors classes, and had a Regents with Honors diploma...

      -uso.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blacklint (985235)
      Science sure is interesting when shown to be. And, in case you wanted to know, i'm a current high school student (at a Catholic school).
      -------
      In my middle school, a retired teacher came back to teach an extra science course before regular classes started. He taught us all kinds of things, all hands on. We soldered together electronic kits, dissected animals (including a shark one of his friends caught... who needs preservatives), fermented wine from raisins, distilled it into alcohol, then burned it, mad
    • by julesh (229690)
      This seems like a never ending cycle of catering to attention deficient children.

      I couldn't agree more. Kids don't need distracting with games, they need engaging with lively education that teaches them interesting stuff that they actually want to learn about.

      One thing from the summary particularly annoyed me: "educators who feel that current learning plans don't fully engage today's classes." Today's classes are no different, in any meaningful way, from what they have been any time in the last 20 years.
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Sunday March 18, 2007 @09:00PM (#18397651) Homepage Journal

    Reading and writing are *so* passe, but if you look at Information Age jobs, these skills are absolutely critical. Beyond jobs, literate citizens are key to a functional democracy. The diminishing of information literacy in America proceeds apace, and our cultural and political life suffers as a result. We expect less and less of ourselves, and we pass that on to the next generation.

    Games are great. I grew up playing them, and I still play them. But games aren't a replacement for the tried and true combination of reading, writing, and hard work. Wrapping learning in a sugary coating may make it taste better, but that won't make it nutritional.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by value_added (719364)
      Reading and writing are *so* passe, but if you look at Information Age jobs, these skills are absolutely critical. Beyond jobs, literate citizens are key to a functional democracy. The diminishing of information literacy in America proceeds apace, and our cultural and political life suffers as a result. We expect less and less of ourselves, and we pass that on to the next generation.

      Literate citizens? You're trying too hard. What's wrong with the current system where everyone depends on their television t
      • I don't about you, but I work hard for a living. I can come home and turn on Fox News and get the important issues of the day summarised for me. That's what the information age is all about.

        That's where you're wrong. I don't work hard for a living. I'm independently wealthy. That's why I think Americans should pay attention to what's going on around them. I'm just a rich, arrogant snob who reads (and not just when it is forced upon me). I don't believe everything I see on TV, either. One of these days I

        • Now, could someone please pass the Grey Poupon?

          And pass me the remote, while you're at it.
          • by Infonaut (96956)

            And pass me the remote, while you're at it.

            I literally laughed out loud at that one. Value added, indeed.

  • That's the problem with most schools. Not enough reality. Maybe they should try taking the kids to a real lake one day to teach them why the fish are dying, they might learn something important.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Maybe they should try taking the kids to a real lake one day to teach them why the fish are dying

            Better yet, drown the buggers in the lake. Oops, sorry I'm the parent of 2 teenagers...
  • Video games do not engender abstract thinking. Video games stimulate the visual center of mind in order to get the attention of kids easily, but IMHO, I don't think that necessarily translates into learning. There's no substitute for a lot of reading and a lot of hard work. There are no shortcuts.

  • Models. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @09:11PM (#18397699)
    Calling a virtual-model a game only serves to denigrate the whole concept. :p Really, interacting with a model sounds a lot less cool than "playing a game" but it is a much more accurate description. Controlling a simulation in this sense sounds, if done properly, like it could be a very engaging form of learning versus rote memorization of books. Complimenting traditional studies this might actually be able to accomplish it's goal: engaging developing-minds in ways linear text doesn't.
  • It's slightly off-topic, but my question is: Why are all students expected to buy graphing calculators starting in like 7th grade? I'm a teacher at a school where it's MANDATORY for all middle school students to purchase a graphing calculator. The most complex thing these students do with these arcane hunks of plastic is play some sort of tetris game and painstakingly spell out obscene messages to each other. It's been going on for like 15-20 years now and I don't get it. Maybe twice a year someone does the
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JRaven (720)
      Why are grade-schoolers expected to buy calculators? Beats the bejesus out of me.

      I've taught undergraduate mathematics going on ten years now, and for the vast majority of the courses (including calc, vector calc, diff eq and linear algebra) my students aren't permitted calculators on either quizzes or exams.

      Calculators are a crutch. They teach students to shove numbers into a magic box and just accept whatever comes out. In a perfect world that wouldn't be the case, but until the students have a solid gras
    • by lachlan76 (770870)

      The ability to go back and see (and modify without completely redoing) ones chain of calculations is rather useful in physics and chemistry. I'm not sure why you'd want one in middle school (is that years 8-10 in the US?), but towards the end it would probably be useful to have.

      While a graphical calculator is not necessarily useful for calculus (with the exception of checking tangents), there are still quite a few places where they are (at least in the South Australian curriculum, I cannot speak for th

      • by julesh (229690)
        The ability to go back and see (and modify without completely redoing) ones chain of calculations is rather useful in physics and chemistry.

        In an educational scenario, you should be recording your chain of calculations on paper. No exceptions. If you aren't recording the calculations, how's anybody (including yourself, during revision) going to see how you came to the answer?

        I'm not sure why you'd want one in middle school (is that years 8-10 in the US?), but towards the end it would probably be useful to
  • by Canordis (826884) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @09:22PM (#18397773)

    Games are a media, like books and film and images, and each media has its strengths. Books are good for teaching because (Besides touching on literacy skills), they can be read over again, at the reader's own pace; films are good for teaching because they compress information relatively densely, and are much better at giving a sense of scale or displaying events than a book (What's better? Telling people about the size of the universe, or showing them Powers of Ten?).

    Games are good for helping students understand complex systems by interacting with them. Being able to play with a historically accurate strategic wargame is more interesting, and provides a deeper insight, than just reading what happened during a war. Being able to watch small simulated lifeforms reproduce on a screen is a stunning display of natural selection. There are some subjects which are better explained through a particular media.

    • by cgenman (325138)
      Perfect places for gaming:

      Dance Dance Revolution (P.E.)
      Driving Games (Driver's Ed)
      Sim City (Civics... do they still have that?)
      MindRover (Engineering)

      Other games might be good for other subjects, but these at least are inarguable and above reproach.

  • How about, petition Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL to include spelling and grammar checking in their IM programs? Then, chatters will slowly fix errors in their spelling and grammar, becoming excellent writers and excellent readers through exposure to proper spelling and grammar?
    • by westlake (615356)
      How about, petition Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL to include spelling and grammar checking in their IM programs?

      which reminds me

      how do you explain the bad spelling on Slashdot when ieSpell, the Google Toolbar, and Firefox are there to help you?

      • by Sj0 (472011)
        Don't look at me; My spelling has improved since spell-checking has forced me to examine my deficiencies.
    • Have you forgotten; right click and "add to library"? Of course grammar is a whole different subject than spelling. I yam sure ewe wood agree.
    • by EEBaum (520514)
      Spellcheckers make people worse spellers, not better. They produce better spelling, but they make people worse spellers. Rather than reading over their own writing, people just assume the spellchecker will catch it, and so the poor spelling is reinforced.
      • by Sj0 (472011)
        ...Opposed to right now, where they simply ignore spelling and grammar?
  • Reality Check Time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Sunday March 18, 2007 @10:00PM (#18397995) Homepage

    Kids learn better by engaging them. Kids are engaged by video games. Thus, kids will learn better from video games,

    I know I look forward to learning about Greek Mythology from God of War II.

    Seriously though. I'm all for engaging kids. The better job you do, the more likely they are to engage themselves and learn on their own. You know one thing that doesn't engage students? Spending all your time teaching to a standardized test. Why go outside and show kids plants, plant a little garden, let them learn from that. Instead, we can just show them a picture in a book and force them to memorize what geotropism.

    Let's not forget that as you dumb down the curriculum and spend more time going over and over the same stuff so that all the kids can memorize it for the test, the kids who are smart (and already got it) and even those who are just normal (and got it 6 times ago, unlike the kid in the back who eats paste) are getting bored and tuning out. You may get them back, or they may learn that "school is boring".

    I like the idea behind "No child left behind." I think holding teachers accountable, as radical as that may be, is a good thing. It's just too bad that everyone decided to implement it by teaching to the test all the time. I remember when I was in elementary and middle school. They would teach us stuff, we'd learn, things were good. There was usually at least something interesting. Until that time of year. Yes, time for the CAT (California Achievement Tests) or whatever other yearly test we used. For the month before the test they did nothing but teach to the test, which was boring to no end since it was always below the stuff we were currently learning.

    More hands on lessons. That's what schools need. Hands on stuff, experiments, field trips.

    How many people here think they would even remember what the Oregon Trail was if it wasn't for the game? How many people here remember all the historical stuff from the game, and how many just remember seeing how fast you could get your friends killed or trying to get a tombstone so you could write something on it.

    • by mctk (840035) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @11:28PM (#18398377) Homepage
      I'll agree to this "holding teachers accountable" business if I get to hold my school district accountable. You can "hold me accountable" if:
      • I get to charge the district for all my overtime. I'm contracted for 37.5 hours a week. I work an average of 52 hours a week. The longest break I get is 20 minutes, if I lock my door shut during lunch period. I get time-and-a-half for the three to hours I put in every Sunday.
      • I get to charge the district for all of my personal money I spend on supplies. This includes tissues, pens, pencils, notebooks, markers, batteries for calculators, cleaner, and pies (for pi day!)
      • My school gets a full time counselor.
      • I have an administrator who does more than stop by for 13 minutes, then leave a two page report, highlighting mostly, the lack of student work on my walls.
      • I have time to sit and talk with my colleagues about students, school issues, and curriculum planning. "Time" is defined as contiguous periods longer than 7 minutes in length.
      • The school district agrees that art is an integral part of the curriculum and begins bringing back art offerings to every school.
      Whew. Sorry. Rant. Yes, hold teachers accountable. Honestly, I don't mind. I'm proud of my work. However, teachers are not the problem. A good 85% of us are working to the threshold of exhaustion all year.

      We should think about the university system. Why don't we yell about holding professors accountable? Cause if they suck, you go to a different school. I think we need to look into bringing that model to public schools.
      • by EEBaum (520514)
        Indeed. I know of a lot of people that would be great teachers and are turned off by the grotesque amount of red tape involved in teaching in public schools.
    • by mctk (840035)
      Sorry for ranting at you. I agree completely with your points. I agree that teacher accountability is a good thing. But it needs to implemented along with a major shift in our approach to curriculum (as you point out).
    • by EEBaum (520514)
      Hey, the kid in the back eating the paste is losing out just as bad as everyone else. He's actually a step ahead, having determined long ago that the meaningless standardized-test facts being spewed in his direction aren't worth paying attention to. Were YOU allowed to eat in class? I think not!
  • I just have to wonder when are these children who have been thought by playing computer games to study with a book? When are they going to learn how one should do his/her reading and writing exercises? I mean in elementary school you learn to concentrate on a book and on how to write essays, and when you go to high school you will start really using what you have learned previously. To go more to a point, how can kids thought by computer games and etc.. in later life, in collage or university concentrate on
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by subsonic (173806)
      I agree with your line of thinking. Part of the trouble in having literate students is not just that they are not able to simply read, but they don't even know where to begin to search for information on their own. OK, sure you can tell them that Google has everything, but then they don't know how to critically analyze the sources of their information. Part of literacy is being able to think critically about what it is you are reading/watching/listening to. This is a critical step that many teachers and
  • In my school system, it is mandated by the government to have 110 hours of instruction per course per year. This makes the fix quite obvious - provide 110 hours of instructional material per course per year. As expected, following what's written down is the one of the best methods.

    Some people once played with a "toy" where you have to put shapes into holes - learning that only the square shape fits in the square hole, the circle into the circle and the triangle into the triangle. Time spent attempting to
  • Take them on monthly field trips to the places where uneducated people wind up. Slums. Trailer parks. Skid rows. Jails. The Post Office. Episodes of "Dirty Jobs".
  • ...remind me to move more investments overseas.
  • When I was a kid, I blew thousands of hours playing video games.

    A small percentage of that time actually taught me useful skills. Included among them were. . .

    Patterns of competitive social behavior among friends. (When you are doing really well in a game, other people will sometimes try to derail you by projecting "Fail" at you in a variety of ways. You learn how to recognize this and how to counter it, and what kinds of behaviors friends can take on. These lessons, however, can be learned in any envir
  • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Monday March 19, 2007 @01:13AM (#18398735)
    Kids want to be entertained, not taught. Parents want their kids to have good grades and they don't want to hear, ever, from a teacher that their kid isn't trying, is not keeping up, and so on--the "there are no bad students, only bad teachers" mantra. Teachers have to work with the kids every day, their employment can be affected by complaining parents, and ultimately they, like everyone else, are going to take the path of least resistance.

    We are gutting education to the extent that it won't be verifiable anymore. If you reduce education to a videogame, you can't very well test on it, and you won't have quantifiable data to point to to show that little Johnny is an idiot. They'll dazzle you with buzzwords about emotional intelligence and self-esteem while fighting standardized testing. I don't blame the teachers all that much--they are subject to the demands of parents, and parents have long brought their power as consumers and taxpayers to bear on the school systems. The parents don't want to fault their own little angels because to do so would call their own parenting into question. It isn't even about the kids.

    Frankly, we shouldn't even have computers in the classrooms until high school. It should be all books, chalkboards (cheaper than dry-erase boards/markers) and that's it. Kids need to read. For that matter, adults need to read. But will it change? I doubt it. Parents view teachers as their own contracted employees. Even when I was in high school back in the 80s it was changing--one of my best, most challenging teachers was fired becasue parents complained.

  • There was once a system that worked, they changed it, it no longer worked. So you then reverse the change to undo the damage and kill of the people who suggested the change and anyone who in future suggests doing similar changes right?

    Offcourse not, that would be sensible, instead you chase the dream, you ask the same people who made the bad changes to come up with yet more changes.

    Games in the classroom. Real world problems. Right.

    The biggest problem in education right now is the believe that all kids a

  • About time already ! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by unity100 (970058) on Monday March 19, 2007 @03:21AM (#18399089) Homepage Journal
    Now see, in 15th century printing press and the paper were the big thing - new technological stuff that made it possible for knowledge to be more easily transferred. This has resulted in the world we know today.

    Today, we have graphics, sound, internet, computer. These are the big thing now.

    We need to use them just as people used printing press back then - as the primary source of spreading information, and education.

    There is a forced inclination to think that 'people should read books'. We have to give that up. The book concept is being conferred much more importance than the value it provides as a medium. It can easily be said that the importance conferred comes more from traditional conditioning of 'books are good' (correct at any date pre-1997) than the actual value books carry in disseminating information and education today.

    Visual aids are ALWAYS better. This is why we had illustrations on any printed material during the course of history whenever it was possible. Today we have virtualization, games, sound, graphics, anything you can imagine to make the utopic futuristik education themes in sci-fi movies come true.

    And we should do as such, for faster, better and less stress-inducing teaching of children.

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