Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Games Outside the System

Yesterday I said that the Serious Games listserv occasionally flares up...right now it's on fire, with some serious debate. Ben Sawyer probably has more good ideas in a day than I have in a year. In this discussion, he's taking the angle that game developers and advocates should be working with teachers and instructors to help get the right things built and implemented. Marc Prensky objects to the approach, basically saying that it's time to cut out the educating middlemen:
"But if our goal is to help the world, or our country, or the people who are not being served or who are being poorly served, and we want to use public money or scarce resources to do it, then we are compelled, it seems to me, to go where the biggest problems are, and to focus not where the resistance is highest, but where it is the lowest. To me this means getting unmotivated kids motivated and doing it outside the schools rather than through the teachers."
While this change-the-world rhetoric may sound somewhat melodramatic, I tend to agree with his cynicism about the ability and willingness of most teachers to embrace and implement new technology, especially anything that might be construed as fun. They are under too much pressure to cover too much curriculum with hundreds of teenagers who are often hostile to the entire exercise. Marc isn't afraid to alienate the establishment to get things happening:
"My sense is that we now have the tools, with modern game design, to get someone who is initially unwilling through any subject, with a depth that allows them to pass any test. That should, in my opinion, be our goal. Sadly, our teachers and trainers have failed miserably at this (although they deal with the first group reasonably well.)"

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