“The Victorians were great engineers. They engineered a schooling system that was so robust that it’s still with us today, continuously producing identical people for a machine that no longer exists.” Dr. Sugata Mitra explains how legacy of the British Empire still influences us today.
At a recent First Friday Flex Event in San Diego’s Mesa College I discussed the growing prominence of Gamification – on campus and in our lives. To illustrate –
After its launch, Viddy, an app that turns everyday moments into fun little movies, had less than 10 million users. Highlighted in Facebook’s newsfeed on April 24, 2012, its monthly usage crossed 40 million in a little over two weeks. Move over Oprah, Facebook is the new place to launch a business.
Social networking companies have deeply and widely penetrated the lives of ordinary people. A survey by the Pew Research Center shows half of all adults in the United States use a social networking site. They have transformed how we communicate, authorities govern and companies sell things.
At the BESAC conference in Sacramento my talk expounded on transgression of top tier content available to the masses via MOOC’s – Massive Open Online Courses – making teaching redundant at non-ivy league higher education institutes. My goal at both these events was to impress upon the educators present there that using games in their classroom is no longer an option.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman concurs we have gone from a connected world to a hyper connected world. So connected, that we get a panic attack if our smartphone is misplaced. He calls it the 401(k) world — a world of defined contributions, not defined benefits — where everyone needs to pass the bar exam and no one can escape the most e-mailed list.
Technology is empowering. It has led to a huge expansion in an individual’s ability to do all. One big difference: more now rests on YOU.
What does this all mean – it means that we have students arriving in our classrooms full of contradictions.
- They have access to the world’s knowledge but need to learn
- They have the access to the fastest computers but still need to figure out how to use that power
- They are connected to hundreds of “friends” but still need to learn how to communicate
Am I suggesting that games are a silver bullet to the myriad problems facing education today? Maybe.
Games offer proven learning. Jane McGonigal on The Colbert Report says playing video games is actually the most productive thing we can do. They keep us motivated, optimistic, encourage collaboration and increase our resilience to difficulties – exactly the characteristics we want to encourage in our classrooms.
Games also cater to all types of learners. 73% of students today defy the stereotype that we have in our minds and all of them learn differently. Students today are older, more diverse and have varied learning skills. In her talk at TED, Daphne Koller says that one-on-one teaching is the best solution in the world but we simply cannot support it. We can however give every student a smartphone and/or a tablet and let them learn using technology. I strongly believe that gaming technology applied to learning can resolve issues like:
- Providing specific feedback – Talk to anyone who grades and they will tell you that providing meaningful and actionable feedback to each and every student is a significant challenge.
- Repeat teaching of concepts – Humans get tired of repeating the same thing over and over again, computers don’t.
- Enforcement of deadlines – You cannot argue with a computer and that is why most students do not.
- Poor learning skills – Students today have poor learning skills and at most times the educator first needs to teach them how to learn before starting to teach.
One of the questions I was asked at the end of my talk was – “Are we not keeping our students in a bubble of computer generated worlds? How do we get them to explore outside this virtual world?” Educators need to change their mindset from being the expert-in-class to facilitator-in-class. Treat games and simulations as a tool. Pick one that suits your purpose and do not use it as an excuse to do less work.
Technology cannot replace the human educator.