Escapist Magazine: new issue on “Edu-Gaming”

Escapist Magazine is one of my few email subscriptions – it’s a high-production-values, thought-provoking online magazine focused on games and gamers. Check it out at http://www.escapistmagazine.com/. The latest issue, #59, is focused on Edu-Gaming. Here’s the editor’s introduction, from Julianne Greer:

Even before I started kindergarten, I attended a Montessori school. For those unfamiliar, a Montessori school will not seem much like a school in the traditional sense. A visitor to a Montessori establishment would find children of many different ages all piled together in the same room. The children would be observed and helped by the teachers present, but really you’d be correct if you noted the children were directing their own time. In fact, it may look like the children are playing – drawing, playing games – settled into small groups about the room, or perhaps working alone.

The thing is, they are playing. The theory of Montessori is to look at the world as a child does; teach the child, do not correct the child; allow her to explore her surroundings, but aid learning by providing toys with a goal.

Many people are skeptical of this methodology, but it’s gaining ground. And I have nothing but good things to say about it, and thanks for my parents for sending me. By the time I went to first grade, I knew world geography, I knew multiplication tables through 5’s and I understood the relationship of 10 to 100 to 1000. Not bad for age six.

As a result, the idea of learning through games and toys is not only natural to me, I see it as a necessary part of education. The ancient Chinese proverb, most often attributed to Confucius, “I hear, I forget; I see, I remember; I do, I understand” is never more demonstrable than in educational play. Children are more likely to respond to a lesson taught through fun than through lecture, it is their nature.

And so, now that education is moving onto computers, I delight in the notion of games with a goal. Not only are we teaching the children the basics of education in a way they can understand and enjoy, but we are familiarizing them with technology. The way our world is moving toward a networked economy and community, this familiarity with technology is vital to their success, as it will be of even more import in their lives than our own. Why not give them a head start on that while teaching them the three R’s?

Makes a lot of sense to me – but then, that’s why I’ve been fanatically working on Kid’s Programming Language and Phrogram for well over a year now. There are two articles on the Edu-Gaming topic. First is Learning the Gaming Way, by Shawn Williams.

“When I first heard of Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Age, I wrote it off as a clever marketing ploy. I mean, come on – a videogame that helps your brain do anything other than plot violent rampages in schools? Ridiculous. We all know that videogames were created to subvert children.” Shawn Williams describes how he and his wife learned to live with her multiple sclerosis, helped, in large part, by a video game in “Learning The Gaming Way.”

The second is Playing to the Test, by Chris Dahlen:

“Gamers feel the most sense of accomplishment when they’re always facing just enough of a challenge – as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow.’ You can credit World of Warcraft’s addictiveness to how well it paces those challenges – and plenty of smart educational technologists beat and tinker with assessment algorithms, trying to accomplish the same thing. So, what if a game like World of Warcraft could be built around educational content – say, instead of killing murlocs, you’re solving math problems?”

In “Playing to the Test,” Chris Dahlen explores the nature of educational games, and how they may be just what the educational system needs.

This is an excellent article, with lots of great observations and comments. Here’s a good one:

“The gamer generation learns differently than from lecture. They are not passive learners.”

As I said at the start, I recommend signing up for the magazine as well as checking out this particular issue. They’re all worth a read!

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