Idea: engage kids with things that interest them

Here’s a cool story:

Lord Puttnam issues call to action for games industry

Lord David Puttnam is the president of UNICEF UK. UNICEF is the United Nations charity focused on children – their website motto says “For every child: Health, Education, Equality, Protection.”

Lord Puttnam is making his call to action in support of the launch of an ELSPA report titled “Unlimited Learning: Computer and Video Games in the Learning Landscape.” He also writes the forward for the full report, which is available here. ELSPA is the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association,, a British consortium of game companies.

Yes, we need to consider the ELSPA’s interest in this – they are, after all, as a consortium of businesses who make money selling games. But it would also seem foolish to think that these businesses are deciding to work in the educational space with a primary purpose of making a lot of money. The educational space is not a place to do that, and people who are getting into are surely thinking about more than just money.

A snippet of his own words:

He described the report as “nothing less than a call to action; an insistence that partnerships that require new thinking, new alliances and new actions can’t be delayed.

“Perfectly reasonably, children today expect a lot more engagement than can possibly be offered through textbooks alone,” Puttnam continued.

“And it doesn’t stop at children. Trainee lawyers, policemen, nurses, doctors can all do than simply sit and take notes on the best professional practices; they can simulate, and they can engage in complex real life tasks.

“What we’re talking about here is computer games not just as games, but as a whole new form, or platform, of learning – and one that has quite literally unlimited learning potential.”

Hmm, a lot of that seems somehow familiar. You go, Lord Puttnam! 😀 Let’s hope some leaders of industry, education, government or charity elsewhere are listening.

Here are the section headings of the ELSPA report – look worth a read?

  • Games in a social context
  • What games teach
  • Games in an educational context
  • Technologies in the classroom
  • Games in a global context
  • Lifelong learning
  • The future of learning

I just recently blogged about a different UK report, Video games have ‘role in school,’ and given the relevance of the subject I just have to repeat some data from it here in support of Lord Puttnam and the ELSPA:

Less than 30% of teachers ever play games outside of school, while 82% of children say they have played videogames in the last fortnight (ed: 20 days)

It’s tempting to get angry about that gap, but let’s not. How about we instead look at this as a really great opportunity to engage kids with things that interest them?

I also want to add a couple tangents to this which are broader than games. I submit that playing games in school is only the most obvious thing we can do in response to kids and technology today. I say this in part because I think kids aren’t just interested in games – they are interested in fun uses of technology. I’d bet you a dollar, for instance, that the gap between teacher and student use of text messaging is as wide as that gap over games. We need to look at creative use of technology in education with a much broader view than just games.

My last point, which is one I think a lot about based on our own experience with creating the Kid’s Programming Language and Phrogram, is that it is entirely possible to teach and learn various subjects by using technology that looks and feels a lot like a game – but isn’t. Visualization and Interactivity are two of the keys here that kids respond to – and they are keys which might remind them of a game, and feel like a game – but they don’t need to be a game. They just need to be visual and interactive. Or, as Lord Puttnam put it, “children today expect a lot more engagement than can possibly be offered through textbooks alone.”


One thought on “Idea: engage kids with things that interest them

  1. […] Here is an unrelated post reflecting on an Idea: engage kids with things that interest them. […]

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