Friday, April 01, 2005

Video Gaming and Education

Well it all is becoming a full circle - and its freaking me out a little. I have been fortunate enough to have some of the strangest positions (including the one I am in now). Trust me, normal people don't have my resume - and although I think of it as a good thing, some people do not.

Besides all the internships (Wall Street - trust me I'll get into that later), odd summer jobs (tying strings on plastic pumpkins - don't ask) and well I won't go into any more. I essentially started my career as a High School teacher. I loved teaching high school, but circumstances beyond my control - i.e. my husband got a new job, moved me to Baltimore. I believe in the theory that "everything happens for a reason" and to go with the flow. So in our new city I decided to try private sector education. Now I did not want to end up teaching Microsoft Office the rest of my life, so I looked at unique small companies. Little did I know that Baltimore was a "hotbed" of software companies, specifically video game ones.

So I ended up working at a company that supported and tested video games and educational software. We also dabbled in other software/hardware companies, i.e. pretty much anyone that would pay us, but I essential taught people how to fix computers and play video games.
(Don't ask me why I left :)

Now, this becomes full circle thanks to Tim Wilson and David Warlick who have both written about the video game generation recently. So my quirky background is actually going to do me some good!

If none of you have ever played video games, and I mean real video games (Solitaire does not count) you should really check their links out. We talk a good deal about the computer generation, but video games is an entirely different beast. And its not just the terminology, it is how they go about everything they do. I had to learn to move beyond the - "What server on Everquest do you play on?" and understand the roleplaying nature and flow of these games.

The biggest similarity that all video games have in common is trial and error. They are not afraid of failing - as long as they can try again. And yet we as teachers are so afraid of them failing and not getting it right on the first try. When do we ever in any workplace get anything right the first time! They are willing to take chance and push boundaries, yet I see us putting up fences and directing them.

The company I worked for had such a different emagalmation of employees, some that were good students, so that were not. Yet, their commonality was not just a passion for video games, but one for problem solving. I learned early on that they need to "play" with the program. To make it fail and see why it happened. I could give them guidelines or parameters, but every "failure" was going to be different. They had a drive to see why things worked the way they did and an inherent need to fix a problem.

Anyways, I think problem solving, creative thinking, and having a hypothesis that may turn out to be wrong, are all things we shouldn't be afraid of having our students explore.

When did we get so scared of the unknown?

12 comments:

MKB said...

Bethany,

I'm not sure if it is applicable just to just video games, but many of the things that you mention are also common to a project that we have here at Georgia called Powerpoint Games. These are a nice alternative for a K-12 classroom and, sometimes, a lot more managable for a K-12 teacher in the classroom than a video game might be.

Take a look and let me know what you think...

MKB

MKB said...

As blogger doesn't do trackbacks, see my post at http://mkbabd.blogspot.com/2005/04/gaming-in-education.htmlwhich references this entry.

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