Oil in the water

Photo: iliveisl

For those who don’t know. I’m somewhat odd. I love all things game-tech, but when it comes to cars — I prefer them simple, retro and functionally escapist. You’d think I’d like BMWs iDrive … but actually I can’t think of anything worse. I like simple, functional, and a degree of brown in my motoring, but to get where I am going — you bet I use a SatNav.

Thanks to @middleclassgirl – for “Why playing in the virtual world has an awful lot to teach children” which highlights the widening hole in the educational metaverse.

There is a lot of blah about games and virtual worlds written by old media, who generally miss the points Chatfield makes in the Observer.

He comments “If we are to understand the 21st century and the generation who will inherit it, it’s crucial that we learn to describe the dynamics of this gaming life: a place that’s not so much about escaping the commitments and interactions that make friendships “real” as about a sophisticated set of satisfactions with their own increasingly urgent reality and challenges.”

Now think about kids goofing off in a locked down ICT classroom — there the internet is either for Googling or scraping images into Powerpoint. This isn’t every classroom — but it is still the depressing norm. They will invariably turn their attention to … anyone … anyone … ? … Paint, the one application that kids use when banned from everything else.

Why Paint and not Word or Excel. Because paint is self-creative and experimental — it’s the most fun you can have if you’re disconnected from soliloquies and sermons in class. Chatfield describes content that extends from games …

Visit any website devoted to hosting player discussions of games like World of Warcraft, for instance, and you’ll find not hundreds but tens of thousands of comments flying between players who debate every aspect of the game, from weapon-hit percentages to mathematical analyses of the most efficient sequence in which to use a character’s abilities. It will range from the sublime to the ridiculous, and will be riddled with private codes, slang, trolls, flames, and everything else the internet so excels at delivering.

Even if you don’t believe games have a place — it is impossible to deny that what Chatfield has identified the missing classroom link – communication and conversation between groups seeking to learn or teach. You can’t do either in the 21st Century if you are not connected. Effective teachers and learners are connected to conversational content. We may work alone, but we are mindful of the spirits in the wires. We are a click away from any number of communities, from Volkswagens, Education, Music, Cooking … whatever we are interested in, and whatever we are doing at the time.

We can’t argue for this tool or that, we have to argue for conversation and accept that kids today do not look, sound or act as the did in Nesbit’s Railway Children, yet we operate as if they do.

“You know it’s bad manners to read a paper when someone else is reading it,” said his father. “Don’t they teach you manners at school?”

“No. They think we learn them at home,” said Roger, cheekily. [Stella]

There is a time to use simple strategies for explicit teaching – because that works best and others where virtual worlds or at least two-way conversation works better. Professional development has to be about illuminating how to align outcomes with activities and assessment – and the activities today mean game-based, problem-based and conversational.