Growing up digital – buffed for success

Regardless of your teaching philosophy, one of the biggest concerns among society is the erosion of declarative knowledge, brought about by the Internet. Recently, the New York times published a report called “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction”, typical of this social debate and thought I’d discuss it (slam it)  in relation to why I see WoWinSchools are a leading prototype for education.


I see two scenarios significant for ICT in education. The third is that it’s not used – and I’m not wasting time discussing that brain-missing scenario in 2011.

1. an environment which allows students to engage in ongoing metacognative activities at a level that would be unattainable without the support of technological tools, not limited to – the environment itself.


2. students to receive directions, guidance, and feedback from technology, using technology tools to set goals, plan activities, monitor progress or self-evaluate.

Many seeking change in educational strategy put forward an argument society is enveloped in a world where information is no longer scarce, and that education is founded on the assumption it is. The role of the Internet, and the layers of technology that use it presents a moving target for education raising questions around why students are predominantly assessed though quantitative methods on their declarative knowledge.

Game designers create generative environments, which are worth comparing to a broad generalisation of what think is the ‘norm’ or ‘reform’ use of ICT in education – be that in the the Taylorism or more recent technologies presented in social discussion by people like Will Richardson or Conor Williams who  points out that much of the current debate is ‘bereft of data’ (not unlike this one from the New York Times).

(spinning the chamber)

This report makes several bubble-gum statements – which, although wrapped up in a relevant social dialogue, are presented as if evidentiary, even citing MIT (to add validity to the catchy headling presumably). For example,

“he discovered a passion for filmmaking and made a name for himself among friends and teachers with his storytelling in videos made with digital cameras and editing software … But he also plays video games 10 hours a week”.

What nonsense. He’s playing games, not because his brain is “wired for distraction” – but beacuse game designers better motivate players though their constant demand to develop ever more declarative knowledge – and – insistence that players work harder.

In that regard, I might also argue, he spends 10 hours a week constructing declarative knowledge. This also interesting, as 10 hours is about the same time a high school student is expected to study a subject each week – and personally, I have no issue with my kids spending 10 hours a week in games over watching television or doing exercises from a text book to get a ‘mark’.

The fact game-knowledge isn’t aligned to a syllabus, or his parent’s don’t see the link, is a moot point. What is significant is that game designers are able to do this without seeing any need to engage a teacher – and links in social-research support the hypothesis that games offer a rich opportunity to inductively think about how we set out to teach – anything.

(cocking the hammer)

WoWinSchool is an example of the first paradigm, and a prototype for education —  for harnessing the considerable schemas that kids hold for developing identity, self-esteem – and declarative knowledge. This is to say, that I think we remain truly ignorant of student’s capabilities – if they have had exposure to game-play.

Games are all about developing declarative knowledge – and use a constellation of strategies to motivate players such as the character, the environment, the narrative and rewards. They purposely leave room for social action such as modifying the environment, rule making, group forming and peer teaching – which is exactly what Peggy and Lucas are exploiting.

(pulling the trigger)

So while some may look on their project with curiosity, returning to their blogs and wikis – the may not realise how important and significant the project is – as a prototype to use the motivational schemas and declarative knowledge that game designers are installing in today’s youth – rather than attempting to work against it, or simply deem it distracting.


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