Why blocking Google and Apple for a week might expand your media horizons

Until recently, little research existed concerning the potential benefits of video game-play even though many children and adults spent a large amount of time playing games. Now, more researchers are looking at possible benefits of game-play and have found that they may improve social skills, encourage teamwork, increase knowledge pertaining to technology, develop math and reading skills, and improve problem solving. Negative media reports have realised that games now represent revenue that they once received from television and music. It no longer pays editors to be negative about video games, nor to push debunked psychology tropes about addiction and violence from so called ‘media-effects’.

This TED video provides some really interesting points on gaming – and far less ‘hollywoood buy my book’ than the ‘other’ one on TED which you might have seen. It talks about leveraging the power of games and how your brain deals with it.

One myth among ‘online educator’ groups – those whom self-identify with certain brands and technologies is that teachers who play games (or want to bring game like design into the classroom) are part of an out-group. Despite what feels like a persistent social debate about what tools are ‘cool for school’, relatively little research has examined teacher beliefs or adoption of these tools in day to day practice. Almost none has examined teachers who play games. Where this has happened the studies did not find any significant differences between those teachers identified as gamers and those as non-gamers, specifically in perceived levels of comfort in regard to completing job-related technology tasks, amounts of instructional technology usage, and amounts of participation in innovative teaching strategies.

Educational research has mostly presented a general picture of the current state of online educational games in terms of grade levels, subject areas, cognitive skills, game genres, and major types of games and their general characteristics. The broad conclusion is that educational games have limited impact, due to limited titles. I argue this could be applied to popular educational technology domains too. Most quality practice involves teachers learning to adapt technologies that were not meant for education, into information systems, practices and routines that help students develop knowledge and skills outside of them. Society doesn’t care if you are a Google expert any more than a COD player in it’s summative testing. Of course the things you learned though the use of Google may spark some useful insight and response in an essay or test — but so too can the knowledge and insights from playing online games. I have lost count how many times I’ve been talking about some topic and a kid has injected an example from a game they have played.

It would be easy for a non-gaming teacher to miss the significance or insight that child has. By limiting ‘digital literacies’ to brand-apps and subscribing to Twitter-topic-bias, which in resolute in it’s technological determinism about what apps to use, what they do and how to use them. Imagine that we dumped the dogma of ‘digital literacy’ and instead focused on the macro ‘media education’ needed to develop information fluency and make sense of the corporeal and digital world around us. Not understanding games, not knowing something of their history, characteristics and methods limits a teachers ability to communicate or to approach the design of learning effectively. One problem seems to be that any new idea attracts buzzwords and tropes in order to try and appear ‘modern’ or part of the grassroots insight that academia is yet to discover.

For example: Using SAMR and GAMIFICATION. Why exactly does a teacher need to deal with the murky pond of ‘gamification’ and why would the development of game-insight, skill and experience be the same trajectory as learning Google Docs for example? – Because it says that the ‘in-group’ in correct in it’s assimilation agenda.

I don’t doubt that being able to write and run scripts in Google is a skill worth learning, and that there some people have worked hard to learn those skills and share them with a broad educational community. I equally believe many of them use that skills and network for personal profit — as is the way in a post Reaganomic world. However, what has this got to do with getting a 29 cap in Destiny. Which is harder, which required more problem solving, which involved deeper fluency?

This highlights the importance of expanding the discussion about media education in order to liberate it from the ‘ed-tech’ marketplace that so far has achieved no significant difference in it’s in-school efforts or explain how in-school is un-connected with out of school media use — which includes games. Unless this happens, what kids are actually learning — most of the time — are competencies of brands – learning to use particular branded products. This isn’t new, Apple did this with the Apple II and have continually used emotional appeals such as “kids can’t wait” to prise open the wallets of governments and institutions.

Well here’s the thing. Apple can wait. So can Google. Sit down for a week and play Minecraft. Take the time to learn a few dice games — barricade your classroom from the ‘ed-tech’ machine for a week by playing and talking about playing. You might just notice kids have media insights well beyond what Silicon Valley would like you to believe.