There is one big issue with video games. Almost all of the discussion about children and video games attempts to work out which games are good and which are bad. This is not the discussion which is happening in education. Games are not commonplace. Where games are used, teachers appear to be choosing snow-globe-games like Minecraft in order to once remain in control of children’s media experiences with little knowledge of what is happening at home. In this post, I’m looking at some on-going issues with the discourse about school-allowed-games and the growing problem of building snow-globe-ecosystems for chldren, while teachers still guard the communication avenues between them.
The focus of school-allowed-games is on their representational qualities and not their interactive ones. In education, the established ‘cool’ allowed-game is of course Minecraft.
Teachers (on the whole) approach it though its material properties and then look for signs of engagement and then describe connections with that particular day’s curriculum objective. Well done! you own a snow globe and can tweet about it.
The problem with the above approach is that video games exist as a metaverse of experiences comprised of both human and non-human actors as part of a broader network which is co-developing with other media and technologies. Recent studies show that almost 40% of children aged zero to five play video games and 90% watch television. We also know that parental regulation of video games is based on parents own experience of television and computer regulation. The shift is that interactive media entertainment is a post 2007 phenomenon, induced by the advent of the iPhone. Children don’t play one game – they play many games. For example: Blizzard Activision have 50 million subscribers to Warcraft, Hearthstone and Destiny. Two universes in their eco-system. Minecraft is part of the Microsoft eco-system and so it’s fairly obvious why Minecraft Education Edition is being pushed into classrooms by Microsofts paid-for-teacher advocates. Blizzard Activition don’t make word-processors, spreadsheets, search engines and so forth, nor to they offer a gateway to paid-TV, film and music.
You don’t have to be a games scholar to see why Warcraft is seen by educators as ‘too hard’ or why kids are not allowed to play two hours of Destiny a day. They should. They don’t need to have lesson plans and make derpy posters about it either. The academic value of these two games is much stronger than Minecraft … but it’s the wrong snow-globe. This is how utterly insane the situation is.
Using Minecraft as the game we play in class demonstrates a lack of understanding of children and the media. it might impress other teachers who are somewhat interested in technology, but this is like only using Edmodo or reading the same book over and over. Children enjoy Minecraft. Whether they are learning anything specific is far less clear. It appears to me the evidence of their learning is something which is represented by teachers through symbolic artifacts. It appears to me that teachers don’t see video games (on the whole) as an anthology of play at all, and might benefit from reading John Dewey’s book “Art as Experience” because that is how children are interacting with games at a very young age. Using their cognitive knowledge of games to play Minecraft and then to interpret what they do as learning – though external objects, discussions and so forth doesn’t begin to tap into their media experience, and there’s a possibility that games like Minecraft are allowed in order to put a media-wall around children (again) which more represents the knowledge, attitude and self-image of the teacher.
Children should play many games, just like they should learn to use several pencils, paints and brushes. I am skeptical of the claimed benefits of playing Minecraft in the classroom where it’s not part of a much broader (and deeper) interest in transmedia literacy and supporting their well being though the act of play.
Not only that … Minecraft Education is a gateway drug to Microsoft’s broader eco-system. So in effect, the transmedia vision is broken, what we have are a series of snow-globes within which children exist in schools. Take this image for example, it visually depicts what is happening … SNOW GLOBE LEARNING … less and less transmedia literacy and more artificial creations of ‘teacher run universes’ rather than a ‘metaverse’ which (if you know anything about education and virtual worlds) is the whole point – and what is happening out of school – art as experience (1934).