Monday, 29 August 2005

Yet another "Play and Learn" article

By David Stonehouse (the Age, 27 August, 2005) [my added link]

... But when he expressed frustration at not being able to revive a dilapidated industrial area, the youngster's reply astounded him: "I think you need to lower your industrial tax rates."

Reflecting on that years later, Johnson could not help but think that if his nephew had been in some urban studies class instead, he would have been nodding off. If there was a moment that helped convince him video games can enrich young minds, this was one. "He was learning in spite of himself," [Steven] Johnson says.

Note, I am not against video games. What I am concerned is the wrong cause and effect speculated here. The power described here is NOT because of the game. The power is from the engagement (of the game) and if we can create the same engagement, then we can almost teach anything. The problem with game is that the underlying assumptions does not reflect the real world.

James Paul Gee, a pioneer in video-game research at the University of Wisconsin, says the field is still so new nobody can prove anything. "It shows that games can improve your problem solving. There is well-known research that they improve surgeons' hand-eye co-ordination and skills in surgery," he says.

It is true that the effectiveness of using games is a very young field and we shall benefit with more research. One thing for sure is that there will be more situations in which interacting with the real world will be done via game-like console, e.g. surgery. The future war may be fought with soldiers in front of game-like console pushing buttons.

Elyssebeth Leigh, a senior lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney, believes in the power of video games, too. She says they teach children how to interact with technology. And they can help children experiment with the world around them in a safe way - and learn about choices, strategy, risks and consequences without leaving the living room.

I would like to correct Elyssebeth's statement to:

Video games can help children experiment with the game world (not the real world around them) in a safe way - and learn about choices, strategy, risks and consequences without leaving the living room.

There is nothing wrong and I encourage children to learn via imagined world or game world. However, better still, we can do that using role play (like Fablusi role play simulation) and simulations where the underlying model and assumptions are made with educational objectives in mind. Direct use of commercial game should NOT be the way to go.

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