This week I returned from presenting at the Scottish Learning Festival. One of the keynoters was Marc Prensky, presenting a speech entitled, “Engage Me or Enrage Me.”
I heard Prensky deliver a similar speech at NECC last June here in Philadelphia. I’ve longed been fascinated with Prensky’s metaphor suggesting that students are digital natives while the rest of us are really immigrants. On his website Prensky describes himself as an “acclaimed speaker, writer, consultant, and designer in the critical areas of education and learning.”
I know students learn from sophisticated gaming and I love games myself. I know that simulations work beautifully as teaching tools. Nevertheless something continues to nag me about Prensky’s talks. A growing number of books and articles tell us that today’s students learn differently because they grew up surrounded by digital media. That they grew up clicking something all the time. That they work at a different speed. That they were weaned on the flashy images and bullet points of the Web. And so, trying to teach them traditionally just won’t work.
Prensky suggests that those of us who are immigrants should worry about our accents. But I am not just off the boat. Perhaps you hear my accent in this blog, but I think it is relatively slight.
The thing is, I am kinda proud of that accent and I am also proud of some of the baggage I carry from “the old country.”
While gaming might be a very effective learning tool, not everything is taught well through games. And, as hard as we try to design engaging instruction, sometimes learning takes a different kind of effort, an effort that isn’t invested by even the most serious of gamers.
Reaching level 100 in reading, and writing, and researching, and communicating, takes a different kind of tenacity. Learning these process skills is frustrating and challenging. It takes patience. It takes old fashioned red pen. It takes human interaction.
Though multi-player games are wonderful collaborative, problem solving experiences, I believe that learning is significantly enhanced by face-to-face human interaction. I studied literature in college because I was inspired by the truths my high school English teachers helped me discover in literature and through their dialogs. Through their prodding I chose to read ever more challenging and thoughtful texts.
Though students may prefer to learn by gaming, is it realistic that this strategy will allow them master all the skills they need?