It's come to this. According to Popular Science:
An 11-year-old boy taps furiously on a laptop, blasting enemies as he weaves through a maze. They wipe him out before he can reach the end--game over. Frustrated, he opens the game's programming window, adjusts the gravity setting, and this time bounds over the baddies. Victory!
This could be the future of American education, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Quest to Learn school opened last September in Manhattan, welcoming the first class of sixth-graders who will learn almost entirely through videogame-inspired activities, an educational strategy geared to keep kids engaged and prepare them for high-tech careers.
Some of the games, for example, include ones that require the kids to identify integers to crack a code.
Is this really necessary? And how promising is it?
On the pro side of the ledger, kids are now bombarded with all sorts of media distractions; it makes a certain sense that for education to be successful, it needs to be able to compete. And the educators at Quest point out that kids learn best when they have a context for what they're learning: For example, as Pop Sci ventures, kids won't get much from a list of facts about ancient Greece. They're learn more if they're playing a game where they're Spartan spies, gathering intel.
On the other hand, does it really take a videogame to make learning fun? Surely, there are better ways, which are less likely to be dated the second they're finished.
And is the quest to make everything fun really a good thing? Imagine the following: "Hey Jones, can you get me that TPS report?" Response: "Sure, make me a fun videogame and I'll get right on it!" Now that's an exaggeration, but it seems like constant fun might send the wrong message about the way the world actually works--and truly difficult to master concepts won't be taught by simply making a new game. Rather, the kid's gotta value the learning itself. A game isn't going to teach that.
(And I wonder: If learning becomes only about having fun, might that simply encourage the sorts of self-entitlement that's becoming so common? A study recently found job satisfaction at its lowest point in two decades. I think it's hard to believe that jobs have gotten worse; it's more likely that after decades of media telling us that jobs should fulfill our greatest hopes, our expectations have gotten unreasonably high.)
The real magic of the Quest program would seem to be the elite teachers who care deeply about keeping students engaged and teaching concepts rather than facts. That's what good teachers have always done. No videogames necessary.
[Via Popular Science]