games teaching and learning

I was talking to a friend today about computer games and teaching. He had recently had the experience of trying to teach Swedish teenagers English at a technical senior high school. He said that online games were a major concern for 95% of the students. They did not read books and they only wrote with a pen when they had to (no spell check function…What is the good of it??).

Then I come home, check my mail and surf the blogs. A daily (plus) read for me is Grand Text Auto. Today Noah is blogging from Massive. His report can be read as a list of reasons and opportunities for games and game-like-spaces in education. It does not even have to be a purely virtual space (if there is such a thing), rather the world we inhabit is fast becoming a grid of information and space of malleable narratives. That is what I was talking to my friend about earlier; why can’t games be used in the classroom? One reason I thought of was because the teacher, as they are now defined, would become irrelevant. Power would shift from a single centripetal point to a network of centrifugal nodes spread about the classroom and out into cyberspace. How would one ‘run’ a classroom like that? Well, it wouldn’t be a classroom; it would be a laboratory or a studio.

Back to UCI’s Massive; it looks great! From Noah’s notes it is clear that change is filtering through “the industry”. Such points as “games as theory that inform and shape human interaction rituals” plus “sitting together in physical space while a subset of the group are controlling in-game characters” could combine to make for many new and interesting ways to use the medium. We need to listen to those using games and watching how they do what. But change has to come from within as well. The images and repetitive activities of many present-day games have little chance of yielding self-reflexivity or poignant knowledge for learners to work with. However, the forms and spaces that make them up are ripe for refurbishing, repurposing and generally hacking. In doing so the self-reflexivity of good critical thinking emerges. Exciting times ahead I think.