In a blog post at http://technopaideia.blogspot.com
, I suggested that video games have a lot to teach teachers about education. This post found its way into a Facebook Note
(the wonders of RSS), and a discussion ensued in which our own Len Waks basically said "video games are dope." I challenged him on this, and he directed me to a 2001 Ed Theory article he'd written about "computer mediated experience," comparing it to "real" experience with nature and tools.
COMPUTER MEDIATED EXPERIENCE AND EDUCATION Educational Theory Volume 51, Issue 4, Date: December 2001, Pages: 415-432
Leonard J. Waks
I went to his article and discovered that he'd been a little more subtle than "dope" in his description of the possibilities of computer mediated experience:
"_blanket_ rejections of computer-mediated experiences in today's schools are foolish. Instead we must assess what they contribute, and how they are to be coordinated with other sorts of school and home learning experiences",
"Sims might be valuable not as _substitutes for_, but _adjuncts to_, firsthand experiences....a simulation may enable children to make conjectures and thought experiences and thought experiments that would be otherwise impossible...This type of use would restore simulations to their proper place in educational experience, not as canned and impoverished _substitutes for the primary_ phases of experience but as _objects of knowledge_ in _secondary experience - used as tools to increase control _in_ experience's primary phases."
Len's essay is quite thoughtful, although I believe it misses two key points about recent technological developments with virtual reality simulations. First, they are now SOCIAL enterprises, and so they provide an opportunity not only to "interact with a fixed and definite world," but to interact in very interesting ways with each other, in an environment that presents goals that require cooperation.
Second, virtual environments now allow the ongoing building OF the environment from within...they are NOT necessarily "pre-built" like "puzzles" that present only generalized situations. They can be iteratively designed by the participants in cooperation with (perhaps) a teacher, and thus can represent aspects of "specific real-life contexts."
So, yes, your 2002 analysis is well-grounded in Dewey, and i SHARE your concerns, but SimCity 3000, MathBlaster, and Tom Snyder's late 1990s stuff are not what we're talking about anymore.
Len responded: "Craig has a point. As the world evolves into real virtuality the on-line coordination of group behavior becomes a real-world experience and skill. This is the key idea about 'smart mobs', which I take to be models of the next stage of learning. Even here, there are important distinctions to be drawn between real virtuality and dream virtuality
Eventually we came to a compromise that "the value of computer-mediated experiences can be measured in terms of their connection to "reality," and that computer-mediated experiences that are pure fantasy are dope."