[Edu-sig] re: Education Arcade

Laura Creighton lac at strakt.com
Sat Dec 13 19:41:31 EST 2003

I think that most educational material in the hands of an extremely
well motivated and gifted teacher can work wonders.  But I worry
about the same materials in the hands of the average teacher, and
the struggling teacher.

Part of the problem here is that it would be very easy for a well meaning
teacher to mistake children who are learning for children who are
being amused.  If your lessons are poor, you generally bore your
students.  If they are learning, they aren't bored.  So I used
boredom as a pretty good indicator of where my lessons were good,
indifferent, and lousy.  I'd worry if this connection was broken.
How would I tell if my students were enjoying themselves and
still not learning much?

>I'd like students to develop a critical eye w/r to educational games.
>Ideally, we play the games, then talk about what assumptions they embody.
>I don't necessarily want to cushion them either, by making the simulations
>too unreal.  As a matter of fact, it does cost big bucks to become 
>in many countries, and emotional language is used manipulatively all the
>time.  It's better to develop and awareness of this than to pretend it
>doesn't exist.  My simulation is, in a way, a parody.

Ah, that didn't come across to me the first time.  I am all for the
development of critical thinking, but I don't think that our choices
are limited to pretending it doesn't exist, and running simulations.
For instance, I had classes in that, for years, as well as classes in
how the advertising media manipulates you.  That was deemed crucial
for 11 12 and 13 year olds.  It was a very popular series of classes,
well loved by pretty much every student, as opposed to the usual fair.

I think that teaching such things by making the students help program
the simulation -- writing the manipulative texts, and program how
jerks with a lot of money can make your poor political leader spend
all of his time speaking on issues he doesn't care about, while the
ones that he does care about get little or no coverage.

Teaching a course where the students got to hack the system, change
the parameters, and change the outcomes would be a lot of fun.  But
I think having them able to modify the code, or at least the rules
would be essential.  Otherwise they will end up being too passive,
passengers in their own lives.

>I think a first step towards creative change is simulating something
>accurately.  A simulation that focused on the influence of big money in
>political affairs might well be an agent for exactly the kind of change
>you'd support.

Maybe, but I write simulations, and so I know that the question isn't
whether or not to make it accurate, but how much innacuracy are you
willing to tolerate.  I worry about teachers' ability to recognise
innaccuracy when they see it.

>> I don't know what the best way to teach children how to question
>> authority, recongnise opportunities, and strive to improve the society
>> they are in, but I suspect that this is a step in precisely the wrong
>> direction.
>> Laura
>I think it might be in the right direction.  Did you like 'Wag the Dog'?
>How about 'Senator Bullworth'?

Those are movies, correct?  I've never seen them.  'Movies' is one of
my great chasms of ignorance. 



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