[Edu-sig] re: Education Arcade

Dethe Elza dethe.elza at blastradius.com
Mon Dec 15 14:03:29 EST 2003

Quote Kirby:

>> Kirby, this is an example of the problem.  When you teach children
>> using a simulation, you teach them, in addition to everything else,
>> to think within the system that the simulators were using.
> Yes, I agree.  So show them several simulations and discuss their
> differences.

Or better yet, give them a similulation, and a configuration mechanism 
for it.  Here, try to get elected with more-or-less the system we have 
now.  OK, now turn on the "Campaign Spending Limits" option and try 
again.  Try with multiple parties, proportional representation, voter 
registration by the BMV, etc.  Use the presets for elections in 
different countries (or California!).  A good simulation doesn't have 
to be limited to one set of assumptions, it can be flexible.  And of 
course, you could let interested players get "behind the scenes" to 
script new scenarios and options directly.

My kids (7 and 3) both enjoy playing "educational" games, like Reader 
Rabbit.  They enjoy the puzzle-solving aspect, and my seven-year-old 
daughter really likes doing math puzzles on the computer.  She is bored 
in school because the lessons often don't challenge her enough, and 
asks the teacher for harder work.

Now, this isn't just because the programs are interesting, but because 
we work with her a lot.  My wife stayed home with the kids to give them 
a head start.  We've always presented reading and math as things that 
are fun to do, and as positive ways of getting attention (powerful 
motivation for kids!).

And, as I've mentioned here before, we're working on a game together.  
So far it's pretty simplistic, just a sprite moving around on a 
background.  But she drew both the background and the sprite (I just 
scanned them and animated with PyGame), which makes it more personal.  
As we move forward with it, I see her getting not only into the 
graphics and story, but also into directly manipulating the environment 
through code.

So my view is that simulations are good, but much better if you have 
the whole toolkit at your disposal, both the simulation, the rules for 
the simulation (for tweaking) and the ability to extend the simulation 
in new ways.


"The law I sign today directs new funds and new focus to the task of 
collecting vital intelligence on terrorist threats and on weapons of 
mass production."   -- George W. Bush

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