Prensky’s essay immediately called to mind a memory of my now 11 (and a half) year old cousin. Several years ago, when she was about 8 or 9, she told me how she had been assigned her first “research paper.” I tried to recall the experience of writing my first paper – I remember going to the library, writing notecards, and feeling quite important with an encyclopedia in my hand. I was eager to hear how she had fared so the next time I saw her, I asked her how the dinosaur paper was coming and whether or not she had trouble finding books. She looked at me as though I was a dinosaur and told me she “googled it,” and that was that. While it seems like it wouldn’t be quite as rewarding, it definitely is a much more efficient method and one that we all employ today.
The technologies we grow up with and have access to definitely affect the way we interact with the world and therefore the way we think about things and approach problems. I wonder though, if learning through “digital game-based learning” is a way to bridge the gap between the current, non-technologically integrated (for the most part) education system and the students who are oversaturated with exposure to technology in nearly every other aspect of their life. The essay makes the argument that this method will work because it is what children are interested in. Haven’t teachers been trying to make learning “fun” forever though? Educational board games have been tricking kids into learning for as long as I’ve been educated – we were always playing matching games, cards games, math games (24!), Scrabble (!!!!), and many, many more. I think that going over similar math and reading concepts in a Playstation game, is really not anything special, but rather just an expensive solution to the age-old problem of how to keep a young child engaged in an academic environment.
That being said, I think the part about the US Military is interesting. Using simulators and video games to simulate experiences rather than just teaching basic concepts can actually add value in a new and unique way. When I read this essay, I immediately thought of was an article I had read for another class about video games and virtual reality being used as a treatment for PTSD for returning soldiers. It is used in “exposure therapy.” You can learn more about that here. Exposure therapy is all about dulling the emotional stress associated with a traumatic event by repeating it over and over again in a safe environment. I wonder if using video games as a tool to teach us how to make decisions and function in the world would similarly desensitize us from the feelings of experiencing such things in real life, or rather, would it actually be a valuable resource allowing our brain to simulate the consequences of taking different actions based on these “learned outcomes.”
Children today are experiencing the world with much easier access to information and technology than generations past. “Digital game-based learning” might offer us usefulness in teaching concepts (and simulating experiences) in ways we were unable to in the past.