Thursday, July 19, 2012

They mentioned Plato...

They did it.  They mentioned Plato in the readings for this week’s class.  While I don’t necessarily buy into all of Plato’s philosophy, I do love reading his works.  They are still brilliant, thousands of years removed. 

Plato makes you think. And in that day, thinking for yourself was quite a novel thing.

Here is the excerpt from the text:

Plato in the Phaedrus famously complained that books were passive in the sense that you cannot get them to talk back to you in a real dialogue the way a person can in a face-to-face encounter.

Read it again, with emphasis added…

Plato in the Phaedrus famously complained that BOOKS (books!!) were passive in the sense that you cannot get them to talk back to you in a real dialogue the way a person can in a face-to-face encounter.

So I have a test for you.  Go into the 21st century classroom…any classroom…and take out the books.  Tell the students, teachers, principals, and parents that the books do not promote learning.  See what happens. 

Fahrenheit 451 anyone?

So why would we rush to say that video games are of no use in the classroom? 

If there is a chance they might help some students (or a lot or a little) why not keep the playbook open?

I was never a “gamer” growing up…mostly because my parents did not want us having video games.  I did not have a video game console till I was 16.

Was it good?

YES - It forced me and my brother to go play outside.

NO - At worst, I was the brunt of a lot of jokes in school because I was out of tune on the video game scene.  At best, I missed out on some good time with my friends because I sucked at Mortal Kombat (FINISH HIM!)

So I say “try it”…if it works, great.  If it doesn’t, set it aside.  We don’t know what we don’t know.

Do I see any risks?  Yes.  Two things.

First, as we learned in Rachel’s class, children, especially younger children, have difficulty distinguishing reality from fiction.  My biggest issue with video games is how do you help children distinguish what looks possible on video games from what is reality? 

Second.  Balance.  Video games are good…and video games are bad.  Books are good…and books are bad.  (If you just sat with books all day and never left the couch, is that so much better than video games?). 

A balanced approach is needed for EVERY teaching method.  One of our MAC benchmarks is Intellectual CHARACTER which means a well-balanced, well-rounded approach.

So after evaluating the risks, I say, "Try it"......we won't know till we do.


  1. I really like the try-anything approach you're choosing to take. Part of me wanted to do the same...but being a psychology major in undergrad I read a lot of articles and research studies about the effects of video games on children and adolescents. Some people think shooting games cause violence and depression in kids. Some people also say that playing a lot of video games (regardless of the type of game) causes social deficits. Now I"m not saying that I think these things, but the possibility that they are true is why people are weary of bringing video games into the classroom. Continuing along this line of thought, if we "try it" on kids (bring video games into some schools) and they have adverse effects, those children's lives could, hypothetically, be ruined. Until these ideas are shot down by credible research I don't see video games being brought into schools the way that the readings proposed.

    Just some food for thought. What do you think?

  2. Excellent points! Apologies in advance for the length. I fully acknowledge I can be exhausting…but I love this stuff...

    I do not know much about psychology, though I do love it (and really love Rachel's class). Unfortunately, I went to a private grade school that put no stock in psychology, and then an engineering university whose motto was, "Do Your Math." I will defer to you on the psychology points. We will assume the findings you quoted to be true for our discussion.

    So the next question, a two-part question, that comes to my mind is, "Can content be separated from media?" If so, “Are video games redeemable?”

    Here is what I mean.

    In general, books are viewed as "good." However, I would pose, that given the correct set of books, read by a child, the same "social deficits" could occur as happen with video games.

    In other words, it is the content of the book, not the book itself, which has an effect on the reader. Could we not say the same of video games?

    Note: We are not talking about "likelihood", but "possibility." I would concur that the "likelihood" of a child having issues resulting from video game exposure is far higher than that of a child being exposed to books. But the "possibility" exists for both. If the "possibility" exists that either can corrupt, can't the possibility exist that either can be redeemed?

    I fully concede that we are far behind in video game content compared to book content, but that does not invalidate the theoretical point.

    We should never try anything (video games or otherwise) in the classroom unless we have a really good idea that it falls into the "redeemed" category.

    Some more thoughts here...but you can stop if you want...just rambling now...

    When we say in general that "reading is good" we certainly do not mean all reading. Playboy is not valid reading material for example. When we say "reading is good" we have a social norm, a common understanding, of what "good" is with respect to books. When we say "reading is good" we are actually saying/assuming at least three things:

    1. The thing we call a book (cardboard with paper pages and ink) is a good concept for communication
    2. We assume that the material is good (I would never encourage anyone to read Playboy)
    3. We assume that those doing the reading are doing so with balance in their life. We assume that they do not read to the neglect of friends, family, and obligations.

    If these three criteria are met, we call reading “good.” Why could we not apply these same three criteria to video games?

    Now it just so happens that books have been around a long time. There has been an evolutionary process about them and around them such that they are not perceived as they once were. Recall Gaston in Beauty and the Beast? How he taunted Belle for reading? A great movie...obviously fictional...but there was a time when that sentiment rang true, first for anyone outside the Catholic church, then just women, then just slaves, and eventually we all got smarter and figured it out (though admittedly the "implementation phase" is still ongoing on all fronts).

    Bottom line: If we can find a way to get the content right...for example we find a way for video games to help develop Intellectual Character (our profs would be proud, MAC Benchmark 4.1 I think)...if we can get the content right, are video games redeemable?

    I totally concur that there are a lot of trash video games out there that are not helping society. The intensity of these games is such that they capture people (some) better than books. Can we harness this intensity? Newton said that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The "action" going on in the video game world right now is largely negative. Can we find the "opposite reaction" to this?

  3. I am intrigued especially by your discussion of Plato and Fahrenheit 451. In the Republic, Plato criticizes democracy as weak, because it is prone to coup d'etat by dictatorship, which is in turn the most effective form of government. In the Phaedrus, he also critiques writing itself as an aid to memory or crutch which only undermines the skill of memorization. See Derrida's "Plato's Pharmacy" in Dissemination. Writing is the 'pharmakon' or remedy/toxin of memory. It is precisely the use of a mirror word like pharmakon that shows the nature of critique itself: it is kind of a dual-track analysis where delineating the limits of democracy or writing does not necessarily at all imply a devaluation of the object of study. It is a negative form of reasoning. By talking about what gaming is *not* does not mean condemnation so much as trying to draw the line between gaming and learning in order to understand each better. Finding where the two intersect is what we are looking for. I think ZPD and identity investment are intersections, but there must be more. With the specter of book-burning looming, my sense is we will rush to the defense of books and book-learning with redoubled urgency.

  4. First of all, congratulations on being one of the few men I know who didn't get into video games. That's remarkable.

    I do have beef with your comparison of video games to books. I don't think they are as parallel as your entry treats them as being. Yes, you can lose yourself in books; however, you get more out of it. The thoughts stick with you after you've finished the book, and help you grow in a way that video games don't. Even my brother, committed gamer that he is, describes a sort of sick feeling after finishing a game, when he's aware he just spent sixty hours on a game and has nothing, not even world knowledge, to show for it.