Daily Archives: March 5, 2006

This is Part 2 of my notes/thoughts/reflections on Marc Prensky's 296 slide presentation. (He seemed to be quite proud of that figure!) Since I posted Part 1 last night, Bill Kerr has posted his observations and elaborated more on comments he made to me over the lunch break (while I was in the food queue and as his own plate of food went cold!)

Prensky views games as the ENGAGING educational system while games are portrayed in the press as negative. For kids, learning is the big reason they play (the secret!) He listed a whole bunch of games that had educational opportunity including Civilisation, Simcity, Tycoon, The Typing Of The Dead. There were games for physics, immunology, persuasion and one called the ESP game which tags Google images. This had threefold benefits in his view - it teaches, it's fun and does good for the world.
He also mentioned that teachers didn't have to get into games straightaway in the classroom - it is enough to just start talking about games and designing questions to start conversation with the class. Use the principles of game design / instruction including (1) users' engagement (2) frequent important decisions (3) "level up" towards clear, important goals (4) adapt to each player individually (5) work by iteration and playing, not theory & (6) emphasise gameplay, not visuals (eye candy). It was all about creating mutual respect. His quote - "We are all learners. We are all teachers."
In the next part of his keynote, he steered away from the theme of games only and focussed on teachers and technology in general. Sharing our successes - many teachers are doing great things. Who else knows? Can I find it online? If all teachers started storing online then we all could capure, access and reuse work of others. Google is the most powerful tech tool of all. Teachers need an easy way to publish to the web (blogs, wikis etc.) For Google employees, 25% of their time at work can be used for whatever they want. (My thought - imagine what could be done if our education sysem did that for educators. It would blow the "I don't have time for that" argument out of the water.) So in summary, Prensky says (a) adopt new attitudes and behaviours, (b) share successes, (c) use emerging tools, (d) allow students to create new tools, (e) ask the hard question - "Would my students be here if they didn't have to be?" Most of the people who criticise games don't play them. In short, don't ban - explore the limits.
That was the end of his keynote, people applauded and then he opened the floor to a few questions before lunch. One participant talked about a new (!) application that he'd just discovered, Google Earth and wanted to know if there were any games based on this application. I immediately thought of Vonnie at SouthOz E-learning and her bookmarked links to mashups, several which had combined Google Earth in a number of ways. Prensky reminded the group that what had wow factor for immigrants might not have quite the same impact on the natives - what he did suggest was the posing of an aid mission perhaps where you had to plan a rescue mission to a remote village in Indonesia or South America. The other challenge that Marc set for educators was to ask after a lesson, or a unit of work, to be brave enough to ask your students, "What sucked?"

The afternoon consisted of Marc Pensky moderating a panel that had a range of people representing the wide variety of interests involved in the seminar. There was even a token student from one of Adelaide's most elite schools - hardly representative of what typical Australian student perspective would be. I think that Bill describes the afternoon session better because I didn't find it as much of a "light bulb" experience. However, it was great to meet and talk with educators from all aspects of Aussie education from a teacher trainer from Tasmania to a elite private school ICT teacher from inner city Sydney to TAFE lecturers to providers of alternative prgrams for disaffected and disadvantaged youth.