Monday, April 9, 2012

Before a movement becomes a bandwagon

My daughter's annoyed. She loves The Hunger Games and we read all three books together before the movie premiered. She and I saw the movie together on the opening day, with another friend of hers. Since then, her classmates are all "Hunger Games fans", despite the fact that they had neither read the books nor seen the movie. This irritates my girl severely.

"How can they be fans? They aren't real fans! They don't even know the story!" she rants.

My girl at the movies with her book.

I nod my head in understanding. I first discovered the Twilight saga November 17, 2007, thanks to a book review written by my friend Martha Martin for The Teaching Librarian, the magazine of which I am an editor. I knew about Edward and Bella long before Robert Pattison and Kristin Stewart played them on the silver screen. I have been to Twilight conventions where some attendees have never read the books and this surprises me. I have the same reaction as my daughter but I'm less vocal - how can they be fans?

A corny photo my friend Gianna took of me in my school library.

When something I care deeply about becomes "adopted" by mainstream society, it causes a mixed reaction inside for me. Part of me is delighted that more people are discovering this wonderful thing; part of me is dismayed by the shallowness of the "newly-converted" that do not seem to understand all the subtleties, nuances and history of the topic. Is that a bit elitist? Does that suggest a superiority complex for those who were aware of this "magic" before the rest of the world? I don't want it to be. I think it's society's obsession with what's popular that drives me bonkers. We "Frankenstein" concepts and ideas until they are but empty shells of the original.

The same thing is stirring in me with regards to using video games in education. We have a new member on our Gaming Educators Minecraft multi-player server. Her character name is Technascribe and she is very nice. Since joining our crew, she's built a jungle city reminiscent of the Ewok home-world. We've had a great time rediscovering all the neat things in the place we've created as we have shown our new colleague around our world. She uses Minecraft at her school in the U.S. and it appears like she's had a lot of fun playing with us. She doesn't feel like a Johnny-come-lately. I don't think I'd object to having teachers completely new to Minecraft come to try things out in a safe and welcoming environment, as long as their intent is "pure". I think I'm concerned about the folks that would want to join our server as a "feather in their cap" so they can make some claim to being a "gaming educator pioneer" for the prestige rather than for the joy and learning. The "Negative Nancy" in me worries about what will happen if the games-based learning (GBL - it already has an acronym of its own) really starts to take off. I've talked about this a bit already in this blog when I was reflecting on the webinar that Liam, Denise and I gave for the TLVirtual Cafe. Maybe I'm counting my chickens before they're hatched. After all, the amazing Doug Peterson wrote a great blog post about gaming that suggests that it won't be the next big thing because people need to find "work-arounds" to make it possible in their schools. Having just said that, however, I sense that the mood is shifting - people want to do innovative things and want to "borrow ideas" from games.Even as I was searching for Doug's tweet, I found this in my Twitter stream that @snbeach retweeted: "Join me next week for my webinar How to Use the Video Game Model to Build Curriculum Units".

Video game "model"?
Build curriculum units?
Now can you see why I'm nervous?


  1. Right on MzMolly! I fear there is little we can do with the ones showing up and declaring they have discovered games in education.

    It happened with blogs. It happened with online social networks and it happened with twitter. It also happened with comics and school. It will happen with video games. It is happening with video games.

    In reality, no one "owns" any of these things and all should be made welcome. But I agree it can be frustrating when all you want to scream is "Yer doing it wrong!!!"

    Personally, I think we just need to continue to say our piece in blogs, twitters and beyond and hopefully help frame the conversation. Because the conversation is going to happen anyway.

    You do this every week in this blog and have been gaming in school longer than anyone I know. Keep being outspoken about this! They will hear what you have to say. Getting them to listen, that's a different story . . .

  2. Makes me nervous too! I dunno what to think about it all yet. It just feels like GBL runs the risk of becoming artifical -a thinly veiled curriculum pusher rather than being used as an educational driver.

  3. "Artificial" vs authentic - yes, that's just the type of split that I fear. I don't want it to just be "the newest educational trend" that people throw into their vocabulary to look progressive. Remember PLCs? I think Richard DuFour and some of the other people who were around in the beginning would be sad to see how warped their original ideas have become. PLCs you are "voluntold" to join aren't genuine - they aren't authentic.

  4. Interesting that folks don't realize that educators actually began using computers in classrooms in the '70's! Just ask @peterskillen how frustrating it is to hear teachers talk about 'the beginning' as the beginning of gaming, or twitter, or blogging - when Seymour Papert's Logo was actually the beginning of educational computing - and when teachers like Peter have been using computers (and not in trivial ways) with kids since the '70s.

    The logo folks went through this angst too Molly, and I'm seeing it all the time. Imagine Dewey's frustration when we haven't even got project-based learning right since he began talking about it in 1918? ;)

    I do think we are on the cusp of bringing the good stuff into the mainstream and to shift traditional classrooms, but it will mean that educators will need to commit to the discourse and community of learning that is required to go deeper into good pedagogy. That's a commitment that isn't everyone's cup of tea I'm discovering.

    What about Socrates...wonder what he'd say?

  5. Thanks for your comments Brenda.
    (*squee! Brenda reads my blog!!* Okay, back to professional Diana now...)

    Great point about Dewey and project-based learning. Is it the pendulum? Is it the desire to come up with something new, even though these ideas have existed before?

    My husband once told me that "the golden age" of any hobby is the time when you as an individual first discover it yourself. He's into old-school role-playing games, so for him, the zenith was when he first started playing them in the 1970s. For younger players, it's when they first began to play, be it the 1980s or 1990s. Maybe it's the same for educators who use technology - it didn't start 'til their own eyes were opened or they themselves started using it.

    My follow-up question is this: how will educators "commit to discourse and [a] community of learning to delve into good pedagogy?" What must they do? What must they give up? Marking their territory (with a good piddle like our canine friends) or one-upmanship won't help the cause but the urge to claim is a tough one to tamper down. Brenda, might this be a blog post topic for you in the future? I hope so!