Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More on Serious Games

I asked David about Serious Games since he works for the UN; his response below. I did *not* notice the sponsors for Serious Games was America's Army -- LOL!!

Do you know about this Serious Games dealie?

No, but I'm going to check through the posted materials. Could be interesting - especially the corporate solutions. Free market says the guys who can pay 6-figures for a system will get the coolest stuff. I think the trick is seeing how to import the colllaboration environment and ease of use (execs and especially middle management are often techno-handicapped like teachers). Did you notice who the founding sponsor was (AA).

I checked out the game environment you sent around. Simple but cool. We might be getting some extra computers in the office, in which case I may be snagging one to play around with Adventure Maker.

Quick thought on the aside in your latest post. I worry about promoting consumption devices as an educational medium for a couple of reasons. First is the cost of universal access. If the idea is just to create fun but educational content then it's no big deal, in that the kids with PSP's and iPod Video's will be your consumer audience. But if the intention is to integrate the technology into the formal educational realm (i.e. classroom), you need to ensure universal access. That means buying one for every kid (or at least having classroom sets - though this limits their availability and thus hinders more complete integration with lesson plans), which costs money many schools don't have. This feeds the larger have/have not situation which increasingly imperils notions of equality and opportunity in America. I'm not so radical as to suggest forced redistribution, but I think technology developers (as this is probably where the disparity is most marked) need to be especially sensitive to this.

One other thing I worry about is the efficacy of developing for consumption platforms. Inherently these are all passive mediums (except for the PSP, see below) offering homogenous content, and so except in so far as they may help kids absorb their text book - making "math fun" or "bringing history to life" - they are redundant. But, they also have the effect of further undermining literacy and pushing it towards obsolescence. As far as the PSP (and this assumes no one develops a keyboard for it - in which case it just becomes a low end computer whose small screen destroys more young eyes) while it does offer some level of interaction, it is particularly limited in an interpersonal setting and precludes innovative thinking.

So, do they offer something: certainly. But I think it is wrong to cast aside the computer (and other innovative production devices) as complicated overkill. Moreover, having just spent the last decade investing in computers and acclimating teachers to their encroachment on the textbook, I don't know that school districts are going to be receptive to introducing a new expensive appliance that they will spend another decade fighting teachers to grudgingly accept (especially since in 10 years there will be another "must have" technology).

Enjoy the rant.


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