I listened to a fantastic discussion this week on the webcast, Teachers Teaching Teachers. Paul Allison, who through sheer determination and, frankly, stubbornness, has kept this program going has hosted conversations with influential educators from around the world. This past week was no exception.
Folks from Global Kids, along with NYC teachers and educators from Oregon discussed games and gaming.
I plugged into the iTunes feed, participated in a chat that included students and tweeted some of the salient sound-bite-able portions.
I loved listening to the discussion surrounding the educational potential of games and game creation – the promotion of systems thinking, for instance – and how the teachers on the program implement gaming in their classrooms.
As someone who grew up playing games, analog (Risk, Monopoly, Life, Battling Tops – you name it) and digital (I went to college with the Ms. Pacman champ of Connecticut), and as a teacher who used game-playing as a teaching strategy in math with 2nd graders, I was deeply engaged by the topic.
Afterward, as I tried to synthesize the rich conversation, my mind touched on the obvious idea that introducing games and gaming in school is one step towards the blurring of the line between in-school and out-of-school. I thought back to the seminal Pew Internet and American Life study from 2002, “The Digital Disconnect: The widening gap between Internet-savvy students and their Schools.” Nearly 10 years ago, we were facing the dilemma of students arriving in school aware that the ways in which they acquired knowledge outside the classroom wouldn’t be open to them inside the classroom. At the time, my response as a technology professional development specialist was to help teachers bring the Internet into the classroom, and therefore put the Internet into the hands of students.
But what I’m thinking today, right at this moment, influenced by the blurring of lines for me professionally and personally as I engage more with Twitter and read the book “Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out” is that I need to have greater nuance in my understanding. That my framework of the issue – in-school/out-of-school – may be wrongheaded. That instead, what I need to do is honor our students’ already-existing personal learning communities, which have lives in school and out of school and sometimes in and out of school, and, additionally, help them figure out how to foster new ones so that they can access more and different kinds of knowledge.
It’s a different type of blurring of the lines between in-school and out-of-school, one that is holistic rather than linear. It is a Venn diagram of multiple overlapping circles, circles that represent a student’s many learning communities – sports, music, TV, books – rather than a flowchart of back-and-forth arrows between home and school.
(As an aside, who knew there was a LOTR version of Risk? I may need to buy a game tonight …)