Helen and I are reading this great book called Don’t Bother Me Mom- I’m Learningby Marc Prensky. The basic premise is that contemporary children’s brains are wired differently due to a lifetime’s exposure to technology, especially with video games. Prensky calls kids “Digital Natives” for this reason and the rest of us are “Digital Immigrants,” having had to assimilate the technological advances of the past twenty or so years. He argues with research based evidence that not only are (most) video games entirely appropriate for children, they are immensely beneficial to their personal development and future success. From the blurb on the back:
Prensky believes that kids are so attracted to these games because they are learning about important “future” things, from collaboration, to prudent risk taking, to strategy formulation and execution, to complex moral and ethical decisions.”
It’s a fascinating book and a great justification for me and the boys to play more games, heh heh. Joking aside, he mentions a company called The Lightspan Partnership that spent over $100 million in the 1990s to develop video games to reinforce schools’ curriculum. These weren’t the digitalized drill and kill worksheets that describe most “educational” software. They were real games to be played on the Sony PlayStation. Studies showed that the Lightspan games were effective and kids really did learn from them.
I tried to find more information about the project online but there’s barely anything out there. It’s like a big secret or something. Wikipedia doesn’t even have an entry for Lightspan! This page had a little summary and a list of the games. I suspect No Child Left Behind, with its emphasis on federal money tied to students’ test scores, played a significant role in school districts losing interest in what amounts to a radical approach to learning. Let’s face it, most adults’ perceive video games as a waste of time at best. This person’s enlightened view sums it up nicely. Imagine if a district spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on video games and test scores didn’t improve. The backlash would be tremendous.
The Lightspan games never sold retail. The only way to get them was if your child’s school district purchased the program. You can however find them on eBay for relatively little money. We’re intrigued by the idea of these educational games and are very seriously considering picking some up. I want a PlayStation 2 anyway because they’re inexpensive and have a whole back catalog of great games for cheap. Dashiell and Ray are wild about video games but not exactly enthusiastic about sitting down to learn skills the old fashioned way. Why not see if the Lightspan approach works as a supplement to their homeschool education? And if the guinea pigs show positive results, I could possibly work these games into my classroom too.