Of games and what we have become…

“Are games and immersive experiences really changing how we work, learn and play?” This was one of the questions which Prof. S. de Freitas, posed yesterday, during the Second Wednesday event entitled – ‘E-Learning Innovation: A vision for future learning?’ and organised by the Serious Games Institute, in London.

I will be writing more on this event, although unfortunately I was unable to tweet about it due to lack of wifi connectivity (??!!! absurd) – however I did take some notes the old-fashioned way… you know… using textedit… 🙂

Anyway back to the question posed by Prof. de Freitas, I actually think that these ‘digital’ experiences are actually changing who we are, inherently. We are becoming a newly-evolved species, we are adapting to the times of change once again and once again we are doing this to survive – as individuals.

What I am also finding though is this… the resistance to change and adapt by schools… and I really don’t mean to fire away silly phrases which might even sound rhetoric, but what I find so fascinating about this phenomenon is this idea of the individual vs. the whole or the collective.

So for example, let’s take teachers – from my experience and the people I actually know … outside the classroom, when they do not actually and physically form part of the school institution, can be extremely persistent in knowledge transfer activities, they are learners as much as teachers (even though very solidly in control of the situation !!). They are also becoming (at least in Malta) avid social network practitioners… they believe in this collective sharing of thoughts, ideals, and even trivia. I wonder how many teachers, do not actually have at least 1 social network account and profile… possibly few. I also wonder, how many of them don’t use digital devices, and the Internet to communicate during and as part of their daily activities… I wonder, how many of them have never ever played any form of game be it digital, virtual, social, casual, etc.? And yet… as soon as they get together and they feel this sense of belonging to the school structure… all this, and I mean their daily life and activities, seem to fly out of the window and they camouflage, wearing a skin, that belonged to other teachers, 20 or 30 years ago. They sort of make it their own but in reality it’s completely alien to the times we live in – to how we are living – to how they are living. So we get this separation in schools between who we really are, as transformed by our digital selves, and who we project to be… dinosaurs stuck in an Education era, which dates  several years back.

So then we have the pupils… other social phenomena. Now I do believe that everyone is a learner, everyone produces and consumes information in this era. The young people who come to school every morning are fantastic learners – even the most challenging and challenged… and yet they do not know it. Maybe that’s what is so fantastic about it. They really dislike the fact that they are known as learners (or pupils) , it’s almost embarrassing to them to be treated like recipients (which is really not akin to learning, and in fact being considered an empty recipient is embarrassing.. ) … and yet  learning is all they do when they play (any form of games), it’s all they do when they communicate, when they produce information for others. So what happens is that once they (as for the teachers) walk into the boundary walls of the school, whatever they do outside, flies out of the window (once again!!) and once again they wear the skins of the others who have preceded them; skins which are unwanted, and which do not really fit them.

So what is the problem and where does it lie? Games are fundamentally changing who we are – how we behave and how we live life, as we play. Games have always changed us and helped us evolve. But digitisation and this overcoming of boundaries, in terms of space, time, immersion, abilities – this almost limitless transcendence, has changed the world – it is still changing it and will continue to change it, its people and how they interact. And yet, the Education collective (the whole) doesn’t want to admit it. Few people are trying to overcome the barricades, few people are trying to trigger the revolution. The problem is that while the individuals have evolved, this ‘creature’ which is Education hasn’t … and that’s where we need to start. Right at the top…

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