Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘digital life

Last Wednesday, I was glad to read in Digital Life (31 Mar 10) about Mr Tan Kok Wah, of Greeendale Secondary School, who uses Civilization IV to “reinforce geography and history concepts to Secondary 5 students”. It’s a great example of how one might use off-the-shelf gaming for formal education. I also liked that the same article advised parents to play video games with their kids.

But I was sad to note the way the advice box was written and attributed. Given how such boxes are short and easy to read, they may be the only thing busy parents read instead of the longer article.

The advice box was an example of how not to cite sources. Yes, sources from NLB and NIE were mentioned in the main article, but you cannot claim that you asked these two organizations for advice to parents on gaming. It gives the impression of a lot of distilled wisdom in one short piece when it probably represents the views of two (or just a few) people. Granted that this was a newspaper article, not a journal paper or dissertation. But even savvy bloggers know how to attribute better than that! What happened to professional journalism?

That said, I do not disagree vehemently with the advice. The main problem I have with it is that the advice comes across as coming from many experts.

I also worry that the advice might be read as rules instead of the guidelines they are meant to be. Am I saying that parents are stupid and don’t know this already? No. But think about it: If there is something you know nothing about, or are fearful of, and experts tell you what to do, what would you do?

There are exceptions to the “rules”. For example, the recommendation is that 10 to 12 year-old kids be given games that encourage critical thinking. But who is to say that such games cannot be introduced earlier? I also want to know how the gaming durations were determined. Who is to say that 10-20 minutes is too much or too little?

My point is that parents should be more involved in what their children are doing. Just buying them games based on age recommendations and reviews and leaving them to play is not enough. You want your kids to learn from games but not get overly addicted to them (there must be some addiction or they won’t return). Parents should determine how much time and how often a kid plays computer games, but they must be more than just nannies.

Parents should play the games with their kids and have conversations about the games. This not only builds on the parent-child relationship but provides informal learning opportunities for both adult and child. Conversations that emerge could centre around ethics (good vs. evil), basic literacy, elements of storytelling, strategic thinking, methods for quick mental calculation, and so on. Is that so difficult for a newspaper to emphasize?

Parents need to be educated. There needs to be a mindset shift in games. Games should not be used as babysitters or time wasters. Games can be a means to powerful learning ends. By managing game play wisely in the classroom and out, we might be able to say that our kids are addicted to learning. Now that is news!

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