Classrooms are obsolete (and so are teachers)

Discussion in 'General Gossip, Troll Wars & Game Development' started by Eclectic, Mar 30, 2009.

  1. Eclectic

    Eclectic Banned

    Article explains why gaming could be bigger in education than in recreation:

    Classrooms are obsolete (and so are teachers)

    March 30th, 2009 | Crystal ball

    “Oh no” I can hear you say, an article about education. Boring. Yet it should be one of the most exciting things you can read about. It is the education industry and their heritage that have made it boring. And if it is boring for us then just imagine how boring it must be for the victims of our current system. Let’s face it, standing a teacher in front of a class must be one of the most inefficient methods of imparting knowledge ever invented.

    We are massive consumers of education. We start in formal education as toddlers and emerge in our 20s. Often none the wiser. And we learn far more out of school than we do in school. Then we have vocational training, usually continuously in our fast changing world. Plus our hobbies and interests that can often involve absorbing more knowledge than a degree course. Which all means that education is a massive industry. Far bigger than the recreational game industry is going to be for the foreseeable future. Which is very nice for us because gaming is perfectly suited to education. Far more so than the current classroom/teacher system. Our one on one, challenge-reward mechanism is the most perfect way yet of imparting knowledge.

    I have watched our industry try to get into education for thirty years. And failing, continually. Because we try to do learning using games. We try and fit in with the old, inefficient teacher led systems. But we have had successes when we don’t try to fit in. Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training, for instance. And these successes come when there isn’t a teacher in sight, because they are true game based learning. And teachers and true game based education are incompatible. You cannot have them both at the same time.

    Teachers, at best, think that games are chocolate coated broccoli. A way of dressing up knowledge to make it palatable. They are wrong. Gaming is the optimum delivery system for giving the human mind knowledge. Because it is one on one interactive, because it creates exactly the right challenges at exactly the right time, because it can readily mix text with sound with pictures with videos, because it rewards the student properly at exactly the right time, because it is connected to the sum of all human knowledge, because it is non linear thus presenting knowledge in a more natural way, because it progresses the student at exactly the right pace and because it is connected to countless other people.

    With proper game based learning it is very simple to keep a track of every student’s progress. But more than that it is very easy to see their strengths and weaknesses in all their complexity. The aptitudes of every single student will be plain to see. Which would lead to everyone having the optimum further education and making the right career choices for their abilities. Which would be a massive improvement on the current hit and miss methodology. So students wouldn’t just learn more, with better understanding and more quickly. They would also be learning the right things for them and for their life ahead.

    It isn’t just goodbye to classrooms and teachers. It is also goodbye to exams and school inspectors. Because any student’s knowledge and capabilities would be there to see in real time on the system. In fact exams are a very bad thing as they hold the majority of students back until everyone has mastered the syllabus to a given point. With game based learning you are going to have a lot of people educated past degree level by the time they are 18.

    But the people who stand to gain most are those with “learning difficulties” who just cannot get all the attention they need with current learning methods. With game based learning they will have one on one learning that will push their aptitudes and capabilities to the limit resulting in much more fulfilling lives.

    So what are we going to do with all the teachers? Teach them to stack shelves in Tescos? Nope, there is something far more important for them to do and that is to prepare children for their futures in the real world. Not by teaching, but by mentoring. By guiding every single student, one on one, so each one can get the best out of our society and our society can get the best out of each student.

    Some educationalists who have a grasp of this seem to think that you still need a physical school. That each student has their own workstation. They call it “podularisation”. And they are wrong. All a student needs is a device connected to the interweb. A home computer, a netbook or even a smartphone. Yes, that’s right, smartphones replacing teachers. And OnLive technology, or something similar, could be harnessed beautifully to deliver it all.

    The next thing that is going to shock is that much education will end up being free. Once it is all written and on a server the incremental cost for each extra student is zero. And as we have seen with so many things on the interweb there is an inevitable constant downwards price pressure till zero is reached. This will open up and democratise learning like never before. It will be more influential than the invention of the printing press. Anyone, anywhere in the world will be able to consume whatever education they want any time they want, delivered to them in the optimum manner for them to absorb. This will massively advance the whole of humanity.

    I would like to thank Nolan Bushnell and all the other speakers at the Game Based Learning 2009 conference for stimulating my thoughts on this subject.
    • Thank Thank x 1
  2. kneejerky

    kneejerky Industry Vetran One Of Us

    No they don't. Some might do, but not all. I know, because I've actually bothred to go and talk to teachers and policy makers rather than make sweeping assumptions like you have.

    Unless you forsee a world where only virtual interactions are made, I would say that this is VERY wrong. It's not that kids need to learn within a physical instituion, but that they need physical interactions. Raising kids in isolation would lead to a very different world.

    Some of the educators I've spoken to are already concerned that many kids aren't learning social skills from their families, and so schools have to teach them real world interactions, like joining a bank, using a post office and ordering food from a restaurant.

    Anyway, the point is that school buildings are not just somewhere that formal ('hard') curriculum learning takes place; the informal ('soft') learning via social interactions with their peers provides skills that are essential for development.

    While I like the sentiments of what you've written, I feel you've missed several points in a big way.
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  3. plaf

    plaf Interaction-designing your arse One Of Us

    I don't agree with all you're saying Bruce, but I'm pretty fascinated by the prospects of game-based learning as well. I haven't made much headway on it, but I was trying to get an adventure-style game off the ground a while ago, where the premise was that you play as a character suffering amnesia, and you're in a country where you don't know the language so you have to learn through discovery and interaction / puzzle solving.

    I guess it's a "high" concept ;)
  4. Going-grey

    Going-grey Grumpy bastard One Of Us

    But a cool one, nonetheless. I would love to see more of this stuff being developed. I think I'll have a long wait though - unless governments funded them, they are not deemed to be 'commercially viable'.
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  5. Eclectic

    Eclectic Banned

    Thank you very much for your input, much appreciated. I really like the amnesia idea.

    These articles are written to provoke thought rather than to be factual definitive university type essays. So, sure, there is plently left out. Which is usually made up for by reader's comments to the blog.
    I recently spend two days surrounded by educationalists, policy makers etc at the Game Based Learning Conference in London and even had a chat with the government minister responsible, Tom Watson.
    There are quite a few articles on my blog about games and education. For instance about gaming within the highly popular computer aided learning system, Moodle:

    But the big thing for us is that there is the potential out there for an industry even bigger than the one we are in. Brain Training is all the proof you need.

    Also there is a good book on the subject:
  6. parm

    parm Just barely adequate One Of Us

    ^ Quoted for truth. Mrs Parm is a teacher and has to do this sort of thing. Real-world interaction is a good thing, much as we jaded antisocial devs might think otherwise :)
  7. GDave

    GDave Gamer One Of Us

    "Edutainment" games have always been trying to push in hard. I remember waaay back in my primary school days, when the whole school had just 1 PC, each student would get about half an hour on it a week, I distinctly remember playing similar stuff to what we see consuming the hand held console market today. Interesting to note though, (and I've done -no- research into this what so ever) is that we see a lot of 'edutainment' in primary schools, and then it just sort've dies out when you hit secondary/high school. An association that games are "childish" perhaps?

    Anywho, I hope physical teaching doesn't die out, that's my fall back plan!
  8. Eclectic

    Eclectic Banned

    I agree 100%. But you don't need the expense of a school just for social interaction. Gaming is good in that it (often) makes you join new groups, widening your social sphere. Groups that you can then go on to meet in the real world.

    One thing that Nolan Bushnell pointed out at the conference is that about 50% of classtime is spent maintaining discipline. This is an immense inefficiency.
  9. Going-grey

    Going-grey Grumpy bastard One Of Us

    Much as I know and respect Mr Bushnell, I think that particular statistic is bollocks.
  10. Dredge

    Dredge Bruce Willis is a Ghost! One Of Us

    Meh, you really think? Dependent on school, teachers & student pool. If you took the country and averaged it, wouldnt be surprised if it was higher. Some of my lessons at school were more like 70%/80% wasted time due to classmates.
  11. Going-grey

    Going-grey Grumpy bastard One Of Us


    Well, I just don't believe the system would work if only 50% of the time at school was used for learning. I accept that a number of schools do have discipline problems, but a national average of 50% sounds WAY excessive to me.
  12. Dredge

    Dredge Bruce Willis is a Ghost! One Of Us

    Sounds too low to me. Perhaps you just went to a better school. In possibly a different generation ;)
  13. Anhony Flack

    Anhony Flack tedious space wanker One Of Us

    I actually think that the time "wasted" on discipline etc can be more valuable than the time spent "learning". Games are a great way to deliver educational content, and will no doubt be used more by teachers in future, but they won't replace teachers. A good teacher provides counciling, guidance and has to actually make an effort to customise what they are doing to the individual needs of students. It's a far more demanding and important role than just simply taking a kid's head and pumping it full of knowledge.
  14. Eclectic

    Eclectic Banned

  15. jediboy

    jediboy Programmer One Of Us

    I agree that physical schools are important for developing social skills, something that "apparently" programmers/IT people lack, as they spend "too much time" with their computer.

    I also agree that schools need an upgrade. SCHOOLING 2.0 would/should make better use of game theory. But, in my experience, there are so many "buzz merchants" out there using SECOND LIFE to deliver their lectures. I mean, come on, seriously. The lecture in this case, was physically in the same room as his students, but instead of raising their hand, and using their vocal chords (which is, apparently, sooo last century) they had to PM, IM, and just about every other abbreviation their tutor to ask a question.

    I'm a programmer, (C++), but teach quite a bit (secondary schools - Math and Science, and recently tertiary - C++, 3D Math, DirectX for games). There has been a fair amount of pressure to video my lectures, release them online, have my students connect to me on Facebook, and every else.

    To me, its a waste, and technology for the sake of appearing bleeding edge.

    Pen, Paper, Chalkboards, Textbooks, and discussion works best, IMO.

    I do accept that secondary school subjects, maths and physics in particular would benefit from game-specific examples (Geometry and Trig especially), but that would involve educating a lot of teachers who probably have enough to do as is.

    There are online schools, like, for kids wanting to study game dev at home or online. Don't know how many of their "grads" are working in the industry.

    There are websites, for the secondary school curriculum that offer applets and flash movies for maths and physics which motivated students could search for and use.

    It's a big topic, with plenty of stakeholders. Its just one I'm a little bit weary of, from a "ground-level" logistics point of view.

    Just my 2 cents, and not trying to wind anyone up.

    - Brendan.
  16. lessing

    lessing Advanced Troll One Of Us

    I'm currently involved in a couple of education / game related projects having worked in development and as a teacher.

    One of them is working with secondary teachers to better understand how games can be used as tools for developing traditional literacy and numeracy skills. I'm putting together some workshops showing how to bring games into maths, science, english, and IT subjects. Response, generally, has been really good.

    The other project, which is a bit more interesting, is developing a game to educate kids about possible careers in ICT. It's early days, but I think that there's something there - and it's also something scalable to other careers.

    The biggest challenge I've found is that educators of all streams are really keen to get games involved in education but they really struggle with the reality of it as a medium. I was recently given a pitch for a possible games based learning project that was more ambitious than Grand Theft Auto and it was a tricky meeting to realign their expectations. I think this is just a cultural thing though and the more teachers that enter the system who've grown up with games and gaming culture, the easier these sorts of things will be.
  17. terminallytrivial

    terminallytrivial Lurker Not From Round Here

    Last edited: Jul 2, 2012
  18. tarwin

    tarwin Lurker Not From Round Here

    I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that face-to-face discussion really plays a major role in education, both the scholastic and social learning.

    I know from both studying and teaching the same course at a university that it seems you might be learning a lot yourself (hence, why even have the teacher) but a lot of what you get out of it, when you have problems, when you need encouragement, when you need something explained, really works face-to-face.

    I'm all for "augmented learning" in this way. I think with good electronic courses with good supervision you can really make a difference to speed and quality of learning. Might even leave more time for discussion which would be great!
  19. Unsurprised Jack

    Unsurprised Jack Industry God One Of Us

    "Enforcing discipline" could be reworded as learning to socialize. Something they can't learn fully in a video game.