Happily I got the opportunity to present at this years iGBL in Dun Laoghaire IT for the 5th annual iGBL symposium. It was my first symposium & my first time presenting at a conference of that magnitude so I was quite surprised when I got the message saying that I had been short listed then selected to present. I presented on part of my book and it was titled “Video Gaming & Language Learning: The Untold Story.”
I was about as terrified as you’d presume you’d be starting out in something like this but on the whole I don’t believe that I did too badly. Anyone who I talked to after the conference commented upon how well I did given the interruption of people arriving late and the crowd that gathered for the talk. So I’m personally pleased with how I did, so I can at least chalk it up to experience. I’m not going to lie however, I didn’t enjoy the public speaking and normally I am fine with it as I just go for it. Nerves got to me though and I stumbled and stuttered, but hey! Alls well that ends well.
There were a lot of things that I’ve been thinking about since the event. I’m still stunned about the disconnect there is between educators and the technical/gaming market as to what are the realistic limitations of what can be achieved on both ends.
Before I continue, I’m gonna be discussing somethings’ I witness when I was at the conference and some things people said. I’m no way labling teachers or gamers as them all being the same. Ok? Cool.
Something that struck me was that while there was a showcase of Project Spark a teacher piped up in the back about how as a geography teacher he was going to be unable to teach different rock formations with this tool. If you click on the link for Project Spark you’ll see that he’s right. Its art style does not lend itself to realistic formations, however, that was something obvious from observing the game from it simply loading that this was not going to be something hyper realistic. It does have other uses for sure. For example, a dedicated english teacher could run simulations of Shakespear plays if they had the time and the same could be said for history teachers. (However games like Age Of Empires may cut out a lot of that work load.) I couldn’t ignore the fact that in that teachers mind he though that this was going to be the solution to his problem.
Here is a fact for all educators out there; if anything claims to be the be all and end all solution to your teaching needs they’re lying. How do I know they’re lying? You still have jobs. Teachers have a very crucial role to play in terms of society even outside of learning. I could never be a teacher, I don’t like kids and I’m not that patient. So I have a lot of time and respect for those who are dedicated to their field.
There is something to be said for computer literacy in the wider role of education that has to be addressed though. This is coming from someone who in my group of friends (20 – 31) roughly 3/10 of us are computer literate. Now, the golden question here is what do you define as computer literate? I can pretty much promise you we don’t have the same definition of what computer literacy is. To me being computer literate isn’t about who can use Word processing software or Excel spreadsheets, but who can keep a computer up to date and they’re daily computer life safe. I am someone who tends to my friends PC’s constantly, because they don’t know how to do basic disk cleanups or run antivirus, antispyware or maliware cleaners on there PCs. This comes from people of my age group – a generation who are meant to be renound for their tech savvyness. I can promise you for the most part its an illusion created by the media and a misunderstanding about technological advancement. That however, is for another blog post.
What I was surprised to learn in terms of computer literacy is how little time is given to teachers of all levels to engage with technology let alone the ones who want to be able to implement this technology in their classrooms with the ability to inspire others. They are given maybe 1 day of training for basic literacy – which I was stunned to learned was not compulsory. Then if they did, god forbid, want to go and learn something to bring into the classroom they are still given that one day to do so. That’s just not realistic whatever way you want to look at things. So its half a problem with the ways we get to assist our teachers and half an interest to want to be able to utilise this technology in the first place.
Its not a solution that is going to fix itself and it’s something tragic that its ultimately not going to inspire our learners or our educators. It’s always easy to blame our system, I personally can’t talk about it, as I was someone who the system failed dramatically. But if we can’t give the power back to the teachers and educators to teach the things that are relevant and important to industry and commerce we’re never going to progress and have the quality of Engineers and Programmers that we’ll need in our ever changing economy. The government and others are going to realise its too late that just having Computer Programming and the such like at college level is not going to be sustainable for much longer.
I hope they are going to learn these lessons before major technological industry begins to move out of its own accord. I’ve my own ideas about how to implement these things bypassing all the politics, so its not as if I’m standing here on my soap box complaining and not adding something to try and solve this issue. However, its not something I can expand about too much presently. Lots of emails have yet to be sent and even more things need to be discussed before I can post in many ways about the concept that I have put together to help get coding into the hands of kids in a safe and innovative way without any determinant to normal schooling hours & activities.
If anyone argues, that it sounds like putting a bandaid on a stab wound I’d probably tell you its an accurate analogy but right now, its better then there being nothing there at all. People also need to realise that technology is not as wide spread in schools as people would like to think. I have worked in Desh schools where there is a Windows 95 in each classroom and thats it. That’s all they’ve got. It’s trying to come up with a reasonable solution to give every child a chance at finding an interest and a passion. Thats what I’m trying to achieve!
So wish me look with it. I’ve a long aul road ahead for the project but I’ll be sure to keep you all updated when I have more to talk about!