Teaching better with technology

I grew up in an era of video games. When I was just a little guy I remember playing my favorite Ninja Turtle, Michelangelo, on our NES. Even my Grandma got bit by the gamebug, her favorite was the plainly named golf, which we sometimes played together.

The games back then were not great; to put it plainly, the graphics and UX sucked. Serisouly, I don’t know why ROMS exist except for nostalgia (I will admit I have the original Mortal Kombat for Super Nintendo on my jailbroken iPhone) But we played them and we loved them. We spent hours grinding away at the controller.

Whats this got to do with education? These games weren’t easy, but we learned how to beat them.

The game received criticism for its difficult gameplay, being noted by many fans and critics as being one of the more frustrating NES games made.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Wikipedia

No matter what the objective was, rather climbing through sewers or getting a double bogey we were able to grok the missions and challenges at hand. We adapted to new controls and approaches, learning new ways to do things at a pace I doubt has ever happened before. The brain cells were stimulated and storing a lot of info. Then we went to school for eight hours. Had a quiz or something. Recess was cool. I remember being at school thinking about the level I was stuck on. Or what was for lunch. Or the cute girl next to me. But I don’t remember ever thinking about homework.

I’m a programmer by trade, and people assume I’m good at Math. I laugh and say no, I write code to do it for me. For instance this is super common: 60*60*24*365*1000 (it’s a year in milliseconds)

So how can we make school, and education in general, more exciting? Well we could use games, which we are already doing. My favorite “educational” game was The Oregon Trail. I put education in quotes because the only thing you really learn is the importance of wagon supplies and bullets if your traveling cross continentally in the 19th century. But I think games are actually a small facet to the solution of a much bigger problem. What most of the world’s education systems are doing right now is killing any creativity and feeding students useless information. What day some dude traveled somewhere. How to do advanced geometry. Some classes– some teachers are an exception. Art, English, Languages, those kind of classes actually are interesting and engaging most of the time. It’s the standardization and delivery that I find backwards. When my little brother starts school I want him to enjoy it and learn as much as possible. It was amazing how quickly he learned to read words like New Game, Start, and Loading playing on my mom’s iPhone as a toddler.

Our entire education system, like the oregon trail, is stuck in the 19th century. We approach teaching our young like running a factory. The kids are the products.

We treat our young ones like a canvas on which to print a predetermined image of what we deem important. What we ought to be doing is the exact opposite, teach them that the world is their canvas and allow them to choose their own course. Why is the most important thing in our schools what grade your in and what grades you got. We shouldn’t even have grades. Now, that’s a big statement that a lot of people would find ridiculous. This is going to require a shift in the entire paradigm of education. I’m not as eloquent as some in conveying ideas, so I highly suggest you click that link.

I also don’t have many answers. I know things are broken, and might be able to apply a piece of tape here or there, but I don’t have the skills, knowledge, or time to offer a complete fix. But we could probably do it together.