Hope is Not a Strategy

In high school, I played football for four years and loved the game.  I had a chance to play at the post-secondary level, but an injury to my knee and a lack of passion for the game when compared to basketball, led me to some different choices.

After high school, my friends and I would play Tecmo Bowl, and eventually, Madden on the Sega Genesis.  It is amazing how much I didn’t know about the game when I actually played it in person (clock management, when to call plays and why, and other fundamental coaching games). But when I played the video game, it actually taught me a lot about the strategy that I didn’t know about. For the first two years of my teaching career, I coached football, which I know I wouldn’t have had a clue to do if I didn’t play football as a video game.

Do I believe every video game will always push your thinking? No, but I don’t think it has to. Sometimes, it is okay just to check out and do something for the sole purpose of fun.  I love playing video games to this day, although I don’t do it as much as I once did.  But I also know that the “flow theory” implemented in game design is something that we can learn from in education. Finding that point of being too hard students give up, or too easy that students get bored, is something that is obvious in many games.

I recently read the book, “Screen Schooled: Two Veteran Teachers Expose How Technology Overuse Is Making Our Kids Dumber,” and by the title, you can see the authors have a clear view on technology in education.  I read it knowing that I wouldn’t agree with a lot of it, but that it would a) push my thinking and b) help me think deeper about my arguments. I am a firm believer in the idea that if I can’t make your case for you, then I probably don’t understand your position or mine.

This quote stuck out to me:

And it’s not as though teens are using their phones for learning, creating, or other productive pursuits. I can honestly say I’ve never taken a phone from a kid who was in the middle of exploring a cyber art museum. I’ve never had a parent complain that she walked in on her son having a late-night FaceTime session with a group of school children in Nigeria. Pretty much all I ever see kids do on their technology is text and Snapchat friends, play games, take pictures of themselves, check Instagram for likes, watch silly videos, and play more games.

In my notes, I  wrote the following; “So why don’t you teach them something different?”  Do we simply hope that kids use technology for meaningful things, or are we teaching them the opportunities that lie in front of them? I have been saying this often; hope is not a strategy.  If we want something different, we can’t just hope it happens. We have to do something.

Understand this…I see negatives with technology use, but I also see positives.  I have really been trying to focus on the positives while acknowledging the negatives. An “all-or-nothing” mentality is not helpful in education, or elsewhere.

This quote is also from the book:

To put this in context, when the elderly discover social media, they apply their real-life understanding of social interaction to it. My eighty-five-year-old grandfather just recently got on Facebook. He did this not to replace existing social interactions but to enhance these interactions. He continues to write, call, and see his family and friends with the same regularity as he did before. However, Facebook allows him a chance to increase the frequency of interaction in a way that is more dynamic and timely than writing a letter, but not as fulfilling as actually being with the people with whom he chooses to interact. He brings his lifetime of knowledge acquired through face-to-face interactions to every type of social interaction he has. Whether it’s a phone call, text, e-mail, or Facebook post, he can accurately predict what type of remark will elicit what type of response from the recipient. He can also differentiate what setting is appropriate for a formal or informal tone. Despite being new to the technology, he picked up the nuances of Facebook instantly.

I love what was written here, and in my notes, I wrote, “Why aren’t we teaching kids more of this?”  I have said this often, “technology is not meant to replace face-to-face interaction, but it can be used to enhance it.”  That is precisely the point the authors are making with adults, but who is going to teach the students?

I have been thinking about this statement a lot lately; are we serving the score or the student?  A lot of times when I hear about schools (or countries) wanting to ban devices from students in schools, I wonder if they are focusing on “doing school” well, or helping serve kids in the world we live in now? Maybe it is both, or perhaps it isn’t. Either way, we have to find more ways to read the stuff we don’t agree with, find common ground, and figure out ways we can serve our kids.  The answers are rarely in the extremes, but often somewhere in the middle.  We can’t just hope for good things to happen, or hope bad things don’t. Education (and learning) in all facets of the world is always part of the solution.

Source: George Couros

One Comment

  1. Ron Brace said:

    We are in the business of educating students, but it does not stop with the commonly considered core curriculum, the fine arts, or the extra-curricular. It extends to the soft skills, to the morality of man, and in this case, to the proper use of ubiquitous digital technology.

    February 21, 2018

Comments are closed.