We still think a microwave is for heating coffee and thawing frozen food, never the name of a computer game. We weren't born to researching on Wikipedia or Googling for facts. Our fingers can text, but often strike two letters on the Android, making for some strange communications. We despair of catching up with the tools at hand and wonder what it all means for the future of our children.
With the wisdom that comes with age we question whether fast learning on a computer equals the understanding that comes from slower study in books. (We're suspicious of books on Kindle, too.) When teachers try to make learning fun with computers, will children grow up to take on the hard tasks for thinking things out? Inquiring minds want to know.
The latest fad for teaching is the video game Minecraft, a Lego-like building game for learning how to build structures. It made a splash as a way to teach students how to "dig deep." One private school teacher for 12-year olds uses it to design buildings for an ancient Roman apartment house.
"It's an accurate way to build things without just having to write down all this stuff," one child tells The Washington Post. "You still have to make floor plans, but it's more interactive and more fun."
But this approach enables a computer to drive the course. Is this how we want to take the kids in a virtual tour of ancient Rome? Virgil would not approve, and you don't have to be (an) ancient to wonder whether these children would travel deep into their imaginations or understand why Dido was disconsolate when Aeneas left her behind.
Besides, who said learning has to be fun? Learning is hard. Dancing letters and images can excite Sesame Street toddlers, but once they learn to read, the letters stop jumping and they have to shape up to learn the hard stuff, the meaning of metaphors, how to write a simile.
Joel Levin, co-founder of a company that helps schools set up Minecraft, hopes to work Minecraft into history, math, reading and art classes. An eighth-grader who plays the Minecraft game "Survival," which includes zombies and creepers, talks about how "cool" it is. "You can shape your own world." Cool in the classroom is exactly what we're suspicious of.
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