Are children more Marie Curie or Margaret Mead when it comes to learning? Are they little scientists who learn best by experimenting and figuring things out for themselves, or little anthropologists who need to listen, observe, and rely on what others tell them?
– Lory Hough, Why Do Kids Believe in God but Not Harry Potter?
A project at Unboundary has led me to this apparent dichotomy, and to the two representative articles below. Of course, it’s not an “either/or” issue. As with most cases of deep, complex, human learning, it’s a “both/and” resolution. Learners are both scientists and anthropologists. Dr. Harris, in fact, makes this point in the HGSE Ed. article and in his book Trusting What You’re Told. Spending twenty years in schools as a professional educator, as well as eight years as a dad, has shown me first hand that children are both scientists and anthropologists. And, I imagine, I learned that by being both a scientist and an anthropologist myself.
I believe in the both/and of this. However, I could not help remembering one of my most favorite scenes from one of my most favorite movies – Good Will Hunting. Please know that there is some strong, adult language in the five-minute YouTube clip below. But the lesson is profound.
I imagine that Will learned from the dialogue and exchange, from an adult whom he grew to trust and love. And I imagine that Will learned from the experience in which the exchange occurred…and from later actually going to “see about a girl.” Not just taking his teacher’s word for it.
As for positive effects, educators and learning scientists have also debated how to leverage the motivation students had for playing games as well as exploring the medium of videogames for educational and pedagogical purposes. Malone explored the intrinsically motivating qualities that games have and how they might be useful in designing educational games (Malone, 1980; Malone, 1981). Malone and Lepper (1987) recommended four main heuristics namely challenge, fantasy, curiosity, and control for game designers and researchers to improve the user interaction interface. Kafai had schoolchildren design games to learn computer programming concepts and mathematics (Kafai, 1995; Kafai, 1996). Similarly, Squire has explored the use of commercial games as a means for engaging disenfranchised students in school (Squire, 2005), while Gerber has explored how video games shape students’ peripheral literacy activities; mainly reading and writing in both online and offline spaces (Gerber, 2009; Gerber & Price, 2011). In addition to their motivational factors, Gee and Shaffer have argued that certain qualities present in the medium of videogames provide valuable opportunities for learning (Gee, 2003; Shaffer, 2006). In her book Life on the Screen, Sherry Turkle explored how people who participated in online multiplayer games such as MUDs , used their experiences with the game to explore personal issues of identity (Turkle, 1995). In her book Play Between Worlds, T. L. Taylor recounts her experience playing the massively multiplayer online game, Everquest . In doing so, she seeks to understand “the nuanced border relationship that exists between MMOG players and the (game) worlds they inhabit”.