What makes two smart but small and decidedly non-athletic middle school boys want to risk life and limb to try out for the school football team? Their teacher Bill Ferriter was shocked at their answer. “”We’re going to be great at football,” they replied. “We completely dominate in Madden 2008 on our PlayStations. No one can beat us!”
These two boys who had never played an organized sport in their life—-let alone an organized sport where physicality is essential for success and where brutal hits are commonplace—-had convinced themselves that football was the right sport for them because of their video game prowess. In their minds, mastering skills with digital players on an electronic field in their living rooms translated somehow into an belief that they would excel on a real field wearing real pads trying to tackle 200-pound kids without breaking their necks!
Ferriter, a North Carolina teacher who writes the superb blog The Tempered Radical, is concerned about the “false transparency” created by video games. Kids claim to be good at playing the guitar because they’ve mastered Guitar Hero. Or they express an interest in becoming soldiers because “war seems fun” after playing Call of Duty. “Becoming more ‘realistic’ by the year, new digital toys seem to provide the ‘complete experience’for users who walk away believing that they ‘know’ just what it means to be a rock star, battlefield general, or super-jock,” Ferriter writes.
Deeply strange. And disturbing. Ferriter, who is typically bullish on technology-assisted learning, worries this false transparency is hurting kids.
I’m just starting to wonder whether one of the unintended consequences of easy access to electronic experience is that we’re raising a generation of children who have a flawed sense of their personal strengths and weaknesses? Are middle schoolers—-who love fantasy and imagination to begin with—confused, failing to find the line between fiction and reality when determining what they “know” and “can do?”
Interesting and provocative insights from one of our most thoughtful classroom observers.
(HT: Anthony Rebora)