I had an interesting conversation with my third graders this past week.
It involved talk about video games, especially violent ones. I had noticed a lot of them wrote, and even blogged about their plans and then experiences playing PS2, WII, XBox, and so on. Lots of talk about Halo and Halo 2. Now I am not a game player at all (like zero), but I know that's a pretty violent one, and you're supposed to be 16, or 18 - or something. These kids are 8 and 9. So one morning I asked them about their game playing. It was as if I had lifted the lid on another world that they were all too eager to talk about. Lots of bravado, talk of levels, scores, and kills (!), especially from the boys - but I did manage to ask some yes/no questions, the answers to which disturbed me. Over half the class said they regularly play violent video games. There was this sort of guilty, cringey feeling I could see going around as they looked at each other and admitted (confessed) this to their teacher (good, I thought). I asked if their parents thought this was OK, and most said yes. So then of course I had to ask about their parents.... A clear majority of my class said their parents regularly played video games. I asked about dads - about 3/4 of the hands went up. I asked about moms - over 1/3 of the hands went up. I nodded my head, the teacher just asking about their lives outside of school, appreciating their honesty, saying we ought to talk more about this, etc. I did tell them that I was bothered by this, that I did not think it was good for them to spend so much time with violent games.... But I was truly stunned.
Lots of big time edtech bloggers talk about the potential of video games in education. I suppose that is so, since the kids spend so much of their time in that world. But man, do I have a long way to go. Now, are we talking Halo for third graders? Not likely, but I wonder what the educational world can ever tap into in games that will even come close the the addictive lure of violence my kids (and their parents) are so captivated by?
Maybe some educators are thinking that replicating the game playing medium somehow in school will draw kids back into the educational system. I understand that line of thinking, certainly. But my gut tells me kids are more drawn by the violent content than the slick interface. I hope I'm wrong. It does not feel good going down this road.