The Wawascene was created by Dr. Mark Stock, former Superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Due to its local popularity, Dr. Stock has left the blog site to future Wawasee administrators.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Are their brains really different?

There is a growing number of researchers saying that our children's brains are indeed different.

Ask any teacher who has been in the business for 15 years or more and they will likely tell you that the students have changed. Yet the educational materials industry struggles to respond to these changes. Do kids really have short attention spans? I don't think so. Does your son or daughter play video games for hours on end? Is that a short attention span? I suspect the "new brains" just aren't easily captivated by a lecture ( no matter how passionate) about a speeding vehicle when they can simulate driving one in their NASCAR racing game, complete with making the car adjustments necessary to eke out every bit of speed from the vehicle. Think of the physics lessons there!

Most people believe that the fast paced, interactive world of MTV, video gaming, iPod's, cell phones, instant messaging, text messaging and connectivity have truly created differences in the way our children learn. Despite the doomsayers out there, this might not be all bad.

Every teacher should read this article about "digital natives" and "digital immigrants."

The author also says in another article, "Perhaps the most important difference is that the "stuff" to be learned - information, concepts, relationships, etc. - cannot be just "told" to these students. It must be learned by them, through questions, discovery, construction, and above all FUN."

In the old way of thinking, learning is hard work. In the new age learning may be hard - but it may not always be work.

When the video gaming industry learns how to structure their products for the school environment and market, and tailor those simulations and experiences to specific course content, it will sell and it will work. It will also INCREASE the need for quality teachers, not decrease the need.

I talked to a teacher recently who has gotten some notoriety for publishing articles about the increases in unit test scores for students who conducted video gaming units versus those students who learned in traditional textbook units. His comment?

The greatest fear of his colleagues is that they would be obsolete and no longer needed.

Those colleagues are wrong. The careful use of gaming simulations to teach content in an interactive environment INCREASES the need of careful reflection that a skillful teacher can bring to the class. In fact, it may actually free the teacher to spend more time on the reflection and higher order processing when the content to be learned is actually imbedded in the game.

It is precisely this REFLECTION and processing that the high paced world we are in living in is neglecting.

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