Christchurch, New Zealand
So we’re all in New Zealand, having survived almost exactly 24 hours of non-stop travel from Philly to Christchurch, and already it’s as beautiful as advertised. We left leaves drifting into the gutter at home for freshly blossoming trees and flowers, and it’s just wild how everything, weather, time, etc. gets literally turned upside down. My brain is feeling it right now. Looking forward to a great 10 days of seeing the South Island (with a few presentations mixed in.)
New Zealand has a literacy rate of 99%, and in that context, I found the Times’ newest installment in its series “The Future of Reading” to be especially relevant. I guess my first reaction is why do we need to “[Use] Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers” when some parts of the world are obviously doing fine with pretty much just that book thing. (But then again, we seem to be falling on some difficult times in a number of different areas these days.) While the article does a good job of reviewing the complexities of trying to figure out just what kind of role gaming can play in reading, what really jumped out at me was near the end when games were described as a “gateway drug for literacy.” Seems that kids who are engaged in games read blogs and boards about the games and even start to write about them. Love this quote from a parent:
â€œI was so surprised because he does not like writing,â€ said William Tropp, Noahâ€™s father. â€œI said, â€˜Why arenâ€™t you like this in school?â€™Â â€
The obvious answer is because in school, Noah doesn’t get to learn reading and writing in the context of the things he’s passionate about. And in that respect, if games are a way to get kids engaged in words, great. I guess I wonder how much of a connection there really is in that regard, and how we would be able to create that connection in classrooms even if it does exist.
Anyway, just some tired thinking at 4 am EST…or 9 pm NZ time.
Welcome to NZ, we toured there in 1991 on a study sabbatical leave for travel. See if you can get someone to show your the constellation ORION while “down under.” What will really blow your mind, is that the constellation will be upside down! This is a very common constellation in the US in the winter time, so when you return, you will find ORION right side up, for us. After all, your head is below your feet right now, so since you are standing on your head compared to PA/PHILA, everything is upside down in the constellations.
One more request is to ask them to also show you the “SOUTHERN CROSS” which is the guiding constellation for the southern hemisphere. Very cool to observe.
Gary Stager says
G’Day! We’re like neighbors, I’m in Australia.
I wish people would stop using the unfortunate “gateway drug” analogy. First of all, there are legitimate questions regarding the veracity of gateway drugs for drug abusers.
More importantly, in an educational context, the “gateway drug” approach undermines trust between the teacher and learner since it is inherently dishonest. Tricking kids to learn is a manipulative and ultimately unsuccessful strategy that deprives learners of agency and authenticity.
Great teachers willing to do what is right for kids have always known that reading anything is better than not reading at all and that the best way to learn to read is by reading.
Once again, this like so many other debates is fundamentally an issue of whether you believe learning is natural or not.
Jason Alley says
When I was teaching 3rd grade a few years back (I’m now working in higher ed) I changed my approach to reading because my students, like so many others, spent so little time actually reading during the school day. It seemed to me, if you want to get better at doing something you should be given the opportunity to practice doing it. So, I changed my model from grouping all the students into reading groups and working with them on *one* book to a reading workshop approach where we spent *at least* 30 mins. every day reading books selected by the students and focusing on reading strategies. Some of my 3rd graders were reading Harry Potter and Gary Paulson books, while others where reading non-fiction reference books because that’s what they were interested in reading. Of course, I still had to have a more guided reading approach with some of my students who were struggling, but one of the emphases of the reading workshop model is choice.
My wife has been an advocate of this model and has even written a few professional series books about the reading (and writing) workshops. I remember she and her co-author, her school’s reading specialist, gave a presentation at my school and asked what we do as readers when we’re finished reading a book. Most everyone said they picked up another book. But, many in that same room also admitted to making their students create shoebox diaramas. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with making a diarama, but it’s not something readers naturally tend to do.
I think you’re spot on with the idea that students in all grade levels need to have the choice to read what it is they’re passionate about.
For mere mortals like myself, I’ll have to resort to seeing the beauty of New Zealand in movies like “Lord of the Rings.” Enjoy your time away from the east coast.
Will, two years ago I attended a session about video games by David Warlick in North Carolina. As soon as I got home, I asked my very literate college senior why he loved gaming. In about 2 minutes he explained how passionate he was about the interaction they provided. He explained the challenge, the reward, and the community it provided him. For years I had tolerated him playing video games and had no idea why he liked them. Six months ago he landed a job as an online RPG gamemaster. Now he gets paid to help people be better gamers.
I think we have just begun to scratch the surface of educational gaming. I still think that books are “the thing” but for those kids who don’t love reading, gaming may just be the gateway.
Will, long-time reader, first-time commenter. You ask a great question – how do we connect this potential with classrooms?
Back in May, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop (with Common Sense Media) released survey results (pdf) indicating that only 15% of teachers felt video games have “a lot of potential” as educational tools (pg 15). Helping educators better understand the different types of experiences that great learning games can bring to the table is definitely part of the challenge you mention.
Great post – enjoy your NZ trip!
Amy Merchant says
I enjoyed reading this blog and I agree with Andy’s comment that “helping educators better understand the different types of experiences that great learning games can bring to the table” is the answer. Educators need to know what is out there when it comes to educational games on the web. I am in a technology class for teachers right now and it has shown me a lot about technology and I have researched many educational games and I hope to incorporate it in my teaching.
Robert Rowe says
I’m trying to get myself back into a habit of spending a little more time each day with “books”, but I remember a favorite childhood activity:
One day a week, my parents would take my two brothers and I to the library, and let us “roam” and each pick out a book. It taught us responsibility, manners, and obviously, a love of reading.
We’re all gamers in the family, and I certainly read my share *online*, but I want “book-reading” as a way to unplug for a bit each night.
Jeff Rahman says
I believe anything that gets young people to read and write is a good thing. Young learners need to be given opportunities to engage in literacy development through a variety of ways. For me, nothing beats reading a hardcover book. There is something to be said for the feel and tactile nature of a hard copy. However, this generation of learners may not harbor those same feelings. For them, maybe the hardcover novel has been replaced by their favorite blog…
Welcome to Aotearoa New Zealand. We look forward to sharing our country with you. Hope you enjoy your stay.
Deidre S says
Welcome to NZ – enjoy our beautiful country – I am enjoying your keynote!
Shaun Wood says
Hi, thank you for a great blog. The main idea I got from “Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers” was that we can engage children in reading by providing contextual opportunities. We need to think outside the square when we consider what is appropriate literature. I do 90% of my reading on a computer monitor or mobile phone, I imagine our children will do the same and much more.
I consider my role as a teacher in this scenario would be to guide reading and inquiry learning through a WebQuest or other online learning environment. We all love reading about what we love.
Ken Allan says
Haere mai Will!
I’ve been grappling with this question for decades.
My latest post discusses the desire to (read and) learn, for this is a requirement for learning online, whether participatory or not. Virginia Yonkers actually asked “How do you get readers to ‘interact’ with the piece they are reading.”
Enjoy New Zealand. It is a wonderful country.
Dave Winter says
I’m thinking there is nothing wrong with books but neither are they a holy grail outside which Reading is less authentic, engaging or alive. What ever works works. The book reader needs to be inspired by the story, tale environment etc. They feel rewarded by the information or engagement they experience. The game player is often using reading to solve problems they are unable to within the game. They are inspired by the story tale and their involvement. The game player is able to be more active in providing direction to their reading. Books are trying to hook an audience also it would just appear that games can be more flexible in enticing the learners.
Joel Kosch says
I think as time goes on, video games or other sorts of activities are going to really help students learn and be engaged. It’s important that educators take the time to find the right kind of activities to use. There are a number of educational games out on the market that can help students in all subject areas. With this, it is important that we do not stray too far away from traditional learning styles, such as books and worksheets. Without them, students will become “game learners” and it’s important that they understand why they do the things they do in a classroom. It is to help them get engaged and become more knowledgable.
Your story reflects most parents’ unawareness of what is really beneficial to their kids. I remember when I was a kid, my folks didn’t really appreciate my reading comics. They thought they used bad language or “incorrect” language. However, I owe most of my proficiency to comics. Now that I am a teacher, I always encourage students to read comics every now and then, and believe it or not, I get some of the best written reports or oral presentations from those kids who have read a comic book and identified with a particular character. Let’s give our kids a chance to express themselves the way that suits them best rather than that suits us best.