In the Moodle class I am running Alicia Lewis, a good friend, and co-instructor in the course, gave me a bad time about playing my beloved game Flight Simulator. This conversation started after reading Marc Pensky’s “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” that I had the class read. I thought I’d post my response to Alicia here…after all it is authentic information. 🙂

Alicia writes:

C’mon Jeff;
It’s time for true confessions. How haveflight simulation games impacted technology education/integration in Yanbu and Shanghai?
Don’t be shy, you’re among friends
I enjoyed watching my kindergartners reinforce new skills with Reader Rabbit years ago, and move around the computer as if they had been doing it all their short five/six years. Wonder what kind of tech savvy those now grade 10 students (GASP!) have!

My response:

Flight Sim is a great game for learning. I love it, and at the same time have learned loads about flying. Maybe we should make the world leaders play SimCity? Gee, there’s a concept. Wonder how long today’s leaders would last before the city blows up and people run away?

This does have me thinking though. If flight sims have been around longer then digital natives what is it that makes them so effective as a training/learning tool? Is it there comparison to real life flying?

If that is the case, shouldn’t we be trying to use tools in our classrooms that model real life experiences? When was the last time you hand wrote a rough copy of an e-mail? Or the last time you didn’t use the spell check feature and thought “Na, I’ll just check it by brain power.” How can we make learning more authentic to our learners?

There are many ways (and I’m on a roll now) using forums like this teaches students to communicate in an open format where your writing, thoughts, and feeling can be responded to by other learners (stakeholders). Take that one step further into the blogosphere and you have people commenting on your writing, thoughts, and feelings at the global level. Writing for a purpose? How authentic can you get?

What about reading? Instead of reading: “because the teacher made me.” I start reading other blogs, I start to react, reflect, and remix thoughts about a given topic that interest me…heaven forbid we let students read and write about topics that interest them…after all in the real world we do jobs that interest us, that we find fascinating and therefore like to read about. Now I’m building my reading skills, I’m reading, comprehending, reflecting on authentic writing. Then someone mentions a book that I might be interested in and now I’m reading for pleasure based on what I like and how I think rather then what I’m told.

Maybe it’s not about the video game…maybe it’s about authentic learning? Maybe video games allow us to get closer to authentic learning, in some cases, then other types of media? Maybe this generation isn’t about video games, iPods, Playstations…maybe they’re about AUTHENTIC INFORMATION maybe they see through all the smoke and mirrors of education because authentic information is at their finger tips. Maybe they are bored in school because they can get the same information they learn in school on the internet without hardly trying. Maybe what we need to do is not teach information, but teach what to do with information. Maybe our job has changed, maybe we are to help learners take this authentic information and make personal meaning out of it. Maybe learners are screaming at us through boredom, laziness, and straight As that they know how to find information, they just don’t know what to do with it once they have it? Maybe they want us to download some punk rocker from nowheresville, Oregon and listen to what he has to say because it is authentic. Maybe we should read blogs from Russia, China, Africa because they are authentic. Maybe…just maybe…we need to look at the information that our students have access to and use that to teach them? What if students wrote standards and benchmarks what would they say? What if students wrote text books what would they write? The best part about this is they have the information to do these things. They can write benchmarks and standards because they have access to them. They can write textbooks, because they have resources and information available to them that would allow them to do it. What if we truly gave students the power to run their education? What would be different? What would be the same?

Authentic Information…………the future of education?

Yeah, flight sim is great!