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"Don't Bother Me Mom, I'm Learning" [The Parent Diaries blog]

Blog entry by Hope Katz Gibbs
The Parent Diaries
Oct. 24, 2008

Educator Mark Prensky’s book begins with a warning: “You are about to hear a message that, while absolutely true, will fly in the face of prevailing wisdom about computer and video games: Computer and video games arent as bad as you think they are. In fact, theres good reason to believe that they do a tremendous amount of good.

And so it goes in “Don’t Bother Me Mom I’m Learning,” a 254-page paperback published by Paragon House that outlines why, and how, the technology provided in games is actually helping prepare children for the jobs they’ll have as participants in the 21st century workforce.

In chapters that include, “Economics and Business Lessons for a 10-year-old from a Computer Game,” and “Video Games Are Our Kids First Ethics Lesson,” Prensky convincingly argues why its a good idea to let children have access to such titles as The Sims, Harvest Moon, and Zoo Tycoon.

James Paul Gee agrees. The Tashia Morgridge Professor of Reading at the University of Wisconsin-Madison wrote the books foreword, and insists: “Marc knows the power of good video games. He knows the power of the technologies behind them. He knows their potential for social revolution and what gives them their great potential for good. Most importantly, Marc knows that game designers have learned to harness deep and powerful learninglearning in the sense of problem solving, decision making, hypothesizing, and strategizing as a form of fun, pleasure, engagement, even flow.

Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants

How does this happen? Prensky explains this in Chapter 4, entitled, “Our kids are not like us: They’re natives, were immigrants.”

“Today’s students — from kindergarten through college — are the first generation to grow up with this new, digital, technology,” Prensky writes.” They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, DVD players, videocams, eBay, cell phones, iPods, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age, he writes, noting the rest of us are digital immigrants. And as with all immigrants, some of us have adapted to our new digital environment more quickly than others. But no matter how fluent we may become, all digital immigrants retain, to some degree, our accent.”

But do they really think differently?

“Well, yes and no,” Prensky explains. “We hear parents and teachers complain so often about the digital natives attention spans that the phrase the attention of a gnat has become a cliche.” But, he points out that kids attention spans are not short for everythinglike games, music, or whatever actually interests them. “Why? Its the result of years of experience with digital objects they simply crave interactivity and expect an immediate response to their each and every action, he insists.

Unfortunately, he believes, traditional schooling provides very little of this. “It isn’t that digital natives can’t pay attention; it’s often that they choose not to. Interestingly enough, they don’t have to do that to succeedat least not all the time.”

What have we lost?

Prensky concedes the one area that appears at first to have been affected is their inability to reflect. “In our twitch-speed world, there seems to many to be less and less time and opportunity for reflection, and this concerns many people,” Prensky says, adding that on closer inspection reflection actually may be going on beneath the surface.

“In observing digital natives, I have come to see that reflection, like so much else in their world, is something that is simply happening faster,” he concludes. “Whenever a player loses in a computer game and has to start over, their mind races to the move that got them to that point and they ask themselves, What did I do wrong? and What am I going to do differently next time. This is reflection at its most effective, although it is rarely if ever verbalized or made conscious.”

About Author Marc Prensky

Marc Prensky is an internationally acclaimed speaker, writer, consultant, and inventor of more than 50 software games,
and the founder of Games2train, an e-learning company whose clients include IBM, Microsoft, Bank of America, and Pfizer. He
has Masters degrees from Yale, Middlebury, and The Harvard Business School; is a concert musician and has acted on Broadway. He has also taught elementary to college classes, and spent six years as a corporate strategist and product development director at the Boston Consulting Group, and worked in human resources at the former Bank Trust Company. For more visit: www.marcprensky.com.


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Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.