We might wonder how one of the world’s leading biologists, E. O. Wilson, could say that video games are the future of education. But that he did, today on NPR’s Morning Edition. His blunt prediction: “We’re going through a rapid transition now. We’re about to leave print and textbooks behind.”
It was an extraordinary segment. Renowned electronic game designer, Will Wright, was the guest interviewer. He chose to talk to Wilson, whom Wright says has been a major influence on his career as designer of such blockbusters as Sim City and the evolution-depicting Spore. Wilson believes that video games can actually recreate teaching methods that adults used on kids at the dawn of humankind. “They went with adults and they learned everything they needed to learn by participating in the process,” Wilson said. Virtual reality games, Wilson says, can do the same thing. In Wilson’s vision, if a teacher wants to visit a tundra, the class can go to a tundra. A rainforest can be explored, canopy to floor, without one bug bite.
The whole conversation was ironic: that technology would end up teaching kids about nature, and that harkening back to prehistoric times could happen best online.
Just last week, WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi show featured Eric Garfinkle, developer of the kids video game “Wonder Rotunda”. In the game, kids visit a World’s Fair where they can enter pavilions housing fantastic activities such as visiting the Great Barrier Reef, or taking inside tours of the White House. All of it, of course, is virtual reality. Garfinkle says a big advantage of his game is that parents can go along on the visit, just as if they were actually at the fair.
Every time I find a reason to think we should put the brakes on kids and technology, I find a reason how technology, used with care, can help.