I had an opportunity to hear Preston Swincher, an acclaimed speaker on Gen Y talk today and one particular strand of his talk really struck a chord with me. He recited the quote “Teens who play 5 hours or more of video games per day have difficulty focusing on tasks for long periods of time.” While the audience laughed, he repeated the statement to allow it to sink in, “Teens who play 5 hours or more of video games per day have difficulty focusing on tasks for long periods of time.” Whoever uttered those words surely failed to recognize the irony of that statement.
As educators we should ask ourselves why a teen that can’t sit still for 5 minutes in a classroom can sit in a quiet room for hours at a time without taking time to use the restroom or eat? The answers lie within the design of the games. Here are a few thoughts Preston brought up:
- Video games tend to be self-paced – players progress from level to level on their own.
- When a player achieves the objective of each level within a video game, they are rewarded with the next level of the game being unlocked.
- Should a player fail to achieve the objective of a particular level within a video game, no big deal, they simply play that level again.
- As players get better at the game, each level gets tougher and tougher.
- Create more self-paced educational opportunities for students.
- Allow achievement and skill mastery rather than a calendar to unlock the next level of education.
- Allow students to continue trying to master a skill before bulldozing on to the next lesson without them.
- Challenge students with increased rigor as their skills progress.
If we could find a way to utilize these strategies on a large scale, (and I believe project based learning encompasses many of the required elements) we may just create schools where teens can focus on difficult tasks for long periods of time.