GLLS Keynote: Marc Prensky

“It’s not about games. It’s not about simulations. It’s about ENGAGEMENT.” ~Marc Prensky

After a welcome from Mary on behalf of ALA and Judy from Verizon Foundation, Marc Prensky, author of Don’t Bother Me Mom, I’m Learning, took the stage. A quick poll revealed there are a handful of nonlibrarians: special educators, lawyers, museum staff; and even a few non-gamers (read: not gamers YET). Gamers present content differently; they invite the audience members to participate (i.e. raise two hands to have your say).

Marc showed a history of librarians from the librarian who measured the Earth to Conan the Librarian, and challenged us to change the name and try new merchandising (read or die!).  The same kinds of stories we are used to hearing in books are available as spoken word, as graphic novels, as games. Games are complex, and complex games, not trivial games, are the ones to pay attention to. Mini or Casual games (5 minute-2 hour investment) are still around – women over 40 play them on the Internet (checkers, solitaire, etc). It’s NOT what the kids are playing – kids are playing complex games (8-100 hour investment). If you listen to the press, you only hear the negatives. The truth is that games present learning with engagement. The results demonstrate it from executives, lawyers, doctors, sports managers, and workers who attribute their professional / career success to game playing. Why? The learn to role play an expert and address ethics, leadership and more. No media can be consumed in a vacuum. We are accustomed to examining books and film – for gaming, we might not have the chops. We can try to play, we can examine it from afar, or we can start a dialogue. Before you say “STOP” ask, “Tell me more.”

What are the outcomes from letting kids play games?  Reviews, mentoring, game discussion, more. Prensky suggests merging simulations and games (they have different attitudes, i.e. product focused vs. experienced focused).  Through games, kids learn to:

  • Cooperate, collaborate and work in teams
  • Make effective decisions under stress
  • Take prudent risks
  • Make ethical decisions
  • Employ scientific method
  • Apply & master skills
  • Think laterally & strategically
  • Persist & solve difficult problems
  • Develop attitudes as discussed in”Got Game”

They learn game systems that are better than what we have in the educational (and to some degree, the library) world. There is lots of information AROUND games – reviews, FAQs, print materials, official sites. There are hundreds of mini-games on the web, covering all topics – many are student created. They can be hard to find. Prensky said we need librarians to catalog them! Check out the list of online games for libraries at ALA Gaming Resources Wiki.

Commercial games are getting more & more educational i.e., Civilization IV, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Typing of the Dead, Food Force, Peacemaker, Environmental Detectives, Real Lives, Eyewitness, Revolution, Immune Attack Algebots, DimenXion, Pulse, Spore, Sim City 4. There are even AIDS education games. Get links to these and more from [inactive].Next steps? “Offer game design competitions,” suggests Prensky. Pay attention to cell phone gaming, it’s growing fast. Pay attention to programming, it’s the, new literacy. Be a barrier buster to the barriers to gaming (money, time, knowledge technology, security, etc.).  The 21st century means digital life (e-life has benefits–no body language means no body odor!) and CHANGE.  Prensky predicts the future will bring:

  1. Mobile phone websites
  2. direct mind meld
  3. implants wearable really time environments
  4. technology 1 BILLION times for powerful than we see now
  5. sentient machines

At our NEXT CONFERENCE: Bring the smartest kids you know to talk about not what you are going to do TO kids but what you are going to do WITH kids. Get the slides! Email; links: Games 2 Train Q. Why is programming the new literacy?  A. Only specialized people are fluent, just like in middle ages when you wanted someone to scribe a letter.  Q. How do we go about training ourselves and not simply saying we are not digital natives?  A.  Forget abut Natives and Immigrants, let’s talk about how we are becoming “Homo Sapiens digital” – the issue is working together with those who will NEVER get the chops.