And sure, schools cannot and should not ever be the only places to learn things. But look at the potential, the opportunity. Kids in the western world spend between four and 12 hours a day in school. For a variety of historical and social reasons, there's a young, captive audience sitting in a "learning environment" for up to half their lives. Should we take a default and just accept that schools will be behind the times and increasingly irrelevant when it comes to future learning?
TE: So what do you want to do? What can be done?
HA: Obviously it's very easy to sit as a researcher and make noise about this. Harder to go into even a single classroom and make a difference, though it can be done. Changing the whole thing ... teaching is a tough job. And it's enmeshed in the bureaucratic, social, political systems we talked about before.
TE: I remember when I worked in government, seeing all the potential and all the weights around its ankles.
HA: Yup. And this is my argument: Just putting games in classrooms or computer labs is like a soggy band-aid. It doesn't change any of the fundamental teaching practices, the learning environment, the whole idea of classroom, teacher, students. Even technology-based learning isn't yet down to looking seriously at the DNA-level pedagogy.
TE: In a perfect world you'd want to tear it all down with a wrecking ball and start again?
TE: Weren't several of the really scary revolutions in history started by mothers and teachers? Anyway, what about this world? What's doable here and overseas?
HA: Three things. No. 1: professional development. We've got to teach teachers better, all the way through their careers. It's hard when your students may have a better grasp of technology and the learning environment than you.
TE: Like me when I was a kid.
HA: Exactly; having to deal with smart-aleck know-it-alls is not helpful.
No. 2: connect with design. Keep the classroom, but change it and everything around it. Make the money in education slosh a different way. Have schools, colleges, communities, businesses and all other parts of the education system talk to each other a little more. Look everywhere, starting with games, for new ways to operate.
No. 3: my big, mad slogan,: bring it all back to what learning's for. Learning is about bettering and expanding lives in some way. If you cannot learn from the world around you, you are dead. And in this world we're moving into so fast, the definition of basic skills is constantly evolving. We're a long, long way from just food, shelter and thighbones.
TE: I've gotta show you this post-apocalyptic workout.
Colin Rowsell is a writer and strategist working out of Wellington, New Zealand. He can be contacted, hired, and abused on [email protected].