“From the standpoint of the child, the great waste in the school comes from his inability to utilize the experiences he gets outside the school in any complete and free way within the school itself; while, on the other hand, he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning at school. That is the isolation of the school - its isolation from life. When the child gets into the schoolroom he has to put out of his mind a large part of the ideas, interests, and activities that predominate in his home and neighborhood.”
- John Dewey, School and Society, Chapter Three: Waste in Education
The radical idea, going back at least to John Dewey, that young people might be more engaged in learning if the object of learning had anything to do with the rest of their life, might be finding new life in a world of digital media.
Raquel Recuero is a professor of linguistics and communication in Brazil, and a researcher in social media and Internet culture in South America. The content of this post is based on her recent research about Facebook’s role-playing games.
Social networking games are typically regarded as “casual” in the sense that they don’t require players to become so addicted to them, or to invest a lot of time in order to be enjoyed. Game mechanisms are simpler, allowing users, in many cases, just to point-and-click and the rules aren't complex. Thus, one would doubt that RPGs (role playing games), usually marked by complex plots and detailed character sketches, would ever blossom on social networking sites. But that doesn't seem to be the case at all. In the past several months I’ve been studying RPGs and especially, Mafia Wars on Facebook, a game about creating a character and improving it through jobs and missions.
It's easy to see new Internet phenomena and panic, especially when the technology in question opens up a portal to all of the weird parts of the Internet. This is precisely what is happening around ChatRoulette, a new peer-to-peer webcam-based video chat site. Although the site was built by a 17-year-old Russian high school student to connect with other teens, nearly every adult who has visited the site runs screaming that this is a terrible space for young people. In some senses, they're right. But the more that they panic and talk about how bad this is for teens, the more teens get curious and want to check it out. The result? A phenomenon generated through fear. But there's more to what's going on than just fear and sketchiness...Let me provide a provocative counter narrative to the dominant one presented in the press in the hopes of encouraging a dialogue.