IALLT 2007, Thurs. June 21 – Fear and Loathing in the Age of Fear Factor

This was a really interesting talk on how a new generation of student learns. Mark Knowles from Yale University talked about the book “Everything Bad is Good for You,” and how its premise that games and reality television, far from simply being the bane of modern existence, plunging society toward “more sophosticated ways of delivering stupidity,” could actually be thought of in a positive way. Things like video games and reality television can actually be seen as ways of nurturing a generation of viewers and students that demand ever more complex ways of experiencing not only entertainment, but how they learn as well.

He used the example of Dragnet, the television series, to explain “multithreading”. Dragnet’s plots were entirely linear, while later shows started to incorporate more and more layers of plot and character interaction, culminating with shows like “Lost” that have innumerable plot strings, with not all information being presented at any given time. The “fog” of not having all the information is the point. So the question becomes, how do instructors plan lessons for such a mindset that is so used to, and in fact most comfortable in situations where there are myriad layers of meaning and information being conveyed concurrently? Certainly just drilling from a textbook is not enough, as if it ever were.

The best thing about the presentation was that he did not instinctively say that in order to capitalize on that preference for gaming as a medium of entertainment, instructors should use games (i.e. make a game like WoW, but in a foreign language), per se, but he said that instructors should be aware that students are functioning in that mindset, and must therefore make classroom instruction fit with that mindset, in whatever form it may take.

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