Indeed, education possesses many of the attributes that make for great video games. There are clear levels of mastery that can be numerically scored. Student 'players' are ranked, and can compare rankings, in a national or global contest. Participation can be competitive or individual. The best education, like the best games, adapts to the students performance.
Jane McGonigal is a leading champion of using video games to solve the world's problems, as she describes at length in her book, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Although the concept may sound trivial, it encapsulates deeper truths about human psychology and motivation.
The teaching profession is under attack from the recession, and also by longer term economic trends. Consider:
- Education costs are rising faster than inflation and economic growth -- 15% in the last two years alone.
- Local governments are laying off school teachers -- 1.5% nationwide and up to 20% in some California school districts -- triggered by the global recession.
- As a result, class sizes are growing as teaching positions fail to keep pace with population growth.
Many believe that the solution lies with better hiring practices, a return to smaller class sizes, less lavish college campus amenities, and more active parent involvement in their children's education.
Others see a right-wing conspiracy to dismantle the public education system by starving public schools of resources until parents beg for a voucher system and turn to private schools. Success stories like the Waldorf Sarasota provide a counter example embraced by voucher enthusiasts.
Despite all of the partial solutions and politics, it's worth considering whether the following plot can be solved without a more radical transformation of the educational system.
The Teaching Profession Transformed
Teaching is already joining the list of shrinking professions radically transformed by technology.
- Computer software grades college admissions essays as reliably as human graders can. For now, people still review the essays as a sanity check.
- An online computer science course, Intro to AI (artificial intelligence), taught by Stanford professors enrolled 160,000 students and auditors from around the world.
- Silicon Valley startup Udacity Inc. is tackling the problem of provide affordable, high quality education that scales.
Innovations like online education and essay-grading software hold out some possibilities of bringing costs into line, and turning education into a software problem, making it possible to educate more people, to a higher standard, with even fewer teachers, and adding teaching to the expanding list of shrinking professions.
What do you think? Is teaching and education becoming a software problem? Will advances in gaming solve the challenges of keeping students engaged and learning without the physical presence of a teacher and classmates?
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