I have a confession. I am a digital pessimist.
I’ve written previously (here and here) about the vices and virtues (mostly vices) of online learning environments. My experience with Florida Virtual School (FLVS), along with the actual bits of data I’ve been able to get out of FLVS, lead me to conclude that, at bare minimum, we have a long way to go in helping students achieve academic goals and benchmarks via online learning in a manner that actively facilitates (or, at least, does not compromise) the learning process. Historiann‘s post concerning the “efforts” of for-profit K12 Inc. to educate Colorado’s students further reinforces my belief that online learning has a set of structural negatives that may not outweigh the positives, even more so than bricks-and-mortar schooling.
So, how do games figure into all this? Again, I reference my experience with FLVS. When I first started with FLVS (I actually worked for Pasco eSchool, and we franchised with FLVS.), I was initially slated to teach one section of American History Conspiracy Code (CC), a “video game” (I use that term loosely here) version of the FLVS American History course. A week before the semester started, FLVS cancelled the section and moved all of the CC students to a regular online section of American History. The weak rationale provided by FLVS was that the game was buggy. While I’m certainly appreciative of FLVS’s recognition that a bad game is worse than no game, it contributes to the idea that educational video games will always play second fiddle to real video games. I haven’t seen any data concerning the success rate of the updated version of CC, but my experience suggests that it would not be significantly different and possibly worse than other digital iterations or analog versions of the same.