Monday, October 06, 2008

Digital literacy

An interesting article in the New York Times on the use of video games to attract young people to reading. The article features writer PJ Haarsma, and begins:
You can’t just make a book anymore,” said Mr. Haarsma, a former advertising consultant. Pairing a video game with a novel for young readers, he added, “brings the book into their world, as opposed to going the other way around.

The idea is gaining ground. The article continues:
Mr. Haarsma is not the only one using video games to spark an interest in books. Increasingly, authors, teachers, librarians and publishers are embracing this fast-paced, image-laden world in the hope that the games will draw children to reading.

It is this sort of enlightened, experimental approach that is so necessary, and so difficult to find. Of course, if any libraries in the UK start experimenting with this sort of thing, the usual brigade of cretins will be out in force, saying that libraries are selling their soul and its easier to get videos or DVDs or computers or anything else tainted by the possibility of their being able to create enjoyment than the good old book. Libraries are about books, they'll say, and anything else smacks of a lack of seriousness. Meanwhile, in the US they are forging ahead. The article continues:
Spurred by arguments that video games also may teach a kind of digital literacy that is becoming as important as proficiency in print, libraries are hosting gaming tournaments, while schools are exploring how to incorporate video games in the classroom. In New York, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is supporting efforts to create a proposed public school that will use principles of game design like instant feedback and graphic imagery to promote learning.

What is at stake here is the future prospects of a new generation who do not think and do not learn in the way that previous generations have done. The next generation are being hindered by the current generation's inability to see beyond their own experience. Libraries and educationalists need to see the importance of this and act. Clearly, our American colleagues are already doing so, and there are, of course, pockets of excellence in the UK. But there are many more deserts of imagination being propagated by Chief Librarians and teachers who have, literally, lost the plot.

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