Marc Prensky: “Don’t Bother Me Mom, I’m Learning”

The following is a summary of Marc Prensky's keynote speech at GLLS 2008:

Prensky started off who librarians are, stereotypes: past, present, future. He showed clips of what could happen to librarians as they meet gamers. It is a quick and light introduction for libraries.

He challenged us (tongue-in-check) to rename the library "the future."

He talked about his book, "Don't Bother Me Mom, I'm Learning." He faced publisher challenges in getting the book published. Stories as more than traditional books. Stories are spoken, played, acted out. Games are more than just a passive narrative.

 Prensky made the distinction between simple games and "complex games." "Complex games" are not mini or casual games that take anywhere from 8 to 100+ hours to complete. These are multiple leveled games that produce learning through engagement. Games work because of generation of 20 year olds are successful in the workforce. Guild management results in business management. Butch Rosser at Beth Israel Hospital in NYC studied gamers as surgeons. Lawyers as gamers, "Objection" game helps train the twitch speed of recognition of procedure. Gamers managing and running teams in sport games creates a deeper level of understanding.

Players are "role playing experts." Moral questions in games… "Just because you can do something – should you?" Parents engage with the experience of books and movies and can engage their children in a conversation. Parents can play and talk to their children about the games. Start asking questions, "Why do you like them?" "Tell me what you think?" We can engage with the players. We need to ask the "Why, but questions?"

 Prensky was asked, "If kids play, because adults can't?" He responded by saying that they enjoy their level of expertise, but it is more. The experience is more than a have / have not.


Simulation is a big part of games, but not all simulations have gaming elements. Prensky does make a distinction between the two. Sims have specific content, games are about an experience. Game are the "most engaging intellectual thing we have." Will Wright's quote of games are the manifestation of a problem and finding the solutions. Gamers enjoy the problem solving and learning experience. "Learning is the real reason we play games."


Prensky moved through a number of games and what they learn:

  • Collaboration
  • Effective Decisions
  • Prudent risks
  • Ethical decisions
  • Scientific deduction
  • Think laterally
  • System thinking


Support systems for games, reviews, official sites, mags, blogs, fan sites, and other support structures for learning and gaining information. Prensky talked about a number of strictly educational games as a place to start. But beyond that he mentioned a number of COTS games that have educational content (Civilization, RTS games, Typing of the Dead). He walked through a number of existing serious games "Immune Attack" by the Federation of American Scientists.


Prensky provided a large number of examples of serious and educational games for people to latch onto and get interested in. Those listening could walk away with potential games to play and experiment with.


"The kids want more games." Project Tomorrow report that games make it easier to learn and understand. Games can be a "bridge" to use as a transfer of skills. [This is a point that I've made and we all should be making - Games are a bridge and it is our responsibility to help make that transfer.]


Games empower students. Players are "creating their own mark" and it lets them learn programming tools. He talked about game designers using good pedagogy. Focus on engagement. Don't Suck the fun out. "Kids play because they are the most engaging thing they have."


Prensky said "connection to curriculum" is a barrier, but that we are "busters" of those barriers. He talked about challenges schools face in using and applying games. Fun and learning do not have to be separate.


The case to make: It's not about games and simulations. It's about ENGAGEMENT. 21st century learning. Engagement is not about what we do "to" the people, but what we do "with" the people.

He then made the futurist case for "Homo sapien digital" and rapid technology changes within the next century. Changing tools through "21st century tools." Librarians, teachers, parents need to engage with the digital natives. Digital tech is "their birthright." It is more than just saying "they don't need them." Talked about being locked into the "artifact" versus the "content" within them. and for the slides of his presentation and additional resources.

Chris Harris asked about "digital natives" vs. "digital immigrants." Prensky stated that he never meant to set up the divide. He responded that he has moved away from that terminology to shift it to "Homo sapien digital." It is bigger than one generation. We can all be digital, it is just a matter of time on when people can get there. And importantly for librarians and educators how we can help everyone get there sooner.


Gaming courses said...

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