Thursday, October 9, 2008

Teaching critical thinking, teaching attitudes

There's a fundamental problem in game curricula that a pamphlet cannot repair. When you teach game design, you are teaching critical thinking. You are teaching habits and attitudes that contribute to success as a designer. And you are teaching people to DO, to actually design games (generally to begin with, non-electronic ones, and electronic ones later).

What you should not be doing, because it's very little help, is teaching people to memorize a lot of material and regurgitate it on multiple-choice tests. Yet most teachers are content with that memorization as "teaching", not just in game curricula, in all curricula. I recall one college teacher who insisted on teaching the Windows 2000 operating system even though the school's computers only had Windows 98. She showed the students slides from the textbook. She said "they're scoring 80% on the tests", and I said, "but I bet they can't DO diddly squat." In another case a LONG time ago, a college taught COBOL at a location where none of the computers (Apple IIs) could compile COBOL. "Do"?

High schools have become pure training centers, where students are taught to memorize the answers to the end-of-class tests. The kids get to college and have no clue about thinking or about learning. Unfortunately, "memorize and regurgitate" is the easy way to teach, and multiple choice tests are easy to grade (Blackboard can do it).

Actual successful practitioners are often not allowed to teach subjects because they don't have a degree in the field. Teaching is more and more a matter of "those who have never done, teach".

Until we change this situation--and we're going the opposite way at the moment--teaching at any level will tend to be mediocre, no matter what the actual practitioners hope for.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sorry state of game education

Some comments on my second GameCareerGuide article referred to an awful advertisement, by a college I've not heard of, showing "game designers" lounging around playing games, with the implication that game playing is a major part of the work. I've also recently read a book titled "Virtual Apprentice, Computer Game Designer" that does exactly the same thing: one photo caption reads "Imagine a job where you play computer games all day long!" (p 5). These kinds of lies distress people in the game industry, and they distress me. Students should be told the truth.

Someone suggested that the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) should produce a pamphlet that "tells the truth".

Unfortunately, there are many teachers (and even more college administrators) who are unwilling to tell the truth to students, ultimately to tell them "you might be better off pursuing some other subject". Those awful advertisements are an example of the lying that goes on.

Many colleges are desperate to replace the shortfall of technology students, as members of the millennial generation are comfortable with using technology but rarely interested in it as a career. Technology enrollment is weak at most schools, and game subjects are seen as a source of replacement bodies.

Dollars rule in 21st century education. If the school isn't willing to tell the truth, will the students ever see the pamphlet?

Another GameCareerGuide article

"The Idea is not the Game", 23 September

(You can click on the title of this post.)
"Always do right--this will gratify some and astonish the rest."Mark Twain
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exup'ery

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." Albert Einstein

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." Albert Einstein

"The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal." -- Aristotle