Thursday, April 2, 2009

Science, Technology and Education: Mapping the Future

This isn't my title, but it is the title provided by the speaker, Steven B. Johnson for the Bridges to the Future quarterly conference at the University of Denver. He is the author of the book Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter.

On the evening of March 31st, he essentially provided an update to this 2005 book. This was fine with me, since I haven't read the book, yet. I was originally thinking that he was going to talk about his new book, The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America. I did get Air signed by him before the presentation.

Anyway, the session covered:

Computer and video games.
• How kids are playing more challenging games such as the Sims series of computer games.
• The Sleeper Curve serves to "undermine the belief that... pop culture is on a race to the bottom, where the cheapest thrill wins out every time", and is instead "getting more mentally challenging as the medium evolves."
• Complex games and shows are more interesting, such as:
Civilization 4
Spore -- This game gets kids interested in interdisciplinary scientific topics.
Lost -- This is more like a game, than a tv show.

Participatory media. The phenomena surrounding the show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is interestings. There are Buffy Meetups and Vampire meetups. Way back in the 1990's, one vampire would have had a hard time meeting other vampires. As a kid, he created his own baseball game using dice and statistics from various baseball magazines and newspapers. What are students learning from the newer more interactive computer and video games? The games can be addictive, but they are also learing to adapt to more challenging games and situations.

Books. The Kindle is great, and he goes over the positives of the device.
Once can immediately decide on an impulse buy. He covers the iPhone and Google books such as Experiments and observations on Different kinds of Air by Joseph Priestley. How will people cite and link to specific pages and passages in ebooks, since the pagination is different depending upon the device one uses to read the book? Why write books in print at all? Because they can still influence people in a powerful way.

Then he took questions concerning Second Life, violence in video games, open access books, preschool kids' use of media, and journalists view of the world and the media.

Overall, it was a pretty cool session.

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