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Friday
Aug242007

The power of positivity!

Earlier this month, Adam Janowski, media specialist extraordinaire from Naples, Florida, wrote a guest blog entry on computer gaming in libraries. Sadly, in a follow-up comment to his defense of games, he wrote:

"Oh, how things can shift in days. Our superinendent was sacked yesterday, and today I get a message from our principal say NO to games.

"No discussion. Just an ultimatum.

"Such is life in a public school."

Happily, here is the rest of the story which is less about games and more about proactivity. - Doug 

I will start this post with an anecdotal story. For three years now, "Edison", a junior, has been the first person I have busted for playing Internet games on the computer. This year he said, "But Mr. J., this is an educational game!" It was. Very much like "Lingo" if you are a Game Channel addict. "Edison, for three years now, you have tested me, the rule is still the rule, "No Games"!
 
Some of you know from an earlier post that my principal had issued and edict banning computer games in the LMCon the basis that they violated "academic integrity". No discussion, that's all I had requested. After much back and forth, she told me that I could bring it up at our school Leadership Council meeting, but that still bothered me. I did it, but then tabled it. I wanted to talk about it first.
 
pacmanFull.pngSomeone who responded to my post on your blog, led me to a great article in support of gaming. I also contacted our District Coordinator, who told me there was no district prohibition on Internet games, and that they were, in fact, reviewing a Math gaming program to be implemented district-wide.
 
Today my colleague and I had an informal meeting with the principal in our office. We plied her with freshly-brewed Colombian coffee and home-made (I made them) pecan sandies. We brought up the issue of gaming. We gave her the article. We talked about the fact that we were not "normal" librarians, and that we were leaders in the field, that we had one of the few high school Reading is Fundamental (RIF) programs in the nation, that we were one of the few libraries that embraced a totally paperback fiction collection, that we had implemented an Information Commons to encourage creativity, and that we were recognized nationally for our innovations. I told her that we were tired of being the "games police" and that students would still play games, but just close windows as we came close. It was only the slower students that we caught. We told her that we were just encouraging students to become more sly, not a good thing.
 
Still, she was not convinced, until I pulled out my trump card! She still wanted it to go to the Leadership Council. But as she read the list of reasons that Doug Johnson posted about gaming and came to "Kids might be finding school fun and we all know life isn't about fun," she laughed out loud and said "OK, I give, it is really your room and you should set your own rules." "I just don't want them playing violent or inappropriate games. Let's try it as a pilot program for the semester."
 
At lunch today, I told Edison that we had persuaded the principal that games would be OK as a pilot program. We played his "Lingo-type" game together and he and I were able to advance to the next level. He said he had never been able to do that before as he "High-Fived" me! Life is good!
 
Adam <okadam (at) comcast.net>

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Reader Comments (9)

Great how everything worked out and how your blog was instrumental in that!
Any suggestions about this scenario at my son's high school. Librarians have ability to take over any computer in the media center and routinely close programs that they feel are not related to learning. Kids are resentful but tactic continues.What is this teaching our kids? Any ideas on how to overcome this?

August 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKaren janowski

VICTORY! Doug, this is awesome! We all know that learning takes place with games, electronic, virtual, or board games, role-playing games, etc. Strategies, thinking, collaborating, etc. The benefits are endless. This year at NECC07 I attending an all day workshop on Video Game Development. It was incredible. I brought back all the information to our CISCO teacher. She often lets the students play games. However, this year, rather than "playing games," she is going to encourage them to develop their own games. Can you imagine the possibilities? Here was my post about that workshop: http://mstina.wordpress.com/2007/07/19/video-game-development-in-the-classroom/

It's ALL about the students!

August 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTina Steele

I'm keeping this in my file for when I need to win someone over!

August 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Hi Karen,

I would look to see if the school has any advisory committees for which you could volunteer. By law, all our schools in MN have such things. Other than speaking directly with the library staff or principal, this would be my only recourse.

Good luck!

Doug

August 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Tina,

Game design is a great idea. I remember the very early text-based games like Eamon had an editor for people to create their own versions. Great way for kids to practice planning, logic, collaboration, design, descriptive writing etc.

Thanks for sharing the idea!

Doug

August 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

OK, I haven't wasted any time jumping off the deep end. The first meeting of the Gamers Club (unofficial) will be held the first Friday in September. I have recruited 3 student gamers to introduce their favorite games. Chess, a word game, Halo, and an Internet based tournament game.

I've invited the principal to attend.

Wish me luck!

There was a great article in Christian Science Monitor about the advances in technology that were a direct result of gamers. Checkers has been broken to the point that no human can win against a computer. They are now working on poker. The program is called Polaris. They have come close to cracking the psychological code.

Only a matter of time.

I am now reading that advances in artificial intelligence will lead to a "species" of robots within the next 20 years.

Doug may want to elevate this discussion to a topic, rather than a comment, but I believe that, not in our generation, but in the generation that we are teaching that robots will become a "subspecies of humans." What do we do about about the ethics that think like humans? Do we use them in war? Should robots only kill other robots? Should they kill humans? Lots to think about.

I was surprised that some of my advanced students already know about the artificial intelligence that is being done by IBM. They already know about the supercomputers known as Gene Blue and beyond.

I don't have a clue.

Adam

August 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Janowski

Hi Adam,

Sounds like you are off to a good start! I DO wish you luck.

Some excellent books about the future of artificial intelligence have been written by Ray Kurzweil _The Singularity is Near_ and -The Age of Spiritual Machines_. (The first one is more recent; the second one is more readable IMHO.) Your students might enjoy these!

All the very best and reconsider writing that article for LMC!

Doug

August 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Wish me luck! Today (Friday) I will have my first Internet Gaming Day in the LMC.

I am going to introduce a couple of games I like: Lingo and Book worm. I have three students that will introduce games they like including Internet based chess and Halo.

We will talk about responsibilities and priorities, School-related research and homework comes first. And the need for gamers to give up their computer at a request from staff. They will also get an article to read about Internet gaming and how it has led to the development of super computers (Oh, the librarian comes out in me!).

Wish me luck. I understand that the principal intends to come and visit us.

Adam

September 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Janowski

Be sure to let the Blue Skunk readers know how things turned out!

Thanks,

Doug

September 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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