On January 30, 2008, a 9 year old earned more fame than most of us will ever receive in our lifetimes. He wasn’t on the news, or in a newspaper article. In Sarah’s keynote she showed a YouTube video, “David after the Dentist” which chronicles in about a minute and a half this 9 year old’s odyssey through anesthesia and laughing gas after oral surgery. The video had the group in stitches (no pun intended) because of it’s wonderful spontanaeity and David became an instant star :14 million views since January 30. A few days later, David became a byline – the parody videos started, first with a rap version, then a feline version, then starring Darth Vader, then with a dramatic rendition of an adult David the divorcee.
Sarah introduced a term in order to clarify this phenomena – the “prosumer”; one who is both a producer and a consumer; one who makes content for the sake of it, without being on a payroll; one who wants to be part of a movement (in this case the “David” movement.) What else is YouTube about if not that – a self generating, spontaneous, playpen where people create without being told to, without outside influence, without being told to.
Speaking of playing, Sarah’s background has a lot to do with games. She grew up playing Galaga. Her doctoral research is on the rhetoric of virtual worlds: how people communicate in these virtual spaces. And she knows about playing and how game elements can instruct the formal business of school to simulate a more interactive reality. Take the lioness raising cubs, she says – she doesn’t whip out a chalkbord to identify the prey. She lets them wrestle, bite, yelp and experiment. And they learn by experimenting and testing things out, much like players do in games, where they “die” and start over, and over, and over. Games use failure for learning. When you lose, you start over and try again rather than being kicked out or put on a SINI list. How pervasive is gaming? According to Pew, 97% of US kids (12-17) play video games. That means there are 4 gamers for every 1 golfer in US.
The “school” , as an institution, has become “the machine” – a factory where bells dictate schedules instead of choices.
Sarah praised elements of games that the machine can learn from : games offer clear rewards and motivation, games are dialogic and conversational, games allow you to develop scaffolded skills and apply them immediately.
She also gave us permission to throw out the door, once and for all, the restrictions of diving the world into “digital natives and digital immigrants”. We all have the opportunity to Google something, to find instant satisfaction to intellectual curiosiry.
So, the way school is done is the real disruption, not the students, not the technology, not the teachers, not the administrators. The tension lies in strengthening active learning in a hypermediated culture. It’s about blowing the walls off the doors in classrooms and opening up channels of information.
So David, welcome to the machine. Now get out.