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Digital Learning

Slashdot has an interesting review of a book about game based learning. Although the review is well worth the read for anyone interested in this subject (especially the part on how the prevalence of videogames has rewired our brains), I'd like to focus this entry on one of the comments made by a reader.

In this comment, the reader says:

A good chunk of going to primary school is learning how to behave socially. Learning ramifications for social action/inaction. One can argue this is true all through schooling, even in college, as people mature they need both other students to interact with and teachers to help guide those behaviors. This is, excluding a few "health" type classes, all done along side the normal learning that goes on. If you replace many teachers with machines, and students are in an e-learning environment where they don't interact with other students (or interaction is limited) then I'd guess you're going to lose an important part of what people actually learn as they go through the school system.

While of course the reader certainly has a point, I wonder what implications this has in a world that is increasingly moving towards a digital culture. How will our personal interactions change when we interact more on MySpace than in person?

I don't doubt that things will definitely change if we move from an analogue learning environment to a digital one, but I wonder if we can resist the change. Teachers are expensive (hell, education is very expensive), and machines are not (comparatively). But then again, books hold information just as well as machines do, and teachers have managed to survive the age of books. Will survive the age of the internet?

Digital learning differs from books in that it can appeal to a visual and auditory aspect of interaction that books cannot (this gets back to the ideas of embodiment I discussed in a previous post). In this way, digital learning can engross kids just as TV and videogames can (I can attest to educational game addictions in my preteen years…). But then again, I also read for nearly as many hours at that point as I played videogames. I wonder if there are any studies with citable statistics…