Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Future of Convergence

          Most people would probably argue that social media is the epitome of convergence. And while social media is proficient at exploring both multimedia and transmedia, I feel as though the more social media progresses, the dumber our society will become.

          Take, for example, politics – specifically, the Obama campaign. As we discussed in class, back in 2008, the Obama administration utilized multiple facets of social media as part of its campaign strategy, in order to appeal to a younger and wider demographic. Clearly, the strategy was a success, because a senator of hardly three years was able to convey his messages of “hope” and “change” to millions of new receptors online that he would have otherwise never been able to reach.

          But as more and more people relied on a tweet or a Facebook status to gather bits and pieces of information, less and less people took the time to thoroughly read articles about the election and truly educate themselves. So while social media allows for second-to-second information and the widest array of “news” the world has yet to see, are we actually learning?

          I believe the true future of convergence with regards to education lies in the form of video games. Though the creation of this type of gaming dates back to the 1980’s with Atari as the first home-style console system, rendering it a fairly old concept, the last two+ decades have been spent perfecting both the online and at-home gaming world.

          Originally designed as either single or multiplayer, these interactive games were no more advanced than to allow a tiny dot to bounce from one virtual racket to the next in a simulated version of tennis or ping-pong. As technology advanced, games like Galaga and Pac Man were developed. These games incorporated a motive that players needed to feel in order to successfully win. In both games, obstacles in the forms of tiny virtual enemies were set into place that brought with it a greater challenge, but also in it, a greater sense of victory.

        According to game designer and New York Times Bestselling author, Jane McGonigal, whose lecture on TED Talk very much inspired me, “gaming can make a better world,” and in her opinion, is the resolution for the future. Famous for her lectures on gaming and how it can save the world, McGonigal has created video games based on real-life circumstances and possibilities, and challenges players to use their personal skills to complete the tasks given. McGonigal, who thinks the biggest misconception about video games is that they are a waste of time, argues that these interactive games help to channel social and leadership skills, teamwork, and helps to create a level of self-confidence for even the shyest and most introverted of gamers, restoring assurance in their own ability to achieve what they set their minds to.

        “My goal for the next decade is to try to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games,” says McGonigal. Worldwide, 3 billion hours a week are dedicated to gaming. McGonigal’s intention is not to redirect these hours, but to apply life lessons where people are going most often: online. “If we want to solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict, obesity, I believe that we need to aspire to play games online for at least 21 billion hours a week by the end of the next decade.”

        McGonigal’s research at the Institute of the Future points to a greater feeling of accomplishment in the gaming world, a sense that far surpasses that of real life. Her plan is to continue creating games that bring real-world obstacles into the gaming world, with the hopes that these gamers, after achieving the “epic win,” will have confirmation that they are well-equipped to handle real issues and tasks.

        It is a new platform for learning, and McGonigal isn’t the only one in support of it.

        Microsoft’s XBOX has made its own contribution to the gaming-based classroom in the form of “Kinect,” a motion-controlled accessory to the console. “But why use it in the classroom?” asks According to the article “Kinect in the Classroom,” written by Andrew Miller on the organization’s website, “there is a great opportunity to use the Kinect in the classroom to not only meet specific learning goals, but engage in research-based practices for learning,” (

         Below is a link to the website that features a video on “Kinect Math,” and how it allows students in classrooms to manipulate graphs, variables, etc. The video is located towards the end of the article:

         The world has been changing since its inception, but the last century’s advances are far greater than all previous centuries combined. In a world that is growing and changing at an exponential rate, all educators can do to successfully teach each group of new students is to also change with the times, and learn to adapt to a new world. Right now, that world is gaming.

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