Friday, December 14, 2007

First Video Games, Now Poker for Good

Posted by Rebecca Wallace-Segall

NY Times writer Gary Rivlin reported this week on a professor and a group of Harvard Law students who formed an organization this fall — the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society — dedicated to demonstrating that poker has educational benefits.

From the article:

They argue that the game, which is probability-based and requires risk assessment, situational analysis and a gift for reading people, can be an effective teaching tool, whether for middle school math or in business and law classes.

“I see great advantage in hitting kids as early as sixth grade, when they’re dropping out of math,” said Charles R. Nesson, the Harvard Law School professor who began the society with a group of his students. “I’m thinking of kids who are into their video games but instead of Halo-3 and World of Warcraft, we lead them into a game environment that has real intellectual depth to it, and feeds their curiosity rather than snuffs it out.”

Teen writer Peter Cohen, a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School, and, um, a video-game veteran comes to mind again. Peter plays chess during lunch, debates competitively after school, and plays lots of Halo-3 during many of his other waking hours. While the Harvard Law students allegedly use Poker to help sharpen their minds, Peter uses his gaming prowess for good as well: he has written several award-winning pieces inspired by his on-screen battles.

Since the internet brought poker, high-tech video games, and social websites into millions of homes--and classrooms--across America, creative approaches to learning have become imperative.

I played poker once and was amazed at how complex and mind-engaging it was. Kids who struggle through probability, statistics, and even basic mathematics often complain: "And what is the point of all this?" It seems valuable to show them how relevant (and fun) applied mathematics can be.

But there are some things to consider while venturing down these new roads:
1) Not all young people have the same healthy response to various forms of gaming;
2) Educators can modify an openness to multimedia learning based on each kids' sensibilities/and monitor students to different degrees;
3) But, most importantly, while progressive education can be the most demanding, challenging, and risky for both students and educators... it remains the most promising.


Lily said...

I dont think that this guy considered fully what he was saying about MMORPG's and videogames "snuffing" out curiosity. Aside from them being capable of inspiring many a great sci fi, it has been proven that World of Warcraft, for example (the game that he so readily dismissed) is the perfect environment for honing a foreign language. You can be exposed to many native speakers if you go on the server of a foreign country, and the ingame goals offer motivation to understand what is being said in order to improve your character.

Rebecca Segall said...

Interesting! Thanks for that insight, Lily.