Van Eck’s research is serious stuff; he is widely published, and his older colleagues are tuning in. Van Eck’s research on these innovative learning technologies is so hot that his article on digital game-based learning was featured recently on the cover of Educause Review. He also has a book chapter on building intelligent learning games due out this year.
For kids, the gadget-saturated world is their reality, an almost seamless and ever-evolving electronically mediated transition from virtual to real, from cell-phone-to-the-ear-and-drive-to-the-mall to instant tax filing. They live life in the electron lane, “they’re digital natives,” Van Eck says.
Two areas are of particular concern to Van Eck.
“The first problem is that we do very little to engage children in learning throughout much of their formal education. This problem arises from the Industrial Revolution and what I call the ‘widgetizing’ of education,” he asserts. “America embraced the idea of mass production and economies of scale that arose out of the Industrial Revolution.” And presto, we figured we could also mass-produce education.
But, Van Eck points out, there’s a serious problem with that approach: each student has different prior knowledge, different skills and abilities, and different strategies for learning.
The second major problem facing American education is technology.