Like millions of parents who dealt with winter storms these past few months, I recently found myself working in the home office alongside three children glued to screens. The two younger ones were engaged, respectfully, with Madden NFL16 on the Xbox One and Minecraft on the iPhone. The oldest was on her iPad, plowing through a pretty hefty high school cyber day curriculum sent with the school’s closing announcement.
My first old-guy instinct was to shoo them all outside to do something “real” (note: shoveling, sleds, and snowballs had been exhausted.) But I let it slide that day. Maybe it was a rationalization, since they were silent and I could write peacefully. But maybe it was an epiphany that we have finally hit some sort of edutainment tipping point. Recent press releases from EA Sports, which makes Madden, and Microsoft, which bought Minecraft, promise that children can learn while they have fun. According to Bill Goodwyn, president of Discovery Education, the Madden curriculum his company created in partnership with EA, “engages students in the critical math and science subjects through interactive, dynamic content, and it also shows students the real-world relevance of the classroom subjects.” Checking the math during one son’s mock draft and the creativity shown in the other’s Minecraft creations, I may actually agree. The promise of gaming in education has been long awaited, almost as long as the digital textbook. Maybe it is being fulfilled not from school but from home.