Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Session C - Tutoring Reluctant Readers with Neverwinter Nights

"Fortanno FORTIKAMA!"

This has become a synonym in our household for "drawing (unnecessary) attention to yourself." There are other incantations used in the fantasy RPG Neverwinter Nights, but that one seems to be the most common.

I think "reluctant readers" may be a bit misleading; it sounded to me like the students described by the presenters were more than reluctant. They were the ones who've realized that no one can actually MAKE them read, and they would prefer to sit there and stare at you for an hour and then get in trouble at home for having done so, rather than (*shudder*) read words on a page.

I think there was as much trickery as tutoring!

Now, there did seem to be the idea that "kids these days really like those video game things," which I don't agree with at all. I think even games like the wildly successful World of Warcraft make the bulk of their money from occasional players and absent-minded ex-players - those who have lost interest in the game and don't play anymore but still have their credit card or bank account automatically debited each month.

Tangent: I really think this misconception parallels another popular one - that "us old folks can't get technology like them young'uns do." *headdesk*

Anyway, the presenters noticed that the students were more interested and engaged during the sessions. However, there did not seem to be any corresponding increase in reading by choice, either during the program or afterward. What I particularly noticed was that one presenter who'd had contact with one of the parents said she was told the student "went back to working on his cars." My thought? They chose the wrong game for that student.

I think that in time, film and video games will be seen as literary genres in their own rights. But I think a lot of teachers are resistant to that sort of change. For example, in session A, one of the teachers made a comment about how passive students are, and connected it to how much they watch TV and play video games. "They're used to having entertainment fed to them, instead of interacting with it," was one of the ways she described it.

Say what you like about video games, but one thing they are NOT is passive. This is particularly true for reluctant readers, for whom words on a page are nothing more than words on a page. It is possible to read without interacting with a text; the same is not true about video games.

Anyway, in general I liked the ideas that were presented here. I think this will be an interesting area to explore.


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