Evidently, The DOD has jumped on to the “social network” bandwagon and has decided it’s a panacea for all national ills:
After watching his daughter grind her way through World of Warcraft – essentially repeating the same tasks over and over to earn points – Paul Cohen decided to build a social networking tool to promote teaching and learning.
Cohen, who heads the University of Arizona’s computer science department, and his colleagues are developing “Teach Ourselves,” which will use Facebook and other programs to teach and engage middle and high school students in problem-solving tasks.
The project has earned a $1.4 million award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Defense…
Users could get points for doing their homework, showing others how to work through math equations, translating word problems into other languages, critiquing a student’s paper, writing educational Web applications and producing electronic flashcards or an educational tutorial video.
What happened to the good old days of oregon trail and math blaster? Longtime readers will know that this proposal is anathema to everything we’ve had to say about knowledge here at the Lamp. Skeptics need not look further than the first sentence: “After watching his daughter grind her way through World of Warcraft – essentially repeating the same tasks over and over to earn points…” I’ve lost enough years of my life to Diablo 2 to be able to say with confidence that the game and others like it, while fun, are a massive waste of time. But instead of realizing that himself and trying to convince his daughter of the fact that reaching level 99 will, in fact, not make Jimmy more likely to ask her to the dance, Dr. Cohen decided to use his daughter’s schopenhauerian escapism as inspiration. But what happens to these kids after they “grind” their way through the facebook app that is high school math only to find that their University professors don’t give a damn how many points they’ve earned? Gross Pavlovian-style reward schemes can be good when dealing with animals and infants, but as beings capable of rational thought, I’d like to think that we have other ways to motivate ourselves when it comes to the pursuit of knowledge.