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Guest Thinkers

Productive and powerful

[cross-posted at the TechLearning



I’m in the midst of reading Clark Aldrich’s Simulations

and the Future of Learning

. As Aldrich walks me through the process of

developing a leadership simulation, he has a number of interesting things to say

about video game and simulation design. Thanks to Aldrich’s clear and engaging

prose, I’m finding myself unexpectedly captivated by the nitty-gritty of the

workflow of simulation production.

So far the statement that has resonated with me the most, however,

pertains as much to education as it does to the gaming industry. Aldrich


The goal of learning in any organization (business, educational,

governmental) should be to make its members more productive (p.


I’ll agree with that. And I probably would add to the end of that statement

… and more powerful.” I think that additional phrase takes the edge

off what might be construed as a focus solely on preparation for work and

expands it to include personal empowerment.

Productive and powerful. Isn’t that what we want

for the children in our schools? Isn’t that we want for the educators with whom

we work? Productive and powerful. I like it.

We have 50 million public school


in the United States. Are the thousands of worksheets that they

will complete in their lifetime making them more productive? Are their countless

hours of individual seat work going to lead to greater personal empowerment? Are

they getting opportunities to be both productive and powerful on a regular


What about our subpopulations? Are socioeconomically-disadvantaged students

often getting the chance to be powerful? Do our students with disabilities or

our students whose primary language is not English have multiple, ongoing

opportunities to feel like they are productive, contributing members of our


What about our 3 million public

school teachers

? Are the tens of millions of hours that they spend in staff

development and training each year actually making them more productive? Do you

think the bulk of them feel empowered by their ‘learning opportunities?’

Do we regularly ask ourselves these kinds of questions in our school

organizations? As educators, should we?

I have some hard thinking to do about my own graduate classes and degree

programs here at Iowa State


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