the poor and tech training and gaming

The Library Link of the Day today is an article in the Chicago Tribune called Training for the Poor Moves into the Computer Age. It’s an odd combination of two points

1. The digital divide is becoming more and more about technology literacy and not about technology access.
2. Gaming on computers is an important part of attaining that technology literacy.

I don’t know much about point #2. I like games generally but I am not a gamer (save online Scrabble which I suspect may not count). With a few exceptions most of the people I hang out with aren’t gamers so I’ve rarely been in a cultural area that is gaming-immersive. I’m curious, but it’s one of those things that falls outside the “things I have time for” circle. Jenny Levine has some good points in the article and I think the fact that ALA is mentioned in the same article as poor people needing technological literacy for finding better jobs and escaping the cycle of poverty is great PR for libraries.

That said, the article is confusing to me somewhat. It seems to be taking two disparate ideas and mashing them together as if it were the most natural thing in the world. I get the points that gaming and teaching technology through gaming is a great way to help kids with critical thinking skills and problem solving. However I strongly do not think that the best way to help older people — perhaps my age and up — learn technology has anything to do with gaming at all. So, the people who are in dead-end jobs and need to gain some level of tech proficiency to move to better jobs, they’re not the gaming demographic. I think, however, that as more younger people engage with technology they will bring gaming with them as they become people in my age bracket and that’s going to be an interesting shift. So, kudos for even talking about poverty and technology literacy, and nice job with xplaining why gaming is important, but I still wish this had been two separate (longer) articles instead of this one.

5 thoughts on “the poor and tech training and gaming

  1. One obvious example of a computer game that could be useful to older adults: typing tutors. For the shifting industry sector, I think a typing tutor could be a great boon (eg. shifting from factory work to call-centre work would require some typing proficiency).

    I’ve also heard tell of the Wii being interesting to (some) older adults. Folks who used to bowl or play tennis can enjoy their favorite sports without the sports injuries that go with them.

    I have to say though, that when I’m on my gaming fetishes (there’s been a recent one, which explains my lack of blogging), I feel less productive. It’s also hard to pin-point precisely what the learning benefits of gaming are. Can’t say my Diablo stint has really done that much for me. Civilization was great for learning the first time around — now it’s just a time-waster.

    That said, you could say the same about most recreational books as well. It’s just that I seem to be more willing to avoid [what I consider] fluff when it comes to books. Games have more an addictive feel, leaving me a bit “fast-food-ish” when I’m done. Thank goodness I’ve beaten Diablo and can now get on with my stinking life. :)

  2. I got my mother into Yahoogames, The Sims and a few other point and click type games a few years back. I loved the familiarity they gave her with using interfaces – if she’s confronted by a non-standard interface, she no longer freezes. She uses the mouse better. She’s faster with everything. That may have come with time, but the games made it all easier.

  3. I can tell you that plenty of the younger new Canadians at my local public library learned how to work a computer by watching their friends play various games on the machines in the library. Sure it might not be perfect but they are now ready to use the computers to do research and email thanks to their game playing lessons.

  4. We sometimes use casual games like Solitaire or memory match or an online paint by numbers or Jigzone as a way to get some older adults to practice their mouse skills. We also explain WHY we’re having them play the games and try to find something that appeals to them. No point forcing them to play Solitaire if they’ve never played it before and hate it, especially since people generally learn better when they expect that knowledge to be useful. (It’s the brain efficiency thing once you get older. You don’t form those neural pathways for everything you do anymore like you did as a kid–you’re most likely to easily store and retrieve information you know you’ll use. See? You aren’t getting dumber. Your brain is getting more efficient!)

    Anyways, I think the article was interesting but confusing, as it seemed to wander through a bunch of different types of technology literacy training, talking about games but then going on to computer hardware and reprogramming classes… It could have used more focus.

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