Northern Virginia Community College has a computer lab devoted to gamers. This, of course, is causing all kinds of controversy and debate. Not among the students, obviously, but among the rest of us–faculty, librarians, administrators–who wonder whether a gaming lab is a genuine educational tool or a sign that we’re selling out our own teaching mission. Sample comment from a reader of the article: “Many [college students today] do not have any strong work ethic.” Wow.
Fortunately, there are some more reasonable voices in there too, including that of my friend and former colleague Annie Zeidman-Karpinski, who’s spearheaded the effort to get video games into the Science Library at the University of Oregon.
An interesting point to consider is that made by John Min, director of the Northern Virginia gaming “pit,” who explains the motivation for the gaming lab in one word: “Desperation.” The college is trying to get students to enroll in its IT program, and it uses the lab as a way to create community and promote the courses in that program. At least one student said he was planning to take a course he saw advertised on a poster in the lab.
It’s fascinating to me that we’re seeing these declines in computer science and IT enrollments (the Chronicle recently carried another story about Cambridge’s shrinking computer science program), at the same time as we’re seeing creative, smart, tech-minded young people building terrific Facebook apps, creating awesome lip dubs as recruitment tools, and generally disregarding the traditional distinctions between work and play, with some really cool results. Maybe they’re trying to tell us something? (And maybe some schools, like the UO, NVCC, and Stanford are listening?)