8 Sep 2018

Nicholas Tampio: children need to learn in the real world, not the virtual one

From Saturday Morning, 9:40 am on 8 September 2018
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Children who spend the bulk of their school day in front of a computer will too often end up physically unfit, depressed and low on social skills, political scientist and author Nicholas Tampio says.

In recent article 'Look up from your screen', he argues that children learn best when their bodies and minds are engaged in the real world – not the virtual one.

"Schools should be a refuge from modern life and its reliance on technology. We can do better."

Tampio tells Saturday Morning's Jim Mora he was alarmed the website Education Week recently quoted Stanford University professors talking about the educational potential of the wildly popular video game Fortnite.

"Oh my gosh. We've lost our bearings if we think that this is better than teaching kids how to play sports and how to move their bodies.

"Fortnite is a very violent game, teaches all sorts of awful lessons … I suspect sooner or later we're gonna see copycat crimes – people trying to replicate moves they've seen on Fortnite."

A boy plays Fortnite.

A boy plays Fortnite. Photo: AFP

It can't be denied that computers are very good for engaging the eyes and to some extent the ears, Tampio says.

"But what I really believe is that human beings learn with their nose, with their ears, with their skin, with their gut, with their feet…"

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Photo: Supplied

Screens cannot replicate what a child learns from face-to-face interaction, Tampio says.

"Even the most sophisticated virtual reality … misses something. It doesn't quite capture all the microfacial movements people make when they're near each other.

"I think it does things to young children when they're not talking to human beings and not being able to place themselves in another person's shoes."

Nothing less than a paradigm shift will stop technology taking over the experience of childhood completely, he says.

"But if we don't fight we're guaranteed to lose. And for me, this is a fight worth having."

Nicholas Tampio is associate professor of political science at Fordham University in New York.

Related listening:

Getting into the gamer's mindset

Emma Grieve's students at Mangawhai Beach School in Northland have been turning up to school bleary-eyed after playing the video game Fortnite into the wee hours of the morning. In the latest school holidays, Ms Grieve fired up her computer to see what all the fuss was about.

Why Fortnite is the greatest game on Earth

The video game Fortnite is keeping adults and kids up all night. Ben Lenihan of the e-Sports Federation explains why it's the best thing to hit the gaming world in a while.