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Sara Corbett Writes Cover Story for The New York Times Magazine Issue about Computers and Education

games theory story by sara corbett in the ny times

Telling Room founder and magazine journalist Sara Corbett wrote the cover story "games Theory" in today's New York Times Magazine. It's an extensive profile of a program in an alternative New York City middle school named Quest to Learn that teaches a class called Sports of the Mind. The subject is the technology of computer games and the students design—and play—games of their own creation. Corbett uses the class as a way of exploring the neurology of learning and the games-and-education movement. And there may be more to games than we give them credit for. An executive at a games company is quoted as saying, “Failure in an academic environment is depressing. Failure in a video game is pleasant. It’s completely aspirational.” The risk-taking that computers allow students in the learning environment is relevant everywhere, but particularly here in Portland. Maine has a very advanced technology initiative that has placed laptops in the hands of all 7th and 8th graders since 2003, and the program now extends to all high school students. King Middle School and Casco Bay High School, in particular, are also very creative in their use of classroom technology. But how much of this is true learning and how much is training to become a cog in the great digital machine of the future? In the same issue, Jaron Lanier (inventor of virtual reality and the author of You Are Not a Gadget) writes and essay titled "Does the Digital Classroom Enfeeble the Mind?" Lanier is no Luddite, but a keen technologist who both understands the inner workings of the digital world we have created and also of how much of what is human has been left out. His message is very important for the creative economy and for Portland. Technology in the classroom is great, up to a point, but we still need great teachers. Facebook algorithms may suggest music to you based on what your friends like, but we still need musicians. Computers and the internet give us almost super-human powers, but the act of self-invention that makes us truly human is still the hard work that cannot be "scaled up" through technology. Small creative enclaves like Portland are poised to be centers of personal self-creation—incubators of individuality. Sara is a great example of this. She has continued to expand her work, both nationally and locally, through the life she has invented for herself in Portland.

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