It was arcade day in the computer lab this week. Way back when, that meant that kids could go to edutainment sites like Funbrain or Starfall to spend their full fifty minutes of free time on Al Gore's Internet. There were those who chose not to even venture out into the interwebs, preferring instead the calm seas of Kidpix or Oregon Trail. The relatively calm seas. They used to refer to Oregon Trail as "the shooting game." It was the reason that I never fully embraced The Learning Company's vision of our way west. Kids tended to buy the minimum supplies in Independence, Missouri and once they had made it a few miles outside of town, they loaded up their cyber muskets and began to slaughter buffalo. Learning? I'm not so sure about that.
Years later, I have to begin my end-of-year rap with a disclaimer about all the web sites that are blocked: YouTube, Facebook, and any number of social media spots that I am surprised to find that a great many of our kids, as young as seven or eight, want to go. Likewise to the disappointment of boys in the room who find out that they can't run high end graphics games that are either simply blocked by the school district or too flashy for our machines to run. Have fun, kids.
When the lights come up, there is still a universal, "Awwwww." They're sad to be done with another year's worth of patient waiting. They know that when they come back next year, we'll be back to a world of "must-do's" with very little "may-do's." Cartoon Network will have to wait. But maybe we can squeeze in some Cool Math Games in the service of their education.