Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning

Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning


So I’m here to tell you
that we have a problem with boys,
and it’s a serious problem with boys.
Their culture isn’t working in schools,
and I’m going to share with you ways
that we can think
about overcoming that problem.
First, I want to start
by saying, this is a boy,
and this is a girl,
and this is probably stereotypically
what you think of as a boy and a girl.
If I essentialize gender for you today,
then you can dismiss what I have to say.
So I’m not going to do that,
I’m not interested in doing that.
This is a different kind of boy
and a different kind of girl.
So the point here is that not all boys
exist within these rigid boundaries
of what we think of as boys and girls,
and not all girls exist
within those rigid boundaries
of what we think of as girls.
But, in fact, most boys
tend to be a certain way,
and most girls tend to be a certain way.
And the point is that, for boys,
the way that they exist
and the culture that they embrace
isn’t working well in schools now.
How do we know that?
The 100 girls project
tells us some really nice statistics.
For example, for every 100 girls
that are suspended from school,
there are 250 boys
that are suspended from school.
For every 100 girls
who are expelled from school,
there are 335 boys
who are expelled from school.
For every 100 girls in special education,
there are 217 boys.
For every 100 girls
with a learning disability,
there are 276 boys.
For every 100 girls
with an emotional disturbance diagnosed,
we have 324 boys.
And by the way, all of these numbers
are significantly higher
if you happen to be black,
if you happen to be poor,
if you happen to exist
in an overcrowded school.
And if you are a boy,
you’re four times as likely
to be diagnosed with ADHD —
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Now there is another side to this.
And it is important that we recognize
that women still need help in school,
that salaries are still
significantly lower,
even when controlled for job types,
and that girls have continued to struggle
in math and science for years.
That’s all true.
Nothing about that prevents us
from paying attention
to the literacy needs
of our boys between ages three and 13.
And so we should.
In fact, what we ought to do
is take a page from their playbook,
because the initiatives and programs
that have been set in place
for women in science and engineering
and mathematics are fantastic.
They’ve done a lot of good
for girls in these situations,
and we ought to be thinking about
how we can make that happen for boys too
in their younger years.
Even in their older years,
what we find is that
there’s still a problem.
When we look at the universities,
60 percent of baccalaureate degrees
are going to women now,
which is a significant shift.
And in fact, university administrators
are a little uncomfortable about the idea
that we may be getting close to 70 percent
female population in universities.
This makes university
administrators very nervous,
because girls don’t want to go
to schools that don’t have boys.
And so we’re starting to see
the establishment of men centers
and men studies
to think about how do we engage men
in their experiences in the university.
If you talk to faculty,
they may say, “Ugh. Yeah, well,
they’re playing video games,
and they’re gambling
online all night long,
and they’re playing World of Warcraft,
and that’s affecting
their academic achievement.”
Guess what?
Video games are not the cause.
Video games are a symptom.
They were turned off a long time
before they got here.
So let’s talk about
why they got turned off
when they were between the ages
of three and 13.
There are three reasons that I believe
that boys are out of sync
with the culture of schools today.
The first is zero tolerance.
A kindergarten teacher I know,
her son donated all of his toys to her,
and when he did, she had to go through
and pull out all the little plastic guns.
You can’t have plastic knives
and swords and axes
and all that kind of thing
in a kindergarten classroom.
What is it that we’re afraid that this
young man is going to do with this gun?
I mean, really.
But here he stands as testament
to the fact that you can’t roughhouse
on the playground today.
Now I’m not advocating for bullies.
I’m not suggesting that we need to be
allowing guns and knives in the school.
But when we say that an Eagle Scout
in a high school classroom
who has a locked parked car
in the parking lot and a penknife in it,
has to be suspended from school,
I think we may have gone
a little too far with zero tolerance.
Another way that zero tolerance
lives itself out
is in the writing of boys.
In a lot of classrooms today,
you’re not allowed to write
about anything that’s violent.
You’re not allowed to write about anything
that has to do with video games.
These topics are banned.
Boy comes home from school, and he says,
“I hate writing.”
“Why do you hate writing, son?
What’s wrong with writing?”
“Now I have to write
what she tells me to write.”
“OK, what is she telling you to write?”
“Poems. I have to write poems.
And little moments in my life.
I don’t want to write that stuff.”
“Well, what do you want to write?
What do you want to write about?”
“I want to write about video games.
I want to write about leveling-up.
I want to write about
this really interesting world.
I want to write about a tornado
that comes into our house
and blows all the windows out,
and ruins all the furniture
and kills everybody.”
“All right. OK.”
You tell a teacher that,
and they’ll ask you, in all seriousness,
“Should we send this child
to the psychologist?”
And the answer is no, he’s just a boy.
He’s just a little boy.
It’s not OK to write these kinds of things
in classrooms today.
So that’s the first reason:
Zero tolerance policies
and the way they’re lived out.
The next reason that boys’ cultures
are out of sync with school cultures:
there are fewer male teachers.
Anybody who’s over 15
doesn’t know what this means,
because in the last 10 years,
the number of elementary school
classroom teachers has been cut in half.
We went from 14 percent to seven percent.
That means that 93 percent of the teachers
that our young men get in elementary
classrooms are women.
Now what’s the problem with this?
Women are great, yep, absolutely.
But male role models for boys
that say it’s all right to be smart —
they’ve got dads, they’ve got pastors,
they’ve got Cub Scout leaders,
but ultimately, six hours a day,
five days a week
they’re spending in a classroom,
and most of those classrooms
are not places where men exist.
And so they say, I guess this really
isn’t a place for boys.
This is a place for girls.
And I’m not very good at this,
so I guess I’d better go play video games
or get into sports,
or something like that,
because I obviously don’t belong here.
Men don’t belong here,
that’s pretty obvious.
So that may be a very direct way
that we see it happen.
But less directly, the lack of male
presence in the culture —
you’ve got a teachers’ lounge,
and they’re having a conversation
about Joey and Johnny
who beat each other up on the playground.
“What are we going to do with these boys?”
The answer to that question changes
depending on who’s sitting
around that table.
Are there men around that table?
Are there moms who’ve raised boys
around that table?
You’ll see, the conversation changes
depending upon who’s sitting
around the table.
Third reason that boys
are out of sync with school today:
Kindergarten is the old
second grade, folks.
We have a serious compression
of the curriculum happening out there.
When you’re three, you better be able
to write your name legibly,
or else we’ll consider it
a developmental delay.
By the time you’re in first grade,
you should be able to read
paragraphs of text
with maybe a picture, maybe not,
in a book of maybe 25 to 30 pages.
If you don’t,
we’re probably going to be putting you
into a Title I special reading program.
And if you ask Title I teachers,
they’ll tell you
they’ve got about four or five boys
for every girl that’s in their program,
in the elementary grades.
The reason that this is a problem
is because the message
that boys are getting
is, “You need to do what the teacher
asks you to do all the time.”
The teacher’s salary depends
on “No Child Left Behind”
and “Race to the Top”
and accountability and testing
and all of this.
So she has to figure out a way
to get all these boys
through this curriculum — and girls.
This compressed curriculum is bad
for all active kids.
And what happens is,
she says, “Please, sit down,
be quiet, do what you’re told,
follow the rules, manage your time,
focus, be a girl.”
That’s what she tells them.
Indirectly, that’s what she tells them.
And so this is a very serious problem.
Where is it coming from?
It’s coming from us.
(Laughter)
We want our babies to read
when they are six months old.
Have you seen the ads?
We want to live in Lake Wobegon
where every child is above average …
but what this does to our children
is really not healthy.
It’s not developmentally appropriate,
and it’s particularly bad for boys.
So what do we do?
We need to meet them where they are.
We need to put ourselves into boy culture.
We need to change the mindset
of acceptance in boys
in elementary schools.
More specifically, we can do
some very specific things.
We can design better games.
Most of the educational games
that are out there today
are really flashcards.
They’re glorified drill and practice.
They don’t have the depth,
the rich narrative
that really engaging video games have,
that the boys are really interested in.
So we need to design better games.
We need to talk to teachers and parents
and school board members and politicians.
We need to make sure that people see
that we need more men in the classroom.
We need to look carefully
at our zero tolerance policies.
Do they make sense?
We need to think about how to uncompress
this curriculum if we can,
trying to bring boys back into a space
that is comfortable for them.
All of those conversations
need to be happening.
There are some great examples
out there of schools —
the New York Times
just talked about a school recently.
A game designer from the New School
put together a wonderful
video gaming school.
But it only treats a few kids,
and so this isn’t very scalable.
We have to change the culture
and the feelings
that politicians and school board
members and parents have
about the way we accept
and what we accept in our schools today.
We need to find more money
for game design.
Because good games,
really good games, cost money,
and World of Warcraft has quite a budget.
Most of the educational games do not.
Where we started:
my colleagues Mike Petner,
Shawn Vashaw, myself,
we started by trying to look
at the teachers’ attitudes
and find out how do they really
feel about gaming,
what do they say about it.
And we discovered that they talk
about the kids in their school,
who talk about gaming,
in pretty demeaning ways.
They say, “Oh, yeah. They’re always
talking about that stuff.
They’re talking
about their little action figures
and their little achievements
or merit badges,
or whatever it is that they get.
And they’re always talking
about this stuff.”
And they say these things as if it’s OK.
But if it were your culture,
think of how that might feel.
It’s very uncomfortable
to be on the receiving end
of that kind of language.
They’re nervous about anything
that has anything to do with violence
because of the zero tolerance policies.
They are sure that parents
and administrators
will never accept anything.
So we really need to think
about looking at teacher attitudes
and finding ways to change the attitudes,
so that teachers are much more open
and accepting of boy cultures
in their classrooms.
Because, ultimately, if we don’t,
then we’re going to have boys
who leave elementary school saying,
“Well I guess that was just
a place for girls, it wasn’t for me.
So I’ve got to do gaming,
or I’ve got to do sports.”
If we change these things,
if we pay attention to these things,
and we reengage boys in their learning,
they will leave the elementary
schools saying, “I’m smart.”
Thank you.
(Applause)

100 thoughts on “Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning”

  1. I am studying to be a teacher and I would absolutely let my children write essays about their video games and/or their interests. Learning to write is learning to write no matter what they write about. I think it's wrong and hindering freedom of speech to keep someone from writting what they want. Even children.

  2. @whokilledfrosty I was not talking about higher education ? when I was at school most of my teachers where female ,and that was 30yrs ago ,so explain that ? and I witnessed with my own eyes the change in the way we where taught ,tests where done away with and we had to do endless amounts of course work ,which the girls loved and most of the boys saw as pointless .

  3. @blackkbanana I don't think this is the problem. I think it is because modern day feminism has put a focus on females in the academic world, perhaps with good intentions, and now they are dominating the professional workforce, but this has indirectly led to the problem we see here.

  4. @Prolite
    Not all court rulings are based on legislation. Much of Western society has a common law system, where (if there's no overruling legislation) court decisions are based on precedent, or if there's no precedent, what the judges consider to be most equitable.

    For example, there was never explicit legislation that held bars responsible for actions of their patrons after they left the bar, or held businesses responsible for customers spilling hot drinks on themselves.

  5. Biologically, Boys are made for running, fighting, hunting, and having sex. From our deepest instinct, we want to defy boundaries, to explore, to compete. I agree with Flare400. Men will always defy control. It's in our blood.

    I'm a man, and I approve this message

  6. @iGregory67 the video's main point about games was that the pursuits of boys are outlawed in our schools, being a boy is outlawed.
    No references to violence or computer games allowed.

  7. @MrGiftedReflex her point was not so much to introduce education into games, but to let games into education.

    Basically, bring the blood, gore, violence, guns, explosions and tons of action back into the schools where it has been outlawed. Coz by outlawing it from school, we are essentially outlawing boys from school.
    It was all mentioned as a critique of the zero tolerance policies that are alienating boys from education.

  8. @FoxBatinaHat – You say that now, but when you are given a curriculum to follow, you need to follow it.
    -Teacher for 20 years

  9. I learned to type fast and spell properly and good grammar all at age 8-10 from playing my brother's Counterstrike 1.6. I learned how to read and find out meanings from RPG's (specifically KoToR2). My passion for fantasy literature was created at age 7 because of gory dragon-elf-dwarve action books and movies. I completely see where this woman is coming from. Men like toys. If you implement toys into learning, we learn better. hurr durr.

  10. The video makes total sense but by judging those 85 negatives and the answers of some posters, this problem will not be overcame soon. Feminism, media-induced hysteria, rejection of manhood, embracement of political correctness and similar stupidities still and will prevail for a good 10-15 years still.

  11. im tempted to shoot the messanger lol – but its actualy not her fault – make the classroom a competetion and the boys will really work – but today we have to be touchy feely sensitive and kind everyone can get a trophy or a hug or a star on thier paper – you want to engage boys give them a competetion – and another competition and another and then reward by merit

  12. @juliecranford boys like to win to compete to dominate and be rewarded for it – more so than girls though many girls like it too – but bring games and recognition and compettion back and boys will work harder than they do now

  13. @MrIzzyDizzy Prove that these differences are innate and not taught by culture. Also, unless it's a 100% correlation, I don't give a shit about it. If you don't have a 100% correlation, then you haven't found the real cause.

  14. im a man and a coach and sometimes math tutor to both genders – my opinions are based on my expierences -i havent looked up any social behaviorialist on the subject – its defenitly cultural at least – if you have a 100% correlation found in scientific study proving boys dont like to compete i would be glad to see it – i cant cite one but it seems ive seen some way back that suggested it and that this was veiwed as a problem for girls education – japan has competiton in school and they do well

  15. all the teachers i learn best from at high school are guys who play video games themselves
    theyre the least strict but its not a problem cause no one acts against them cause we all like their classes

  16. @RedTyphoon1 I don't know what the fuck you're talking about. Why are you bringing up homosexuality? I have no problem with gay people. A male identity is only about what kind of body you want to have. It doesn't have anything to do with guns or fighting.

  17. I was a "smart kid".
    But what a b*tch-wh0re-scum-sh*thead teacher i had.
    I'd reenact a saw movie, if i ever meet her again.
    I'm not kidding!

  18. The problem with schools is that the majority of teachers are women with a marxist mindset that see white masculinity as a threat. And not only teachers: the majority of women have adopted this mindset and are very anti-male.
    Radical feminism and cultural marxism since the 1970s has done nothing but damage society and relations while failing women and their movement for rights.

  19. @RedTyphoon1 No, it's not the same thing. Not every male likes to play with guns. Or anything like that. A male identity has to do with the kind of body you want to have. It has nothing to do with your hobbies or anything. Being gay has to do with the people you are attracted to, either romantically or sexually. Gender identity is what kind of body you want or like to have. Sexual orientation is the kind of people you want to be in a relationship with.

  20. hahaha i left elementary school thinking that and i left highschool thinking kinda the same thing. only in university are they treating us like free ppl.

  21. @MrIzzyDizzy Your "competition" is cultural and undeniably a social construct. Your success with it is obviously anecdotal (as you clearly stated). You shouldn't overgeneralize based on small personal experiences. Furthermore competition as a motivator is self defeating and it breeds egomaniacs. The goal is always for one's self and for something at the end of the process. It produces a need to achieve something that never arrives, creating frustrated poorly integrated young boys.

  22. @fatfacekid – ive since thought about it more – and would tend to agree with you – its obvious howerver that much is wrong with our system for all students -and i think femine bias in the class room is all too often a reality – the solution is smaller class sizes and more and better teachers abd more school days – at least these things would help though may never be acheived with out a resource based economy.

  23. @Flare400 and dont forget, no video games either. They would have rotted our brains and made us unable to focus on REAL education 😉

  24. I was kind of thinking it was a cultural difference too – boys are treated with less empathy than girls. Boys are told to suck it up and girls learn talk about it. Girls learn empathic listening and put it into practice earlier on than boys do, simply because they're girls. I can't help but think this too affects how minds are formed, because I think emotion gives logic the grounds on which to stand. I'm probably wrong.

  25. Not sure that she has it entierly right here. Video games in some respect are escapism, they are a failure to live life in the real world. You make something for boys in the real world, and they will want to live there again.

  26. @TselkeNoddles It's not "letting a group of boys gather somewhere on their own". It's encouraging sexual segregation and teaching them to view the other sex as weird and alien. And BTW, the girls scouts lets boys in. Not many join, but they are allowed.

  27. When someone says we live in a "feminine culture", they're probably just mad that men have to share the power with women now. They think men should be allowed to rape their wives, etc.

  28. @christophedetiege I agree with you. I understand concepts literally days before my class mates and just spend class thinking of video games concepts. WHen I go home I just turn on my Xbox bc I finished all my lame homework in school

  29. Shiiit, feel sorry for kids in the US in this respect.
    This isn't healthy. If you make kids hold back and bottle down thought and emotions you're begging to get some kind of mental instability.

  30. @RedTyphoon1 I don't know what comment you're refering to, but I never go to sexually segregated places if I can help it.

  31. Guys…'juliecranford' is a teenage girl. Give her a break. I can't believe so many people would start arguing with a kid

  32. Yeah…encourange and enable violence and a violent mentality to increase rates of writing. How STUPID! Regulate media and games so that kids don't grow up to be complete numbskulls. Implement programs to encourage morality. Change the culture to promote the family unit. The time for free-running media has to end as it only caters to the basest of human instinct. Goddamnit I'm tired of being addicted to things

  33. I will go one step further. I am a video game design teacher in a middle school. They are making games thanks to MIT's Scratch and Gamestar Mechanic and Kodu and a multitude of other free software programs out there. These kids love my class! They 95% boys. They are engaged in higher order thinking and problem solving and yes they are even creating art! I wish all boys could have the opportunity to be in a class like mine. This is the future. Boys want to learn and create.

  34. The girl scouts admits boys, at least my troupe did. But if they don't admit boys, then they to are sexist. It's not about a group of people just getting together — it's about a sexist organization enjoying popular acceptance and government support.

  35. I love how the only reason universities seem to care about slipping male attendance is that, apparently, without boys there they won't be able to attract the ever-important females.

    It's not important because men deserve educational opportunities too, it' important because without them they can't lure women. Awesome.

  36. American school system is messed up

    No wonder america is the asshole of the planet.
    That much suppressed frustration must go somewhere.

    Religion and its follower are to blame for this too, it seems.

  37. I wonder, how come boys achieve less in school than girls.

    MRI show there is no brain difference between the genders. Both are equally intelligent.

    Could it be as simple as teachers with bad behavior, passive aggressiveness, and the school rules ?

    In other words the female teachers are to blame.

  38. Women are acting like assholes nowadays compered to 50 years ago.

    I guess men lack the balls to say STFU woman, you are going to far!
    Have men become mentally castrated ?

  39. It's called _honest_ communication.

    Both genders are bad at it because both do not know how without acting like the other gender which is off-putting to many.

    What we need is much more understanding between the genders. How we think, behave, etc.

  40. no, these stats are not "nice" as she says, but luckily same ratios are likely when comparing intelligence, creativity and so on 😉 it is!
    Well, but she is right on some other points, esp when it comes to the "everybody wants his own child to be above average" argument. Hence, the expectancy to be "a winner" is heavily colliding with boys real life, while girls are proposed as such. Otherwise, this is not particular special for boys, or why did emancipation once start?
    Needs deepr research, my2c

  41. Uh, where's the proof that boys are actually different from girls?

    What proves these stereotypes true?

    Why should I think even for a second that our gender makes up who we are? Correlation does not prove causation.

    Incorrect attributions are more of a problem than anything else because we all seem to be raised by them.

  42. First: At the beginning of the talk it is mentioned, that the stereotypes in general are not true, but still apply to the majority.
    Second: Our gender does make up who we are to some extent. Why? Hormones. Depending on your gender you will have different hormone levels. Additionally the male and female brain also have their fair share of differences.

    Treating everyone the same regardless of their gender is a good ideal, but it doesn't apply everywhere, especially not in biology.

  43. Two things: First is a mother who has boys and girls respectively in girl scouts and boys scouts and was a leader in both. She said she liked the boy scouts better because when girls didn't like the rules the suffered with them. When boys didn't like the rules they changed them. This may be why boys do better in science and math to some degree.

  44. Second: In 5th grade, I was in an experimental math class where students learned and assessed their knowledge. Both boys and girls were in this class and the result was the whole class got to the level of completing pre-algebra. This was the first time I felt engaged in school. There was competition within and outside the classroom which I think was the main motivating force. After that I fell asleep for the next two years til I could take algebra and computer programming…(no follow-up…)

  45. I meant to say learned and assessed their knowledge at their own rate. Anyways point is that women work better in collectivist societies. Men feel hindered and unengaged unless they can show their individualism.

  46. Good to see someone speaking about this. I'm not sure if man and woman are "created equal" but they are certainly not created the same. Boys and girls respond to different teaching styles quite differently from each other. Education used to favour boys (due to the style of teaching) but now favour girls. Both situations are equally sexist. Perhaps a segregated educational system where each sex is taught according to their respective strengths and inherent learning types would be prudent.

  47. Excuse my basic knowledge on genetics, but I'm pretty sure why boys have more mental disabilities is because of the Y chromosome.

  48. Powerful presentation regarding why our boys are failing at school. These variables could be associated with bullying, alienation from school, disproportionality, poor attendance, discipline issues, low achievement and dropouts.

  49. yes it is, i was in it. and if you watched penn and tellers episode on the boy scouts you would know that there is a lot of endoctorizaton in the boy scouts, mainly against gays

  50. Biology teacher – that is not true. You should do more research on boys and development. It has nothing to do with the Y.

  51. Why the fuck did she feel the need to say that women still need help in school? Women currently earn more bachelor's, masters, and doctorate degrees than men and have every single gender quota working in their favor. They have women-only scholarships and women-only centers and boards designed to help women specifically as well as a fucking entire discipline CALLED Women's Studies.

    Can we fucking talk about boys without always throwing in the obligatory mention of how the womyns need help too?

  52. Also the gender wage gap is bullshit. When controlled for all relevant variables such as job type, education, experience, etc. there is no fucking gap.

    Stop parroting that same feminist bullshit. We are sick and tired of your lies.

  53. This entire problem was caused by Feminism. Read The War on Boys by Christina Hoff Sommers. Education is currently a hostile place for young men.

  54. It is such a relief to see a woman who stands for men, well boys to be accurate, but nevertheless. I have no grasp of growing up in western school, but from what she told I was stoned. And the zero tolerance thing is just stupid.

    I grew up in Russia. Once I've smuggled a real hunting knife to kindergarten, stole it from garage. Was so excited to show it to my mates. We even played some really exciting game with throwing knife in the ground and drawing lines to conquer other players "lands". I got caught of course and was scolded, but noone dragged me to psychologist, because that was natural thing, I was a boy who wanted to have fun.

    And guess what? I didn't killed anybody not then, not yet. I ended up being actually not violent type of guy, pacifist and cosmopolitain. We liked to play wars, not participating in them. Why me, as 5 year old milksop, can handle the idea of knife being dangerous thing and should be operated carefully, and some american child doesn't? I bet he knows that pointy side hurts, and you'd better not to point it towards people. 

  55. Came here to bring a little "2016" to the comments.

    "I'm here to tell you we have a problem with boys."….
    "Yeah, that's right, you go gurl."…
    "First, I wanna start by saying this is a boy. And this is a girl."….
    "OMG, Triggered, how can she say that? I need a safe space."(storms off angrily, before even listening to the rest of what the speaker says.)

  56. No chance for more males as Primary teachers, it's too easy to be accused of pedophilia or sexual harassment

  57. Wagegap is a myth. Gaming all night.. sudden drop of gambling? HOL' UP! Don't drag gambling here, does she knows what she's talking about?

  58. Ten years ago the kids could tell a sophisticated game from a simplistic edutainment game. Nowadays the elementary school kids play games on smartphones and iPads and they wouldn't know what a sophisticated game is.

    2006 kids had Oblivion
    2011 kids had Skyrim
    2017 kids have Bejeweled

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