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Learning at its Best

Accidentally Existential

The boys are playing Super Mario:
Joel: Get out of your bubble.
Micah: I want to be in my bubble.
Joel: You don’t do anything when you’re in your bubble.
Micah: You’re safe in the bubble.
Joel: But you never do anything. I’d rather die than do nothing.

I sit on the couch wondering what kind of men they will someday be, hoping that both is listening well to the other, begging the Universe to let the hold both in that beautiful, constant paradox of freedom and safety.


About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


5 thoughts on “Accidentally Existential

  1. I really enjoyed this post. My older 2 kids fuss at my youngest about this all the time! It’s almost as if you can tell that they’re growing up when they put gaining experience and taking risks over mere survival. I never really thought about it as deeply as you have here– very interesting.

    Posted by Tinashe Blanchet | February 22, 2012, 4:31 pm
  2. I spent a school year having kids play that game in teams every Friday. The point was to complete the most levels while losing the fewest amount of lives as a group. Lots of emergent strategies for staying alive and for helping others.

    I don’t find game-based learning accidentally existential at all. It brings out the existentialism in our kids in an age when schools do not. Games are designed to do so – even Mario – I think.

    How do your students talk about games, John?


    Posted by Chad Sansing | February 22, 2012, 8:36 pm
    • Video games often became metaphors – the sense of playing to make sense out of life. This was especially true as we talked about conflict, character and theme in literature or discussed events in social studies. The concept of strategy was huge. At various points, we played games to illustrate specific concepts (total war, imperialism, alliances with World of Warcraft or Risk)

      What struck me about this conversation was how personal it was. I had never seen games as so clearly, personally existential. They were always about BIG THEMES, but the subtle nuances of life – I had missed that in gaming, perhaps because I wasn’t listening very well.

      Posted by John T. Spencer | February 23, 2012, 2:16 am
  3. Perhaps children know what we adults have un-learned over the years.

    Posted by Brent Snavely | February 24, 2012, 7:02 am

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