Monday, 30 June 2014

Jason Thompson explains why students must fail, and why professors should watch video games

Jason Thompson
Last week at the SAS (Society of Animation Studies) conference in Toronto, Sheridan professor Jason Thompson gave a brief but fascinating talk on "Why our students need to fail". Citing the book by Guy Claxton What is the point of school?, Jason argued that school is important because of eight critical things that students must learn:

1. Curiosity
2. Courage
3. Investigation
4. Experimentation
5. Imagination
6. Reasoning
7. Sociability
8. Reflection

Jason then posed the question "Why are our students not more engaged in school?"

Maybe school should be more like this
Answering his own question, Jason argued that students are engaged – but with video games. Game players love it when they get “The Epic Win”, that feeling of success that makes them feel great. Games like World of Warcraft gives us chances to be tested not too much, not too little, but "just beyond our abilities". Game players "get challenged on the tipping point of our ability".

Jason went on to apply this to education, arguing that students need to feel the thrill of a "Level Up!" in the classroom.

He then cited a book by Jesper Juul titled  The Art of failure. Juul argues that successful video games give us “a fair chance” to get past the monster, and that it is this that makes them work. In order to succeed, we have to fail first. Coming back to education, Jason argued that in school today both educators and students are now too afraid of failure.  Hence, "Girl Guides all get badges", and everyone passes the test. Educators have become "afraid of failure". Students ask "what if I fail?", and educators respond by passing everyone.

According to Jason, the author Seth Godin says that we should ask a better question: "After I fail, what then?" After all, successful people don't necessarily succeed initially. Many fail, "and then overcome their failure". Success in life is less about succeeding first time and much more about failing, trying again, and succeeding he next time, or the time after that.

After all, Disney failed – he lost Oswald The Rabbit, and then created the famous mouse which made his name. Steven Spieflberg was rejected by film school three times. Jason quoted Winston Churchill as saying that : “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”.

Spielberg - a failure?
So maybe if students worried less about failing a test, and educators were less concerned about passing all their students, we would be doing everyone a favour.

Here at Bucks there is, just as at any university, a grading process which takes place over the whole course of our students' three years of study.  Grades matter, because the university says they matter. However, we emphasise to our animators and digital artists that what really counts (in the real world of work) is not their grade, but a continually improving body of work that can eventually be turned into a killer demo reel. A great demo reel helps our students find work in the industry of their choice - which grades, no matter how stellar, do not.


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