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Don't Bother Me Mom--I'm Learning! Paperback – February 14, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Scientific American

As kids spend ever more time in the virtual world, the debate over whether video games foster harmful or helpful real-world habits rages. Marc Prensky, an educational software developer, is pro-game. In "Don’t Bother Me Mom—I’m Learning!", Prensky maintains that kids "are almost certainly learning more positive, useful things for their future from their video and computer games than they learn in school!"

Prensky wants to ease parents’ fears by describing how kids see gaming and what they learn. "[P]retty much all the information that parents and teachers have to work with is a lot of speculation, conjecture, and overblown rhetoric about the putative negative aspects of these games," he writes. Unfortunately, his counterstrategy is to throw together a similarly speculative mix in defense.

Prensky presents an opinionated argument filled with anecdotes, a few studies, and quotes pulled from published news stories. There is no evidence too specious: he cites a recent study that found younger, newer radiologists were more accurate in reading mammograms than older, more experienced doctors and asks, "Could the higher visual acuity gained from playing video games be at work here?" How can the reader know, when Prensky didn’t talk to the researchers to find out if the study was trying to answer this question?

He also takes the easy road in response to studies that find a link between aggressive behavior and violent video games: "Absolutely no one can say, when all the complex factors in a single child’s life are taken into account, whether any individual child will be negatively influenced overall." Of course not. The question, however, is whether video games are a risk factor for aggression and, if so, to what extent.

Nor will Prensky concede that there could be anything wrong with new technology. Writing about cell phones, he says that "the first ‘educational’ use students implemented for their cell phones was retrieving information on demand during exams. Educators, of course, refer to this as ‘cheating.’ They might better serve their students by redefining open-book testing as openphone testing." It is not hard to believe that children are learning problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination from video games, as Prensky and others have written. Nor are all video games about killing things. But parents who have concerns about potential negative effects will be hard-pressed to fi nd thoughtful, well-researched answers here. —

Aimee Cunningham

From Booklist

Prensky debunks the accepted wisdom that video games are harmful to children. Instead, he contends that games can teach a multitude of skills, including problem solving, language and cognitive skills, strategic thinking, multitasking, and parallel processing. He cites research showing the benefits of games in teaching skills children will need in a twenty-first-century economy, pointing to the military use of games to teach strategy, laproscopic surgeons who play games as a "warm-up" before surgery, and entrepreneurs who played games growing up. Better yet, Prensky details positive attributes of popular games, including the controversial Grand Theft Auto, and addresses parent concerns about children becoming addicted, socially isolated, or developing aggression because of games. He offers recommendations for particularly beneficial games as well as Web sites to advance parent learning, and provides sound advice on bridging the gap between what he calls the young digital natives and the older digital immigrants. Parents and teachers will appreciate--and enjoy--this enlightening look at video and computer games. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Paragon House; 1St Edition edition (February 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557788588
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557788580
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #793,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This is a book I feel all parents should read. Though I'm what Prensky would call a "digital immigrant," my accent isn't too thick. I may be nearing 40, but I got involved with computers as they came around and have never been afraid of technology. Gaming, Internet, etc.--I love it all. And, despite the fact my gaming time has reduced as I've gotten older, I've never really understood the hysteria over computer games.

For parents, this book is a great primer about video & computer games. It makes a case for why these games benefit children but, more importantly, it explains a lot of the gaming & computer jargon and gives examples of a lot of the popular software. If a parent really wants to make an effort to understand what interests their child about computers, this book is a great place to start. It also gives parents encouraging advice on how to connect with their children through these games.

I used to be quite a gamer myself (I leaned towards the strategy games like Civilization and Railroad Tycoon). After reading this book, I went out and bought Civilization IV (and The Sims for my wife) and rediscovered what I loved so much about them. Hopefully, when my children get to the age when they want to play computer games, I'll be able to participate with them on some level.

On the other hand, as a veteran teacher, I'm not convinced by some of his conclusions about the educational value of these games. I agree that these games are certainly not detrimental, any more than other "traditional" child pasttimes. (Any activity--reading, sports, etc.-- can be detrimental if done exclusively and to excess. As parents, it is our job to monitor all our child's activities and press them for moderation when we see them slipping into excess.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was introduced to the author's work on Digital Natives by a very smart and unusually open-minded colleague at the National Geospatial Agency, and I am hooked as well as relieved.

The greatest complement I can give this book is that my 15-year old, a master of Warlock, saw this book come in the door and immediately took it away from me and read it overnight. He gives it high marks.

This is also the book that inspired me to take Serious Games and Games for Change *very* seriously. Most gamers do not understand the need to work toward an EarthGame that includes actual budgets and actual science, but Medard Gabel of BigPictureSmallWorld gets it, and that's enough for me.

The list of games provided at the end by the author, to create a serious game home learning environment, is priceless. Some may be overtaken by events but the bottom line is that digital learning is vastly superior to rote learning in schools.

I am a participant in three Hacker communities--Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) based in New York, Hac-Tic based in Amsterdam, and Hackers/THINK based in California. I have met thousands of hackers over the years, and I am certain that the best and the brightest are not those with straight A's in the current school system, but those that tune out the high school regime by their junior year, and start learning what they want to learn on their own. My oldest son just won first prize in the Fairfax County digital music content, representing his school, but he will not graduate because he refuses to spend time on Algebra 2. He has very high SAT scores, will pass the GED with an almost perfect score, and will take digital music and digital art courses at three colleges in the DC area as a non-degree candidate.
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Format: Paperback
"Don't Bother Me Mom - I'm Learning!" is a vital book to read if you're the least bit worried about the computer and video games your children are playing (or would like to play).

There are, however, many aspects to this book that make it much more than an enlightening and positive response to all the objections, criticisms, negative opinions and fears that surround the world of digital gaming - it's an equally important read if you want to know what's happening in the rapidly changing world of teaching and learning.

Of particular interest to me as the father of a home educated boy was the mention in the book of developments in the application of games technology to the school curriculum - including a little something called "disintermediation", or 'cutting out the middleman', a subject I've written about myself.

To be honest, I was practically bouncing up and down with excitement as I read of the possibilities for learning and self-development that are emanating from the most recent advances in video gaming technology. The potential now unfolding is absolutely thrilling.

But, even if you're not as ready as I am to share Marc Prensky's enthusiasm for computer and video games as a means of educating and preparing our children for success in the modern world, you'll discover at the very least from reading "Don't Bother Me Mom - I'm Learning!" that what you may have been reading or hearing in the media about the games melting our children's brains and turning them into violent zombies has been both highly selective and greatly exaggerated.

Something that quickly became apparent to me as I read this book was that negative opinions about computer and video games tend to come from people who don't play them!
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