Spatial Learning

Writing with a hypertext tool is a learning experience in and of itself. I think real learning is captured in the journey: you learn as you go and when you hit a snag, you figure the problem out, connecting what you know to what you don’t, and then entering a room with objects that look but really aren’t familiar. Knowing what a metaphor is is just a beginning. One of my mentors, Rick DeMarinis, wrote in a story that story is a great teacher. This is a complex and nuanced idea.

So it goes with spatial literacies. My son (aged 4) has a ball with video games, and so do I with him. I grew up with games and game-like spaces: tennis, football, Go Fish, and the walk to school. S is growing up with DVD interactivity, the PS2, and a world of manipulatable virtual spaces. His in-game “girl hero” has become a persona. My persona or alter-ego was GI-Joe. Our experiences with play are similar but different.

The video game has allowed him to practice reading with a purpose not just reading “to read.” If he can’t read, he can’t play. They’ve allowed him to critically decode abstract objects, such as icons and buttons. They’ve offered an opportunity to experience, evaluate, and chose between multiple kinds of spatial representation in order to make different decisions. In one game, he must toggle between 3 different representations of the same space–2D top-view, 3D elevation, and 3D 3rd person POV–in order to orient himself to and make decisions about a particular objective in a game. This has generated an interest in mazes and maps, including a card game that “teaches” geography.