Gaming in the Classroom AND 5 Classic Apple IIe Games

Couple weeks back, I was browsing the interwebs pretending to work, when I came across an interesting TED Talk about gaming. What made it even more interesting was that it was presented by third grader Cordell Steiner. The presentation was called ‘Individualization, failure and fun’, and I’m hundred percent certain that his parent’s helped him this.

Here’s the presentation, in its entirety. It’s just over 5 minutes long. Go ahead, I’ll wait.


First things first, he really gets on my nerves. There’s nothing more annoying than a precocious kid who talks like an adult. There’s something disturbing about it ­– something, unnatural. It gives me the heebie-jeebies, like watching a spider or millipede scurry across the floor.

You may be surprised by this reaction, since I have written many times that I’m a father myself, and you may be under the incorrect assumption that parents love children in general. You would be only half right. I love my daughter, more than anything in the world. Every other child is intolerable, and should be seen not heard.

Or both.

Or both.

I don’t want to be cruel, especially towards an argyle sweater clad third-grader, but his entire “talk” concerning games in the classroom is a non-issue. Before watching the video, I assumed that he was going to make a plea for mainstream and commercial games like Call of Duty, or GTA, stating how they improve problem solving or hand-eye coordination or some other stupid cliché shit.

To my surprise, he was speaking of educational games, which his third-grade teacher, Mr. Pie (TEE HEE!), assigns to his students. He goes into how the games assigned to him and his classmates are individualized, so that everyone can learn at their own pace and how fun it is. He waxes eloquently on how his teacher, the so called Mr. Pie (if that’s even his real name!) “rocks”, and how cutting edge he is. The little scamp even nonchalantly drops that he’s an “advanced learner.” Perhaps Mr. Pie should teach a lesson on humility next week.

Maybe I’m being tough on the kid. There’s a very good possibility that I’m harboring a wee bit of jealousy, towards a child no less, since no one has asked ME to do a TED talk. Sometimes, when I’m home alone with the dog, I like to give an impromptu TED talk to an audience of one. The wife may be out shopping, or visiting her mother, and I’ll just be inspired to give a kick ass presentation to the dog like a fucking BOSS! When I’m done, I feel fantastic. Maybe the dog will be awestruck by my rhetorical eloquence. Then she’ll lick her own ass and leave the room. MY DOG DOES NOT APPRECIATE MY IDEAS!

Meh...

Meh…

After watching the video, I decided to do a bit of research. When I say research, I’m referring to speaking with my wife, who just so happens to be a teacher with seven years of experience, and also currently teaches the third grade. COINCIDENCE!?!?

Actually it’s totally a coincidence. And aliens.

Actually it’s totally a coincidence. And aliens.

Do kids no longer have access to educational computer games in school? When I was in elementary school, back in the 80’s, when big hair was in and Michael Jackson was legitimately cool, we played tons of games on Apple IIe computers.

Matter of fact, the possibility to play a game on those old Apple machines was a bit of distraction. Many of the classrooms in my elementary school had only one and maybe two computers if you were lucky. The urgency to get your work done first for the chance to play a game on the computer led to some Lord of the Flies style shenanigans. It was not a pretty site when two kids finished their work at the same time and rushed the teacher to get permission to boot up the computer and play a game.

Little Simon got the message. He'll read a book silently in the corner.

Little Simon got the message. He’ll read a book silently in the corner.

Things have changed over the years however. Having visited my wife’s classroom multiple times, I’ve noticed that she has five desktops in the back of the room for her students. I asked if her students play educational games on those machines and she said that they do all the time. All of the computers are loaded with educational games and the browsers are bookmarked to hundreds of educational Flash sites.

So frankly speaking, what the hell is Cordell Steiner talking about? This is a non-issue. Maybe he’s speaking about schools in poorer areas, where they do not have the budgets to facilitate video games in the classroom, but he never states that in his talk. If that’s the case, then this is societal issue. I really can’t blame Cordell for that GLARING error though, since he’s just a kid, albeit a self proclaimed “advanced” one. I blame Mr. Pie.

...And his parents for dressing him in that HORRIBLE sweater

…And his parents for dressing him in that HORRIBLE sweater

Okay, enough on TED talks! Let us take a trip down memory lane, where acid wash jeans were worn non ironically, MTV played actual music videos, and Playboy Magazine had more bush than a botanical garden in summertime.

That's a big bush

That’s a big bush

Spieler Dad’s Top 5 Apple IIe Educational Games from the 80’s

5. Math Blaster

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All that I remember about this game was how cool the title was. In the 80’s anything with the word “blaster” in it was cool… probably. It reminded me of the NES game Blaster Master as well as the totally cool Master Blaster character from the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Sadly, Math Blaster has nothing in common with each of these things.

WHO RUNS BARTER TOWN!

WHO RUNS BARTER TOWN!?!

4. Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego

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I had the hots for Carmen Sandiego when I was in grade school. Carmen Sandiego, for a fictitious female thief is not unattractive. The red hair, the fedora, the sultry come hither glare, she’s a pre-pubescent boy’s dream come true. Was she a Latin? Pretty sure she was a Latin. I’d say she’s probably from Argentina. That means she’s red blooded and fiery.

I vividly remember Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego being so much harder than Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. What can I say, even as a child, I was so much worldlier and sophisticated. The borders of the United States could not contain me.

3. Oregon Trail

This is the game that made shitting one’s self to death into a meme.

This is the game that made shitting one’s self to death into a meme.

Every Brooklynite hipster has the t-shirt.

2. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego

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Did I mention that I had a crush on Carmen Sandiego? Sometimes, while playing this game, I used to fantasize that I was part of some international crime fighting task force, akin to Interpol. Carmen was smart, but no match for my wits. I will pursue her to the ends of the earth and I will capture her. She will crumble under my interrogation and we will give in to the sexual tension. We will then run off together becoming the most formidable art heist syndicate known to the world. Our lair will be a stately villa on the shores of Como. Antiquities and famous objets d’art will not be safe. We’ll sip cordials from our terrazzo while planning our next big heist, before retiring to our boudoir for a night of passion.

1. Odell Lake

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This game was my favorite. I’m not even sure that this game could be defined as being educational. You were a fish. You ate other fish. You tried not be eaten by bigger fish or caught by anglers. I’m not sure what this game was trying to teach. Maybe it was a commentary on society? Was it teaching the big fish little pond theory? Maybe it was trying to teach kids about the dog eats dog mentality of our society?

Or maybe this game was designed by a bunch of Minnesotan stoners and this is about being a fish. The world will never know.

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It’s a mystery.

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