By Ehirsh (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Ehirsh (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In his latest essay, “The Triumph of the Virtual”, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes his initial excitement for video games. He was happy that they engaged kids differently than the passive watching of television but then states that he did “not imagine the engagement offered by the new technology would become a Pandora’s box containing bait for the reptilian brain to feast on”.

Engagement of video games has ‘become a Pandora’s box containing bait for the reptilian brain to feast on’

“The incessant warfare (the child) takes part in is not virtual to the child, it is his reality…at a superficial cognitive level they’re aware the game is only a virtual reality, but at a deeper, emotional level they know it is not. After all, it is happening to them”, says Csikszentmihalyi.

Csikszentmihalyi is clearly a world renowned expert in motivation, happiness and creativity. You likely know  his work on ‘flow’. In fact, you are perhaps a real believer and apply it in your educational practice with students.

Csíkszentmihályi described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

Flow CC by benarent NC SA
Flow CC by benarent NC SA

“To achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer. If the task is too easy or too difficult, flow cannot occur. Both skill level and challenge level must be matched and high; if skill and challenge are low and matched, then apathy results.’” Wikipedia

Many schools have ‘flow’ rooms or, at least, try to design educational experiences to engage students in the ‘zone’ – or a state of flow.*

“We are headed for ‘a quantum leap into an abyss of insubstantiality’.”

Csíkszentmihályi fears that ‘in one or two generations children will grow up to be adults unable to tell reality from imagination’. We are headed, he suggests, for ‘a quantum leap into an abyss of insubstantiality’.

What do you think?


*Note: It has been central to my ‘way of being’ in classrooms for many years. I even had my most recent classroom – and, indeed, have this blog called “The Construction Zone’. (‘Zone’ doubles for ‘state of flow’ and for ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD).

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