A recent issue of Middle School Journal features an article documenting a study that focuses on the use of video games in the classroom.

By now, pretty typical stuff concerning learning styles of digital natives, problem-based learning and how video games are great learning engines. I am impressed with the attempt to link state indicators to the game being played (Restaurant Empire by Enlight Software) and the rubrics that were created to document learning.

I also like their results. Kids had to work in groups, use 21st century tools to chronicle their learning and present their findings to outside evaluators. Pretty cool stuff! Learning happened using COTS video games. And after all the work:

Can video game simulations be effectively used as teaching tools in today’s classrooms? Do they provide engagement, excitement, and problem-solving environments that will benefit today’s digital learners? Our project showed the answer is yes.

But what really caught my eye while reading through the research was a little data point that I had never seen.

At the same time the student population is getting harder to teach and motivate with traditional approaches, our teacher population is aging. In the Laramie, Wyoming, school district 61% of teachers are over 45 years old; 43% are over the age of 50. In the U.S., in general, more than 25% of teachers are over age 50; the median age of teachers is 44, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics (2000).

Forty-four!?

Am I the only one that thinks that’s . . . well . . . not young? As someone who starting teaching in 1986, it still came as a bit of a shock.

And I know that “old” is relative and that “old” doesn’t mean techno-phobic or unwilling to change. I’ve seen some great teachers using problem-based, constructivist learning strategies that are on the long side of the median age. The teachers in the article are a perfect example.

laptops.jpgBut just as I’ve seen great teachers use brain-based research to create wonderful learning activities, I’ve sat in classrooms where kids stacked their laptops in the corner because the teacher felt that “in this room, we’re going to learn, not play.”

My 14 year-old son is not the same as the 13 and 14 year-old kids I used to teach back at Derby Middle School during the 1980s. Kids have changed. Are we working to help teachers change with them?

As the teacher population ages, how can I can help them see the usefulness of video games? More importantly, how to help them see the effectiveness of researched strategies such as problem-based learning, cooperative activities and overarching big ideas? It has to be more than just a quick conference keynote or a catchy video . . . doesn’t it?

Put simply, what should teachers of all ages believe about learning and how do we get there?