Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A (Select) Start

I’ll never forget that sequence.  It was the secret to getting additional lives at the start of the Nintendo game Contra, and the only way my brother and I could finish the whole game in a weekend.

Fast-forward 25 years… last month I memorized Luther’s Small Catechism for a mid-term exam.  I’ve long forgotten it.

In A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown demonstrate how play is the basis for cultivating imagination and innovation.  “Where imaginations play, learning happens.”

They describe our current time as an “information economy” where expertise is less about having a stockpile of facts at our disposal and more about knowing where to find information and how to determine if the source is reliable.

I can think of half a dozen places where I could quickly and easily find Luther’s Small Catechism if I need to, and approximately zero situations in which I would wish I had it memorized.

The Nintendo sequence on the other hand – that was memorized through practice and out of a strong desire to master the task at hand.

Before anyone gets too worried about this pastor-to-be valuing an 80’s Nintendo game over the Small Catechism, let me add one more thing.  There actually are a few parts that I still have committed to memory.  They are the parts that I have recited my whole life in worship and the parts that I have applied to my life in practical ways.

If you’re interested in exploring a new framework for teaching and learning, this is a great place to begin.

Thomas, Douglas and John Seely Brown, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating Imagination for a World of Constant Change, 2011.


3 thoughts on “Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A (Select) Start

  1. I think you just described the Liturgy of the Video Game. I’ve been considering lately how much the patterns of worship at my small home congregation have shaped my understanding of community and faith as much as or more than my confirmation class. The class certainly provided a foundation but not like the one I picked up by being with a group of people in worship and community year in and out. And the wild thing is it’s something I never set out to learn.

  2. I’m smiling again as I read this post for the second time. I should have commented on it the first time, but I think you’ve nailed a particularly good example of the difference between participatory learning (ie. the nintendo sequence) and rote memory of the kind you did for us.

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