Microsoft plays games with education

The irony. There I was relaxing by watching a cable show episode on a laptop at Camp Realist, when an ad from Microsoft interrupts the program to subsidize my free viewing. I didn’t mind the commercial interruption. What I did mind was the spin Microsoft was putting on college education, or how to be well-prepared for the college experience for the upcoming Fall semester. Here’s the commercial:

It wasn’t at all about the PC that could lead to great learning opportunities at college. It was about the fun a college student could have with the free XBOX in his (or her, but really his) dorm room. Unaware to me, Microsoft had this same promo going last year too. What bothers me about the commercial is that Microsoft has the power to push education but tries to get at the student with an entertainment box. Yes, I know about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and how much their foundation is involved in learning communities. But that doesn’t excuse Microsoft from going soft and trying to sell entertainment under the guise of education, specifically to young men going from high school to college.

What message is Microsoft sending about education? It could be argued that they want students to relax after a long day of studying. But when the add provides a  description on the pros of owning an XBOX and nil on the pros of owning a PC, that’s when I have to wonder about their intent. Per the add, “The Xbox 360 4GB Console… Wi-Fi is built in for easier connection to the world of entertainment… where HD movies and TV stream in an instant. Xbox 360 is more games, entertainment, and fun.” oh yeah, and pick a PC so you can get all of this free stuff. On this facebook page it states the PC and XBOX are all you really need for college, with a visual emphasis on the latter.

I would think that Microsoft would throw its weight around and toss in a free subscription to an online encyclopedia. I would think that Microsoft would have a campaign stating that you get the Office suite at no charge with the purchase of a PC. That would be a better educational investment if Microsoft truly wanted to make a difference this fall in campuses around the country. Instead, the focus is on games and entertainment. Bill and Melinda should think this one through some more.

Now I’m no fuddy-duddy. I’m all for entertainment. I’m all for relaxing after a hard day of work. But I don’t put relaxing ahead of educating during the semester. Yet that’s what Microsoft, by way of this marketing campaign, is telling students to do as they settle into their dorms and wave bye-bye to their parents until Thanksgiving.

I guess I have Microsoft to thank for making my career that much more challenging. At least I know what I may be up against when I return in August and do my best to motivate students to put learning ahead of gaming.

We want an educated society but corporate america, in its profit driven life, will not make it easy to reach that goal.