Montfort Secondary School in Digitial Life!

Thanks Gary Tan for typing this.

Mr Simen Lourds is no geek. The principal of Montfort Secondary confesses to being “not very good at computers”. Indeed, he ended up shooting his team-mates while trying his hand at Counterstrike recently.But the high-energy man, who picked up his guitar halfway during the interview to sing, is a student gamer’s dream educator. He recently organised a DoTA All-Stars competition within the school and even paid for the prizes, worth $1,100 in all, out of his own pocket.

The 49-year-old has also fought for a gaming centre to be build on-campus, and has recently got the green light from MOE. The $80,000 gaming centre, located near the general office, will be where student can play the latest games. It is expected to be ready by next month.given these efforts, the school won the Gears of War tournament at the Interschool eGaming Challenge 2007, beating 16 teams from 14 schools.No doubt, his openness towards gaming has endeared the principal, a former national athlete, to his students in his all-boys school.

Among the many SMS messages received from them is this one : “You are THE best principal!”So far, there have been none of the adverse effects such as falling grades that is often linked to video games. The school has obtained value-added academic results for the past three years, something Mr Lourds expects will continue even after the gaming centre is well underway.

Why are you bringing computer games into the school, when other schools are doing exactly the opposite – banning them?

You can’t stop students from gaming. It’s the interest of the new generation, and the schools are fighting a losing battle trying to stop it.I won’t fight it, I will manage it instead. Furthermore, we want many peaks of excellence – our students should also have talents in other areas rather than just academic (ones).

What are the benefits that the gaming centre will bring to the students?

Firstly, by making gaming services available in the school, my students don’t have to go to outside gaming centres and be exposed to negative influences or health hazards there, such as smoking.Secondly, we can also manage them better. For example, before they can even play, they must first buy a coupon and get the teachers who have taught them on that day to sign it, certifying that they have completed their homework and have no CCAs to attend.

Once the coupon is signed, the students can then use it to start playing their games.We will also control their play time. After playing for two hours, they will have to stop and report to a waiting bay, where there will be plants to provide fresh air and a board displaying some eye and hand exercises for them to follow. They can only return to their games after 15 minutes or so.Currently, we are looking at ways to make gaming more healthy. for example, most gaming centres use neon lights, which are harmful to health.

Our gaming centre will be illuminated by natural sunlight instead.I will also be setting up a club for students, who will play a part in managing the gaming centre. This will help foster entrepreneurship in them.

Did your plans to set up a gaming centre in school meet with any resistance from parents?

They loved it! Some of them did raise their concerns, but once I explained the concept to them, they realised they preferred to have their children here, where their gameplay is monitored and their health taken into account, instead of gaming centres outside which many not have any social responsibility.As the principal of a Catholic school, doesn’t it disturb you that most computer games involve violence? Life itself is violent, with all the tsunamis, earthquakes, and wars. We have to get our students ready for real life and not try to shelter them.However, there are some games that do go overboard. When a game is deemed unsuitable by them, students and teachers, who act as consultants, will come to me. I will personally test out (the game). If I find that it is indeed too graphic or too violent, I will ban it.

But the recent Virginia Tech shootings by the south Korean student…

We have to understand that violence is not just from computer games alone, but from many sources like movies and television.Education is the key to managing violence. The Virginia Tech shooting serves to raise awareness; it is an incident that teachers can highlight to students for them to understand the reality of violence.