Parenting Gamer Kids


, ,

As part of writing my thesis and working with families around the “Negotiations of Play”, I’ve decided to run a parallel project to write a modest eBook relating to some of the work I’m doing. Not all of my thesis would be interesting to parents, but to me the point of doing it is to have some practical value on raising gamer kids.

I’ve decided to start to compile the book in a way which will see sections released FREE and online via a subscription. Ultimately when the thing is done, I’ll put it into a service such as BookBaby where it can be downloaded as a finished thing. I’m interested therefore in getting YOU to subscribe to this — and to give me feedback on your parenting experiences along the way. This might sound odd, giving away my ideas, but to me it makes sense — and this is what I’ve chosen to do.

The first installment will be open soon, and I hope you subscribe. It will be looking at “Parental Belief and Child Rearing Practices” and will appear in parts over the next 3 months. I won’t be ‘blogging’ about it, but you are welcome to subscribe to the FREE updates online — but it will be mostly limited to the effects of parent belief on children’s behaviours, academic achievement, social and cognitive development. The final eBook will contain information about ways parents can mediate and help their children use video games as a positive media-source and use of screen-time. I’ll be putting this out in three parts and hopefully the final book will be completed by 2017.

I’ve chosen to do it this way because it seems to make the most sense. I don’t need an agent or publishing deal — just an audience of parents and teachers who are interested in the topic “Negotiations of Play”. I will however be using a copy-editor and editor for the final eBooks as I’ll have enough on my plate with the thesis itself.

I’m kinda excited to do this — and to be making some life-changes to make it happen. I’ll be posting information about how to get all this soon. Thanks for reading!

Writing tools for imaginative minds


, , , ,

Writing in Word sucks for anyone using imagination towards creative expression. I have no doubt that those who love to write in linear forms, obsess over grammar and follow templates love using Word, but for millions of the rest of us, it doesn’t inspire and Banksy seems to get by without it. I often wonder if people become habitual Word users eventually, more interested in the oxford comma than a new idea.

Ideas were never meant to be put into Word, they are to be drawn, torn up, scribbed on, re-arranged and debated. Word almost certainly means ‘critique’ and ‘literal interpretation’. Hands up who wanted to work in a typing pool when they were young, and who wanted to be in Hanoi Rocks until Razzle died.

Many people, especially creative people are all about being difference engines. The easiest way I know to explain it is to cast your mind back to childhood (tempted to sing “up and around the bend). The kids who loved to ‘read’ comics didn’t finish them in moments, but pondered them for weeks. What was going on between the frames was just as important as visual text. They processed it, imagined what was going on and what wasn’t — and most of them wrote and drew their own comics. Comics were not academic when I was a kid. A sure sign of a vague, wandering mind — the smart kids read books and the diligent kids studied grammar. I liked books and writing too, but liked comic books and was obsessive over the fluidity of handwriting and the formation of letters into words. I grew up to study illustration and typography. I was probably in my mid-20s before I was forced to use Word.

There is an alternative. Scrivener2 is a great non-linear writing tool. I don’t have the inclination to explain it all here — suffice to say, if you like to work in pieces and figure out how the pieces come together, you’ll like it. Then there is the other tool Literature and Latte make – Scapple. It’s a mind map gizmo. It lets you think in organised pictures — move pieces around, and then drag that drawing into Scrivener as the basis of a document. You can also use MindNode too, but I’ve moved to Scapple because I just find it faster to use.

When you’re done — compile your masterpiece for Word, PDF, ePub, Kindle, iBooks and even share it via Amazon.


Using Duck Duck Go for more private search


, , ,

I know there are many search engines which offer alternatives to Google. I also know that Google has become a verb and that most people gravitate to it without too much concern about why Google is showing you this particular information (and ads) and how much of what you do is shared with it’s vast network. With Google search embedded into corporate websites for search too — it seems that even if you go direct to a site, chances are your search, location and history is shared for future commercial interests.

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 12.35.20 PMWhy am I showing you Duck Duck Go then? Well first up, it’s a Google friendly search layer, which says it doesn’t share your information with Google. I use a VPN a lot of the time, and Google hates it. One reason to use Duck Duck Go seems to be less whining from Google about “we can’t tell who you are”. Next up, it integrates into Chrome with ease. Lastly, it’s fast and has some user-friendly options to help filter your experience. I’ve started to notice, ironically via Google Analytics that Duck Duck Go appears more and more often as an organic search origin. Admittedly my traffic is very small, but never the less people do seem to be using it. A recent article in the Guardian broadens out their business model if you’re interested.

For parents and educators, the choice about where to go to find information as well as the tools used to do is not limited to Apple, Google or Microsoft. While I recognised the marketing mission to see these things installed in schools as firmly as bells and stackable chairs — Duck Duck Go as a default browser will disrupt commercial agendas — and the results of the search are far less media-laden.

Notice what it calls BANGS. These are things you can toggle on an off as sources for the search itself. There are hundreds to choose from, including those we know people use most often. One thing which is really useful is “Show Meanings”.

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 12.35.45 PMWe know from research that first-page results has a huge influence on people’s perceptions of information-importance. It’s also the central mechanism Google use to eek out money from advertisers. To get on the first page (CPC) search requires money. You’d be amazed how much, even for obscure terms. The lucky highest bidder will be surrounded by secondary advertising too, so ultimately even if you rank first, you’re never alone. For students, it’s very distracting at best.

Simply displaying information differently — like this — will cause students to wonder why it’s not the same as Google, and that is an opportunity. One way to expand this important realisation is to talk about “The bubble” which Google puts people inside. A great way to do that is to look at the “Don’t Bubble Us” site, which has some great (simple) example graphics to talk about.

I wish I’d had more of this kind of technology several years ago. Tools such as Duck Duck Go would have been in my SOE because ethically there are HUGH issues with the commercialisation of children though technology (and information). The idea that information — what you can and can’t see should be based on your current circumstances, location and available history is as dark as any dystopian novel has eluded to. I am not saying avoid commercial tools — but do come up with an argument as to why not positively considering alternatives to Google Search is “good practice” and not just “yes, I told them”.

A-W of Useful PBL Words


, ,

PBL is known for its open ended questions which can’t be easily answered. Cynically, some will say that PBL can’t be assessed “properly” because of it. Not true. In fact, one reason to become a PBL teacher is because you want to ask questions which demand focused and specific responses. Here is a quick start list of words to build questions and measurable tasks.

Useful objective words for PBL

adjust, alter, analyse, amend, answer, approve, assemble, assess, audit, build, calculate, call, carry out, categorise, check, cross, close, complete, decide, describe, develop, diagnose, divide, draft, draw, eliminate, explain, estimate, extract, file, find, fit, generate, hire, hold, identify, implement, inform, interview, justify, label, lift, list, locate, lower, make, mark, map, monitor, name, negotiate, obtain, operate, perform, pitch, prepare, place, plan, prove, question, read, recommend, remove, report, research, review, schedule, select, sell, solve, spend, state, supervise, spell, test, train, translate, turn, update, use, verify, weigh, write.

“Autism “Awareness” – Ten Things You Should Know” on YouTube

Its autism awareness month. This video should be watched by everyone. People with ASD do not come with ID badges. There is no normal, simply a-typical. People without ASD meet difficult, rude and kind people all the time. There is no reason to assume these people should be labeled either.

This video highlights why some people process information differently. In particular the value of meaning what you say (normal people often disguise their actual meaning) and the value of details.

Most important is the message – different but not less. You might be amazed to Google how many successful, influential and famous people in history haven’t been normal.

If all that seems too much – remember this — ASD doesn’t mean broken nor is it an excuse to behave unkindly.


Minecraft digs deeper into learning.


, , ,

Minecraft has many potential benefits in education. I believe these are being under-estimated. While some uses seem obvious — building a sustainable house, making a replica of a ancient monument and so on — it’s important for teachers (and parents) to recognise and value the learning processes which are happening. I’m about to argue these processes have widely been considered the domain of adult eLearning — and are skills which go beyond many definitions of “21st Century Learning”. In addition, your children and mine are bringing these skills into school.

Regardless of whether a school allows or sees value in Minecraft, there will be a significant number of children (using sales, age and platform sales) who have these skills and are sharpening them evenings and weekends.

Let me be more specific here. Using John Keller’s ARCS model of motivational design, its possible to show Minecraft is teaching kids skils that get buried underneath ongoing controversies around screen-time.

Keller’s ARCS Model for motivational design

  • Attention – Get the learners interest and curiosity
  • Relevance – Show the importance and usefulness of the content to the learner
  • Confidence – Including challenging, but do-able activities (tasks and sub tasks)
  • Satisfaction – Make the experience worth it (ie Why should I care about this?)

Using computers to assist learning only really works when the learner feels satisfied and commits what they learned to long-term memory. We’ve all been to demo or had training where we walk out and never revisit the lesson.

As a parent, it’s totally frustrating that my children seem to remember a thousand items in their favourite video game inventory — yet can’t remember what todays homework was. Keller’s model is the foundation of many eLearning and classroom activities. What I’m saying is that we can see kids doing this without any adult prompts or motivators. The brilliance of the game design is that it allows humanistic learning.

The major problems of our age deal with human relations; the solutions can be found only in education. Skill in human relations is a skill that must be learned; it is learned in the home, in the school, in the church, on the job, and wherever people gather together in small groups. – Knowles.

Minecraft doesn’t have ‘rules’ on how to accomplish a task other than the machine-rules about the properties of objects in the virtual landscape together with the players ability to interact with those objects. The game itself allows an ‘idle’ state where by the player can do nothing at all if they want. Time passing is marked by the sunrise and sunset. The first task learners perform is how to create a personal space — where they can be safe from harm. The classic hierarchy of needs becomes realised almost immediately. She builds a shelter by analysing her performance constantly to race again time and if successful in that task — starts to think about deeper task analysis.

This is hugely powerful stuff. A four year old is undertaking constant task analysis more often than they are reacting to tasks set. To me this represents a significant alternative view of “flipping the classroom”. Among the questions she’s asking herself (and seeking media information to answer) are:

  • What’s the complexity of the task?
  • How often does it needs to be performed?
  • Is the task critical to the end state (performance) I want?
  • Is this task separate, connected with or linked to other tasks?
  • What does the overall task-relationship look like?
  • What are the risks associated with not being able to complete the task?
  • What background skills to learners need to perform these tasks?

It’s critical to acknowledge that kids playing Minecraft are developing two fundamental skills. They are working towards developing the kind of reflective, critical “self-directed” skills previously associated with adult learning.

This immediately creates new challenges and opportunities. Minecraft allows kids to engage in humanistic informal learning by becoming self-directed learners, maintaining deep motivation towards their own goals. I think Knowles would have liked Minecraft.

This will, to some, clash with many EdTech’s assumptions about what kids can/should do with computers. In particular who benefits most from using them – students, system or teachers. It fly’s in the face of popular opinion and assumptions. When I then hint at the power of connectivism and network culture, I begin to see kids as part of a new and vast network of learners.

I think using this lens, kids are doing things in Minecraft is quite staggering. The objects they make are not the measurement of their achievement, but simply a landmark on their increasing ambition, skill and knowledge. As I said at the beginning of this post — I question the need to create lessons for Minecraft. I see greater value (to them) by simply allowing kids to play for a few hours a week. This has benefits which so far, EdTech has really not achieved despite vast investment and enthusiasm.

Minecraft is not just a game — it’s a sandbox for self-directed learning which is probably one the most significant skills children will need in the years ahead. Obsessing over “digital literacy” seems a particular teacher and system obsession.

(Tapped on a phone, in a train).

5cs of leadership in network cultures.

Today I’m posting this, the 5c’s of leadership in networked societies. If you like, it’s the five things I value most because it’s also the five elements I believe exisit in successful online and offline society.

This is why a kid plays Minecraft and why Minecraft is not Lego for example.

This is what we have learned to be, rather than learn about or learn to do because of networked cultures.


Games are not classroom toys.



This post is intended to highlight how ‘trends’ in social media CAN create more problems than they solve. In the rush to include popular culture in the classroom, some educators now see games — especially video games as something to port into their so called ‘GBL’ classrooms. They assume that because games are ‘fun’ and that game scholars have shown players learn — bingo — add it to the pop-bazinga-bullshit bouncing around Chitter. Ideally there could be 7 steps, a diagram or a template to slap on top of content.

If games can be brought into school, kids could …. If that is true, then firstly, describe the archetypes of this pedagogy and in what context it might be true. Oh crap, gamification just got harder didn’t it … don’t worry, play splashy fish and just say they are learning. There are some very serious problems emerging from the general idea that everything can be done simply — and that all the answers are online. So far that hasn’t been true for anything else, so why with the most complex media in society?

What they want to know has to fit with what they want to believe, based on what they already know. For example which games are the most fun, and the ones kids learn from the most. They want to believe games short-cut social and cultural disengagement as well as increase academic understanding. A better social inclusion program and assessment plan could also do that too. But these are also things that schools struggle to re-position in society radically different to even ten years ago.

Why is a classroom a place to start toying with complex media is a serious social concern. Why not do it though research? Why does it have to be done ‘live’ with kids (who get no say and may well suffer as a result) — and why conduct it via Chitter?

Games are not made from things which will be ported into classrooms to make kids happier, more engaged or more interested in what the teacher has to say. This won’t of course stop teachers dragging games into classrooms and not only doing a really bad job of using games — but waste valuable time tinkering with things they don’t understand when they could focus on things that are needed.

You can’t run today’s game-culture on your busted platform or find the answers on chitter.

Living off world

As a shop owner, I would dearly love to be given a 200 cyclists every 16 weeks and not have to concern myself with how that came about. I would have their exclusive attention and time to force them to ride the electric bikes I like (and sell). If they refused I’d could ban them for every riding any kind of bike again. It would be a brilliant way to create a loyal following and establish myself as the electric bike authority for the future. I could bring in other electric bike friends in and together we could educate dumb cyclists and sell them stuff well into the future. The future of course I would claim will be so much better if everyone rode electric bikes.

While I’m doing this, I’d get them all to Tweet about left handed handlebars and how dumb cyclists are. It would be gr8. Then I’d wake up and realise that I’d need to design these bikes, know how electrics actually work and do some actual research.

What It Takes to Stand Out in a Crowded Market |

This is a very interesting post about being human and valuing quality over quantity. It isn’t written in educational contexts but it seems entirely relevant.

I often think those whom often theorise and seek to ensure others know their correctness are out of sync with the actual user base. Most of the time “they” are the subject of someone else’s interest and viewpoint.

Many users are not having anything like an exciting or satisfying time. They don’t have time to debate the semantics and details of this or that new technology. They don’t have the opportunity needed to get sufficient training or experience hours up before being parachuted into the techno theatre.

There are also many for whom (as this article describes) simply copying an existing idea which plenty of people have either done or knew about in a different guise or time. For example: audio and video has been used for decades to foreshadow lectures and classes. Today it takes on new cultural meaning though new representations. In popular culture. That’s an organisational memory problem.

Quality is something to strive for and quantity is only one possible measurement. Knowing 20 theorists names, 100 apps or the name of every ferry on Sydney harbour doesn’t change a thing in the minds of others. I have always avoided it. I read Game of Thrones … Before I saw it.

Being human centred means recognising that “people” (the procedural rhetorics objects) are not as advanced as the enthusiasts rhetoric can over estimate. This resolves itself as under estimating the day to day needs. Sure, shooting for more is valid, but shooting at ghosts is pointless.

More importantly, much of the social-edtech rhetoric is wrapped around corporate and individual ambition, not reality of the human experience. The more human, personal and honest the relationship, the more likely success will be. Slow down. Be okay with hearing — were not there yet.

For every person excited and adovating technology  there are ten more that are utterly fatigued by it. To get anywhere takes a lot more time than is often desired. Humans work with other humans. There is no elite technology class saving the world but it is interested in quantity (big data) — how many courses; how much data; how many apps; best blogger; biggest influencer etc.

Humans who value quality and the inherent kindness and patience of colleagues will try new things. They won’t if people simply copycat ideas or flood them with more fatiguing demands and media panic.

Happy International Happiness Day.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 258 other followers