Why create playlists for Flipping The Classroom

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Playlists are awesome. If you are planning on flipping the classroom (FTC) then they are essential. My view of FTC is that using media to support learning is a good idea. The patterns and schemas used by everyone to access media to support their goals is substantially altered from traditional classroom delivery of information (chalk and talk and so on).

At the same time, the idea of  additional production time needed amid the increasing ‘do more with less’ environments of today’s educational agendas seems daunting.

Thus playlists become important to those who want to enrich learning and have limited spare time. Playlists are not bound to the kind of linear explanations of Khan nor the high production efforts of Extra Credits. Playlists provide a rich thematic landscape for students which can be endlessly tuned and tinkered with.

For example, if I want to talk about ‘gamification’, I can create a playlist which is based on some simple Blooms taxonomy. For example, videos that list examples, that explain what it is, those which demonstrate it in action etc., I don’t necessarily want to order this using the ‘feed me’ methods where we trot though each topic and idea in sequence. Best of all, I don’t need to make anything at all to FTC and give students something to move around in.

However, I do need to know something about how to find media, organise it and then string pathways though it. I want to make my classroom ‘playable’. This post isn’t going to cover that, but I will set out two key ideas.

  • Playable playlists turn work into play, where play is joyful means of production. My class time therefore becomes a place of synthesis, justification, organisation and design thinking. The output might simply be a better playlist or the removal of dodgy items I stuck in there because students could make a decent argument to delete it.
  • Non-playble playlists are also useful, but they are not a means of production for the student. For example, a collection of how-to videos which scaffold learning. They might give tips on software or help people figure out workflows. These are things we just ‘need’ as bricks to get the playable stuff done. They too are background and I might need to make some or more likely edit things other people have made. In this case I need to start using something like Jing or Snagit — but essentially I’m remixing rather than making it end to end.

Finally — the teaching stuff.

This is all about balance. Sometimes it’s new things I want people to try or things I want them to avoid or rethink. Most of the time I think Jing is great because it limits you to 5 mins and suits mass broadcast and you wont go on and on too much. Ultimately the course design still adheres to good principles in Blended Learning, but you are now flipping out new ways to use media beyond the idea of pre-recording tomorrows PowerPoint. You are organising learning in new ways which get ever further from the linear origin.

To get started all you need to do is start making your own playlists. I suggest YouTube is a simple place to begin. For the more adventurous you might use Pinterest or Diigo … because you are going to need more than videos. In the end your flipped course uses playlists so much that students can use them like a cargo net to get up and over just about anything.

Flipped, Blended with a side of confusion

I’m not going to try and define ‘flipped classrooms’ or attempt to distinguish them from ‘blended learning’. I don’t promote myself in this area, and to me using media well is just a good idea. It’s only when this stuff is backgrounded by the functional literacy culture that educators have used for decades that ‘rich media’ becomes some sort of new whizbang thing.

By now, most coursework in contemporary education should be taking advantage of the deep feature set that is “the web” and software that runs though the Internet layers and applications. For example, don’t upload a .doc or add it as an attachment when students can use gmail+drive+kaizena to author a draft, share it when they want to whom they want — and then that person gives them audio and text feedback inline with the document. The teacher and student are flipping and blending the feedback loop in new ways, using a free tool and one free extension. There’s nothing confusing about this, it’s just better design.

Rich media is any medium between the parties that creates meaning. It does not mean HD video or fancy production. What really matters is how well one person can show another person how to optimise their work flows — without feeling like they broke some unspoken rule. Students and teachers benefit most from better workflows — which is not to be confused with system needs or commercial needs. Remember kids, EdTech’s just like K-Mart with less signs and an infinite isle of products.

Brands vs Scholars

Im just wondering if recent changes to how Universities offer courses (and what courses) will start to see them use the kind of promotion seen in MOOCs. For example, to get people into a game MOOC, grab yourself someone who’s popular in both pubic reading and discussion and also academic realms. That way you get the exposure and the scholarship. I can totally see why having a big, popular name in a MOOC would assist it’s enrolment if not the participation of students and drop-out rates.

But what if Universities now start to bring in popular media stars into course too. For example, “Secondary Educational Methods” featuring “Greg Whitby” or “Educational Leadership” featuring “Darcy Moore”. At what point do peoples relative efforts in intentional or unintentional self-branding become valuable as a marketing tool. We’ve seen corporations try this before such as McDonalds, only to meet criticism. At the same time, many who use personal-branding as leverage for their corporate brands. For example Will Richardson’s Powerful Learning Practice … which goes well beyond Will of course. I think many people do have a vision and want to create ‘entities’ which I also think are mostly effective in meeting selective gaps and needs. But I wonder, why would a large institution want to cross-brand with what are ultimately very small businesses.

Student Evaluation: The day one method

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tumblr_mluyz16Nk01qzi5bfo1_1280This post is for teachers, especially new PBL teachers. Its about getting student evaluations of your practice. If you’re new to PBL or new to teaching there’s a natural concern about how well you are teaching for understanding not just to be interesting, fun or charismatic.

Inspired by a lengthy explanation of how to go about “student evaluations” (related to higher education) I’ve found over several years, there is often an assumption that this is an end-of-course diagnostic. I won’t go back over the issues students have with evaluation of courses — and teaching, there is a ton of literature about that — yet we’re still seeing lots of discussion about the most effective ‘survey’ which is related to what kind of survey tool to use. Again, not interested in that debate either.

What Project Based Learning taught me, though observation, experience and theory is that all PBL course designs begin with the end in mind. So how can you create an effective student evaluation at the beginning, if in actual fact you’re not too sure how each session will go during the project? In higher education, courses are often required to submit exams in say week 5 of a 16 week course, meaning that teachers are often locked into things they can’t easily change. In schools, the hallowed “scope and sequence” is a compliance document and often only certain people can change it, and many teachers see it as bondage. Do not move off the path!

Of course PBL is all about reducing the distance you can see down the path. You know where the end is, you have plan of how to get there and the kind of resources to take on the trip … but can you really design an effective ‘student evaluation’ at the outset?

Yes. It’s remarkably simple if you’re using technology. Just create a blank Google Document and share the link with your students. That document is something you get to comment on, but they get to author. Personally, I like to have students create ‘anon’ gmail accounts from day one too. but I understand some people will have some regulation which might prevent this method. For you, just share a OneNote or a bank document via Dropbox, some internal drive and so on. There is a way you can do this I assure you. Also, share this document with your colleagues … because they too can give you advice and tips just at the time you might be struggling or unsure.

It’s a critical document because it creates trust between you and them — and shows that throughout the coursework/project you are actively thinking about teaching, and what it means to be an effective teacher. As you change, your students change and society changes around you — this approach lets you revisit your values, technologies and what is important to you and your students THIS time not everytime.

In short, the most important document you can share with a student is a blank one.

Now who’s too busy to do that?

Axing the Interactive Games Fund

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Among the raft of cuts made by the Australian government, which it’s leader describes as ‘grown ups’ in a rather patronising manner — is the axing of the Interactive Games Fund to the tune of $10million. This was set up by Labour of course and administrated — very well on most accounts — by Screen Australia. Screen Australia are in turn doing some really important work around ‘screen time’ too, and in fact one of the few bodies to be doing so. The Australian game industry is reportedly worth $1.45 billion dollars in 2012.

Why would you invest in games development? Simple. Games are the multi-billion dollar growth industry which can start in your bedroom and take the world by storm. Australia is (unless your are media hermit) known for being great at games. Go and look up some of the most influential games in the last five years … Australian’s are massive. Then consider that many in games also work in social media, marketing, advertising, film and television — so it’s not ONE company or a few grants which government killed off, but a valuable pathway which also includes education and life long learning. It’s hard to dismiss the culturally conservative undertones which focus almost entirely on game content and ignorant of game-play. The embargo-banning of games such as Saints Row is a typical example of not understanding the medium itself. For example, game-play is vital to the experience of a good or bad game, not content which is background (James Gee). Game-play would therefore be critical to medical and military simulations and so on. It will be important to training and education … but the fact that games have zombies and Murdoch hates them is sufficient it seems.

Compare this to the $248 million allocated indoctrination of children by un-trained and deeply culturally filtered people who freely wander into schools, where as media education is still waiting outside. I know massive spending and massive cuts make more sensational headlines, but for Australian gaming, this fund barely got up before it was pwnd.

I am clearly not a fan of neo-liberalism, and as a free minded citizen amazed at any ideology which believes it can legislate, starve or in any way prevent the continued rise of the interactive media entertainment industry globally — and bemusement at the simplistic ‘leaders’ who believe it prudent to dismiss Australia’s contribution so far or the value of this industry into the years set out in their ‘return to surplus’ as though that has any meaning in today’s society.

 

The Digital Laundrette: Technological Determinism

I rarely if ever talk about work. It’s a fight club policy. Today is an an exception, as a colleague (Anon) used the phrase “Digital Laundrette”. Nothing spark the imagination more that a mashed up culture. What we’d discussed was a sort of post-web2.0, post-ICT integration, post-expert, post-gatekeeper world where those who enjoy and see benefits from using technology are constantly thinking of ways to use it better — and not simply repeat, copy, clone or marginally adjust what has come before.

I should point out we’ve both been doing this a long time and have seen many technologies come and go. What is common to each is that they are invariably discussed as being being good or bad in a ‘global’ sense. We discussed how people short on time, often on short term contracts, classes of hundreds never tens of students find time to learn this. Some people are surprised to learn many  people teaching in Higher Education have no under-graduate or post-graduate degree in teaching, let long how to deal with hundres of iphone toting students rolling into tutorials and lectures.

Technology, and places which promote it’s use are not however digital-laundrettes where learning and teaching problems with technology can be dropped off, shoved through a spin cycle and picked up later. As we know from public life, the advent of the domestic washing machine has not meant less clothes to wash or liberated anyone from the chore of washing clothes. In fact most accounts of the washing machine say it created work and an entire industry to support what was once a systematic operation with some clear (if dirty) inputs and clean outputs. At a time where teachers in all of education are being to a) to do more with less and b) take the political and management beatings dished out (by people with no teaching qualifications) … technological determinism has seek people who design and work with technology (to blend and enhance learning in new ways) to often find themselves in situations where people rush it, drop off and leave … because they are so dammed busy and stressed they don’t have time to peruse the vast amounts of detergents, softeners, machines and other products and solutions that apparently makes for ‘good washing’.

It’s a bizarre situation: On one hand, digital laundrettes are taking care of business, while big business is taking care of itself — selling more solutions with marginal pedagogical difference of imperatives. Don’t forget — selling technology is a multi-billion dollar enterprise … where as supporting or teaching with it is a ‘deficit’ envrionment. After all, if we knew what we we’re doing there would be no need for more technologies to supersede the last.

So do you ‘feel’ like you’re in a laundrette — or are you a fashion designer?

The Screen Time Pandemic

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I gave an interview this week about children and videogames and in it I sensationally described ‘screen-time’ as the first digital pandemic which constitutes nothing less than an expanding public health problem. In someways I was reacting to a repeating concern questioners have about games and childhood. The media, as I’ve said many many times (as have many many other) perpetuate public anxiety among parents about the ‘potential’ harm videogames cause which is broadly based on scientific claims.

Let me take a swipe at science for a moment. I mean they are totally asking for it right? Imagine for a second that a clash of theories and ideas exists between artisans and scientists. Not too hard to imagine is it? and if you’re still not convinced … why did the chicken cross the Möbius strip? To get to the other… eh? Hang on… You get my point, science is not to be trusted absolutely and of course can claim vast amounts of ‘crazy’ themselves. One of the most alarming was (and still is) giving children electro-shock ‘therapy’ because the daydream too much. Thanks science, but just because you invent a therapy clearly does not mean you also found an actual problem and as an artisan I’m of such free will as to find some of the methods being used to demonize games (and build an even bigger therapy industry) suspect.

But there is a digital pandemic. We see it everyday and it demonstrates how little interest and emphasis there is on public policy and education on dealing with it. While it might not be as physically destructive as passing round Benson & Hedges to adolescents, screen time is treated very much like gambling. We know it is a serious social problem for families and individuals, but it’s not as important as other things like buying fancy new fighter-jets.

The big social difference is that ‘screen-time’ is notionally free and doesn’t require betting in terms of wining and losing money. However, like gambling technology doesn’t favour the punter but the owner of the networks, devices and software that ‘screen timers’ use, just like card tables and race-tracks. The amount of time people spend using ‘screen time’ is much more important than focusing on individual applications of that screen time. In a way, we are more worried about smoking effects in the home than we might be in public spaces like trains, schools or cinemas. The concern about ‘screen time’ is almost the inverse of common public heath issues such as smoking or gambling.

As I said today, there has been a call for a more robust and cohesive approach to media education, which is going to be no less of a long hard slog than convincing people that gambling or driving when tired has experienced. And let us not be coy about the deadly effects of screen-time. We are seeing plenty of social issues related to individual use of media (trolling, prank calls, bullying) as well as people using their phone while driving with fatal results. We are beginning to see some efforts to raise awareness of screen time, but like smoking was in the 1950s the companies profiting cannot be allowed to self-regulate the solution, or co-opt selected areas of medical science to rebuke public concerns.

It makes for interesting conversation, perhaps even a topic for a PBL class:

Should we be concerned about the screen time and public heath: and what should be done about it.

This is the essentially the popular media-proposition that was leveled at film, television, video recordings, the Internet and videogames … except now the device in your pocket can do all of this. I can be a weapon of mass: consumption; consumerism; communication; destruction; deviation; deprivation and much more … I am sure you could create an A-Z of the potential issues to public heath and civic society that ‘screen time’ presents — and there are now very very few devices which exclusively play videogames.

 

Videogames and Australians

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It would be incorrect to assume Australians have responded to the phenomenon of videogames in the same way other nations have. In a sense today’s contemporary gameplay is a global network of servers and players whom preference certain games or genres. However, despite the ease of access to international information about videogames, childhood, parenting and school, very little information is based on national evidence and is not one single progression of discussion, study or debate – but a multitude which often have little in common aside from the term videogames.

I argue that videogames are essentially grouped into three periods of study and interest. Each period of study has seen increasing diversity and technological advancements of videogames and gameplay. I make a point of also separating videogames and gameplay because they evoke quite different conceptions and emotional reactions in both adults and children.

The first period is pre-2001. I realise that between the mid 1970s and 2002 videogames made many technological and cultural advances, but in terms of study, this period was concerned mostly with what games are, what play is and the effects of video games on society. It followed a long tradition of viewing media with suspicion and conducting experiments with small groups of participants to try and guage how playing certain games (mostly violent and sexualised) altered the behaviour of the sample subjects. As numerous scholars have argued, the methods used to do this are suspect and they made many assumptions, demonised and simplified games to the point of being little more than an erant-interactive film. Despite the claims from clinical science, it has not been shown to lead to real-life violence in any predictable way.

The second period is between 2001 and 2009. This is essentially because this period of scholarly interest and research began to look more deeply at the assumptions being made about videogames. In the literature, you will find many respected media, sociology, game and educational academics began to write about and discuss new dimensions of games and critically appraise the ongoing claims about aggressive and habitual behaviour in real-life. People like Marc Prensky, Jasper Juul, James Gee, Henry Jenkins and James Seeley Brown expanded the field of research (and potential research) well beyond the realms of science, economics and mathematics. This era also is the foundation of the majority of ongoing debate about videogames in popular culture. It plays out in newspaper, magazines, television and websites on a daily basis.

The essential question is usually: Are videogames bad for childhood development (and therefore society) and what should be done about it.

The answers probably lie in the third period of research and study of videogames, which can best be described as beginning. In Australia and prior to 2008, videogames were treated in national studies as a leisure activity. In that regard a videogame was treated like a trip to the movies, playing a game of soccer, listening to music or reading a book. It was not treated as a media-text with unique properties. It was not investigated in the public domain in association with or in preference to the kind of media-choices that families take in their stride in 2014. Most significantly, it was not treated as a form of literature nor something which was used in education or the workplace.

We therefore know very little about videogames and Australians right now. We have seen reports of statistics, but these often focus on simple demographics and size of the market. This is unsurprising given the close association some scholars now have with the games industry — and how secretive the game industry is about their data and their customers players.

In 2008 we knew that most parents were not overly concerned about aggression, violence or so called addictive qualities of video games. We also know that those parents with children aged 12 and over we considered to be the first generation of children to have grow up with access to video games and that over half had played video games as a child and continued to do so using a computer. Again, no specific details on the type of computer or game and even less about consoles and handhelds.

We can’t compare todays figures with older figures because there have been significant revisions to how videogames have been classified and how questions have been asked at the national level. For example, videogames are now considered part of children’s ‘screen-time’ use, but as most parents know — that use varies as does children’s access and the type of games they can play at any given available time. No data is being collected on the use of screen time or games in education, despite the billions of dollars of educational technology funding lavished on teachers and school systems since (weirdly) 2008.

What we do know is that the media presents videogames in ways intended to gain the attention of parents: either as customers or to perpetuate the same ‘media effects’ panic which has been rolling though popular media since the 1930s. We do know that all children and the vast proportion of adults play video games of one sort or another in the home, where as the vast majority of teachers and students (identity switch) do not. It strikes me as bizarre that some teachers are now expressing new interest in game-based-learning as though our culture has not already embraced it as media entertainment and used it to make sense of the world from the inside out for a very long time.

Videogames are a prolific and much enjoyed form of media entertainment in Australia. Despite ongoing media panic, Australians have not had the level of negative emotional reaction to videogames as might have occurred in other nations. We can’t assume that data and facts from PEW (American Life) can be generalised to Australia in the way the Aussie Dollar is a bit like the US Dollar.

We don’t need to hide from teaching and studying games, and games don’t have any excuses to make. The fact that Australians are highly likely to engage with complex, computational problem solving from pre-school onwards despite un-ambitious and media-conservative educators and narrow media ownership whos dislike of games is obvious — is quite remarkable.

So if anyone questions why you’d want to use videogames in school or home it is fair to say that as a media-text we see far more value in them than media reports broadly admit and far less danger than they claim.

First person vs third person media experiences

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One problem I see with assumptions about ‘going digital’ in education is that so far, it almost always means using technology and not understanding media. For example, few online commentators talk about ‘media education’ or ‘media pedagogy’, they hook their discussions to the technological wagon and then point out ‘pedagogy before technology’. As I’m going to show this is because their are using FIRST person media experiences and taking ‘protective action’ against what they see as harm. Arguably this hard includes: loss of status; employment or promotion opportunities; connectedness to students and social inclusion. Their drive to be online may well have little to do with education at all.

TWITTER and EDU-TYPES

A gaggle of educators joyfully re-tweeted an assertion by Twitter itself this week that educators ‘dominate’ the Twittersphere. That’s quite telling really, given anyone who spends time with educators would put the discretionary-voluntary-user-base at under 5% (a generous guess on my part). This of course appealed to the FIRST person Twitter users. It made them feel correct in their own choices and most of all SAFER. Theres no way of knowing how the other 95% of educators reacted to this announcement (if they even knew). They are more concerned with their own FIRST person experiences of media — political rhetoric about budget cuts; casualisation of the workforce; media announcements by their institution and so on. Twitter to them is at best another THIRD person media experience.

If educators are the ‘alfa-group’ at the fore of using social media for civic debate, it indicates that there is little cohesion of thought for society as a whole in social media. It strengthen’s support for media theories which suggest topics (called trends) come and go very quickly — and that these trends are at best ‘temporal’ settlements. Even teachers who use Twitter fade away get bored as soon as they realise this reality. In short people are drawn to issues and events, not civic structures such as education or professions such as teaching. For example, there is no #ActorChat or #SoapOperaChat. There are of course new versions of IRC happening like #edprimschat but arguably people participate here out of self-identity and being seen rather than solving any actual deeper issues in education itself. There’s nothing wrong with IRC, people have been ‘chatting online’ since the mid 1970s about it’s potential for education … welcome to the party finally. So why don’t these people use Second Life or a Google Hangout — why do the ONLY participate in a form of TEXT IRC? — the answer lies once again in FIRST person media and protective action.

WHY PEOPLE TAKE ACTION (or not)

Educators use of narrow bands of discussion by choice. They always have enjoyed the privilege of being self-selecting and the major selector for everyone else — the power of being ‘the teacher’. For example, when teachers say “I’m working towards using games” they actually mean, I choose the media-text around here and I don’t choose that — why? because they can and always have seen this as a fundamental ‘right’ of being a teacher. Nothings changed – now they ‘allow’ Google Apps or Twitter perhaps — but media-choice is not in the hands of students as a FIRST person experience as teachers see students in the THIRD person — despite being life-long learners themselves of course.

TEACHERS are concerned about their own safety

Media selection (and rejection) is related to teachers personal sense of safety. It’s not primarily about identity (which is just a feel good). A common finding in studies of societal use of media since the 1930s has shown this to be true –and Twitter is just a form of media-text and sort of procedural rhetoric (which is why Twitter is also game like). The aim of the game is to survive, to predict the intention of others and to take protective measures. Those measures can be defensive (I don’t use X, I don’t agree with Y and so on) or offensive (I’m running #edChat or I endorse M over K app and so on)  from a FIRST PERSON experience.

Most teachers experience this media via the THIRD PERSON (observing colleagues, being told at a seminar and so on). They arefar less likely to take action — and it actually reinforces them not to each time someone bangs on about it.

Why people don’t participate (the 95%) is not because they are ‘boring’ or ‘old’ educators but because those who do are not focused on how media works, but on the effect they want to see — more teachers talking about digital literacy, knowledge networks and such – on Twitter itself. If it’s happening in a school, off line or because people are studying it in a course — they can’t see it.

This somewhat rails against the popular opinion of adopter/lurkers or literates/illiterates which thrive in the edu-twitter cultures — but when you think about it in terms of harm and protective action as a media psychology it makes much more sense than inferring some teachers are laggards or irrelevant. They are taking action — they are not buying into this particular media-text (Twitter) because people’s concerns for their own safety rather than for others’ predict their intention.

 

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