EdTech Inc.

There isn’t a whole lot of research as to why teachers leave teaching and work for software, hardware and media brands. Highly successful ones leverage their social media influence and reputation built during their classroom days. This is a currency with which they attract attention to their products and services. I am not saying for a second that they don’t know their stuff – quite the opposite. Their insight and skill is often well above that of the people who attend their sales presentations conferences.

Brands have become adept at creating pseudo journals, publications and conferences. Such terms as “Official [Brand] Educational Provider”. This is of course a biased and self-appointed slogan, nothing more. Conferences sales presentations are given seductive titles hinting at both a better future, and attendees belong to the correct-thought group.

The point I’m making is that successful classroom teachers, with deep knowledge are running the sales front for brands who offer limited proof (being generous) that their products make any significant difference to the overall excellence and success of students. Further, in the slick workshops and high-tech playgrounds – the chances of this skill and insight being synthesized and replicated has been shown to be slim. Once the day is over, there is no sustainable support, other than online advice from the evangelists on social media. Again, research has show how important on-going, sustainable support is in teacher belief. We also know belief is a key influence on adoption.

I find it increasingly difficult to reconcile, as the equity gap between the have and have nots is ignored, much like the selective engagement with Gonski funding. To me, teaching has been a united profession, but there seems to be a vast gap between rich and poor, rural and urban, fast internet and slow. For example, research is showing that low SES families rely on mobile phones as their sole technology while others have access to more than one screen consistently. It used to be that educational events would discuss these things as well as watch demonstrations by vendors.

Teachers are somewhat implicated however. Vendors have often been ignored, yet fund the event. While Teacher X is showboating their ideas, the vendors are stuck outside – and that’s always been wrong. Now the vendors are running more and more events and attracting more and more great teachers from the classroom.

I do wonder how this happens … why do teachers bail the classroom and move to sales?

The solution to the web isn’t a website

This week I’ve done some work around updating the discourse about social media and mobile learning. I’ve made a big effort to reconnect with the core – and really happy to find lots of people have spent 5 or 10 minutes completing my survey. What survey? Well, the one about parenting young kids online – click here and tell me I sent you.

Recent figures out show that kids are not only spending more time online, but they are spending more time streaming and consuming than ever. Teens especially are hitting screens until the fall asleep. The are also not surfing the web anymore. The vast amount of websites and videos they watch – billions of hours a month in Australia alone – are though links … from mobile apps. This means that they are not searching the web – finding their own stuff anymore. Just 9% of kids activity is about learning, news or careers. Well over 60% is about streaming media, music streaming and gaming.

The are also not surfing the web anymore. The vast amount of websites and videos they watch – billions of hours a month in Australia alone – are via links … from mobile apps.

This means that they are not searching the web – finding their own stuff anymore. Just 9% of kids activity is about learning, news or careers. Well over 60% is about streaming media, music streaming and gaming.

The canon of EdTech has always been that  tools  presented and promoted as ‘better’ would also give children the power to read, write and re-write the web. Who didn’t read Will Richardson’s book and think – give me some of them there powerful tools. Of late the message has become a dullness of ‘lack of creativity’, ‘jobs that are not invented’ and ‘this product is what those kids need’. This era is dead. The issue is how do we get kids to log off from consumer culture long enough to sleep. Parents have no idea how to deal with it – most are answeting work emails at 8pm and binge watching season four of Longmire.

The vast numbers also mask the issue of who has access, at what price and how fast.

The poorest people don’t have tablets or laptops. They don’t have computers – they rely on mobile phones and pre-paid data plans to participate online – so the figures don’t indicate how big the have and have-nots has become – just that everything is bigger and getting worse – and it’s societies fault. You’d be forgiven for thinking media is or has been regulated …

While the government avoids the issue of a proper media education agenda, the office for eSafety (yes that’s what they called it) has a website – with things for parents to read and some videos which depict the various monsters under the bed. If you are keen (I was) then you can fill out a massive form, be evaluated and maybe you too could be a ‘volunteer’ to deliver their message in schools and the community.

I don’t deny the need to educate society – after all, people have been calling for ‘media education’ for years – but this is it – a website that assumes parents are going to take a look at themselves and follow the guidelines. One can only assume this cost a small fortune to create and run – but the end node delivery relies on volunteers.

We need (because we pay taxes and are subjected to the media’s onslaught of news, opinion polls and advertising) media education. We need it to be funded. We need actual teachers in school teaching it. We can’t rely on the good will of teachers to do it or for people ‘who know a bit about it’ to become volunteers. That works for traffic management at the Olympics – but I poor response to the government’s own research.

Did you wear Digital Sunsreen today?

Yesterday’s post was a bit of brain-dump. I hate doing that, but twenty-four hours later, it feels good to have let a monster run free across the metaverse.

I think I’ll do more work around the idea of digital sunscreen, as I’m welded onto the idea that managing screen-time isn’t easy, but distraction is abundant. I’m hoping to raise awareness among the teacher and parent community – those with concerns about screen-time, especially towards social media and games. To that end, I think I’ll actively promote two hours a day (school+home) is an essential contract between parents and teachers.

I’ll let others continue their good work towards overall digital diet and the quality of screen-time. I think we all want the same thing – children who are connected to the world around them, having both the emotional intelligence and media management skills to be happy, mindful and be the best they can be. No tall order, given the vile media culture of outrage, fear, hate, and lies which bombard news broadcasts and social streams.

Two hours a day is going to sound ridiculous to kids and adults alike – but a decade ago, most kids didn’t get two hours a week in school computer lab. Fifteen years ago, they’d be sharing the family computer with siblings and parents, using dial-up and waiting to use MSN Messenger. It’s not so long ago that watching a movie was a day’s download – seed people seed! and no one had more than 2mpbs for the whole home or school. In short, not much used to happen in 2 hours – yet today, we’ve turned up the dial and can watch 2 hours of UHD movie’s via Netflix instantly while the kids are playing Overwatch.

Let us not forget, that most school Internet use is allowed though a risk-to-us mentality and is dominated by the commercial agendas and belief of a few mega-brands – Apple, Google, and Microsoft. The ‘social stream’ of edumedia is seduced and propositioned by brands (using teacher and ex-teachers) all the time – as no one has to declare their interests nor account for their actions later – but I suspect one day, parents will take legal action over the time a teacher ‘forced’ a child to spend on a computer which led to them doing something … addictive, violent or otherwise. No one’s using sunscreen – they are still manning ‘the great firewall’ in the dumb pursuit of ‘content’ being the monster under the bed.

However, the speed of the Internet is not a sign we can make sense of the media streams we can access. It’s faster, but we are not. In fact, as I said yesterday, the faster it gets, the bigger the deficit of attention is – and the less likely we are to cope with what is happening around us. Take US Politics – is it just me, or are kids not talking about it at school? Since when did Aussie kids do that – do they care, are then activating their global citizenship – or is Trump simply another ridiculous meme – among the clowns, Pokemons and gorillas? How much of that two hours a day should be allocated to Trump’s latest gaff? How do kids discover it? We simply don’t know because we don’t know much about the content that kids see – let alone engage with. As teachers, we can’t reasonably claim to be experts … but we can help them develop the kind of intelligence and competencies that allow them to manage and select the media they engage with – better than we are.

We simply don’t know much about the environments and emotions that trigger that thumb to swipe across the screen. That seems amazing, given the data streams and users, however, the research is very limited. We suspect a lot, but we know little. That’s why I’m saying, be cautious – think about what we lose every time we add another hour of exposure – are they 100% focused for that hour – Had they focused the last hour? – Do you even know what they used or saw in the lesson before yours? How much time has Amy spent online today? … The current mentality is to simply ban or take the phone away.

As teachers, we can’t reasonably claim to be experts or timekeepers in today’s media environment … but teachers can help them develop the kind of intelligence and competencies that allow them to manage and select the media they engage with – better than we are doing.

The first step is to think long and hard about our own behaviour online … and that of those we ‘see’ – are they modelling a two-hour exposure … or pervasive eduaddicts?

Digital Sunscreen – What does your school do?

I haven’t posted anything for ages. I’ve been thinking about ‘the digital diet’ and what’s missing in that discourse. The DD is all about what kids are doing in the time they spend with screens (good and bad) and how to try and come up with a ‘healthy balance’. There have been numerous conferences and seminars about this … but I have always felt there was something missing – and here is it – Digital Sunscreen.

Digital Sunscreen is made from a strange brew of emotional intelligence, competency, agency and attention. It’s what your child (and mine) need to wear when they are engaging with technology and digital media – gaming, social media or other digitial activity. Let’s face it, even when they go outside, they take their phones and iPads, so need some DS.

Protects for up to 2 hours a day where you will have the potential for excellence and astounding focus.

My main line of discussion here is that teachers (more than systems) neither wear it nor advocate for it in their classrooms. Very few have talked to parents about it and are in fact part of the problem, reluctant to buy it – or even acknowledge the need for it. Remember – current research argues for no more than two hours a day for teens.


Buy some Digital Sunscreen today!

There is little evidence to challenge the argument many teens spend more than two hours a day with ‘screens’ and this isn’t good for them. Some studies have shown that children as young as eight exceed this on a regular basis while research also suggests that screen time can have lots of negative effects on kids, ranging from childhood obesity and irregular sleep patterns to social and/or behavioral issues.

It’s a brave new world

This was said also said of TV and before that the research raised concerns about the social decay induced by pop music. In short, media has long been paraded as a ‘monster under the bed’. Up until recently, video games were slammed for their influence on teenagers too for the same reasons, plus an additional dose of violence. The fact that most of these games were designed for adults and not children hasn’t stopped efforts to create media panic. Other research about things such as imagination and play have been routinely ignored in the anti-game debate, despite media researchers showing time and time again that young people have not (yet) been given a serious opportunity to learn about media (including games) in schools. Check your school – do they have media teachers yet?

We are now are in a situation where children’s media choices and pervasive access to media (which deliberately targets children as consumers and social beings) is well beyond regulation and under-estimated in education. I argue schools have no idea how much time their students spend on ‘screens’ per day – on their own campus or at home. Therefore, digital sunscreen is not a factor or feature of policy or strategy. Instead, they talk mostly about cybersafety and digital citizenship – which lack the critical elements needed to engage children in media education from an early age.

Protects against slogans and unproven claims. Re-apply every two hours.

The advancement of both the technology involved in children’s education and socialisation in not also without concern. It does not stand outside the research on screen time. However, sloganeering, building peer-belief networks and social capital through popular media channels such as Twitter is an ongoing attempt to circumvent long-standing issues about the role of teachers in the media, the ethics associated with allowing consumer brands to actively influence teacher education and student education about the media and technology. In case anyone has forgotten, the syllabus remains ‘brand’ agnostic when it comes to using ICTs and in Australia at least, has a rich history in developing and supporting Open Education Resources. There is a clear erosion of this in education, which is embedded in the slogans, sponsored ads, hired-experts and events which no longer feel the need to address the kind of scholarship and evidence upon which the “ICTs in the classroom” was constructed a decade ago.

Before Digital Sunscreen, I was just another Tweet waiting to happen.

We are routinely asked to believe that X technology is better than Y and that if we don’t have it, then we will fail students and harm their futures. We are bombarded with this in so called ‘personal learning networks’. This is exactly the kind of deficit message that works so well these days. And there is an abundance of these messages.

The blistering acceleration of focus scarcity, or attention deficit may soon make effective evidence-based approaches to using technology in the classroom impossible. Teachers bemoan teenagers for this – however, the resident edu-media crowd on Twitter is modelling the exact thing they don’t want, just as teachers sit in rows at edu-cons listening to experts tell them how bad things are, how powerpoint SUCKS and how disengaged kids are when teachers throw content at them. Sitting alone on your lounge listing to Twitter experts peddle their mission message is the same as sitting in rows doing it.

See your local stockist today!

Edu-media has created a vocal set of educators, for whom social media is a rewarding social drama as well as a way to build social capital in a global income stream. They endlessly post their life-story in images and words – amplifying the core belief that technology is both useful and liberating to young people. On the other hand, where these people hold power – organisational power and sway – this also resolves itself as type of media violence – as those who work for them, might have some influence on them being hired elsewhere must conform – and amplify the core belief of the master and maintaining their dominant views of the group to chase off outsiders and critics.

I have a few questions …

  • Are teachers exempt from justifying their demand for  children to use select technology – regardless of background, experience, culture and media experience?
  • If children are using media at home, how is using screens at school be somehow annexed from the total time?
  • What information do schools provide parents towards in-school exposure to screens, and how to they govern use in an accountable way?
  • Do schools think (and do something about) digital sunscreen?

Do I wear Digital Sunscreen? – you bet I do.

It seems bizarre to watch some ‘leaders’ parade their love of technology online on a daily basis. Here is me with a Minister, a thought leader, a sporting hero – and here are MY staff doing X, Y and Z with technology. Pensky always said that there would be great competition for authority – and I believe, between the virtual high-fives of in-group bias – that the ‘fear of missing out’ and not being ‘top dog’ is the central point of exploitation by brands. The end result is a bunch or ‘important’ people, living their lives through social media – putting kids in front of screens – well beyond the recommended dosage.

Students (who are also children) continually fight distractions. Headphones on as they work, televisions on during dinner, text messages, emails, phone calls, app notifications … we see it every day. The solution to this is not more technology, or buying Microsoft Minecraft Education (*slaps head) – but to accept that teachers are implicated in sloppy shortcuts, like triaging email by heading, skipping voice mails, skimming Twitter and Facebook. It’s not just that we’ve developed habits of attention that make us less effective, but that the weight of messages leaves us too little time simply to reflect on what they really mean. That seems at odds with edu-media’s central claim is that technology increases productivity, connectedness, skills and knowledge (despite the scarcity of focus problem).

Economist Herbert Simon first noted, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” and yet heavy user personalities continually seek attention (and authority) by providing information they believe to be useful to their imagined audience.

Can I wear Digital Sunscreen and have a healthy digital diet?

I’ve been using the term edumedia sarcastically. The proper term is mission-driven marketing –  a way to turn awareness into action with those new to your product or to engage already-supportive people in deeper ways. It uses teachers, enlists paid and unpaid teachers and ex-teachers – to present itself as ‘the future’ in a duplicity of discussions and forms.

When did I start wearing Digital Sunscreen?

So do I hate technology a decade on from beginning to blog about it? No. Do I feel grubby about being in the vanguard of using “the read/write web”? No I don’t.  I was there at the time – and thought that this would change the way we approach learning (anything). I have since grown to appreciate this has not without creating new issues and amplifying the existing ones – such as screen time. In the last few years, I’ve become more aware and concerned about the impact of mission driven marketing’s effect on the time children are told to spend with technology directly (teachers) and indirecty (screen-media).

It leads me to think about the impact of school-based screen time on children’s emotional intelligence – and their ability to focus. No child can succeed in the modernist schools system’s we have – a mechanism designed filter society into workers and elites  – without this focus, and they can’t focus without activating their emotional intelligence – to manage media – be that campfire, waterhole, cave or life learning envioronments.

They can’t learn to do this that without better media education (digital sunscreen and digital diet) – the kind of message that will fly in the face of popular Twitter-sloganeering.

Attempting to increase excellence (in the current system) requires focus and to be conscious of the seduction taking place through screens. How we manage ourselves is not limited to ‘digital footprints’, but how it shapes our emotional intelligence and ability to move through stages of competency with screens in our lives.

So my last reader on earth … digital sunscreen – works for up to two hours. Get some today.

My Learning Exchange

My Moodle Course site – for my high school students is here.

My WordPress Blog Network – for my high school students studying DS106

Negotiations of Play – If you are an Australian family with kids under 13, you can add to my research! and find out more about parenting kids who play video games.

My personal blog – started in 2006ish is a decade of me talking about technology and education is still online here.

Find me on Twitter @Type217

Stuff you should know about this blog (and me)

This blog, it’s contents and ideas might not agree with your own. In such a case, I suggest you skip it. This work has no connection to my employers (past and present). My interest is in imagination, creativity, video games, parenting and using technology to creating imaginative, enquiry based learning.

Big thanks for Jim and Tim at Reclaim Hosting for helping me out after disastrous experiences recently with previous provider. Reclaim specialist in educational hosting, so give them a try..

The perils of using levels

I hear teachers talking a lot about using the idea of levelling from games in their classrooms. The basic idea being that students complete a set of activities sufficiently to ‘level up’ to presumably harder work or for a reward. This is like designing a learning activity on the idea that a Rom-Com usually has a happy ending.

I don’t want to overly gamesplain this .. but simply to offer  two ways of thinking about how levels can work. Both work, but the SOLO Taxonomy is probably better known – and has Blooms-like verbs to help guide the sequence.



If you are going to have students set out on an enquiry, the trick is to set each level up so that students can work through several activities which operate at these levels. The more able will quickly run over the lower levels, and those less able will have sufficient foundations to try relational and extended abstract. So levels are really about setting up learning such that whatever they are finding out moves from fuzzy and isolated to concrete and abstract – to a new situation – even if its visual arts!

Why I’m quitting Facebook

I joined Facebook a very long time ago. I think it was about 2005. I remember I was on teaching prac at Kingswood High School. I joined and didn’t see the point and  left it alone for many years. I didn’t really need it – and now, over a decade later, I really don’t need it.

Stephen Downes recently ditched Facebook, I think it was because he’s sick of the advertising and selecting display algorithm, but I was too busy scrolling to pay attention. I find myself posting images of cars to random groups with people who reward me with a thumbs-up. What am I doing? I’ve lost my mind. I’m reading people’s questions about cars and rarely are they answered, other than people who scold them or hijack the post to talk about themselves.

Perhaps a better term for Facebook is “The books of social judgement” as I’m even finding people I am close to – and talk to IRL – adding snark or being confused about what or why I’m posting. I think I’m posting because I’m bored and in my late 40s. No seriously, I think it’s a thing. Secondly, on many corners of the Internet—comment sections, forums, even Tumblr and Twitter to some degree—interactions take place mostly with strangers.

I don’t like strangers as rule, it’s just something that I’ve never been interested in IRL. I like to meet people – I’m not a shut-in, but there’s a difference between meeting a new human and a Facebook stranger. I think that many people I ‘know’ – ie have actually met and had a fun time with are on Facebook. Most of them don’t seem to post anything. On that basis, I’m an oversharer then. I seriously wonder – who the f**k cares – about whether my kids doing this or that? and why am I posting it? It makes no sense.

Then there is the relentless ‘sponsored’ crap that shows up – stuff my ‘friends’ apparently like. So far, research hasn’t established why people use websites like Facebook in ways that promote or harm interpersonal relationships – so no one knows what it’s doing to us.

At school, I’m so over Facebook social dramas. I think most of the kids are being hammered all day by messages from people they know and ‘friends’ online. The ‘fear of missing out’ compels many to pay Facebook that kind of attention most humans would welcome – and we can’t pay each other attention if we’re paying Facebook. Literally, we are paying is so many ways — and I for one have just grown tired of it. It is like a needy, yet pompous neighbour that just can’t keep off your lawn. Facebook is not cool – it’s as cringe-worthy as David Brent – and I don’t need that.

I can look up car shows. I can visit car forums and I can go visit humans I know. It’s nice to know people I used to know are alive – but I don’t need to know what they are doing, or the dramas and crap they are going through – between some marketing campaign slogan. So I’m out of it. Anyone who would like to come over for a beer or a drive … give me call. I’m not alone in quitting Facebook – there are plenty of reasons to drop it – all I had to do was look away.

Facebook is a timewaster. What I want to get out of this choice is to use the same time and energy into simply being myself, or a better version of me – the one with a PhD and spending weekends at the track.