“Save the Princess” – Let the game begin

I have given up trying to think of ‘the NECC’ post and it seem ISTE Connects did to (though it may get fixed), so I want to talk about how we’re going to save the princess from the happy clappers.

I showed this video at my keynote talk at CEGSA yesterday – which really summed up the emotion at NECC09. There was obviously a lot of good ‘technology’ tips shared; and an amazing array of demonstrations on how to use them, from the sales floor and being shared by teachers.

But it was the passionate, the emotional that kick goals – the magicians; not the technicians. Those who defy rational explanation or logic; overcome prejudice and fear that seem to have the most impact on me. Maybe it’s because I can understand what they are doing – and even be critical  – but for the life of me cannot explain just how they release those emotional chemicals in the brain to turn a half chance into a win.

At the same time, NECC09 is full of passive, happy-clappers, with open mouths, wanting to be spoon fed ‘the answer’. Thousands of them sitting patiently in yet another IWB demo by Chuck Panhandler on how the brilliant white screen will improve the teaching of science. And of course at the end of that is the free t-shirt. But I’m really not interested in objects; I’m interested in figuring out if any of this actually has a positive impact on learning outcomes, so I am looking past the pixels for the pedagogical adaptation to be had.

Let me illustrate. I can attend a lecture, but not understand it – or I could download the lecture from iTunes and play it on my iPhone – and still not understand it. Alternatively – I could stream the lecture into Second Life and talk about it with real people – who also could not make the physical lecture. Ultimately, I’d select the last – because I know that the emotional connectedness of discussion during the lecture helps me understand it that purely reflecting on it – or Googling some of the keywords.

Aha! you say – but I can do that with Ephumigate – no you can’t – Second Life is more like a radio-play than a information broadcast. MUVEs and MOOs are a shared reality – just like any other – except according to a recent report, that more kids play social games that use social networks (apparently) and are looking for jobs as game developers, not nano-scientists or bloggers.

What is it about the people that are telling me that I can re-model in my own backyard.

It’s emotional intelligence; it’s having people who can not only do it – but connect with people; scan a crowd; feel the vibe and all of that stuff that’s so damn hard to define. It’s no shock then after education has all but banished illogical, irrational and impulsiveness from assessment (those subject currently excluded from the proposed National Curriculum), that classroom experiences are, well, dreary.

It’s further no shock then that the 21C skills are not inside curricula – they are hard to assess with current methods; as to be brilliant – you need to not only know your subject and technique; but be able to make split second choices – almost without consciously thinking about it. As teachers, we cannot exclude the value of this – or assume that every learner has the chance to experience; fail and retry safely – to unlock this intangible, but valuable skill.

I heard people talk a lot about two issues in education: They are not principles (or principals) or the ‘techies’ and technology- they are the timetable and assessment. Making these ‘digital’ doesn’t remove the problem.

Change those and you are a long way to creating the conditions for change – why? – Because teachers need time-tables and need assessment to do their job – unlike Web2.0.

But we can’t ignore the spoon-feed culture – we’ve all fed from it at some point. If you really want a school to change, then get someone in who can work with teachers; weather the storm; has got answers; can re-model practice – but makes them work to understand why it’s important. (But if you do that they stop clapping).

At CEGSA, I said we need to think of learners as magicians, not technicians – that when the experience being good at something; working with friends; connecting and having an emotional reaction – then we create conditions for change. Perhaps this is why so many fantastic projects are based in magic and emotion. Someone else showed a game that a student had made – a student that other teachers apparently thought was ‘useless’.

Much of what you see in any presentation cannot be expressed in typography and layout. The are enriched with music, video, emotion and physical presence is now a shared reality with the same virtual ones – the two combine and develop a heightened experience. Kerry showed me a video where a kid talked about how he’d drive 3000 miles in his first car; but had driven 30,000 in games – so felt comfortable with reality because of virtual.You can buy a wi-fit – and get fit – by playing games – and also use it to augment learning in PDHPE – a Wii is not a console unless that is all you know.

I guess this is why airlines don’t actually let novice pilots out with 737s to pull high bank turns – but use games. And I do smile when we come into land at Sydney and the happy-clappers do their party piece. They are perhaps unaware of the house that those pilots spend as kids (and adults) playing flight simulators – but are emotionaly grateful not to be swimming in Botany Bay.

I propose a competition – to celebrate creativity – a sign to be hung on every classroom – physically or virtually to remind us all that what happens inside should be scholarly – using shared reality to create magic. (No I have not been on the egg-nog in July). It should read ‘no spoon-feeding the inmates’.

We need to recognise and appoint leaders based not on logic or reason alone, but on emotion – just as a film director ‘knows’ that an actor is right for the role. Or a student wants to be in a band – or dance.

Until we do, we will remain at the mercy of human resources, criteria and logic – all of which won’t save the princess.


5 thoughts on ““Save the Princess” – Let the game begin

  1. jeez, do we have to do a NECC post? I like your point about back channeling. I learn more in most backchannels than in actual presentations they go with…perhaps it is because people ask more questions there…I wish I could have seen your presentation at CEGSA…I am sure the back channel was superb! Hope you get some quality family time now…that you are overly edumacated…

  2. Good post, especially the emotional intelligence. The lack of support in the curriculum for educational impulsiveness does a great disservice to our students. By this I mean that the teachers are so fixed (esp in our VCE)on teaching for the assessment, there is no time allowed for students to follow interesting questions, adjuncts or some of the more esoteric notions that come up. These however can lead to the real “Aha” moments which, when it happens, as a adult I love. They are the more memorable times, create a real interest in learning and can be the catalyst for change/growth/etc. Our students just don’t get enough opportunities for this sort of personal exploration. I was lucky at school that I had some teahers who did take the time to follow leads and were passionate about all aspects in the area they were teaching. Some of the technologies make it easier for teachers today to do this but the ‘classroom straight-jacket” seems to be more prevalent.
    I too would love to see that poster on classroom walls!

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