Keeping Dragons

There are new merchants in the digital-exchange. You’ve probably noticed them with their corporate hash-tags etc.,

There will, for any given innovation enclave always need to be a middle earth, and at the center a marketplace that attempts to feed off it. There will also be people who believe they have dragon-eggs and who simply prefer to take the TV apart, rather than watch the advertising on it.

Therefore there will always need to be a conduit between the two. Right now it’s Twitter and Blogging for teachers, and along this road (called the PLN highway), numerous people have set up stalls for travelers. Before that, we had books and journals, with similar markets and traders. This appeals to digital-commuters, those who use their downtime to explore and learn online – the downtime learners.

This isn’t to say, or expect, that merchants are also downtime learners, in fact I’d argue they are far from it – some have hardly changed their stall in a decade. So it’s logical, to me that what we see, isn’t what is really important, it’s just merchandise.

This no doubt will change over time, and subject to market-forces. What makes this really problematic to me, is that while most people can recognize the traditional commercial educational market (courses, schools, universities, lectures, tutorials, conferences, books and supplied resources etc.,) they are far less able to recognize these things offering as commercial or non commercial in the digital commuter belt. It doesn’t help that what we think we see, is often a facade for some other interest, and it takes a long time, and a lot of learning and sense-making to begin to see ‘people’ though their digital-artifacts and social-cultural actions. How this links with childrens’ learning is somewhat of a leap of faith.

No wonder most people are suspicious, confused or feeling at a loss. Like all weary travelers on a long journey, they are reluctant to leave the path. The wolves of web2.0 live in the woods, and merchants are at liberty to charge astronomical prices for a glass of water.

The thing with innovators is that they poses a sense of confidence – often unswayed by the comments and views of others. They are also less concerned with monetizing their innovations. This is one of the many reasons that I dislike the current buzzword – gamification, the idea that giving people tokens, allowing them to play a game someone else designed is somehow more satisfying or will lead to innovation. It will sell books, but already exists in a culture than isn’t about to reform itself to suit some marketing ‘opportunity’.

Games can build confidence, they can lower the mastery concern – but at the same time, disrupt this new marketplace, which is complex and likes to fan the flames of concern – where selling web2.0 to travelers is a booming enterprise.

Adding a hat-tip slide in a presentation (lecture) is a clear sign to me that it’s just a divisive act to maintain a market share and a clear indication to run. Games, I think can unlock teacher creativity and build capacity – which means they can do what a decade of powerpoint hasn’t. It also means that games do not appear from the ether. They are a product of a culture – a domain that clearly is more familiar and used by children than adults. This is not the culture that fits the current marketplace. It is at best tolerated due to it’s apparent novelty factor.

In many ways, they are a sanctuary, perhaps the only online space that children can be themselves – to keep dragon eggs if they want. I think I’ve learned more in the last two months through watching kids do this than I have in the last five years. The innovators here are the children, not the adults. It’s an increasing concern of mine that the adults role in all this is to keep kids as safe as possible, to allow them to keep as many dragon eggs as they want, but that the commuter belt sees this as a marketplace … and it’s probably a good idea to keep these people out of them. This won’t be too hard, there’s a big gap between understanding and developing game-competence and throwing a photo of an Xbox in PowerPoint.

In case people haven’t noticed, those of ‘us’ interested in games are getting far less interested advocating kids playing them, and intensely interested in finding out what kinds of game-worlds kids make for other kids and what innovations come from that (by kids).

More importantly, these spaces are here. It’s not a theory.

This means taking a further step back from the ‘guide on the side’ idea, to simply providing resources to feed dragons. That’s what they want. Nothing more. Don’t expect that kids in game-worlds will make any effort to justify or explain what they can do, just watch and learn for now.

We wait to see if dragon-keepers will see middle earth as a place to keep their dragons, or a food source.

The fun part, is being able to give kids these game-worlds. Right now, we are rolling out these spaces … so if you’re interested in feeding dragons let me know.


2 thoughts on “Keeping Dragons

  1. James Gee has never been interested in children playing video games (as such) but what we can learn (as educators) from design. He particularly pushes the notion that students need to be able to access learning at the appropriate level for them and learn as they learn – or if you like, ‘play’ – with the good feedback provided (from the game or environment). His point about students (all of us) needing to imagine ourselves in certain roles is central. A kid cannot become a scientist if they cannot imagine themselves as one. Game-playing has a central role in learning and taking on ‘other’ identities. Play is a safe of doing this so ‘playing’ is obviously important if one is to learn.

    All learning is contextual. Designing an environment that motivates and engages is the key. Games – of all types – are likely part of that environment but should not become a educational fetish or fad.

    PS I would not be too worried about the ‘corporate hashtag’ thing. We’ve had some pretty good stuff designed under corporate banners and the idea that individuals can leverage their organisations size, in an effort to assist change that very organisation, is more positive than the other IMHO. For many people they work hard with what they have and keep an eye on the horizon to chart an achievable course. I suspect that co-operating, with sensible challenge, is far more important in improving schools/education/learning than niggles (as pertinent as they may or may not be).


    • Thanks again Darcy. I worry about the difference between a tag representing an affinity group, rather than an organisation – as the latter has implicit rules and an agenda where as the former yells to the participants – ‘circle time’. It’s a double edged sword. I agree on poking dragons, and that they don’t always react positively, but after a decade of opportunity, it’s time to wake up. I care little of their sensibilities. There’s clear evidence that learning with technology occurs well outside of these – and it my niggles encourage one leader to take a risk, try something new, then it’s worth it. I doubt the majority would read my blog, so it’s probably okay.

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