Troubleshooter Mode

A post about organising groups, and recognising that all groups are a collection of individuals. It’s common in our world to talk about ‘leadership’ and in groups to appoint someone as being in-charge. It’s the basis of centralised management organisation, and a valuable skill for students to learn. Ultimately, as you progress though life you will either be the leader or you won’t. Group work is convenient for educators, but has some seriously dubious social push-backs about how we learn life works.

In games, most players are learning to be TROUBLESHOOTERS. They are not simply following the instructions, failing and trying again. That is just some dumb thing conference speaker say – learning to fail, which is a total facepalm.

For parents, playing games means using all sorts of media for the sole purpose of learning to be a TROUBLESHOOTER. Troubleshooters learn that they don’t have to accept what they are told as the only way the world works. In fact, very early on they learn that they don’t have to. Minecraft currently represents the most optimal environment for learning to be a TROUBLESHOOTER.

Trouble shooters learn to notice problems, think about alternative endings and then go off to create their own missions to solve them. I know PBL (Project Based Learning) types bang on about students “designing their own projects”, but to me, this is little more than re-arranging the furniture in your private cell. Because the outcomes are set (etched into the grand syllabus) – all roads eventually lead to Rome. While students might enjoy taking several different pathways, PBL is notorious for lack of measurement in regard to what ‘new’ or ‘alternative’ learning happens. This is for a many reasons, not least the fact that schools are run on a regimented time-line, where being a great TROUBLESHOOTER is not generally assessed at all. TROUBLESHOOTERS are not the same as problem solvers — as I’ll explain.

Troubleshooters create their own missions. They look at the problems, decide which part of it they can not just solve, but really really solve. At the same time, they choose and take their own rewards. TROUBLESHOOTERS are learning not to fit in, but to stand out. This might appear to parents as “not doing what they are told” and many might read this and have an opinion that it’s bullshit. If you look at every successful society throughout history, it has highly prized troubleshooters (even if learning to be one is a risky business).

Gamers live in TROUBLESHOOTER cultures, where as parents and educators tend to live (and orbit) strategic cultures. The well worn axiom “culture eats strategy for breakfast” is no more powerful or obvious than in video games.

The idea kids learners and educators will simply coalesce and a solution will  emerge through an unmanaged process of technological osmosis and serendipity is false. This has been the zombie-argument of dull-powerpoint thinkers for a decade … eventually, if we try enough technological tools and deliver enough keynotes – something will work.

TROUBLESHOOTERS grow up to be entrepreneurs, they are the ones in the room who see alternatives. They are not always liked – as strategic leaderships is all about follow the leader.

Only about 20% of kids are video-gamers, whereas about half of adults are, and have been playing for over a decade. So while there is this attention seeking call for “Gamification” – to which one can again write books and keynote about endlessly – the reality is that MOST workplaces and classrooms have TROUBLESHOOTERS already. All it takes is for the ‘leaders’ to engage with them, rather than ostracise them using dogmatism.

It always strikes me as odd that the most dogmatic demand the removal of troubleshooters, whilst they themselves present stacked evidence and red-herrings. Its little wonder that most game-designers have no interest in ‘gamification’ at all.

Anyone notice bandwagon appeals at E3 about “gamification” this week? … roll on next week at ISTE, it is likely to be a bonanza with Jane “TED Talks” McGonagil.

The problem is, how to you learn to create learning episodes that get students to work hard – and be TROUBLESHOOTERS and give up on this idea of strategic leadership. That might sound counter-intuitive in a world where “strategic leadership” is the gold standard … except it isn’t – for students, most learn they won’t ever be more than a follower.

It’s no wonder that so many adults play video-games.