Gamers want to learn how gamers learn.

This week, my merry band of students are tackling the tricky topic of ‘mass education’ and in particular, pulling apart a piece of writing which rails against the neoliberalism which is arguably at the root of on-going inequality in schools. It’s one sub-text related to the idea that Australia is an equitable society devoid of the class-system associated with the UK and other European invaders influences. It’s quite confronting to have to come up with a critical analysis for many whose most recent experience might have been the HSC. Then, there is all this talk about modernism, post-modernism, structuralism and poststructuralism with a dash of Hobbes, Marx, Nietzsche and Foucault connected to discourses of power, gender, socio-economic-status and race.

Knowing about this stuff is important. When pre-teachers go for that all important ID number, someone will ask them about their philosophy of teaching, or at least about how they see the scholarship of teaching in contemporary schools. This is really at the heart of the unit, getting pre-teachers to think about how they see and act ultimately permeates the fabric and practices of everyday life. I don’t hold the opinion that naming brands and products is either impressive or useful. In fact anyone who waves corporate identities at me could benefit from reading more widely.

I mention this because it’s years later that I’ve come to understand why I’ve got a bit cross with mass education and how digital games have spread (using Foucault) like capillaries, where their practices send out messages to the far reaches of society, resulting in both good or bad conceptions and representations. Digital games don’t create docile ‘bodies’ but actively work against the kind of normalised judgement micro-practices such as schools were designed to deliver. This to me means that when talking about education and sociology to a room full of gamers, its useful to think about how gamers break down complex problems and what media habits they use to do it. 97% of Australian’s play games, they are not the minority — and the under 35s play a lot.

I remember sitting in that seat when I was an undergrad holding a bunch of readings which were totally confusing, dense and seemingly important to passing the unit. With that chilling thought in mind, the decision to tap into some of the ABC’s online content (via YouTube) to help lift the fog was easy. This is how gamers deal with problems. It’s the first place they go. The last place are forums (which ironically are often seen as the first social-space in an LMS).

As power and social class are common axes on the ABC, there are plenty of short segments using and editorial set-up about class for example. There’s a rich pool of material often scrounged from the BBC. For example, a BBC report about the UK’s class-debate, then someone in the ABC studio (the expert) answers questions as the anchor tries leads them in a ‘discussion’ about the relevance to “Aussie” values. Even better, these experts are often not that great, and usually offer lots of opinion which goes un-challenged by the anchor. The stop-start nature of YouTube is a great way to play “spot the BS” and within a few minutes, most students are animated and laughing at some of the answers. My favourite is a ‘social researcher’ who explained that class does exist in Australia because in you are in on suburb and move ten kilometers to another — you are in a different suburb.

It isn’t that young people love YouTube that makes using it obvious, it is the statistics which show the rapid death of watching LIVE television, over ‘on-demand’ television. Following on from this, it means that any ‘live’ learning experience (lecture, tutorial, classroom) which isn’t meaningful and shares common values about media use is more likely to be consigned to ‘download it later’ in the mind of students.

Next, we have the shared-media experience of gamers. They love to watch YouTube together. It’s like we used to watch LIVE TV together (no other choice) but now we don’t. I’m not sure that many talking about flipped classroom get this. I am not at all sure that ‘flipping’ a video to before the class and prompting questions about it — to bring to class would be as useful as a shared experience or replace the LIVE experience. Flipping the classroom is of course an educational idea, which is simply another micro-practice under a poststructuralist lens. It ignores the history and life-practices of people — and especially game culture.

I’m not sure if this helps you, but it certainly works for me. I don’t demand students bring technology, but see that if and when they do, it validates how I like to go about teaching. It also means I don’t need technology nor become a slave to it’s micro-demands.

For me at least, showing these young(ish) people video’s which proliferated “edtech” as aspirational visions of technological determinism seems to raise more giggles — as many have passed through the post-Howard years of technology in schools. If I compare that to ‘professional development’ use of media, the messages are received in almost the opposite way — and why not if we follow a poststructuralist view of technology and education – we should expect this, and know that it doesn’t work to change behaviour — because we are not changing the rules and values. Young people simply have a different history, and there’s a lot wrong with trying to argue that following behind the Web2.0 vanguard is the best way to ‘get into using technology’ (and media).

It’s only when we use technology in a meaningful way do they bring technology with them. It made me think, that not having a BYOD policy would be the perfect policy in schools to promote bring a device. It’s only when the student sees a value in the micro-practices of the classroom that they act on it. I don’t waste my time advocating for brands. In fact I purposely switch platforms just to avoid any assumption that one brand somehow offers ‘the best’. As we all know, big brands are interested in profit, not education. They use education as a technology and will, if they so choose, terminate or sell it without consulting teachers – Google Reader RIP and so on.

If people who claim “it’s not the technology, it’s the pedagogy” are genuine, then they would cease advocating for brands (and trying to increase their own social, economic and cultural capital though the act). Technology can work, if there are sufficient shared values — and the biggest one is around what makes a good LIVE experience and what makes that better through a SHARED LIVE experience. It’s not any product — it’s cultural reproduction and why not having a BYOD policy is the best one.