5 pillars that games give kids, and schools don’t.


Warning: Some/all of this may conflict with your belief about games and human affairs. You might want to skip this post if your idea of a good time is a hashtag chat.

Let’s start with a little known fact: in 2009, Australia had eight separate models of school curriculum.

Let me put forward a list of ways to kill learning using Gary Stager: grades, scores, ability groups, homework, reward, punishment. All of which occurred within 8 different models in Australia – and now a new National Curriculum, which isn’t National *yet or complete – and is a daily experience for teachers and students in the majority (not all) schools. But its the majority of school which provide us with a society – not one special STEM school being built at the expense of St.Clair High School which burned down a few years ago.

So for almost ten years, Australia’s educational system -the processes and methods have been in flux, where teachers have been left to interpret it’s intentions and demands in a pervasive political culture of do more with less. This week, the number of media reports attacking schools, parents and students was quite alarming – and cannot avoid being seen as a well-funded political mess by those in the classroom. It points to the core ideology that is still driving Outcomes Based Education (OBE) and growing disadvantage.

We can also go back over the last fifty years and see why the dominant ‘operant conditioning’ ideology of school systems from the Cultural left has made it difficult to adopt cognitive and constructionist theories at more than a cursory level.

I’m researching human-affairs the 1970s and 1980s video arcades and games right now. Going back to the literature of the 1970s and 80s, it’ss easy to see why this would have been seen as a youth-apocalypse.

But today, why are we stuck using Minecraft and not just also playing amazing games such as Overwatch, Warcraft or Zelda? Why does it have to be a) Minecraft of b) some edu-game about civics and how bad the world is – without creating opportunities to fix it. Games do that – bad things happen and you get to fix it – on the spot. No mull over it and feel powerless and disconnected. Do we still fear the youth apocalypse despite 40 years of research saying it’s rubbish? Is it simply that teachers don’t read academic research, and prefer pithy Tweets because they are acrtually more useful and informative. I’d sat you can more easily describe EduTwitter as two-part social behaviorism of the 1960s than what happening in the rest of the online world – including video games.

Even today, I’d argue schools use Minecraft because they FAIL to understand (or rather accept) that beneath the 3D printer labs and apps and Microsoft/Apple shrines, the ideology hasn’t changed.

Since the 1980’s, video games have shown hundreds of millions of people that traditional learning model is a terrible experience. Research shows the best theories and practices towards using technology have been set aside in favour of brands, slogans, and compromise which has resulted in NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE let alone improvement.

The dogmatic civic demand to get a sheet of paper when you’re eighteen or nineteen as a moment of truth, summing up all that you are combined with a legal attendance that perpetuates it and prevents you doing things you are good at … (unless it’s sport). Want to spend the day at home modding a game – no way!

Schools only use Minecraft because they FAIL to understand (or rather accept) that beneath the 3D printer labs and apps and Microsoft/Apple shrines, the ideology hasn’t changed. Those using it are probably proficient in this paradox, but the paradox needs reframing and so far is crippled by fads and easy solutions.From the 1980’s, video games have shown hundreds of millions of people that learning under this model is a terrible experience – and it’s only the dogmatic demand of a sheet of paper when you’re eighteen or nineteen as a moment of truth combined with a legal attendance that perpetuates it.

Since the 1980’s, video games  have showed hundreds of millions of people that learning under this model is a terrible experience for most.

Games demanded they learned in a fundamentally different way to school – and were fun and they could be in control.  In the 1960s and 1970s the social behaviorism paradigm – be that two part, three part etc.,  underpinned schools, yet could not avoid running head on into digital technology and the message the medium now transmitted. In the 80s, building your own computer, programming it to do what you wanted was amazing. In the 90s you could use it access information and services that removed the tyranny of distance.

In 2007, the iPhone arrived. Meanwhile in Australia, the government finally decided there was a technological revolution to be addressed – now it’s 2017.

Once implemented, the policies will lead to a significant shift in how schools operate, including: what is taught and how it is assessed; teacher training, professional development and registration; how schools and teachers are evaluated and rewarded in terms of performance; and how school funding is decided. – Dr Kevin Donnelly (2009)

As a blogger, I’m going to say that this revolution is at best incomplete and as I’ll go on to explain, constgructed inside the same problematic paradoxes

It wasn’t until the 1970s that people, often outside fields of education, started to find artifacts and objects – such as games and computers – that allowed a physical expression of the things theorists such as Piaget had been saying thirty or more years earlier. Where some saw arcades and home video systems as destroying the fabric of society, others pointed out how computers, toys and games liberated society from it’s past. 40 years is a long time to become a revolution – let alone one in which literacy rates are falling (PISA, OECD), as is student behavior (according to Murdoch) and teacher pay is falling behind ‘real’ inflation and the cost of living. To me, it’s never too late to look at the past and all to easy to find voices of reason and vision.

The father of computing in education – Seymour Papert provided us with the seminal Constructionist theory of learning in which people build knowledge most effectively when they are actively engaged in constructing things in the world. Ironically, his work is still not given the respect it deserves [opnion] by major educational technology associations and authorities that get to direct how kids learn in school . They appear pre-occuplied with new consumption machines, rather than using evidence, which is ironic given Outcome Based Education (OBE) only works if the evidence is relevant to the learner and society.

I am no Papert expert, however, every teacher should know he explored how childhood objects have a deep influence on how and what children learn. In “Mindstorms,” Papert explained how he “fell in love with gears” as a child, and how he hoped to “turn computers into instruments flexible enough so that many children can each create for themselves something like what the gears were for me.”.

For me, video games create a foundational learning experience before school. It’s only when school systems actively accept it might be possible, and then build a sustainable structure using evidence-based research, such as Papert – that they evolve – and to do that, reject the current junk-culture that washes through Chitteristic echo-chambers.

 EdTech invests far too much time following false binary propositions based on personality dimensions. Oh how education loves a binary debate. I’m sure there’s a hashtag chat on right now that is exploring one of these themes … because they are easy and require no evidence or implementation at all.
  • self-esteem/self-degradation
  • social deviancy/ social conformity
  • hostility/kindness
  • social withdrawal/gregariousness
  • obsessiveness/compulsiveness
  • achievement/motivation.

The dogmatic demand of summative sheet of paper and score when you’re eighteen or nineteen as a moment of truth combined though a legal obligation to attend school daily.

For me, there are FIVE PILLARS that I want to bring into learning. And learning is about technology, environments, and agency. It’s also why I believe playing video games is not a waste of time.

When I hear people rant on about ‘addiction’ and ‘too much screen time’ – that’s their opinion. But ask them, what are you doing right now in their lives to give them these five pillars of learning about the world around them …. draw me a picture of that … please don’t claim … we can’t do X because of games or that games have done Y because …

It’s taken 30 years of research and technological development to say that right now, a kid can get all five of these things whenever they want – but probably not at school.

1) Learning takes place in a total context of immediate action, feeling and perception;

2) attention must be devoted to the child’s thought processes to determine his level of cognitive development;

3) errors should be accepted as information that can serve to correct one’s practice or ideas, rather than being viewed as behavior to be eliminated;

4) the mental processes involved in the search for understanding contain their own self-expanding and extending  ; and

5) provision for self-selected activities is essential to keeping alive the “urge to learn.” Consequently, self-undertaken practice needs no artificial motivation.

Happy Sunday.