Should teachers care about Pokémon Go?

[Version 2 – as I rushed the initial post and have added some headings to break it down]

Introduction

The latest craze – sayeth the media – Pokémon Go! has got people out and about. Some apparently unaware of their surroundings and having injuries while others are just of having fun, discovering why ARGs are able to turn fantasy into reality (sort of) even just for a short moment.

People like it and for good reasons. So yes, I think teachers should care and it is rare to be able to jump in at the start of a ‘new thing’ in gaming as kids probably already have the app and are playing it. The game does have issues – rural areas less well supported,  socio-economic factors, cultural differences, social inclusion (read this article) but perhaps this just helps highlight the issue with many games — and education’s obsession with digital gadgets – and people stopped talking about ‘the digital divide’ a long time ago. Now its an awkward reality that some schools have plenty more than others — as to their students.

Mass media has been quick to point out the doubling of Nintendo’s stock price, and that’s not necessarily good for the games entertainment giant – as I’ll explain shortly. Pokémon is loved by adults and kids in popular culture, some will have played Mario and Zelda – but there’s a generation playing Go! who are not playing for nostalgia. This game is aimed at a new generation for whom the smartphone camera, GPS, and data-streaming is primordial. Pokémon Go! has the magical tech-features+brand+enjoyment that they want from their device time – and want to talk to their friends about.

The doubling of Nintendo’s company value suggests an expectation that Nintendo will monetize and leverage this craze. Investors are literally banking on brand power plus ARG to yield a big return. Yes, you will run out of pokeballs, and you have to work for them or buy them. Everyone wants to know how to get more Pokeballs!

Getting a few balls at a Pokéstop every ten minutes or so is tedious. Speed this up with an in-app purchase.  Nintendo is in new territory here, but the clear line of sight to Google and not to Zelda will see significant changes – good, bad and stumbling perhaps in the games roll out. Pokéstops are a significant cultural leap to ‘gamified shopping’ destinations … but surely no one would drive five miles to wait ten minutes for 4 balls to flick at an imaginary creature … and so shopping as you know it is already changed.

Because the game’s Pokéstops are based on the cultural production of Ingress players – many gyms and Pokéstops are buildings and landmarks – including shops. Small business is seeing people at their door – but who knows if they are buying? This may then see people drawn away from ‘the mall visit’ and we might see people back on the high street and parklands.

Playing the game

 

The game is easy in the early days. More and more posts and redditor postings suggest the mechanic makes it hard to progress. As I’ll explain, for kids, this will be a drop-off point, but to that point, there’s a window of opportunity to explore the next generation of gaming – in your local backyard.

Arts Technica writes “While advancing to level 15 only requires a few thousand experience points per level, by the time you hit level 30, it takes a full 500,000 experience points to increase your in-game status”. We know that kids often stop playing games pretty quickly from recent research, and the younger children ‘churn’ games constantly when they feel it get’s too punishing. Overall mobile games have a high ‘pick up and drop’ frequency – especially free-to-play (with micropayment) games. The industry is still learning, so I’m sure Pokémon Go! will teach the whole industry a lot about human behaviour in a short time.

We know too, that hanging around a Pokéstop for a slow refill is the ARG version of the MMO’s ‘grinding quest’, except that you’re stuck in reality — and not in the fantasy you crave. So for teachers – Pokémon Go is a decent enough ‘entry’ for a discussion about ARGs and human behaviour, but I personally would be very wary of promoting in the way we’ve seen some teachers jump on the Microsoft Minecraft jetstream. I predict this game opens a door to what has been a dwindling interest in the ‘games are addictive’ dogma which first appeared in the 1990s. I can imagine the clinical psych’s will be banging out abstracts by the dozen right now about how dangerous this is … and maybe they will more right about ARGs than they have about MMOs and MOBAs so far.

We already hearing ‘news’ reports of Pokémon farming and exploitation, how much it costs to buy Pokéballs, people walking off cliffs, crashing cars etc., all things we didn’t hear about Ingress of course.People have asked me for ages why some games seem to ‘click’ with kids and can be useful in class – and some don’t. Right now the world works like this. It’s not what advertising says about a brand that makes it successful, it’s what people say about to each other. Pokémon Go! has relied on this network-effect to propel it to ‘craze’ level. Anyone who separates games and learning really knows little about either these days because the two things are inseparable in children’s media culture today. Minecraft has grown inside education networks because of the same (though tiny) network effect – and again, needs to do something ‘more’ if it is to be sustained. As I track what teachers talk about online (towards games and in a non-creepy way) – Minecraft (Education) has trended down since Pokémon Go!. One reason I think is because teachers are far more curious about ARG potential than virtual legos. What they are concerned about (and what to know about) is what games do this ‘fantasy-magic-learning-stuff’. My attitude is – lots of games – go and try some. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kid want from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game – or we turn Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No. (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit).

People have asked why some games seem to ‘click’ with kids and can be useful in class – and some don’t. Right now the media-world0culture works like this. It’s not what advertising says about a brand that makes it successful, it’s what people say about to each other. That is why my teenager and his friend had me driving them to an actual parkland (as in out-doors). So if Pokémon Go! can get a hardcore MOBA/MMO player outside … it’s got something going for it. I don’t think it’s the game though – as I’ll explain towards the end of the post – it’s about human behaviour around technology and the fact that outside of media outrage and Trump hate, we do quite like to hang out and have fun IRL.

Pokémon Go! has relied on this network-effect to propel it to ‘craze’ level in a few days. Think about that for a second. It means that anyone who separates games and learning really knows little about either these days because the two things are inseparable in children’s media culture today. If that anyone is a teacher, then we have the accept we have media literacy challenges (but we know that it’s been like this for twenty years or more)

Step outside the Pokémon click-bait and let’s think about established go-to-game for educators. Minecraft has grown inside education networks because of the same (though tiny) network effect. It needs to do something ‘more’that being repacked and sold under the Windows biome if it is to be sustained with genuine interest by kids. Why? Because its what kids say to kids about games and anyone with a ‘real Minecrafter’ in their house knows that the advanced ‘fun’ is in modding and morphing the shared game play experience with friends. I’ve never liked MinecraftEdu because it was a business idea, not a new theory of play or gaming. I acknowledge that it helped get the game into schools – but at no point could anyone seriously argue games and play were not going to zerg-rush into schools – and to me Minecraft is the ‘safe’ option and I reject the ‘better than nothing option’. The fact games are still ‘on request’ tells us all we need to know about the ideology of mass education still.

Is Pokémon Go! impacting education?

I track what teachers talk about online (towards games and in a non-creepy way). Minecraft (Education) has trended down since Pokémon Go! this week. Teacher’s attention have been tuned this week from Minecraft to Pokemon. Microsoft to Nintendo. That’s a big thing in itself.

One reason I think is because teachers are far more curious about ARG potential than virtual legos. What they are concerned about (and what to know about) is what games do this ‘fantasy-magic-learning-stuff’. My attitude is – lots of games – go and try some. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kid want from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game – or we turn Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No. (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit).I think is because teachers are far more curious about ARG potential than virtual legos. What they are concerned about (and what to know about) is what games do this ‘fantasy-magic-learning-stuff’. My attitude is – lots of games – go and try some. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kid want from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game – or we turn Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No. (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit).

Why would teachers be interested?

I think is because teachers are far more curious about ARG potential than virtual legos. They are probably bored of ‘another Minecraft preso’. I have done once since 2012 in Dundee – and that wasn’t about school – that was about what happens when kids get agency though video games.What they are concerned about (and what to know about) is what games do this ‘fantasy-magic-learning-stuff’. My attitude is – lots of games – go and try any. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kid want from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game – or we turn Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No. (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit).

Many teachers are concerned about the academic value of video games and how to align them with the outcomes school systems use. I get that, I really do – but teaching is not about the material and the outcomes alone, it’s about letting the child being the best that they can be. My attitude is YES, GAMES ARE IMPORTANT – go and try some. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kids want (and get) from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game. Avoid turning Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as “let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No” (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit)

“What kids want” is connected to computers and human behaviour. We can’t assume a 10-year-old has a 10-year-old media age – as we know, some 40-year-olds don’t have a 10-year old’s media age.  why Pokémon Go is going to be good – aside from the initial network effects.

Teachers should care about Pokémon Go! – after from the initial network effects (craze) as it is a good way for kids to develop socially. It isn’t designed for education and certainly presents the all too common accessibility issues of commercial games – but THIS game leads you to start thinking about why games, play and learning are important – and how they can be connected with helping children deal with saturated media cultures – Great!

Here are the four key things that research is telling us about MMOs, MMORPGs, Networked Gaming, MOBAs etc., and it’s all about humans making sense of their transmedia lives – though pleasurable leisure choices. It’s part of the social history of our time.

What are the key things teachers can observe and learn from this?

  1. Multimodal connectedness is associated with bridging and bonding social capital
  2. Playing with existing offline friends is associated with bonding social capital.
  3. Playing with offline and online friends is associated with bridging social capital.
  4. Multimodal connectedness moderated the relationships between co-players and social capital

What does the research say?

There’s a lot of research around these four things, but so far, when we need much more research about specific MOBAs (LoL, Overwatch etc) and ARGs (Pokémon Go, Ingress, Zombie Run etc. For example, what are children’s attitudes towards the frequency of playing ARGs and how do the interaction and experiences of play vary in group size, cultures, gender etc., But you might be surprised to find very little research is being done – or has been done outside of the ‘giants’ of gaming – Warcraft, Ultima, Doom etc., and this research is good ‘beachhead’ reading, but it hasn’t had a huge impact on what teachers believe about games in their classrooms. What teachers should try and bring to games in the classroom are objects which give them a clear(er) sense that what drives kids. This is not the

You might be surprised to find very little research is being or has been done outside of the ‘giants’ of gaming – Warcraft, Ultima, Doom etc., so far. While this research has developed a good ‘beachhead’ in video games, especially since 2001 – it hasn’t had a huge impact on what teachers believe about games in their classrooms. What teachers should try and bring to games in the classroom are objects which give them a clear(er) sense that what drives kids. This is not the

What teachers should try and bring to games in the classroom are objects which give them a clear(er) sense that what drives kids. This is not the material content or an ability to sandbox build castles. Seeing the child’s developmental curiosity and ability to experiment with these four things – alone and in groups is quite an experience.

Of course, this is just a theory (at best) and part of what I’m interested in.

Families who have high levels of multimodal connectedness and actively apply it to create bridging and bonding capital appear to have ‘the edge’ over parent’s who don’t.  We are raising children who need to be confident and successful in these things – because human behaviour is changing with technology – and what we (as adults) are expected to do or not do with it and though it matters in life.

What does EdTech seem to think?

Sadly EdTech doesn’t see games as important as it could (as a public dialogue). EdTech relies on the network effect to popularise certain products and ignore others. It also uses it to make some people famous/important and others customers, clients and the object of their commentary. So for the most part, Pokémon Go! will not be placed on the high altar of importance – such as Google Classroom or Apple’s wadjamacallit. So this game may well come — and go. It is now competing with  Microsoft Minecraft Eduction, which has a fairly established group of advocates and popular ideas. Let’s not forget, there is alway plenty of people competing for attention in EdTech — and the gamer ‘hackedu’ types are misfits sitting in the corner. But you never know, Sir Ken might visit a Pokéstop near you.

Summing up

So I hope teachers will give it some attention. Pokémon Go! (early levels) is super easy to try and learn from – but when it stops being ‘fun’ – quit – because quitting games can just as enlightening as playing them.

If nothing else, you’ve walked in the half-real world of video games and perhaps taken the dog for an unexpected walk, hatched a few eggs and maybe visited a different kind of gym.

 

The Weekend Pokémon Go Took Over The World..

It didn’t take long for educators to discover Pokemon Go!. I like to curate what educators tag as ‘game based learning’ and in the first weekend, I captured (get it) 46 separate references to the game, all of which dropped straight into the hyper myth that some games (those picked up by the more popular EdTech voices) are going to reform education. I know right, 4th wall break, we’ve been here so many times.

Also interesting is that Pokemon Go! fever has pushed Minecraft – and the new fully endorsed Minecraft: Education Edition (MCEE) off to the side. MCEE has been warmly welcomed by those with commercial ties to Microsoft. Really, before Microsoft, only Joel had the ear or Mojang – so I think it will be interesting to see how (if) the same group of people can find a way to friend Nintendo (or do we mean Niantic Labs.)

At the heart of this fuss is nothing new to those who are interested in games and human behaviour. Amazingly, people do like to go outside and the myth of the isolated teen, sitting in a basement playing Warcraft is one which only works on the ignorant these days. The game is simply a variation on the same thing: using GPS to move to a location. Here the user can interact with a virtual object for a reward – in the case of Pokemon, attempting to flick balls at a cartoon character over laid on the camera view (fun).

Some reports suggest this added $10 billion to Nintendo’s value, as their brand appeals to kids and younger parents. Nintendo may then have succeeded to create a behaviour where people use their GPS “navigate to a location” the holy-grail of mobile-push technology that leads to commercial purchases IRL – not just online.

This game does also feel like a step away from the promising transmedia story telling approach that they began with as a Google internal start-up – ie Ingress and Endgame. Commercially it’s a huge success of course, and that is what drives games – not the research and development of new media as texts or education.

This also extend’s cultural acceptance that play must increasingly be connected to commercial brands and purchasing (though micro payments and real payments) … and therefore to be entertained, we must also be spending money and time on brand derived pathways – ie walking into the right store and out the wrong ones.

Can you catch a bargain at K-Mart this weekend, Catch 20 mall-rats and go in the draw to win a Starbucks — all the time, data is collected, sold and re-sold to ‘help’ people find the products they really want – but in a fun way.

Is it of any value to Education? Well no, of course not yet. Nintendo has dabbled with it’s brands in Education before and didn’t succeed. Now EdTech believes that it can convert just about any popular trend into some form of scholarship, there is, and will continue to be those who’ll claim it has – with little evidence and a whole lot of enthusiasm – which is the story of EdTech itself. The game has succeeded in putting AR into the mainstream media realm – something Ingress didn’t, although it was very popular among the technorati  – and still is. On another level, Pokemon Go represents a further shift way from US Pop Culture being the dominant ‘entertainment’ force it once was. If we look even slightly past the Euro-US-Centric EdTech dialogue, we see Asian mobile culture, games, narratives and play styles growing in western popularity.

Here are just a few of the articles which appeared this week. To me, this adds another layer of complexity to how parent’s regulate video game play – and as ever, if you’d like to add your experiences to my research just head over here

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Term 3 – Project Plan

Game based, project based, service based … the media-biome of teaching advice continues to expand, although accessing it today requires more than the ability to Google, but to actively be aware that Google places far less emphasis on well-established theory and teaching models than many believe.

Why Google isn’t the search engine many seem to think.

Google is not a ‘search engine’. Google does not search and/or index all the web, nor does it search pages which it is directed not to by a site’s robots.txt file and it’s various ‘relevance and promotion’ algorithms. Google is a highly targeted collection of ‘texts’ which are made available on a highly contextual and commercially driven basis. One of the fundamental problems with EdTech is that for the most part teachers still believe (and instruct) students to use Google as a search engine.

Telling students to look things up is fraught with issues. It’s a time saver for teachers, but seriously, it’s not hard to prepare and curate information these days for coursework, so Googling should not be a primary method of accessing texts.

Sadly, at the heart of much technological use in the classroom is an idea that lessons can be powered by students. The miracle of the information age – Googling information and then assembling some artifact from those facts – posters, booklets, slideshows etc., You might as well give them a worksheet and all the text – in fact, for middle schoolers (as I’ll explain) that will lead to them handing in better assessments (maybe even learning).

At the heart of ‘blended learning’ should be three things in formal education. Let’s assume that kids now have access to information via the Internet on a regular basis in our society. So if ‘blended learning’ is unfamiliar, then let me break it down as simply as I can.

  • Assessments
  • Coursework
  • Navigatable learning (pace, voice, choice)

The classroom issues begin with devices (computer labs, laptops, ipads or a combination) and followed by software, the cognitive load created by both, cost, training, support and the well-documented factors that create both barriers and opportunities. This doesn’t begin to address the mythogogies and bias towards brands – but I’ll set that aside. All of which have been debated for decades and we know that at best, technology has a limited and mixed impact on student knowledge and ability to apply that to new situations. Even in games, the routines, patterns and methods are transportable, so I don’t believe ‘games’ are a higher order way to learn – yet.

All of the above factors in blended learning have been debated for decades and we know that at best, technology has a limited and mixed impact on student knowledge and ability to apply that to new situations. Most of EdTech so far is rubbish. Some of it’s brilliant.

How do I approach coursework design?

What I do find useful in planning my own units of work, is to think about how to allow a mix of Robert Sternberg’s (1985) Triarchic Theory. I like it because it’s simple and works well for middle school personalities in my context, but I also used it when designing the Games Based Learning Course for Masters student at Charles Sturt University last year.

I like it as an instructional design model that can be applied to technology and media well and his work orbits ‘human intelligence’ which fits well with my own outlook I guess.

triarchic-theory

  • Analytical intelligence is the intelligence most often recognized and rewarded in schools. Students with strengths in this area learn well with traditional school tasks such as organizing information, perceiving cause and effect, logical analysis, note-taking, and predicting implications. (traditional and functional)
  • Practical intelligence is about relevance. Students with strengths in this area need to solve problems in a meaningful context. Their learning is supported when teachers offer connections with the real world outside the classroom. These students need to see concepts and skills at work. (project and inquiry)
  • Creative intelligence involves approaching ideas and problems in fresh and sometimes surprising ways. Students with strong creative intelligence are often divergent thinkers, preferring to experiment with ideas rather than “work” like everyone else. (games, play, and imagination)

A lesson plan never works for everyone, unless you mash it up.

In any school day, the hours roll on and it’s impossible to create a universal environment where all students are engaged, interested or willing to participate. Even in schools where the educational philosophy is based on projects, games, play or other more post-modern ideas (I mean the stuff Dewey was talking about in the 40s!) – it is very hard to filter out students who don’t subscribe to the methodology 100% of the time. For example, a child might love to code, love to play video games and love to do maths. They are still going to go home and tell their parents “I’m not learning” when the activity or unit of work isn’t navigable using their preferred ‘intelligence’.

You’re never teaching one lesson, but three (plus the divergent)

This matters because teaching is not ONE thing (it never has), but the pressure on teachers to teach in a way that a child believes is the best or because a parent read a news article about Finland’s educational brilliance. The media presents various mythologies in compelling ways that most of the out-going baby-boomer teachers never had to cope with. I like to think that when I design a unit of work, that I do it with direct application of these three factors. Sternberg’s findings suggest that students can make significant gains when teachers both permit them to explore ideas using their preferred intelligences and teach regularly in all three modes, which deepens student understanding and enhances retention.

Coursework requires time, but not a time-table.

This leads to what I’m trying to do these days – Bring your own timetable. I’d like to think I can do it at a stage or whole school level, but I’m realistic. What students want and what parents want is a school environment where the teacher delivers all three modes of learning, simultaneously with ‘click and go’ technology, media and feedback. For most humans (teachers) this is an extraordinary amount of work to attempt in addition to the increasing demands created by political acts (do more with less). At best, run some ‘engine room’ classes for kids to drop into for help. Do less teaching, create better coursework.

View the social media czars with skeptisism.

My message is this: do not believe people when they tell you one method is better than the other, but focus on designing blended learning (with what you have) to allows students to navigate it with voice and choice. Build into your design – find your own model, try – Strombergs model – such that students are presented with different experiences that are meaningful to them. Don’t try to copy the Twitterati (who I am sure don’t ever embellish their brillinace).

Not all parents are going to like this. That isn’t your problem alone.

Of course, if you have parents who like to pay for 12 hours of Math tutoring a week after school – forget it, they can’t be helped, they believe that high exam results result in them getting high earnings etc., They are culturally engrained to that idea – and good luck to them, but statistically, the research doesn’t support ‘pay-for-boost’ approaches.

So what method do you use?

If people ask me if I use PBL today, then the simple answer is no – not if you mean the 7-step BIE model.  I have found success (in my subjects) by designing learning using instructional theories, games and other ideas from the literature. The sole aim is for it to work for the students in my context.

Does this work for everyone?

For students starting high school (middle school, year 7 and 8) they are at a stage where they have a concrete operational approach to learning which they use to construct the reasoning and logics needed to solve all problems. Digital technology has not been shown to have changed this so far, so I’m sticking with the established evidence based theory.At this age, research shows us children have difficulties in reasoning on complex verbal problems such as propositions, hypothetical problems, or the future. This is quite interesting, as so much of middle school approaches to PBL, Maker and Coding are focused on things that they find the hardest to do, and therefore feel – are not ‘learning’. So, even if you’re off into PBL land – where we all go searching for information on Google to make into a product (critical or not) – this isn’t good for middle schoolers – because the

At this age, research shows us children have difficulties in reasoning on complex verbal problems such as propositions, hypothetical problems, or the future. This is quite interesting, as so much of middle school approaches to PBL, Maker and Coding are focused on things that they find the hardest to do, and therefore feel – are not ‘learning’.

For students in high school (middle school, year 7 and 8) they are at a developmental stage where they have a concrete operational approach to learning which they use to construct the reasoning and logics needed to solve all problems. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is the basic student personality you’re dealing with, and no matter how much you love Chitter ideas, this doesn’t alter a thing. So work with what you have, not what you don’t and put all you’re learning eggs in one basket. Be honest about the activity, tell them what they need to do, and why some of them will not like it or want to moan about it. Eventually, they realise that is the schema you use and that’s because you’re the teacher, not a service or app.

At this age 11-14, research shows us children have difficulties in reasoning on complex verbal problems such as propositions, hypothetical problems, or the future. This is quite interesting, as so much of middle school approaches to PBL, Maker and Coding are focused on things that they find the hardest to do, and therefore feel – are not ‘learning’. So, even if you’re off into PBL land – where we all go searching for information on Google to make into a product (critical or not) – this isn’t good for middle schoolers – because the egocentrism of the child is at war with efforts teachers make to differentiate activities for the child. Personality, grammar, and language are worth including here as other powerful factors in whether or not a child or their teacher believes they are learning. As soon as we move into teaching using multiple modalities, the workload increases, the complexity of assessment increases, navigation of the course becomes multiplexed. The less concrete the work, the more the student finds it difficult. Read some of Piaget‟s theory to brush up on this if it sounds new – it isn’t.

So if you’re going gung-ho PBL into year 7, stop and think. What does the research say about their ability to cope with that? especially if you’re adding in some future-focused driving question which sounds cool on Twitter, but confusing to a 13-year-old. Even worse, don’t then fool yourself into thinking that what they are now making (for you) in Minecraft has somehow made a leap from one mental space to another, or overcome well-established problems in children’s development.

I liked your old stuff better than your new stuff

What is useful is to use the web to improve grammar and language skills, because these affect the child’s private speech (peers) and inner speech (thought) which has external effect later. Simply asking kids to define key terms and words seems boring when they could be building Stormwind in Minecraft – but it’s essential to ensure that teaching episodes have multiple dimensions. It’s also why I don’t bother with the BIE 7 steps or stick to the ‘language’ of

It’s also why I don’t follow the BIE 7 steps or stick to the ‘language’ of PBL, because it’s not the language of media or today’s egocentric digital personas.

Maybe we have to accept that there is now 3 times the amount of planning and assessment than we used to have in teaching gets harder and harder, not easier because we can “Google: or use their branded tools”. The media-technological culture we work in today. We (teachers) have to be very clear about what we do in the community – and accept the neo-liberal world where education is being picked out like buying another consumer has significant ramifications on how we are received by parent, teachers and peers.

 

Pokemon Go! has full access to your data

According to Art’s Technica (a site that passes the C.R.A.P test) consistently, the newest craze Pokemon Go! on iOS has FULL access to your personal data. You might not care, which means you don’t yet see your privacy and data as currency which it now is. Your data is more than likely to be bought and sold.

Blogger Adam Reeve picked this up, saying

Let me be clear – Pokemon Go and Niantic can now:

  • Read all your email
  • Send email as you
  • Access all your Google drive documents (including deleting them)
  • Look at your search history and your Maps navigation history
  • Access any private photos you may store in Google Photos
  • And a whole lot more

There is a lot more ‘scare’ going on too – as hack-journalists bang on about people walking into the road without being aware of their surroundings and of course the ‘potential’ of malware and viruses hitting your device. This media ’rounding off’ behavior is nothing new and commonly applied as top and tail puff pieces to pad out the word count about games in mainstream media *cough, so I wouldn’t pay much attention to that.

However, privacy is an issue for schools and those using Google apps as their back-bone are ‘potentially’ at risk, but the wider concern is that the ongoing happy clapping over Google products will see this issue ignored completely and resigned to being an ‘at home’ problem, well outside of school. But of course it’s not – Google is a brand and it’s been shown in research that they don’t see a dividing line between Google school and home.

Next term, I’m looking at AR and VR with students and we will in fact be playing Ingress (made by the same company) and one of the main reasons we’re doing this it to think carefully about the future of information that we will supply and collide with in the ‘natural’ environment. Pokemon Go! makes for a nice discussion for me – because while people are out hunting down Pokemons, there are some very big servers collecting your information – whether by accident or not – they are not going to tell you.

Robocraft

 

Conscious of my counter-position to buying into the Microsoft Minecraft Education Edition (MSMCEE) ecosystem (Win10 or Console), I remain very much pro ‘regular’ Minecraft (Console, Pocket and PC/OSX). Of course some of the comments I had to rebuff my outlandish claims is that MSMCEE that it does a whole lot of building and creative ‘stuff’ which otherwise can’t be done (cough) easily in the classroom.

To that I say – lets think about a low cost way to bring an immersive, 3D game into the classroom that allows children to create things – and play with them using their imagination and goals (the essential claims of the pro-MSMCEE experts). Okay then, how about a game which is FREE, has multi-player fun, allows you to play with designs, systems and deploy them in a MOBA. No expensive physical robots, no need to upgrade your school system and of course you don’t have to limit yourself to blocks – or cummy movement. Now, how about we take this game and see it it fits the current Australian STEM frameworks – oh look, it does! So I ask again, what games other than Minecraft are these experts showing you? I’m not an expert – I’m a gamer, ask me if the glass is half full or half empty and I’ll ask – what does it do if you drink it?

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Robocraft is great for STEM. Not every school can afford robotic kits. The fun part is getting the parts for your robots, the problem is running out of bricks. Essentially this game falls into the MOBA format (6v6) until unlocking more advanced game modes. There’s no offline play, something which is a growing methodology for multiplayer games, and there’s the usual community of enthusiasts.

  • You start of with five ‘bays’ to create robots
  • Play multiplayer
  • Receive loot boxes based on success in each game
  • Acquire parts and equipment to build robots from the loot boxes.
  • There is in game-text chat (well behaved community)
  • Add friends

Players needs to learn how to make all sorts of bots – walking, flying, jumping, rolling and hovering. There are plenty of weapons to demolish people. There are ’round based’ games and a pervasive drop-in multiplayer.

Risks: It’s a MOBA so people are going to win and lose and loot chests give random items. There is text chat, so a potential for un-moderated comments and of course.

Let’s break it down MSMC Edu

When I wrote a post about why I believe the Microsoft Minecraft Education Edition needs scrutiny, I knew that those whom have seen value in associating themselves with it, would probably prefer I shut up or rebuff my post. Fair enough, people are free to have their opinions too.

My belief is that introduction of video games as texts is key to quality media literacy education for young children. It’s an areas of research and practice that I am more than happy to tank on behalf of those whom might not and I don’t suck up to brands. If brands tell the truth, then we’re all good – but they are not doing that – in my opinion.

Let me break down some of the marketing spin to explain my position (beware brands using games to exploit children).

Children learn naturally through a combination of observation, trial-and-error, and play-based practice

It would be nice if this was true – but childhood is far more messy. This claim is perhaps more true of early childhood than later – but MSMC targets primary and middle school markets – using the emotional appear of a creative (Robinson-eque) deficit. There’s little to go on here, and it assumes you either know or just buy into the statement.

The academic literature says is that early experiences either enhance or diminish innate potential, laying either a strong or a fragile platform on which all further development and learning of the person, the body and the mind is built. The longer children spend in adverse environments, the more pervasive and resistant to recovery are the effects. We also know parenting practices such as reading to children, using complex language, responsiveness, and warmth in interactions are all associated with better developmental outcomes. This is why you are hearing about games and their negative effects. Minecraft is not isolated from this, simply because it’s a sandbox – it’s implicated in the discussions about ‘screen time’. Even that’s often a false debate – as it’s not the time spent that matters so much as what they are doing in the time. For a teacher, what can I do in an hour? What games best facilitate the discussion and outcomes I want for my students?

Minecraft encourages independence and self-direction, allowing students the freedom to experiment and challenge themselves. Much like real-life, there are no step-by-step instructions – students must try, fail, and try again to achieve the result they want.

All games require interaction and while the machine upholds the rules (even in Minecraft), the freedom is within boundaries set by the rules. This is basic game-theory. We also know that intrinsic motivation is a good deal more complex that is being said here … and that fundamentally this games (like most commercial games) is a form of interactive media leisure. At best it’s being repacked as ‘childrenware’.

There is no such thing as ‘real life’. All children’s lives are contextual. We also know that children’s own experiences and backgrounds play a key role in their access to, and belief about media. The suggestion here is that MS MC allows children to somehow navigate ‘real life’ better as a result of buying this product. Let me return to the literature. The body of Australian and international research has found correlations between poverty and behaviour, concluding that being born into deprived circumstances has negative effects on child outcomes and life chances (see for example Bor, 1997; Mitchell, 2009; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000; NICHD, 2005). This means ‘real life’ is not a market-segment created by marketing departments – and this at the heart of the essential battle for media literacy.

Children’ s goals and curriculum goals are not easily aligned. It’s nieve to think that what children want – and what they can create within this sandbox are aligned, or that goals are somehow driving their actions more than curiosity, imagination and autotellic creativity. Education is driven by goals – and that’s why this is included in the passage.

There is a clear marketing claim throughout the homepage that Minecraft is good for children and that parents are external to the purchase use in the classroom. It ignores the fact that Minecraft is still banned by many schools (games are seen as facile in school governance culture). Special arrangements are to be made for it – and of course tagging Edu on the end sanitises and placates the same powers who refuse to accept alternative views of media literacy and media education – ie those that promote play and games as core drivers of school life. Microsoft are tapping into this debate – because it attracts debate and therefore brand recognition. Few teachers will have heard of Project Spark on Xbox One. Lots of teachers are hearing about “hour of code” and “Minecraft” and yet here’s a game (and community) that allows kids to make very high end games – in the MS stable. Why is that not the flexible platform being pushed? (answer: marketing and onboarding to the MS Office 365 ecosystem). Notice you need to move to Windows 10 to buy into this game.

So what about parents? Why do all these experts and marking passages omit them?

In the early years, the strength and quality of the relationship between parents (and close family) and their children is being seen as fundamental to the effective development of children’s brain architecture, functions and capacity. Parenting practices such as reading to children, using complex language, responsiveness, and warmth in interactions are all associated with better developmental outcomes. My point is that ‘real life’ begins before school and that good health, nutrition and exercise are critical to children’s development.

Learning-by-doing in Minecraft teaches students independence and perseverance, giving them great satisfaction and sense of accomplishment when they can demonstrate their knowledge

Now we are getting into very dubious claims, which are homogonising how memory works at different stages of development – again, much of this page is written around broad themes associated with early childhood for a product that is aimed at later stages.

Knowledge acquisition can happen long after the original acquisition of the memory providing the new learning is in the same spatial context as the original learning. If the context is new, a new episodic memory is created (Hupbach et al., 2008). So yes, kids playing games inside game systems do remember those episodes and use them inside the system again and again. Watch your 15 year old play Call of Duty to see this happen. BUT emotional context also influences memory, young children remember (low order) words given in a positive emotional context than those in a negative – therefore the language of games (in game feeback) is a key driver of independence and perseverance – and not the LACK of it as you find in MSMC.

Now curriculum – well let’s think AUSTRALIAN curriculum. I’ll be specific – as MSMC seems not to be – and will just touch on ONE dimension.

Children are born to learn. This is a key driver of how we go about education. At no point are we hedging our bets or subscribing to the ‘not good at life’ rubbish. Learning is developmental and cumulative, there’s no evidence to support the claim (in Minecraft) student activities (map) directly to specific learning outcomes and curriculum standards nor there any deficit in the framework which Microsoft have redressed.

The outcome of all learning in Australian schools is that children become confident and improved learners where “belonging, being and becoming” is core. Children are then placed in secure, respectful, reciprocal relationships. Teachers are responsive to children and  have a strong sense of identity, connect and contribute to their world.

I am not anti Minecraft, quite the opposite. My students have a Pocket Server and a PC server which they built a year ago and run. I have zero involvement and they use it when they feel like it in our PBL projects. They create learning folios, use fraps etc., so to me, I don’t need to make place the game on a special platform.

What teachers need to know (and learn if they took my CSU INF541 course on game based learning) is that a contemporary media landscape in school is already set out in curriculum frameworks from the Early Years onward.

Specifically, the Australian curriculum wants teachers to allow children to play a range games.Games that strengthen social/emotional development and abstract thought – pretend and role play, group, turn taking, humour, language, drawing, ball games, rhyming and word games, stories.

I could pull the whole thing apart, but I think if you’re got to here … you’ve got a good idea of where I am with MC MC Edu. There is a huge issue with believing the hype – not least the missed opportunity to play a range of games.

Have you played the FREE Robocraft? Have you even downloaded STEAM?

Beware shiny things! Beware marketing based on emotional appeals and generalisations … and figure out why are people saying this about Minecraft now? and what are they telling me to do (and therefore not do).

I realise a bunch of people are going to be invested in this version and will not care or agree with me … but I have never been interested in playing nicely with brands – when the main fight is still – games are a media literacy  deserve to be in schools on their own merit (not because they are backed by MicoGoogleAppledoms).

Why not to buy Minecraft Education Edition

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At the risk of disagreeing with several commentators and influencers, this post is about why teachers should not buy into Microsoft’s “educational” edition of Minecraft. Of course immediately burns several potential avenues which I could – if I wanted – exploit in the social media biome.

I am pleased to say I started playing MInecraft with students well before the beta-ended and about the same time Lucas Gillispie set up Minecraft in Schools (wiki) based largely on the model he’d successfully co-developed for WoW in Schools (wiki). I co-created the first large-scale Minecraft server which was about ‘learning to be’ in an online world with Jo Kay (long time Second Life and Virtual World guru), this was over 5 years ago, and at no point have I seen any evidence that Minecraft Edu and now Education had any pedagogical benefit over the ‘real version’. My argument remains that the single biggest reason for this version is the ongoing issue of teacher culture and professional ‘bubbles’ which believe adding the world ‘education’ to a product somehow changes it, removes it’s bite or makes it simpler. This is why we made Massively Minecraft. It was to counter the dreary porting of the syllabus and simplistic cultural-teacher view of ‘games’ and ‘creativity’ to the vastly more complex evidence surrounding the use of virtual worlds and massive multiplayer games towards educational goals.

I walked away from Minecraft when it was obvious that this game (at the expense of others) was being used to advance unproven and sensationalist discourses about imagination and creativity — with no regard for the value of games as a broader phenomenon. Let me set out some issues so far …

Minecraft Edu has never presented any convincing evidence [please supply peer-reviewed work to rebuff] to its educational value, nor any convincing ‘method’ of teaching. Most of the videos seem to be an adult leading children around worlds they make or being told what to make. While this was always a clever move in a business sense, the resulting ‘sale’ and re-development of the Educational Edition extends the exploitation of children.

The central motivation (then and now) is to ensure that children access the game via a closed (pay-me system) – now the Microsoft ecosystem – ie Office 365. It’s common knowledge that Goolgle, Apple and Microsoft use education to ‘on-board’ families and children to a lifetime of software use. It’s been happening since the invention of home computers. I believe that we should not place children in exploitative software biomes.

Lucas’s wiki for Minecraft states that its use is for non-commercial purposes. This isn’t what you are listening too and reading about Minecraft from various quarters. That is for commercial purposes. Minecraft is a highly successful (and sufficiently misunderstood) phenomenon that it’s relatively easy to say anything – especially if you hint at STEM and creativity (the buzzwords of EdTech) – and make money and social capital from it. Again, it exploits teachers and students.

If the reason you’re using MS MC Education is to get through a firewall, then this is a clear sign that the system STILL DOES NOT VALUE games. Whoever is making those choices for you has clearly read little literature which dates back to 50 years before Pong. They are allowing it for other reasons. If you’re using it because you THINK it’s fun and kids enjoy it – they also bring to school a cat, let them drink Red Coke and play C.O.D because it’s the same floored argument. Will they let you have an Xbone and choose games without being monitored? No .. because they think you (and games) are ‘fun’ but superficial. You are being placated not supported. Get back into the fight – for games, not a pat on the head.

Multi-user worlds are not a potential future – but they are today’s reality. Again, read the literature – there’s no doubt as to why games are here now and why we need to include them in media education. A sandbox game such as Minecraft isn’t less threatening than playing Overwatch or less brutal than Tomb Raider, it is part of children’s media culture and therefore should part of their educational development as literature.

To use Minecraft Education over Minecraft Pocket or the ‘regular’ edition requires someone to step beyond the rhetoric of software features and connect it clearly with theory and evidence to say exactly why playing it in a closed network has any benefit and in fact doesn’t cause more issues and heighten parental fears about ‘the world of games’ when a teacher or adult isn’t in charge. Children are seen as unable to make their own choices.

But I can’t fight culture … if you want to buy the closed loop version and listen to self-proclaimed experts and isolate yourself from the vast literature available about the value of placing kids inside virtual spaces to explore original thought, creativity, communication and critical thinking — go right ahead – bolt a clock on a toaster and call it cool.

If you’re skeptical and beginning to realise there’s a problem with using games to promote brand agendas and to skip the ‘research and evidence’ – you might start by reviewing the mountain of literature from clinical psychology and media-effects about the problems that you might be causing by drinking the cool-aid and abandoning scholarship. Adding Edu to the end of things is not sufficient and people should be very wary of anyone who attempts to simplify games and game cultures in this way. ‘Edu’ games have historically been disasters – ask Mario.

I’m off for a day at Futsal … because round things are also useful.