Reality vs the portrait of EdTech

I find limited scholarship in the #hashtag #edchat dialogues but I do find their existence fascinating. There seems a craving for importance and to be heard. I pay attention to the biographies of teachers (usually briefly acting in the role) who claim to be founders of things such as TeachMeets and Leading This or That. I accept we live in a neo-liberal political and economic structures and that children are therefore an exploitative market in a global marketplace.

In media theory, the ‘effects’ discourse describes how people reconceive themselves by representing themselves in carefully constructed imaginings – using the illusory power of names and naming.

Let me take Teach Meets. This is a powerful name and represents the counter-culture, a more post modern group, who’s member hold special insight that the establishment either ignores or fails to recgonise the significance of. Describing yourself of this as ‘the founder’ or ‘one of the founders’ is an example of names and naming – to differentiate the self from the others – your product from their product. The fact that Teach Meet is a copy of Bar Camp which has roots in “the penny university’ is omitted as it fails to shape the media space in a way that benefits the founder.

To create a successful branded self – it is important to recognise and activate the power of names and naming. The ‘unconference’ became the ‘hashtag’ discussion. I’d point out here that people who have cleverly set up ‘hashtag chats’ have created nothing more than dial tone. They have simply exploited children to create a simplistic and temporal discussion – using Twitter. There are numerous better channels to use to hold a discussion which can be traced back to online communities of practice – such as The Well.

These things are examples of the work of ‘late arrivals’. We know that teachers have been using online communities well before the iPhone and Twitter. There is a great deal of research done around what they are, why they work and what encourages teachers to form or join them.

What I’m talking about is not that. It is a deliberate practice of seeking illusory power and influence based on nothing more than entertainment, names and naming. If that’s how people want to spend Sunday night being entertained, that is their choice. If people want to claim to have invented things – which have a history which can be traced back for decades – they just appear fake.

The explosion of media messages these people flood into the media discourse is deliberate. It ensures there is no way to reconcile conflicting claims about what is good.

A friend said she thought the online discussion ended up in a cycle, and goes no where. I agreed, this is the intention. The teleself hides its identity as not to offend. The result is are glam-profile pics, lots of positivity statements and rousing endorsements of low skills and pimative insights. I don’t mind offending, as that’s just a term used to avoid what is actually going on – outing people’s whos main goal is to serve themselves. Hashtag #sorryNOTsorry.

The key to finding these people is their neediness. They like to be at the centre of attention but will nominate others to be the channel contact (hosts). They will work in organisations that they think are somewhat authoratiative, then later move to their true goal – their own business – which almost always emerges from their ‘leading insight and experience’ of being at X or Y – rather that what they have done inside the spaces (classrooms) they claim to experts on – and more insightful and brilliant that the audience member (the teacher) – which is the height of derp.

Twitter enables the post-modern construction of the self as a commodity. It makes sense for that product to want to ignore rivals or raise a clan of followers to chase them off. These things STOP reform in its tracks. It is not interested in research or scholarship. It positively acts to dismiss or avoid it.

These people, or rather their projected teleselves (they are probably nice people) are a product of hyper-commodification and fetishism. Note that each of these people have their own fetish and that there align with non-rivals to form body which dominates the mass media discourse. It would be easy to see these people are the alphas of EdTech and therefore buy into their offerings – because we recognise ourselves though the names and naming conventions they control.

The basic issue I have with these two things: TeachMeets and Hashtags is that they are based on the idea that knowledge accumulates and not simply reflections of contemporary history – and in the case of our media-selves – a personal contemporary history – whether and early adopted (circa 2000-2005) or Web2.0 adopter (2005-2010) or late arrival (2010-). Humans like to code and decode communication – and it’s fun to transmit our interpretation of the populous in the hope we are benefitting society (what I’m doing here).

This creates limits and roadblocks. It creates illusory power because the populous is not in touch with the science of technology and craft of teaching. The result is to choke what is possible – as hashtag chats, TeachMeets and other ‘targeting events’ are driven by ‘status’ and over emphases the importance of whatever phenomenon we promote (sell).

If you like, the classroom is a pucture of what education is – where Twitter etc paint portraits of what children and teachers should (or want) to be – using media’s liberating effect – we receive knowledge which is assumed to be accumulative. The mutated self is therefore a product of mass media effects – rather than evidence and research. We only have to look how Pokemon Go was adopted as a new cheese overnight for education and vanished a few weeks later. The work in ‘game-like’ learning is sidelined (again). Even the dominant Minecraft had to take a break – but is not back … and using Pokemon Go as ‘proof’ their product is ‘the best’ – which is part of the switch and bait culture within the cycle itself.

Educational reform (improvements) should not be measured by: similarity, analogy, proximity or attraction. I argue those things are the core of those creating teleself brands and should be called out on thier claims – or better still, dropped into the reality of teaching – the reality vs the portrait.

I’m off to work … have a great day …

Using the Hero’s Journey to teach everything.

The hero’s journey is a well known, and well used narrative structure that most people enjoy and experience though entertainment media. They might not be directly aware of it, but the progression is embedded in our culture.

This circle is useful in thinking about ‘design thinking’ or ‘project based learning’ as both require a narrative which students are interested in. This cycle has somewhat been replicated in game design, but as we know, games which attempted to simply remediate it into game-form tended to suck. Lucas Arts managed to produce numerous terrible games by trying apply film methods and structures … and it’s only recently – that Star Wars has become a game that fits with gamer-interests and preferences.

This cycle can be deployed into the classroom. I call them ‘episodes’ because learning is episodic, so entertainment media. I frame things in 4 episodes plus something that goes on at the end around the social-graph. I don’t like ‘presentations’ they are boring and rarely have access to the audience they need to make them feel important.

I’ll call them stages … just because more people recognise the term … but an ‘episode’ comes with it’s own archetypes (which is too hard to explain here). I’ll keep to ‘stages’ in order to make it easier to describe.

The first stage involves getting students motivated and interested, getting access to the resources and other elements needed to run the project and providing the threshold information (processes, content) that enable the enquirer to begin the challenge.

Assume most have absolutely no idea what you’re on about and a few might know one thing about it. Teachers tend to over-rate the general working knowledge of students when they want to “go PBL” because it feels safer to believe the kids are more savvy  then they might really be. It’s a halo-effect about teacher belief about how they are improving their practice … which releases those sweet-brain chemicals of confidence. The truth is that the kids many have zero clue about the topic or what you’re trying to do.

The first stage, which might take up 70% of your total time is to lay down that concrete foundation. Chill out, and make the challenge stage smaller if you need to … but don’t rush into it. I see this with STEM – clearly these are TEACHER projects, where the teacher is so invested in their own success and enjoyment, they become over-guided and dull. In the past, we learned that to teach someone how to use a computer, the first law was to get your hand off their mouse.

My point is that the first stage is all about the KNOW and not (as is popularly said) the NEED TO KNOWS. You get what I’m saying here? If so, we can now talk about the challenge phase (the part the kids love even more if they know something about the topic from stage 1).

The challenge is really important and I’ve seen plenty of teachers (PBL) leave this until the end – when in fact it’s too late. The challenge is also the temptation for students. If the projects appears dull, boring or unfathomable at the start and that feeling isn’t quickly addressed (by the teacher), students will log-off and just push they own happiness wagon. They will remain more interested in ticking boxes and waiting for it all to end that re-engaging with it. This usually invokes teacher threats and punitive language to re-start the process.

The challenge is the second step. It might take an hour, thirty minutes or weeks. It should be foggy and require research, critical thinking, creativity and communication. It probably won’t work out that well. Students might start asking “is this good enough” because they know the answer … and are really saying … wow, this was harder than we thought, there are things we still don’t know, skills we don’t have and we’re not sure if we want to invest our time in this – or maybe push out happiness wagon.

Stage three comes next, but by this time, each student will be in a different frame of mind about it. Variations in motivation, opinion and effort are presenting challenges for the group. This is where the teacher provides the revelation (if they didn’t find it). This is the essential reboot that at least half your students need – to put things in context, to ditch the brain-junk and provide a pathway forward. They need to revisit that they have done so far – to fix it, remix it, re-evaluate it, but not abandon it. What teachers provide here are the tools needed to remedy gaps and issues, but not to do it for them, Think how Ben encourages Luke, but is dead at the time – a fuzzy voice in his head – but solid advice.1459886536608.png

Stage four is all about critical thinking and talking about improvements and issues. Forget this idea that a slick end product is a sign of success. Sure, showing off this stuff at teachmeets and conferences looks cool, but a really good end product is at best 50% awesome and a pile of junk and un-resolved and abandoned pieces. If you focus on the ‘great end product’ you also discourage MOST kids from taking risks and mistakes. All that happens is the kids with the most agency dominate and the other kids hide their work or see it as unworthy. Too many PBL teachers get this wrong. PBL is group work, but it’s the labour of each person – successful or not – that matters. So don’t be in a rush to write that blog post about how brilliant your project was … blah blah … pay more attention to the scraps of paper on the floor – or what they threw in the bin. That’s where the atonement lies. I don’t hear the pearly king and queens of PBL talking about this much – so I figure I’d point it out.

The final stage is the return. This is where the products – great though crap are turned back into concrete items. Wrong facts are corrected (by the teacher) and suggestions for improvements can be made. Time will dictate what action can be taken here – usually not much – but the end point is for students to compare the start and end of the journey – identifying three or four key moments where they felt it was going well, badly etc.,

Kids know what quality products look like. For kids in rich schools – they probably have flashy materials to work with. Many more kids have ‘cardboard arcades’ with duct tape and scavenged plastics etc. Don’t be fooled by shiny things … a great game based, or project based learning cycle isn’t locked stepped to the BIE model or zombie-use of terms such as “critical friends”.

For me, the stages of development create temporary “birds of a feather” groups. Have a look around … why is Jenny now talking to Julian? They never talk, they are in different peer groups? … why is John sitting on his own? … it’s all about observation … not diagrams, templates and technology – this is why I think the SOLO taxonomy works so well within EACH stage of this four step process … you can repeat the same beat over and over until everyone catches on.

Finally, you can present things. However, I suggest using “Stand-ups” instead. Just ping groups and ask them to create a quick 60 second thesis of what they are doing – again, leaving things to the end is too late. A presentation isn’t the be all and end all. In fact I see it more like the rolling credits – most people get up and leave – where as a stand-up is that extra-clip, right at the end that only the insiders know about.

So there ya go … think about what you’re hearing … and then think about the narratives, loops and expertise of kids … which ‘model’ makes more sense – the one they know best.

We’re all Soldiers now

d72e8-1678_zcfc0jm

One of my favourite storylines in Blizzard’s Overwatch is that of Soldier 76. Essentially a character who’s full of experience and grit, but a fading hero. Soldier 76 is a great character in every situation in the game, almost the perfect utility in attack and defense. His story is that of ‘everyman’ looking for justice and truth in the shadowy world around him – assisted by experimental technologies and cyborg-esque modifications from the heroes found in COD or BF. When you don’t have Soldier 76, you can still win, but his absence is often understated by the rest of the far more glamorous heroes in the game.

The other side of gaming is the ‘post-truth’ culture, which my image attempts to capture. I also read that this term is not ‘a thing’ until the Oxford Dictionary made it one … so I subscribe to the idea of instant invention – in a “Do you have a flag?” Eddie Izzard manner – things become ‘important’ because unilateral ‘case making’ no longer requires any evidence and more importantly doesn’t appear to care about truth or the bigger picture. I’m reminded of Seth Godin saying “the internet is all about me, my favourite person – me” over a decade ago. Reality check: Educational attainment is still the on-ramp to success in the neo-liberal society and teachers (like it or not) do the job to help young people do that. The old jokes about “holidays” and “working half a day” seem mild in comparison to some of the ignorant comments that are posted online. Yes your brother works for Steam – how did he get that job? – A teacher, not a vitriolic and slanderous post.

News Flash: Teachers have the same rights as everyone else, so think before you post.

I also read that the term ‘post truth’ is not ‘a thing’ until the Oxford Dictionary made it one … so I do subscribe to the idea of an instant invention of reality: where ideas, truth and lies are beeing enabled by our public access to technology. It isn’t just Trump who does it – but clearly reflects a lack of public indignation when it happens. We each take a relative position – but most of us don’t see it as a green light to indulge in slagging off people – especially those whom provide essential welfare and care: but if you’re in a profession such as teaching, nursing, policing etc., – you’ve probably seen more than one derp post this week – and let it go, let it go. It’s great to see so many American colleagues no accepting Trump’s rubbish and defending both teachers and the essential institution of ‘education’ itself.

Friedrich Nietzsche, the nineteenth-century phil­osopher who is often invoked to justify post-truth, was a relativist, and he does suggest at times that deception is rife and should not be cat­egorically rejected.

His point is to complicate our view of human behaviour and to object to moral certainties that encourage black-and-white judgements about what’s good and what’s evil. Thus he denies that there are moral facts, saying that we have only “moral interpretations”, and in doing so denies that moral assertions are unconditionally true. – Kathleen Higgins

We have taken the idea of being entitled to an opinion to a level where firing off ill-informed opinion in the pursuit of causing harm to others (based interpretation of self-selective, third party contextual opinion is sufficient to use epistemic relativism to feel better about yourself and to intimidate others – whether you’re 10 and on Steam, a parent with an opinion about your child’s school or a politician with a view about all schools.

If you are a teacher – you know that motivating children to motivate themselves is the central challenge in this post-truth era of opinion and sky-rocketing ability to attend to personal gratification: posting, commenting, following links or consuming video. It’s very satisfying to fire off your opinion and dismiss the reality of the action and seek a twisted pleasure in waiting to see what happens once you’ve ‘had your say’. The construction of the tele-self has become important to people – though many just see it as ‘posting’ or thier opinion.

I can’t help but relate Soldier 76’s storyline to the reality of being a teacher at the meta-level. I read the posts of colleagues around the world – battling to keep education relevant. As Soldier 76 says “Heal up over here” and we need more Soldier 76s in classrooms who don’t subscribe to the rise of public comment as moral truth.

There’s also the personal battle to praise effort and actions, build relationships, use co-op learning, and show students the advantages of doing well in school. In a post-truth world, creating opportunities to help them make decisions – such as “do I complete this today?” or “do I get up from my seat and find out” are not automatic behaviour’s for many.

There’s a real danger that post-truth culture enables the very real realities that not all students are self-motivating, and for some a pre-emptive strike against the school or others in the school makes perfect post-truth sense. Don’t worry if it’s true, in context – just as long as the person knows your brother works for Steam. Even worse, add the fact you are taxpayer or fee payer, thus making your opinion a plasma canon of retribution valid.

Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 6.42.00 am.png

Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 6.39.20 am.png

If you have not discovered Thomaz, do so. He’s always been Soldier 76 an un-affraid to tackle the public discourse about equity, in-equity, derp and the rise of anti-intellectualism towards teaching etc.,

It’s hard to pick a couple of Tweets from the dozens he pushes out to ‘heal up over here’. People are more motivated and confident when they feel they have more control over their environment – and in a world of instant gratification (messages, email, texts) there is this real danger that the considered, professional and caring act of teaching  – a deeply human dimension of civic society – and  remember and recognise the deeply emotional, human experience of being both student and teacher.

This comes before brands, before ‘having your say’ or subscribing to the post-truth culture. I’m a parent. It is beyond the edge of my reasoning to launch an attack on my children’s teachers. Maybe if I was a Fireman I would, but somehow I doubt it.

Technology: once the thing brought into schools to ensure students can work in the information economies etc., is populated by those with the post-truth ‘report em all’ mindset – the same people who probably ‘correct’ people on Facebook or fail to realise that their ‘right to an opinion’ is equally matched by our right to have an alternative view – and to be offended by it – not least when I read comments online about how bad teachers and schools are.

Boring lessons will not assist students to develop student intrinsic motivation to learn and Soldier 76 will probably keep working on avoiding that despite the post-truth mentality that appears (in my view) to be evident in public social media comment.

Now where’s my tactical visor. This is my blog and I’ll write what I like too.

 

 

 

Video games and parenting: the unfocused problem

It’s almost impossible to be a parent and not know what a video game is. I’d argue the vast majority of parents take a stance on video games, as they do on television watching. Parents action the play of video games on the same continuum as television or computer use, drawing on their perceived success in regulating children’s television watching in thier early years to video games.

One immediate issue here is that we also know parents become more unfocused in terms of regulation as the child gets older – using media theory which has looked at television regulation for over thrity years. In the same period, there is little research into how they regulate video games – which I know many parents and teachers find amazing.

Taking a stance can be seen as a social act in which parents and children simultaneously evaluate objects, position subjects (themselves and others), and align with other subjects and phenomenon.

This makes every conversation between parents or parents and children about games difficult, the likelyhood of successfully evaluating a game and finding a mutual understanding (let alone agreement) is amost zero.

Focused media regulation happens, as I said, mostly in early childhood traditionally speaking. The regulation of television and play is something parents pay close attention to (in most, but not all) homes. They carefully select media, the time spent with it and are mostly influenced by government policy and advisories as well as a raft of family and parenting publications with ‘experts’ offering advice, though the ongoing media panic about games. By and large the adult focus audience has – since radio – focused on the material, not the interaction.

Unfocused regulation does not mean parents are not paying attention. It means that the discussions that go on between parent-child dyads, about the topic of games (culture, material content, hardware, software etc.) happens in situation that range from casual to heated exchanges about the broad topic of games – where parents have far less exepertise, vocabulary or experience to engage children in a focused conversation.

One of the reasons I *sigh* at teacher’s loving Minecraft (sorry Minecraft Teacher Version) is that is emphasises to the child, just how unfocused their teacher is when talking to them – and other teachers – about video games. It makes it impossible to talk about ‘game based learning’ because the stance teachers are taking (and reinforced by Microsoft’s army of social media amplifiers) failes to evaluate and position ‘games’ and ‘learning’ in other than the same paradigm that saw Web2.0 have absolutely no impact a decade ago.

When observing a group of children playing it (teachers love to film this) the stance between children is focused – because they are the same age, share the same boundaries, under the same rule – and frankly, playing Minecraft is probably preferable to something else – or worse, used as a reward or even nmore disgusting – to allow the teacher to appear to be ‘cool’ in front of their online peers.

None of this helps parents. What I see teachers doing with Minecraft has – at best – no prosocial impact on their family relationships – which most parents (who are struggling with screen time and screenagers) is the problem – not the material in games!

But would school play Battlefield 1 to get over the horrors or war, or let kids play Season 3 comp in Overwatch – sorry, I’ve lost my audience in the fog.

Reinstancing … 1, 2, 3 …. Entering Skirmish while waiting for game.

STEM? Where’s the beef?

The acronym STEM is commonly used to reference a set of educational and occupational fields or domains related to science, but there is inconsistency in the definition of this set and debate about whether the four fields deserve special attention as a collective entity (Gonzalez & Kuenzi 2012). This approach lumps together many disparate disciplines on the assumption that their shared importance promotes technological innovation, competitiveness, and long-term national prosperity and security.Science occupations are high status and reward their incumbents with relatively high personal income and social prestige. It is hardly surprising to see wealthy schools promote their STEM-ness and for those in, or wanting to be in those schools to do likewise.

This implies that STEM education may be more universalistic than non-STEM education, in that a student’s achievement may be evaluated more objectively in a STEM subject than in a non-STEM subject. Thus, STEM infers more than just science. It suggests social mobility, allowing socially disadvantaged persons to succeed through objectively measured criteria accepted by STEM educators and scientists. Again non-STEM educators will find themselves marginalised and rebuffed for suggesting alternate views – or worse – asking for some evidence.

My exchanges with STEM-Tweeters this week left me scratching my head, as no one could point to a study on the impact of STEM in primary or secondary education in Australia, yet all seem convinced by the commercial marketing and claims of the Chief Scientist that we need to give Science more money and attention.

Schooling is apparatus which acts as social determinants and processes which affect educational attainment in general. When I ask what is driving so many teachers to get on the STEM wagon – ie agents of social determinants and processes which affect attainment of STEM education relative to non-STEM education – and why pro-STEM have assumed games are part of their domain – I get a raft of answers – none of which address the central issue – STEM education has narrowly focused on school-specific factors expected to affect participation and achievement in STEM education.

This is the same self-fulfilling rubbish that orbited EdTech – and still does.

Ref:

Gonzalez HB, Kuenzi JJ. 2012. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education: a primer. Congr. Res. Serv. 7-5700, Washington, DC.

More STEM education won’t protect our students from robots

I have a tendency to ask people – who announce the importance of things – on Twitter how they actually know their amplification is factual or accurate. Twitter is both a useful channel for sharing and expanding the scholarship of teaching, and promoting utter rubbish based on marketing and bias.

STEM is one such topic I will ask for more information about. As an Art & Design teacher, I am occasionally symobolised in some of thhe rhetoric as STEAM – but by and large, art and design is seen an outside of STEM. Why? Simple, if STEM amplifiers believed Art & Design useful, they would be no STEM, just STEAM. So from the outset. STEM prompters isolate the arts and humanities from thier agenda.

STEM is an extension of the same ‘technological determisism’ that has powered EdTech for the last decade with ingrained bias, falacies, consumerism and bubblgum-theories. For example “Children who are taught to use Web2.0 will …” now spend 82% of their time (in Australia) streaming music, television, movies and YouTube user-generated content on between one and three devices. For the poorest, their phone will be their only access to the Internet.

The urgency to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is evident in the repeated calls by Australia’s Chief Scientist (e.g. 2014)

During this time, school has ‘maker spaces’ and ‘STEM labs’. The TAS (Technology and Applied Studies) workshop has rarely been visited or booked by other teachers. The Visual Arts and Performing Arts spaces have been pleading for funding. They still are. Apparenly STEM is something we don’t have – or can’t do, unless we have special conferences, hashtags and convert new rooms to this new unique demand – because if we don’t we will once again fail to prepare children for …. work. So we’re faced with a few issues here – first that education is a zero sum game that creates winners and losers and second that commercial agendas are not just allowed, but encouraged to create further disadvantage in schools and between them – tweet by tweet, based on scant evidence.

Historically, whenever jobs get destroyed by new technology, other jobs get created. Computer typesetting has put a lot of printers out of work. But we now have loads of new jobs enabled by computer typesetting like web designer and ebook publisher.

The message on Twitter is of course “studys show”. I don’t people bother to actually look or read these. If they did, they’d soon discover that any effort to create a ‘new’ focus or ‘reform’ an old on inside school system is extremely difficult and that buying new equipment doesn’t last – remember the ‘every child from year nine will have a laptop’ propoganda.

A study by Oxford University said the jobs of the future are in robotics. All you have to do is repeat this to become a ‘celebrity teacher’ who shows amazing insight. What rubbish. Since when did “I have a pineapple, I have a pen” become scholarship.=

Toby Walsh is Professor, Research Group Leader, Optimisation Research Group at NICTA.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

There are several arguments for why we do need to invest more in STEM education.

First, it leads to some of the safest jobs. Second, STEM is likely to help grow the economy. Third, STEM will drive innovation and productivity, both of which are desperately needed by Australia to compete in the 21st century. And as a person working in STEM education, I agree with these arguments, and would welcome more focus on STEM.

However, there are also arguments that we need to invest more in the humanities.

First, STEM needs people people: interface designers; creative types, etc. It’s not just geeks that are needed in the internet and smartphone enabled future of tomorrow.

Second, STEM isn’t for everyone, and there are many even safer jobs beyond STEM.

Third, if robots are going to reduce how much we work, the humanities will help us fill time that we are not working in constructive ways.

Wouldn’t that be great? If the 21st century became famous for an explosion in great works of art, paintings that changed the way we see the world, symphonies that make us weep, and plays that touch the soul? Robots might one day be able to help make such art, too.

At the civic level, STEM is creating further ‘institutional grouping’ and competition between schools and universities for funding and attention. Rather than ‘future proofing’ society, the public promotion of STEM is dangerously premature.

I argue Students’ conceptions of how they initiate, plan, implement and monitor self-regulated learning (SRL) strategies have practical implications for teaching and learning and that the new ‘digital technologies’ syllabus (not in use) remains a primary focus for schools in the near future, but is already undermined by reports of declining literacies in society – including transmedia literacies, and vanishing system-provided infrastructure (laptops, learning management systems, support, maintenance). There are people (often used to justify STEM) that have been working on this for decades.

If it was going to be EASY to do STEM – and if all of education should be driven by what the Chief Scientist thinks … I still rebel againt the Twitter simplicity of these echos.

To illustrate, pedagogical knowledge practices may include the planning of lessons and preparation of resources that target students’ conceptual development in the STEM areas. Apart from scheduling and timetabling lessons, planning also needs to incorporate teaching strategies, classroom management, problem solving by the teacher with reflection-in-action implementation and assessment strategies.

So when I’m told there are Australian researchers and Australian research that is showing we need moar STEM – I simply don’t see it in the literature.

I went to a recent STEM showcase, where “planning”  meant the teacher devising a student booklet as a resource for students to understand the tasks required of them for designing, constructing, and testing a medical mission kit. The mathematics and science concepts were embedded in the planned resources to aid students’ understandings of the engineering activity.

STEM education is a relatively new field for primary and secondary education in Australia and elsewhere, which warrants substantial investment into research on how STEM education can elicit and verify student outcomes. To me, proclaiming yet another ‘shift’ is needed, or worse ‘happening’ has no merit without also understanding ‘how’ this will be delivered will over-come the longstanding pedagogical issues in using all forms of technology.

 

Game Based Learning – Push the cart and stop lollygagging.

Minecraft is not the apex of ‘game based learning’ nor is it the ‘best’ game for kids to ‘learn’ in the classroom. Minecraft Edu set out to be a ‘for profit’ solution that could be sold to teachers and therefore enslaved kids inside that biome. It panders to the teacher agenda and boundaries around their own belief, knowledge and experience of ‘games’. It was a great idea – as a business idea – but as a theoretical or pedagogical model about as sound as jello. If we look at the feast of game design and game theory – why eat jello!

overwatch-4k-0

This was then ‘sold’ to Microsoft for an undisclosed sum and has been repacked with their overall ‘school marketing’ campaign in the ongoing turf war with Google and Apple.

Get off the cart and start pushing. Stop presenting Minecraft at TeachMeets and try something new … even if it won’t make you Chitter-popular. Be a professional, be a gamer … be into it or drop out the game.

Today, Minecraft is presented as the ‘default’ and most teacher-relatable ‘game’ solution. It is popular with kids (ie acceptable to their parents) and recognised, even if some think it’s a lego game.

Most of this ‘gaming’ is PC and laptop, I see few working with Pocket. It’s not the same story that was useful in 2010, but over used and remixed. It’s safe, it’s easy and apparently it signifies ‘innovation’.

But, it you want actually want to get the cart moving again about the value of games – games that didn’t exist in 2010 – get off the cart an push the damn thing. Don’t forget – games are a valid and unique media literacy that don’t need to be integrated with an essay in Google Docs to become valid in the classroom. Just like ‘play’ itself is valuable because it’s a great way build self-efficacy and agency in the world around us. It’s also fun, not creepy treehouse fun.

Teachers love the “we’re teaching kids for jobs that don’t exist yet” dogma. Well I think you may be using games that fail to promote the kind of learning and social connectedness that already exists – and if you follow the research – kids are spending over 80% of their time streaming music, TV, Netflix, Stan, Spotify and youtube. If not they are following links to terrible content via apps.

The old worry “Google will make you stupid” is dead. Kids don’t even Google. They follow links and consume TV along side their parents in binge-watching sessions. Kids don’t spend 8 hours a day on a game, young kids spend 8 hours a day playing dozens of games, which they don’t go back to ever. They download, play the basic level and when it gets hard, quit and get a new game. Forget digital natives – they are nomads for years before they get to be teens and play comp with their mates – and thats all about connectedness and shared experience, not content.

There are games, game cultures and game methods – all of which an be used to create engagement and mindfulness. They can also be presented from the stance of digital nutrition and digital sunscreen. And yet, what do we get? More people droning on about Minecraft … because it’s easy and profitable … not because anyone’s shown it improves anything yet.

Game Based Learning is not what is being presented … push the cart to the next checkpoint or the other team win.

(another unpopular opinion of a games/parenting researcher and player.