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.

Finaland or bust.

My post this week is about the hyper frame which surrounds education. Teachers are routinely told directly and indirectly they are part of a deficit profession, where costs are up and yet results are declining — the resulting frame for teachers is ‘do more with less’ and to accept to work in a profession where inspectors and authorities (also known as the mysterious they) will sit in closed-door judgement of their work, as though the crisis and deficit in education has not occurred through global politics and economic policy and best solved by weeding out the chaff – regardless circumstances and opportunities.

Experience is the best teacher. It isn’t easy to be a teacher despite un-evidenced claims that Universities are doing a poor job at training them. But the do more with less manta isn’t about quality teaching or reform, it is about money. Teaching is a profession where the long-tail of expectations – things teachers do that is invisible – is an inexhaustible pool. The juxtaposition that teaching is both too expensive and in deficit sits against an economic landscape where electricity prices have risen 50% in the last decade and house prices in Australia’s major cities have skyrocketed. New teachers cannot afford a house in Sydney, and face a two hour communute from a rented house share. So do more with less, includes things out of school – such as less quality of life and realistic tipping point. Teachers have always paid for things for their classes and not ‘claimed the expense’ unlike the world of politics, where expenses are seen as a right – teachers cannot realistically fund the system forever.

Schools are now compared to the ‘Finland’ and it’s worth looking this …

Finland has developed a deeply thoughtful curriculum and then provided teachers ever more autonomy with respect to how they approach that curriculum, they have both a curriculum worth teaching to and the kind of autonomy in how they approach it that is characteristic only of the high status professions.  Because Finland is at the frontiers of curriculum design to support creativity and innovation, teachers have a job that has many of the attractions of the professions that involve research, development and design – NCEE

Now let’s revisit other countries. Teaching is not a high status profession as it is in Finland.  If it was, parents and students would not physically or verbally attack teachers. Teachers are also not encouraged to be researchers, but consumers of products which they are told to use (by ‘experts’) as they are going to improve the outcomes of students. Classroom teachers often have very limited input into these products or processes.

In Finland 85% of teachers stay until retirement. They are paid roughly the same as other OECD countries, but the schools are not run by administrators or the hyperframe of deficit and failure which the media report is response to political and lobby group rhetoric about lowering costs and driving up productivity. Children are not products, but products seek children out as life long revenue streams. This is fundamentally wrong and partly why I oppose the endless sloganeering and brandification of schools (who can afford it).

Finnish teachers work HALF the hours of their American counterparts. So in many ways, people who say directly or imply accept how things are – are never going to change, anymore than he’s going to leave his wife and be with you tomorrow. American, Australian, and UK teachers have many more obligations than Finnish teachers, meaning potentially high levels of stress and less time for planning enriching educational activities. So there will be less, but not in the cost saving way the administrators insist will occur.

The hyper frame has two positions – those of the administration and those of the teachers. Finding a common frame is not going to achieved by expecting teachers to continually accept a culture of fall-back and criticism, but one of advancement and tangible benefits to their status, health and environment – which also has a flow on effect to the most important people in our society, those without a voice and choice – children.

So what’s my PBL model these days?


It’s been ten years since I really started to understand the effect inquiry learning has on children’s enjoyment of learning. In that time, I’ve adopted, modified and been frustrated by the term PBL, which is now used symbolically – just as we say ‘television’ just so we can create frames in the mind’s of people we are talking to. Today, Twitter is awash with people offering PBL training, or using it to rocket jump their careers beyond the mundane teacher in the room next door. I reject this culture entirely and these days have no interest in the competitive narcissism that fuels it – even being English, a culture which thrives on self-deprecation while loving every moment.

So what have I learned so far?

A collection of thoughts … but essentially, my version of PBL is based on challenges and overarching metagame that focuses on minimalism, intentions and working towards class time being about 100% feedback powered.

Game based learning isn’t the suburb of learning that weird people live in – it’s every aspect of contemporary life. Games have been embedded in culture for thirty years and eclipsed television and film revenue in dollars earned by 1981. Game theory is mathematical and has been expanded, then applied to every other industry aside from education since the 1970s. So we’re SLOW learners. My “PBL” is built on game theory, not downloads from BIE.

Team teaching requires a genuine shared partnership of equality and respect. Team teaching is more effective and rewarding for students and teachers. The closer the two teachers get, the greater the synergy and energy is. Students see the teaching, rather than two teachers. The are less likely to take ‘fall back positions’ in seeking help and guidance. Students will be open to acting on advice (See later on what I mean by that). The whole thing works with the same unspoken synergy that video games rely on in multi-player games. If you don’t understand that – go and play until you do.

Team teaching is the metagame, it’s central to success. The goal is to move the teaching paradox as close to the learning paradox such that both parties understand the INTENTIONS and in that, learning is a highly negotiable process. That matters so much – intentions are MORE important than goals, ego or content. Unless this is achieved, no common frame happens.  It’s not something that can be forced by making people work together. Again, in games, we have pools of players with the same intentions. I don’t see any evidence to suggest teaching culture of ‘human relations’ get this at all (yet). Some people simply don’t like doing as much as others — and it’s a waste of time trying to change their belief. Trust me, a WASTE OF TIME.

Solo teaching is less effective, and more work. It’s still better than the worksheet-lecture and rule-based punitive culture in so many classrooms, however, I believe it’s also seductively corrupting, should that teacher also suffer the ego-centric desires I stated earlier. On the whole (so far) I’d argue, solo PBL teachers do not make effective team teachers, as they seem to more interested in illusory, competition that finding the INTENTIONS I mentioned. They are probably great, like Trump, they tell us how good they are all the time – but after over a decade, I don’t see it as a positive indicator they also make good collaborators or team teachers.

More than two teachers are more likely to have a negative effect on large class size achievement. The INTENTIONS become multiplied and the metagame rules become harder for kids to follow.

Learning design is key. A minimal hypertext document, which sets out the entire projects INTENTIONS and BIG ideas stated with a clear, suggested time to apply to various research elements beats EVERY interactive, multi-faceted software package every time. I learned this from engineer Colin Chapman, make it light, then make it lighter – lightness is the goal. EdTech is a fat slob which binges on junk culture. Kids will do better with the S in SAMR and teachers will design learning better because that is the time-based reality of current school demands. Be minimalist. A Google Doc for the whole project via a consistent Tiny URL, with a persistent structure (as they will get at University), works – if the INTENTION of the design understands the metagame and that Blooms is not the best or default taxonomy.

Projects are crap. Kids hate them. They like them more than worksheet crap, but projects often drag on for weeks – because teacher-brain thinks 1 project over 10 weeks will appease the BOSTES demands more easily. Kids need to MOVE. To get them to do that,  they need CHALLENGES: Think FOUNDATION > CHALLENGE > REFLECT/PRESENT. This ain’t what the PBL experts are showing you right? – Yep, because they are WRONG – they don’t understand the metagame and how important INTENTIONS are. I bet no one’s even mentioned INTENTIONS as being a paramount factor before in PBL training. So a challenge means MOVEMENT. If kids are not moving all the time, if you don’t have a third of the class in flux, there’s a problem

Space matters. You need more than one space – with walls. You need three or four spaces. Projects need 3 or 4 teachers to work on one project – such that kids can come and go.

Block mode works for some, but not all subjects.

All subjects need direct instruction at times, but this isn’t an excuse for not thinking about why it’s the ONLY way to go.

Each space has a contextual purpose to the INTENTION. So if a kid is working on a foundation stage, they need to be in one space, but they don’t have to go there – they need to choose correctly –  because they understand the INTENTION of that space at the time.

Spaces and INTENTIONS change over time – but they don’t get harder. Again, forget Blooms. Think WIN-WIN-WIN. Kids need to find success and believe it is a repeating pattern – even if you’re in a school that doesn’t have deep pockets. If you INTEND to have a top and bottom – that is what you will get – congratulations you just killed enthusiasm and self-belief and most kids end up being SOUND which is like TELEVISION, a meaningless box until you power it up or throw it away.

Schools don’t value learning design as a valid skills set the way University does – so space, equipment, and pedagogy don’t have sufficient learning design theory experts, let alone be able to ratchet that up to the point it can use a metagame.

Feedback needs to be comprehensive, reliable and fortnightly. It needs to given in conjunction with a discussion and in most cases, teachers need to re-assess on the spot, and give kids MORE credit if needed or LESS if they have copied other people and don’t get it. Teachers need to INTEND to spend the entire class time doing this – NOT TEACHING and NOT SITTING ABOUT waiting for kids to approach them

100% of class time is given to FEEDBACK unless you have a really good reason not to. The learning design and spaces MUST make this happen.

Kids should be given the outcome and the opportunity to propose their own project to meet it – even if it’s simple!. IF YOU HAVE A strong metagame structure that has given them the patterns and routines needed for INTENDED SUCCESS, this is possible.

IF YOU ARE EXPLAINING THE PROJECT AT THE START – THE PROJECT DESIGN is such that you will have to KEEP EXPLAINING IT and never achieve the INTENTION of using class time for FEEDBACK.

Oh yeah, don’t be a fool in a Kings Court – own your stuff and make it work for you.

Most people don’t obsess over this for a decade, most go home and annex work with their fall back being the demands of ‘the job’ – rather than thier role in improving the method itself.

… anyway, that’s enough for now.

Teachers demand overuse of technology in children – daily.


The recommended time for school age children to use a screen is two hours per day. This figure has been used for a very long time. It varies slightly depending on use, but not significantly enough to support kids using them all day at school.

There are tools to help parents manage media time, but these don’t account for teacher time. One of the risks is exposure to media which glamourises risky behaviours, which we also know is something teenagers find thrilling and pay attention to. So it isn’ just the sedentariness of watching streaming video, playing games or swiping through Instragram that is the issue. We also know parents believe screen media has both positive and negative uses, as we also know that technology brands downplay the negative and enlist teachers to help them promote the positives – even though there is often thin evidence to suggest specific technologies and brands do this, but as usual, hide the benefits in cleverly worded homogenous statements. They also tend to use ex-teachers as reps, and if those reps have a wide social media influence … happy days for brands.

We know that managing screen time also means managing the quality. In addition, having entire family screen time is important, as is a child observing parents reading books over binge watching TV shows. We know that co-playing video games is better for their development than being left to play for eight hours or more in their bedroom. We know, we know, we know.

My point is this. In school, teachers insist kids use computers in just about every classroom. Computer time is not something schools are required to report on, as NESA doesn’t have any policy around this – and doesn’t appear to have thought about yet. A teaching program or unit must include the mandatory outcome numbers and statements, but I don’t see anyone including ‘screen time’ allowances for these activities.

Parents cannot effectively manage or regulate ‘screen time’ at home if teachers are using it all day. Brands know that a teacher is a great envoy for a lifetime of consumer loyalty. That’s why they love ‘delegates’ to visit their offices and hand out show bags.

I am sure I am not the only one who insists on screen-time being measured and planned into children’s units of work and tells parents how much time we (the body of teachers) allow in school. But then we work in holistic projects with four teachers on a session, so we know what each other is doing. In a school where kids more from class to class – who is measuring screen time? Does anyone care? Do teachers have any social responsibility towards children’s screen health?

In a school where kids more from class to class – who is measuring screen time? Does anyone care? Do teachers have any social responsibility towards children’s screen health? And I’m gonna provacatively suggest many teachers are locking into an endless ‘give me your phone’ war with teens in and out of class. Every wonder if it just the media to blame?

Teachers have always been quick to reject video games (addictive) based largely on their existing belief and conceptions of content in them – as they carry on with their online documents and Googling for six hours a day as though these things are better or devoid of effects on children.

Brands make good software. The reps tend to know their stuff – but if you’re a teacher and your students are using 1:1 machines in every classroom day in day out … why? How do you justify not following the recommendations of numerous health organisations.

Brands know exactly what they are doing. They know how to get children to be loyal and how to get parents to buy into their ecosystems. All it takes is a bit of attention and muffin at a conference it seems.

Wake up and stay frosty when it comes to brands and res pushing screen time.

The MinimalEdTech Movement

Blogs are reflective thought pieces – a reaction to the world as I experience it. Maybe no one reads blogs anymore? But I choose to keep using it because this is the only blog like it on the entire ‘internet’. It’s a tiny speck swirling around the immeasurable junk culture of consumerism and relentless media messages.

What’s the minimalist movement got to do with school?

Minimalism isn’t new. In many ways, minimalism (to me) is part of the hipster generation’s obsession with an imagined past, which was both simpler and more meaningful that the one they have – and hate. There are many minimalist sites (and books) which of themselves are part of the media onslaught and super-cool image quest, but essentially, many of the books, blogs and stories are part of the hero’s journey that demands and creates – more media. I also think may of them ‘get that’ and let’s face it, if you also happen to have the media qualities needed to get noticed and promoted then you’re going to be both minimal and have adventures. But you get the point – it’s hard to be minimal in age, where to thrive and promote it, you have to play the game.

I like the minimalist ethos. It leaves room in life for fun and adventure.

Don’t confuse an active, informed decision to be a classroom EdTech minimalist with someone who can’t be bothered to investigate, try, explore and implement educational technology. Sadly, classrooms are full of teachers who have barely progressed beyond using Word Docs and Powerpoint – and from experience as a University teacher – there plenty of pre-teachers who are prosumers and will whine and moan if they are asked to go more than Word essays or, worse, asked to collaborate.

A decade on from the emergence of the read/write web, classrooms have a constellation of options (and prices), but that isn’t making teachers or students happy, confident or better according to the research (as meager as it is). Most research bangs on about ‘potential’ and fails to follow up on ‘implementation’. This is why we have so many prophets on Twitter talking utter EdTech rubbish – as academia has barely shown an interest in investigating their claims. At the heart of the problem are ‘senior’ management who have grown used to a very enjoyable lifestyle of playing with new toys, going to see classrooms with new toys, followed by a conference about more new toys and spend almost no time researching or teaching anything. When they get excited – in rolls a new toy (such as Pokemon Go) and a few weeks later, they get bored or seduced by something else (wait for the Holo Lens to arrive in 3, 2, 1 …) So let’s be honest … the last decade has allowed an unprecedented decadence by the higher-ups, who need a handful of teachers to agree with them and produce ‘heroic’ classrooms … which they believe to be either ‘reality’ or the version of reality the media has convinced them is achievable and useful.

So let’s not put this overclocking of classroom technology at the feet of teachers … this has been sponsored by the ideology of the system, which itself is locked into consumer competition over who has the most toys … with public and ‘alternate’ schools being at the bottom — and yet these are often the places we find the best ‘minimalist’ ideas and practice. They just don’t appear at the endless ‘show off-cons that systems produce’. I’ll leave that there – junk culture starts at the top.

Too much choice, little evidence in the classroom

So we have an abundance of choice, virtually no empirical research to support whether the junk-culture of endless apps and products is good or bad. What we have is a system which still demands exams (individual reading, comprehension, writing and explanation) in order to get a job or into further education – and numerous high-profile principals and gurus banging on about open classrooms, funky furniture and why you should buy into it on an epic sale. I recommend reading Digital Play, as it blows the lid on the BS marketing and commercialisation of children’s play – the very thing so many are getting over excited about.

Minimalism is good economics, it doesn’t mean less meaningful, less functional or less anything … that’s a marketing lie from the 52 seasons of fashion we have in daily life.

I tend to buy old cars with minimal features, simple, yet clever engineering and iconic style that makes me happy just to look at them. From another angle, I’m not a minimalist in the sense that I also own ten cars and to me, less than five means I’m starting to think about buying into the cycle of ‘new appliance’ cars and not the true zen of enjoying driving as a big piece of my leisure time. Each one makes me happy and my view is they cost nothing in the end – they all go up in value, so any money I spend on them washes away as there’s always someone who wants to get into a #drivetastefully machine and I’ve been doing that for twenty years. It’s nice when people ask about a car I’m in – often what is it or they tell me a story about their past, or that one day, they are going to abandon their ‘normal’ car and get a weekender. To me, they could be doing that now, it’s just a choice – driven by the endless consumer media messages about lifestyle. So minimal can be: functional, enjoyable, sustainable, and easy to access – which is what classroom technology should be. Minimal doesn’t mean cheap or crap – most people who decide to try and adopt it – still want quality – and think about what that means (to them) not what the TV and adverts say it means to (everyone).

The problem with EdTech

In 2006 I dived into EdTech as a way to kick down the classroom walls and get past the textbook. Back then, EdTech was small and most people who knew what ‘folksonomy’ and ‘Second Life’ were – knew each other. Google was still just a search engine. It was a minimalist movement: blogs, wikis and simple tools that allowed new functionality. Today, it’s a slogan-driven plurality of software and devices which lack empirical scrutiny and rely almost entirely on junk-culture trends and valorisation by influencers on social media to become ‘the best’. Open source has faded into the distance, with ex-classroom teachers promoting brands on never ending global tours. The problem with EdTech is that it’s as aspirational and happiness driven as the 52-week fashion cycle and upgrade path that dominates life – and doesn’t create happiness for many. Getting back to a minimal backbone of form and function means buying less, worrying less and using less.

Minimalism is …

Pick an old tool, pick one with a long history of success. Next, think of all media as a text type. Create a reading and writing continuum for you students for the time you have them, which is at their level – not the aspirational or entertainment level being falsely presented as digitally smart kids. Don’t confuse a kids ability to play complex video games with anything other than their ability to play complex video games. Stick to what we know makes a difference in their lives – things such as READING using Modern English, in books – it helps them pass exams. Don’t buy into the EdTech bullshit, that relies on the Great American Cowboy narrative to infer you are changing the world and going to overthrow the modernism that underpins ideology, or that politicians actually want a sophisticated reading public. Be a minimalist. Pick a limited number of tools and texts and if you need a new one, throw out an old one. This doesn’t mean you now need to know about ten tools, you still need to be all over what is possible, but kids don’t need excess … they need to learn to use screen-time for productivity, to deepen their understanding … and if all you do this year is get them to use Tiny URL and read single Google Doc with links to texts they can use well, spend your time crafting that one doc. You might not get picked for next week’s TeachMeet – but welcome to the EdTechMinimalists … where your time is now yours again …


I know this is a giant post … but right now, I see this as a cornerstone in EdTech’s evolution. Either the brands and online ego-derps win, or scholarship prevails. And to me, only scholarship and minimalist behaviour provide can kids with a healthy sense of being empowered to reject the BS and focus on the game of school. So I’m interested in thoughts on this … I

So I’m interested in thoughts on this … I realize only 10 people read this … but hey …

Reading: not doing it enough is killing us.

During the primary years, schools have proven themselves adept at teaching children to read.  Great news for primary school teachers and children. Reading is the key skill humans use to access new information and in modern hyper-connected, Bluetooth, streaming social society (some call Junk Culture) we never stop reading messages and may even be amusing ourselves to death according to some such as Neil Postman. Whether we believe childhood is better for more things to read or worse, the BIG change for the current generation of parents is that the idea of ‘reading’ we remember at school is under siege from the digital revolution of the last decade.

Reading can change the world. Not Audi or Apple, not the Huffington Post or YouTube. This post is about resetting our thinking about ‘reading’ as an idea. If we don’t accept that ‘reading’ for children – daily – is as important as eating and exercising, then children are not just left to their devices – but being inducted into consumer culture that makes those devices so ‘life essential’ and more essential that a book. So here, I’m going to lay it out – walk past EB Games and into a Bookshop every time you go to the mega-loot-entertainment-hub near you. Grab a book, sit down with your kid and read for 10 mins. Then buy the book.

Why would you do this? Why would you care? Why give up the iPad and iPhone for old technology? – Because reading really is a life skill. According to UNESCO “If all students in low income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, which would be equivalent to a 12% cut in world poverty”. Boom! just by acquiring the skills we give children by year 3. Around the world, most children don’t learn to read at school. If all women completed primary education, there would be 66% fewer maternal deaths for example. So reading has a massive impact – it is literally a life or death skill.

The Modern English Alphabet spent hundreds of years evolving. In fact, the runic alphabet, which is the earliest form of written English has been in use since the 5th century. Many arguments, reforms, influences and changes later, and the written English language encountered by teenagers is a collection of ‘modern english and digital allographs that have lots of meanings. Added to that, teens create and use glyphs and symbols to represent entire ideas and feelings (emoji). Recent US research found that MOST teenagers don’t Google. For the last ten years or so, teachers have been arguing about whether Google is: cheating, rubbish, useful, time-saver, time-waster and so on. The battle was over what digital technology would be allowed in the classroom, and whether or not ‘the book‘ was better. It was a silly debate, but teachers seemed to enjoy it in staff meetings for years. The reality is that reading is better for children than not reading. We can get into what kind of ‘reading’ material, print vs digital etc., but that missed the point. Reading in the sense of reading for understanding, which also promotes listening to understand, not just reply.

If you want to see the result of not focusing on this: consider what Trunk reads before he Tweets out some more bile and rubbish. Then ask youself, do you think his education minister Sweaty Davros think a ‘reading’ public is a good idea? No, killing reading also kills people.

The EdTech binary debate was was a silly debate in many ways, but teachers seemed to enjoy it in staff meetings for years. Sadly it still goes on in many staffrooms, so don’t wait for your school to solve or #stem (joke) the problem.

The simple, sugar-free and brand-free reality is that reading is better for children than not reading. Australian research shows children have less leisure time than a decade ago and more media choices – so reading for many has vanished as something to do with their leisure time. We can get into what kind of ‘reading’ material, print vs digital etc., but that misses the point. Reading in the sense of reading a great book written in ‘Modern English has shown to improve the lives of children for their entire lives. We can’t say the same of the iPad or the Xbox yet.

If you have read down to here, give yourself a pat on the back!

Reading means reading more than a Tweet or a Facebook post. The media would like you not to do that, but read the headline, then another, then another and spend your whole day clicking. That is what the US research found. Almost all high school students get their news from social media links – other people share. They are not Googling, they just click on ‘stuff’ and the engines that drive the stuff are designed to agree that their world view and lifestyle belief is the best. This internet – is not the one you figured out in the 1990s, todays media bubble for teens has almost no useful comparisons to the days of Yahoo, MSN and beige computers in the family room.

Kids need to read to: interpret explicit information, retrieve direct information, and interpret information by inferring meaning. Reading at school has been eroded by governments for decades after year three. Yes they read text books, but how well they read them is really important. It’s the key driver of success into Senior school – being able to ‘read’ the question and then ‘read’ the text to answer is driven by skills learned a decade earlier. A student might be creative, insightful, hard working and so on, but unless they can ‘read’ well enough to decode the question, they are forced to guess or might take away the wrong meaning. It’s not like exam writers try NOT to do that, they do want to see who can deal with the difficult questions AND content.

Now I’m sure that all students read for 30 minutes a day, and that they know what books are appropriate for their reading level. They probably do this while they wait for their device’s battery to recharge. In case they don’t, then I suggest you find ways to encourage it at home, especially in teens. It might not be as well received as a new Xbox game, but that’s like saying we know children need a healthy diet to thrive and still feeding them sugary junk because they like it.

Schools do teach children to read. The media headlines might try and claim otherwise, but since the 5th century, Modern English based reading – in books, has taught every great inventor, scientist, artist etc., the key skills they need to be a success – and it still delivers results.

Stupid Edu Twitter Graphics #1

The image on the left was on Twitter. A handy visualisation of the BIG question being asked on the stage for the Department of Education’s Principal Conference. I’m sure everyone reminded each other how innovative they are, how hard they work etc.,

But seriously folks, this 2017 and this is the BIG IDEA that they are putting on a forty foot screen – and them someone makes a Twitter graphic about it and hashtags it online. The summit of media notices parents (and teachers) need to know – I’m so glad that the top brass was reminded of the most basic of concepts.