Imma blogging like Will Richardson

I can’t really remember why I started this blog. I do remember it was sent to a training day, not about technology at all, and there was Judy O’Connell – chain-gunning me about the web. I knew about the web. For goodness sake, I was in the Editors office at the Sydney Morning Herald telling him we wanted to put a banner-ad on the home page. He had no idea what one was, and I think we paid about $100 for it. I’d put Australia’s Wild FM on streaming audio to WAP phones, to a world that didn’t listen to Internet radio or have WAP phones.  I’d sent SMS messages via the web to unsuspecting mobile phone owners, and failed to convince Channel 7 that viewers would pay to send them back to vote for stuff on TV. Hell, I’d even managed to get slot-machine Flash games in gas stations and motels via Las Vegas, until someone in Canberra decided a computer could be a gambling machine.

I figured I knew the web by the time I got into the Education game, but there was Judy, hitting me with stuff I had no idea about, telling me the Internet was something I didn’t believe. So I wrote my first post about education, mostly announcing I wasn’t gonna live on the desktop anymore. I had no idea what I was going to do, apart from explore what might be.

I think that’s the point of a new technology – not having some ‘standard’ or ‘pattern’ of how to do things, who to do it with etc, but just to be brave enough do what you imagine might be a good thing. Today, I think that, to kids is what they find in games, not least Minecraft. Not only can’t you take that away from them (as games are teaching whether you care to admit/like/notice or care). They are letting kids imagine things that are not in any book or in any study.

I re-read a 10 year old post by Will Richardson

One week left…too many things to do. It’s 6:30 a.m. and I’m already at school, the only one here no doubt. Tied up with yearbook kids all day today. Meetings all day Friday and Tuesday. Slow connection at home precludes any real work on templates or sites over the weekend. And my list is loooonnnggg…Still waiting to hear from Pat about the newspaper template, so that’s kind of on hold (unless of course Joe wants to share his p-machine template which I think he said he got working at some point)…trying to get a weblog/reader study guide site set up for my lit kids to use with our new book The Secret Life of Bees (highly recommended, by the way) and later, Lords of Discipline…trying to figure out the best way to set up my individual logs in journalism since I haven’t been able to get the callback scripts for the template (everyone is too busy these days!)…thinking about the professional portfolio template, the class template, the independent study portfolio/weblog template…hmmm…is there a pattern here? I’ve got weblog fever in a bad way, and I know JUST enough about making them work to make them dangerously intriguing. Should be an interesting few days (and late nights).

You see to me, this is where imagination lives. It’s not defined, worked out and there’s no one to ask. You just have a feeling that the ‘patterns’ as Will puts it mean something. It’s not about a giant vanilla learning network where most people know a little of something (that’s the problem with school isn’t it), it’s something much closer to home. We can’t afford, in my view, to allow the Web2.0 topic to settle into a set of things that over years, we all know something about. If you read stuff Will was flinging on line 10 years ago, you get an almost John Teller narrative.

A year later and Wills, taken the idea and thrown it at the web

Our school’s collaboration via Web log with a local elementary school and two “gymnasiums” from Poland will be beginning shortly after school begins Wednesday. So far, just the home page and the first topics page are up. Still trying to get a feel for the best way all of this will work since we’ll have around 75 kids at any one time participating. Could be a lot of posting going on throughout the process, and I’m thinking of feeding the posts from the topic pages to the home page in some way. We’ll see. I’m still tweaking the banner, and the picture is stock, but I’m having fun getting into Manila again and building some pages. No better way to learn CSS that to start fooling.

My point is this. Just because more people can now show you a pathway more people are on, doesn’t mean it’s going to go somewhere you want to go – or one that is more useful to students who are still faced with the same destination.  The premises from which we begin to think about ‘new ways to learn’ are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination.

So while I like to think I do all sorts of stuff with technology, I’m always drawn to read the same kind of thing today as I did ten years ago. Blogs of people who are working stuff out in their imagination and then doing something with it that isn’t polished, packaged or even likely to be correct.

I guess this is why I like reading blogs and forums that kids are creating around Minecraft so much – they have that sense of adventure and imagination – they are writing for people like them, so that they can both help and spark new ideas. Take Ajnin’s blog – It’s so simple, yet so driven. It’s not telling you want to do, it lets you imagine where he’s going.

I guess the thing no teachers are seeing from Massively Minecraft, or any other multi-player game are the stories about learning that are passed about ‘in-game’. It matters nothing that schools or teachers don’t want/like games or game based learning – what matters is that they are already the most dominant force in connecting kids with imagination, fun – and learning. They seek now stamp of approval, nor see any need to justify themselves to education at all. Why would they.

I’m not sure what my agenda was on day one, and I’m still not sure now. I sometimes think I should have ‘got off’ at some point and put a flag in the ground. But then I meet someone like Kieren Egan whos not a gamer, but been working on a theory of Imaginative Education for 30 years, and he’s pinging off people before that. There are no guru’s and experts – there is just two things that matter – evidence and imagination. Evidence will always be the past, and imagination will be the future. It’s brain missing then to ask for both at the same time.

But let me give a word of warning. Where speculation ends – in real life –  real, positive science begins: the representation of the practical activity, of the practical process of development. Kids have a real history with the web – one that is remarkably different to their parents or teachers, these abstractions have in themselves no value whatsoever unless we accept evidence and imagination is already bursting out of the Internet.

We just have to look in more unfamiliar places, and make sense of what kids online are saying. They fact they are not saying it to us, or in a way we can ‘flip’ into a classroom says something. I think it pays to go back to your roots, see what you agenda was – and if it’s changed. The hard thing is working out what it is I guess.

Wonder how Wills going with it? From that picture – I think what @jokay is doing just out of view in the top right. Which seems the place to be if you’re a kid too.


10 reasons game based learning isn’t so hard

I thought I’d drop a post about games-based-learning, as there seems to be total confusion about it, and where it sits with social-media. I’ll try to just make points.

  1. Games based learning could be just like a MOOC, given that games operate similarly, except there’s no time table limit, no prescribed readings in a folder and they have way better reputation systems.
  2. Game operate best when players are dialed into the ‘social graph’, so games based learning could be on Twitter, if Twitter was ‘seen’ as a text based game (which it is). You can use it, we did, no one died.
  3. Seeing a long list of who’s better than you is de-motivating to MOST people. This is why class scores suck. However leader boards are useful. Game Based Learning just re-casts better leader boards
  4. Badges work. As long as the loop they are connected to adds personal and social value as an experience.
  5. Games Based Learning is more likely to appeal to multiple personality types than using social media in learning, which has little appeal to ‘explorers’ for example, but bias towards socialisers. In the mean time, school likes ‘killers’ those who thrive on competition, rank and so on. GBL can then be differentiators, even levellers. You still get the top 1,2, 3 – but they might finally not be just the academic kids and be more socially inclusive. OMG.
  6. In Games Based Learning, the priorities are to influence learner behavior – to use them to get people to do what you want. So the ‘outcomes’ sit front and centre as they always have. Put down the chair, it’s okay. Other priorities are diminished by degrees of importance – but hey, at least you can assess them.
  7. Social games can revolve around a points system. This doesn’t mean you have to declare every point. It not like collecting stupid coins (marks) for no reason. Think of it as formative assessment and error checking. Points are not aligned only to academic ‘yes’ and ‘no’, they are used against social and academic work – useful to the student and the teacher. Again, nothing changes as far as reporting goes – except maybe it gets better.
  8. Games ‘inside’ social media friendly platforms are the most common use-factor – which means games occupy more of people’s time that Tweeting of updating Facebook. Go look at the top 25 iOS apps and figure it out.
  9. There is no lesson, topic, subject that cannot be made playable – even Maths.
  10. Social Media (in many common educational rationales) represents one component of the experience loop. Yes it’s multi-layered and complex, but there are at least 3 more BIG elements being ignored. For example, why do people play a game when the reward for solving a problem is just another problem. It’s not learning how to follow people on Twitter and ping questions to get a quick answer or a high-5.

What games quietly whisper (when done well) is KEY (Keep Educating Yourself). That’s the art of listening, learning, sharing and undertaking meaningful work. Finally, Game Based Learning does not mean computer and video games. It means being able to sustain an experience loop towards a goal with a satisfactory conclusion. This means you can run a perfectly respectable game in EduBlogs.

Here’s a counter intutive scenario:

“The secrets of the Bayaux Tapestry”

It’s a heroic game (there are types of game-narratives).  It uses a piece of wallpaper and a wiki and a video I didn’t have to make, just to illustrate the point – the stuff is out there, use it, don’t remake it.

All games have rules, so here are mine:

The student(s) are players in the game. They have to overcome problems for which they are rewarded with more problems. Some are more interesting than others, some easier than others. The game has a goal, and everyone has to work through levels to get to the goal. There is NO teaching needed. The teacher is the game-maker (way more fun), they can leave clues, offer some guidance, a few lies, but they can’t explain everything – else the hero will never find the extremes of reality, and make less sense of the ‘real world’ because of it.

Anyway, I thought I’d put up a 10 things post as they are all the rage in social media I hear.

3 Reasons there will be no lifeboats in EdTech.

The evolution of technology might be attributed to the S-curve. The S-curve term refers to the dominant shape of the growth of revenues and profits at a successful business, starting small, accelerating upwards through a period of rapid growth, and eventually tapering off as the market becomes saturated and the business matures. This shape of the evolution of the business resembles an S, not unlike the pattern an innovation follows as it matures.In the past, let’s say 1995-2005, educators had a decade to figure out what a computer was for and how to get about the Internet. There wasn’t exactly a great deal of new money or new pressure to do this – nor any real incentive, but there was time. Then we had the money, people started getting on stage and talking about the wisdom of the crowd, but goodness! how time flew. Now the money’s leaving, the songs the same, and for a vast number of kids – the delivery truck never arrived.

Today the S-Curve doesn’t last a decade – it lasts 12 months. Improvements in technology are driven increasingly on the basis of

  1. competition (the printed book verses the mobile screen)
  2. the distinctiveness of capabilities (the ability for others to to imitate the tool or how to use the tool)
  3. supply of talent (who can make these things for the organization).

What happens now is that these things rise and taper off much sooner than large organisations can cope with (or notice) without the switched on staff.  It also makes it more difficult for those who are not ‘savvy’ to leap from one technology to another. Avoiding it or sticking with something more comfortable will work only until the business falls over or someone rationalises the workforce (or the industry) with a new technology that has these 3 qualities.

There is no guarantee bricks and mortar schools will survive where bricks and mortar business failed. Education demands astronomical amounts of money to keep the doors open, yet hasn’t much liked being scrutinized. The question for a 10 year old today is not “what is the world wide web“, but “how does a recommendation engine influence what you read”. And their in lies the problem. Most of the people in the classroom would have no idea why this matters and at best would Google it. It seems to me that would be an excellent interview question.

These three things are key to any educational initiative thriving – and who’s to say these people will forever be called teachers – or even study more than basic learning theory as some sort of historical background. There is good news however. This is the era of people who MAKE and DO. They are the ones who will build the future, not just talk about. They are the ones who can ride the S-Curve and know when to get off an old idea – and that isn’t once a decade anymore.

Web2.0 is old and Web3.0 was a hoax. What else can we imagine?

The Now You

So here you are, the future you, surrounded by computers which can deliver to you just about every fact humans know, the instructions for any task, the steps to any skill, the explanation for every single thing your species has figured out so far. This once imaginary place is now your daily life.

There are no more tests as there were no test-questions which could not be answered instantly using a semantic search or scientific algorithm solver. Conformity is expressed through belief polorisation. People don’t know the world, they can’t detect the important the issues or the lies, just vague impressions of both based on the pre-conceptions formed from three thousand spoilers online.

What did we not teach – imagination.

Curtain Call

I’ve been writing this blog for many years. Increasingly I have think I’ve got some idea of what I’m actually about. What is disappointing is the increasing use of so called ‘curation’ tools like Pinterst which appear to ignore all ethical or moral values, let alone copyright in Australia. Yes copyright is a mess, however it’s still a law and no one appointed the scavengers and l33chers to invent a new one. Blogging is about comments. It’s about discussion, it’s about a big, fat, exploratory essay – it doesn’t work if no one returns fire. Blogging is being killed by derpware.

I’m astounded at the rise of this – and how many teachers have jumped in with both feet, unwilling to take a few minutes to ask or at least inform the owner.  I’m even more annoyed by people who have such little respect for for others – they are happy to l33ch ideas and information, then turn it into dollars almost immediately.

If people want to spend all day stamp-collecting great. But please don’t defend it as some kind of moral social service for people who are yet to learn how to search or feed themselves. That’s crap. If teachers don’t respect the work of their colleagues, we can hardly bemoan kids thinking it’s fine to copy and paste or plagiarize. We should not have to make excuses for colleagues who claim not to be literate or interested. This is the job today, it changed, get over it. Look around you? do you see OHP and chalkboards being returned? Do you not see the people who are waving at you offering help?

There’s one way to stay professional – that’s to be professional about your practice. And before you say it – who ain’t busy these days. I can’t imagine that life between here and when I retire/expire will be about pinning other peoples ideas to a fiction wall in the hope that some derp will get off their backside.

Seed, don’t l33ch.

How to RSS Twitter feeds in one line

Keeping up with what’s happening on Twitter is hard. There is so much flying past these days, it’s easy to miss the good stuff. Thankfully, people are using hashtags, which helps. The problem is that you still don’t have time to scroll though the gazillion tweets with the hashtag still. There are plenty of online services to help, but this also means joining something and logging in. All too hard if you’re a bit old school like me, and just like to live of RSS feeds. So here’s a tip on how to get RSS feeds with one line. All you do is paste it into the browser and add to your favourite feed engine.

There you go, I said was easy. All you do is change the term following the ‘equals’ sign and off you go. Now you can feed that to all your fave graphical readers.

If that didn’t freak you out – how about RSS yourself? – Head to and find your Twitter ID number (or that of your nemesis), then you will have your RSS feed, like this.

The other way to do this is to use Google Reader directly. But that assumes you are using Google Reader.

Now you can sit back and relax. No more checking Twitter every 10 minutes to see what is happening.

Digital Identity vs Digital Self.

This is a beautiful video which outlines how your identity is formed on the web. While I am an advocate for children and adults figuring out what this means, and how to manage it, it reinforces my belief that virtual worlds are in fact a far safer place for children to begin using the Internet. I used this video with my eight year old daughter today to help explain why she wasn’t going to play some Zanga game of Facebook, not least supported by fact she doesn’t have a Facebook account. What I didn’t expect is that she largely understood the technical terms and certainly the concepts. She has learned that with her friends in our game world – so do I mind her playing vide0-games and having several avatars? No, what I fear more is what would happen if she didn’t.

This is another one I showed her, to explain how identity follows us around. I really like this kind of project – it’s a really great way of acting out the discussion. I’d love to have a go at something like this one day. It brings the idea into an open public space – which really is where identity ends, whether people believe it or not.

Her avatar lives. She lives in Steam, Xbox Live, World of Warcraft, OpenSim, Massively Minecraft and more … and that is where she’s learning how to manage user-accounts, profiles and participation. Rather than be freaked out by this, I think it’s a far better place, given the enormous amounts of data-mining that occurs. It remains to be seen how peer-pressure will impact her choices, but I’m very sure that she won’t gain sufficient knowledge or experience to make good choices at school (not that her school doesn’t work positively in this area). At some point we can only teach water safety, but allowing kids to get wet. It makes sense to swim between the flags – but I guess to many people, it doesn’t make sense to let an 8 year old play games.

Twitter’s race to being the worlds top classified small-ad channel.

Image of classified adverstising snippetTwitter is a text adventure game. The owners of the software control the rules, the user’s create the fiction and game-play is created though interactions with it. It’s a really popular game with players who assume similar charaters to those you’d find in any massive-multiplayer – the hero, the healer, the scout, the opportunist etc.,

A good virtual world is changed each time we enter it. This is sort of why educational-games are so awful, they don’t change.

The avatar you inhabit in Twitter, the agency it provides is as fictional an unreal as Warcraft’s Azeroth – and so are the characters. It’s fun while your mind processes information it finds satisfying. What is less discussed is that this is the hall-marks of social-engineering complete with in-equality ability to reduce the possible variance as it tinkers with rules (user names, banning countries and messages or blacking out communication etc.,). I can’t honestly say that I’d recommend Twitter as place I’d promote to what I see as ‘second wave’ adopters, who are more interested in quality than quantity – and here’s why.

Costonova said social game worlds are built around three common principles that apparently contribute strongly to their popularity. This seem all too real in Twitter.

The first principle is division of labor: Agents seem to desire avatars with unique abilities, by which they can provide individualized contributions to avatar society. The second principle is equality of opportunity: Agents seem to enjoy a rags-to-riches storyline, in which everyone starts out very weak and very poor, but then has the opportunity to advance through the application of time and skill to game play. The third principle is inequality of outcomes based on merit only: Agents seem to prefer game mechanisms that grant advantages of wealth and power only to avatars who have performed more meritorious actions (where “merit” is admittedly hard to define – working long hours at the game, being socially or politically skillful, etc.). Together, these three principles attempt to provide diversity, equality, and meritocracy, and this seems to be the most desired kind of society.

Perhaps Twitter for me has become a different experience. I find myself feeling as though I need to spend more and more time sifting though quantity (those with a profit-agenda) to find quality.  I’m finding the difference between Twitter and News-print classified-small-adds is just scrolling – and yet people are still ‘shouting’ out at conferences about Twitter to ‘new teachers’ as though it’s still 2007 – when Twitter was actually about more than farming your audience.

Filter Bubbles and Monocultures

“The governing pattern a culture obeys is a master story– one narrative in society that takes over the others, shrinking diversity and forming a monoculture.” F. S. Michaels

I’ve just bought “Monoculture: How One Story Is Changing Everything”, after reading the brief, but always to the point introduction on Brain Pickings, one blog I make the time to read. As time moves on, I find myself more interested in the nexus between story, technology and culture than I do ‘education’ per se, mostly as I find much of educational technology discussion insufficient to describe, let alone explain what I see when kids play multiplayer video-games. Increasingly I find Edu-Twitter less and less useful in terms of discovering new ideas for learning theory and hold a deep suspicion that ‘EdTech’ serves a market-need, and is highly artificial.

Your filter bubble is the personal universe of information that you live in online — unique and constructed just for you by the array of personalized filters that now power the web. –  Eli Pariser

This idea of a filter bubble is also really interesting – as clearly once inside the bubble, it’s hard to leave it.

Passive learning is better than collaboration

Why do we put kids in groups of 30 online (beyond the fact that this number represents a class). Why is it called collaborative learning?

I’d say the further you go past the number 3, the less productive learning becomes. In our game, when 3 kids work together  and 5 more passively watch, all will recount what happened as though they we’re actively engaged. Ask them  to repeat the activity individually, and those who collaborated originally fair no better than passive observers. In fact the passive’s often notice errors the collaborators made and correct them rather than repeat them.

In a document or test, having the benefit of correcting other’s mistakes is called cheating – in a game or virtual world it’s called learning – and learning in 30s would be a really dumb idea.