Term 3 – Project Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do I approach coursework design?

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

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

triarchic-theory

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

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

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

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

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

Coursework requires time, but not a time-table.

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

View the social media czars with skeptisism.

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

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

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

So what method do you use?

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

Does this work for everyone?

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

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

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

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

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

I liked your old stuff better than your new stuff

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

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

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

 

Pokemon Go! has full access to your data

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

Blogger Adam Reeve picked this up, saying

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

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

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

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

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

Robocraft

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s break it down MSMC Edu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why not to buy Minecraft Education Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Edu-con

I am not the only teacher who’s decided not to attend Australia’s educational-technology event (Edutech) in Brisbane. Pip Cleaves posted some powerful and personal reasons she won’t be bothering either.

So this post isn’t for everyone, not is it about anyone. I am sure that plenty of people will attend this event and get inspired and make new connections which will change their practice. It’s just not for me either. And I feel sad about that, as I have not logged-off from new experiences, I just find the cost of these events beyond justification – for me. So in this post, I’m wondering just how this event grew so big, and what it means for teacher-culture and practice.

Education and Technology are seriously powerful tools when mated, where as this is commercial event created and run for the  purpose of making the organiser a profit.

I am not anti-technology. I use technology all the time in my lessons. I don’t have a ‘filter’ and there is no while list of apps, games or other media that a preside over. The world our children know is infused with media and immediate access to information. There really are no students left in schools who the pre-date Web2.0 boom and fizzle – and yet it will no doubt be resurrected from the dead, all be it with a new wrapper.

The issue is that while this students can (and do) access to technologies and media information, there is little research to suggest schools kill creativity or that technology does not have negative impacts on some students, extend the gap between have and have not, create new social-problems for the day to day operational needs (legal and cultural) of schools etc., More importantly, there is no effective ‘test’ for a child’s media-age or experience. What we do know is that children bring with them a very complex and varied set of routines, belief and interests – all of which have not so far been considered by the canon of tweets, blogs and writing around ‘the digital generation’. No 90% of Australian households have three or more screens which children use pervasively.

There is on certainty. Teachers are requiring students to spend more time online than ever before which increases the cognitive load. Do schools track these hours and report on them? I mean, play most online games and you can find out the time spent, but schools gingerly avoid any reporting of hours logged. Given the recommendations for ‘usage’ for young people, schools routinely over-clock kids brains. Some schools seem to have inter-staff rivalry over the amount of technology loaded onto kids and of course, as Prensky said over a decade ago – great rivalries for superiority have emerged over who’s the coolest of the cool.

I looked over the agenda for the show: I couldn’t find any presentation or paper (cough) with addresses – and yet these real issues which are ignored time and time again at this big-events.

  • Missing school, work or other important commitments
  • Losing or neglecting significant relationships
  • Physical health impacts (like back pain or strain)
  • Sleeplessness
  • Reduced mental wellbeing

The push back will be: “Yes, but I’m a teacher and I’m sharing my practice to help other teachers”. No you are not, you are providing I.P., time and personal brand value to an company that is interested in making a profit – it’s an Event Management company with no governance or obvious vetting process – other than “who will put bums on seats”. How do I know – Because I’ve been phone grilled by some marketing womble to appear at this event more than once. I don’t justify myself so someone else can maximise their profits, sorry but not sorry. You are also the regulator between the child and the media for 6 precious hours a day. The idea that these show enable teachers to show kids how to use technology is a broken reality, what children need are media literacy skills which directly target measurable 4cs and actively fend off the commercial crap-fest that assaults their every moment in front of a screen. So is EduTech interested in me or you?

AceEvents also run RetailTECH, CustomerTECH X, Cards & Payments Expo. Think about though corporate knowledge and insight that requires … and they also run EduTech. So while there will be a crap-load of tweets, mass virtual hugs and people talking about foggy futures, there are the veterans of EdTech, most of whom are now out of classrooms and on the circuit. I have deep respect for some, but skeptical of others.

Jane “Gaming” TED Talk is there, heading up the ‘games can change the world’ mantra. While her formative academic work on games was interesting to a point, the book that flew off the back of the TED talk – now puts bums on seats and why not, games can save education … assuming it needs saving and that childhood is as grim as she claims.

I am sure there will be a crap load of people talking about Minecraft and gaming too, all excited in a post-keynote euphoria. The darling of the show will of course be the “NEW” Minecraft Education. This is another gateway to commercial-loyalty in the Microsoft biome and someone picked up some cash to sell it (and the user base). Good for them, but not good for the decades of scholarly effort which has looked at play, games and human interaction.

Here’s a tip: you don’t need to anything more than to un-block games at school and start to play. Next you read some of the great books on game design and finally think critically about how well established educational theory allows you to make connections to your context. Boom, you know more than the panel.

I am sure there won’t be anyone playing  Overwatch or discussing the porn and meme media explosion  that has accompanied it. There’s no blood and gore, there’s low cartoon violence … but this doesn’t remove it from culture. To me this is so important and routinely overlooked … games are lock-stepped with media cultures which cannot be isolated … or limited to Mineraft ‘totes’ creative fun rhetoric.

Let’s talk about the fact research shows 80% of kids who play app and web-games never go back to the same game again. It is worth knowing that apps are not classified as ‘games’ in the numbers they’ll throw at you about the size of the gaming market and players. What are hearing are numbers that are about as reliable as those from a government spin doctor or corporate PR machine.

Finally, let’s work out what it is about the teacher-brain (culture) that says Minecraft is okay, but I personally don’t play it– and even worse … those who don’t play or teach, but tell everyone else to. Urgh, no thanks.

Here’s the issue: the on-going merger of commercial interests and education is dangerous. It attempts to avoid ‘evidence’ and endlessly talk about being on  the ‘cusp’ of change and teaching towards some yet to be imagined future. In the mean time, wander the halls and get show bags full of unproven commercial technology – or don’t.

 

 

STEM games … is that it?

In recent years, access to media has undergone a transformation as mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets) now allow families to provide their child with screen time opportunities throughout the day. One of the biggest concerns around this is the total time children spend doing it with the suggested message that they could/should be doing something else, such as playing sport, reading, homework or walking the dog – which is better for them. This assumes any of us can live in outside the media-machine anymore.

The media has been telling us the media (not theirs, the other guy’s media) is bad for society. Therefore, more screen time means more games, which will make you fat, lazy, anti-social and addicted to [insert seven deadly sins]. No longer can you only throw birds at pigs – or something like – you must also watch a movie about it while eating angry-birds popcorn and cola. It’s only a matter of time before Minecraft gets a movie … I mean, it’s a no brainer in terms of rendering power – and I bet Steve is voiced by that guy who played Lex Luther in Superman vs Batman.

This franchise consumerism becomes the media reality for children who endlessly sample and drop games. So kids are learning not to try harder, try again or get another chance … they are learning to quit and move on because it’s easy.

Rather then worrying about children playing games, parents should be worried about why 40% of children stop playing the game within 24 hours and despite all the micropayment options to ‘buy’ success (see raft of Internet articles about parents losing thousands of dollars on vitual game goodies) – the average ‘value’ of micropayment games is five bucks – ever. Where Jane McGoniswhatsername made a tidy fortune from her obligatory ‘gamification’ TED talk, painting an image of a generation of un-tapped gamers ready to save the world. Nope, the reality is that online games are wireless (app) games are played and rejected all the time. Kids are trying LOTs of games and persisting with FEW. PC games continue to be in decline and consoles need to invent new user experiences (ie – virtual reality headsets etc.,) to remain competitive with the ‘casual gamer’ phenomenon.

So where are we in education this week – still banging on about Minecraft Edumacation. The Australian game industry is expected to increase at a 7.3 percent compound annual rate to $2.4 billion in 2016 and what is the ‘innovation agenda’ – an hour of code, making up some games in OER applications such as Scratch and offering a STEM competition to students. Let’s be clear, Australia is: early adopting; good at making games; great at animation; is a multi-billion dollar part of the estimated $40 billion dollar global industry and we have one competition, for kids – about 4 in a group who will win some yet to be announced prize. At the same time, the government is talking about ‘innovation’ and STEM and politically campaigning on some ‘apply here’ funding for STEM projects — as though schools haven’t thought of it.

And how can I forget, the BIG one – schools are going to teach kids to swim too.

In summary, we have kids who play, but most drop out of in their first or second play session. We have a constallation of games with very little research to know which are good or bad for learning (or anything else) and we’re going to focus on a) making stuff in Minecraft Education (swoon) or doing an hour of code (off the clock) and hoping some teachers with run after school projects to win a (unknown) STEM prize for a game — which will almost certainly be edumacational.

It’s been a frustrating week in my head … or maybe I’m cranky as Overwatch beta closed. It’s time we addressed this — it’s time we stopped pretending and decided whether or not we want students to have a real in-school experience and shot at the interactive entertainment jobs (of the future) or not. Time, money and resources (a three word slogan).

p.s. Overwatch is out on the 23rd and you should buy shares in Blizzard before then (as if I know anything about the share market).