Shared Leadership: Games lead by example.

One of the most significant themes emerging from learning space design research is that teacher belief about their own practice is a critical factor in success. Teaching doesn’t occur in a vacuum however, but inside complex organisations. In this post I want to talk a bit about this, and to argue that many video games model shared-leadership in ways other online media and corporeal experiences don’t. To me, this is another reason kids enjoy games — it’s the best place to learn to be a leader — and to find leaders.

Simkins (2005) examines models of leadership found at various level of the education community from schools to higher education. He sets out two models of leadership, one he terms ‘traditional’ leadership that focuses on the individual and another that he terms ‘emerging’  leadership that focuses on the context of leadership. He argues that making sense of leadership is as important as seeking what works in leadership in education. He further argues in terms of leadership development, the work of Crochran-Smith and Lytle (1999), around the idea of

  • knowledge-for-practice
  • knowledge-in-practice
  • knowledge-of-practice

Now, think about games and the media that surrounds them — they are driven by a social desire to create this knowledge in these domains — and to create clarity over confusion. I’m not sure that is what happens in EduOnline to the same degree. Persistent ambiguity is the hallmark of EduOnline discourses … where resolution rarely happens — mostly as EduChats are conducted for an hour at set time with set questions … moderated by a teacher! – Seriously? What is the point? — other than to reinforce power and the patterns of the past. I can’t imagine gamers doing this. It would be the most munted way to gain or transmit knowledge digitally – and yet, teachers think hashtag edchatter is the post-modern lightning rod. Sorry, not sorry to say so.

Back to Simkins who outlines six ways it might be possible to make sense of leadership: i) the way leadership is conceived; ii) the role and purpose of organisations; iii) the changing role of leadership; iv) the way power and authority are shared; v) across inter-professional and organisation boundaries; vi) using leadership development (Simkins, 2005).

One concerns I have with emerging online leadership culture, is the discourse which appears fascinated by the concept of ‘leadership’ itself. This orbits  Simkins idea of shared power and authority.

The immediacy of digital communication makes it easy to create a ‘leadership’ culture where  influencers (with authority) are replacing overt control with subtle manipulation. For example: Principals actively grow their corporeal agency by developing their ‘digital self’ persona and profile. True or not true? Is a Tweeting principal there to help or to impress? Well I think a bit of both. They gain social-capital by appearing to be being in the ‘in-group’ of the “leadership nouveau” online, which often claims to support distributed leadership in the workplace but this isn’t the same as shared leadership – the kind you get in video games such as Warcraft.

Schools are not flat-management structures and ‘control’ is central to their design — so I think the question becomes — is online EduLeader Culture useful or not useful? – and that’s a PhD right there for someone. ie “How does the virtual representation of school leaders manifest in the classroom experiences of teachers”. If the principal loves apps, then you better start loving apps. If they are Google-heads, then you’re a Google Head. If you don’t agree — then here’s Boo’s door.

It’s difficult to make sense of leadership around learning spaces currently. There are numerous factions who promote solutions, technologies and methods variously. For a lucky few, learning space design, pedagogical approaches and funding appear to come more easily if they have crafted a digital-self image. My hypothesis is that developing a digital-persona which engages in online discourses about ‘distributed leadership’ is a subtle manipulation directed towards overt control of the corporeal day-to-day learning space – and organizational arrangements that surround it. What online teachers then believe is ‘best leadership’ resulting in ‘best learning spaces’ may then lead to false conceptions – and attempting to copy this fantasy (with little definition) results in both a lack of success, growing frustration and further empowerment of the emerging oligarchy which now dominates so called “EduChat”.

What teachers believe matters and is influenced by their interpretations of leadership efforts to reform/control learning spaces in which they work. For most teachers today, their learning space is surrounded by invisible whispering – voices that line managers listen to via social media – but as I’ve said are likely to be subtle manipulation, rather than any real change or re-distribution of power.

Personally, I am interested in the concept of shared leadership: distributed but interdependent, embedded in social interaction and leadership seen as a learning process. This seems difficult to achieve in cultures using ‘formal leadership’ or ones where the distribution of power is difficult to understand or inconsistently used to control. I do see it in video-games all the time. Recently my ten year old has got into playing “Dark RPG” (not as scary as it appears) and shared-leadership appears to underpin the game-play and design of the game-space. This isn’t what I see in Minecraft Edu or whatever it’s branded today – although numerous efforts have been made to represent it as such – in that subtle manipulation by the faction-ed online oligarchy.

When teachers believe they are part of shared leadership, amazing things happen. When they falsely believe it, there is a lasting hangover. It’s this state of unresolved frustration that seems to be persistent in the ‘online leadership’ discourse – and one that online-leaders have failed to resolve in almost a decade of Twitter-chatting.

Meanwhile, the changing nature of technology, communication and the potential that lies within requires knowledge for-practice, in-practice and of-practice as Simkins suggests. The problem with online discussion is that this knowledge is infused with fallacies, consumerism and ‘digital self’ halo-effect.

What I or any other teacher believes is good practice has to resolve in the classroom and be supported by the locus-leadership – which is a fragile set of unstable inter-dependencies requiring a common understanding of complex terms and methods. I still don’t believe online chats have done much more than attempted to create homogeneity from complexity because they are constantly manipulated. It’s why I remain resolute that teachers need to access quality research and spend time evaluating it within the context of ‘peer review of teaching’ rather than some blunt deterministic judgement of ‘performance. The biggest reason for this is that the best teachers are creating VERY complex learning spaces and giving students levels of agency in their own learning which bear little relation to the content-driven modernist curriculum or the technological determinism of Tapscott and the EdTech Faithful. Shared leadership isn’t something that needs to be Tweeted. We don’t need to make it un-real by subjecting it to social-media debate. There are no leaders that matter to your students on EdTechChat and I think that Simkins three-points about knowledge is a good way to try an evaluate ‘leadership’ discussions online — and to reflect on the local manifestations of it in our learning spaces.

 

Is your school teaching Media Heath today?

Parenting today is very technological affair. Many are spending several hours a day in front of screens and their personal time is eroded by the work-email that rolls in with a demanding ‘ding’ to their phone hours after they stopped being paid.

Managers are quite open about their need and right to do this. The labour market allows them this luxury, with increasing casualisation and demands presented as opportunities. Overall, parent’s are finding it hard to firewall their working lives from their private. Unimaginative politicians routinely defer any reform decisions about the labour market, taxation and basic infrastructure. The resulting effect on public services, transport and culture is one wherein parenting today occurs inside incomparable environments to the last decade. Of course parents of teens today began parenting pre-iPhone and pre-3G/4G. The patterns and routines they developed around television and DVDs, then later, using the family computer have little value or relevance to 2016.

The media onslaught which specifically targets children – especially tweens and teens. Global brands use children to access parent belief and finances in overt and covert media efforts. For example: Teachers routinely push ‘app’s and ‘products’ at parents and children – narrowly subscribing to technological determinism, which I argue masks the novel interest of Gen Xers and is yet to show any benefit to children’s literacy or critical thinking. Additionally, teachers remain unaccountable for their role in increasing the ‘screen-time’ hours of children. Rhetoric around “21st Century Skills” serves to distract attention away from this social crisis. On one hand we have children being routinely placed in front of media at school (so-called BYOD and 1:1 programs) and on the other, no evidence that what they do with those devices tackles the current media onslaught, let alone improve established academic outcomes.

This leaves parents with a perpetual media crisis, playing out in a recurrent drama in their own home. Their own media use clashes with children’s demands to use devices likewise; parents don’t understand the need for devices in homework or school work and brands leverage this confusion and anxiety to suggest buying newer and more accessible devices is the social and academic solution.

Parents have a right – and a duty – to demand teachers account for the hours they insist student’s spend on devices. We know good teachers will quickly present pedagogical imperatives for this, however, plenty of teachers have used computer labs to show DVDs and pass an hour, been resistant to investing personal time in learning about tehnology or simply use it as digital-paper and submission boxes. While the debate about “good and bad technology” and “digital practices” the central issue of SCREEN TIME and what is good for kids is almost never considered. This can be easily shown in the last years worth of #AussieEd chat (which I archive via Google Sheets). No one ever talks about this.

Parents cannot effectively regulate ‘home use’ of screen time if they don’t know what teachers are doing (seemingly not even thinking about it). Teachers have no right to vilitfy children or parents — based on their narrow in-group bias and deterministic representations. Kid need (at most) two hours a day in front of media. Unless teachers start acknowledging they are an increasing part of the problem, we will see parents remain in media-crisis. Very few schools have a media education that is connected to PDHPE, but plenty focus on STEM or other high profile academics.

The number one thing kids need to learn about this term – MEDIA HEALTH. Now find me a bunch of teachers who are talking about that … and not which Google or Apple product they will push onto kids tomorrow.

Thanks to Mrs Brewer for the head-check.

Media Literacy: 5 key concepts to teach this year

Down this post a bit, you’ll find five ‘media literacy’ elements I think are essential and to be taught directly. In my case, I do this in ‘technology’ time – as no school has a ‘media’ subject: just maths, english, drama, PDHPE etc. Every wondered why we don’t teach ‘media’ given its BIGGER than anything else in the lives of kids?

Recently, I wrestled with a couple of posts about the so called ‘release’ of Minecraft: Education Edition. I wasn’t very positive about this product which perhaps flows on from my skepticism about why teachers needed MinecraftEdu in the first place. I have a huge distrust of the increasing use of ‘brands’ in education which leads to increasing competition between the ‘haves’ and further disadvantage among the ‘have nots’.

I am painfully aware that some people have made and enjoy a lifestyle choice around games in education. It’s fun to talk about, but actually hard to learn.

Minecraft has become the poster-game for game-based-learning crowd. It’s being leveraged into sales of other Microsoft products as perfect-complimentary learning tools through sales promotion education conferences, which hype show this game (and other products associated with the brand) are good for learning. They have received significant social-media ‘vocal’ support from numerous researchers people who are studying interested the game. That’s the tragedy of edtech – unchecked media invasion and product sales – while research and training is eroded to prevent teachers making critical choices about media. So yeah, you can use Minecraft … no ones going to ‘prove’ it’s either good or bad – because being ‘fun’ has always been a great educational-sale message.

I have never promoted MinecraftEdu and in fact, my own small efforts towards Minecraft and kids were deliberately ‘out of school’ in 2011. At the time 99.9% of schools filter-banned all games and virtual worlds. In essence, my interest was partly driven by counter-edutech-culture, railing against the dogma of technological determinism in education – which swirled around Web2.0 and Digital Natives – we struggled to see MUVEs and GAMES get any serious consideration – despite 30 years of research vs brand-hype and sales messages. Despite it’s success at the time, our project-community was always doomed – as we refused to ‘brand it’ Edu and therefore had no ready-market. We were never Minecraft Teachers, but that’s what it takes to be the face-of-anything these days — you gotta have a hat. Media Education has always been a difficult thing … if you want to encompass the whole thing – not just things that are easy/safe etc.,

Schools – particularly NSW Education bought Microsoft and Adobe products almost exclusively. Edublogs, wikis and other ‘tools’ were banned and since then, no one at the Department has explained why they we’re wrong to ban TEACHERS and students for years – and now, since the cash ran out – it’s all BYOD and anything goes.

Systems didn’t have an effective understanding of media then, and they still don’t in all but a few cases. There is no ‘media education’ in schools – just shifting ideas and competition about brands and funding. Brands see schools as a market – and now they sell us games because they have an established sale-track.

I see value in Minecraft as an expressive, collaborative virtual world for children to explore the medium of games far more than I do making lego houses to meet Math’s outcome 2.7 etc.,, I think games of all typed have a massive place in non-existent media education. I don’t think that games developers will help do this – so far the avoid education and research, they produce almost no data and notoriously vague about their methods and user demographics. I think they are MORE likely to build ‘good’ educational products if they are encouraged to invest in ‘real research’ before their games are pushed into schools. Right now, Microsoft has an easy-in – based on press release and buying a product which itself promoted the worst aspects of educational virtual worlds (if you read up on such things).

I am yet to see Microsoft or MinecraftEdu act in a way other than marketing and brand-building (ie scholarly). Of course their fans will say “they are working towards it” or “someone has to start it”. This isn’t true, and in the history of educating children, no other media has enjoyed an un-evaluated ‘walk in’.

Whether Minecraft EE is amazing or just more brandware is less important than what the effect kind of public media representation has on what kids get to do in the classroom. It’s not just games — it’s every ‘product’ that is now pushed onto kids as a new and essential ‘digital literacy’ which isn’t the same as Media Literacy or Fluency. Media Literacy underpins our modern culture — just look around at how people behave and what new traditions are being created around our media use.

Media Literacy Essentials

There are FIVE things that kids need to know about and apply.

  1. All media messages are constructed.
  2. Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.
  3. Different people experience the same media message differently.
  4. Media have embedded values, opinions, and points of view.
  5. Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

To learn this, kids need to be removed from the kind of dubious activity that ‘brands’ are doing to children with the willing co-operation of teachers. Point 5 – The message that goes with the device you place in the child’s hand was not created, designed or sold to make them more literate – and yet, we call it ‘digital literacy’ to mask the obvious effect of forcing one brand over another into kids education.

How is Minecraft going to help kids develop thier ‘media literacy’ perhaps isn’t the point-of-use for many teachers. However, whether you want to build resiliance, critical thinking skills, make a fort or whatever — Minecraft is owned by a massive corporation which essentially trades in media messages in order to fuel cultural reproduction – in teachers and students. If a class uses these 5 points to look at Microsoft’s press releases about Minecraft EE, it’s pretty easy to see the thin veneer of educational evidence they are presenting.

I don’t go to conferences and ‘fan-meets’ anymore. I am painfully aware of the harm they cause in pursuit of ‘potential good’. While I still believe Minecraft can be used perfectly well in schools to do a range of things – I see EE as a deliberate attempt to plunge teachers and students into the ‘brand’ trap. You can use Minecraft in lots of ways – and on lots of platforms. This idea that Minecraft EE is amazing, firstly assumes that MinecraftEdu had any educational benefit – by which I mean – appeasing cultural bias and negativity, increasing teacher power over kids – was a fundamentally BAD idea which was “sold” to teachers using the same media illusory methods that can be overcome with media literacy.

Kids who question teachers about ‘why’ they are bringing these products into the classroom, and why being compliant with certain brand media messages is good for them — with be the ones who survive. The Twitterverse is full of teacher’s sharing and promoting products – when they should (as teachers) be the very TANKs that demand these brands produce evidence and directly fund classrooms — because they if they want to be in a classroom – they need to demonstrate they are not targeting kids as consumers and grooming them for a life of consumerism.

So if I don’t like the idea of Minecraft EE – it’s not because I don’t like games at all – but I have a professional and ethical responsibility to consider the potential harm this kind of ‘media strategy’ has, when people ‘sell out’ kids media literacy …

The fall out from this – and I think teachers are unconsciously implicated for the most part – is that families and organisations that support families are drowning in media issues – which are amplified by ‘teacher enthusiasm’ regardless of the teacher’s own ‘critical thinking’ about the effects of ‘going Google’ etc., Just because Tapscott and friends invented the media message “growing up digital” does not mean it’s true, without gaps and errors – or the responsibility of teachers to wade into on a ‘like or don’t like’ basis.

Ask anyone in family services and psychology what is happening OUTSIDE your wonderful digital classroom – how are teacher not directly implicated? My arguement is simple: teach media education and be aware of the issues that pushing brands continues to create. Most of all – whenever a brand attempts to port-popular culture devices and software into classrooms – they are not doing it for the love of education – but to further saturate the lives of kids with their products.

Tune out in Feb

Emerging from the wide spread assumption that outside of parents, teachers hold the most important sway on a childhood — that the ‘digital’ teacher is the most important ‘digital influence’. To this end, schools place an emphasis on ‘cyber-safety’ and the softer edition – ‘citizenship’ such that childhood isn’t corrupted by ‘bad things’.

Police routinely visit schools and tell children of the dangers of online strangers and use terms like ‘sexting’ to put the frighteners of kids, despite thin evidence to suggest this creates a kinder, safer and more empathetic society so far. In fact, no one’s looked at what effect the figure of a policeman/woman has on kids whom, up to that point, might have no idea of ‘sexting’ or ‘trolling’. Perhaps their parents had done a previously great-job and regulating and explaining the role of media in their lives, or that they simply don’t have access to the Internet in the first place. Nope, It’s Tuesday afternoon and the police are giving a PowerPoint.

Teachers are told, by the ‘gatekeepers’ resident on Twitter about what constitutes ‘proper’ digital citizenship and whom among the online milieu of voices is influential and important. I argue that this is a problem that cannot be explained away with romantic depictions of ‘online staff rooms’ and ‘networks’. To access ‘the best resources’ and cultural practices, new arrivals must honour the gate-keepers and petit Napoleons whom follow and unfollow with the maturity of a toddler. This market –

To access ‘the best resources’ and cultural practices, new arrivals must honour the gate-keepers and the petit Napoleon whom follow and unfollow with the maturity of a toddler. This market – let’s call it what it is – lacks empirical merit and is almost entirely based on popularity and rhetoric with a thin veneer of educational theory and the odd French philosopher. But lets call it ‘grass roots’.

The ‘digital immigration’ desk of Twitter is fiercely guarded by a collective of people for whom a carefully crafted telepresence fulfils some inner conflict or desire. Perhaps they are part of the down-the-line establishment equipment that reinforces Naplan tests and text-book learning and somehow want to feel exonerated.

The issue remains, that new teachers have no real way of telling who is offering some useful evidence and who is just shooting the popular breeze, flying high on their follower-love. Being critical or even skeptical is dismissed as ‘negative’, but the reality is that few new arrivals ask for evidence as they pass through the digital arrival lounge.

There are lots of people online who do engage in research and have – for a long time – been working all forms of technology in both the theoretical and practical sense – people such as Gary Stager who don’t put up with nonsense.

School returns in a few days. For some kids this means getting thier own device. For parents, my advice is simple … do not assume all their teachers have a media literacy above that of their child, or that the Twitteristi with Minecraft, 3D Printers and other gadgets are providing a ‘better’ education or that they have any idea about what your child needs in terms of media literacy. Don’t assume anything – ask.

Make sure you talk about ‘media health’ with your kids – that they are not spending entire evenings online or worried about being able to do ‘homework’. Many teachers will be trying to use technology for the first time ever … and they may feel under some tele-pressure to follow the crowd and for them, I’d suggest that they log off from social media for the first half of the term — and get to know students instead. The resident ‘experts’ online never quit and the ‘fear of not being online’ is as real as ‘fear of missing out’. Go on, cut the rope with the online hashtags and digital gurus. If you can’t do that, create a new account and follow new people. Take a breath, experience a new media realm — because that’s exactly what thousands of kids will be doing. To be important to students, to be that influence — getting to know them at the start of term has not been replaced by any digital alternative.

The resident ‘experts’ online never quit and the ‘fear of not being online’ is as real as ‘fear of missing out’. Go on, cut the rope with the online hashtags and digital gurus. If you can’t do that, create a new account and follow new people. Take a breath, experience a new media realm — because that’s exactly what thousands of kids will be doing. To be important to students, to be that influence — getting to know them at the start of term has not been replaced by any digital-agenda or urgency.

Teachers can be influential outside of parents, but if parents will thank you and be your best supporter in ways the Twitteristi won’t. What do you have to lose?

 

 

Apple and Google don’t really care about game content.

This week, a mobile video game has received a lot of media attention. The game has now been removed from Apple and Google’s online stores after a social media based campaign  highlighted the outrageous material, which deliberately named and represented in game characters ‘aboriginal’ and required the player, at some point in the game, to ‘kill’ them. You can read about this, and what Google and Apple did here.

This is a failure of governance. Apple and Google are under no obligation to ‘review’ any game against the Australian Classification board associated with film, television, consoles and computer games. Secondly, the material content in this game plays out in numerous other mediums such as film and television quite differently. Numerous TV drama’s have shown people from different cultural and social groups beaten and killed for entertainment. For the cowboy to save the day, there have to be ‘bad guys’ to shoot and we watch the hero put down ‘bad guys’ from first person angles constantly.

The outrage against this game is of itself part of the interactive entertainment discourse in which interactive entertainment has been represented as MORE dangerous than other media.

Social media – and the public sphere is now in a constant state of outrage. Most people in Australia have watched a TV show and seen a movie where anti-social behavior is amplified to a point where they find it repugnant and vile. Of course TV and film have avenues of complaint, but will push the moral and social boundaries in pursuit of their art. For example, the BBC seem to relish drama which boarders on the horrific and sick, shot in moody half-tones, where animals and humans are tortured and abused. Robson Green is an actor who appears time an again in this ultra-violent dramas – but no one’s running a petition to ban Robson Green or have him reform his thinking. Apple and Google similarly claim they are ‘actors’ and not the producers.

At no point am I suggesting that this game has any merit at all. But this outrage should be applied to ALL games which Apple and Google publish, circumventing scrutiny and responsibly with what I’ll call the “Robson Green clause”.

While I think the correct decision was to remove this game (which is not a BAN in the sense that it has broken any law) the issue remains that media violence in other media is pervasive and remains the biggest concern of parents when it comes to allowing children to watch TV or see movies. In fact parents are far less worried about video games than film or TV – a point the media often gloss over in pursuit of an easy panic-piece.

The evening news offers thin warnings before launching into highly graphic images in order to ignite particular fears and responses, just a TV drama casts the audience as passive observers or all manner of horrific acts — as part of leisure time ‘fun’.

Last week I watched a panel presenter on  entertainment show #theprojecttv ask a woman (who filmed her now deceased baby, coughing with whooping cough). In the live cross, he asked the woman – what it was like to watch her baby in that condition?  — clearly inferring, – watching your baby die?. The director had already cut to the woman to capture her emotional response. Why did he ask this and not some other question at this time? Because it’s high drama to see the poor woman’s eyes well up when re-visiting a traumatic and devastating moment. This is entertainment, with a superimposed #theprojecttv hashtag silently asking for responses – but for what useful purpose?

I found it at best ignorant and at worse – violent. The premise of the bit-piece was that a “woman released a video of her baby with whooping cough to raise awareness” – the Robson Green clause again.

To me, the biggest question here is why Google and Apple are not subject media regulation in their ‘apps’? After all, they want to be part of society and cannot simply expect to profit from it without being held accountable – like the rest of us.

Apple and Google avoid it, because ‘video games’ are simply ‘software’ and stand outside legislation. Banning the game is simply a response to both companies expending social capital in the backlash — and so seek to reduce it and of course, avoid any comment. In fact, neither company report statistics on ‘game sales’ at all. They don’t have to, so while you read about the market-size of video games — these figures don’t include anything more than a guess or a a tidbit of data dropped by some marketing guy.

The CTIA – The Wireless Association, an industry trade group, collaborated with the ESRB to largely apply ESRB’s rating system to mobile devices. It was launched in 2011, with Apple and Google being notable abstentions from subscribing companies.

The question now becomes: why are these media giants avoiding their corporate responsibility towards mobile games – at the whole of market level – and what can the public sphere do to make them provide transparent vetting of games?

Don’t be fooled, this is not an oversight. Both companies make (but are not reporting) a lot of money from mobile games. Both companies have created their own ‘rating’ guide and refuse to participate in any third-party regulatory body. Therefore, the content of any game (which children and adults can access) goes though no useful ‘vetting’ as the ‘spokesman’ puts it. — And I’m talking here about the MATERIAL — whereas there are clearly some games which promote alarming behavior in players – such as habitual use, paid leveling and in-game purchase regimes.

It would be great to see ‘journalists’ try and put this debate to these corporations — and not to take the easy story about material content, which no doubt they picked up on from the re-share rate on Facebook and Twitter.

The mobile game market is a huge problem and needs far more scrutiny than it’s getting.

 

 

 

It’s new, all new …

Related: Are you parenting kid’s under 13 who play computer, video or mobile games? – Please add your experience to my research here.

School’s have adopted new technologies over the last decade. Unfortunately, this has been a highly politically charged effort which has resulted in further disadvantage and disparities in comparison to many private schools. I believe that teachers and schools have focused on adoption issues and what software to use to better teach (and compete) and have failed to acknowledge and find synergy with societies increasing media-consumption. I short, whether at public or private, schools technology is constructively aligned with political views, economic competition and long-held teacher attitudes. School is not teaching children to use technology or media in any systematic way. Schools are systems, they are based on scarcity – where teachers provide information, knowledge and skills, which can only be had – at school. I am not saying school doesn’t provide children with useful skills and information – simply that there’s no evidence so far to suggest it does that better with it’s current ideology, approach and belief about what technology is or what it’s used for.

Sociological research into parenting and the media illuminates numerous issue with schools assuming the lead (most correct) position to teach children about technology and media. Firstly, most children in Australia are growing up in media-rich homes. Secondly, schools dismantled ‘computing science’ decades ago, convinced that on-going domestication of computers reduced the need for specialist mathematical, logical and engineering in favor of laptops being diffused into every classroom – despite active and passive resistance of staff. By 2007, the computer science lab was a relic and largely unfunded and dismantled in favour of the ‘digital revolution’. Today, the ‘digital revolution’ is unfunded and largely forgotten along side computer science laboratories. Some schools are trying to resurrect them in the face of indifferent parent responses to the BYOD (bring your own device) — which itself is purely a result of un-funding the ‘revolution’. Dear parents, schools have a short and terrible history of bungling technological initiatives, jumping on brand-wagons and failing to recognize what is needed. Games, social media, mobiles, streaming video have all been banned and outlawed in the last decade. Labs closed and libraries unfunded and at time’s gutted. There is little to suggest schools are leading experts in technology – or media.

Today, innovation is the buzz-world. Girl-Code-Camps are letting girls (yes girls) learn to program. How revolutionary! Science and Computing are getting federal money to promote them as STEM Labs (which had previously been removed) and the funky vanguard of social-media edupunks are now part of the establishment paraphernalia which continues to ensure ‘smart kids’ are separated from the rest, maintaining the disadvantage. Nope, in the last decade, I can’t see that schools have learned very much at all – and continue to practice self-isolation from media cultures.

Children at home are not organised by age, nor are their interests isolated and indulged in fixed, regulated time periods. For parents, regulating media is a never ending negotiation with no obvious end in sight. No longer can they allow TV watching at certain times because their children are developing their media consumption skills at such a rate, that the TV is just one element of leisure and remains the one parent’s distrust and are skeptical about the most. This media development age seems un-recognised by schools. While a teacher bangs on about how cool they are using Edmodo, a 12 year old finishes Tomb Raider in 8 hours and another completes Fallout 4 without killing anyone. Children have a developing media consumer profile which schools ignore. I think, from my observations, that using Edmodo to power an equity would require a media development age of 9, maybe 12 at best – if we were to compare that to what children are learning and going in homes.

And that’s the issue for me, school failure to recognize broader social changes in which media is used as cultural vehicles for disbursing knowledge and skills and a profession which effectively set aside computer science for a decade and now believes the pop-culture use of code-hour and 3D printers is what we should all be doing.

What is school for? if has a history of bungling media choices and u-turns on technological infrastructure so far … at what point does it acknowledge it has mis-managed and mis-judged the medium and then look beyond it’s own horizons.

 

Occupational Communities eat PLNs for beakfast

I have not been won over by the phrase “PLN” or “Personal Learning Network”. It merely decries the obvious way in which professionals used technology to communicate and doesn’t account for the narcessitic behaviour of some who farm their audience as a form on populist commercial self-gratification (are the estabishment, yet like to present themselves as counter-establishment). Nope, the PLN is at best ‘some teachers communicate using populist media’ and beyond that it holds no proven benefit to ‘teachers’ as a whole or students. However, it will get you into the $1000 plus Innovation Conference for a discount and people will bestow ego-warming praise on your innovative self.
Gamers on the the other hand have a much stronger connection with other players. The are an Occupational Community. As I’m going to set out, this isn’t the same as a PLN. OC’s communicate and reinforce the appropriate, required, and/or expected actions and interactions of group members. In this way, members are deemed to be part of the community through demonstrated behavioural enactment rather than through denotative labelling due to geographical proximity, shared employer, or shared occupational title or skill set (Van Maanen & Barley, 1984, p. 295). Three of the seven characteristics listed by Trice and Beyer (1993) map to the boundaries element: (1) members have esoteric knowledge and expertise; (2) work involves danger, extreme situations, or unusual demands; and (3) members are conscious of insiders and outsiders.
I argue that being in a PLN lacs (2) and probably (1) – however, you can’t play games or be in gaming community if you don’t demonstrate all three. So while some teachers ignorantly still claim Minecraft is Educational, they miss the point of what kids are learning. They are learning that OCs are productive and have shared social identity. They are not in the binary ebb and flow of the PLN (novice/master) and I’d argue that the longer the same people are allowed to shape and control the same media spaces (Twitter Hash) that no innovation is possible.
To me, Twitter is mainstream and part of the communication paraphernalia which promotes consumer-media. Why not encourage children to bathe in iridium – as people once thought that was good for them too. Obviously, on a pure and idyllic level, Twitter is a decent enough short-message platform, but it isn’t pure or idyllic. Its owned and farmed by corporations aided an abetted by some ‘teachers’ who have subscribed all to easily to the PLN fantasy, where in fact, they would benefit from looking into how OC’s function (be that gaming, music or other). No one seems to stop and wonder why Twitter is the ‘teachers choice’ – and that doctors, dentists, engineers, musicians etc., don’t attempt to use it for their OCs. I refer back to Trice and Beyer to suggest why.