Blooming Confusing

I have a confession. I collect Blooms adaptations. It seems like the making up new Blooms is a very popular pass time of teachers using the Internet these days. Most of them don’t feel particularly interesting, but I tend to bookmark them as I find them as a sort of personal Blooms Museum. Every now and again I find one that is interesting such as this.


You can grab a copy from the author here and get a better quality version. What I like about this is that it’s a loop, not a triangle. It’s also a good attempt at describing the typical problem-solution cycle evident in video games. The author is proposing that these stages can be constructively aligned with Blooms taxonomy.

If you are teaching though an enquiry process, then this loop is relevant. Rather than learning being a series of steps, which might take place over several days or weeks – consider how this could be uses as a daily activity loop. I’d argue that if a child is involved in this cycle – and more importantly can IDENTIFY where they are in the loop at anytime, then it’s highly likely they will be reasonably engaged and productive. Of course the key is to make sure they are immersed in a learning episode that uses these stages.

The start here, I’d suggest is a good way to pre-test and find a way for students to make something that reveals their interests, knowledge, skills, assumptions, biases and errors. All to often lessons seem to start without doing this at all. If the kid can get 60/60 on a pre-test, then why would they bother doing the task.

Think of a video game, the first thing you get to do is choose gender, race, class and a small selection of gear to get started. We all have our preferences here … as we’re often used to playing (learning) in a certain, familiar modality. There’s nothing wrong with allowing kids to work from their preferences – comfort zone – as ultimately they are going to have to move away from it with the problems you set later.

This loop is something that can be actively tracked and reinforced to students during the enquiry. It can be designed into the sequence of learning with ease. It doesn’t have to use the rigid language of Blooms (high to low) and I’ll declare here that I think this is too dogmatic for modern learners anyway. I think this is a pretty innovative way of looking at learning-loops, and if kids get to try and repeat these loops, know where they are, and why they are doing it — then it’s going to help reinforce the essential value of enquiry based learning.

I skipped the readings

Teaching is something teacher’s do to students. In most cases, it’s called a profession as we get paid for it and show up weekdays to do it. Like all professions, teaching is a collection of applied skills and knowledge that shifts with society. It is not like a book that remains static. This modulation of skill, practice and knowledge includes cultural and technological shifts. The fact those happing right now are digital does not mean they are separate to what happened before. Take the microscope for example, it was the iPhone of it’s day to an enthusiastic section of society. Teaching today is driven by neo-liberal ideologies which are deeply connected to globalisation and consumerism. Teaching is a political act, so while we can moan about it, the truth is that teaching is linked to sales, profits and increasing marginalisation of sections of society.

A professional teacher can only carry out their work effectively if they can fully appreciate the delicate balance between educational theory and research and the sociological axes which in the last decade have favoured consumerism over open source and evidence. From that, they make informed choices — and return to the readings (and keep reading) about education and the service of professional teaching.

This is perhaps the biggest reason I stopped paying attention to the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ on Twitter etc., a few years ago. I joined the 2006-8 global vanguard with high hopes and enthusiasm to ‘hack the system’ and for a good while, I learned a ton of things which ultimately has fed into my PhD. Yet for me, what was once a vibrant peer-network exploring the potential of technology to help professional teaching has turned into a cacophony of voices who promote themselves though their promotion of certain brands. Some do this shamelessly while other wrap it in faux-theory which is often full of logical fallacies. To be convincing, they use media to invent demons, problems, issues and of course solutions. Overall, I don’t think this actually matters in the reality of the classroom as less than 10% of the world use Twitter anyway where as 100% of professional teachers undertook an under-graduate degree.

The battle for quality teachers remains in the tutorial rooms and lecture halls of first and second year teachers. It’s here that we have the opportunity to interrupt and redirect their ‘cultural baggage’ away from their own experiences as students and to focus on what the profession should be.

I get very irritated when I hear new and newish teachers proclaim they skipped the readings or didn’t attend lectures. From their new found authoritative position in society, they gleefully write off their behaviour as being wise and effective. We then find teachers who have a low understanding and respect for the research whom soon reach their professional capacity when it comes to creativity, innovation and empathy with popular culture and technology. By and large I’d argue those who skipped the readings largely apply on their own memories of being a student to their practice – complete with all the biases, assumptions and halo-effects of what the recall as ‘good teaching’. I get even more cross when they fire the punitive-canon at some kid to make them ‘get on task’ and it fails. Don’t come and ask me what do that is more punitive as though familiarity is a bigger bore. This is a reading problem, not a kid problem.

Of course no one can make them do the readings. But as Universities are enrolling thousands (yes, thousands) of potential ‘new teachers’ each semester, we are faced with a problem much bigger than whether or not they’ll use an iPad over a worksheet. The is a sizeable over-supply of teachers, whom simply didn’t do the readings or attend lectures and are now looking for work. At the same time, professional development of practicing teachers is being pushed from being centrally necessary to the profession to the edges of Twitter and the world of #edchat which to me is no more professional than me posting comments on my favourite Alfa Romeo forum. Yes, we all love Alfas here, what’s your favourite.

If we, the profession, are to develop effective maker-spaces, put games like Minecraft to work and create imaginative, well designed spaces to learn in, then we can’t also accommodate the reading-skipper-class or those who rely almost entirely on authoritative or punitive pedagogy. We will be drawn back into the vortex of worksheets and procedural activities based on a Blooms verbal triangles.

There is still a lot of reason to do the readings, and although too much research is locked up behind the pay-wall – there is still plenty to discover online away from “I reckon” posts like this. Find that stuff, share that stuff around the school and after a while, start to realise that much of the last decades angst has been generated by consumerism rather than ‘digital childhood’. I assure you, kids still love to play, learn and make around adults, if what the adults are doing is meaningful. You don’t need an iPad or to follow GooglePrincess to do that — if you’re still reading.

Living below the tech poverty line

11738047_10152969268283053_5325047692073970609_nI saw this photo from a teacher in the USA who was learning about using a new ‘laser’ cutter. Another teacher commented how cool they are, as they have one too. It seems I’m living below the tech poverty line these days with no Augmented Reality Goggles, 3D Printer, Robot Laptop Trolleys and certainly no laser cutter.

This made me wonder … given just about all the kids I now teach have smart-phones (mostly entry level, but smartphones none the less) and each kid has an iPad mini, this seems to be ‘entry level’ technology now. We don’t have a computer lab (yet) or laptops and by virtue of the campus location, the uplink to the internet is below the basic NBN tier (and not scheduled to be on the faux ‘fast net’ for some time).

Where I work, we do have the low-tech luxury of working with kids at a ratio of 1:20 (ish) in a PBL modality (but I don’t subscribe to the BIE model with much loyalty these days). So on one hand, when I see the raft of technologies in which some schools appear to have … I’m below the tech poverty line, but on the other I barely use technology as I once did. This is me the consumer talking of course. The one that used to believe that keeping up with the latest and greatest, lobbying for more was important. I used to pay way too much attention to people who make a living by peddling the ‘tech poverty line myth’.

I don’t doubt that some schools still have nothing, that some kids have nothing. After all, MOST of the kids on this planet right now don’t go to school or get any form of prescriptive education. So I wonder how relevant the ‘digital divide’ dogma is today among educators who seem relatively un-interested in the have-have-not-education and more interested in the have-have-not machines.


The Australian media networks may have influenced the monopoly political parties to force ISPs to block ‘file sharing’ sites. Here’s a discussion about how this will work if you missed it. No one is shocked by this, as those who have had the luxury of power like decide what ‘freedom of information’ and ‘freedom of speech’ is in our democracy.

As a teacher, I really wonder about the literacy that is being promoted through the curriculum. Some western governments like to control societies moral compass by setting it in a spin. Video games are bad, the Internet is bad, ‘chat-rooms’ are bad and the youth are either part of the problem of unsuspecting victims. At the same time the Chitter-lobby are increasingly living in factions – GAFE, Apple, Laptops, iPads etc., and obsessed with ‘collaboration’ and ‘features’ rather than noticing how utterly vapid ‘media education’ has become. Media education is not about ‘how to use’ tools to share documents or how to ‘curate’ things found online towards a school room project. Media education is about what the media has, can and might do for or to you. While the politicians and media producers decide what you can and can’t do online, children are increasingly being reduced to user-consumers.

Households (ruled by Gen Y) are increasingly able to “Google” what they want to know or find. The Internet’s front door for almost all households is “Google”. As we know, you can miss-spell, have half an idea and with a few clicks and re-tries you can find a list of answers. But Google isn’t very good at indexing the Internet anymore. It’s become good at indexing things most people Google. It isn’t focused on education (GAFE is merely a consumer-education strategy) nor being the index of the Internet. I am not sure how exactly Google became validated by education as the keeper of information or services, but it is clear that the 9% of people on Twitter and the small percentage of teacher-users seem to believe they are pioneering a ‘digital literacy’ agenda which enables children to thrive in the face of this media landscape.

Sonia Livingstone says that discussion about children’s media literacy and use often contain“disconnected questions about the impacts of particular media on particular groups of children, often framed in terms of moral panics, and with a predominant focus on American children as the implicit prototype for children everywhere.”

This really is a problem. The low level of literacy needed to ‘find’ information dominates children’s ritual behaviors around technology. Bored or lost children settle to tap and swipe, just as bored tiger paces around the enclosure. These apps don’t create new understanding but increasingly pretend to offer quick, easy and fast solutions for users.

Children, when  given some problem often ‘pace’ until someone in the room offers a simpler problem. Simple terms are more likely to be Googled than complex sentences. The ‘net’ result, interesting to parents perhaps, is that children enjoy seek and find activities, but no improvement in critical analysis or synthesizing occurs. The most obvious behaviour is to ‘copy and paste’ changing a few words or to claim that the task is too hard or too complex … which justifies a return to pacing. As teachers are motivated by and required to cover lots of content and collecting work samples for dot-point proof, there simply isn’t much room for new approaches to media education. What I think happens are modified approaches to media use, which suit the networks. We are training a generation of users who actively ‘pace’ when classroom activities attempt to move past Blooms low-order (Google-able) tasks. I reject the simplistic graphics which claim they can align some ‘app’ with one of Blooms levels (assuming Bloom is relevant in media-enabled learning).

How then, are children going to know what information is actually available online if they are being trained as low-end-users? In particular, I see ‘rich’ schools parading their access to the latest devices, importing ‘expert’ speakers for private sessions and great spaces to learn with great furniture, super fast and reliable wifi etc.,

Culture is winning out. While the masses are content to Google, the network owners: political, social, religious and economic are allowed to advantage of their control of information. Media education still has a long way to go … and right now teacher-technicians seem content to eat conference muffins and re-Tweet in agreement about ‘what needs to be done’ … also pacing like so many of their students when faced with the real challenge today – the media is more powerful than ever.

What to expect on day one of a school Minecraft Server

I’ve been around Minecraft Servers with kids for a few years, founding the successful vanguard project “Massively Minecraft” a few years ago. Now I’m ‘back’ so to speak, in a school and have had a couple of terms under my belt, I’ve decided to create two new servers – a PC/Mac server and a Minecraft PE server. In school we don’t really have accessible computers, but every child has an iPad Mini. We’ve already got Minecraft PE on the iPads, so it won’t be too hard to build on that platform.

So yesterday, I “/opt” a few kids to see what happens. Of course I carefully selected the kid I thought would make the best First Op and explained the basics of what is expected etc., That kid then invites other kids who then nag No.1 Op for similar /Op power. Ten minutes later they are playing PvP in their new arena. An hour later, other kids have joined and the number climbs past that magic number seven. At this point … and this is the salient part, the power play between /Op vs Non-Op inevitably results in a few /kicks followed by a /ban.

Why does this happen? Well it’s complicated, but suffice to say that Minecraft is far more tribal than most teachers using it would like to admit. Minecraft doesn’t appear in a classroom as a neutral space where bygones are bygones. The nature of the game-space shifts the power-balance – both actually or perceptually. Another reason is that it provokes a much needed discussion about what makes this server a learning based server rather than a mini-game server (where most kids spend most of their time these days). While the server is booted with essentials, permissions, core-protect, world-guard etc.,  the key move is to make sure you have a resilient and trusted First Op who can manage and report on events that transpire — good and bad.

I am sure that some kids would love /Op power in the classroom to /kick or /ban negative behaviours, but sadly mass education insists no one leaves until they are of an age. I am also sure that no talk about cyber-bullying ever considers children in a situation now where social space is in constant negotiation and power-play. On day one of a school server, it’s not really about whether the kids make something pretty, or whether the levers and ‘teacher powers’ of the Edu version perform the crowd-control which teachers often demand from unfamiliar technological tools in ‘their classroom’. Day one is about understanding the dynamics of your kids — in this space — and how you can then plan for Day 2, where those dynamics play a critical role in the design of the game-space. For example: are you going to have factions? are you going to rank players and give them ranked powers … how are they going to move from map to map etc.,

This is one of the things I recall was important to Wes when he was conceptually designing Skoolaborate (Second Life Based Teen Global Project). Wes often talked about making worlds where kids could explore heuriscs. A heuristic is a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently. These rule-of-thumb strategies shorten decision-making time and allow people to function without constantly stopping to think about their next course of action. They can of course lead to bais and habitual behaviours … but really what is important on Day One is to be actively thinking about the heuristics that will be going on (promoted and demoted) in the behaviour of players towards their learning. This comes to a large extent through the design of the space – what’s in the game and what mediation/monitoring is going on outside of it. No teacher can afford to be ‘in-game’ all the time — and it’s a good idea to shut the server at a reasonable time, so kids still get that important sleep and spend time with their family. But … Day One should be a massive learning experience that produces some interesting data from the server log. Going over that data will paint a clear picture of the ‘world’ that exploded into life — and from that you should be able to sit down the First Op and peers to negotiate.

Tap, Swipe … but not for long.

Hat tip to Mark Smithers for spotting this report about the preferences and habits of screen-users. If you are an educator who’s audience are using tablets, you might have perhaps noticed this. I know I’ve already figured out with my middle schoolers that tablets result in a kind of ‘pacing’ behaviour. After 10-15 minutes of working (usually tapping, searching, opening, writing), students stop and do something else. Unlike having a laptop with real keys, they compete with the device’s in-built AI which wants to zoom, auto-correct and often highlight anything but the thing they want. It seems from this report, that cultural use, media design and content online is no longer being designed or received as much more than short-burst snaking.

In Japan (sort of)


Project Based Learning (PBL) is not founded upon educational theories of play. Over the years I’ve been exploring it, I’ve come to realise that the idea of a (singular) driving question, which is open ended and not easily answered does not readily lead to an end-product that all kids care about, or take pride in. PBL is still a lot more useful than most modernist approaches to cognitive apprenticeships and rote learning however, but it often has to work with the same boundaries. The biggest reason I jumped at the chance to work at the International Football School is that underneath everything it does is play and invention.

My point is that for many kids, PBL does not feel authentic nor is it a universally compelling simulation for the real world. One of the tragedies of the global economy and transmedia childhoods is that culture becomes intentionally invisible to kids, replaced by faux online culture and sub cultures — and not all of them positive.

Take Twitter for example: It’s almost a given that you have to hate on something or someone these days, just as the Big Bang Theory has turned insulting people into hilarious comedy. I am not convinced that Google mediated websites, videos and tropes shine any authentic cultural light on other cultures for young people, and that many depictions of ‘digital literacy’ fall far short of the mark when it comes to solving this. Authentic (to me) means getting as close to the primary source as possible though the media available, rather than letting the media available become the primary source (which is the entire reason Google exists today). Yet, kids are given iPads and told to look things up as routinely as they get a packed lunch.

I do like a good sim, especially if it allows kids to do things in school which would normally be impossible, dangerous or unlikely. Back in 2007, I enjoyed working with global educators in Skoolaborate – not least Kyoto Gardens school in Japan. Even then we had an open, exploratory approach to inter-cultural learning — here’s the PDF of one of those early cross-school events. Remember, this is 2007 and I had kids in a global immersive world project, which now, looking back made Skoolaborate an important part of the ‘game’. Like Second Life, it was perhaps too early, perhaps misunderstood, but never the less achieved a level of cross-cultural immersion that few other projects have achieved since.

My point is that learning is increasingly about cross-cultural experiences, learning about other cultures and traditions because media communications makes us globally connected.

I could not help think about this today when my middle-schoolers spent the day at the Japan Foundation learning about manga and anime. We designed a workshop with them for Japanese Studies and Visual Arts and even had a small grant to develop it. The kid’s really enjoyed being taught by the centre’s staff and it was great to see the pride Suzie took in their ability to interact in Japanese after all her hard work in the last few terms. On all counts, being able to go to a space like the Japan Foundation to celebrate and honour all that work feels really important — far more so that speaking at some edu-muffin event and getting a retweet. Our school might not have a computer lab, but we do have a bus, and access to amazing places like this. Rather than going to see, or looking around, I think that collaborating with organisations to develop cross cultural and cross disciplinary experiences for kids in stage 3 and stage 4 is more important than freaking out and endlessly debating their ‘digital literacies’.

Conversely, JF staff were thrilled to hear kids talk about Sailor Moon, RWBY, Summer Wars and other art we’ve been throwing into their visual arts classes. Even so, I could not really shake the memories from 2007 when kids logged in, dressed up and met Japanese students in a virtual Japanese simulation. I reminded me once again, that being able to connect with other cultures, in their own age group plays an important role in creating authentic learning (the mantra of PBL).

I am sure that we could now use Minecraft for this as it’s cheap and easy to set up, but we’re always going to deal with the time-zone barrier. Its the same with FIFA 15. I’ve thought many times about how I can use this inside the school, but time barriers always emerge around an organised competition. It might work as prelude to a Japan Football Tour … maybe, but at the end of the day, games are timeless and nationless when it comes to play. I think that kids don’t see other cultures though their Google-filtered screens any more than latch-key kids did in the 70s before the Internet and globalisation.

I think that places like the Japan Foundation play an increasing role in education to schools like ours whom want to extend more cultural and personal development experiences for kids — who potentially will be involved in international sport — and are already well aware of the global nature of sport. Anyway, I had a great time today and always love it when I see kids dressing up, trying out things that are beyond their current ability and most of all, finding the cultural relevance to the work back in class.

Lots to think about from today … *thanks to Suzie and Bec for a great day … and I highly recommend the Japan Foundation to anyone else interested in Japanese Culture.