Say GROUP work one more time – I dare ya.

The job of schools, in my view is always to try and ensure students, who choose to open the door to their next adventure in life – do so to the best of their ability, regardless of what individuals believe. School leaders that run on FUD or my favourite “but when we did that at X, it didn’t work” – are just occupying chairs in my view and not worth spending time enlightening anymore. We’ve been at this ‘reform’ for at least a decade with technology and are fully aware of the new media literacies and other archetypes that put students in situations where they have to think, act and care about themselves and others.

In my ‘University’ life, it is so often apparent which students are not familiar with the work flows needed for ‘group’ work as they call it. It’s a key indicator of pre-teacher and in-service teacher mindset to me. As soon as I read, group work or hear it said in connection with learning … I know this person has – so far – been experiencing it as painful, irritating and frustrating. More often than not, they just want to do solo work – because it’s easier (in their mind).

If your child is saying “I’m doing group work” and winces if you then ask “Do you mean you’re collaborating in a group” … I’m pretty sure they will also respond with that ‘what are you on face?’. Those students who work in groups pervasively, will just nod in agreement. Collaboration in networks is fairly new, but why should collaboration (and the work flows needed to think, design and make) be new to first year University students? – Answer: They’ve been doing GROUP work and their schools have failed to recognise the difference.

The job of educators is to either open doors for students (school who help kids get to where they want to be) or to furnish the skills needed to do it themselves. When I read reflections about how difficult it was to work in a group on an assignment at Uni, I return to the obvious fact that those schools who base their ethos on communication, collaboration and inquiry (regardless of the toolset) must also provide workflows (human and technological) to overcome conflict and sulking over who’s opinion is the right one.

Collaborative projects only work if students also learn the importance of listening to understand and not listening to reply – and I think some ‘leader-populars’ on social media might revise their concepts of ‘group’ accordingly.

Buy your own console Dad.


For – I won’t delete it.

Playing with teens, especially boys is important for parents.  I could provide a list of references but as this is a blog, just trust me for a moment.

First, do a Google search of images for Dads and kids playing games. You might find this one — but you will find most images of dads are gaming with either old systems and computers and most often young children. The media representation you see, and perhaps don’t actively think about is that Dads and teens don’t play. If you add the broad media dogma of anti-social content and behaviour, then the message is Dads should not play with teens.

Most interestingly, all the images I found are co-op play on a couch. Not networked play at all. So the media message – the boundary of communication – is that Dads and teens (boys) don’t or should not play networked games together.

I’m talking about boys because if we apply this to Dads and girls (and we know almost half of gamers are girls) the result is almost zero. Not try mums and daughers … zero.

So the problem is this: Games are bad, Dads are there to yank the modem and mum, well mum’s in the corner crying about the state of the family and this effing console.

So does it have to be this way? Is there a solution? … I think so, and my research (so far) suggests we have to connect our past to their present and work hard to fill in the ‘gaps’ which are not technological at all.

We accept: Raising teen boys in a digital age, where they are constantly marketed to isn’t easy. Firstly, most of the games are designed for adults, and appeal to the long standing marketing of content and themes – such as boys build stuff where girls don’t. I again refrain from adding a list of references to research into the marketing of games, toys and entertainment based on gender stereotypes – but we all know it is both a reality (that we don’t think is okay) and that marketing companies don’t care as long as they sell sufficient products.

So where does this leave boys and Dads right now?

The distance problem: Well you could try and manage the time they spend online, from the stance that Dad doesn’t play with them (one step removed) or plays separately (two steps) or doesn’t play at all (three steps). Each step is a move further away from the ‘half-life’ world that your teen has created and loves.

The enduring social maturation problem: Many teens don’t want to have Dad anywhere near their friends – unless they need the family Uber service. Some Dads try way too hard and others just go about their own interests – in the role that the media and consumer machine reminds them is the ideal – work, provide, sleep and repeat.

The work life balance problem: Many Dads (and mums) are working longer hours and travelling further to and from work. The home (more research) and the family routine (more research) is far from that of the 1960s (research) when the home moved from a place of work to a place of leisure (research) and more and more consumer goods (more research). Please assume mums are in integral part of my discussion too! but alas no game research differentiates between mums and dads – it just sticks to ‘parents’.

The networked participation problem:  If parents want to understand the present and future lives of their teens, then they need to activate their own agency to do so. I don’t mean playing games six hours a day, but making an effort to be involved in the world they live in and be authentic in doing so. If you are lucky – you might be accepted as a co-player, you might even be allowed to play competitive games in a team. You might even learn something and have some fun you never imagined. Most people have a hard time accepting this – but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

The ignore it problem: If you stand aside, being a critic and demonizing their use of games and networks, it means you don’t understand the power of networks and culture of participation that they have created – though social play (more research).

But the research is limited …

What isn’t in the research (I’m working on that as a tiny dot with about then other dots) is what happens when teens and Dads play networked games. In fact there’s no research that could be related to the current state of XBONE, PS, STEAM etc.,

Does the the balance of power shift to the child as people often seem assume? Well, actually, it doesn’t – or at least no one’s shown it does. I know I can’t show it does either. What I see is the same network-effect that people such as John Seeley Brown and Henry Jenkins have been talking about for a decade. Except this time, there is a powerful buff – the bond between parent and child.

I see parents with twenty years of gaming experience is the norm not the exception … but few have on-going network experiences of playing with thier kids as teens.

There’s no point trying to get teens off line – yanking the modem, yelling and threatening them … because while you take the game-time, the network remains pervasive and you opted out. You don’t know the network and it doesn’t notice you’re absence.

In short, you might as well lock them in a panic-room for the time you also yank their access to their network – and there is no evidence to suggest that this has any effect on changing their behavior. If your teen is also stressed, anxious and worse – depressed – then you have to wonder what damage this causes.

What does matter: The quality of the time they are allowed to play (thin and new research). The device they play on (thin research) and the network they play with (broad research about network cultures). Let’s assume parents are at least monitoring the total time and the physical space (research into the latter is thin, but exists).

It is la-la land to think that kids will emulate their parents childhood in some weird Famous Five or Secret Seven way … let it go ..l let it go … and find a new way forward – even if that way sounds crazy right now.

There’s some (research) to tell you how digital media is causing depression and anxiety in families (but isolating that from other factors – pure speculation) – but I’ll bet most readers have felt the wrath of a rampaging teen who’s just had the wifi shut down.

Now think how much you could spend in therapy (do they really have answers or strategies based on games and not TV.) Ask them if  TV watching is their baseline (and what specific XP do they have in games research). I’ll wager, most have been blaming games for social decay and addiction on thin experiments and leaps of faith so far. Some seem to have got very rich off it.

So I’m saying, go out today and for $400 you’re online with them this afternoon. You’re playing and connecting with them in a way you are not doing now. What’s that a few hours of counseling – which you can’t resell on Gumtree if it doesn’t work.

At no point has anyone proven (or even written much about) how teens don’t want parents to play with them, nor that parents would be rejected if they asked. Your teen will probably jump at the chance – you’ll be set up in no time, connected to their friends – who frankly will be amazed that a Dad (or Mum) has rolled up to play on their terms.

Is this so hard or weird? Of course not – kids shoot hoops with dads, go fishing with dads, watch the game with dads and much more …. but it trails off because kids grow up, and arguably, the advent of media makes this years earlier than it once did.

You might have an 11 year old who’s disconnected with you and connected with ‘randoms’ on-line … but if you get online and genuinely want to play and understand them as a person – with their own self-efficacy, agency and knowledge — you aint gonna find that by yelling and yanking the modem.

The problem is … you won’t find a workshop or parenting event that is going to tell you about this — or give you a plan … because so far, moaning and disconnecting has been the response to them enjoying and connecting … now which parenting approach is the one you really want.

Kick ass, don’t kiss it – that’s what networks were designed to do.

Moving on from my irritation of the SMH identifying yet another “celebrity” teacher and then immediate efforts of some on social media to echo, amplify and associate with said teacher, I returned to the hub of what has been happening for over a decade.

Teachers (you and I) must reject these media-representations of ourselves and others. We certainly should not amplify, endorse, repeat or try to build capital by association. Why? Because no one – NO ONE – can be stand above, or even outside the core principles JSB is saying in this short reading. No ‘celebrity’ – whether self made, or in the case of some on Chitter – self-endorsed – can be so without also accepting the importance and kindness of others.

The popularity contest is a media trope – it’s damaging the profession not highlighting the best elements and ideas. Let’s be clear about this – the masses buy into the idea that the ‘future will be better’ idiom because it’s human nature for MOST people. The same people usually want to belong and will endorse the  people who not only appear say the right things, but have sufficient perceived (and media shaped) qualities we find in ‘contestants’ and ‘participants’ in TV reality shows. For example, the battling carpenter with cute wife and even cuter toddler who can’t afford to finish their house. They want to follow the social drama, and feel good in finding some sense of connection and identity with them.

This isn’t what JSB is talking about at all. It isn’t how most people got past the beach head of ‘we don’t like technology’ in the first place. I guess some might argue they are doing this – but I also argue they are busy building their own telepresence and care just as much about being listed on “cool influencer lists” and posting photos of themselves with other ‘cool people’. They might not admit it, but rather than scholarship, they are as invested in their own entertainment and status as anything else. Again, listen to JSB and then ask? Who is doing this in a pure sense, and who is just talking bollocks to feel important – I nomonate Dan Hasler as gentleman who is doing what JSB is talking about – and someone I massively respect as both a teacher and arse kicker not licker.

There are no celebrities – and whether or not some media-editor uses the term or not – the fact is, there are no celebrities – therefore, all sycophantic associates need to calm down and read this post from Dan.

I used to wonder why academics ignore so much of what went on in K12. Didn’t they know about these “new” things? Why do they avoid getting involved?

I think I’ve come to better understand it, but I don’t consider myself an “academic” given I’m a teacher. The issue is lack of evidence and commercial bias. In business, it seems a general working knowledge of a market is all that’s needed to head up some education-sounding marketing push. Evidence of success is to self badge or become endorsed via the media as a “celebrity”.

The fact neither do any research, can produce no meaningful evidence and will not escape the “no significant difference” problem – isn’t a problem — unless you ask for evidence.

If brand X makes a game called “bussfish” then bussfish is the best educational game ever. If teacher B has the archetypes needed to attract media interest and says “future” things that pop culture wants to believe – why ask for evidence?

On the other hand, if what you are doing is entirely based on evidence, data, analysis and connections to other people doing the same … then the questions you have … cannot be dismissed simply because it suits business agendas or imedia fodder. In fact, as a teacher – being on the end of hype and marketing – creates very real classroom issues.

Ingress GBL

Today we payed 20 v 20 Ingress in the local parkland. Controlling portals, raiding and strategy. We’re looking at ARGs and how to make out school site VR and AR rich. Great way to explore and battle. Enlighten won the day … but I suspect the kids will stock up and be back for more.
Yes they are using their phones and the game is free. So don’t let anyone tell you games are isolated and indoor … or that MeincraftProfit is the apex of inquiry, creativity and fun. Try it … kids love a factional skirmish.

What creates access to better education?

Little local research exists towards professional development of teachers into STEM (Science, technology, engineering, maths). As it stands, the E is misleading as there isn’t an ‘engineering’ syllabus in the Australian curriculum. The lack of training or the existance of a syllabus hasn’t prevented politicians announcing how important it is, how they are going to make it happen. It follows that education systems have echoed the ‘need’ and keep the funding flowing.


We have lost the focus on new media literacy. The last political panic created the “every child will have a laptop” agenda and the infamous “digital education revolution”. That plan is long dead, and there’s no real evidence of its success or failure in the literature. Today, the BYOD policy perpetuates and accents disadvantage, widening the participation gap in new media literacy.

I could use a number of conferences as rails to run my discussion on, but I’ll use this one, as I wasn’t there – so can only interpret it through the communication of those who did. The event was billed as “A gathering of educators, policy makers and other stakeholders from all sectors in NSW education”. I’m wondering whether STEM was a visible theme, or whether it’s simply an object in the ongoing meta-issues of reform.

The above photo from #nswedu16 is a vivid reminder of how we still attempt to reform education in the modernist paradigm.

The obvious:

  1. Everyone in education is well aware of the growing disadvantage. Politicians and bureaucrats also know that teachers are deeply embedded in social media based communication. This conference – and invite only affair of ‘top thinkers’ – was by an large a list of social media names  and system ‘top brass’.
  2. The event isn’t based on scholarship of teaching, but an enviornment to further generalize and promote the idea of “a future that is better”. Humans generally like this idea – so most of the social media communication was representative of  the ‘technological rationality’ problem which is widely known in research.

As I stated, this event – like so many around K-12 education, is not based in scholarship and therefore doesn’t require any empirical evidence to support the claim being made. “Every child has access” is in the legislation, and so every child in NSW should be at school. Every child isn’t – and that’s because of a raft of issues, the least of which is access to robot.

This idea of ‘the best’ can be left undefined at a ‘peak’ event is problematic. These people are presumably the key stakeholders in education. Without clarification, this is assumptive, contextual and clashes with a a raft of known soci0-economic issues that cause disadvantage.

This isn’t a statement of reform – other than to vilify certain groups such as teachers (not present) who are not providing access to it.

From the distance created by social media, the central ‘discussion’ at #nswedu16 was familiar – and much of the ‘solutions’ have been shut down before (despite their success) – Please take a bow, everyone involved in the NSW “PLANE” professional development project. I is noticable that many of those who have worked on such projects were not invited. So the solution is this: another ‘think tank’ where people who have failed to deliver in the last decade, or had closed down things that do – are once again proposing they keep doing it – and to recruit new faces to provide their labour.

The confrences seemed to wander. I picked up this Tweet which seemed STEM related, and typical of the dogma that has bogged down EdTech – and I accept that this is an unpopular opinion … however, should someone release this into the public channel, then it seems worth taking to task. I see Audrey Waters doing the same in the US … so that’s at least two of us with raised eyebrows.


Recent research emphasizes into STEM and inquiry learning in participatory cultures (Jenkins, Ito, Gee, Buckingham etc)  describe the need for teachers to deliver compelling, contextual and relevant content, using new media literacies etc, They emphasise the connectedness of children who can access networked congnition, play and transmedia spaces. This helps minimize disadvantage (gender, SES, culture, geographic etc.,).

I don’t agree teacher and student performance is  measured by ‘inspiration’ either. Clearly a vast amount of todays K-12 education is not delivered though sustainable, equitable or cutting edge technology. There is no evidence to suggest teachers have more than a working knowledge of learning management systems, communication networks and controlling’real world’ objects though the “internet of things”. Some teachers have already been replaced by technology, but I think ‘robots’ and a visual over plays cultural concepts of science fiction narratives.

The role of professional networks which have focused on efficacy, content and practice (as I’ll talk about) such as PLANE have been killed off  – more than once. Who remembers EDNA or Learn Scope?

The aim of setting this post out – is to reflect on a central question about whether or not I would participate.  Why is the new STEM agenda going to be any different – if it  will have the same minds driving the agenda, making choices and attending events etc.,


What does effective professional development look like?

We also know much of #edunsw16 style events suffer from the “technical rationality” problem. Teachers and administrators can see problems in their practice but not yet devise solutions for them – and a range of opinions emerge under the broad human interest of creating a better future. It’s only days after that we reflect on these things. Reflection is a key element of teacher self-assessment, which is embedded within the framework of social cognition theory.

Self-assessment is seen as integrating three processes: (a) self-observation of aspects of instruction considered relevant to success; (b) self-judgments about meeting or not proposed goals; and (c) self-reactions or interpretations of the extent to which goals have been attained and degree of satisfaction about the process.

It’s therefore more interesting to ‘see’ other teachers at work, than listen to someone who vaguely does something with education, once was a teacher or occasionally visits ‘one of my schools’ etc., i.e. managers are rarely capable of reform and keynotes generally leave five minutes after their ‘talk’.


The power of efficacy beliefs

Self-assessment influences self-efficacy beliefs and in turn affects future decisions about teaching The big question is: do these ‘think tanks’ and pithy comments  have any positive impact on teacher efficacy?

Efficacy is a person’s sense of being able to deal effectively with a particular task. Agency is the capacity to coordinate learning skills, motivation and emotions to reach you goal. So the slide above assumes that teachers and student have sufficient efficacy to act. That’s the problem with drawing circles.

The difference between the two being that self-efficacy actually effects human agency…depending on how well you think you can do something, your human agency which controls making choices will be effected.

I’m less and less convinced we’re building efficacy, an so unable to activate the agency so many ‘presenters’ talk about. The result is a plurality conflicting and unproven ideas.


  1. To meet expectations of public involvement (including teachers) in STEM-related decisions there is a need to assure citizens have fundamental understanding of STEM concepts.
  2. Driver, Leach, Milar, & Scott (1996) argued without prompting or encouragement, young learners will naturally develop and hold STEM-related conceptions and misconceptions. Therefore, from early education, there is no need to teach STEM related concepts, but to follow these conceptions and interests using STEM-content. – To correct mis-conceptions and to nurture their natural curiosity and interest. As I’ve said before, this means maths, science and technology content. Arguably ‘engineering’ is held in the intersections of these.
  3. So far, almost all the STEM projects I’ve see represent TEACHER CENTRISM which assumes students have no self-efficacy in this domain themselves.
  4. Teaching STEM requires teachers to have more than a system perspective and broad content knowledge. This supports the need for content expertise.
  5. The body of research in the last twenty years shows it unlikely that without considerable continuing education K–12 teachers can be prepared to teach effectively STEM curriculum around themes being suggested at the meta-political-system level.
  6. The literature shows  STEM training has been in decline in last decade and that teachers have limited training towards methods of inquiry in the same period.

That makes sense, as teacher professional development in the last decade has been dominated by technological determinism and the never ending “EdTech” conference.

Efficacy is the key to improvement in practice

Those systems, schools and leaders who understand it also invest in teachers – towards themes they are passionate about. There are some good reasons to put efficacy and content at the top of the professional development agenda. I guess if your principal spends most days at these ‘events’ then they don’t understand or at least, don’t read much.

  1. Zeldin, Britner, & Pajares (2008) argued efficacy beliefs are of particular importance for success within the STEM domains  and efficacy may be a proxy for the larger issues of teacher knowledge and preparedness for teaching STEM content, particularly primary teachers.
  2. Efficacy is a known major barrier to school improvement.
  3. Research shows in-service teachers  increase their efficacy due to their engagement in professional development which gives them skills, knowledge and experience that can be explicitly used in their context.

I make no bones of saying that it’s the same people at conferences offering anecdotes above evidence, visions of the future in place of understanding of the present resolves itself as the “technical rationality problem”. But, if you’re in power and get to attend these things, it is probably very rewarding.

On balance, the literature tells me that STEM will be corrupted by the dogmatic behavior that failed to deliver the 1:1 laptop “revolution” and create a professional development agenda – beyond the existing elites. My view is this is the oligarchy at work and it’s in bed with commercial brands. Evidence: the message education is about delivering better workers to the existing system; there are a lack of workers in jobs that don’t exist and the number of commercial company executives presenting  nonsense at educational entertainment themed conferences. This is exactly the fluff you find at EduTech and has an overall negative impact … seen in the decline of efficacy in the last twenty years.

This also makes sense.

The research shows STEM should focus on enhancing content knowledge as a means of impacting an array of variables that influence teacher practice. That means getting teachers to build efficacy though their understanding of the discipline itself, and not how to use robots and other fancy-goods that are being symbolized as “STEM” learning though commercial companies.

The next line to be crossed is where we see ‘leaders’ actively allowing brands into their schools as ‘partners’. The leaders will identify themselves though their unceasing engagement with social media spaces and appearances at events which appear on the surface to be the ‘apex’ of civic thinking.

The ‘better education’ isn’t achieved through access, but a much more complicated set of behaviors, impeded by the technical rationality problem. I propose three things to reflect on – how do you feel about these things … are they happening to you or around you?

  1. Increasing teacher PD towards content in their discipline towards STEM?
  2. System acceptance that children will naturally develop and hold STEM-related conceptions and misconceptions and the focus is on content not concepts?
  3. Teacher efficacy can be built though a framework of social cognition theory – but has been corrupted by commercial agendas and elite-self interest? What networks are you in, what access to ‘elites’ do you have? Have ‘elites’ changed their opinion and dialogue as a result?

I do believe that STEM is worth promoting in schools, however I also believe all stakeholders have a professional obligation to ensure their practice is ethical and based in scholarship if children are to get a ‘better education’ and that starts with think tank reform, and investing in professional associations, scholarly short courses relevant to their discipline and more opportunities to be involve in the process that create the all import ‘shared vision’. I am on-board with the message of hope, but unconvinced that education is investing in the professional development needed to see classroom reform towards many of the statements set out in the National Curriculum.


Zeldin, A. L., Britner, S. L. and Pajares, F. (2008) A comparative study of self-efficacy beliefs of successful men and women in mathematics, science, and technology careers. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45: 10361058

Driver, R., Leach, J., Milar, R. and Scott, P. (1996). Young people’s images of science, Buckingham, , UK: Open University Press.



Six years later

This is six years old. I can’t remember why I made it. Some of the tech has been rebranded but the core interchange is still relevant and still unresolved in the classroom to a large extent … whars missing is the participation and equity gap that almost guarantees only the wealthiest student will experience it in the current climate.