Play is a relationship

Tapped on a Samsung galaxy note:

Research has shown that television watching generates a low state of flow. The more we sit there, the easier it becomes too keep sitting there in that state. This post is about the theory of flow and why it’s not just related to tv or gaming.

While enthusiastic educators who like some technologies have described tv as passive in order to suggest their ideas of blogs, wikis and podcasts are the opposite, they haven’t yet explained how a child’s relationship with the material presented is enhansed by these things. They tend to try and project adult hopes and fears onto children, rather than understand kids individual, existing relationship and preferences.

Nothing makes a tech enthusiastic teacher more satisfied with themselves and the world they imagine than showing how much their students love tech too ___ to other equally enthusiastic teachers. This half real fantasy is extremely seductive (from personal experience).

A decade ago I could tolerate such hopeful assertions, soothing my anxiety of what some teachers commentators saw as increasingly mundane classroom practices. Today, I think this period which requires deeper examination, given the modest evidence of support improvement to student results in comparison with the billions siphoned from budgets during this era.

The billions missing from higher education and schools today isn’t hard to find. It’s just few went to talk about it. It went into the coffers of technology providers and the plethora of international PowerPoint jockeys. They would like more of course. It’s the ultimate coin drop, but out of step with economic and civic reality.

I suggest continuing to lust after the next great thing or conference, is the embodied experience of a state perpetual of low flow. It is killing education by channeling money into the same channels that will willingly take it, but as yet have not changed students relationships with the material to be learned.

What has this got to do with gaming?

A lot. One reason is  educational games are rarely ambitious enough to attempt to change children’s relationships with the material. But education services Australia expect to be hidden millions for it annually. Why? Because these games are not supposed to change children’s ideas our relationship with the natural at all. They are a spoon full of sugar. The central point of them existing is to fund leadership fetishes and trick kids and parents into believing this is the best use of technology in creating future citizens.

That stops working when kids discover they can use games to power their fantasies and build their talents in things they actually like. Even more so when parents find they are competing with games. Gaming in school won’t change this one jot if left to plot the same course.

Flow theory suggests that after the age of about 12, talented kids stop watching the same amount of TV as their less talented peers. (talent being a dubious stick schools use).

Instead, they go off and draw images, write stories and play fantasy games. They use tv as a seed, but their relationship with it as a media becomes insufficient to be worth paying all attention to. You can see how not watching tv might be more of a problem to commercial, political and other agendas. Tv has been the drug of the nation that can be blamed for social decline, but has been a highly effective mechanism in the consumer society.

If more kids are now seeking high flow in video games, perhaps the problem isn’t games or tv.

The problem might be that schools like to decide who is talented, and give the rest a perpetual state of low flow lessons deliberately.

What we might be seeing in game culture is not a rejection of learning, but an exposure of leadership on going conservatism … insisting technology itself lifts student ambition in the hands of the right teachersand therefore perpetrate a successful society.

This concurrently ensures no one examines the leadership’s relationship with media and how they have always uses it as a power mechanism to maintain a certain type of society. Untalented students inventing awesome things and not following the rules!

Play changes our relationship with media in ways we don’t understand yet. I’m introducing flow as being bother bad and good. Generally, flow has been presented as aspirational goodness and we’ve ignored its darker side.

Unlike the golden era of ed tech, which I’m arguing created vast amounts of low flow from a student experience perspective, affective self directed play is orientated to high flow. Education has probably orientated ed tech to low flow without realising it

For the first decade of technology in the classroom, games and play were ignored. The book said “blogs, podcasts … not xbox. This decade allowed a relatively few individuals to create a low flow audience, feeding teacher anxiety and their consultancy calendar. It was inspired in many ways, as they changed teacher relationships with media, suggesting almost all e-learning research was made irrelevant over night by Shirkey and Hutch.

What we are seeing in gaming today are more people accessing material that generated high flow, from a younger age and continuing to use it for longer.

The use of games in society is greater than all other media.

The fact that most gamers can’t put this experience to work is not because existing civic structures require the majority of people to accept a low flow life. This makes sense, authoritarian whining about grand theft auto five deters the good people from changing their relationship with civic structures. However, watching Breaking Bad is something to be celebrated. This is essentially the same material, breaking bad is however more horrific and emotionally manipulative as it isn’t an emergent narrative.

There are millions of gamers experiencing emotions and insights into the world beyond the game that for the most part media has been used to suppress.

Play is more disruptive than media, but when asked to change our relationship with media, it is unsettling. It is most unsettling to those whom have propagated the central assertion that social media came be mutated to improve student outcomes, but also those who rejected that in the first place.

Play is natural, it’s affective, emotional and most of all fun. It’s not a kids fault that adults don’t like this relationship with this material, and desperately hope that classroom devices will be the anti venom. Social media may have changed adults relationships, but it seems bizarre to me that adults would try to project these characteristics on children, who are still centrally influenced by fantasy and play.