How hard is being a game-kids parent?

Technology is produced faster — and with less ‘need’ than society can resolve what to do with it — beyond what marketing companies tell them. We are bomarded with media messages. Whether parents like it or not, the largest form of media which makes more money today than last week is the game-entertainment industry – and it’s made it very easy to purchase and keep purchasing it’s products (also called games).

Teachers who “like” technology have bought into the marketing circus with such enthusiasm for the same reason. Those “selling the future” online via Twitter — for profit — tell them what to buy and make it easy for them to buy it.

Let me be really clear about why this is a growing problem for parents. Educational technology is saturated with brands, and people seeking to improve their status though brands. To do that they need your children. Most of them operate on dogma and rhetoric, few know the first thing about games as a media form.

As parents, we know the BIGGEST area of  anxiety and conflict in the home is VIDEO GAME USE. At school – the solution is to ban them. This is what I’m calling “the Vegas solution” — you simply move things you don’t like off the strip. The main aim is to keep teachers buying into the same crap that people have peddling for a decade — which has no evidentiary positive impact on kids or society so far. But it keeps the Casino boss happy.

So back to games. Why are they more of a problem now that a few years ago?

No longer stuck with the burden of physical delivery or tethered to permanent power-outlets, the game-entertainment industry (don’t separate them) — has worked out not only what people like to do most with technology — interact with media socially using romantic fantasy — but how to keep them paying attention, and spending money. If they are not doing that, they are watching NetFlix or YouTube according to the statistics.

Game-kids do a tremendous amount of emotional work both in the game as a player, and in the home as consumer being bombarded with messages to consume more. When many parents themselves lack the kind of mental executive function to PUT THE SMARTPHONE AWAY for more than a few minutes (they certainly can’t ride a bus or train without one) why on earth would they think kids can manage it? When kids see one rule for them and another for adults — then lines are drawn and the war begins.

It is hard being a game-kid parent because we don’t have mental models of what to do (from their parents). We have media models of what good and bad parents are, related to commercial interests. Our friends are also conflicted on what to do — leaving mass media tell us don’t use that, but this!

Then there is the false journalism which tells them they are bad parent. For example, the ABC News yesterday said “video games were named as a factor in the Sandy Hook Shootings” … then moved on with no explanation — to another story. In case you missed the actual report, video games were explicitly ruled OUT as a factor — and indeed the shooter played Dance Dance Revolution for 4 plus hours a day when and if he could play games. When the main public-funded news can’t bother to fact check, it’s no shock that parents get false messages, and no real advice.

Games are hard to live with if you treat them as though they are akin to TV or watching a DVD. But when going for a bike ride involves putting 4 bikes the Toyota, driving 30 miles to find a decent parkway … then there’s something wrong with how we live which can’t be solved by trying to work out which are the good and bad games — they good and bad kids — or how to extract the games-entertainment agenda from our media saturated society.

How hard is it — VERY hard. What is happening in public education — nothing, unless you could the dubious claims of clinical psychologists that games are addictive – which is also a marketing message.


Accessbility? Why to do it, how to do it.

One of the common questions people have in preparing learning materials is also the one they tend to skip over when no immediate yes/no is to be had.

Why accessibility matters to all teachers

Creating content comes with responsibility – The Australian legislation pertaining to equal rights of access for all is the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992. The Blind Citizens of Australia site has an online copy-and-paste email format for lodging an inaccessible web site complaint under the DDA to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (HREOC). The applicability of the DDA legislation to internet websites was tested and proven back in 2000, with the case of Bruce Lindsay Maguire v Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games which Maguire won. The ‘industry standard’ guidelines for web accessibility is conformance and validation to W3C accessibility checklist guidelines.

How to create accessible content

PAC is a recommended set of criteria from World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): PDF Techniques for WCAG 2.0

  1. Document is marked as tagged
  2. Document Title available
  3. Document Language defined
  4. Accessible Security Settings
  5. Tab follows Tag-Structure
  6. Consistent Heading Structure
  7. Bookmarks available
  8. Accessible Font Encodings
  9. Content completely tagged
  10. Logical Reading Order
  11. Alternative Text available
  12. Correct Syntax of Tags / Rolls
  13. Sufficient contrast for Text
  14. Spaces existent

There are several common problems with documents, most often in PDF documents which are the most widely used form of electronic distribution to students. Abobe has an excellent guide for authors which is free to download.

In addition, there is a pre-flight checklist which can be used before your course materials are presented to students. Why bother? Well, besides the legal and ethical requirements – many teachers have no idea whom will finally enroll on their course. Using a inner-self probability strategy is a bad way to address these responsibilities.

Pre-flight checklist

  1. If the document contains scanned text, apply Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
  2. Add author, title and subject and set the language in the document properties
  3. Tag the document to provide structure for remediation and support for bookmarks
  4. All documents should be structured so that an accessibility statement is the first text to be read aloud, to ensure the reader does not have to try and find it.
  5. Verify accessibility (see tool below)
  6. Verify and correct the Reading Order
  7. Add descriptive text to images or mark them as background
  8. Optimize the file size and set compatibility
  9. Redact all personal and private information
  10. Add bookmarks
  11. Verify accessibility (use software or contact someone who knows how)
  12. Does the linking page contain a link to download Adobe Reader
  13. Form fields, if used, are accessible.
  14. Descriptions must reflect the nature of the input and tab order must be set in a logical sequence.
  15. Security settings, if used, do not interfere with screen readers.

Test your PDF Documents

You can download this free tool to run over your documents, which will give you a report.