Serious Play Conference

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If you’re interested in serious games, serious play and so forth, there is a conference on right now using #seriousplay which is throwing up some interesting ideas, research and resources. My good friend Bron Stuckey is presenting on Gamification along with Peggy Sheehey and Knowclue Kid, I only wish I could have tagged along.

The website for the conference is here. For a mere $50 a year, you can become part of the Serious Games Association too (here).

For an example of the kind of work being done in this field, have a look at this ‘social clues‘ game for children with autism. I don’t think lacking social clues or empathy towards others is necessarily limited to autism — perhaps playing this game might help the ‘normal’ people to be more inclusive and empathetic — not least in the workplace later in life.

Another great resource is called Preloaded. This to me is where the future is — people who understand media-games-education working with libraries, museums, and broadcasters to bring great games into learning though methods other than the belief of the current local educational czar who may or may not be interested. Preloaded is well worth spending time exploring.

TweetFighter 2 – A better way to demo Twitter at conferences

The #tweetshout has become a familiar sight at conferences and workshops. Typically “#hashtag – tell these people why you use Twitter” type activity.

This is transmission – and kind of dull. It doesn’t really demonstrate much more than you and push button radio. It has some novelty factor, but almost immediately people don’t see themselves doing what you just did, especially as the speaker then moves on to talk about “building a PLN”, which seems like hard work and no immediate relevance.

I’ve got bored of it, so thought I’d invent a game 5 minute game mechanic that will make it more effective – yet take no more effort. Thus demonstrating games are useful.

The Tweet Fighter 2 Game.

  1. Find 5 people you already know on Twitter ahead of your talk. Let them know when you’re going to present and the #hashtag. (Let’s face it, they will respond anyway.)
  2. Next take your most provocative question. (If you don’t have one – don’t present).
  3. Get someone to create a brand new Twitter account from your audience. Have them come up to the stage and do it live while you talk about something else for a minute or two. (No one needs to be trained how to join Twitter, they can just observe it).
  4. Now get them to Tweet the important question “#hashtaganotherwebconference – Can you help? “[today’s burning question”]. Plz RT”
  5. Almost by magic, your stooge retweeters (yep, all games are rigged) will ReTweet the question (but not answer it).
  6. Then watch as their followers answer it pulling up a live feed as the replies start to kick in and continue making your point.
  7. Now you audience has seen it happen, they might know you stooged them, but never the less are impressed that smart-teachers offer immediate replies.

This not only gets more interesting responses, but immerses the audience in a game – there’s a chance you might lose, but that shows you are willing to take a risk for their benefit – which builds trust and confidence between you and them, rather than you and people you know already. Now you can work with what was said – and break free of that damn Power Point.

Level Up. This works – credit me if you use it, I’m interested.


Virtual Worlds Best Practices In Education

I was so stunned to be asked to present at Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education this year, it’s hard to say how much without using CAPS.  I’ve been to the previous years, and have to say that it’s not the virtual world that is amazing (though you can see the presenter stage is epic) – its the diversity of ideas and information. The international sessions are again so dripping with ideas and more importantly evidence that virtual worlds and games kick ass.

As I’m heading away for a week, I was in a panic about this keynote – called “Game and Learn”.

What if I don’t get wifi? … so opted to record it as a podcast. I’ve never made one before, but it wasn’t much harder to use than any car-door handle, though very confronting to actually hear yourself not being as awesome sounding as I might have liked. Life have a way of constantly reminding me of such things it seems. But I think that I’ll make the effort to try my hand in the next few months.

This is an extract of my talk, and I think hints at why the set really worked for me.

“That which is too big, too expensive and impossible to create in real spaces can be found and shared with others virtual ones. The body remains in the physical, but the mind is free to learn, explore and roam rich environments in ways that even the dark-rides could never hope to achieve. But unlike Disneyland – virtual worlds and games don’t make us riders and never ask us to keep our arms inside the carriage.

We are as part of the ride and the mechanics that create it – we are as much of the machine as we care to be.”

It seems that in Steampunk, no one ever made a PowerPoint Presenter either – great joy!

I was glad I made the effort to write the talk, and that I’d recorded it. The space, from all angles is nothing short of perfect. I love the idea of people actually listening, and presenters not just reading out slides. When I asked Kavon about what might happen should I encounter wifi fail, the response was “we’ll work with whatever rezzes”.  So Jo is, as ever playing back-up, which is still great as I’m in part talking about our work on creating a model game mechanic for Open Sim for the History Grid project.

I can’t urge you enough to check out the line-up and make time to listen and meet some amazing educators over two days. Even if you don’t ‘like’ Second Life or Games, you will still be in for a treat. It’s not the world it’s the ideas and the stories. You can fly 10,000 miles and not get this IV-drip of goodness.

Check out the schedule of locations and accessibility, get a browser … and lurch beyond the familiar to come to experience the stellar line up of speakers and topics.

Then, just for fun – compare that physical tech conferences.

Who’s the weakest link at this conference?

It costs a lot of money to get to a conference with travel, staff absent, entry costs and so forth – and if you’re heading there for educational technology – especially in Sydney you’d better pack your own 3G connection.

“Wifi is ubiquitous” they say – except in your room, where they will slug you up to $20 a day for some faint signal. On the conference floor, the wifi dies within minutes, as people lean over to peer into their own private metaverse while the first Power Point of the day grinds itself into your retina.

Today’s EdTech conference goer is truly a global delegate. If each person is connected to just a few hundred cyber-fellows, its increasingly valid to share links, views, resources in our vast and wide land. I won’t mention names, but it’s pretty clear that the ‘big’ venues in Sydney (who charge astronomical fees) simply cannot cope with today’s natural born cyborgs – and not getting the message – or don’t care.

Conference wifi is a given – and yet seems to be run off a $50 Belkin in the managers office most of the time. People wander the halls like digital-zombies asking ‘have you got signal?’ … reducing their computational power to zero. It’s hard to claim Sydney is a international destination for conferences, when I’m yet to visit a venue in 2010 that hasn’t curled up and died before your first coffee.

The weakest link at conferences in Sydney is wifi. Commercial venues are simply hopeless. Don’t bother lugging anything without 3G past your front door. Most presenters and workshoppers I know have given up delivering anything web-based – and don’t even get me started on audio visual quality.

Ironically, people ‘think’ Second Life is a poor cousin for conferences – but if you actually want to ‘learn’, then put aside that $1000 entry fee. Buy a new laptop for your staff instead and wait for Best Practices Virtual Worlds – you won’t be disappointed, and will get to stay at home and stay connected all day for free on your new spuffy laptop – with your friends from around the world. Go on, try it … but then what will all those pro-conference goers do if we’re not sitting in rows watching them excuse their presentation croaking and wifi dumping out.

Conference, preso or panto

Do conferences create critical consumers? and following that thought –

Are conferences the best environment to foster creative and innovative thinking?

In this post, I’m exploring the Australian conference – I make an up for opening brashness somewhere in the middle and tell you want to think right at the end – as this is panto-blogging. There’s even some audience participation – and you get to tweet as you read. 100% good times ahead for the next 5 minutes.

Bland messages, perpetual audience

It seems most of the people we need to carry the flag of the ’21st Century’ are left inside 19th Century classrooms as executives collect Mayorships on Four Square around the world. The design of learning (awkwardly called eLearning up until about 2004) was hi-jacked by internet bloggers – and previous closed discussions exploded on line.

The innovators paired emerging social trends with technology – from cyberpunk came edupunk finding new ways to broadcast it between people who know how to spread ideas. But how much of it was actually new? or actually important?

Time for invention and discussion

For me 2004-08 was time of great invention in communication between educators.

It opened up thinking about how emerging read/write technologies could be used in education on networks and platforms. Technologies which had previously been the preserve of corporations and institutions. Many discussions and presentations today however are marginally different in their message – but it has become a popular ‘message’.

Interestingly virtual audiences in Second Life or K12 Online seem to produce the best in people presenting. Perhaps it is the lack of physical audience.

So what happens when we plan conferences for real people?

Which comes first – the strategic aims or targeting people? Does someone ask “What about Henry Jenkins? Can we afford him? … Who’s Henry Jenkins?” … where as bringing Leeroy Jenkins to a conference audience is a more remote thought – but perhaps salient if we’re talking about shifts in society and culture driving educational imperatives.

On one hand, an educational technology conference has to include Web2.0, and has to bring in people who represent that as icons of invention. But this also means we still focus on Web2.0 as a key-hook.  It’s something intangible, yet seems important as we try to bolt clocks onto a curriculum toasters – or put bums on seats (yep, we still sit in rows).

Is it new information? or just a new medium? Does it make learning better and does it deal effectively with youth-culture?

If it did – you’d know who Leeroy Jenkins is. Here is an article from 1995 to illustrate that we have been asking the same questions a decade before social media brought it to a wider audience though blogs etc.

Don’t leap-frog what is sound advice – even if it’s wearing leg-warmers.

The tools and examples might have changed, but the message is re-packed into new clothes, which this time around are a lot more confusing. Being a tech-head, does not mean you are best placed to use technology. There are some terrible tech-teachers making all sorts of rubbish – just as there are great examples. ”

“Forget all the rules of educational technology … including the ones I’m about to tell you” seems a convenient message these days.

Many teachers have no training or exposure to instructional design and models of such as TIP or TPAC.  They spend very little time learning about integration into their discipline itself. They are left to figure it out by trial and error – and increasingly this is via online communities. This is good – and bad – as many jump onto the tool and try to retro-fit into lessons (others claim they are too busy).  They have moved past the almighty Microsoft Office but seriously – so what?

For example: Take my simple one question quiz about curriculum and instruction. It’s not hard, just choose the answer and Tweet it. (Warning: there is personal risk here – but a Tweetable moment).

How do you know you’re good at grass-roots professional development?

Here are some very basic considerations to illustrate the kinds of questions that many newbies have and knowledge that you (as you’re reading this blog) probably already know. You’re probably more effective that some professional-presenters banging on about how big Facebook is.

Are you explaining why these questions exist and what underpins the debate that pre-exists blogs and wikis? Are you explaining the evolution of eLearning tools to new tools powered by social media and Web2.0 in a rational context teachers can understand?

For example: essential questions for teachers have revolve around quite sensational things – and tools only illustrate it, not solve it.

  • What does the technology offer students in terms of developing concepts and content?
  • How does it help students to carry out inquiry processes?
  • How will students work together collaboratively or cooperatively?
  • What is the relationship between technology and other instructional materials?
  • What new knowledge of my content or discipline, of teaching, or of technology do I need in order to foster new learning in my students?
  • What knowledge processes, and skills do students need before using the technology?

These questions genuinely create engagement with teachers. Why? Because teachers have internal knowledge of it (you are not hittin them with uni-structural, abstract ideas and terminology). Though they may not know which Web2.0 tool was invented an hour ago, they are still responsible to their students and society.

At this point – let me say that I believe that professional associations such as HTAV – put on stunning events. Why? Because they know their audience. HTAV is well organised, has community and shares commonality in their passion for history. They don’t see a conference a totem of power over their community – or a marketing opportunity (don’t get me started on vendor-shows).

In another example: MACICT – who are doing amazing things with games; but focus very strongly on the learning framework inside DET, yet find room to move and innovate consistently – providing real skills, not just messages.

There is great truth in what is said in popular comment – but there is also great wisdom in what has been said for decades.

Perhaps we’ve heard some messages too often now, and made enough SHIFT videos. The rules that are set out in TED talks have pushed people into new conversations – and seem a very good idea to filter out bland repetition – if you are looking for a keynote. If it is a presentation, then don’t call it a keynote. They are a different as Newb and N00b.

Example: MACICT had a live video conference with teachers listening to Bajo and Hex today – who quite clearly understand their audience. It was a catalyst for great conversation, not some facile debate over games and their place in learning – Debbie Evans (the Director) brings new ideas to teachers as a vehicle to create conversation and set the tone for the day. I might also point out that Bajo and Hex were talking to teachers and students.

So take all in moderation – and leave room for the crazy-heads talking about virtual worlds, games, augmented reality … especially if you are a leader.

If you are not yet involved with an association, and think you can tweet your way into the future – find out more about them – you might be surprised how well they perform and how innovative they are – all be it without the razzle dazzle and exposure of larger events.

Ignite NSW #2

I’m really pleased to post a link to Macquarie University’s Ignite NSW Technologies in Education Conference on 22nd September 2010.

Like most Universities, we have a ‘learning and teaching week’. Last year the centre I work in did something different, by putting together a day which was all about connecting and sharing ideas, of what people are achieving with educational technology. A year is a very long time it seems – and I’m pleased to say that last year’s success, is providing a bigger and better symposium this year.

This year’s theme pays attention to social inclusion and diversity in a time of transition. All sectors are engaged in increasingly involved educational technology. Dealing with technology is not then just a matter of understanding it, analyzing it from its technical outside in: we must understand it from its human inside out (Gorayska and Mey, 1995).

We live in a time of great transition and opportunity, and we are often so busy in our various sectors, that we don’t fully understand the work of others, and the capabilities of students immersed in technological-learning and life.

I invite all teachers, pre-teachers and those interested in all aspects of learning technology to set the day aside and join us for a celebration of what is being done, and what is working well in learning and teaching. This is a vendor free event, and registration is free. We recognise the significant cost often associated with conferences, and hope that by hosting this event we will attract a wide range of people from all sectors of education.

Ignite Sydney – edtech confernece 2010

To borrow a phrase from and idea from Chris Lehmann. Sydney, despite its size often seems to struggle to gather educational technology innovators in a bus shelter, let alone a cross sector event – that costs nothing.

I am pleased to announce that Macquarie University will host a free, cross sector event on 22nd September 2010 in the new Arts faculty (old film and television school) in several theatres and workshop rooms.

The theme and aim is about transition, sharing ideas and stories of how educational technology is changing the way we learn and teach, often faster than we think.

There are four strands to the day and I hope something for everyone to enjoy and share. For those who can’t attend in person, presentations with be streamed in a webinar and several sessions held in Second Life.

Best of all, the aim is to get students to share some of the amazing work they are doing to a wide audience. Aside from the scheduled sessions, there is an unconference, where anyone is free to present and share ideas.

There will also be workshops on using technologies, including virtual worlds and games care of our friends Jo Kay and Debbie Evans at Macquarie ICT innovations.

Speakers include Ben Jones, Steve Collis, Lucy Barrow, Roger Pryor, Matt Bower, Pip Cleaves, Sue Gregory, Judy O’Connell and student showcases from all sectors are in the line-up.

More info will be out next week on the event website, with free registrations. We hope to seeleaders, teachers, student, academics and anyone interested in educational technology.

Space is limted to 250, so I hope you’ll make a date in your diary now. We particularly invite student teachers to come, and find out the very real innovation in school, tafe and higher education for yourself. There is no doubt that technology has changed education – this day is all about showing that and giving a roadmap on what works. We are past the why? And into the how … I hope you’ll pass the message on to others and hassle the boss-leader for a big day out.

Sydney EdTech Unconference Sept 25th


The MQUncon 09 is a FREE event for educators to connect and share ideas and solutions around using educational technology in learning and teaching. It is being hosted by Macquarie University and the Islands of jokaydia in Second Life.

An unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference. During the day, people are free to present, share and participate in a range of activities – sharing tips, stories and examples of using technology to enhance, augment and facilitate more effective learning and teaching.
The agenda for the day is organised largely by the attendees and will be faciliated by the Learning and Teaching Centre.
The event will be held around the U@MQ venue from 9am to 3pm AEST (check local time here), and in on the Islands of jokaydia in Second Life (SLurl:, as part of their weekend long Unconference 09. MQUncon 09 offers participants an inclusive opportunity to discuss, share and connect with leading educators and technologists about 21st century learning at the practical level, as well as listen to people who might be on a similar journey.

About the unconference day.

The unconference is for educators, academics, researchers, policy makers, curriculum designers,  IT industry,  digital media developers, students and anyone interested in diverse views and approaches to learning and teaching to build and stregthen their personal learning networks through shared interests. The day seeks to offer a broad range of activities driven by the community and participants. It is a BYOL event (bring your own laptop).

Please Register to Attend!

In order to attend you must register by 24th September for the on campus event, in order for us to comply with a range of practical issues and ensure everyone has a great day. The conference will be split between physical space and virtual space through the islands of Jokaydia, home to the Macquarie Second Life campus. You only need to do this if you are intending to come on campus. Register here online

For more information, or to suggest a session you want to run/talk about – just visit the wiki – hope to see you there.


picture-72Meetsee is a 2.5D virtual office built on Adobe Flash platform (so maybe it won’t be banned). It is a pretty simple idea.

I set up my panel discussion room, and have been fiddling with using a pair of web-cam screens and using ‘live’ audio broadcasting to the room. It takes minutes to set up. One neat feature is that you can upload a presentation to it. People in the room don’t have to just use the 2.5D view – they can click the presentation and see the slides in 2D, and they can do that with the webcam too.

Build and customise an office, then invite people to visit you and have a meeting. It has a 2.5D view with chat, webcam, Twitter feed, file sharing, Polls, RSS feeds, virtual wipe board and a clever video feeder from YouTube. Of course you can fiddle with your avatar (though one niggle, I hit the girl button by mistake and can’t switch it). You can upload a photo of your own head, which is cool too.

Meetsee also has a 2D chat and videoconference mode, so in may ways operates just like a simple Elluminate, Wimba Live Classroom or Flash Meeting. I really liked the way you can load up YouTube in your entertainment centre, or select a Twitter feed too –

It is also really simple to move around by just clicking on objects, or clicking chairs, filing cabinets and TVs to interact with them. Meetsee is highly functional, looks great and will appeal to kids and adults alike.

picture-81As the owner of the room, you can of course move the furniture around and choose the interactive items that you need and well as change the décor. Meetsee has a good ‘owner’ interface that lets you track activity in your room and it also lets you download that as a report, so in a classroom setting, it has an audit trail. The applications for its use could be from simple interaction and communication to live blogging. You could use the poll function to give a quick test – and use YouTube to give them the context for that test. Students could upload files or download them from your cabinet.

MeetSee has a flash based webcam feature, so you can broadcast on one of the interactive screens. You could use it in competency tasks for ‘interacting with clients’ or as a role-play. Meetsee could be used in school, or perhaps as distance or out of school tutor groups.

There are a range of ‘settings’, the corner office, the video conference, panel discussion etc., and at the click of a button you can launch a different setting. I think that there is sufficient 2.5D ‘engagement’ to make it fun to use – but backed up with some great features that are really simple to use.

Open Education Australia Report – iLabs MIT

Dr Philip Long, MIT iCampus Project (now at University of Queensland) gave his view and use of Open Source development of scientific experiments at MIT in iLab. He was talking at the Open Education Workshop in Sydney.

He talked about secondary, under graduate and out reach students using and developing lab based experiments through conversion of parts of the experiment that are normally ‘bench’ based into digital alternatives – and shared online with open access for all.

Some experiments use digital interpreters to data log or produce visual responses to user action over the internet. This includes the use of web-cams to give students the initial ‘view’ that the experiment is ‘real’, and that the enhanced digital interfaces that are being developed through iLabs.

Students can uses existing ‘code objects’ to interact with ‘lab’ devices – via activex or other mash-up to control and conduct experiments. Phillip was keen to point out that students are keen initially to view webcams and see that they would be ‘really’ operating a ‘live and real’ experiment remotely.

There are a number of Open Source project in development that students can either use or develop. Code can be downloaded, modified and re-distributed back through the iLabs community.

There are a number of global competitions run via iLabs for encourage students to learn. Phillip says the key in high school based learning using iLabs is under standing that students don’t know what they can and can’t do in using iLabs – it creates exploration and interest – through participation.

Phillip gave numerous examples of how students had found fault with some of the experiment to digital interfaces from an academic, user interface or programming perspective and then set about working together – online – to solve these issues and re-distribute the improvements though Open Source.

He was illustrating that Open Source and Open Education are not limited to technology, but sharing ideas, information and intellectual property to improve learning outcomes from high school through to Phd.