Why create playlists for Flipping The Classroom

Playlists are awesome. If you are planning on flipping the classroom (FTC) then they are essential. My view of FTC is that using media to support learning is a good idea. The patterns and schemas used by everyone to access media to support their goals is substantially altered from traditional classroom delivery of information (chalk and talk and so on).

At the same time, the idea of  additional production time needed amid the increasing ‘do more with less’ environments of today’s educational agendas seems daunting.

Thus playlists become important to those who want to enrich learning and have limited spare time. Playlists are not bound to the kind of linear explanations of Khan nor the high production efforts of Extra Credits. Playlists provide a rich thematic landscape for students which can be endlessly tuned and tinkered with.

For example, if I want to talk about ‘gamification’, I can create a playlist which is based on some simple Blooms taxonomy. For example, videos that list examples, that explain what it is, those which demonstrate it in action etc., I don’t necessarily want to order this using the ‘feed me’ methods where we trot though each topic and idea in sequence. Best of all, I don’t need to make anything at all to FTC and give students something to move around in.

However, I do need to know something about how to find media, organise it and then string pathways though it. I want to make my classroom ‘playable’. This post isn’t going to cover that, but I will set out two key ideas.

  • Playable playlists turn work into play, where play is joyful means of production. My class time therefore becomes a place of synthesis, justification, organisation and design thinking. The output might simply be a better playlist or the removal of dodgy items I stuck in there because students could make a decent argument to delete it.
  • Non-playble playlists are also useful, but they are not a means of production for the student. For example, a collection of how-to videos which scaffold learning. They might give tips on software or help people figure out workflows. These are things we just ‘need’ as bricks to get the playable stuff done. They too are background and I might need to make some or more likely edit things other people have made. In this case I need to start using something like Jing or Snagit — but essentially I’m remixing rather than making it end to end.

Finally — the teaching stuff.

This is all about balance. Sometimes it’s new things I want people to try or things I want them to avoid or rethink. Most of the time I think Jing is great because it limits you to 5 mins and suits mass broadcast and you wont go on and on too much. Ultimately the course design still adheres to good principles in Blended Learning, but you are now flipping out new ways to use media beyond the idea of pre-recording tomorrows PowerPoint. You are organising learning in new ways which get ever further from the linear origin.

To get started all you need to do is start making your own playlists. I suggest YouTube is a simple place to begin. For the more adventurous you might use Pinterest or Diigo … because you are going to need more than videos. In the end your flipped course uses playlists so much that students can use them like a cargo net to get up and over just about anything.


The Flipped PBL classroom

What’s a PBL flipped classroom?. It’s really about flipping the emphasis of time. In a PBL flipped scenario, the teacher mainly works before the project begins (rather than lesson) and not after. They do work during, but unlike even a video-flip, the teacher isn’t doing the bulk of the work (marking) at the end. The end is a celebration and feedback time. Almost all the assessment will have been handled during the project.

Kids expect to learn differently

Thanks to Sarah for her take on Massively Minecraft. I was a little taken back by the responses from the metaverse, including Will Richardson’s post. [open invite to come thump a tree Will]. I thought I’d pick up on it, and expand some of the ideas we’re using and the things we are seeing.

De-sensitizing means we miss things that matter!

It made me realise how easy it is to get de-sensitised to kids who quickly build high levels of digital-literacy in games. We have posted some of this on our blog, but not as much as we should. Not all our kids have game-history. For many this is their first multiplayer, constructive game-word.

We’re planning it like this

Each week Jo, Bron and I get together for a few hours and we go over what they kids are doing, what they are asking for and the transcripts of what they have been saying (though many use Skype). We discuss game-theory and community – and look for what Bron calls ‘teachable moments’. From October we will be running Parent sessions to extend this.

The world is kid-ruled – and doesn’t intend to be a classroom

We are at great pains not to introduce lessons or activities. We never have. Massively Minecraft is the kids world – all of it. We are using game-theory, project based learning methods (perhaps), but most of all – it’s built on the foundations of what makes gamer communities work so well.

Kids are Self-Directed

We ask them to tell us their goals, and offer help, but 90% of the time they don’t want it. Even after a few days of playing together, they are more than able to tell each other what the goal of the day is and teach each other. Some days it is building games, others it is digging mines. We attempt to maintain a deep, but effortless involvement with their work – mostly by admiring it (very important) or handing them out resources which they might otherwise have to collect. They have learned in our game – being productive and helpful to others is more likely to get you somewhere you want to go faster.

Kids are conceptual planners and designers of their own learning

In the game, they often talk about wanting ‘stacks’. This refers to resources. In Minecraft a stack is 64. Each kid can ask for one stack a day. They learn to plan what they want, so they might want 10 pistons, 20 wooden planks, 12 glass etc. What this means is that they are planning well ahead – they are actively visualising their goal and know how to achieve it. An adult that can’t give them a stack is fairly useless, of little more interest than a tree. I think that is how kids see adults much of the time, especially when kids feel they have little control or right to ask for something. Of course the kids get more than one stack if they can explain what they want it for – so again we’re asking them to defend their ideas – not judge them.

Kids are risk taking and building positive Self-Efficacy

What we see is that the concern for themselves dissipates while playing, but the sense of self is stronger after they stop. We have kids that are typing, talking, designing and take control of their work at a speed which would to be quite honest, spin the heads of most teachers. In fact we have kids in the game – who, according to school – can’t do things we see them doing in their stride.

Kids are learning outside the game

What Sarah hasn’t seen (yet) is the out of game work they do. Quite often they Skype each other and talk about the game. This talk is usually about their ideas. The “skindex” Sarah mentions is interesting because we know how important identity is in virtual worlds. It is common for them to Skype each other to ‘go on the skindex’. They will spend vast amounts of time creating new avatars using Miners Need Cool Shoes, and checking to see if anyone has downloaded their creations.

Skype in itself is interesting. It is not used as a sit back technology, but more of a surround-sound ampitheatre. As far as they are concerned, what is happening on the screen is the only visual that matters, they only want audio – and they want it on all the time.

As Skype only lets you have so many people on at a time, if they run out of users, they just open another call on a different machine, they hate headphones – so what you end up with are dozens of voices all talking at the same time. Somehow, though the noise, they hold multiple conversations – and still text chat in the game – usually to highlight IMPORTANT things.

Compare this to how adults use Skype or even a webinar, we focus on it totally – we mono-task where the kids just see it as a convenient way talk about what is happening in and out of the game. They are acutely aware of RANDOMS, those ‘add me’ requests on Skype. I mentioned this to one player “let me know if anyone you don’t know wants to add you” .. “oh, they did, but we don’t accept RANDOMS, only players we know”. Ahead of me again. They also tell new kids to get their parents to Skype us, to ask permission. Some parents don’t, but amazingly, the kids will include them using chat, often reminding other kids – “she can’t hear you, type it”.

Sometimes they will Skype to ‘go on YouTube’. They like to watch Minecraft Monday among other things, but again they are totally engaged in exploring and discussing the video they are watching. The never – never ask to broadcast a video so others can watch in sync. To them it doesn’t matter if you are 10 seconds ahead or behind – its all about the connected moment.

Kids need game-sympathetic helpers

“Jo, can I please have 12 pistons, some redstone a switch and 64 slabs” – from a 5 year old. This to me to a major point – schools still do not have game/virtual world specialists,. Where  Jo knows what these things are for and can predict what will happen next – this isn’t something that a teacher is going to pick up in a training session.

If schools are going to use games well (and avoid novelty games-based-learning) they need specialists with expert knowledge of virtual worlds and game theory – just as if they are going to teach engineering, they need and engineer.

I don’t see this yet – and to me is a missing link in motivation and engagement, especially in the 9-12 year old bracket. To me, this is the idea age to get into project based learning or serious games … but I don’t see sufficient investment in these areas yet … and it’s one of the many reasons Massively Minecraft exists – to provide it and talk about it.

Kids want to play with their parents

What isn’t so commonly known is that Massively Minecraft is also about PARENTS. A place to come and play with your kids in a world where they have the power and you get to learn about games in their lives.

Where are we going …

Towards the end of the year, we will be organised enough to offer some games based learning workshops – using Massively Minecraft for teachers interested in games. These won’t be FREE, but not expensive either. I know the Mining Industry is supposed to be lucrative these days in Australia, but Massively Minecraft actually costs a lot of time and money – and none of what we do with the kids online is funded (but we’re open to offers). We are always looking for new Guildies.

We are also looking at running ‘school based instances’ of Massively Minecraft – as action research projects, lead by Bron.

Thank You.

I’d like to thank all the teachers who have visited our world, those who have kindly Tweeted and RT’d comments – and those who’ve taken the time to blog about it. Our game is Minecraft and we are recruiting brave teachers and parents to come and learn about kids who inhabit game-spaces.

Meet the Miners!

Some of the kids will be at the FREE Games For Change Symposium in Sydney on 23rd September, where Bron is helping them organise a teacher workshop, so you can come and talk to them, play their game and learn what #GBL is – or should be.  Other kids will be in the game world, so you are welcome to come and join them too. The whole day is about games and the line up of speakers and activities I think is second to none right now. Hope to see you there.

GBL is not about games, it’s about mindsets

Games don’t want to bow to the will of education, as every game designer knows, as soon as the fun stops – you’re dead. For example, kindergarten kids are supposed to count to 30 by the end of the year (I know, it’s crazy). Setting that as a limit in games would appear to the designer as ridiculous. Imagine if all games for young kids abides by the rules of the syllabus, not of the players. No game could score past 30, they could only use one of 50 sight-words and only ever discuss basic social-concepts and toilets.

Education likes to use competence before performance as it’s under pinning view, so that you have to have the mark, the qualification before doing something else. It’s how we have built the leveling system, and it’s broken. Very broken.

Games are the opposite to this – performance before competence. You have to level your way to mastery and understanding constantly to be relevant to anyone else in the game.

You can’t have a so called ‘flipped classoom’ until you have performance before competence – and to do that, you need an entirely new way of working and assessing – which is exactly what you get with Xbox Live, not blogs or wikis – unless you design them that way.

This is game based learning. You don’t need a game you need a new mindset.