No media studies? No future.

Australian education has ignored academic and social arguments to introduce media-studies into school age curriculum. Australia is a media rich and media poor society where parental styles, conceptions and attitude towards media have been show as critical in how children see, understand and use media. I’ve been around “online” for a long time, and rarely if ever have I heard a book author, consultant ‘expert’ mention the role of parent mediation in how children respond to media.

Office Automation verses Media Studies

This is one example of why school systems often allow ‘dangerous experts’ to offer opinion, they can avoid topics they don’t like, and amplify those they do. It helps to cover up the trail of poor decision making over decades when it comes to the importance of media studies. Let me give a brief, snapshot. Computers arrived in schools as a mathematical science. Around 2000, curriculum bodies began to insist that children could also use office automation software. It had nothing to do with media or information studies, but a media panic over middle class wealth. At some point, children had to learn to use a keyboard and basic office tools, which is still seen as the main affordance of computers in schools today. Check the curriculum documents if you don’t believe me.

A history of avoiding media

In the mid 2000s, schools blundered their way online with an in-consistent fear-based-policy approach. On one hand they believed that kids could now search for information, which potentially saved them money — less books, less libraries, less databases — and a place to stick these computers which by then had been thrown out of science/maths because they were culturally no longer about computing at all. On the other, schools have a poor track record when it comes to using media, always favouring PROTECTION (of the system) over PREPARATION (for life). Parallel to this parents of course were told (my the media) that in the age of ‘the information worker’ knowing how to be a USER was most important to future prospects. Ironically, all that work as gone overseas. More worryingly is this idea that all kids are in a media rich home, able to select, maintain and provided BYOD devices — and agree NOT to also give kids their own network-connectivity to circumvent ‘essential’ protectionist security. 

So school has a legacy of machine-use, which suits the “web2.0” agenda. In effect, it can fund endless speakers and pilots at a far lower cost than re-orgnising curriculum in schools and universities to provide media-studies with the same importance it does biology of geography. At the same time, it’s PR engine promoted media as the future (all be it in their own weird way) depicted by these self-styled online experts – whom seem to have little credentials towards media studies, design or adult education.

Media Studies in the curriculum, not just inferred

When media-studies becomes part of the national curriculum, then academic, institutions and commercial providers can set about building something of substance that feeds into further education and the world place. That process would of course involve public consultation — not just the Twitterarti — which shapes a romantic, status based theatre as scholarship. Even worse, games are being added into classrooms on the basis they are popular, or can be de-clawed enough to be “educational” – It’s brain missing to me.

I feel pain for those teachers who put the hours and time into learning about media, and considering it’s impacts and affordances — they carry the burden and the hopes of children — who are basically be failed by dogmatic refusal to accept media (the arts) as being of equal importance to science. But when you have power, you don’t need to explain why and how you are going to use it I guess.



Who’s got their head in a sandbox

Fear of the future, leads organisational culture to believe many things about the present. It’s not useful to measure or think about the past in decades. In educational technology, the golden era of eLearning (1995-2005) was one where large organisations held the power and produced research which proved they were correct in buying large proprietary systems and creating specialist centres with expert staff capable of moving the mouse around for peon-users. Even today, some deny that Web2.0 every took place (2006-2011) and that Web3.0 (the internet of things, the semantic web) is now happening. By 2015 the landscape will have changed again. Even worse, some think Web2.0 was (or is) a thing that they can – if they so choose – selectively allow in or out, as though eLearning was not simply an epoch in broader culture and the on-going domestication of technology.

So much effort is made towards establishing what is in decline (and therefore who can be ejected) and so little in not investigating why organisations hold on to old ideas for so long, that their ability to spot (and deal with decline) also gives them even the barest insight into the future – which by and large they avoid or simply dismiss.

The best technology ever invented is a head-sized box of sand.

The Digital Dust Bowl



One of the things that is changing the way families experience games are the new media layers that games are appearing on. We’ve known for years that media works better when it is fluid. If you like, if we were to take the sum total of all forms of media that appear in popular culture, make them immersive and interactive – and where to you find yourself?

On the Internet is not the correct answer. The Internet is just the transport for media layers. Where you end up is inside one of several networks, which carries media more powerful and fluid than newspapers, radio, television, books, magazines – or websites.

Sony, Nintendo, Valve, Xbox, iTunes and Google Play are the network layers that manage to exist in two key areas of our lives. Firstly, the pocket. At any moment we can be entertained, thrilled and most importantly – consume and purchase. Secondly, in the lounge room. The one place that most families inhabit  Not the study or a nook (where the PC lives) but front and centre of viewing.

Games are more powerful, because games are a significant part of these networks overall media business. Not just blockbuster games, but Indie games which are relatively smaller and cheaper to download. They exist alongside the DLC (downloadable content) which are ‘additions’ to the games you buy in the store – and you pay for. They sit along side downloadable videos, television, music and news. They link into you social feed. An Indie game, such as Super Meat Boy can turn 10,000 units in a day at 12000c a pop, which is somewhere around $20.00.

A big reason the media (be that television, print, or websites) will fail to win their relentless attempts to diminish games as a media (we already spend more time playing that doing anything else) is that games are central to the economic success (and growth) of these media networks. If you were born after say 1978, you grew up playing games on micro-computers. If you were born after 1990, you grew up on optical-media based consoles. If you were born after 2000, you are growing up on network-games.

The thing about this – the thing which seems of the most importance to me right now – is that we know almost nothing about the motivations and perceptions of parents towards their use in the home. In education, the scary thing is that these things are never mentioned in relation to ‘integrating ICT’. There’s a huge assumption that eventually, though the pathways put forward through popular Internet media layers (the feed of blogs, Twitter and so on) – sufficient adults will understand online information pathways to develop the skills (what skills) needed for the future. At best, this near future is seen as a shift from laptop top tablet.

This of course means that the ‘cutting edge’ in popular culture of online education is based on tablets, mobile phones and on maturation of Internet websites. It ignores completely the use of wearable technology, smart televisions, Kinect, Google Glass and many more technologies that have already entered the home. When educational futurists painted a vision of Web2.0, they assumed it would be on a computer, then a laptop and now a tablet.

The future of online learning won’t be these things. It will be in fast moving, on-demand content that can be immersive and fluid. It is perhaps the biggest reason I found the MS Surface tablet exciting. It looked, worked and talked to my Xbox network. It amases me in higher education that no one (or no one I can see) isn’t working really hard on how eLearning might look via a network layer such as Xbox live – one which has a mature system of reputation, avatar, history of use, money and of course downloadable content. How hard would it be to create an amazing learning managent system that worked on the Xbox network? Well, impossible actually – as education simply hasn’t considered that just about all of it’s ‘innovations’ for interactive screens, live cams, secure mail, gamification, flipped classroom, internet searching and so on can be done on Xbox live.

So when these media networks have machines hooked up to wall mounted LCDs pushing data at us though 8 cores of processing – and hiring thousands of programmers to do it … it seems almost Edwardian to suggest websites have much of a future. Every major media player in the world is on or trying to get on the network layers that sit in our pockets and lounge room walls.

My money (if I had any) is on the future being a solid return to subject mastery in classroom and a retreat from the high invested (low return) that we’ve seen in the last decade. I don’t imagine for a moment that student results will be diminished. I think that higher education and other offerings of ‘learning’ will make their way to layers such as Xbox live (and not just iTunesU) and we’ll be interacting in real time with real people using gesture based technology, wearable technology – because the networks which carry games such as Crysis3 are currently limited by the machines – the Wii, the Xbox and the PS3 are a decade old.

Imagine if the classroom had laptops and computers 10 years old, they would barely run todays software – and yet the ageing PS3 and Xbox still deliver media and games which you’d expect on your iFad3 or i7 PC. If anyone knows how to get the maximum interaction out of a machine – it’s game developers and all of these media networks (those used to selling movies, TV and music) know – if they want a future doing just that – then they need to fund the games industry … and that is expensive … like many millions and years of waiting for it expensive.

I doubt you’ll find a single proposal at ISTE last year, this year or next year, that will look at how networked media will flood into lives of kids in the next few years. We’re about to enter a new generation of machine – the PS4, the Xbox (720) and so on, which will quite simply transform the way media is delivered and interacted with. Instead theres a bunch of people who are in the old-marketpace. To me it’s like the boom and bust of the wheat farmers who ignored the cattle-men and believed the solution to low grain prices what to produce more grain to sell, or if the price of grain is high, plant more grain to make money.

The dust-storm is arriving … me, I’m working on figuring out how and why families choose the games and networks they do … as it’s only by getting that, could I then try to imagine how we might prepare teachers for the next generation – the ones who will grow up feeding on high-speed media via cheap boxes that know their name.

Now I”m going to play Fez – which is metaphor. The world is 3D, it has four sides, a top and a bottom – what I’m seeing in edu-tech is an unwillingness to accept change is not about changing one surface for another (web1.0 to web2.0, computer screen to laptop screen, laptop to tablet screen). It’s about waking up and realising there’s stuff going on around the back that your current feed does not want you to know about.

At times it feels ironic that what is presented as ‘the edge of new learning technologies’, quick to vilify ‘old methods’ – is already a chapter in history – relevant in the 1990s, but in denial of what comes next – for no greater reason than they don’t have a place in it, and about to find themselves living in the ‘digital dust bowl’.

It’s very exciting stuff. It’s like finding the Web all over again, or that whole – what am I doing here – thing that came with Second Life or Minecraft. I’m betting that the way MOOCS and online learning for adults will explode is exactly the same way they exploded for games. I’m also betting right now all the money for MOOCs and massive online learning delivery systems is going into dust-ware.

Me, I’m working on a game with Mr11 about a Monkey with a monocle – because his homework said to make a pencil box using a set-square. I’m by-passing the Google Sketch phase and going straight for the understanding of the design process.

Giving meta-life to avatars

Xbox Kinect encourages people to think about different ways in which they can communicate and interact with computers.

For example, right now many computers have built-in web-cams. Most of them are turned off unless used for videoconferencing – so what will come next?

Where should we be heading with virtual worlds?

So lets play some ‘what if’ … What if our meta-selves were game characters or avatars, and that our computers had Kinect type ability to send data to virtual spaces to give them some form of actor/agent ‘life’. What if our avatars acted in response to our broader digital-selves?

Imagine if the camera in your computer were active all the time and the computer was watching and listening to you as you work, just like an assistant or a secretary. It could use that information to provide you with assistance if it sees that you are frustrated.

Certainly, the purpose of video and computer games is disagreed upon. In education even the idea that learning can be ‘fun’ will attract scornful remarks. However, in order to engage players, game designers have become well versed in creating activities and environments which foster intrinsic motivation.

What if the wave of a hand, or puzzled expression could enact your avatar ask for help or go off and find information that it’s noticed you’re looking at right now. What if the teacher could see this and do something to help. What is learning and teaching wasn’t either synchronous or asynchronous intervention, but something else?

Technology – using body, voice and image interfacing is in it’s infancy, but infant to pesky teenager in game design takes 12 months. It’s mature and left home by 18 months.

Imagine a virtual world, where you are the teacher, the expert, the friend. Imagine if you students are in the space with you – represented by their avatars, but not directly controlling them – using them as actors and agents. Now imagine that as you watch over them, they move around, they go and sit with others, work together, get up and visit a bookshelf, take the book and put it on the desk. One of the great [and un-made] virtual world advances will be this. Students will be able to work online, reading, connecting, writing and connecting – while their avatar acts for them in a virtual space. In this way – a teacher can ‘see‘ when students are connecting and prompt a teleconference or intact with their avatar as proxy. This is a million miles away from the way distance education thinking today – as essentially a collection of facts and tasks to we worked through towards a final essay to test.

Now imagine if this virtual classroom as a massive virtual worldscape where millions of students were doing this – and you could walk around it – watching, helping and connecting – from your mobile phone.

The problem with e-Learning is that it makes marginal advances from disagreed upon constructs and results in course design that is flat and linear (and boring).

If game designers thought like this – we’d all still be playing Pong and Breakout. But then, distance learning is a managed process, not a creatively driven one I guess.

Sweet dreams are made of this

In 1983, Dave Steward bought one of these. It’s a drum machine, and he used it to create some of the greatest tracks the Eurythmics ever made.

It was the same year that saw the release of Return of the Jedi, Flash Dance and Tom Cruise slid between the doorway in Risky Business – just to put it into perspective.

What was he thinking when he saw this for the first time. Was it

a) it won’t ever replace a real drummer, I’d better ignore it or

b) whoa, what can I do with that!

Who knows, but he bought one and that’s all that really matters now.

My point is that even as the the alliance set out destroy the battle station’s shield generator on the forest moon of Endor, young Dave was messing about with technology. It is unlikely some record-suit was yeah-butting what he was doing, but trusting him that he would come up with new sounds and music that people would want to hear (and buy).

Here is what your kids starting school will be using by the time they leave school – except it will be $199 and sitting in your lounge room. Gesture devices are already here! – so seriously, if you’re dealing with people who <deny> the importance of games, virtual worlds …  sweet dreams will be made of this – freak them out.

But don’t worry, my educator friends – this kind of thing won’t impact learning and teaching (much).

Cheap E-Paper Displays Coming to a Store Near You

Technology Review: Blogs: Guest Blog: Cheap E-Paper Displays Coming to a Store Near You.

An interesting post from Technology Review (MIT). It’s about ePaper, but smart ePaper – the ability to update ‘content’ on some ePaper using device from a centralised source. There are some videos of it in action, and the post reports this as a fairly experimental technology.

As the iPad requires the user to pull updated content from a server, this technology seems to be able to transmit and receive upadates by pushing new content to it. Imagine if you one day could get a ‘book’, that is never out of date, that constantly pulls down information relevant through the semantic web. Now that would be magic – especially if the ePaper really was like paper.

To quote, unquote and requote – 21st Century illiteracy?

Alvin Toffler is often quoted as saying “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

Numerous powerpoints, wikis, documents and articles use the quote in order to talk about digital literacy and management. Many cite his book “Future Shock” and “Rethinking the Future”. In the latter for he co-wrote the forward. You’d be forgiven to think it’s ‘his’ book when in fact it is the compilation of many future-thinkers, edited by Rowan Gibson in 1997.

Amazon promote the the book as being authored by Alvin Toffler (Author), Heidi Toffler (Author), Rowan Gibson (Author). However, in 3 pages the Toffers did write from 275, I wonder if the quite often cited is taken from the line

“Not since the dawn of the industrial Revolution have managers had more to learn (and unlearn) about the art of business leadership”

In Future Shock, we talks extensively about the changing nature of society and our move from describes as

“We are moving from bureaucracy to Ad-hocracy (pp123) … Ad-hocracy, the fast moving, information-rich, kinetic organization of the future, filled with transient cells and extremely mobile individuals (pp131)”
Accelerating knowledge acquisition, fueling the great change engine of technology, means accelerating change (pp31)”

Future Shock is jam packed with predictions that have been re-worked into the digital-age context by many talking about shifting and changing nature of education BUT I cannot reference to the 21st Century specifically, let alone this actual quote. It is highly frustrating as we (Judy and I) wanted to use it in print — and have been earnestly reading though Future Shock, Powershift and Rethinking the Future … but with no success.

I wonder if someone out there in the meta-verse — perhaps someone who has quoted or adapted it … might give us the actual reference … as we’re thinking it’s either an adaptation or perhaps in some other media that he said it.

Kevin Kelly says in Rethinking the Future (1997), pp 253 … “The curious thing about technology is the way it resolves complexity into simplicity”. In this case – what seemed easy has become quite a chase. What may be true is that it was simple to copy and paste. I’ll let you know if we find it … or if you find it first …

The rise of the meta-teacher

1410539606_86f47b8e13Has 2008 been a significant juncture in education?. K12 Online was a huge hit, Connectivism ran online and numerous ‘fringe’ edu-events went mainstream. Of course the Australian government has decided it would like to filter the entire internet for us and drop low end laptops in schools.

We wonder why reforming ICT in school is hard … look at the vast differences in what is happening.

Regardless of 2008, it seems obvious that in the last decade – the power of the internet to connect us to things we want to know, buy or with people we want to know or could never meet has changed great parts of our society – of which students and teachers belong. You only have to compare the Australian Bureau of Statitics ‘Internet’ data from 1998 to 2008 to see how powerful the internet has become in our lives. We are not the same as we were.

It is not a ‘digital revolution’ any more than it was an ‘information superhighway’ a decade ago.

I see the rise of the ‘meta-teacher’. A teacher who understands that as information spews out of our desktops, laptops and phones – it sticks to the internet and potentially has to be navigated. These teachers are different. They have skills and understanding that makes them critical in the classroom, and the global ‘edu’ community. They lead, mediate, inspire and collaborate. More importantly they understand how to read, use, integrate, technology, and ‘meta-language’. They understand how ‘things’ get connected to other things. They are aware that ‘tagging’ is significant.

The teacher who thinks that a website address and Google are enough to navigate media and networks of information is gradually becoming media-illiterate – and passing that on to their students.  The ‘universal resource locator stopped working correctly as soon as we stopped hand-writing html and turned on our data-base driven interwebs. The internet is not a level playing field when it comes to content, nor does Google know which is the most relevant site for you. It has a good guess, but without critical literacy skills – how can you tell?

Meta data and meta language are how we tie information, people, ideas, resources and communities together – not links or search engines.

These teachers are power-influences . They can integrate web technology into the curriculum,  interpret, aggregate and organize information to help other’s do it too. Meta-teachers are seen as a ‘problem’ to the incumbents, and despite the enormous goodwill and passion they have – struggle to engage the laggards (who are too busy). When will parents start saying ‘enough’. Is it possible that we could blend face to face with online and rethink schools?

Right now schools are trying to stick a digital clock on a poodle.

Will Richardson recently talked about the school of the future and the discussion that followed was very thought provoking. Will increasing numbers of meta-teachers allow the school of the future – the ‘meta-schools’. Is that how we’ll reform pedagogy and curriculum. How much with Open Education influence this?

Will they appear in the same way ‘charter schools’ appeared. It’s not so crazy and idea as sooner or later someone with money will pay for it – and there will be both parents and teachers who want it. Perhaps the role of meta-teachers is not to  ‘change’ their schools. Maybe they represent an opportunity to create ‘better’ schools – or at least offer an alternative to what we have. It really would be nice to have the choice.

Graphic-A-Day#8 – What I hope I do.

My job says I have to ‘teach’ students skills and information to pass exams. The result of my efforts has a determination on the immediate steps that students can take, and things they can do.

If they choose to go to University,  I hope that the way in which they learned gave them ideas and skills to be creative and enter further study with that mindset rather than some form of human photocopier.