ESports High – just a click away?

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Occasionally, I muse over the potential of  E-Sports High Schools. Not fake ones that do a bit of coding and Minecraft – but one that actually develops talent to play pro, or to work in the industry – player, developer, media, cosplayer – the REAL world that swirls around ESports. For example, why not ENCOURAGE kids to stream an find the media success that their streaming and YouTube hero’s have found? Why can’t someone such as LoserFruit not get a high school start?. There is no real barrier aside from culture. There is plenty of evidence that Australia can create new schools – and models – especially high schools – so to have an Esports focus is also proven possible in the eyes of NESA and the all important government funding. So anyone who’s sniggering at the idea – simply fails to understand the shift in youth culture – and what kids actually want to learn about every day. There’s nothing to suggest that studying ESports every day would be BAD.

“Interactive games are woven into the fabric of our culture – a culture more nuanced and capable of enjoying the benefits of the digital economy than ever before.” – Digital Australia Report 2018

I have four essential arguments for a ESports High School Academy.

  1. There is sufficiently low-cost digital technology to deliver a full (high qualigy) high school program online as: fully online, blended, block or campus mode, and plenty of subject teacher talent to do it – not just well, but exceptionally well.
  2. The ESports industry is a well established growing one that is not served by current educational models. 92% of people play games with OTHER HUMAN BEINGS which make ESports not just viable, but attractive to people which very high cognitive processing and dedication. The myth of the fat-slacker-loner is long since dead.
  3. 93% of Australian households have had gaming devices since 2013 which places games as being as more culturally accepted in Australia than ANY sport.
  4. The ‘for implementation’ digital technologies curriculum in 2019 is more than sufficient to meet the needs of the gaming industry (coding, playing, producing, broadcasting etc.,) as an elective from year 9 onwards.
  5. Yeah, I know +1 right – THIS IS HOW YOU DEVELOP ‘Digital Nutrician” in kids by GIVING them what they want … the solution to too much gaming is, in fact, more gaming.

I’m not here to argue the benefits of gaming – these are well documented. Unless you’re so ingrained in a micro-belief that MINECRAFT is the apex of gaming – it’s easy to see the vast number of careers and media related opportunities there are for ESports High School. Not everyone will be as great as “IEATYOUUP”, but there are thousands, if not millions that are playing. Consider that ESport Pro player and broadcasters are POST SCHOOL AGE – is this not an industry that is “of the future” that educators on Twitter bang on about endlessly – but never do anything about.

In addition, I’m just going to say that the road to making this happen is both short and low cost – if the industry gets’s behind it, even to a token degree. Of course not every edumactor who’ s been mainlining EdTech for the last decade could do this – but there are some that can – me included. And no, I’m not going to road map it for you.

I’m just a dude researching games, working in eLearning for a decade plus and know exactly how this gets turned into a REAL EDUCATION. But I’m also super realistic that “games based learning” isn’t really understood in the context of school culture. But if parents want to deal with ‘screen time’, media culture and get the most from the millions of kids who LOVE gaming … or if Australian education REALLY AND TRUELY wants to tap into the multi billion dollar ESports media industry – I can totally assure you that pissing about with Minecraft and Hour of Code is amateur hour.

Gaming the online classroom

There is a ton of information being produced about attempting to turn online learning into a more game-like experience. What we’re saying is that despite the rush of enthusiasm for technology based teaching, the profound effect on society by the interactive entertainment industry renders so much of ‘must attend’ education well outside this zone of engagement.

Consider however that ‘school’ is particular social construct and comes with certain cultural expectations and baggage. For example, school has been a daily experience of the dis-affected fifteen year old with poor attendance and a dislike of school methods. Offering her badges or points is hardly going encourage her to revisit her experiences before time expires and she leaves to make her way in the world. For the exceptional kids who chew through learning, the introduction of a game might well send their parents into a tail spin about how to play-school — a game they’ve probably been winning for years at.

The point I’m making here is that games, game-layers and game-mechanics being developed for the interactive entertainment of society cannot easily be subsumed into educational contexts. By easy, I mean time, investment and executive trust in taking a few risks and resisting the temptation to declare success after a week.

I’ve seen numerous game-systems which are little more than grade-book management and behaviour control. They might meet the power-relations of the teacher and the grade-compliance needs of the system, but I don’t think they should be called a game. Dressing up and talking like a pirate would be just as motivating to students who know game culture like the back of their hand. Let me put down the top three things which have little ‘game-basis’ at all, but never the less have been cited as game-based-learning.

3 elements which are un-proven

  1. Using points to sanction personal behaviour (ie, late to class, no homework, calling out).
  2. Assigning random events. The teacher should know exactly what events need to be triggered to move the student’s experience from A to B and B to C. This has more to do with the Zone of Proximal Development than the roll of a dice. Games do not issue ‘work’ randomly, they do it because the player is ready for it.
  3. Machine-automation should be used lightly. The best games I’ve seen played with students treat the Internet as a medium or layer to transmit important information — such as how the player is going, what they need to do next and so on. Machine programming which orientates to grading students is fluckery and should be avoided.

Why do schools find it hard to develop effective game based learning programmes.

The biggest challenge for schools is they are not used to employing project-managers and/or educational developers to design a game. They tend to hope teachers will pick this stuff up in the way they picked up how to use Edmondo. Games are complex cultural objects. For example: a game should be a re-useable resource which anyone can play. It should be well designed, documented and platform agnostic. It might require the development of illustrations, narratives and other objects … all of which is really hard to do alone or as a side-role when teaching. If the game is being played online, then it will need a community manager to help interpret the goals of the teacher into an experience online that is interesting.

I am not saying avoid games, or consider GBL to be too hard, but to think more carefully about requirements of education verses interactive media entertainment. Ultimately, the game is an experience which impacts how we see the world — if you missed it, check out the PBL Game for the Hunger Games which ran a few years ago. Start not with what we did that made it such a success — but why it didn’t pick up any interest at ISTE 13. The challenge for games is simple: They need at least the same status and investment that is routinely applied to things such as Google Apps … only then will robust, re-useable designs become available.

Parenting Gamer Kids

As part of writing my thesis and working with families around the “Negotiations of Play”, I’ve decided to run a parallel project to write a modest eBook relating to some of the work I’m doing. Not all of my thesis would be interesting to parents, but to me the point of doing it is to have some practical value on raising gamer kids.

I’ve decided to start to compile the book in a way which will see sections released FREE and online via a subscription. Ultimately when the thing is done, I’ll put it into a service such as BookBaby where it can be downloaded as a finished thing. I’m interested therefore in getting YOU to subscribe to this — and to give me feedback on your parenting experiences along the way. This might sound odd, giving away my ideas, but to me it makes sense — and this is what I’ve chosen to do.

The first installment will be open soon, and I hope you subscribe. It will be looking at “Parental Belief and Child Rearing Practices” and will appear in parts over the next 3 months. I won’t be ‘blogging’ about it, but you are welcome to subscribe to the FREE updates online — but it will be mostly limited to the effects of parent belief on children’s behaviours, academic achievement, social and cognitive development. The final eBook will contain information about ways parents can mediate and help their children use video games as a positive media-source and use of screen-time. I’ll be putting this out in three parts and hopefully the final book will be completed by 2017.

I’ve chosen to do it this way because it seems to make the most sense. I don’t need an agent or publishing deal — just an audience of parents and teachers who are interested in the topic “Negotiations of Play”. I will however be using a copy-editor and editor for the final eBooks as I’ll have enough on my plate with the thesis itself.

I’m kinda excited to do this — and to be making some life-changes to make it happen. I’ll be posting information about how to get all this soon. Thanks for reading!

Be what you want them to be

There is a lot of desperate nonsense online in relation to games and kids aggression.

Even the much cited Eron criticism of TV found a 10 percent debatable correlation between kids and tv watching related aggression, whereas they found fifty percent of kids aggression results from family interaction. The adult she sees everyday is the model of what she is supposed to be.

Thus means that whatever game they are playing, is not going to have the biggest impression, it’s parent behavior while the game is in focus.

You can tell kids what you don’t like, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be less interested in it. Remember too, this is a fantasy, and in a fantasy imagining fighting zombies or burning down a forest is interesting. The best model for parents is to calmly lay out an argument, not yell an opinion.

This is much better than seeing you freak out with anxiety. It’s also why kids won’t play games in school (even if you call it edu) in the same way they do at home. In school, playing minecraft doesn’t affirm who they are so much as it shows them most teachers don’t understand games … and them.

This becomes obvious when I see YouTube videos of teachers bossing kids around in a classroom (playing minecraft) too. I don’t see them building mutually respectful arguments for gaming any more than non game interested teachers … it’s just “bang, hey kids, were going to play minecraft” … as they attach behaviour and imagination cuffs to be the power broker. Terrible in every level.

This isn’t modeling what teachers want kids to be, it’s partly frustration with the system and in some things I’ve seen … a dubious pedagogical basis for gaming. Banning games is simply the opposite reaction (much favoured by school leaders stuck in their own fantasy hyperbole of what constitutes media literacy).

Similarly, I’d argue parent anxiety over minecraft (or other) as being addictive our violent, won’t show any change because a kid plays at school (should someone actually research it with a valid method). It hasn’t before in studies of other media, so why would minecraft be different here?

Modeling who you want them to be requires cultural acceptance of games as a unique media form that plays a significant economical and societal role.

Parents will take games and virtual worlds seriously when schools do.

When it becomes a discipline such as media studies, english or computer science, then it will get further. Right now it seems the focus is in furthering the agenda and/or bank balance of a few enthusiasts.

But the is some hope. Numerous free online courses (moocs) allow parents to explore games and learning from a research base. And why should parents not join them?

Plenty of gaming teachers are actually unqualified too, in terms of “accredited to teach”. So give it a go,  model an interest, ask questions of your kids and explore what interests them.

Personally, I think this is much better than hoping the teacher has any deep grasp of gaming (for transformational play). I seriously doubt “gaming” will be a timetable event outside of novelty or attention seeking any time soon.

Be the expert you’d like them to see. There’s are dozens of courses starting in October, all free, and all backed by University grade content. That will impress your kids much more than anything else. You are their parent. You don’t have to pay, or even like the games they do, but it’s a good idea to know why from some of the world’s most respected scholars like Jay Clayton.

Learning to be a Game Maker #1

Having conceded that Mr9 is a better game player, there is only one thing to do. Start making games with him. I was inspired by a comment that James Gee made about kids. He says that kids can do amazing things with technology, when they have others helping them – especially parents and peers.

So I’ve spent a while sifting though the various offerings around game makers, and chosen to work with him using Atmosphir.

So here’s the first couple of days.

We’re spending an hour building games at a time.

  • Rule one – Dad does not touch the computer. 
  • Rule two – Mr 9 does not touch the computer when Dad’s explaining stuff.
  • Rule three – Breaking either rule is cause for the other party to rage quit.

There’s a bit of a back story here, he started playing Starcraft 2 a month ago – so you might call this background reading. The cunning plan here is to teach him why maths at school has some relevance to life – which he’s not seeing right now.

Day One

This was spent looking over Atmosphir, and playing some of the demonstration games others have made. This wasn’t random, I was interested in asking uni-structural questions, to establish what he knew already about how games are put together.  What I was doing is working out what he saw as worth doing and what was boring (as he puts it). At this point he’s not seeing any connection between playing and making – but happy to play and point out things that he thought were mattered.

Day Two

So tonight we sat down to make a game. He’d already had a gazillion ideas, but let’s face it this is programming 101, not Blizzard, so maybe some of the boss levels and chains were a little ambitious.

Interestingly, he wanted to include a story. The justification was that unless you want to run around collecting gems and jumping – games should have a story. Fair enough, sorry about that Mario.

So we jump in and start messing with it. So a bit more uni-structural questioning, which was never going to compete. Within about 10 minutes he’d figured the entire interface and well able to drop in objects, orbit, camera zoom and figure out how the game demands building in layers. I asked if he had any graph paper. He looked at me. What? … so I described it. “Oh, like our maths book. We could use that to plan, it’s printed wrong”. It turned out he thought his maths book was some sort of reject exercise book, printed horizontally and vertically. So we establish that the grid on the screen is a 3D version of graph paper – and that the world is made of squares in the game. “No, these are cubes, they are 3D squares, he informed me”.

So we draw out a simple linear run, jump, dodge path in a straight line, check point, timer and end. We establish the ground is is layer 10, that 10+ is skywards and -10 is underground. 30 mins later, and some near rage quits – we hit test game … and it runs like a dream. He’s then full of ideas about what to do next, so spent some time just stuffing about with the various tools, which I think is important – that the achievement is not the ‘end’ but a mid-point in learning something. We talked a bit about how we can map a game out, and he suggested we take some basic Warcraft quest and make a map of it.

This of course was a crafty way of playing some WoW on a school night …but that is the next step – to start making some relational plans for Day 3.

Online School of Opportunity (OSO)

Why write on the walls, when you can write everywhere?

Mashable posted  “Why Teens Don’t Tweet”, giving a range of data and view on the demographics of a social network growing at +1300% a month. It made me wonder about how effective we are at competing for the attention of students, teachers and educational leaders. Are we too busy pressing the ‘Digg’ button and missing the opportunities presented?

“Twitter’s different than Facebook or MySpace because Twitter is not about your friends … Teens, more than any other age group, care about their friends. It’s the continuation of real-life friendship (and the creation of online ones) that has driven the tremendous growth of MySpace, Facebook, Bebo etc”.

To use these spaces, today’s teens spend increasing amounts of time informally online. They are using informal learning. As formal public education provides almost no spaces for this it is no surprise that teens power down between 9 and 3.30, disconnected from their informal learning networks. And it isn’t a teen sensation; social games and online networks are actively marketed to pre-schoolers. The numbers participating in pre-school social game Webkinz alone dwarfs teen blogging.

McGivney (1999) a decade ago recognised the importance of informal learning pathways.

Informal learning generated by local people themselves often led to wider community involvement and activism, whereas learning arranged by education providers most often led to high rates of educational progression. Informal learning often started people on a continuing learning path by helping them become confident and successful learners. “

Space, time and organisation are cardinal elements of formal learning – which is the inverse of the online educational commons. Informality enables us to be successful learners in playful and social ways that we can take to new situations. Increasingly games and social networks provide this function. It is common to see two teachers talking about education online; but rare to see departmental CEO or Minister add to any authentic open discussion. They have attained their authority by abiding by the rules of formality; where as online authority is now earned through action in informal networks.

Teens use  mobile phones, Bebo, Facebook and MySpace – to successfully strengthen friend networks. What they don’t know how to do is apply it to the discipline needed in obtain life affecting qualifications. There is a clear role for teachers to do this, and students readily work with these teachers – who are not necessarily technocrats – but are adoptive leaders and good communicators. They talk with, not at – which is another characteristic of policy making bureacrats and politicians. You can’t co-opt your way to social change on your terms anymore. Get over it; move on. Stop building walled gardens and ignoring what is there already.

The problem with internalising everything and agreeing with yourself, is that it sustains nothing except yourself.

Seriously – why do we spend millions developing ‘closed’ applications using tax-payer money on things like a blog engine ‘pilot’, when the world is using Edublog Campus? The criteria is less than transparent and hardly going to give any real indication of pedagogical reform; if indeed there is going to be any public release of the findings. Per teacher; what is the investment?

The blog trial involves 20 teachers, each from a different school or TAFE Institute from across the State. Trial participants were selected though a variety of means but all are users of collaborative tools and are keen to use blogs for teaching and learning.

The Centre for Learning Innovation’s website (The public education tech-development arm) says “Connected learning projects allow students to engage with real-life situations, which involve communication, collaboration, self-directed learning, problem solving, researching and publishing findings.” it prompt you to download  a 1997 document which then explains what the internet is, why use it in the classroom and gives an illustration of how to use a website (Netscape 2). The link is dead, and obviously ancient history – yet is on the ‘new’ website.

Do you learn more by skimming last night Tweets than you did at your last technology ‘in-service’?

We don’t need to be at specific time or place to learn – just access the educational network commons that now exists online. We are seeing an effusion of activity in forming and joining new networks that is changing education philopshy, not technology itself. The tragedy is that teachers are often unable to benefit students from this action. It is locked stepped by political orientation to conventional, schematic discernment of the 21st Century itself.

We should be better utilising existing resources such as libraries and teachers, and investigating an ‘Online School of Opportunity (OSO) and not limiting students through long-familiar toothsome approaches to quality improvement (aka “School of Excellence” ). We need centres of opportunity before excellence can be afforded to all –  though investment in public Libraries and community spaces that encourage both teachers and students to get together and transform the way they use technology; not block it.

Ref: McGivney (1999). “Informal Learning in the Community: A Trigger for Change and Development.”  National Institute for Adult Continuing Education, UK.

EVE of new literature

This post is something that hit the cutting room (word count) floor in the “Learning in Virtual Worlds” volume I’ve been writing with Judy O’Connell, but I think it’s worth sharing. The focus is to look at just how much you can do with a ‘free trail’ to an online game – and in fact never play the game.

picture-10

Gaming online invariably offers a ‘free trial’. This is very handy for schools – who might sign students up for Mathletics, but a game such as EVE Online is unlikely to get a run. For one thing, some of the ‘content’ is a little ‘dark’, but never the less is no more apocalyptic than novels such as Bladerunner. It seems that narratives in writing, take on new ideology when played out online. But games are now online and millions of teens ‘play’ them – and socialise.

MMOs lead themselves to Digital Story Telling – and though as not seen as a ‘tool’ as such, and maybe could be added to Alan Lavine’s 50 ways to tell a story. They are both the tool and the media – the imperative to use them – is motivation and interest. We are at a point in educational technology where we should at least be exploring where virtual worlds are fitting into learning – as students increasingly move to MMOs, creating new communities as part of the social network nexus.

Clarance Fisher posted “Events are new. Events are different and exciting. Events are something we take part in and play a role in. Then when we put a bunch of events together, they build up into an experience. I would much rather that students have an “experience” of something rather than “study” something.”

EVE Online provides a range of multi-demensional experiences and within a ‘free’ trail, teachers could easily use it to engage students in a range of experiences and discussions. For example, without playing the game; create a comic strip or explore identity and representation using the narratives from the eBooks and screenshots provided in the site. Students can read the stories, or add their own new race to the back story. Of course doing any of this requires the teacher to be digitally literate themselves – and schools need to create opportunities to ‘discover’ these teaching tools.

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Teachers could explore some of the narriatives; and suggest how the writer in (or is not) talking about things science is interested in, or how science affects natural evolution. EVE has a range of stories – sections of which will resonate with student interest such as

The Kameiras are one of the products of the infamous Human Endurance Program (H.E.P.) that the Amarr ran on their Minmatar slave populace. It began as an attempt to measure the Minmatar tribes’ durability and effectiveness when it came to various labor tasks – to see how far they could be pushed before breaking, much like a tool would be stress-tested. Over time it evolved into much more than that, becoming a tale of horror for the Minmatar as Amarr scientists began to explore the true limits of their body and psyche.”

Games, far being from a waste of time, are highly motivating and well thought out. The collatoral activities such as the art; concept; stories; forums and film that many ‘fans’ create provide a rich source of stimulus materials than can be easily recycled in cross-curricula approaches. Looking beyond ‘its a game and not appropriate’ allows teachers to see that what is happening in them is much more than ‘pac-man’. The offer rich resource materials, which is often literature – outside the game, but connected with it. We have to then think that a great deal of creative expression in the future will include MMO experiences, but not be limited to it. If anything MMOs generate more artistic and creative work that crush it.

EVE Online is one example of hundreds of ‘worlds’. They offer teachers opportunities to use the ‘burr’ of motivation; to connect wider learning activities – from science to design, music to personal development. There is a dimension that can be exploited – without necessarily ‘playing’ the game itself. But we have to look beyond the prescribed texts and start to notice how literature is changing, and being used differently – and ‘building literate communities beyond the classroom”

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Half the trouble with classroom 2.0

picture-6A year or two ago, listening to anyone talk about ‘Second Life’ was more about ideology and futurism than curriculum. Consoles were still un-wired and online play was still the domain of the PC, not hand-held or mobile. In the same time period teachers have been launching new ICTs in classrooms, and orbiting the ‘Web2.o’ toolbox. The conversation still largely revolves around ‘activities’ using these tools, which is seeing classrooms move (slowly) away from the idea that students need to learn office automation processes and searching. Implementing more open ended classroom approaches and scaling renewed curricula remains challenging for school leaders – but progress is being made in many schools. Teachers who talk about and use second life, still face negativity and suspicion.Voices from the quarter who are advocating current, relevant technologies (other teachers) still largely regard virtual worlds and games as ‘interesting’, but not as important or as relevant as blogs and wikis.

A recent report from Pew says “By a large margin, teen internet users’ favorite online activity is game playing; 78% of 12-17 year-old internet users play games online, compared with 73% of online teens who email, the second most popular activity for this age group. Online teens are also significantly more likely to play games than any other generation, including Generation Y, only half (50%) of whom play online games.”

There are hundreds of virtual worlds, with millions of users and subscribers . Much of the ‘edu’ debate is still around safety and security in Second Life, which seems facile in contrast to the ease and access students have online to spaces such as Disney’s Club Penguin (though Disney does have a lot of safety advice online) It is better to teach them, as you can’t prevent them – and in many cases what looks to a parent like a ‘game’ is in fact a 3D social network – and requires a whole new understanding.

There is a depth of professional detail on how to teach with MMOs, much the same as there is in ‘Web2.0’. There are options to run a virtual world over your school LAN, or use a browser based world such as Metaplace. There simply is something to everyone in MMOs – and at the heart of it is the game industries ability to embed new learning processes and motivation into their product offerings.

I find it difficult to see how ‘web2.0’ teachers can ignore or marginalize the influence of gameplay, and the narritives they offer. They are not 3D Powerpoint, or virtual ‘classrooms’ – but they can be used as part of ‘good practice’. From Maths and Economics (Football Manager), to student conferencing (MeetSee), games and Teen Second Life – there progressive conversation, resources and pedagogical development in virtual worlds is something that teachers should be ‘exploring’ – as Web2.0 includes immersive environments. Omitting them from “Web2.0” is in effect saying ‘I am going to consider using  50% of what you might be interested in’.

2704191125_6587fe9a74I am not saying that ‘games’ become the center of learning – but they must play a role, as teens are clearly ‘learning’ in these spaces and motivated by them.. They too need to be blended into learning – part inquiry, part exploration, part play and part instruction – this is learning centered design, not student or teacher centered.

We are not measuring the 21C-ness of a school, by the number of Nings or Wikis, but by looking at the alignment of activities, outcomes and assessment – and demonstrating that what we are doing makes a positive difference.

There are unique pedagogical reasons to use virtual worlds, just as there are for other Web2.0 tools. Skype is great, but if you are talking about how an Airship works, why use an airship? If you are trying to understand what life is like in an African village school – why not make one and teach there. As our classrooms beging extend beyond the physical, I can’t imagine that being in a class using a ‘skype call’ to another classroom is as engaging as the two classes working together online. Or if designing a new school, students can’t work to create the virtual school. Both ideas that have proven successful in Skoolaborate.

Teachers don’t need to start from ground zero, there are numerous communities and existing projects – with developed curricula and resources. In many ways, virtual worlds are far more mature in their pedagogical offering that a Web2.0 tool that needs adaption – and alignment with effective measurement. Designing curricula for the 21st century must include recognition of the cognitive power that games and virtual worlds offer classrooms. If we are punching through the walls of our classrooms – to connect to other experiences – it seems logical that we include games. I have to thank Keven Jarrett for his great lead in this weekends PLP Network introduction to Virtual Worlds, and talking about the dept of resources available through ISTE – and it was great to see a healthy number interested in exploring what is fast becomming ‘the other half’ of the story. Look forward to seeing you in Jokaydia next weekend.

Hulu to the future?

I haven’t done an ‘I wonder’ post for a while, but a few things I’ve read this week lead me to wonder about what creates change, not just in school – but in our beliefs.

Few people will not have heard of the ABC or Disney. But what about Hulu? What if I was to say that Hulu is a TV channel that ABC and Disney have decided is a brand that they cannot effectively compete with, so is negotiating to work with in the future. “Disney made a bet three years ago that the strength of its ABC and Disney brands would be enough to attract online viewers, and so it chose not to participate in Hulu during its launch”. Is there any alignment here with the position that education systems are taking?, are they holding out that they would continue to attract students due to their heritage, should there be some alternate. What is amazing with stories like this is the speed at which millions of people move to new spaces and how powerless traditional media channels are in preventing it. With so much content heading to the web, and even CBBC focusing on their online delivery as a primary activity, with TV secondary, ending long running shows – as “children no longer saw themselves as exclusively schoolchildren”.

Content on mobile phones and netbooks used to be on the lounge room television. Increasing lower costs access to wifi with pre-paid and 3G wifi will sweep away metropolitan broadband ADSL, as more people lower home-consumption in favour of greater mobile. Mobile learning, with high quality content will increase as organisations like the BBC focus their attention on it’s development and delivery.

How will this affect students? Now they won’t need ‘your’ network or ‘your connection’, and will be sharing net access though informal, add-hock networking, using 3G and Bluetooth connectivity. 3G dongles look just like USB drives, but do remarkably more. Once they wanted SMS credit, now they want’web credit’. I see dozens of high school students on my trip from the Central Coast using mobile internet on their phones. They are not just texting, but emailing and chatting in IRC with Skype, and this is a big motivator for teens to have ‘smart phones‘. In fact now you send a txt message to get the URL of internet content. We are seeing TV increasingly interested in ‘virtual worlds’ and ‘online games’. A solo experience or game, as an add on for traditional TV and film marketing, is no longer enough.Advertisers know that we are connecting to each other, more than their messages, and know that social media is where their customers are – online and mobile.

New pre-school entertainment comes with ‘virtual world’ connections.- as they are painfully aware how tomorrows media-consumer is motivated. Anything that was on TV is now on your mobile – and more than likely connected to a massive mutliplayer environment. Few teachers are even beginning to think abut how this is going to impact them in the next 5 years. Much of the operational instruction we used to provide – such as information literacy and ‘computer mastery’ is being taught by online avatars and popular culture websites.

source: news.com.au

source: news.com.au

Students in Grange Hill in the late 70s, experienced classrooms and process of learning that has changed little in over 30 years. Yet the students in them are increasingly there because of ‘tenue’, and not motivation. We have more strategic, surface learners that deep, life long learners.

What do we have to do to ensure that ‘schools’ are the best ‘channel’ for learning? It seems entirely possible that something could appear in education from an unconventional quarter. It is happening everywhere else, ask the Mouse, who has several ‘virtual magic kingdoms’. If encumbent, successful, organisations are being unseated from their traditional markets, will they education be seen as an opportunity? Will the slow change and lack of central government investment see schools being commercialised? Well maybe, it’s here already with McDonalds, free online software for schools. The media was fixated with facile ‘McSchool’ jokes, or if burgers would be advertised, once again showing how out of step they are with reality. Of course McDonalds software is FREE – it’s online, and online is predominently ‘free’. A paid model is not how it works anymore. We have Google ‘educators’ already, and Apple have been claiming ‘Apple Schools’ for years.

I wonder how near we really are to the Florida Virtual High School, If the AIS and Catholic Education Offices are talking to McDonalds, and therefore parents are accepting commerical, third party teaching input, then can parents and students opt to study Anchient History in a commerically funded Teen Second Life’ class. Does software have to be ‘linear’, given that some of the most innovative learning environements in Australia are ones in which, as Will Richardson observes “the kids are driving the learning, from the design of the school and the curriculum to the decision making around school policy and more”. Policy is therefore central to the debate. We have ‘outcomes’ prescribed by the Board of Studies, and assessments are guided by policy compliance and the HSC summative examination.

If a parent wants their child to do well, and there is an alternate offering – online, mobile or virtual – then the central issue is about ‘tenure’. Students are required to be at school. I’d like think they ‘attend learning’, through effective activities, guided by outcomes and assessment  (attendance, may be an outcome/assessment btw). This is not so futuristic. In China, thousands of students attend class via mobile phone as well as online webinar.

In an atomised way, the elements of negotiated learning, mobile learning and virtualised learning are there – together with an economic imperative for large organisations to re-position themselves and find new opportunities. It’s not going to happen tomorrow – but at the same time, I wonder if the ‘shifts’ for learning will actually come from the education sector leadership – or from more motivated commercial enterprise.

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