Simple XBONE advice for Xmas Morning you need to know

This post is for those planning to buy planning to buy an XBONE to open on Christmas morning — and how to avoid the disappointment that will occur. The XBONE has already seen many changes to it’s operating environment since it went it the box. It will want to PATCH immediately. That’s 500mb right there. It will want to connect to the wireless to do it — so make sure you know the name of it and the password – and what kind of security your network uses.

Patching is not as slow as I expected, however it’s going to take a lot longer than kids have patience. Then there are the games. They too want to patch – and I’m talking GIGABYTES of patching which is also quite slow.

On Xmas morning, if your plan is to open the box and play — then it will be Boxing Day before you get going if you let it patch.

If you don’t want to deal with XBONES updates then you can skip it’s demands for WIRELESS on set-up. The downside is that you won’t be able to sign into XBOX LIVE to play the games or get to other media. So be prepared to either get patched or staff off the Internet on Christmas Day.

You also need to buy the rechargeable battery and charger. Despite the controller having Duracells, it chews them in no time. No the 360 won’t work — so that’s about $25.00 you’ll need to pay.

I was pleased to see XBONE did have a decent HDMI cable in the box — but you might want to think about getting a cheap HDMI selector box if you’re planning to keep your Xbox 360 running. A decent one will auto switch and save you a lot of TV-Input switching too.

Xbox one installing help.

Plenty of social media reports have said how problematic Xbox one installs have been. I’ve picked mine up and fought with it most of the afternoon. Here’s my advice … I’m two frustrating hours into ownership at the time I tapped this out.  There’s seemed no real help online, just trolls in forums … So if your here because you googled for help … this is just me, telling you what I did to get playing.

First of all, don’t freak out when it demand you type in your Wi-Fi name. If it can’t find it … then it shows you those it can see. Yeah I know right? So off the bat, connect the Wi-Fi, so i can do it’s Xbox Live thing.

1. Let it install the 500mb system patch after you connect to your Wi-Fi. It’s pretty slow and took me about 30 mins (given I’m on a crappy 2mbps link).

2. Turn off your Wi-Fi before installing your game. You can’t play off the disc like you can on the 360. I don’t know why – probably because I haven’t been following all the Mashable tidbits.

Let it install the game from the disc you paid for. Feroza wanted 6gig update, Black Flag 500mb. Either way, with the Wi-Fi on, it will sit at 1% seemingly forever.

Note that the install progress can only be seen from the tiny green line that grows vertically from the “you games and apps page”. It’s tiny!. After a while, maybe 12% it will say you can play the game and the install bar now runs horizontally. It is slow. Like really slow.

3. If you turn on the Wi-Fi, you can’t do anything other than wait for the patch. Welcome to the future, there is no other option. So if you want to play, and why not as most of us handed over $800 to play … keep that Wi-Fi disconnected, while you install the discs. Of course you can’t go online at the same time.

Other issues.

Really long boot time. Yes. Especially when first running the system. Limited information. Minimal options and system feedback is annoying. As the update window is simply a numeral, it’s hard to know if it’s doing anything. If you are getting no where. Remove the game from the my games and apps list, turn of fir ten seconds, re boot and disconnect the Wi-Fi. Once it starts, it wants to pause the download and will refuse to move on.

Minecraft Whispering #1

I’ve decided to write a series of posts for parents of children, specifically 6-12 about learning how to manage Minecraft. It may work on other ages, but typically 6-12 year olds are wired differently to teens and adolescents.

First of all, you and I are not dealing with dark-magic in Minecraft code. It, like other games, has no addictive qualities in the way the media like to suggest games are addictive like smoking and so on. In a small number of kids, circumstances and context conspire such that some kids are more likely to form habitual habits than others. It’s also fair to say that adults are generally told by the media that spent in “online worlds” are at expense of  the “real world” – and ironically they read this online these days due to the increasing domestication of the Internet onto phones, tablets and so on.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and for some, Minecraft is addictive. I don’t happen to agree with that at all due to the lack of evidence to support such a generalisation. Like all ‘new media’ hyper connected games challenge parents – because parenting skills around these things something most never thought they’d need to develop when she arrived in the world. One day she’s playing with lego and being cute, the next, she’s build an entire universe of her own and being sassy. Its completely human to feel a sense of frustration and even abandonment. There’s no inner demon worse for a parent than abandonment – but this is a feeling, not a reality.

The first step is to understand that you are about to become an expert negotiator. This post is pre-that idea. It’s about spending some time looking at her life and trying to imagine how the world see’s her, and her it. It’s hard, as kids are so imaginative at this age and we, boring old adults, tend forget the power of imagination as we get older. For most of us, being imaginative in our daily lives has been drummed out of us. Get on with your job, stop day dreaming … that’s not your role … blah blah.

To do this you need to accept that your child grows ever more curious as the world begins to open up. Right now, a 7 year old has massive access to detailed information online because of the domestication of the Internet into devices adults own.

I know my own 7 year old will watch dozens of Minecraft tutorials on YouTube every day week. Not only that, he’s learned how to be bottom line orientated, and how to spot ‘good’ ones from ‘bad’ ones. He’s also made his own and left comments on others. I say this in order to explain, that unlike myself at aged 7, he’s somewhat of a polymath.

Your Minecraft playing child lives in a world which (to them) doesn’t stack up. They are, at different times of the day treated in very different ways. Imagine if you were at work and your boss speaks to you slowly and repeats simple instructions because he thinks your too stupid to understand. Imagine then someone walks in the room and the boss talks about you as if you were not in the room. Then you leave and go back to your desk to work on this idea called Instagram that you and your friend had. That is how kids are treated daily by adults.

  • Children as performers
  • Children as subjects
  • Children as audiences (e.g. in schools)
  • Children as makers

Sit down and work out what your child does under these headings. In Minecraft children act as performers and makers – not subjects or audiences.

This is a simple observation, but one that has a huge impact on them and in turn your own behaviour (often being frustrated and angry). This is the first generation to have such power on tap – so it’s futile saying “go outside and play”, when in their mind, this is play – it’s play they find really useful in figuring out the world.

In the past only the ‘gifted’ kids were top performers (sports, music, math) and only the most talented made objects, engineering and art and so on. We called these kids ‘gifted and talented’ yet by all current measures of that in “schoo”l – games are not something used to ‘identify’ it.

I can’t see anything wrong with wanting my kids to know that they are NOT the subject or audience as I was at the same age, and well into adulthood. If that’s something you want too, then start with looking at the routine of your kids and consider how life feels.

8 ways Minecraft works on your brain

Recently I’ve spent some time reading parenting websites about Minecraft. What is said is often repetitive, aggregated and lacks much substance. If you are a parent, or Minecraft player, then I hope this post will provide you with some further ideas about how the game works on our minds.

The thing which most articles omit is understanding of why imagination is a primary trigger for learning. Wherever we are, in school or at home, the immediate environment can either support or stifle children’s imaginative abilities. For example, copying notes from a wipeboard is submissive. Additionally, our brain has to work really hard to keep our imagination under control, as while we’re copying it down, our imagination is kicking and screaming to be let out, and we’re not thinking about all about the importance or significance of the information. This is why they invented photocopiers, mobile phone cameras and dropbox.

Minecraft puts players to work by providing the imagination with images and metaphors that give it direction. The blocks represents a random open world and the challenge to control it. Players learn which resources help them to thrive and what dangers need to be overcome. Next, kids use their imagination to make sense of the real world – more than facts or information. Ever wondered why parents say the same thing over and over and the kid does it anyway? … so Minecraft is a game which helps kids make sense of the real world – even though to the adult brain, it’s a lego world and nothing like real life – or the things kids need to know to thrive. Wrong, yes it is, just like kids in ancient cultures learned about hunting, or in the 1800s kids recited facts as in a factory reciting facts is was all that was needed for most kids.

The methods commonly applied in classroom towards what teachers call ‘learning out comes’ today routinely omit the word imagination from tasks and exercises. Schools like more measurable things such as list, find, calculate, show and so on. They can mark this … but marking Minecraft – what would be the point? Well the point is, for most people marks and league tables have been proven to de-motivate and train us to be submissive. So if you like freedom and liberty a kid playing Minecraft is unlikely to be submissive – hence why they wont’ get off it when you demand.

Academics have shown how important imaginative play is to child development for hundreds of years . This hasn’t stopped schools ignoring it. From the age of 9 or 10, a child’s day become less and less imaginative and more standardised as the great hammer of measuring kids by test scores emerges. There comes a tipping point where imaginative becomes day-dreaming and off with the faeries rather than a stand up student getting straight A’s. This is a social rule, the way we begin to define who is seen as a success and who isn’t. Again, ignore the fact many of the worlds biggest corporations and most valuable inventions were developed by people who dropped out of school, or crisscrossed it – like Einstein and Jobs.

All these things are set aside in ‘Minecraft is evil’ posts – not because it’s not true, but because life feels somewhat easier to adults who long ago submitted their imagination to someone else. The use iPhone apps, rather than imagine themselves making them so to speak. Kids don’t. In Minecraft, they can build anything … the imagination light is lit up like a 20,000 watt light the whole time they play.

Imaginative behaviors in Minecraft

Imaginative behavior is based on the brain’s ability to draw upon and combine elements from our previous experiences. Educational scholar Len Vygotsky wrote in 1930 …

The brain is not only the organ that stores and retrieves our previous experience, it is also the organ that combines and creatively reworks elements of this past experience and uses them to generate new propositions and new behavior. …This creative activity, based on the ability of our brain to combine elements, is called imagination or fantasy in psychology. (p. 9)

So here are eight things I see happening when children and adolescents play Minecraft.

  • Sensation – Learning as sense-pleasure
  • Fantasy – Learning as make-believe
  • Narrative – Learning as unfolding story
  • Challenge – Learning as obstacle course
  • Fellowship – Learning as social framework
  • Discovery – Learning as uncharted territory
  • Expression –  Learning as soap box
  • Submission – Learning as mindless pastime

Note that of these eight ways of playing Minecraft, children switch between them. One minute they are searching a cavern (Discovery), the next they are building a Library (Expression). At times, when they lack direction or motivation with other ways to learn, they wander about the open world in a state of Submission until something happens.

To me, parents can be the something happens. Even if they don’t play the game. Asking “how high can you build a tower” switches the child’s effort from submission to challenge for example. In many ways, a teacher or parent in a world without games used to do this all the time.

Like it or not, games now do it too. Minecraft is very special because unlike something like Tetris or even Grand Theft Auto, it has all 8 of these facets firing all the time. When it becomes multiplayer, kids stimulate each other constantly – not to make new things – but to change state.

This to me is why they find classrooms boring – they don’t change state in the way games do. Or rather they can, if the classroom is designed to change state and I don’t mean from ‘listen to me talk’ to ‘write this in your book’ – that leads to learning as a mindless pastime. Of course, when mass education was invented, being a submissive worker, following instructions and not ‘day dreaming’ was what school was all about.

So if your kid is playing Minecraft, then according to deeply respected academic research and principles, she is not undertaking a mindless pastime. I’d argue playing Minecraft now might be one of the things that saves them from it in the future too.

The trick is to know how to design day to day learning the way Minecraft works … or to say it isn’t possible and write another ‘Minecraft sucks post’.

I say it is …

Reflective Writing 1-2-3

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‘REFLECTION’ is a word closely associated with 21st Century Learning. I thought I’d write a post on how to improve critical literacy though a 3 step adjustment to read/write activities in the classroom.

Watson (1997) says “Reflection encourages students to – self examine, self-asses and evaluate their own practice. Without reflecting, the student is at risk of practicing in a manner if unquestioned routines, accepted directives and/or rote learning.”

This short observation highlights the need for students to question, not simply to recount or answer declarative questions with read/write tools. There is bountiful research that suggests talking about what they are doing, not just what they or others have done, encourages the conscious practice of discussing the consequences of their findings and actions.

We need to ensure that testing for prior knowledge is more than asking declarative questions at the beginning of a (lesson or tutorial) learning instance. The facilitator should be conscious of three stages of reflection and also consider selecting different tools to achieve this. For example: Use a combination of micro-blog, game and video. This also encourages students to explore a more diverse media landscape.

1. Reflecting before acting – preventing unnecessary errors. Making sure the student is aware of the outcomes being sought. Asking students to predict the activity, talk about their expectations and possible fears as the activity is revealed to them. What can they do already and show you? What skills are they missing that will help them? This can be though a series of microblog posts for example – as the teacher begins to reveal the activity though providing readings or given them mini-tasks to complete – not just delivering content.

2. Reflect during the activity – use methods to monitor their actions during the event in order to maintain contextually appropriate performance and effort. This is often though feedback from the software itself – such as sound, images, scores etc. In a game this is in-built, but in a MUVE it has to be designed. Teachers need to pay close attention to this phase, to ensure the learner is challenged but not frustrated by poor feedback, or not understanding the importance of it in the learning sequence/pattern – from the teacher or the software.

3. Critically review their actions and experience after. This last action is dependent on recall. Technology often allows recall to occur as events are recorded in some manner such as a blog post, or screen shot. Self and peer assessment to deconstruct the learning process should be combined with encouraging the student to record that event and use that evidence to support their critical reflection.

The outcome,  activity and the assessment should not be limited to a predicted performance. “I think they’ll be able to do it” or “I think I can teach using that”. Design the task so that the student can modify it (up or down), to negotiate their curriculum and perhaps explore incidental or peripheral ideas outside core curriculum content. This might mean making a video, interviewing people, performing a role pay together with text based activities.  Pacing the activity also helps, changing the emphasis from one activity to another to allow you to uncover more about the learner. Keep the tools VERY simple, look for ready-to-learn solutions, so that students learn to select their own tools to demonstrate their learning. Consider that when you first start using read/write media – you students will have little idea what to do and the social dynamics are all over the place. Most games will train you to operate effectively individually rather than in a group -which is much more complex. By default you have ‘groups’ of learners … but initially, this is a good way to learn more about them as individuals, which you can use later in wider approaches.

Ref: Watson S. (1997) ‘An analysis of concept experience”. Journal of Advanced Nursing, vol.16 pp 1117-1121.