Introducing a Games Based Enquiry Model

After somewhat of a hiatus in developing a methodology for using games and game-like thinking in learning design, I hope that you’ll tune in and spread the word among like-minded colleagues about a series of posts I’m going to publish in the next few weeks and months.

This isn’t about levels, badges or using Minecraft. It’s about constructively aligning enquiry based learning with the NESA curriculum requirements – drawing on game theory and game cultures to surpass what I see as an increasingly dated PBL model (which is now 25 years old).

I’m not going to tell you enquiry is good, games are good or puppies are good – but explain how to develop a K12 KLA based learning continuum which is more dynamic and flexible because it taps into children’s own experiences of games and media.

It is drawing on my own research into video games and children and over a decade of talking about and using PBL in schools and university. I will talk a lot about Overwatch – as to me, the mechanics and dynamics of this game and culture are incredibly relevant to learning and teaching – and I’m so sick and tired of Minecraft being falsely seen as the edu-apex of what can be possible.

Why post this at all?

I’m going back to beginning – WoWinSchools, Skoolaborate and other gem’s of brilliance that seem to have been lost in the dreariness of Minecraft discussions. You don’t even have to play games – or use games, but you do need to accept that games-media is the most significant interactive phenomenon in children’s media-lives. If you don’t, then I’d suggest you read more than Tweets – as this has been a fact for well over a decade now.

The story begins …

Before reading on – go back to basics – JSB – who talks about why tapping into knowledge as a network is more powerful than any single person or technology. This ten minute video presents complex and thought provoking alternatives to schooling – and to me remains as relevant today as it did a decade ago.  Most of all, this video was made at a time where brands and products did not dominate or distort discussions about new ways of learning and teaching. To me, this one of the most important videos ever posted.

So a decade on from this talk — this series of posts is my attempt to share what I’ve been thinking, constructing and tinkering with.

What is GBE?

Firstly, this is a framework which takes in numerous theoretical elements from education, gaming, and media theory. Secondly, it’s a framework to design enquiry, measure progress and give feedback within the constraints to the Australian curriculum. For the most part, I’ve been working on this in some iteration for well over a decade so some of it might seem familiar. It’s assumes: learning is blended, the pace of learning is dictated by the student and given to them at the outset – in full.

The posts are going to set out how I go about creating a blended learning environment which is brand-agnostic and can be implemented in the primary and secondary school setting. They will establish how to use an enquiry approach, in which students solve problems through projects. I hesitate to call this PBL or GBL as both terms have been hijacked by psuedo-celebrities etc., I’m going with a new neologism – GBE – Game Based Enquiry – in so much as it attempts to draw upon the patterns of rhythms experienced in awesome games. If you don’t play games, then you will not get much of this as it really requires more than a shallow understanding of what it feels like to explore the wilderness of your own understanding while blasting bad-guys.

design thinking

This ‘design thinking’ illustration helps underpin my approach to GBE. It also connects with the work of Pam Cook in constructive alignment using Biggs’ SOLO Taxonomy.

The most important pillar of GBE is to approach learning design through ‘learning intentions’ rather than problems to solve. I’ve departed company with classic (vanilla) PBL methods in order to focus on what teachers see as their intentions at the outset, rather than starting with the end in mind and then trying to come up with an open ended question to lead students to it. What is often not talked about in PBL is the degree to which teacher-bias limits the supposedly broad scope of student voice and choice.

To me, if you know the ending in a narrative driven game, there would be less enjoyment and motivation. The important initial discovery phase of learning becomes yet another creepy-tree house created by teachers. If you like, GBE’s whole ethos is to allow open-world movement, rather than follow a set narrative – where the boundaries are set by time, resources and alignment to the reportable-curriculum.

Ready player one?

The above diagram is lesson one. Imagine learning as a horizontal plane that moves though phases of inductive and deductive thinking. There are three phases, and unlike PBL, there are lots of interchangeable parts to work with (I’ll expand later on that) – which I tend to call EPISODES as GBE necessarily uses the narrative of school and the teacher.

Think about a decent multiplayer game – players choose from a set of options, and each option shifts the experience of the overall game, depending on what players select. For example: In Overwatch, Junk Rat is best played when the opposing team plays three tanks with low mobility. He’s less effective against high mobility team compositions. The better players select heros based on composition, not their looks, characterisation etc., For teachers, choosing the right enquiry composition is essential – to avoid the boredom of sticking to the BIE method and dictatorial language conventions – Seriously, kids soon become bored with ‘need to knows’ as much as they hate being Power pointed and given a test.

So where PBL starts with a driving question, GBE starts with discovery and initial insight experienced as a challenge or narrative-scenario. We still want to cast students as the hero who is about to undertake an adventure … but we don’t want to give them some teacher question based on a TUBRIC or contrived question. In my experience, teachers spend way too long trying to craft a great driving question – and ultimately 50% of kids switch off as soon as they see it – as it isn’t interesting – and from that point, the intention is not to learn, but to get through learning.

So in the next post I’m going to deal with how a GBE framework creates ‘learning intentions’ in more detail.

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Games are not stable: Is this a problem for teachers?

Following on from my post on Pokemon Go! which contained a few plus and minus points for school use, I thought its worth also raising the issue of ‘versioning’.

Commercial games react to numerous factors in their design. The portability and ease of distribution via online ‘update’ technologies allows them to significantly change features of the game – or delete them entirely with little or no notice to players. For example, Go! removed the ‘tracker’ all together in it’s first update – because it didn’t work. This feature was supposed to let players know how far away the creatures are. There was a backlash from players on Twitter, but never the less, the update removed it. Some players reported being reset to level 1 with no recovery options and the radar of interaction was dropped by some 30 meters.

Decent teachers don’t make up lessons overnight, but develop units of work which are released over a year or more. For those using games, the selection of ‘which game’ should therefore be based on a set of core-archetypes (collecting, organising, sharing etc.) and not designate “features” of the game, as they are likely to change.

I think Go! is a fun game, but also over-rewards players for time-spent rather than any critical thinking. As a game, it doesn’t require high-order thinking. Players are rarely punished, other than being forced to wait or walk. The taxonomy of collecting is simple to learn too, but so far has little hint of inter-player trading or battles away from portals gyms with other players. I hope we get there, but right now, it’s not.

The ‘fun’ factor is important, but so too is the depth of reasoning and critical thinking that is required in a constellation of other titles, many of which require the player to develop the ability to create and organise information and materials in a taxonomy – or battle other players. In many ways, Go! is an oddity in the genre of a casual-game, in that it uses GPRS and looted the Ingress geo-location database, rather than come up with a system in which players could collect and become ‘portal’ makers themselves. Given the volume of players in comparison to Ingress – there doesn’t appear to be a reason not to do allow this in terms of ‘fun’ or ‘leveling’, but rather an experiment in getting players to move to a particular space for a particular time.

The updates do make the game harder, in the sense that less information is available to the player, which means they are likely to spend more time and ‘browse’ the area more than last week. If this was a shopping-reward app, then it’s not hard to see why this would be useful and why allowing players to make ‘portals’ would be far less attractive.

So while many teachers (inc me) have explored the game in class with students, we still have a responsibility to children – over and above fun. Right now, there is very little being said by Nintendo or their partners about the road map and that’s a problem for programming quality learning episodes. Unlike Minecraft, Go! has a much smaller ‘core’ to work with – and zero community involvement (remember Minecraft was built on user-mods and Ingress on user created geo-location portals, using a taxonomy of tools (power-ups, attack and defend, charge and re-charge, with an global ‘chat’ system and a two-faction ‘war. It even allowed ‘missions’ to be created by players for players.

Go! has none of this – but is clearly very popular, and already the Edu Hashtaggers are having outdoor-meet ups (with other teachers) about it- but is that really enough for it to be chosen over other games in the limited time teachers have available for ‘play’ so far?

It seems that the decades of research into games isn’t getting to the teacher-audience at the professional level it needs to and in many ways (to me) Go! is backward move towards the tragedy of EdTech – homogeneity and casualising complex things rather than having — a robust media/technology — evidence based approach to games and muves. But Go! get’s attention and is fun, so for now – it’s worth watching, but personally, it doesn’t warrant 10 hours of my precious class time, because the taxonomy of games-in-learning simply doesn’t support un-cooked and unstable commercial offerings – even if they are popular. Go! has to be part of bigger agenda if it is to be more than the new Google Wave.

 

Should teachers care about Pokémon Go?

[Version 2 – as I rushed the initial post and have added some headings to break it down]

Introduction

The latest craze – sayeth the media – Pokémon Go! has got people out and about. Some apparently unaware of their surroundings and having injuries while others are just of having fun, discovering why ARGs are able to turn fantasy into reality (sort of) even just for a short moment.

People like it and for good reasons. So yes, I think teachers should care and it is rare to be able to jump in at the start of a ‘new thing’ in gaming as kids probably already have the app and are playing it. The game does have issues – rural areas less well supported,  socio-economic factors, cultural differences, social inclusion (read this article) but perhaps this just helps highlight the issue with many games — and education’s obsession with digital gadgets – and people stopped talking about ‘the digital divide’ a long time ago. Now its an awkward reality that some schools have plenty more than others — as to their students.

Mass media has been quick to point out the doubling of Nintendo’s stock price, and that’s not necessarily good for the games entertainment giant – as I’ll explain shortly. Pokémon is loved by adults and kids in popular culture, some will have played Mario and Zelda – but there’s a generation playing Go! who are not playing for nostalgia. This game is aimed at a new generation for whom the smartphone camera, GPS, and data-streaming is primordial. Pokémon Go! has the magical tech-features+brand+enjoyment that they want from their device time – and want to talk to their friends about.

The doubling of Nintendo’s company value suggests an expectation that Nintendo will monetize and leverage this craze. Investors are literally banking on brand power plus ARG to yield a big return. Yes, you will run out of pokeballs, and you have to work for them or buy them. Everyone wants to know how to get more Pokeballs!

Getting a few balls at a Pokéstop every ten minutes or so is tedious. Speed this up with an in-app purchase.  Nintendo is in new territory here, but the clear line of sight to Google and not to Zelda will see significant changes – good, bad and stumbling perhaps in the games roll out. Pokéstops are a significant cultural leap to ‘gamified shopping’ destinations … but surely no one would drive five miles to wait ten minutes for 4 balls to flick at an imaginary creature … and so shopping as you know it is already changed.

Because the game’s Pokéstops are based on the cultural production of Ingress players – many gyms and Pokéstops are buildings and landmarks – including shops. Small business is seeing people at their door – but who knows if they are buying? This may then see people drawn away from ‘the mall visit’ and we might see people back on the high street and parklands.

Playing the game

 

The game is easy in the early days. More and more posts and redditor postings suggest the mechanic makes it hard to progress. As I’ll explain, for kids, this will be a drop-off point, but to that point, there’s a window of opportunity to explore the next generation of gaming – in your local backyard.

Arts Technica writes “While advancing to level 15 only requires a few thousand experience points per level, by the time you hit level 30, it takes a full 500,000 experience points to increase your in-game status”. We know that kids often stop playing games pretty quickly from recent research, and the younger children ‘churn’ games constantly when they feel it get’s too punishing. Overall mobile games have a high ‘pick up and drop’ frequency – especially free-to-play (with micropayment) games. The industry is still learning, so I’m sure Pokémon Go! will teach the whole industry a lot about human behaviour in a short time.

We know too, that hanging around a Pokéstop for a slow refill is the ARG version of the MMO’s ‘grinding quest’, except that you’re stuck in reality — and not in the fantasy you crave. So for teachers – Pokémon Go is a decent enough ‘entry’ for a discussion about ARGs and human behaviour, but I personally would be very wary of promoting in the way we’ve seen some teachers jump on the Microsoft Minecraft jetstream. I predict this game opens a door to what has been a dwindling interest in the ‘games are addictive’ dogma which first appeared in the 1990s. I can imagine the clinical psych’s will be banging out abstracts by the dozen right now about how dangerous this is … and maybe they will more right about ARGs than they have about MMOs and MOBAs so far.

We already hearing ‘news’ reports of Pokémon farming and exploitation, how much it costs to buy Pokéballs, people walking off cliffs, crashing cars etc., all things we didn’t hear about Ingress of course.People have asked me for ages why some games seem to ‘click’ with kids and can be useful in class – and some don’t. Right now the world works like this. It’s not what advertising says about a brand that makes it successful, it’s what people say about to each other. Pokémon Go! has relied on this network-effect to propel it to ‘craze’ level. Anyone who separates games and learning really knows little about either these days because the two things are inseparable in children’s media culture today. Minecraft has grown inside education networks because of the same (though tiny) network effect – and again, needs to do something ‘more’ if it is to be sustained. As I track what teachers talk about online (towards games and in a non-creepy way) – Minecraft (Education) has trended down since Pokémon Go!. One reason I think is because teachers are far more curious about ARG potential than virtual legos. What they are concerned about (and what to know about) is what games do this ‘fantasy-magic-learning-stuff’. My attitude is – lots of games – go and try some. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kid want from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game – or we turn Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No. (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit).

People have asked why some games seem to ‘click’ with kids and can be useful in class – and some don’t. Right now the media-world0culture works like this. It’s not what advertising says about a brand that makes it successful, it’s what people say about to each other. That is why my teenager and his friend had me driving them to an actual parkland (as in out-doors). So if Pokémon Go! can get a hardcore MOBA/MMO player outside … it’s got something going for it. I don’t think it’s the game though – as I’ll explain towards the end of the post – it’s about human behaviour around technology and the fact that outside of media outrage and Trump hate, we do quite like to hang out and have fun IRL.

Pokémon Go! has relied on this network-effect to propel it to ‘craze’ level in a few days. Think about that for a second. It means that anyone who separates games and learning really knows little about either these days because the two things are inseparable in children’s media culture today. If that anyone is a teacher, then we have the accept we have media literacy challenges (but we know that it’s been like this for twenty years or more)

Step outside the Pokémon click-bait and let’s think about established go-to-game for educators. Minecraft has grown inside education networks because of the same (though tiny) network effect. It needs to do something ‘more’that being repacked and sold under the Windows biome if it is to be sustained with genuine interest by kids. Why? Because its what kids say to kids about games and anyone with a ‘real Minecrafter’ in their house knows that the advanced ‘fun’ is in modding and morphing the shared game play experience with friends. I’ve never liked MinecraftEdu because it was a business idea, not a new theory of play or gaming. I acknowledge that it helped get the game into schools – but at no point could anyone seriously argue games and play were not going to zerg-rush into schools – and to me Minecraft is the ‘safe’ option and I reject the ‘better than nothing option’. The fact games are still ‘on request’ tells us all we need to know about the ideology of mass education still.

Is Pokémon Go! impacting education?

I track what teachers talk about online (towards games and in a non-creepy way). Minecraft (Education) has trended down since Pokémon Go! this week. Teacher’s attention have been tuned this week from Minecraft to Pokemon. Microsoft to Nintendo. That’s a big thing in itself.

One reason I think is because teachers are far more curious about ARG potential than virtual legos. What they are concerned about (and what to know about) is what games do this ‘fantasy-magic-learning-stuff’. My attitude is – lots of games – go and try some. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kid want from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game – or we turn Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No. (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit).I think is because teachers are far more curious about ARG potential than virtual legos. What they are concerned about (and what to know about) is what games do this ‘fantasy-magic-learning-stuff’. My attitude is – lots of games – go and try some. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kid want from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game – or we turn Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No. (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit).

Why would teachers be interested?

I think is because teachers are far more curious about ARG potential than virtual legos. They are probably bored of ‘another Minecraft preso’. I have done once since 2012 in Dundee – and that wasn’t about school – that was about what happens when kids get agency though video games.What they are concerned about (and what to know about) is what games do this ‘fantasy-magic-learning-stuff’. My attitude is – lots of games – go and try any. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kid want from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game – or we turn Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No. (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit).

Many teachers are concerned about the academic value of video games and how to align them with the outcomes school systems use. I get that, I really do – but teaching is not about the material and the outcomes alone, it’s about letting the child being the best that they can be. My attitude is YES, GAMES ARE IMPORTANT – go and try some. But what is perhaps more helpful is to think about what kids want (and get) from playing a game – and playing one at school that’s not a crappy edumacated game. Avoid turning Pokémon Go into a lame class lesson – such as “let’s have a debate – half the class is to argue for Pokémon Go and the other in Pokémon No” (My daughter came home with that one this week, every kid thought the teacher was reaching a bit)

“What kids want” is connected to computers and human behaviour. We can’t assume a 10-year-old has a 10-year-old media age – as we know, some 40-year-olds don’t have a 10-year old’s media age.  why Pokémon Go is going to be good – aside from the initial network effects.

Teachers should care about Pokémon Go! – after from the initial network effects (craze) as it is a good way for kids to develop socially. It isn’t designed for education and certainly presents the all too common accessibility issues of commercial games – but THIS game leads you to start thinking about why games, play and learning are important – and how they can be connected with helping children deal with saturated media cultures – Great!

Here are the four key things that research is telling us about MMOs, MMORPGs, Networked Gaming, MOBAs etc., and it’s all about humans making sense of their transmedia lives – though pleasurable leisure choices. It’s part of the social history of our time.

What are the key things teachers can observe and learn from this?

  1. Multimodal connectedness is associated with bridging and bonding social capital
  2. Playing with existing offline friends is associated with bonding social capital.
  3. Playing with offline and online friends is associated with bridging social capital.
  4. Multimodal connectedness moderated the relationships between co-players and social capital

What does the research say?

There’s a lot of research around these four things, but so far, when we need much more research about specific MOBAs (LoL, Overwatch etc) and ARGs (Pokémon Go, Ingress, Zombie Run etc. For example, what are children’s attitudes towards the frequency of playing ARGs and how do the interaction and experiences of play vary in group size, cultures, gender etc., But you might be surprised to find very little research is being done – or has been done outside of the ‘giants’ of gaming – Warcraft, Ultima, Doom etc., and this research is good ‘beachhead’ reading, but it hasn’t had a huge impact on what teachers believe about games in their classrooms. What teachers should try and bring to games in the classroom are objects which give them a clear(er) sense that what drives kids. This is not the

You might be surprised to find very little research is being or has been done outside of the ‘giants’ of gaming – Warcraft, Ultima, Doom etc., so far. While this research has developed a good ‘beachhead’ in video games, especially since 2001 – it hasn’t had a huge impact on what teachers believe about games in their classrooms. What teachers should try and bring to games in the classroom are objects which give them a clear(er) sense that what drives kids. This is not the

What teachers should try and bring to games in the classroom are objects which give them a clear(er) sense that what drives kids. This is not the material content or an ability to sandbox build castles. Seeing the child’s developmental curiosity and ability to experiment with these four things – alone and in groups is quite an experience.

Of course, this is just a theory (at best) and part of what I’m interested in.

Families who have high levels of multimodal connectedness and actively apply it to create bridging and bonding capital appear to have ‘the edge’ over parent’s who don’t.  We are raising children who need to be confident and successful in these things – because human behaviour is changing with technology – and what we (as adults) are expected to do or not do with it and though it matters in life.

What does EdTech seem to think?

Sadly EdTech doesn’t see games as important as it could (as a public dialogue). EdTech relies on the network effect to popularise certain products and ignore others. It also uses it to make some people famous/important and others customers, clients and the object of their commentary. So for the most part, Pokémon Go! will not be placed on the high altar of importance – such as Google Classroom or Apple’s wadjamacallit. So this game may well come — and go. It is now competing with  Microsoft Minecraft Eduction, which has a fairly established group of advocates and popular ideas. Let’s not forget, there is alway plenty of people competing for attention in EdTech — and the gamer ‘hackedu’ types are misfits sitting in the corner. But you never know, Sir Ken might visit a Pokéstop near you.

Summing up

So I hope teachers will give it some attention. Pokémon Go! (early levels) is super easy to try and learn from – but when it stops being ‘fun’ – quit – because quitting games can just as enlightening as playing them.

If nothing else, you’ve walked in the half-real world of video games and perhaps taken the dog for an unexpected walk, hatched a few eggs and maybe visited a different kind of gym.

 

STEM games … is that it?

In recent years, access to media has undergone a transformation as mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets) now allow families to provide their child with screen time opportunities throughout the day. One of the biggest concerns around this is the total time children spend doing it with the suggested message that they could/should be doing something else, such as playing sport, reading, homework or walking the dog – which is better for them. This assumes any of us can live in outside the media-machine anymore.

The media has been telling us the media (not theirs, the other guy’s media) is bad for society. Therefore, more screen time means more games, which will make you fat, lazy, anti-social and addicted to [insert seven deadly sins]. No longer can you only throw birds at pigs – or something like – you must also watch a movie about it while eating angry-birds popcorn and cola. It’s only a matter of time before Minecraft gets a movie … I mean, it’s a no brainer in terms of rendering power – and I bet Steve is voiced by that guy who played Lex Luther in Superman vs Batman.

This franchise consumerism becomes the media reality for children who endlessly sample and drop games. So kids are learning not to try harder, try again or get another chance … they are learning to quit and move on because it’s easy.

Rather then worrying about children playing games, parents should be worried about why 40% of children stop playing the game within 24 hours and despite all the micropayment options to ‘buy’ success (see raft of Internet articles about parents losing thousands of dollars on vitual game goodies) – the average ‘value’ of micropayment games is five bucks – ever. Where Jane McGoniswhatsername made a tidy fortune from her obligatory ‘gamification’ TED talk, painting an image of a generation of un-tapped gamers ready to save the world. Nope, the reality is that online games are wireless (app) games are played and rejected all the time. Kids are trying LOTs of games and persisting with FEW. PC games continue to be in decline and consoles need to invent new user experiences (ie – virtual reality headsets etc.,) to remain competitive with the ‘casual gamer’ phenomenon.

So where are we in education this week – still banging on about Minecraft Edumacation. The Australian game industry is expected to increase at a 7.3 percent compound annual rate to $2.4 billion in 2016 and what is the ‘innovation agenda’ – an hour of code, making up some games in OER applications such as Scratch and offering a STEM competition to students. Let’s be clear, Australia is: early adopting; good at making games; great at animation; is a multi-billion dollar part of the estimated $40 billion dollar global industry and we have one competition, for kids – about 4 in a group who will win some yet to be announced prize. At the same time, the government is talking about ‘innovation’ and STEM and politically campaigning on some ‘apply here’ funding for STEM projects — as though schools haven’t thought of it.

And how can I forget, the BIG one – schools are going to teach kids to swim too.

In summary, we have kids who play, but most drop out of in their first or second play session. We have a constallation of games with very little research to know which are good or bad for learning (or anything else) and we’re going to focus on a) making stuff in Minecraft Education (swoon) or doing an hour of code (off the clock) and hoping some teachers with run after school projects to win a (unknown) STEM prize for a game — which will almost certainly be edumacational.

It’s been a frustrating week in my head … or maybe I’m cranky as Overwatch beta closed. It’s time we addressed this — it’s time we stopped pretending and decided whether or not we want students to have a real in-school experience and shot at the interactive entertainment jobs (of the future) or not. Time, money and resources (a three word slogan).

p.s. Overwatch is out on the 23rd and you should buy shares in Blizzard before then (as if I know anything about the share market).

Return of the DS

Ever keen to find way’s to create ‘shared environments’ I’ve recently revisited the Nintendo DS.(Duel Screen). These were HUGE around 2005ish, and for many kids they were the thing to have BEFORE the launch of the iPhone and iPad — which really changed how we experienced and conceptualised hand-held gaming.

Nintendo DS was educational! – Derek Robinson was at the vanguard of this and in my view set the scene for the rest of us. The Captain Crunch on video gaming in school. Of course some quango of short-sighted suits in Scottish Education failed to recognise this for what it was — the tragedy that many pioneering ‘game’ innovators know too well. If you want to hear this from the man himself – watch this video on YouTube in which he sets out the opportunity and passion which is still waiting to be tapped into.

So back to DS 2015. A group of Year 8’s (13-14) have started playing their DS’s in ‘genius’ hour (and other times as I’m pretty lax on gaming). More and more have joined it, and it’s great to see them stroll down memory lane. They are busy discussing games and much more, sharing social-history. Any time I see ‘connecting’ happening, I encourage it … and no I don’t really know where this is going … but at my school – that’s just fine.

Why I don’t make workbooks.

I’m going to build on my deep suspicion that Blooms Triangle is one of the most problematic ideas sold into the undergraduate psyche. It symbolises an idealistic, progressive, narrowing ladder towards so called ‘high order’ thinking that students can climb. A ladder which is provided by a teacher. A teachers starts with the list questions and keep going regardless of time or understanding.

The biggest problem with Blooms is that it doesn’t account for time in either the corporeal or virtual world kids live in today. Most schools run on 40-50 minute sessions because it fit’s the organisational structure of school, not because it’s good for learning. No one ever runs a conference keynote argument about time-table reform – and teachers seem to think that reform is bounded by the same timetable arrangements of the last fifty years. Classes run X number of times a cycle and there are Y dot-points to ‘get through’ according to the overseers who decide what our cognitive apprentices need to ‘learn’. These are then divided into ability levels. I refuse to stream kids by some faux-measurement of ‘ability’. I really doesn’t make sense in today’s classroom. What some kids need to know – and can know in 50 minutes is never going to be stable or standardised. Instead teachers are told students should learn to and learn about … which is well meant, but hard to do.

I say need to learn, because it’s fundamentally different from need to know. The latter cannot be regulated by 40-50 minute sessions or planned into a timetable. Today you and I are probably going to encounter a problems and generate a ‘need to know’. It is ridiculous to believe that this will be a t !:40pm.

The ladder is broken. Kids don’t climb it on a chain like sherpas. More capable kids don’t like being tied to less capable and visa versa. A piece of advice I gave a prac-teacher this week was to be careful of the assumptions around these procedural ladder climbing sequences. More importantly – question idea that fun activities are rewards for work and those who don’t do enough work are somehow less worthy of having ‘fun’.

When I say ‘fun’, I mean any activity that to most kids is ‘active’ – throwing/catching, chasing, exploring, experimenting, playing a game, running around etc. In other words, activities that require learning through reflection on doing, rather than copying down, remembering, memorising and so on. While there’s a need for that, the ladder method assumes these things are low order and ‘beginning’ tasks that lead to doing (proficiency testing). In essence, experiential learning (Kolb) is a collection of spirals that become relational though doing.

Some kids need to so some of the spirals a few times before they recognise how to move from one to another. Eventually the spirals become connected (repeatable) patterns that have a shape which is both recognisable and applicable in new situations. Games do this rather well, which is one reason she doesn’t want to get off Minecraft and becomes so engaged in it. Some people are mistaking this experiential learning for addiction. One reason for that is probably that they themselves didn’t do any at school and therefore don’t see much value in it.

In school, while we are aware (or should be) of Dewy, Piaget and Lewinian theories I’m hinting at here … if not more recent work by contemporary scholars (Brown, Gee, Jenkins, De Freitas) there remains this lingering loyalty to Behaviourist ideology (especially computing-machine learning) which is also touted as being somehow experiential by design.

Learning design which doesn’t reform the rigid time-table, rethink physical space and allow students to step and repeat (voice and choice) cannot realistically be called ‘new’ or ’emerging’. Where they do have this … I would hope that their own knowledge of educational theory and instructional design would immediately tell them to avoid the cognitive apprentice model at all costs.

Learning in open spaces, flexible time tables and with mobile technology can be elegant and rewarding. It’s not about being one or two steps away from the modernist norm, it’s about realising that norm was wrong to begin with. It’s only now that we deliver experiential learning with relative ease – using imagination, creativity, games and, dare I say it – fun at a sustainable, relatively low cost level.

I don’t make workbooks because kids don’t learn anything. If they can do the workbook, then it pointless and if they can’t do the workbook, then it won’t help them. If one simply has to give a test, then give a test now an again … but modern learners live in an experiential world – so why give them a factory model of learning anymore.

Blooming Confusing

I have a confession. I collect Blooms adaptations. It seems like the making up new Blooms is a very popular pass time of teachers using the Internet these days. Most of them don’t feel particularly interesting, but I tend to bookmark them as I find them as a sort of personal Blooms Museum. Every now and again I find one that is interesting such as this.

Vivians-New-Bloom-April

You can grab a copy from the author here and get a better quality version. What I like about this is that it’s a loop, not a triangle. It’s also a good attempt at describing the typical problem-solution cycle evident in video games. The author is proposing that these stages can be constructively aligned with Blooms taxonomy.

If you are teaching though an enquiry process, then this loop is relevant. Rather than learning being a series of steps, which might take place over several days or weeks – consider how this could be uses as a daily activity loop. I’d argue that if a child is involved in this cycle – and more importantly can IDENTIFY where they are in the loop at anytime, then it’s highly likely they will be reasonably engaged and productive. Of course the key is to make sure they are immersed in a learning episode that uses these stages.

The start here, I’d suggest is a good way to pre-test and find a way for students to make something that reveals their interests, knowledge, skills, assumptions, biases and errors. All to often lessons seem to start without doing this at all. If the kid can get 60/60 on a pre-test, then why would they bother doing the task.

Think of a video game, the first thing you get to do is choose gender, race, class and a small selection of gear to get started. We all have our preferences here … as we’re often used to playing (learning) in a certain, familiar modality. There’s nothing wrong with allowing kids to work from their preferences – comfort zone – as ultimately they are going to have to move away from it with the problems you set later.

This loop is something that can be actively tracked and reinforced to students during the enquiry. It can be designed into the sequence of learning with ease. It doesn’t have to use the rigid language of Blooms (high to low) and I’ll declare here that I think this is too dogmatic for modern learners anyway. I think this is a pretty innovative way of looking at learning-loops, and if kids get to try and repeat these loops, know where they are, and why they are doing it — then it’s going to help reinforce the essential value of enquiry based learning.