Should we label the ‘network-attributes’ of game effects on kids.

In early childhood, children are play digital games which are available on computers, tablets, mobile phones, handheld devices and consoles. Although the domestication of computers saw computer and video games enter the home in the 1970s, children played them predominantly as stand-alone entertainment. Today, computer and video games are Internet enabled and connected to global networks, where children routinely interact with other players though synchronous and asynchronous media. The content of this media can be publicly available, and where players can see their performance and compare to that of others. Today’s networked games are a part of the global ‘social media’ phenomenon.

For parents, there is an feeling of tension between a games ability to provide fun, interactive experiences, rich in skill building and cognitive development and potential unhealthy behaviors and experiences. The broader cultural, held by adults is a belief that time spent ‘online’ is at the expense of ‘real life’ and not part of life. There are many unresolved questions around what we now attribute as being ‘real life’, given the increasing acculturation of technology in to our cyborg-lifestyles.

Since the advent of the home micro-computer, media messages have appealed to parents using glossy box artwork and appealing messages. Animated characters that respond to human suggestions, because they are controlled by other humans, might appear more real, that a game character than only responds to two or three triggers.

What processes do game-developers go through to create age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate game network experiences for games rated as “U” for Universal? What responsibility have game-developers to clearly articulate the nature of the ‘networks’ that their games are played on. A quick example being Linden Lab’s move to ‘ban’ gambling and later move ‘sexual’ content off the main-grid was widely discussed – yet when a new game offers multiplayer, there is not reference at all to the nature of the ‘network’ experience of playing with others – and the kind of media others often create and refer to as part of ‘social-play’.

As younger children are less able to distinguish between fantasy and reality, animated characters do seem real, as do their superhuman powers, and the often complex sub-text running though the game as a narrative will be un-detected or mis-interpreted. Children’s ego-centric nature is struggling to make sense of the media offered – and may well lead them to believe that small red birds are indeed angry and able to topple buildings if thrown.

 

I’d be interested to hear what games you think are good for under 6’s and what kind of design considerations you think might have gone into them … if you have a few minutes to reply, I’d appreciate it.

Teaching for change?

There is one thing that matters if you’re interesting in using game-media in teaching.

Cross-cultural traction (game culture and edu-culture) involves creating partnerships with parents and community as central to developing culturally relevant teaching strategies. Because both cultures have rules, which can’t be seen its a BIG mistake to think educational culture is the dominant or even a significant driver. But if that’s the reality-bubble office-chair minders in eLearning want to believe (we decide what happens), who am I to argue. Let’s have a morning tea and talk about Fabucon next week.

Game-media in the classroom has NOTHING to do with level-ups, epic wins or being fun being the opposite of depression – that’s entertainment. Entertainment is not going to save the world, but it will clearly get you attention and photo-ops with the glamorous at Cannes.

Teaching for change is a lot harder, because it means accepting high-context-cultures and ACCEPTING that at this point ed-tech is low-context-culture in realms beyond Fabucon. Media richness doesn’t mean “video” verse “text” it means culture. I watched my kids play Minecraft this weeked (raining) and at no point do I see them getting anywhere close to the same richness in the way the use computers at school – nor from what the hype-vendors and brand-aligners pass off as reality at Fabucon.

A toast to the end of an era.

“They have a word for people our age. They call us children and they treat us like mice.” – Enders Game.

Let me endorse something significant. Entertainment companies want to be directly connected to a paying audience. They don’t want high-street retailers, TV stations, newspapers and magazines get in the the way. They are losing money to downloads and losing money though traditional outlets who allow change only when it benefits them, and make up the terms of delivery.

Game Based Media Networks want to destroy this – and they are succeeding by gaining the attention of a generation of kids.

Game Based Entertainment platforms are the future. The war of the ‘attention economy’ will be won and lost in lounge room. The humble TV will continue to become the ‘hub’ and ‘server’ for the household personal portable devices. The scariest will be Personal Ocular Device (POD) which will see people not leaning into the glass-smart phones, but wearing them – Google Glass, Epsom etc.,

People want to access their entertainment (games, movies, books and music) on demand. They want to be connected to their friends. To a far lesser degree, they will participate in the pubic feeds.

The public feeds are interesting, as right now, there are a bunch of people profiting from putting information into ‘social feeds’. I’ve become totally anti-edulandia commercial these days, as I see it’s un-ethical to pretend to be a ‘connected citizen’ when actually you’re just profiting from it. So unless the pubic are able to be rewarded for their contribution, then someone will invent something that will. I watched some Eurovision last week, along side the Twitter stream – and frankly, there are some really funny and engaging people out there who made an otherwise semi-amusing event, better. They didn’t get paid a cent.

But game networks are good at giving people rewards for effort, they’ve been doing it for a decade. No effort goes un-rewarded, and there’s usually something to work for and get – which each player sees is important. The fact it’s made of pixels is just a glitch with legacy printed money – which itself is being challenged by Bit Coin and other weird new currencies linked to the attention economy.

Microsoft, Sony (and others) are investing in the one area of their business that is growing – Games. They are not making money from social media networks (they are spending a fortune) – so they are working on providing ‘direct to consumer’ games-based-media networks – and in the mean time, do the best with what they have. They are learning fast because they have been losing. However, given the Xbox 360 is 7 years old – they have been very resilient to the changes in technology, culture and society which has become addicted to pocket-sized glass screens.

The XBox One has emerged to support this thesis – it isn’t a more powerful box because it has more RAM and a faster chip – it is more powerful because it lives in the lounge room.

“Can we take what you love and make it better? Can we improve a living room that’s become too complex, too fragmented and too slow?”

After years of double-digit expansion, social media use in the U.S. leveled off markedly last year. American social media users grew an estimated 6.8% in 2012, a far cry from 30 per cent growth rates just a few years ago. With so many of the country’s 221 million netizens already logging into social networks, growth is forecast to slow to a trickle in the years ahead.

Kik, Whatsapp, QQ, Weibo, VK are all growing networks which attract ‘golden shoppers’ and generate hundreds of billions of dollars. The assumption amount (which anglo males in education) that social networks or being connected is a mainly white, western activity based on Twitter and Facebook (where they get most of their money and attention from) is frankly thinking as out-dated as those they endlessly vilify.

The future of classrooms is in games-based-media networks – where quality content is fed to courses – be them MOOCs or local. Universities and Content Creators (Pearson and so on) will deliver high quality content in a form that will fit the social perception of what school is (a hierarchy of silo’d subjects with tests) as it washes away the gurus of Web2.0.

It will do this because it’s profitable and because they control the attention gateways. It might take a while, but sooner or later a University will stop messing about with their MOOC platform and start producing high-end content to feed the Xbox Network. I’d like to think it’s mine … but I suspect it will be a US institution that’s learned from MOOCs already.

Yes Xbox one has some Microsoft legacy-ware, currently ‘un-cool’ like Explorer, and no it doesn’t do the things you laptop does – but that isn’t important. What is important is that as a game-media-network they want a direct line to consumers in the attention economy – and that is what it will deliver. It will leverage it’s games capital to achieve it. If it means letting people watch some TV content for a while, so be it – but the terms it will be distributed will begin to turn in favour of new networks not the old. Sorry Rupert.

So while games are scapegoated as causing all manner of social ills, they are the media-platform which is most able and likely to significantly change who own’s the content gateway. It will be game-networks which decide which social-network, which movie, which news-channel and music will be presented to the family.

The conclusion is that games based learning is dead in the water, because most of those pushing it do so because it suits their current feed-profit-regime. Now, sit down, have a drink while we watch the end of the old new world …

Minecaft, Jeb and Jack’s mum

It has been said, more than a few times Minecraft is addicting kids. What this addiction is ( spending time being creative and learning how to use the Internet to reach ambitious computing goals) is less clear.

This post is for a kid called Jack, who replied to a previous post, saying how he didn’t think he could talk to his mum about Minecraft. So here’s some stuff that looks at why that might be, and what to do about it.

According to ‘gratification theory‘, kids and adults are drawn to media to meet their psychological needs (information, entertainment, social interaction, mastery, control and so on). As games are absorbing, they can act to reduce children’s anxiety and worry too. It sone reason I think teachers should think long and hard before rolling into kid-game-worlds with their subject mastery agenda. Yet it seems they are keen on gamifying their classrooms … regardless of whether this is a good thing or bad – it’s popular.

Some kids might be rich, they might have everything – but still feel alone. Minecraft might help them with that feeling. This is one of numerous plausible situations where a kid might find Minecraft a place to go to sooth unpleasant thoughts and feelings which are not being met by other games or other media such as Facebook or YouTube.

For each kid I’ve seen play or met during playing Minecraft – they are often interested in two things – self expression and social interaction. This is something they feel they are getting -regardless of parental belief of this. To the kid, this is real and concrete as that is how kids brains work.

Several studies have shown that kids watch television and play video games for entertainment, to spend time with family and when they are bored. Minecraft does this, but it also provides self expression and social interaction (beyond the family hierarchies)

More interestingly, kids choose games which suit their mood, where as adults tend to use media (television, video, the Internet) to improve their mood. For parents – young children are experimenting with social interaction, building knowledge and skills where as teens are using it to relax and escape. If she’s in the mood to be creative, she’s in the mood to play Minecraft. This doesn’t mean she’s in the mood to play Dishonoured, or that Dishonored would change her mood. Theres no association between wanting to play Minecraft and wanting to play an R-Rated game, but this doesn’t stop the media inferring it.

Minecraft is perhaps a new (and therefore more noticeable) media. But it’s still a media. Calling it ‘addictive’ serves to simplify games in the mind of adults lacking schemas and knowledge of games. The media is not particularly moral, ethical or interested in child development and is never un-biased or transparent.

For most adults, learning about Minecraft is hard (too hard). It doesn’t have an easily accessed ‘story’. Adults learn though stories not facts. For example, many people know about the story of Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates. They don’t know too many facts.

They probably know about the Facebook guy or the two guys that made Google, yet probably don’t know who Jens Bergensten is. But chances are, their kids know who Jeb is – and of course Notch. In case you didn’t know, Jeb is the lead developer for Minecraft, not Notch.

If you like, Jeb is one of the most important people in the game world – and from all accounts, a very nice guy – someone who I don’t think for a second would be anything less than an amazing influence on my own kids – should they ever meet him. To my kids, Jeb seems real. He’s not like Apple or some game studio – he’s a person, who appears on videos and is talked about all the time. If you like, Jeb is that neighbourhood kid that parents hear about, but don’t know. There is the story of Minecraft, the story of Notch and the ballard of Jeb. See below for a quick intro to what I mean.

So if games are inherently bad or even if good games go bad, then you’d think that those who make them are bad or go bad too. They are presented by the media at least as a type of  anti-culture, like Nirvana or Slayer. Making millions by addicting kids to games. However we still have cigarettes and numerous things we know kill people. For example, if two countries want to war – why to they need guns? Why not just go and do some hand to hand? Well because people like to win – and tools help them win. In the media war on gaming, presenting them as the greedy bad-guy harming innocents in an excellent story.

But that isn’t the story I see, what Minecraft says to kids (to me is) – anyone can have a regular job, and still be in the running to do something they really love one day – and right now you can start making unique things from your imagination.

It might not be a cure for cancer, feed the world or regain flagging western interest in religion, but to many kids, Minecraft at least improves their spatial cognition, co-ordination and fine motor skills and is a social-network in it’s own right. It is far less toxic than Facebook (peer-pressure to create rather than be a target/entertainer) – and leads to the all important positive self-identity and agency all kids benefit from – if parents use it for a media-healthy diet.

Minecraft is not linked to poor general health. You won’t get fat, sick or become stupid playing Minecraft. All kids are notoriously poor at managing time. This is why parenting experts have argued for routines for decades. Negative things such as sleep deficit,  less time undertaking heathy activities, mental health, education problems and so on, cannot be attributed to Minecraft any more than they can be attributed to television viewing – and numerous large studies have shown no association between screen-time and physical activities.

Kids are complicated, unique and individual. There is no A-typical gamer. Kids, like adults can make unhealthy lifestyle choices – when they lack information and experience. They can easily suffer from fear, anxiety and phobias, yet studies have shown there is no constant link between screen time and these things.

In short you can’t blame Jeb for the epidemic in childhood obesity (in fact he’s kind of skinny, but we can’t suggest he’s anorxic’s pin-up) ,. We can’t see Minecraft as the problem for monumentally un-imaginative classrooms, poor school funding, prejudice against people of colour, gender or ability either. But the media can, and does many of these – maybe not the Jeb bit.

Society can do that perfectly well without video games. It might do better with them. As young kids are concrete thinkers, the violence and monsters in Minecraft  (or other games) has far less impact than seeing repeated natural disasters on TV or annual ‘biggest loser’ – which form concrete associations about the world and them. They know they are unlikely to meet a creeper, but the world does tend to kill people with trees and fat people are probably going to die sooner rather than later.

If you are a parent, then take some time to sit down and watch the Minecraft Story. It’s a great documentary. It’s just $8 or if that is too much you can also get it from the Pirate Bay for free (on purpose). You’ll begin to see what kids see in it – the other alternative is to watch Dr.Phil and others recycle fear and moral panic about games … something it seems parents are doing. It’s not a game, its a story which you can be part of. For most parents I’ve shown it to, the people at Mojang are exactly the kind of people many parents hope their kids will associate with – or be like. (I do a parent thing where we watch the film and un-pack it, it’s kind of fun).

And finally, the topic of agression. I accept only this (so far) … because this is what the research says about media violence, and games are a part of that medi – yet have unique properties. This means in all the research, games are the least studied, the least known. In over 30 years of research, there is evidence that media contributes as much as any other studied contributor to community violence. There is  a disproportionate amount of media coverage about violence in ‘game media’ compared with other (television, radio, Internet, film and so on) which has a disproportionate impact on public views. This has been found in hundreds of studies over decades.

In short – in all the various forms of media, games are singled out more often and therefore seen as worse yet wholly unsupported in scholarly research which doesn’t see more games or more game-time as contributing to kids and [insert concern] as being a inevitable convergence. In education, there is a similar problem – that eventually subject-mastery and technology will converge. It’s a convenient idea at best to push an agenda, but unproven no matter how much people will it to be true.

Parents don’t have the kind of ‘knowledge structures’ needed to make sense of video games, especially Minecraft. It’s what they call – you are what you eat. If all you eat is an unhealthy diet of media-hate and opinion, then when she’s busy on Minecraft, all you see is negative.

If Minecraft has raised concerns, then this isn’t a bad thing. It’s like finding out eating Burgers and 10 liters of Coke a day is bad for you. It’s an opportunity to think  about media more broadly – for yourself. It’s something worth doing, so you are more likely to do it. Thinking for yourself is fast becoming a lost-art in a culture addicted to media-feeds on Facebook, Twitter and so on. Surely not! I am so not addicted to social-media. Sure you are … you just don’t have a hand-controller.

  • Talk to kids about what they have seen online (in games, on TV as well)
  • Find out about the factors than enhance negative impacts of media (everyone has a screen in their pocket, the Internet is un-regulated, the media has a commercial agenda, pain and suffering gets human attention – so sells ad-space and so on).
  • There is no evidence that cartoon violence or fantasy (Harry Potter, Bugs Bunny, Minecraft) is harmless yet media constantly uses violence as a way to condition children that it can be used in lieu of being correct, to get your own way and as a punishment for non-compliance with the norm-behaviours. This is often exaggerated in television and film as fantasy telling a morality tale (See any Disney film ever).

We know being a good role model with your own media use and encouraging alternates – walking the dog, riding a bike, painting, reading and so on have positive impacts on kids. However, if a parent comes home, eats and settles down to an evening of television most days – this is un-heathy for the child. If the parents reads or listens to music and never turns on the TV, this too is un-healthy. If they carry a smart phone – and use it to socialise virtually and exclude the child (under 13s are usually banned) this in un-healthy for the child. If they watched Die Hard and said to their kids “its not appropriate, you can’t watch it”, this is unhealthy.

So before bagging Minecraft – take a look at the totality of media use in the house. Then try watching The MInecraft Story with your kids … you never know, it might be the first step in connecting the kids world and talking about it.

I hope Jack’s mum reads this … he feels like he can’t talk to you … and he wants to.

Franky Jetstar

Media saturates the world have the luxury of living in. The media is a fantasy where images of hope are crafted as deliberately as those of violence – and almost all of it is designed to entertain and sell. So we choose to pay attention to layers of media which once were deaf, and only now learning what happens when we shout back. Yesterday, my father in law died in Tasmania. My wife had booked a flight next week, as things were looking increasingly grim. Sadly he died yesterday. Amid the tears, we tried to book the next flight to Tasmania, calling Jetstar Reservations to explain the situation.

No. Is the simple answer. No you can’t change, and even if you hav insurance you have to pay is now, and we will assess your claim later. And the flight is $400 more than the other one – do you have a credit card.

The is the media at work, used to telling, demanding and controlling. Jetstar’s face is one of competitive prices and ‘welcome aboard’ is it not in the media?

Clearly, despite the PR and polished promotions, this is a fantasy. One which it seems real humans are forced to participate. Anyone remember this at the gate recently? Mostly its someone in a rain-coat with a shortwave radio glaring at passengers, daring them to ask “so how come we’re an hour over departure and you’ve said nothing”.

Screen Shot 2013-02-23 at 10.39.42 AM

I posted our disgust on Facebook, and a friend pasted it into Jetstar’s fan page. It got a response. I am not sure how to elevate past’ quite concerning’ to ‘caring’.

“Thanks for getting in touch with us about this, it’s quite concerning to hear. We have a compassionate policy in place to assist passengers in these circumstances, but without knowing any further details, and without discussing this with a passenger or contact on the booking, its difficult for me to provide any further insight into this. I would encourage you to ask your friend to get in touch with our Reservations Team on 131 538 or alternatively, with us here and we’ll be able to look into this further for him. Thanks- Angela”

So after re-organising school (my son was on a bus coming home from camp at Coffs) – numerous people helping, my wife got to the airport on time. Of course she called ahead and used the website – but remember, I’m saying this is all fantasy.

Screen Shot 2013-02-23 at 10.34.44 AM

This is media today. We don’t need to stay quiet and listen to the messages. And there are no agenderless media messages. Here Jetstar still don’t care or understand their Reservations Team are the issue – and simply repeat their demand in order to placate a negative media piece on their page.

Screen Shot 2013-02-23 at 10.38.14 AM

Screen Shot 2013-02-23 at 10.38.44 AM

In a compasionate world “Angela” would be a real person, who’d offer the cordial expressions of empathy. So I posted a reply on the media they are keen to use to promote their image as there is no other way to deal with an organisation which acts in this way – or thinks that social media is something to be triaged. It is something to take seriously. It isn’t an extension to your business model, it is a replacement.

Don’t replace it with media. You can get back to me here if you like Angela perhaps we can have a corporate happy ending photo? Call me. Okay.

Lakeview School Sit-In, Oakland.

This is a great video made by a student at Lakeview Sit In, Oakland. The school was closed down, so the community re-opened it. So the police arrived and closed that down. This is a childs documentary. Powerful stuff. You can follow them on Twitter. There’s also some more video on Vimeo and community activism on Facebook where you can get involved. “Education should be free – not cuts, no fees” being the chant. The police show up to shut it down about 9.20 – as is the current status of the school. It’s a great video – and just goes to show how media-aware the community is – and how much they want their school to stay open. If you so choose, watch the video or highlight it via your network layers.

Published on Jan 7, 2013

The footage and photographs in this video were shot by Myles Boyd, one of the students at the People’s School for Public Education, at the Lakeview School Sit-In, located in Oakland California, on July 3, 2012, in the hours after the early morning police raid.

The Lakeview Sit-In was held at Lakeview Elementary school from June 15th-July 3rd, 2012, and was not only a sit-in, but also ran as a summer school program. The People’s School For Public Education (the free summer school program provided by volunteers) continued for a few weeks after the raid in the park across the street.

Hat-Top to Political Fail Blog.

Young peoples opinions of digital media

What patterns can be found in the interactive media activities and opinions of young people?

I’ve posted a few times that I see patterns in the way students use media in combination around gaming and their social activities. This isn’t all kids – and it’s really hard to know what percentage of kids we might be talking about.The patterns I see appear far more sophisticated and inter-connected than the ones they are using in school. I only have to look at my own kids to see this – but are they representative or an anomaly?

Some teachers are attempting use patterns they have found useful in personal learning networks towards classroom routines such as blogs, wikis and so on. The problem here is that no two people see or use the same patterns. In fact, the personal learning network is little different from a user-group apart from it’s lack of stable membership and tendency to homogonise itself into the same factions in the ‘real world’. The pattern here can be seen by holding regular #edchat (general) #mathschat (maths) #englishchat and so on. Once these patterns emerge, they seem to become region based #ukmathschat, #Ozmathschat and so on. The exception here is the USA, who generally believe the are the alpha-party so don’t bother calling it #usamathschat 🙂

Whilst the software and hardware teachers use in class have some commonality with their own out of class preferences and patterns, there are omissions and forced compromises, such as mobile phones, policed and determined by layers of policy makers at numerous creating non-uniform ‘break-points’.

Education favours a belief that what has been proven to be true is good (and can be improved upon), while everything unproven (unfamiliar) is highly suspicious and easily ignored. School improvement therefore generally approached as N+1 (where +1 is innovation). Innovation in this context is always an intransigent compromise. This leaves the classroom practitioner working in a filtered-intersection which is neither ‘traditional’ or ‘post-modern’. This has always troubled me, especially as popular thought-leaders on stages talk often show examples of the ‘untethered’ internet of things – to fuel their argument that these things are crucial manifestations which underpin their demands for academic, social and cultural reform in schools.

What I am interested in is looking at these patterns, to see if what is being cited as ‘essential’ in this intersection is actually representative of kids opinions. If you like, I choose to challenge the popular notion of the ‘net-generation’. It’s going to take some time to achieve this, as ideally I’d like to have a few thousand kids fill it in. What I don’t want is a convenient sample, drawn exclusively from ‘students’ but from ‘young people’ who are using technology.

Because there is no classification scheme, I’ve used an hierarchical agglomerative cluster from educator’s responding to #edchat. Of course this is my ‘opinion’ of what they we’re talking about from the analysis.

  1. networker
  2.  producer
  3. traditionalist
  4.  gamer

It would be fantastic if you would consider asking someone 8-16 to complete the survey, or asking your class to do so. I’ll publish what I find in the near future under creative commons license. For those willing to do it with a whole class, I’m happy to Skype into your class sometime and run an activity around these questions as a thanks. [timezone permitting]. Just email me if you do, I’m not telepathic.

I’m going to the UK for a month or so in a few weeks, and this survey will be online for a month from today. I’d love to hit 2000 plus respondents.

Pathological Media Misuse

Let’s take down this latest rubbish from News Ltd, which it put online in various formats and places online. Related coverage included Kids are digital but not that savvy, addictive dangers no game, games ruining young mined blah blah, the usual run down of the internet and games, my favourite was the Herald Sun, who’s screenshot was of a middle aged man using a circa 1998 beige PC in an office, viewing Wotif.com. Or you can read the other version with a different image in which the story changes to “Preschoolers becoming addicted to M-rated video and internet “. Which of course isn’t even about games.

Welcome to the mind of journalist Bruce McDougall, who appears to have several stories. I liked this one “Cairns boy’s video game addiction is ruining his family’s life” as it almost mentions Dr Tam at the bottom and is a suburb piece of bad writing, I love the “are considering adding internet addiction” line here. Of course clinicians are considering forms of addiction, that is what research is about. They are also considering addiction to all manner of other things (not listed) for effect. But Mr McDougall loves this stuff. It’s easy link-bait. However, a quick trip to Google and you find he’s often reporting on Internet violence, porn and addiction. Ideally making claims that these things are all related. This is then chopped around with several headlines and various hacks at copy.

In all these pieces, Mr McDougal lanches into “one Sydney mother (no date) claiming her son now punches walls because of World of Warcraft”.

This falls under the widely used news’ tactic of “what every parent needs to know” type moral panic. And why not, just make up the headline, link it to fear, uncertainty and denial and a quick phone quote from an academic which you then quote in any context your like – as long as it grabs attention (and therefore sells advertising).

Cleverly (lol), these pieces appear to be the view of Dr. Tam, and not Mr McDougal. So this isn’t responsible journalism or meid use, yet it has received a lot of response in social media. As I’ll discuss here, I don’t think that this Dr Tam’s view at all.

In a Minecraft forum, where amazingly, these addicted youths took time out from falling asleep and punching walls, they responsed to the post in a brief discussion.

“Many older people seem to not really understand all this new “technology”. What humans don’t understand, they tend to fear and despise, and blame for other problems.”

“Dude thats just what kids do in this generation. This is like the same thing as when people were protesting to make santa clause skinny because they said he was promoting bad eating habits.”

“It’s really just this simple: Anything can become an addiction. No matter what the object of discussion is–games, sex, drugs,tv, plastic surgery–it can become an addiction. This had nothing to do with the thing itself.”

“I think in the future the regular–almost constant–use of technology will become the norm. People that don’t use it will be the ones we give the concerned looks to.”

“Its a behavioural problem or just bad parenting”

Next, let’s also not forget the research ‘interest’ here is the potential of their being such a thing as an ‘internet addication’ disorder – not games addiction or violance in games leading to violence in the streets – or punching walls – or porn. (Sorry Bruce).

No, this is another specific attempt to give the public the same message that runs though all the posts I could find from Mr McDougal. There were some on right wing religious websites, but I’m sure it’s the same person (see I can do it to).

So, let’s put the media to work and look at comments made online from the blog of Dawn Barker – psychiatrist and writer. In her blog, in which the comments reveal a quite different story from that reported by News Ltd.

I suspect this is because it was originally posted on November 1, 2010. OMG a repost? A cynic might suggest this is simply a beat-up resulting from a ‘googlewhack’ on the part of Mr McDougal. In the Waynes World ending, it might well be that Dr Tam and this piece are no more connected than that – and indeed Dr Tam appears to have been promoting a new website that talks about possible internet addiction – no more than that in the News Ltd piece.

On the blog, Dr Tam comments to readers.

“I think that the nerdy, socially awkward type is not true; typical users are greagarious, fun-loving, have stable jobs and a high disposable income. More work needs to be done about what factors within that group make one ‘vulnerable’ to developing PIU ( the focus of my planned research).”

Planned research? I am taking it that this New Ltd report is based on zero hours of game play, game data, or any analysis using any game? It strikes me that the origins of this piece had nothing to do with games at all –  judging by the poorly chosen image (no credit given) and sub-editing, the piece probably mis-represents Dr Tam’s work too.

Perhaps recent research from Bond University would help answer who is and why are people playing more video-games now than ever (as if you need to think about that too long). There are links between playing and learning, and learning is therefore addictive if we follow Mr McDougal’s report. However, any link to game addition and violence appears as fictional as Skyrim in this piece and from what I can gather from looking at Dr. Tam’s published works … it’s just not what he’s working on by about 10,000 miles.

It appears News Ltd simply ‘buffed’ up the comments on ‘internet addiction’ and presented it as  games-addiction on no basis of evidence that would stand more than a bar-stool analysis. Yet, it was syndicated it to all sorts of media with minor text changes.

I’d go so far as to say this would make a great high school project – to analyze it as a hyper-text using the digital-journalism courseware from Harold Rheingold as the kind of bias and re-shaping of fact that appears in traditional media. This is exactly why kids must learn about digital media, citizenship and information fluency from primary school onwards. The web is quite simply awash with this type of information.

So having taken down News Ltd, and I hope offering some respite for Dr. Tam who I’d think would not be over the moon with this ‘report’, I might move on to suggest a few positive – evidence based – resources and information that are relevant to games. Firstly, there is no demonstrated link between video games and addiction, that isn’t debated with claims and counter claims. Certainly not the depth of evidence that has emerged from drugs, alcohol, sex etc., Television is far more likely to be finally declared addictive than video-games in all reality – and adults are happy to watch it and let their kids watch it. Games are simply less well understood in the popular culture and to traditional media – are a clear and present threat to their existence and revenue.

I suggest taking a look at further academic studies about games – particularly the assertion in this bar-stool report that “games make children violent”. In particular I recommend the work of Dr. Cheryl Olson, who conducted a $1.5 million dollar research project into violence and games, though the Harvard Medical School (see works below). If you don’t want to read it – watch this video.

If you are a parent, I highly suggest you don’t listen to New Ltd reports, perhaps ask a passing cat, or use any one of the informative online sites such as http://www.getgamesmart.com/ or perhaps download some advice from the Industry (who also funds and conducts research) such as this Ten Tip Guide for families with games in their houses.

Finally, don’t assume games are either bad for learning or addictive – but instead find out if your school knows anything about games. For example, could your academic child actually take part in, enjoy and put their game knowledge to use in something like http://www.stemchallenge.org/ – because right now most schools ban games entirely, and that has nothing to do with the Internet or addiction.

Further Reading.

Olson, C.K. Children’s motivations for video game play in the context of normal development. Review of General Psychology, June 2010.

Olson, C.K., Kutner, L.A., Baer, L., Beresin, E.V., Warner, D.E., & Nicholi, A.M. Jr. (2009). M-rated video games and aggressive or problem behavior among young adolescents. Applied Developmental Science, 13(4), 188-198.

Olson, C.K. The electronic friend? Video games and children’s friendships. SITAR newsletter, October 2008. (Free full text available; starts on page 2.)

Olson, C.K., Kutner, L.A., & Beresin, E.V. Children and video games: How much do we know? Psychiatric Times, October 2007. (Free full text.)

Olson, C.K., Kutner, L.A., Warner, D.E., Almerigi, J.B., Baer, L., Nicholi, A.M. Jr., & Beresin, E.V.

Factors correlated with violent video game use by adolescent boys and girls. Journal of Adolescent Health, July 2007, pages 77-83.

Olson, C.K., Kutner, L.A., & Warner, D.E. The role of violent video game content in adolescent development: Boys’ perspectives. Journal of Adolescent Research, January 2008, pages 55-75.

Changing minds, changing tools

I’ve been using WordPress for a good number of years. Before that I used a now ‘dead’ service.

All up I’ve been ‘blogging’ for about a decade – but didn’t really call it that for five or six years until Judy set me straight. In fact in the first half of the naughties, I wasn’t in education — and in the future, who knows …

Times obviously change, and I seem to spend more time ‘encountering’ things than I once did and spend a great deal of time reaping information from networks, that often I just flick back to the network. Judy’s written about her changing use of media — so once again, I’m late to the party.

I’ve been looking for something to suit. I use Posterous, but mostly it’s a digital-dumpster for me. I fire things from Twitter and Facebook to it that I might (and don’t always) want to go back to. I use a few gadgets on Twitter to fire RT links to Diigo and Delicious, which is more like a teenager’s bedroom floor. In productivity, I’m a massive user of Evernote which is a collection of cave-wall scratchings of ideas and half-finished notes. When I want to get more serious I use Mendeley and Open Office – simply because it’s really easy to store, organise and obligingly cite research in an attempt to support my suppositions.

The new kid on the block is Amplify. I’m told people have to join to comment – but I’m finding it a great light weight way to actually write a weblog of thoughts, ideas and encounters. I like that I can harvest from it, so fire posts to secret-gardens that I have intention of sharing – but use as a sort of archive – just in case Amplify disappears. That is a bit like never backing up your hard drive to me, having lost much of what I was thinking in the early part of 2000s, I’m conscious of the fragility of Web2.0ism.

I’ve added a link over to the right – and guess it will probably contain more unfinished thoughts and observations than the trusty WordPress blog which I’ll continue to write – but perhaps less frequently.

I find it – and so I imagine others do – really hard to put borders around writing. I totally get that may über blogs are positioning pieces or revenue generators — and are written in that way. I don’t think I’m there yet, and still enjoy writing things down, that later I revisit and have another subconscious argument with myself. I may have caught myself trying to do/be something I’m not that good at recently, so the voices in my head are telling me to try something new.

A fresh approach to Higher Ed Course Design

There are times when you hear someone talk and you think, bloody hell! – that is going to change everything. Now it seems you only need to read 140 characters, and get the same reaction.

Howard Rheingold posted a link to his ‘social media’ wiki on Twitter.

It’s not the fact it is a wiki and not a course in Moodle, WebCT or Black Board that is impressive though.  HR has built a very sophisticated information architecture that is simple to get around (a massive step forward in itself) and packed it with language that leaves students in little doubt as to the how exciting, challenging and rewarding the course will be.

It’s not there to ‘inform’ in the way most online courses do. It’s not some kind of digital point of reference (though it does that superbly) either. It’s language advocates adoption, adaption and infusion of technology, as a transformational experience that will deliver life long benefits. In just a few pages – HR clarifies, engages and sets up his course as being something you just want to sink your teeth into.

For example: students will have practiced mindful self-observation of the ways they use their own attention. Increased facility at inquiry and collaboration are other meta-skills diligent students should expect to gain: the methodology of collaborative inquiry used in this course is expected to generalize beyond the classroom.

Another significant element of the site is the ‘How To’. He’s immediately set out his expectations, guidelines and criteria for success. He talks clearly about how that success will come about using a range of ‘un-passive’ technologies … but then immediately scaffolds them out of ‘entry’ level uses of technology with a self help guide on how to blog, make a wiki page etc.,

He’s not treating the method of evidencing learning as a separate ‘training manual’. The learning method for evidence is using the tools themselves.

This is the best and most influential ‘course design’ example I’ve seen – but I’m not surprised – as HR is just inspirational.