Why Minecraft is better than Blues Clues (and school)

There is substantial disagreement and controversy about video games and childhood. Common criticisms of children’s media use is that it displaces other activities believed to be beneficial such as outdoor play; homework and leisure reading. Video games are subjected to claims made about television such as they lower academic achievement, to which scholars have plausibly argued academically challenged children are drawn to television and as a leisure time activity in the first place. In addition the correlation between TV and achievement has also been shown to include another significant variable – household income. Lower income households tend to watch more TV and also score lower of tests compared to higher income counter-parts.

Media has been used to address this before and it works. I’ll use the example of Blue Clues as most parents will recognise it. The creators’ and producers’ goals were to “empower, challenge, and build the self-esteem of preschoolers”. Admittedly Minecraft didn’t set out to do this, or even be played by pre-schoolers — but I’d argue it is achieving exactly the same goal though it’s enthusiastic media-based community. At the same time, there are more paths to follow than the MinecraftEdu one (not that it’s a bad path). I’m amazed that Mojang hasn’t called me, but hey I totally get why. They stand in a unique position to do some serious social good here, as well as make even more money. Call me fellas, seriously.

Video games are routinely associated with television as though these devices are comparable because of ‘time spent’ in front of the screen. I’m arguing that time-spent with screens promoting learning and improving childrens’ creativity and computational thinking is never a waste of time or resources. It just dry minds that consider fun and entertainment as separate from learning and school. Parents don’t — that has been shown over and over into research about parent belief towards what is ‘good for kids’ – Blue Clues certainly — and Minecraft … well maybe … if parents understand how to regulate it and put it to work and not use it to babysit. Using Minecraft to babysit is a really BAD idea by the way — and not bad addictive bad, bad because it creates high levels of the stuff Blues Clues aims for in a matter of weeks.

Minecraft discussions cannot overlook that many kids from lower-income families are using it instead of television — and if we are to maintain that TV and Games are the two big uses of screen time, then like watching Blues Clues has shown these pre-schoolers may well have higher levels of school readiness than those who do not — and those who only watch Blue Clues or other TV material. Are you with me here Mr Robertson?

When TV when is being used to deliberately to teach though fun and entertainment has positive effects on kids. It been shown that this positive effect is MOST beneficial to kids from lower-income backgrounds. Access to TV has been seen as a cheap and effective way to ‘educate’ those who are at most disadvantage.

When pre-schoolers are playing Minecraft and not watching Blues Clues, Dora or other TV-edu-material — do you think it is making them less or more ready for school? And what about our own ABC? What are they doing in the Minecraft (or other commercial game) space … well aside from Good Game Spawn Point MC maps — not a lot which is shame, all be it a temporary one I hope.

Now here’s the kicker Mr Robertson. Those kids arriving in school at the age of 5, from low income and media poor families can get an accelerant from Minecraft that they wont get from Blues Clues or other edu-watch-me media. They don’t need to have the cognitive and kinaesthetic skills needed to operate network (I can’t log in! Where’s the start-menu! I cant read the letters!) computers Just put an Xbox in the room and a set of well thought out activities and suddenly those kids are capable of rising to the levels of literacy, design and computational thinking that we’d normally attribute (though the literature) to high quality educational programs enjoyed by the better off in society. Not developing Xbox (or other) programs for kids (especially poor kids is brain-missing. Tapping into cultural literacy which is fun, entertaining and cheap makes a cubic world of sense.

The problem is that school culture continue sto connect media-research with gaming effectively and buy-into over simplistic (and unproven) rhetoric around ‘app culture’. The price of one fly-in-fly out powerpoint jockey to tell us about blah blah apps would seed some serious funding for development and research. Oh yes we want video games in schools … because so far the other option hasn’t worked for those kids who are at most risk.

Yes I’ll move to Dundee.

Minecraft digs deeper into learning.

Minecraft has many potential benefits in education. I believe these are being under-estimated. While some uses seem obvious — building a sustainable house, making a replica of a ancient monument and so on — it’s important for teachers (and parents) to recognise and value the learning processes which are happening. I’m about to argue these processes have widely been considered the domain of adult eLearning — and are skills which go beyond many definitions of “21st Century Learning”. In addition, your children and mine are bringing these skills into school.

Regardless of whether a school allows or sees value in Minecraft, there will be a significant number of children (using sales, age and platform sales) who have these skills and are sharpening them evenings and weekends.

Let me be more specific here. Using John Keller’s ARCS model of motivational design, its possible to show Minecraft is teaching kids skils that get buried underneath ongoing controversies around screen-time.

Keller’s ARCS Model for motivational design

  • Attention – Get the learners interest and curiosity
  • Relevance – Show the importance and usefulness of the content to the learner
  • Confidence – Including challenging, but do-able activities (tasks and sub tasks)
  • Satisfaction – Make the experience worth it (ie Why should I care about this?)

Using computers to assist learning only really works when the learner feels satisfied and commits what they learned to long-term memory. We’ve all been to demo or had training where we walk out and never revisit the lesson.

As a parent, it’s totally frustrating that my children seem to remember a thousand items in their favourite video game inventory — yet can’t remember what todays homework was. Keller’s model is the foundation of many eLearning and classroom activities. What I’m saying is that we can see kids doing this without any adult prompts or motivators. The brilliance of the game design is that it allows humanistic learning.

The major problems of our age deal with human relations; the solutions can be found only in education. Skill in human relations is a skill that must be learned; it is learned in the home, in the school, in the church, on the job, and wherever people gather together in small groups. – Knowles.

Minecraft doesn’t have ‘rules’ on how to accomplish a task other than the machine-rules about the properties of objects in the virtual landscape together with the players ability to interact with those objects. The game itself allows an ‘idle’ state where by the player can do nothing at all if they want. Time passing is marked by the sunrise and sunset. The first task learners perform is how to create a personal space — where they can be safe from harm. The classic hierarchy of needs becomes realised almost immediately. She builds a shelter by analysing her performance constantly to race again time and if successful in that task — starts to think about deeper task analysis.

This is hugely powerful stuff. A four year old is undertaking constant task analysis more often than they are reacting to tasks set. To me this represents a significant alternative view of “flipping the classroom”. Among the questions she’s asking herself (and seeking media information to answer) are:

  • What’s the complexity of the task?
  • How often does it needs to be performed?
  • Is the task critical to the end state (performance) I want?
  • Is this task separate, connected with or linked to other tasks?
  • What does the overall task-relationship look like?
  • What are the risks associated with not being able to complete the task?
  • What background skills to learners need to perform these tasks?

It’s critical to acknowledge that kids playing Minecraft are developing two fundamental skills. They are working towards developing the kind of reflective, critical “self-directed” skills previously associated with adult learning.

This immediately creates new challenges and opportunities. Minecraft allows kids to engage in humanistic informal learning by becoming self-directed learners, maintaining deep motivation towards their own goals. I think Knowles would have liked Minecraft.

This will, to some, clash with many EdTech’s assumptions about what kids can/should do with computers. In particular who benefits most from using them – students, system or teachers. It fly’s in the face of popular opinion and assumptions. When I then hint at the power of connectivism and network culture, I begin to see kids as part of a new and vast network of learners.

I think using this lens, kids are doing things in Minecraft is quite staggering. The objects they make are not the measurement of their achievement, but simply a landmark on their increasing ambition, skill and knowledge. As I said at the beginning of this post — I question the need to create lessons for Minecraft. I see greater value (to them) by simply allowing kids to play for a few hours a week. This has benefits which so far, EdTech has really not achieved despite vast investment and enthusiasm.

Minecraft is not just a game — it’s a sandbox for self-directed learning which is probably one the most significant skills children will need in the years ahead. Obsessing over “digital literacy” seems a particular teacher and system obsession.

(Tapped on a phone, in a train).

The Minecraft Experience at Games for Change, NYC, April 2014

mmpIn 2011, when Mincraft was a beta-game with 100,000 players and not the 1,000,000 it has today – a small idea called Massively Minecraft took flight. It’s main activity was to enable children and adults to play on a server which attempted to allow children to develop ‘digital skills’ based loosely on ISTE’s NETs for students.  Today we’re launching a new project around Minecraft — building the right drivers in home, school and research.

I’m thrilled to be feel like I’m at the centre of it, both as a parent and now as a games researcher. Minecraft represents a unique media-phenomenon and has clearly been taken in remarkable new directions by the community. There is no one ‘best’ way to play, teach or parent around this game in particular. Unlike much of the technological determinism associated with technology and children, Minecraft has achieved what educational software and culture hasn’t. It has managed to bridge the gap between family literacy and school literacy. But all too often, the voices of parents and kids are lost. They are the subjects of research, not active researcher — and that’s what the Massively Minecraft Project is about — actively helping support autonomous research by parents, teachers and kids in to Minecraft.

The Minecraft Experience – at Games for Change, April 2014, New York City.

Today we are pleased to put up the first of a series of projects in this space, reviving the “Massively Minecraft” research and practice agenda. The International “Games for Change” has accepted our panel discussion with leading Industry experts on the “Minecraft Experience” as game, media, educational and cultural artefact. We’re provoking the panel and audience discussion by inviting you (and people you know) to share your road-story (good or bad) with us. This takes place in April 2014 in New York.

Here’s Bron’s open call for participation … please share it widely so that the panel discussion in April (In New York City) takes in as much as possible!

You can read all about it here http://www.minecraftexperience.net and we really want you to spread the word!

This project is a chance to have your say about Minecraft. We want to be able to describe Minecraft is all its different experiences and to do that through the eyes of those most experienced with it – youth, teachers, parents and designers.

You can add content to the wiki or point to fab content you have already online (stories, blogs, photos, videos etc). Contribute to a page or design a page of your own. Take this space in whatever direction you feel it needs to go to describe Minecraft well!

Those wanting to contribute will have to join the wiki. We have chosen to not have this a completely open wiki in order to monitor and protect any of our young contributors. And we would love them to contribute and sign their contributions with their username and identifying whether they are ‪#‎youth‬‪#‎teacher‬‪#‎parent‬‪#‎designer‬ or other. This will be very useful data as time goes on.

We want this to be a global project with the widest ownership possible, so don’t be shy or feel that your contribution will not count because this crowd sourcing stuff is only powerful if every voice is heard.

Are you in? Let me know if you need any further info or advice.

Bron Stuckey & Dean Groom
The Massively Minecraft Project

Minecraft and over parenting

One reason to allow children to play Minecraft is to redress control issues associated with modern parenting and dare I say it … teaching.

Whether parents and teachers use positive rewards or negative punishment to get children to comply with a demand, its not allowing them agency over their own choices. Its a huge problem and one I’ve been guilty of for a good while.

Minecraft (and other games) give kids a sense of autonomy which is becoming a rare experience for many kids suffering from over parenting.

But its not enough to let them play, they need parent support and encouragement. They are learning about their own agency against fierce odds and parents focused on control (all be it well meaning).

There’s something to balk at.

Minecraft isn’t just a game

In the 1950s, Disney hit on the idea of connecting classic folk-tales to their animation technologies, and from that creating their own books, magazine and toys. Minecraft, also started by one man with an plan — has enabled a very similar process except as a company, Mojang don’t chase down every licensing and copyright claim imaginable.

It’s another reason parents can’t compare Minecraft to other sandbox games — they are not all about the value-add sell, but of course do licence certain aspects. It must be a total nightmare to manage, but cudos to them for at least attempting it.

Online there are some amazing toys, gadgets and artwork that have emerged because of Minecraft. Mojang don’t appear to mind people adding their own creativity to their game such as this.

Crafting-1.3-Part-1-1 (1)

Now you don’t have to PLAY video games in your classroom to be able to see how this is brilliantly executed story. There is enough detail in this story for anyone who’s read a romantic story about the heroes journey to be able to figure out what is going on here.

This is simply ONE part of FIVE posted onto the website 9Minecraft. You can go read the rest yourself … and find out how it ends. That’s five comics, filled with pop-culture references that kids could EASILY relate to … and any (good) teacher could put to work.

I post this as an example of how VIDEO GAMES are part of cultural literacy. Minecraft is as embedded in today’s culture as Donald Duck was for Disney — and better still there is a massive fan-talent base producing plenty of FREE or low-cost resources that kids can relate to. Getting primary aged kids to turn their classroom into a Minecraft house would require almost zero effort on the teacher’s part. Go on, I dare you …

 

Making sense of media reports about games.

I happen to believe video games are an essential media-element in the lives of Australian families, because they are pervasive in our culture. They are on mobiles, computers, tablets and in classrooms.  In the decade that saw teacher-endorsement of Web2.0, and equal amount of time, effort and millions was spent trying to protect society (which includes children) from video games – and the DER vanished into history as school leaders try to ignore the past and talk this afternoons trope.

Parents are not idiots and everyone uses a mobile these days.

Firstly, games has a classification system. Given 97% of adults have played a game and 85% are present when games are purchased, media panics over game producers pushing horror an violence on the public (which includes children) is wrong. But then, as a thinking adult, I’m sure you know that media, especially when owned by Murdoch and friends, is both selective and biased. In addition, traditional media (which includes journalism) has nothing to gain (status or economic) from people playing video games and not giving them the attention they assume they warrant, despite social media being far more open and accessible than they are. But I digress.

Schools don’t believe in video games at all – ask why.

Video games are educational.  By saying that I mean — of themselves. They are as worthy of children freely exploring them as they are given silent reading time, free play in the school yard or put on the ‘edu-game’ in the library.

Games and game players are subjected to more academic scrutiny that 99% of technology that is now assumed to be “the norm” in classrooms — yet no significant studies suggest “Web2.0” makes any difference in the lives of children — or that games would be worse. That’s the tragedy of Web2.0 in education for me, it quickly became an unambitious trope, full of commercial dogma pretending to be scholarship in order for a few to create a conference-circus lifestyle, in the traditions of American Fairground Shows. Web2.0 is introduced at will because it’s popular – and because brands are great at getting your attention. Schools systematically and selectively represent media that they think politicians and bishops ‘like’, especially if they get to crow about it at a conference. If a game is allowed in, then it will be sanitised. The teacher must be the celebrated innovator and leader in the story — and the students emancipated from otherwise ‘dull’ teaching methods. Again, no evidence that this has any positive effects at all — where as there is plenty that a few hours alone with a game works wonders on kids – especially boys who clash with school. It works even better if adults are helping them. Kids are as BORED with mini-laptops and ‘apps’ as they are with listening to Bueller, Bueller — Beuller.

The method matters when reading about video games, not the metaphor.

When reading about what games,it’s really useful to look for the method by which the authors come to their conclusions. In academia, methods matter — and offering opinions over evidence doesn’t get you too far. Its like saying people drive cars, cars kill people therefore people are cars. It just doesn’t make sense.

In many cases the method is neither obvious or  mentioned in the popular press articles. In some domains, particularly clinical psychology it’s the wrong method, used to validate a theory — not to generate new theory of games. Rarely do they address the rich evidence available. For example, neuro-science shows video game play has numerous benefits to humans, but not all humans. Again, not all humans like TV, walking the dog or writing blog posts. Each of those need methods of approach, which can be from many angles.

Clinical psychologists turned ‘game addiction’ into a multi-million dollar business.

In this research domain, ideas in which data fits the theory “games are adductive” are commonly echoed. Somewhere they will state — less than clearly — that hundreds of studies show games are addictive and refer back to gambling addiction. Most famously, is Kimberley Young declared in 1999 that internet addiction was “akin” to gambling addiction, and has since tacked on mobile phone and video games, which she also connects with moral decay and loss of innocence. Young’s declaration has less to millions of dollars in therapy sessions to drive out the human enjoyment of interactive media. On the basis of these studies 97% of Australians are pathologically addicted to the Internet, mobile phones, computers and video games. However, try asking your health insurance if that is covered or apply for workers compensation for over use of technology at work. You see, as much as they want it to be true — it remains little more than ‘something to work on’ as far as the World Heath Association is concerned. Game addiction is right up there with Scientology when it comes to it.

Playing Black Flag: A pirate game, where feeling like a pirate allows a scarf to be a hat, and a dog to keep you company.

More cowbell

While it may be true that hundreds of studies repeat and reaffirm this negative position, there is also hundreds of academic counter positions which generate and offer better theory of games – and how to mediate them in the lives of children. You might have seen James Gee talk about this on PBS or conferences. There is significant other social research which rejects this need to validate and vilify electronic media on the basis of false theory and popular journalistic interest in whipping up parent anxiety. Why is this person saying this? What’s is they want? Why now? Mostly – what the hell to these people play?

For parents, it’s useful to remember when you read about how terrible games are that the data presented in most often there to verify and keep afloat continued assertions of clinical psychologists who’s business is — treating internet, game and mobile phone addiction — which is not a recognised pathology by any stretch of the imagination. They might as well treat you for TV addiction — which of course prior to 1999 was their previous gold mine among nervous parents. I like this quote attributed to Rod Sterling (1924 – 1975), best known as the creator of The Twilight Zone, was a seminal figure in the Golden Age of Television and became a cultural icon of the 20th century.

It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.

Today, you can’t have a serious conversation about video games without 12 dancing clinicians waving toilet paper at you – In the mean time, peoplewatch TV and play.

There no such thing as video games!

The best research generates theories of games which can be seen in examples in the real world, not simply small laboratory experiments or citing previous studies which agree with your view. This is where better understanding and approaches to social gaming emerges from. Sadly though, many educational games are not based on this research either, but on avoiding the wrath of clinicians our casing in on popular culture and parent fears. Having said that, clinicians and educators use a very broad brush when it comes to which video games hurt or help. Which games? Where are they used? What for? By whom? What did they say? How was this conclusion arrived at?

Video games are not a leap of faith. They are the most significant media firm used in society to date and part of cultural literacy.

Over 97% of people in western countries have played them. They it’s no evidence to suggest those people have any long term behavioural issues. With parent mediation, along with any other media, they are of themselves a valid media text which your child with both enjoy and learn from. They will not learn more from an educational game, though they may be able to repeat facts or patterns. They certainly won’t learn from our about them in school, which has historically done everything it could to ban and demonise them. The leap of faith comes when parents and schools recognise that playing them is healthier when they step back and don’t overlay it with their own agenda. Only then can they start to see the theories being featured in social research as game related media studies.

Let them play, learn what they play, learn how to predict and prepare kids for media. I’m sure my theory that a few hours a week of video gaming at school for the sole purpose of playing (enabling alert, orientation and executive brain networks) won’t be seen as academic, unlike copying from the board or one prison telling you about how the world is. But that’s because I have unicorn blood and I’m a parent as concerned about media as another.

What do kids see in Minecraft?

Thanks to Stephen Elford for his comment on ‘special-powers’ for teachers using the augmented version of Minecraft in schools. He raises a really important point. In his comment, he says he doesn’t believe he would have achieved the things he did without them.

The school problem

My stance on schools and their insistence that commercial games must be ‘edu-fied’ before being allowed on to campus is that it’s irrational. It is a leadership-behavior with direct cultural links the modernist suspicion that ‘new media’ is demotic and unworthy, and that print remains the best way to educate future citizens. Media-panic is used to justify what ‘new media’ is in, and what is out, and those choices are made based on two things: the choices of others and that those choices are status based. The end result are signs (such as special power) that kids in classrooms today have less power than did decade ago. That seems remarkable, give then 24/7 feed of educational savants proclaiming otherwise. I currently believe there is less symmetry between producer/conumer now than ever – just more rhetoric, data and devices.

The narratology vs ludology problem

I’d argue that Minecraft with special powers for teachers is realist (modernist) response to cultural change, were as Minecraft itself is romantic (post modernist) agent of cultural change. Salen & Zimmerman would describe this as the emergent narrative that games can employ in unique ways to engage the player in a story.

The opportunity problem

Outside of school, MInecraft offers children three special-powers of their own, which are essential to ‘consumer entrepreneurship’ in what Squires talks about in his book “Half-Real”. Minecraft offers kids choice, agency and enterprise. Three important and compelling reasons to play and make sense of many things. I grant that if a curriculum dictates students must learn about and learn to, then stipulate the hours to do it in, then compromises will need to be made – and in doing so, I think many opportunities are lost – especially for children whom don’t get to play video games at home – or have never seen a reason to play.

The conception problem

A childs creativity (in video-games) can be understood as reflexive adaptation to unpredictable change in complex systems. Minecraft is just as complex as Warcraft in this regard – but differentiated by the lack of an romantic-episodic plot in Minecraft. The narrative in MInecraft is almost entirely autotelic. Complexity can be understood as networks-of-social-choice, and are vital to the distribution of knowledge. When a child play’s Minecraft, she will will also watch/make videos (currency) and participate in Minecraft forums (complex networks). Finally, a child’s knowledge of the real world grows because the experience of playing was not simply ‘fun’, but experiencing the dymanics of change and growth. At the beginning, she had few choices available, she had little agency against the foes in the game, and had no real enterprise in the game. Through effort and work, she learned to grow and change, she learned to overcome problems which at the beginning were in-comprehensible.

The media panic problem

So if parents begin to understand games, beginning with realising the ‘media-panic’ about new-media is now 20 years old, we’re really dealing with parental (and school) belief. Some will believe that education of children is best achieved from the modernist stance, and others from the post-modern. What I think matters in gaming right now, is that selling off opportunities for imaginative learning (Kieren Egan, David Buckingham) because of ecomonic-short-term culture is a mistake that education repeats – and not just in games. For example, the idea of MOOCs has split into xMOOCs and cMOOCs in order to once again separate ‘science’ from ‘arts’.

The pre-cultural solution signals

What’s I find really interesting about Minecraft ‘special power’ variation is that more ‘science’ teachers use it than arts (from what I can scrape from the feed). That seems strange, given much of commercial game use in schools has been towards the arts so far. Perhaps this is a signal that pure-and-literal sciences are interested in more romantic solutions, I do hope so.

Minecrafts tipping point

The mainstay of the internet is interactive productivity. This means people are no longer represented in the media by celebrities and journalists, there are more people self directing and self mediating than simply reading.

Significantly these people have acquired sufficient language to use complex channels to discover and sustain a distributed dialogic.

I firmly believe that certain technologies appear or fade with tremendous serendipity. Great ideas die, and hopeless ones get picked up. It isn’t until time passes that we can go back and make sense of them. For example, modernism actually contained plenty of things that post modernists at the time said they lacked. With hind sight, not rethinking faculties before thinking technology was a missed opportunity for schools.

When Minecraft appeared, it was at the right time for its new significant user base. It spread like wildfire among kids … not because another games are boring, but in the remediation of play, sufficient kids could now self meditate, discover and share its benefits and joy, which kids even four or five years earlier couldn’t do because the time want right.

She won’t get off minecraft because she now represents herself. She has reach, audience, imagination and no desire to use media in the literal ways her parents and older siblings did. I find it depressing that in school minecraft projects, teachers hold special in game powers and use it toward literal goals. They have missed the point and opportunity to learn so much about children.

Minecraft isn’t just a better game, it appeared at certain time when where a generation needed something to emancipated itself from the adult media panic about the evils of online.

Minecraft, if you like was a remediation of Woodstock for teens, it just uses different media which appeals to them, and is immediately accessible.  In a hyperbole whet kids have no power, Minecraft gave kids power, which is lot more than an escape from reality, it has taught them how to represent themselves and the real world using multi modal media.

It’s as authentic and important to her, and the innovation of lithography in printing was to baby boomers. The fact teachers and parents don’t see it like this yet they themselves use the internet to the same ends is because parents and kids find it hard to find a common language, which leads to so much frustration.

Parents have learned the language of Facebook, googling and cyber juvanoia, but not that of dialogic gaming. Mojang staff have no such handicap. They are more important media celebrities than “brangelina”. They are not representations of “us” but real people “we” can relate to as part of our productive systems.

When parent address this gap, their relationship with children improves (in my view). It gets worse when they don’t.  Sadly, clinicians tend to want to cure an addiction (myth) and ignore the reality that more people use media to self represent than to consume (which is where their assertions began in the nineties). Their views appear increasingly irrelevant in the future of media (more opinion).

And we know what people do when faced with that …. assist journalistic media panic to scare the reading public.

(Tapped on the train)

Being the evidence with you

Before parents read this week’s outrageous media panic about minecraft turning their kids into fat, aggressive school drop outs … write this on the kitchen fridge.

“There is no consistent evidentiary basis to show video games are bad for the health and welfare of children”.

One reason for this is a persistent realist assumption that linear use (time spent) is a valid measure. It’s the basis of the body of psychologist arguments and experiments who believe it … and has been spurious ever since it first appeared in the late nineties. But games not being bad doesn’t make sensational headlines.

Too much time playing games makes Jon a lazy, meth head who failed school and now worship guns. They will charge you the price of a new Toyota to brainwash you into believing it, but won’t cure it (cure what?) Or remove a parents natural anxiety over the effects of media.

Just read the fridge. It’s way cheaper and will lead to feeling less scared.

Be what you want them to be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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