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.


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 …

Do you have the keys to tomorrow?

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Lin Pernille Photography

I recently wrote about how I believe most of the innovation in education is being developed in individual’s downtime moments. This post is about why social-keys being used by Downtime Learners can lock a non-networked manager or organisation out of the future in under 140 characters. Ask a movie producer what a Tweet can do, not just for your movie, but for the entire future of an industry.

We see people using downtime so productively for personal development and connecting in public spaces, we hardly consider it a disruption. We don’t really think about it. So, imagine if a city street had 2000 phone boxes and a line of 10 people at each. Imagine no one on the phone every hung up and the line never moved. Technology has not only enabled this to be possible, it creates a society which virtual people walk among the non-virtual. We cannot tell who is human and who is cyborg, what they are doing or what they want because cyborgs use coded-keys.

My theory is that much of the convenient debate around classroom learning and distance education assumes people work at home in largely the same way the do on campus. It doesn’t fully consider other alternatives.

I didn’t understand this until I started playing online games. Now it makes so much sense that  I use it all the time, If I was smarter, I’d write a book about being a life-coach and tell people how to do the same. Except it wouldn’t work, though I might sell a lot of books.

What I didn’t talk about in my original post was the power and importance of key generation and exchange.

This are really important aspects, usually also ignored and one of my pet hates about professional ‘fly-in and fly-out’ developer. They don’t get the idea of keys or downtime – or if they do, this isn’t their business. I’m not saying what they do or say isn’t good or useful, just that it’s up-time learning, and so completely different.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by El Bibliomata

The significance of keys to Downtime Learner Theory

The key to getting in to college is to get a standardised key (the score) from a key-giver (the teacher). This is the game of education. The key to getting a job is to have further key, from another teacher using a score.

Society likes keys. It uses them to symbolise and create order, They are physically and metaphorically used select who enters society and who can’t – and at what level. Early books had keys so that only the right people learned to read them. Personal Diaries had keys. Even today, vast amounts of information is under lock and key – from walled University systems, to journal databases and even the private ‘communities’ we see training teachers in technology. As a society we are public and private keys obsessive in regard to to both information and knowledge networks. We love our keys, and like to assume only a small group of people can make them, and choose who will be issued with them to play the game. Think of the corporate firewall. You log in, you don’t have permissions, you only see what you need to see, based on they keys you hold already. Downtime learning is life-hacking, and we see how much organisations like (or tolerate) this though their actions.

Connectivism uses highly encrypted keys to function as a digital-theory. This too is not understood very well by outside observers. Both knowledge and information that is created, processed and re-issued in these networks is always in some way incomplete and coded. Each time data is placed online, be that a Tweet or a blog post, the creator carefully codes the message. Unlike a catchy inane headline like “7 ways to make you rich” or “10 people who are the best teachers on the web” – coded keys that pass between tight networks don’t need to ‘advertise’ or resort to ‘link-baiting’. The public text is only part of the cipher. You cannot know what it actually means, just by reading it. So, why people tell other people to get on Twitter is beyond me. It’s not as simple as hitting the follow button.

Downtime learners quickly learn to code their efforts for all sorts of reasons. Over time, their network(s) become socially-saturated and impossible to read without sufficient keys. This makes the U-Boat problem the Allies had seem rather primitive. But as we’ve seen in nations using online networks in times of conflict, can have life and death outcomes. This saturation process (which can be initiated by an organsation) effectively starves it as the cycle progresses. This has dramatic implications for organisations as no initiative to ‘social-media-ify’ teachers will be sustainable without really thinking hard about leakage and coding. Public declarations are only ever a partial communiqué, and never intend to use the codes that those outside it might prefer.

Welcome to cybercuture, maybe we don’t want to fit in, maybe we do.

One problem ed-tech salesmen face is that in 90% of the time they spend in front of teachers, they don’t exchange satisfactory numbers of encoded keys to fully explain themselves. Have you sat in a presentation? Did you get all the key’s you needed to unpack each slide? Of course not, that’s the game. This is why so much of PD around technology is ineffective. it’s still lecture/tutorial thinking.

People simply want a glass of water – and instead are given the severed head of a giraffe.

Finally I want to take a pot shot at the word ‘community’. A network doesn’t need someone else to make a community. It needs to teach everyone in the room how to be a community and then find other communities. Cattle-Pen communities only suit the Cattlemen. It’s another word for loyalty programme.

Just because you join, doesn’t mean you will get to exchange all they keys you’d like to. Most of the time, the owners of the community prompt key exchanges between their flock, but use high levels of encryption between the elite to ensure that they remain alpha-leaders. This creates tremendous bias and reshaping of what people actually get to talk about, do or become. Downtime learners with key’s don’t need to join these, and in most cases are not interested. On the flip side, Cattle-Communities make no in-roads into other communities, simply because they have a flag to wave. No one cares if you’re a Google Certified Teacher. As a parent, I just hope you’re a good teacher – as a colleague, I hope you can help my network solve problems.

So why bother with online networks at all? – Because this is where the keys to innovation lie and these keys are essential to decoding information and knowledge between humans.  The velocity of this inside networks is impressive. Imagine if you had something to say, and it took three years for it to be said – and only a handful of people read it and only a small proportion of those responded in another publication years later.

My mission (if I have one) is to try and create experiences where teachers remain human experts they always were and exchange the right keys with increasing relevance and velocity to their community. This starts with one key between two people.

There are ways to do this, especially with games, but I don’t much feel like explaining it right now. What matters is to think about whether or not downtime and keys matter to your future. Do you actually need them or want them between tomorrow and the day you plan to retire? Would we in fact be where we are without it, and be thankful that to get to this point, teachers have become fiercely  independent life-hackers. Without resistance, we might well be worse off.

10 Ways for leaders to use Twitter effectively

For most people using Twitter as a Personal Learning Network, it’s a whirlpool of conversation – a duel-band mechanism that’s disruptive, constructive, insightful and meaningless all at the same time. It’s fun and helps people deal with the flow of unconscious thought that otherwise would be silent – or go un-answered.

This is an important skill for for leaders, by which I mean those in official office.

I am not saying all leaders need to be on Twitter – it really depends on leadership style and ideology, but for those that do create Twitter accounts, should be pro-actively managing several streams of conversations, for the organisational benefit. This requires careful consideration as Twitter is ‘now’ technology offering a participatory culture if used well, and a boring monologue used badly. So here are 10 ways to do this.

What really useful ways can Leaders use Twitter?

Announcements seems to be a simple starting point, made all the better with a short explanation of why it matters, and who should pay attention. The effective Tweet works like this if you’re a leader.

1. Compose a purposeful Tweet.

  1. What is it about
  2. Why does it matter
  3. Who is it for
  4. Whats the reward

Then you are likely to see generative responses in all sorts of new ways. While not requiring 100% @replies, leaders should at least consider what was said and acknowledge a range of people in a reasonable time to their responders. Simply dumping a link, making a comment and not following up is what many on Twitter see as being wrong with leadership communication and perhaps demonstrates very effectively how little they know about their workforce. This is problematic with meta-leaders too, ignoring new voices is ignoring new ideas. Personally, I try to follow people back who ‘ping’ me, which helps me manage relationships better than simply following-back people who say nothing to me.

2. Consider your audience

“[link] this is awesome” doesn’t give any context – so likely to be subject to as much negative reaction as positive. We’ve all seen Tweets like this – “wow, check this video”. Sadly it linked to Shift Happens 1, to some it’s news but to others – where have you been! is that how you see me!

A more considered Tweet might be “[link], this still has relevance” and link to Shift Happens 1. That would allow those who have seen it to offer a more positive response and allow newer people to discover the first of several iterations.

3. Provide a context

“[link] Interesting for ESL, has new ideas in it we could use” – (everyone)

“[link] Interesting for ESL, has new ideas in it we could use #mysystem” (your system)

4. Explain the depth of the issue or problem

Twitter is a platform, not a solution – so sending people to your own reflections is now considered to be a sign of strong leadership. It’s important therefore to consider the duration, depth and extent of the likely responses. Twitter + Blog = Data that can be analysed and conclusions drawn. It might not be optimal, but for now it is a very effective way of reaching staff who are connected to the metaverse and are at one level or another responding to the several shifts in information, connections, knowledge and preferences.

5. Extend the dialogue

“[link], I’ve blogged my reflections on this issue” is an invitation to a slow blog conversation

“[link] could we use this #mysystem” is an invite to a rapid Twitter conversation.

6. Build your reputation by feeding your audience

If you find, as a leader that you have the fortune to have a thousand followers, you actually have a 1000 potential hungry minds wondering if you’re interested in them. Twitter is always more about the reader than the writer, so be mindful of what you feed them. Aspirational messages are boring, people only respond to things they see as relevant AND achievable.

7. Encourage social inclusion and diversity

Actively consider who you follow to ensure at least gender diversity and a spread of interests. This says something to your followers, it makes you dynamic, not single dimensional.

8. Help others build their PLN

Use Twitter lists, so staff can see who you follow in a structured way – #primaryteachers #librarians #mentors #inspirations etc., It helps everyone make more sense of how you see the world and how they might relate or fit into that vision. A lack of vision, lack of empathy, lack of consideration sends an equally powerful message.

9. Model Risk Taking

To encourage teachers to take risks in their classroom, demonstrate captaincy. Leaders need to help people build authentic learning networks – well beyond the local workplace. Model how to do this. Show an interest in their Twitter views – and their blogs. Timely and genuine responses from leaders have a major impact – we want you to lead us. If you don’t, avoid complaining when meta-leaders disrupt the serenity.

Leadership is earned on Twitter, through hard work and a willingness to help at a moments notice. If you’re too busy to do this – don’t assume your position of authority affords this absolutely. The Internet doesn’t care about you per se.

10. Find another platform for open dialogue

There’s nothing really wrong with not Tweeting or not Blogging if you’re an effective communicator with those under command – and already effecting these shifts in school culture, curriculum and techno-pedagogic strategy without it. Most of all, don’t hide in your private yammer-land. That network has a very different set of variables. Its useful, but in different ways. It’s not a church. Take a walk on the wild side every once in a while – see what else is going on.

Opinions that lead to change are rarely agreed (initially)

Don’t attempt to police Twitter, by hammering people if their views are other than your own with policy. You might be surprised to learn lots of people on Twitter initially met because of fierce disagreement, have now become close allies and friends. Grown ups can do that. A role for leadership is to notice both sides of the debate and help them not simply to resolve it, but find the common ground that both can use to do something useful. This might not be a visible Twitter conversation, but needs to happen. If not you might just be missing out on the best opportunity that came your way all year.

Can anyone point to leaders doing this really well? I’d like to follow them.

I don’t get Twitter!

How important is networked knowledge? Why should you learn about personal learning networks? You’re doing just fine as you are, why is it important?

As information communication technology expands, the amount of documentation, reports, papers and internet content an organisation generates also expands. This plays out in the atomised chatter of emails that it generates in the organisation.

We talk about information overload – but the process of creating information seems to create more information communication. A 1000 word report realistically means you will read 5×1000 words and get 50 emails.

Comparatively  ‘web-enabled’ common interest groups that share a common goal are able to solve problems, often with hundreds of people involved who never meet face to face.

Organising your organisation can be a crippling task. The odds of 30 people reaching a consensus, based on face to face discussion, is low. Conversely ‘web’ groups intrinsically understand participation and collaboration. They generate self-regulating organisations to solve problems (or try to) so don’t concern themselves with hierarchy or worry about failure – if enough people participate, even once, it will succeed. This is the story of Wikipedia.

Think about that. The process of trying to ‘get organised’ inhibits performance and marginalises people in the organisational process. If you don’t agree with the direction – you have to convince a critical mass to change. You are all in the one organisation, so you can’t leave and at the same time can’t progress. It’s the tragedy of the commons played out in meetings around the world every day.

I think that getting 50 people working to solve a common problem is actually quite easy. I only know it is easy because I’ve learned how to do it. We do this inside groups on Facebook, Ning and Twitter.  Its amazing how much you learn in 140 characters that you can’t from 100,000 word publication.

Academics and corporations are talking about this is as ‘cloud networking’. The goal is achieved through the people in the network. We succeed by learning how to succeed (I know, it’s bizarre).

This has a direct impact on the organisation that you work in. You have access to networked knowledge and can do more than you could without it.

What is a Personal Learning Network (PLN)

Say you are in a meeting with 10 people, all trying to figure out a problem. No one knows (or agrees on) the answer. You orbit the problem for an hour, and agree to meet again after you go and read up on it.

What if you were in the same meeting, with the same problem, and 5 of those people had access to networked knowledge instantly via the internet. 5 people ask 5000 the same question. The odds of getting traction on your problem are massively increased – as the people who reply have already read up on it, and they are not stuck in your meeting for 2 hours, more like 2 minutes.

The chances of failure are reduced as your network grows. You don’t need to know all the answers, you just need to know how to connect the question to the right networks. As a whole network, then it can take on governments. That was obvious in the Obama Election Campaign.

You have to put back into the network, but that time is offset by the amount of time you save.

The reply I give to the ‘I’m too busy, I don’t know how you find the time’ statement is “It’s easy, I don’t have to know it all, I know where and who to go to and create new knowledge from what they have.”

I don’t need to re-invent the wheel over and over. I will get help more often than I strike out . This to me is the critical thinking and network literacy skills I want my own kids to have – and I hope that they will have teachers who understand that.

It’s an almost ‘Borg’ like scenario, and I can appreciate why it seems so un-imaginable to people on the outside. “I don’t get Twitter! – What do I do?” – It’s not Twitter you don’t get, it’s the value of instant connectedness that you don’t get. Why would you?

Personal Learning Networks are cyclic. As you learn more, you build a capacity to share and do more – and there’s always someone new to help. You are not a time-lord, but it can feel like it – as there are moments where you see a problem and get an instant solution, saving your hours of ‘research’ or ‘trial an error’.

The groundswell that is seeing massive growth in educational ‘activism’ has the ability to tackle governments can also solve your ‘how do I convert a jpg file to a gif’ file questions.

PLNs don’t care about FAQs, because they can deal with CAQs (constantly asked questions). They don’t care about how they are organised because they don’t need to have anything more than and IP address to act as powerful learning nodes.

The knowledge is the network and that belongs to all of us – it’s there if you want it. Just ask.