Gaming for power

It’s fair to say that many kids feel like they have little power over the world around them. From a young age, parents and teachers introduce them to the idea of power through media such as film and books, but also though the interchange between adults that kids watch around them. For some kids, school can be a place where they feel relatively powerless. The day is pre organised by a teacher (who did a deal with parents to get them dropped off daily). The things they learn about are directed by teachers, and the rules about what you can and can’t do are upheld by the teacher. You can choose to ‘fail’ or mess about, but generally speaking, teachers gang up with parents and the end result is even less power.

If however you are given access to virtual spaces where you can build up a sense of power (being good a your favourite game) then it makes perfect sense to want to tap into that feeling when you have had some gut-wrenching experience where someone has used their power to smash your confidence or to further erode your reputation with your immediate peers. If you’re lucky, you’ll have “best friends” who support you – but even such cases, most kids have to work very hard at maintaining those relationships – and it’s even harder to do when you feel more powerless than usual. You might have flunked a test, become the target of some kids smart-ass remarks today, fallen over to the amusement of others … there is an in-exhaustible number of things that reduce a kids perception of their power and confidence in school – or at home.

So if your child is feeling a little powerless, they might not tell you. They might not even know themselves. You might look at their patterns of play. You might notice their changing interest in their choice of games. You might notice they change the kind of class they play. They might start getting into more ‘risky’ situations … they are probably seeking to get back some of that power-drain.

Kicking them off the computer for playing “too much” might inhibit some of their need to ‘take back some power’ at the very time they are needing some. I’m not suggesting games solve issues of power, but they do help kids work though some fairly difficult problems when they can’t ‘see’ other ways to do them. Each era has media that speaks to kids, whether its Marlon Brando, James Dean, The Breakfast Club or Buffy, there have been media that kids have found some empathy with.

Parents struggle to deal with boy-power and girl-power, so I’m not suggesting games are a surrogate or are something to allow in the hope that kids who are anxious will ‘snap out of it’. What they are looking for are ways to build up their self-efficacy and confidence as the world opens up to them. A badge won’t do that. They need to find meaningful work.

Some teachers clearly know how to do this, and some don’t. Same with parents. But don’t hate Minecraft because they like to play it so much, just consider how powerful they are in the game – and ask yourself, if they feel that good all the time? It might just lead you to discover something you didn’t know about them and how they feel.

If you can’t hear or see joy when they play, do not try to measure the hours played in order to rationalize it. Check their happiness meter, your kid might need a power up in some other way. That’s where the parenting wisdom comes in.

When life begins to imitate games

Games are all examples of hyper-reality. In that regard today’s video-games should be thought of more like Disneyland. For kids, the experience of hyper reality becomes more real than the reality they were designed to imitate. Let me unpack that a bit. Minecraft is a simulation of the world. It has some ludic rules about what happens when player meets creeper, but it is designed to be hyper-Disneyland of the players imagination. Because of Notch’s inspired method of constructing the environment, Minecraft (more than any other game in history) allows for mass production and reproduction. Minecraft is not a game or simulation – if looked at from a hyper-reality perspective. I once was, when Notch and a few people played it, but now it is a lanaguage – able to convey meaning, ideas, systems and rules. That is what makes it so powerful, it’s the first true hyper-real game that broke the rules of language.

Take school for example, it uses language to enforce the rules and conventions of society. It limits the way students learn, because it demands they bow down to functional language tools, upheld by aging taxonomies such as the infamous “Bloom” – compare, list, find and so on. Schools doesn’t tolerate any development of ‘new language’ at all. What a language does is enable the communication of information, feelings, ideas, and the like by establishing systemsand rules that people learn. And just as there is grammar for writing and speaking, so there are rules for hyper-reality. Minecraft is perhaps the most complex example of this I can think of.

It’s also a perfect ‘sign’ of why so many people in society simply can’t grasp even the simplest elements of ‘hyper-reality’. Today for example, the news media were salivating over a political party ‘buying’ Twitter followers for their leader. The leader is completely unable to ‘speak’ to anyone via Twitter (he’s not alone) – as he doesn’t have the language to do so.

We’re dealing with a hyper-real world in which signifiers and the signified can only be understood by learning new language, so if you’re kids is playing Minecraft … they are learning about signs – what is signified and what are the signifiers in a hyper-reality immersed society. And that’s not a bad thing at all – as life has always imitated art to some degree.

Minecraft Whisperer #1.1

Sooner or later, your Minecraft kid will discover Minecraft forums and go looking for a server. It is amazing how many great servers there are online now. In just a few years, the number of family-appealing servers has grown exponentially. And the best ones are run by kids.

Right now, my kids are playing on Co-Co, run by Panda. It has a vibrant economy and I’ve been amazed at how quickly my kids have come to understand the basics or a market economy and entrepreneurship. For example, the arrival of horses in the game has created a demand for horses obviously – so breeding them for sale is one way to earn money and get experience/rank. But to breed horses you need to feed horses, so my kids have developed quite a sophisticated ranch, trail rides and supplies business.

Power up your kids imaginative learning system

They are past the point where they need to put their hand up for help, and they certainly enjoy the freedom to earn and learn, as they are driving the thing that I see as most valuable in raising kids – imagination. They play before school for about half an hour – once they are ready to roll, and after school before dinner. I’ll write next time about how this works, as I have a system that I think most parents struggling with Minecraft time management would like … but in the mean time … consider asking your kids which servers they are using, and ask them what they like about them, or don’t.

Make a list and keep asking so that you can get some sense of what is important to them. For example, Miss10 says that a server admin with a sense of humour is essential, and Mr12 says an admin who doesn’t treat him like a child. Mr7 just likes a server where he doesn’t have to beg for land or resources.

Teach them to foreground and background media channels and people

The interesting thing is, they never talk about language and trolls – because over time, we’ve talked about this and have backgrounded these things. This is an important area of research ‘how do kids learn to foreground and background media in a 24/7 cycle?”

All kids in contemporary-western-digital-societies should know how and when to foreground and background media channels and the behaviours of people on them.  As schools seem to not be at a point this might make sense (they focus on cybersafety and digital-citizenship tropes) — I think playing Minecraft teaches kids how to background and foreground media in way that schools don’t right now. They are too busy banning or allowing which is a useless way to think about media forms and use.

So, go try out some server with your imaginative adventurers … it’s fun.

Minecraft Whisper#1.2

It takes courage to play Minecraft. Unlike many games, it isn’t obvious what to do or how to do it. In today’s information economy, playing means also spending many hours watching videos and reading forums in order to perfect that in-game build.

I takes more courage for a kid to ask a parent for help — especially if they are not geek-empowered parents. A parent who tries to help is a power-up for their relationship. Kids do better when adults help them – and the key word there is help. Mum is trying to install mod-loader, Dad is watching a video on Forge and my brother has port-forwarded a computer so we can run a server.

No one is going to teach a family how to do this, there are no classes or qualifications. It’s a prime example of why parent’s can’t assume ‘school’ will prepare kids for a media-life at all.

Many schools make kids the subject of learning: force them to make wikis; blogs and so on. It’s a great way for teachers to stay in-charge. But If parents want to see their kids learning power [and not rely on vague standardised reporting] get involved with their Minecraft world.

Yes it takes parent courage when your friends say “you’re playing Minecraft? OMG, why?” … reply with “I’m supporting my kid by unleashing their imagination”. There nothing embarrassing about having a kid who’s an engineer and artist.

Minecraft Whispering #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copy this down

It has been popular to state that the Internet has moved from ‘read’ only (consumers) to read/write (sharers and co-creators). It has been repeated by thousands of citizen-journalists to become somewhat of a trope in online-edu-culture.

Plagiarism is still frowned upon as being cheating, where as collecting other peoples work is now called curating or following. I spent half my career being an artist. I like to spend at least 2-3 hours a week drawing. I learned to be an artist by doing two things, accepting the world cannot be made stable, but people can be made to pay attention. The second is less philosophic – it’s good old fashioned copying. It takes a lot of time to select the right things to copy. It takes a lot of reading and deciding what is worth copying, and who from. It takes even more time to decode the artwork and copy it faithfully. Finally, you get to add that small new addition or twist of your own.

I hassled out my kids this week to do some copying using a Windows 8 Slate, pressure-sensitive pen and Sketchmaster Pro. We headed into the always mind-melting Deviant Art and they selected some sketches which they mercilessly control-c’d and control-v’d into Sketchmaster. For the rest of the week they learned how to trace the lines, how lines are just taking the mind for a walk – and how the software works by experimenting and me showing them how to copy brilliantly. In fact you can buy a Slate for about $500 which is half the price of a Wacom 13″ and doesn’t need a computer – and get really good results.

There’s no shame is copying. Copying teaches pattern recognition, how lines and text hold the ideas and best of all copying always gives immediate context. There’s nothing abstract or fuzzy about copying. Copying is essential to games-media evolution. Players seeking to learn, need to have things to copy from. They actually hate fuzzy, vague and incomplete rhetoric. Unlike school, there’s no philosophic argument over the degree it exists.  I games, there’s no room for rhetoric and show-boating. You can’t fake your way to level 90 in Warcraft, like you can in Powerpoint.

Over time, players perfect the critical skill of selecting what is worth copying and applying to their game. I think gamers tend to make things for the intentional purpose of being copied. They don’t do what many educatoring-gurus do – lead you down the garden path of potential, only to sell you something vague at the end you have to still figure out. It’s all clear and explict. My kids tune out if I try to BS them about how to do a quest or build something in Minecraft. You can’t fool them for a minute, let alone years. My kids can spot a ‘tech’ BS-Artist in under 30 seconds. In gaming, you can always get the answer, but that’s not the objective at all … unlike school where knowing the answer is 99% of being called “smart”. Kids dont’ want to repeat the answers … that’s not the kind of copying I’m talking about.

I question the value of copying in class, as it seems a hightly productive element of how kids are learning out of it. I don’t mean copying information (that’s stupid), I mean being able to trace and copy methodology and then apply to something that matters. It doesn’t have to be unique or even innovative. I can just be a copy and still have validity. Pilots copy the perfect landing, musicians copy tone and music samples, doctors copy proceedures.

As a parent, I’m here to say that I encourage my kids to copy it. I know won’t dent their creativity or make them bored. I point out how something is made, how to assemble it and pull it apart and get them to do it over and over until the master it (or get bored). There’s no moving on ’till they do – because that’s how the world works. No shortcuts – sit on Twitter all day, you still won’t get the kind of free-handout to make more sense of the world, just become a zombie-sheep I guess.

Kid’s don’t have to make new new new and unique unique unique – until THEY want to. I suspect kids are being pushed into ‘innovation’ as some weird teacher construct – as the trope that gave us ‘the shift’ has the sequel “the innovative teacher’. Rubbish, copy everything, steal the lot and stand on top of the pile. That’s how to rule the world.

Minecraft’s Notch is the new Rodin.

Minecraft again today.  Just a quick post as I wait for a machine to finish a dull task.

I thought I’d introduce parents to a theory of learning called “contructionism”. As thats probably not interesting, I’ll skip to a few points that are – why Minecraft is the best FREE design teacher you’ll ever meet.

Minecraft encourages two of forms of learning that teachers would see as absolutely brilliant in their classroom (if they could magically have anything they wanted). These things are also REALLY important to “design thinking” which is another really ‘hot’ topic in how to get kids to think critically about problems and coming up with solutions.

So what are they? Perspective-Talking and Object Construction. These two topics have been mulled over by academics for decades, as they are all about our relationships with knowledge – or put another way – how do we get smarter.

Minecraft forces kids to ‘de-centre’ their view point and take someone else’s point of view. That might be in the game with another player as they make something, or it might be when they try to explain what they are making to you (the awesomely important parent and praise giver). It might be in a forum debating which is the best solution to a redstone problem or disagreeing with a YouTube “Let’s Play” video which is WRONG.

Despite outward appearances, Minecraft is not all about the player – it’s actually more about their relationship to knowledge (how to get more of it, ditch the rubbish and improve the wobbly bits).

Object construction gives them a kind of “gods eye view” of the world they are making. But they can’t succeed if this is their only view. It’s one BIG reason parents need to play with their kids in the game, not just moan about it and why allowing one person to have all the power tends to suck for the rest of us. Relate that to life – anyone know someone with a god-complex that likes to rule over everything? Did you read the Hunger Games?

In order to build knowledge Minecraft uses imagination to teach kids that they are not actually gods, ruling over the game or others, no matter how many tantrums they pull. The game-world works in certain ways only. If they really want to change the way the world works, then they need to learn how to ‘mod’ it. Is this not the same message ‘self improvement’ pundits like to talk about? Don’t take the world as it is, but take action to improve and change it?

By playing Minecraft, kids learn when they start to learn from opposites, forge new relations and separating ideas about the game-world, they have relevance to the real world. I’m yet to meet a kid playing Minecraft that’s a sheep. They are all goats who like to do whatever they want. That’s powerful stuff, but it’s also massive thing to learn, and Minecraft (can) do it really well. (With great power comes great responsibility). You tend to only hear about the ‘bad Minecraft’ in the media of course. But trust me “good Minecraft” can be used to tackle just about anything positively too. Notch has put down the ground work, but parents clearly need to be on deck to help their children make use of this new found knowledge and agency.

This form of learning (yes, learning) is not at all unlike the way science is taught under constructionist methods. If fact, it’s endorsed by your local school. I’ll just use Science to illustrate here. There is a borad consensus that children’s learning depends critically on their ideas about science, scientists and experiments. Minecraft is just a science lab by another name. The fact it can replicate this experience without a teacher or curriculum at all is just one of the many unique qualities games have, and most schools don’t’. It’s powerful stuff, and of course disrupts how we see ‘learning’. As with science, the way we ‘learn’ it can result in active identification with it (Science is awesome) or alienation (Science is rubbish). It’s the same with computer and video games, how we (you, me and others) learn about them matters a great deal. Remember I said – perspective talking. That’s what is happening all the time when playing Minecraft.

Take social media in schools and collages. No one’s learning about them as a subject, in fact most schools BAN them completely. Yet in order to make sense of the world, students need to learn about them (just as they do science) if they are to function in parts of the world where online is just part and parcel of life. Teaching them only about ‘fear’ is like only teaching them about “when science goes bad” and in fact education spends vasts about of time trying to build “wicker men” from any technology it doesn’t understanding (like games).

My point is, that simply allowing kids to play Minecraft in school would be far better than giving they stupid cyber safety chats, quizzes and lectures by the local police. Kids don’t turn learning off and on, like teachers sometimes turn the job on and off (bells). You can’t tell a kid that games are not learning and you can’t stop them learning when a game like Minecraft is so optimally tuned into the most powerful educational theories out there. The irony of course is that ‘culture’ get’s in the way and most educational administrators have not themselves learned the value of perspective talking and can’t separate the game from the objective.

Designers sort out what object mean to them or others; then they selectively connect features of an object and features of a CONTEXT into a coherent unity. This belongs here because, this works here because, I am happy here because and so on. Over time, designers build up a lot of knowledge and understanding about how to place and connect objects in the world, so as to give them situated meaning to others. BIG examples: Egyptian pyramids, great sailing ships, statues, buildings, vehicles.

Now ask yourself, what is MY kid doing in Minecraft … playing AND learning to be a designer? – How are they relating DESIGN in the real world to themselves and others in the game-world?. How does copying from the board do this? How does filling out a worksheet do this? How does listening to a lecture do this?

It doesn’t. Kids put up with it, because kids have no power at all in school – despite dubious claims from educational advoates about how technology ’empowers students’. Rubbish, one persons in charge, the dude at the front. And that dude has no clue about games like Minecraft, so will avoid it like the plague.

Most of all, according to the theory, the construction of meaning is most potent when learners are engages in building external and sharable facts. Minecraft is all about those things.

To the generations past, Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Thinker” was the prototypical image of thinking. Notch gave us a new image, one which is a now prototypical of todays “thinkers”. They happen to look like boxy-stick-people, but really, Notch’s design for the new thinker is right up there with Rodin in terms of art and craft.

Most kids don’t play video-games it turns out.

A consistent comment I get from parents, experiencing anxiety and feuds with boys over video games is that “the game” is ruining family life and addictive. There is an imagined cultural portrait in which boys are habitual game users who become anti-social and disconnected.

A report has emerged from the annual E3 Games Showcase (for next years titles) that paints a different story – one likely to be ignored by mass-media. 

In 2010, the Entertainment and Software Association famously told us that only 18% of game players are under the age of 18. In 2011, they said 29% of gamers were over the age of fifty. They also said that women over the age of 18 represented significantly greater proportion of game-players (37%) than boys 17 or younger (13%).

Most significantly for parents, the average age of a video game purchaser is 41, and of those roughly half are female – despite ongoing controversy over the way women are represented in games. 19% of these gamers – pay to play – in online games, but 65% of all gamers play online with other people.

At E3, they released more information for 2013. The average age of player has fallen to 30 years old (from 37) and the largest segment of gamers are 36 and older.

For parents whom might other wise assume game-developers target kids, the reality is less than 20% of kids play games at all. Of the $20.77 billion dollars spent in 2012, more than half is spent by players over the age of 30 who have been playing for 13 years or more. Of that 45% of female. Despite the media-haters focus on violence and sexualisation in games – 90% of the games made have an “E” rating – as in “everyone” and of that 78% of the players play with other people for at least one hour a week and 35% of families consider ‘gaming’ to be a family-activity. In extensive studies of parent opinion of ratings, almost 90% said they used the ERSB ratings system in decision making. Despite anecdotal comments that parents pay little attention to ratings – it is worth saying over 90% of games are either E (Everyone), E10+ (ten and over) or Teen (T).

Hear all, see all, say nowt.


Having convinced the world that the e-society is real, and that giving electronic goods, adapt at electronically emptying your bank account is all in the the name of “modern life”.

The SMH has reported yet again the problem with in-app predatory behaviour. This time a 3 year old feeding a virtual horse mummy’s bank account. So, let’s form a possé and get the bad guys here.

What I worry about here is not the design thinking behinds app – but the thinking inside education where there is clearly mass endorsement of brands which carry this software.Is this leadership or something else.

To me, the nexus of education/media/technology/profit is an increasingly abusive relationship, simply another form ‘media violence’. This violence is cohesive, emotional and financial. It prays on false dictomies, idioms and lack of parent education towards digital literacy and popular culture. On occasion, these big brands inflict deeply hurtful feelings and unleash financial terror on parents – but damn, the iPad is great for maths. It’s knowing someone who only sometimes smacks his girlfriend in the face and steals her money. We know it, but we are happy to endorse it – because we are – as writers have pointed out for a decade – the comfortably numb generation. Yet the media love gadgets – and use media-personalities to obfuscate the potential effects on society, particularly those whom are least able to afford it, or have least power to prevent it.

I wrote a post about being a sucker in 2010, having been looted by Apple via  game called Zombie Farm. Yes, I was a total SUCKER. But since then, the situation has got worse, as popular culture accepts in-app content is a way of “life”.

While you can find out how to try and stop in-app scumbag predators, the SMH piece is stark reminder that many adults lack the education required to deal with things being routinely issued to children. Apple might not have returned the call, however the standard excuse is that they simply provide a service, it’s the developer who actually provides the app. Please read out 300,000 word terms.

But let’s be fair, Apple came up with the idea, but Google, Facebook soon joined in.

Apple takes a 30 percent cut of every app sold for $0.99 and more on the App Store. Actually, that’s the going rate for any app store, including Android and the other stores that support Android apps.

In addition, Apple and Google make 30 percent for every in-app purchase. So, any additional services or features that you charge for in your app are also charged at 30 percent. Most developers took this extra fee in stride because they are making so much money from it.

Virtual horse food in Apple’s world is  a consumable, and there’s no requirement of developers to provide a ‘restore’ function to return any money or ‘virtual item’ if it’s used or deleted. You can get the app back, but not the things you bought (and your horse ate) – are Gonski.

These things are almost mandatory business strategy. They hold the player hostage by denying them success, unless they pay for it. They use ‘virtual’ things such as food, water, magic potions. Buy or die being the bottom line. For parents, there’s no way of knowing what the horse ate or when – what am I saying, there is no horse! Parents also been socially stupid to even admit that they let their kid do this. Basically, you are pressing a button which transfers money to the developer, and Apple and Google take 30% each time.

It’s not like DLC in games where you get a new texture pack, map and so on. This stuff vanishes in seconds. It’s not game-design it’s predatory – but Apple and Google make the rules, and there are plenty fo scumbags (besides Activision) churning out games for the sole purpose of mainlining your bank account via your children. And it’s all perfectly legal.

At what point did educators (mostly teachers) get sucked into this disgusting and un-ethical practice. Easy, iPads are amazing, they are learning tools …. they change everything … Google Apps are awesome, here’s a badge to prove it – look your teacher is a Google Teacher and an Apple Distinguished Educator, Trust us, we would never do harm.

Hide in the weasel words of the terms and conditions or drink from the technological determinism of the ‘revolution’ all you like. School leaders have systematically invited this kind of predatory behavior into the lives of children by endorsing it.

The developers (server) is allowed to track those purchases. The greater commercial value is found when there are millions of people providing market intelligence data on servers which Apple doesn’t have to concern itself with at all.

I find it utterly ridiculous that educational leaders have the hide to stand in front of powerpoints and encourage teachers to endorse commercial profit over ethics and equity. Parents partly believe a three year old should “play” to learn because of this on-going subscription to the Edulandian dream-time, where is so exciting to go to a tech-conference and then to furnish every household with a device capable of emptying bank accounts.

Apple allows publishers to charge any amount for these purchases as long as it get’s 30%. Wiki Leaks founder Julian Assange recently said of this

“Progress” is driven by the inexorable spread of American consumer technology over the surface of the earth. Already, every day, another million or so Google-run mobile devices are activated.”

Like the sign says on the door – this is my opinion – that educational plays a vital role in the steps society takes. At a time where vast amounts of the ‘technology’ landscape (away from Google and Apple) are giving away money or setting up anti-consumer culture services such as AirB&B, Tool Libraries and so forth … schools currently are the very heart of Apple and Google’s relentless drive to make money – and have successfully co-opted the people who influence children the most outside of their parents.

I question the sanity of this – to be a great teacher, is to open children’s minds to the world via technology, to prepare them for future jobs which haven’t been invented. Are you on drugs? Especially those clowns who keep saying “get a PLN” – as in 8 out of 10 cat owners said their cat preferred Whiskas. Those drones don’t even teach, yet they endorse products which – like it or not, impact the home in ways no one seems to want to talk about at edulandian conferences.

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings.

Right now, your kids iPhone will chew data as they watch YouTube. Of course this could have a safety catch. A kid can buy all sorts of ringtones, wallpapers and other crap just as easily. Yet, a smartphone is a must, a school with 1:1 laptops is the pinnacle of ‘leading’.

But this is, of course not going to get better – this is part of the generational psychosis that allows us to ‘hope’ for everything and ‘deny’ personal involvement when things go bad. It’s the mob-rules mentality – and I seriously wonder what place commercial profit has in education – apart from ensuring the rich get richer and buy better stuff.

There is rising under employment of teachers well able to teach to the standards needed without narrow ‘products’ being either allowed or banned via the firewall and preferences of leaders. The ‘no significant difference’ problem cannot be masked by highlighting the odd ‘great’ story and calling in a journalist.

This rubbish only becomes real if we start to believe the ‘metrics’ have any relevance to the human experience. For example, this piece about a failed marketing strategy.

“As a showing of how badly the campaign has backfired on the brand, AussieMite’s Facebook page currently has 320 likes, while the Goodbye AussieMite page has grown to over 1000 likes since May 30, 2013.”


What next – when a course get’s too hard we can in-app the marks. We can blame our three year old for allowing a brand to loot our bank account, or accuse a video game of sending subliminal messages to addict kids … oh wait … yes we can – and it’s all “totes awesome”.

Thanks to Nic Halley for posting about this … I for one don’t endorse the whole-sale brainwashing of families in this way. In education, I hope (cause hope is also “totes awesome”) that there is a rational attempt to deal with the problem soon. Less focus on ‘cyber-fear’ – I mean ‘cyber-safety‘ and a far more imaginative curriculum that starts at pre-school, teaching families about the the dangers of using technology as a sucker. I expect the ABC will call me tomorrow and I’ll make a doco about this …

I checked the proposed national curriculum – and drew a blank. I checked the ISTE website – blank. Guess this will be one of those topics we don’t talk about too then.


How to talk to your kids about Minecraft

One concern with Minecraft is that parents often find it hard to ask kids good questions about it. The good news is that good questions don’t require specific jargon knowledge. Good  questions help kids who are poor at managing their time playing it. It’s something that they (and you) can learn and work on.

I make no bones about it, games like Minecraft are exciting and rewarding to kids, often in exact proportion to how boring school and TV is. If you want your kid to be creative-curious-adventurous, Minecraft is hands down better than watching hours TV or copying a set of facts the board in a classroom. But parents – all of us – find managing game time a challenge, as most of us have no experience of it until it manifests in the home.

So, how do parents get better at managing Minecraft? Well its a two part solution.

First, think about the location and second, use questions that relate directly to potential behavioural changes (in you and them). It’s not so hard … but you do have to think rather than react to your own emotions. Yelling doesn’t make it better, which is not to suggest that it’s an easy thing to avoid when she freaks-out as you yank the modem out the wall. We’ve all been there. The first step it to try and better manage the situation.

This is best to do this in two ways. First is about location. Sitting with them as they play (their zone) or in a neural zone (the park). Don’t summon them to the kitchen for a lecture – kitchens are for noms. The second is about using questions that have been shown to promote behavioral change away from regressing back to conflict.

So here are 10 questions that I’ve found work.

1. What are some of the skills that have contributed to your success? (insight)
2. What get’s in your way of success? here (insight)
3. What do you find most rewarding things to do? (motivation)
4. What additional skills or things could I (the parent) do to help them you feel even more successful? (abilities)
5. What do other people say about your Minecraft builds? (real world)
6. What have you said about other people’s builds? (accountability)
7. How much time do you think you play a week? (accountability)
8. Have you ever griefed someones Minecraft build? Why/why not? (accountability)
9. What makes a great Minecraft server ?(insight)
10. If a new person came to you to learn how to play this – is that something you’d like to teach them? (motivation)

Not an exhaustive list – but these are ten ways to talk about Minecraft in a positive way and avoid yelling at each other. I’d appreciate it if you added some more that you find useful too. :xd