Double standards

This is tapped out on my iPony.

My daughter had some assignment to do for “homework” which required the use of a computer and the Internet.
She’s in 4th Grade and school doesn’t provide either.

I take issue with her using her laptop for school homework. First, she is not allowed to take it to school. Second, not all kids go home to geek-houses. Third, she’s in public school. Last I checked, public education was supposed to be publically funded and all children have the same opportunities regardless of personal challenge, financial status and so on.

It is not big/clever to promote double-standards. If she can’t use it to learn in school – the way she does at home (10,000 mile distance between the two) then she will not use it at home for school.

I wince at the way some teachers in public schools see this as some kind of punk activity – a work around. Getting kids to use home networks for school work. Why? Because its more self-promotion and bubble-gum activism. It adds to the gruel and lack of balls to tell the system – rack off. Rethink how this should/could work.

If public education believes my child needs to use a home computer, then first recognise she can use one to higher standard than they imagine and secondly, if the same affordance is not given to all children (not just her class) then you are part of the problem – not the solution.

At a time public education is ripping 2 billion out – I for one don’t support the burden being passed to the home and I’m not about to sit by and high-five ir as a step forward.

If what is being asked is less than she can do already or I have some proof that teachers dabbling in CAL actually know something about it – I might entertain the idea.

As it is, I’d rather she spent time on the German Language site she’s wanted a subscription to – and got – which is banned in school.

Sorry if this ticks people off, but this kind of behaviour widens the equity gap and assists no one.

Don’t call it under ground or grassroots. It’s about the rights of kids being circumvented -again for no more reason that a few being able to Tweet about it. Go you, go innovation.

Minetest is good for schools

Currently there’s a war being fought over corporate copyright ownership. It’s not just in the courts, but in media-representation of morality. It’s vital the public believe the ideas created to keep ideas and information under limited ownership are important. For educators, I highly recommend downloading (legally) Steal this Film to gem up on what’s happening beyond your biome. This post is in part, showing how changes to how be perceive ownership lead people to different solutions many more benefit from.

This is for those who want to play Minecraft, but their computer is too old or slow to deal with that monster java power-drain.

It’s well known, Minecraft creator – Notch has strong views on the topic of software ownership such as

Trivial patents, such as for software, are counterproductive (they slown down technical advancement), evil (they sacrifice baby goats to baal), and costly (companies get tied up in pointless lawsuits).

This leads me to Minetest. It looks a lot like Minecraft and is a great example what I’m talking about here.

Take a casual look at it’s looks like a Minecraft rip-off – a clone, an infringement on copyright. How can they get away with this? Well, not everyone has bought into the ‘feed’ view of ownership of ideas – even creators of hugely popular titles such as Minecraft. In educator-brains, if Minetest isn’t copyright infringement, then it’s plagiarism! – Copying! Stealing … grab the redstone torches and get him!

You see, we’re teaching a generation that copying isn’t okay. Rubbish. It is a brilliant way to learn – especially when you’re a kid – especially if you’re a kid playing Minecraft.

Benefits for schools who won’t allocate money to ‘games’.

So if you’re looking for a way to talk to your kids about ‘copyright’ then Minetest is a great discussion point. If you just want a sandbox game, like Minecraft, that runs free and on older machines — then play Minetest. I would think that for what most classrooms might need, Minetest is a perfectly respectable way to introduce resistent schools and IT-guards to the idea. Now you don’t have to pay for it.

Why you should support the creator-verse.

But you should donate real money to Celeron55 here. Because if educators don’t get off this idea that something free this way comes eventually – very little ‘new’ things will be made at all. So support people who make stuff and give you stuff. Even if it’s a comment or a cup of coffee . Put your head out the window and wave some coin.

I promise you, education will only improve globally in exact proportion to the number of teachers who get off the free-roundabout being marketed to them at the Twitter-Bar.

Here come the Indigo-parents

The thing about having an ASD child is that each has specific social needs and challenge. There is no vanilla-middle solution for schoosl who prefer to aggregate day to day life. ASD kids (especially high functioning – who are often gifted and talented too) find themselves in a battle-ground and their parents soon learn more ammo means less problem.

It is not okay for school to ‘accommodate’ ASD kids. If, as a parent you want to survive school too, you have to be fairly ruthless at times. Whether you wrangle the public system or go private, it all comes down to negotiating what you want and getting it. Sitting back and hoping they have it covered never works out.

There are times where the school flatly refuses to provide the extra social skills and internal organisational skills that are needed in many cases. They offer try to convince you they’ve got it covered – making excuses and falling back on jargon and policy rhetoric or saying ‘they have a program’.  They often don’t, they just want you to give up – as ASD kids are challenging, never vanilla and require some effort.

If you are parenting a child with ASD the big-rules are simple.

Your child has a legal right to same educational opportunities as other children. This does not preclude social, civil, economic, political and cultural rights. This is protected by Univeral Human Rights to which Australia is a signatory, and specific Rights of the Child in Australia, which in recent years has been bolstered with greater ASD awareness.

Don’t accept the ‘we don’t have the money or time’ excuse. If that’s their view – be ruthless. It is their responsibility to find it because the law is not about accommodation of a personal belief of the staff – it’s only about the rights of the child. There is no ‘we can’t do anything option’ Sure they can, and it’s not being ‘difficult’ to take a shot over the bows to give them fair warning – you are not unaware of the legalities.

There is no school or department clause or weasel-worlds that negates or over-rides these rights. Sadly, the implementation is something for negotiation. So pick your fights wisely – negotiate first – but be prepared to stand up and take it further if and when needed. Chances are your resolve will be tested again and again.

A useful piece of ammo is this. In 2012 and 2013, the Australian government set aside additional funding. Again, it is the job of the school to know about this, and how to access it. If they don’t you have the right to point at it with a large stick and ask why not?

Services are being delivered in the 2012 and 2013 school years include:

b. the National Plan for School Improvement

c. the Review of the Disability Standards for Education

d. the introduction of the Australian Curriculum

e. the National Professional Standards for Teachers

It is reasonable to ask them to pay attention to these things and if they don’t know about them, work with you to find out. Being busy isn’t acceptable. If they refuse, ask them to put their refusal in writing and explain. It’s never no, it has to be no … because.

The reason human rights is a battleground, is due to the lack of human rights education in Australia. This was determined to be a national emergency by Father Frank Brennan’s National Human Rights Consultation in 2008. As recently as 2012, the United Nations continued to criticise Australia for the absence of a national strategy for educating children and young people about human rights.

As any parent of a child with ASD soon learns, one of the most powerful things you can do for your child is discuss human-rights in general with them and ensure that they know they don’t stand outside of society, but are have a right for society to make significant efforts towards their needs. And in school this means active, not passive.

For example. It isn’t acceptable for a primary school to high school transition to occur without both schools being very active in ensuring the child has effective support on day 1. It’s not something to work to, or to whine about lack of funding of. In some cases, school simply don’t return phone calls or emails, let along actually meet their legal obligations.

If your teacher, head of department or executive are fobbing your off, then you have options. One of the most attention-getting is to start blogging about the issue, the second is start finding out about online-support and advocacy groups such as http://www.autismspectrum.org.au. The problems kids will face – especially in high school are significant. Being an expert and an advocate really helps – but only if you are active and willing to stand your ground. Because guess what, your ASD kid isn’t equipped to deal with adults who don’t want to make the effort to understand them – which is why their rights are protected.

Games are not like Web2.0, they started with critical mass

It was suggested to me that games are not that practical in the classroom, that there is too much to do already, and finding times to play games would be nice, but unrealistic.

So I’d like to be realistic, and put forward that most commercial games are dripping in common types and principles of learning theories. Broadly speaking, research into games consistently identifies behaviourism, cognitivism, humanism and constructivism. There are clear relationships between these theories, game types, game functions and player interactions. At the same time pedagogy is cited as a major component of successful game-based-learning,

For the most part, instructional designers know little about game development and video game developers may know little about training, education and instructional design.

In relation to multi-player games, experiential learning theory presented by Kolb (1984) puts forward the principle that this form of learning  “requires no teacher and relates solely to the meaning-making process of the individual’s direct experience”.

So while to the left we have instructional designers, and to the right game designers – emerging in the middle are people intent on linking the two – not through novelty or token gestures, but seeing games as fundamentally being player-game and player-player interactions.

Inside most games, there is no ‘teacher’ role as teachers might see themselves. During a game session, meaning is constructed, transmitted and applied in social transactions. The function of the teacher, is not to teach, but to be an allotelic function on the game – to create game play where by players act according to outside goals and sources of motivation, embedded in the rules – and to facilitate that transaction. There is absolutely no reason to believe that these rules or transactions would not include the need to demonstrate knowledge or comprehension of mathematics, science, literature or language for example.

What I think is happening more and more is that teachers who see game based learning as a viable pedagogy are often interested in both game design and instructional design. This is perhaps an often not metioned by-product of Web2.0, as most teacher exploring Web2.0 are by neccessity exploring instructional design, often though play.

It seems logical that these people want to create and use game-worlds. To them a game-world is a natural and perhaps necessary evolution of online/distance learning – and quite often they describe their work though in humanstic terms and use a new learning theory – connectivism – to get together and make these things. It’s the ultimate robot-building-challenge, seeking the ultimate level up.

Think it’s too ambitious? I don’t, after all Gamers just solved a decade’s old medical problem in ten days. When gamers get funding, they get organised, when they get organised they put all that collective power to highly purposeful work. So the best way to not achieve this is simply not to give gamers money.

The challenge for games right now is not to get into the classroom, but to find ways to function away from them using the topologies that already exist. They’ll keep doing it while ever these networks of player-designers feel games are being excluded from the classroom.

Games are not like Web2.0, they already have a critical mass and experienced learners willing to volunteer. They are called kids – and when kids start teaching kids, in worlds created for that purpose … then are pushing third generation educational gaming in exactly the right direction.

Virtual School isn’t school shovelled into an LMS, it has the potential to be something all together more stunning.

Welcome to Massively Minecraft

You are invited to join Massively Minecraft, a professional community of educators preparing to explore a new game suitable for children as young as 4 years of age, yet expansible enough to still stir the imagination and interaction of late teens and adults.

The purpose of this community project is to trial the use of the game Minecraft (http://www.minecraft.net) in schools as part of voluntary student activity. The community will engage in exploration and research, not to decide or direct any particular application of the game but, to understand where students might take it and how they and their teachers visualise possibilities for it use within the curriculum. This ethnographic approach relies on you, as the professional in the school, to observe and reflect on student imagination, initiative, interaction, engagement and learning.

Currently we have two sessions a week for exploration of New City, which is our second Minecraft world. It is open to the public (we need to know you first), twice a week.

Our first world, District One is closed and only open to the kids and developers. These are also our mentor kids – our senior miners, who we hope will help other kids new to the game.

We have a live map running on our blog if you’d like to take a look at the structures that they have been creating along with a Miner’s Charter, which explains the ‘rules’ of the game – which are developed by the kids playing it.

We will be running some teacher/parent short online courses on game based learning, which is prelude to having  linked mutli-maps to connect kids and schools around the world. From experience, we are aware of the need to provide a space for teachers to bring kids that is safe, fun and fully maintained, and in doing so, Massively Minecraft is not a ‘general game server’ or a child minding service. We expect parents and teachers to come into the world with the kids and help them and us.

We are working on getting District Two up in late August so that we can host worlds for schools, rather than individuals an again this will happen through the community portal, as we begin to explore ways in which teachers can be in the game, and start to build learning activities from it. We hope that we will have over ten more districts by the end of the year – with interconnections and shared practice.

Our intrepid traveller, Bron Stuckey has the hard task of attending the US summer games and educational conferences, including ISTE, so I hope that you’ll ask her about where this is heading.

If you want to connect with us, and to New City, you will need to get an account, which cost approx USD$2o.

We suggest that you spend some time playing in single player, take a look at the blog, join the community and then enter the multi-player world.

Currently there’s no cost for doing this (apart from the buying the game). We are especially interested in parents, organisations and groups outside of schools who would like to begin exploring game based learning and digital citizenship – and that you’ll find our young miners an inspiration.

Later in the year, we will be putting on an event in Sydney and another in Melbourne around games based learning with a hands on immersion and workshops on how to design learning with game, play and flow – as well as meet curriculum objectives.

We invite anyone interested to jump into the community space between here and then and share your ideas We hope that the project will find international players, and that we can also find some international friends to help them – not least as our worlds are only open when there is an adult on deck. Not because we need to keep an eye on the kids, but to support them in whatever it is they want to do – safely.

The project is facilitated by myself, Jo Kay, Bron Stuckey and Kerry Johnson.

X-School in Newcastle?

Patterns and routines follow education as surely high tide follows low. A hundred years of mass education, sounded out by the bell of inevitability. The pattern and routines are rarely broken, but reinforced with each passing day.

Smart-kids know how to game the system. I recently spoke to a young woman, now doing a PhD, who said she went to a North Shore Sydney private school. She struggled to break the top 10 student list in grades, due to fierce competition. Rather than pay the fees and risk not getting into the Uni subject she wanted, her parents rented a flat for her in Western Sydney. She went to what she called a “band 3 school” instead. She aced every class, the teachers welcomed their ‘band 6 girl’ and lavished attention on her as she romped to first place in every class and the rest is history.

Smart-students know how to play the system. The patterns of study are repeated with marginal change, year in year out. Content get’s updated, but the mechanic stays almost the same. Those teachers who manage to break this cycle do it by creating new patterns of learning that defeat these mechanics. So why force them to find exploits, and just imagine for a moment that someone handed over some loot, and with that we created a learning center, were teachers were mentors,experts on learning design for the gamer generation.

Let’s call it X-School to be trendy. Why is no one brave enough to hand over the swag to make it happen? It makes perfect sense.

Answer: Because that would break the rules. We might have to ditch some current ideas, such as “ICT Integrators”, who are yet to find the right potion for the 21st Century. The rule is, thy shalt have but one ICT Manager and an Integrator and forsake all other options. We are so reluctant to even change job descriptions, we are hardly likely to open X-School in Newcastle. But I think we should. Part of the funding comes of course, from it being a model school and in that offering professional development to other schools. It’s a model that has worked elsewhere, so why not in Australia, why not Newcastle?

The plain fact that no one’s willing to try or fund it. Yet it’s within every systems grasp. Yes it might look strange, but strange isn’t a reason to pretend it’s not possible.

Take an office space, make it a learning space, teach half a dozen teachers in the ways of virtual goodness and allow them to create learning episodes that resonate with students for whom ‘regular’ school doesn’t work.

At the same time, open this is a hub to mentor teachers where they creating new learning episodes to re-connect students with the idea that they are good at life. It stands a good chance of breaking the cycle that will, without doubt, perpetuate another decade of anecdotal Power Points telling us about how technology will change lives if only we adopted Web2.0.

The total cost, is probably less that will be wasted on trying to secure an old building from vandals and following up kids who wag school.

Its high time social development replaced professional development and virtual teachers became as accessible as school counselors and geography teachers, so that students and teachers in classrooms everywhere have access to the same projects, specifically designed to do two things.

  1.  To address the real concerns teachers have ranging from low concern (I don’t care about technology), to high concern (my innovation ideas are ignored) and
  2.  Engage students for whom school does not and will not work as it is now – in ways that makes them feel good about themselves.

This might not be for all students, or for all parents. It might not appeal to all teachers either. However, if we want real reasons to use technology to build a learning community and so some serious social good, this is one easy way to do it.

It is not beyond the realms of immediate reason to connect schools and teachers to a centre like this, or to allow students and parents to choose an alternative. It might be for an hour a week, it might be for the kids who are suspended from school or kids who are scared to go to school … but without the will to make an attempt to build a space that extends into virtual space, we’re likely to keep putting lipstick on a pig.

I suggest giving me the money. I’m even happy to call it the CISCO-Pearson-Dick Smith School of blah, if that brings in new ideas.

There are some great old buildings in Newcastle, just begging to be occupied. Why not open one as a virtual school? Create some project ideas with the local community and start to engage kids.

Connect it to regular schools everywhere and get on with connecting a physical building a virtual, project based school that reconnects kids. They’ll still do the tests, still follow the syllabus, no one needs to panic, it’s not de-schooling, it’s re-schooling. Not distance education, immersive learning.

I think I post one of these virtual school posts every year. Maybe next year, it will be a different story. I’d enroll my kid day one. He’s playing tank.

Oil-dipping your culture in 60 seconds

Most teachers use technology — they have to, email, marking sheets, accessing resources is part and parcel of the job. So arguably, there is no such thing in societies affluent enough to have computers as non-digital teacher, more degrees of motivation toward the constellation of variables that people offer up to exemplify new media literacy.

To determine the cultural preferences of teachers and their working environment, we might simply ask a question.

Which of these  do you use most often in communication with others for professional learning?

  1. name@domain.com
  2. attn of:
  3. @name

Perhaps ask this in the next staff development day – take a cross-sectional view of your school culture – know your culture in 60 seconds. It’s a 1 page slideshow that can start a year long discussion – if you’re approaching change from a concern based strategy.

Henry Jenkins, in a recent interview said

We don’t tie the literacies to specific technologies. We’re saying that these are sets of skills that cut across technologies. Technologies are constantly going to change. But there are certain cultural practices that have started to emerge that help us to navigate though those new technologies, and to engage more fully in participatory cultures. And that’s the essence by what we mean by new media literacies.

One gripe I have with the Web2.0 crowd – is that they tie new media literacy diversively to browser based toolsets – blogs, wikis, twitter etc., In many ways this behavior parallels that of teachers who will have answered the question above with option 1 or 2. The cultures we subscribe to tend to speak from inside a belief – so if you selected option 3, chances are you are speaking from inside a culture that subscribes to blogs, wikis and twitter – and that those choosing option 1 or 2 will be seen as targets – beyond your current bubble to influence.

The best answer of course is all of them. To, as Jenkin’s says “cut accross”. But then they will whine and say “there was no option 4; it said ‘most often” – and that’s because they are not thinking critically enough about the question – looking for gaps to exploit – to ask a better question. And that is an epic cultural problem.

As Jenkins points out, new literacies are not limited to blogs and wikis. Essentially – those espousing  web2.0 culture in various guises, focus their discussion around ‘school, teacher and student motivation’ – arguing that schools often want to reduce digital literacy to the most fundamental level that is just using the device — and that ruins everything, for ever, for everyone – amen.

To me, those interested in what lies beyond Web2.0 – games, virtual worlds, mobiles, point of view cameras, semantic search etc., see browser based tools also the most fundamental level of media literacy – and provide an inadequate depiction of technologies we could, or should be exploring and actively creating opportunities for teachers to encounter.

But I get it, I really do. Web2.0 culture is seeking to increase market share – to attract new listeners to a particular message. They extend it marginally on what they have been talking about in order to increase their share. They are not as interested in creating bigger markets for everyone, so you don’t see them keynoting about things outside their bubble – and we all live in bubbles – the mentalists choose to pop them, just to see what happens.

So before we get too carried away with the new school year and start banging on to new teachers that Web2.0 is the new cheese – consider your own bubble … are you content to float around with everyone else, or do you want to get into something new, to speak from inside something that you’re currently looking towards … after all – that’s exactly what those often singled out as ‘not being savvy’ are accused of – be it oh so subtly.

* pop *

That feels much better … now I’ve got room to explore the next chapter – what motivates game cultures … and I’m pretty sure it’s not blogging.

Two for the road

Two great sites out this week I noticed – a nice (and perhaps not banned) Word visualiser called WordItOut and a more positive site from the government that has perhaps been over shadowed by the MySchool spanking – Cybersmart. Both are excellent examples of resources that TEACHERS should be free to choose – without being judged by some bureaucrat or network administrator – who thinks they are implementing policy — when in fact they are making it harder for teachers to do exactly the things that Gillard is demanding in her bizarre, public way.

Cybersmart is a brave effort – though obviously very conservative. In one section it says “The Schools Gateway offers a wide range of accessible and engaging resources to assist primary and secondary schools to develop and implement a holistic approach to cybersafety.” – the problem here is that there is no focus in the curriculum for it. Its another thing to teach – which means something gets cut out. In the new era of high-stakes testing and public reporting, I often wonder why these things are produced as value-adds — when in fact they should be foundation courses.

Meeting ISTE NETs – Using World of Warcraft

Blood Elf Paladin

World of Warcraft is an online massive multiplayer game with a free 10 day trail. Here’s how to align it with ISTE NETs and meet your own standards/outcomes – though assessment. This is for those teachers who ‘get’ the Web2.0 concepts of participation, collaboration and shared reality. It’s not a post about whether games are a good idea – they are.

Here is a simple look at how to develop a game based learning project – using World or Warcraft. There’s more to developing a robust project, but this should give you some idea of how to blend games into your ICT powered classrooms. (13-16 year olds).

Design a project that meets 2 outcomes and 4 ISTE’s NETs.  6 outcomes, 5 hours of game-play and about 10 hours or other work around it. — 15 hours over 2/3 weeks. This is using game based learning – so you have to plan well ahead — have a number of activities that are not obviously connected, and tasks that students must achieve which in part require using Warcraft. The students are then able to choose how to set about it. You will immediately notice that hands will raise with questions – as students are so used to being given the steps and spoon fed the content – that they will be disorientated. That is not Warcraft, that is the shift to inquiry based learning practice. Don’t hand out the answers … make them grind them out.

We start with the end in mind. Which are the outcomes/standards we want — and how are we going to assess it? It is critical to be able to align ISTEs standards with activities in games and standards/outcomes. This to me is where most teachers fall over. Their ICT repertoire is so small, they simply cannot do it with Web2.0, let alone games. Someone has to lead and help build these things — just as someone used to write the ‘teachers text book’. Let’s not assume that all teachers stepped outside ‘off the shelf’ lesson planning in the first instance – and games are a further step removed from Web2.0 — and it is MOTIVATION that games bring in abundant quantities.

Remember Warcraft is the activity not the outcome or the assessment. Students would have to sign up for their 10 day trial – and do so in a timeline that will allow them to complete the project – so it’s not going to be end endless grind-fest. You are going to design your project to allow them to choose when to play, and when to do the other things you are asking for. This means you will not be in a linear classroom, and will have to deal with the idea of not actually ‘teaching’ at all, but helping them –  ask good questions.

If you don’t play WoW, then some of this might be a bit brain-missing to you– but trust me, it’s basic stuff.

Level 1-10 type activity associated with the free-trail. On the left is the ISTE Standard, the middle is with WoW activity and over on the right is a rough idea of how I might align those with some additional classroom activities (meeting the curriculum outcome). In that last column, you can also add a activity — write a narrative, create a blog, use a spreadsheet … this is the assessment you need. You have to be clear about what activity in project is going to allow the outcome to be reached – and how it will be evidenced and assessed – both for ISTE and your curriculum. In doing this you can create blogs, wikis, art, role-plays, narrative, movies, music — Warcraft is the motivator. You are not assessing how well they play or level.

In Australia, out ICT outcomes are so low, most pre-schoolers would pass — and teachers skills are so low that they’d fail the year 10 computing skills test in spectacular style.

Game based learning — is not about what you learn by playing a game – but how the game can be use to to foster inquiry skills, critical thinking and evidence student learning – in part though exploration, error and play. Many people seem to think game based learning is the Magic School Bus type of CD-Rom and can be easily ‘gamed’ by students. We see this in may online children’s edu-flash games. They are just boring. game. These things are very instructional, but very linear. They don’t allow for unexpected outcomes. Today, social games are teaching kids more ICT skills that you can shake runed-sword at.

If you want kids to go nuts with ICT, then find a motivator … and start thinking about designing your own projects – Ms Frizzle is not going to cut it.

‘Grats to Mr8 – who attained Level 80 this weekend!

Cleaning up YouTube

Having decided the Bubblegum post was far too long, I’m making up for the sin with kicking a few small but mighty bits. Worried about seeing hot babes on car bonnets while watching ‘proper’ YouTube clips? Freaking out when another Evony ad informs your class that they can be some wenches Master? – Rejoice – for now you may use SafeShare.tv. Does what is says. Interesting to learn if this beats the firewalls in schools.

Here’s the video before (to save you looking) – Heather Nova singing Stayin’ Alive on YouTube — and the cleaned up version here … views? thoughts? (not about Heather). The first link is just because that Jag is so cool.