Reaction creates attraction

Harrys_house_004The recent debacle over Jo Kay’s SLEducation wiki has provided a wave of new discussions around Virtual Worlds in Education. It has raises discussions around the idea that Second Life is not THE virtual world for education, just one execution of it – and what if we used something else?

Many of those who have been writing, developing and researching are clearly past the critical flack of the initial beach landing, have overcome the initial ‘yeah but’ barrage from the sand dunes and are confidently aligning virtual worlds and games with learning and assessment.

Unlike a great deal of Web2.0-ness, virtual worlds are long supported by a wealth of academic research to suggest they are extreamly good at motivating students and offer high quality instructional design environments for learning.

Obviously not everyone is going to explore them. The biggest barrier is that in muves the experience has to be instructively designed to create opportunities that extend beyond it and facilitate experiences that cannot be created without it – Who has the time to do that?

Well lots of people actually, not least the students we are teaching and certainly the multi-billion dollar technology industry.

A flood of educators followed Kerry Johnson’s footsteps into Reaction Grid, a community of inter-connected Open Simulators.

The discussions have not been about whether Second Life is better, but how it changes pedagogical opportunities. I am yet to hear from teen-educators that Linden is easy to deal with, or overly keen to help – quite the opposite. But Lindens notice to Jo felt like a wake up call to lots of Second Life Educators.

Maybe it was time to get past what we can’t do and look at what we can. As blog posts appeared online last week over Jo and Sean’s well established (and Linden referenced) wiki there was a flurry of new activity – not about the wiki issue, but in going right around the problem – which was all about ownership and trademarks, not community. We get the idea of trademarks by the way.

The Jokaydia Second Life community flocked into Reaction Grid and Jo Kay has established a new outpost to allow Second Life educators to explore Reaction Grid with the same level of support, resources and expert development you’d expect.


There’s also an ISTE2010 conference proposal via  Judy and Vicki Davis that was put together via iPhones and Google Docs in a few hours this week to meet the call for proposal deadline.

In the next few months, there will be open resources and open spaces in Reaction Grid created for teachers to explore with students – and this will lead to further instances of students read, writing and making things outside of them. Some will be online – and perhaps some will be downloadable – able to run on local machines as stand alone or LAN learning objects. Imagine being able to download a unit of work around Huxley’s Brave New World and run it on your nice new DER laptops using open source resources – offline. Giving students a zip file to unpack and run for homework, where they have to model mathematical problems. Virtual school in a virtual world.

Change comes from places you least expect and creates opportunities you never imagined. You get into Reaction Grid for FREE. Join us at 9pm AEST on Sunday night – because that is where the new curriculum in being crafted. You can google it.

Proximity of influence

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Suzie Boss at Edutopia, posted a great article about ‘a back porch for teachers’, illustrating why it is important to create some time and space in the local community to talk about the business of learning and teaching. In this post I’d like to share how Suzie’s post aligns with some of the work I’m doing in the professional development of teachers.

Suzie reflects after meeting with teachers.

And although they took their work seriously, it was easy to see they were enjoying the extended time to talk through ideas and learn from each other. Such intensive, ongoing, and collaborative professional development is exactly what research shows to be most effective for improving both teachers’ practice and student learning. Yet for most teachers, this remains a rare experience.

How to minimise the cost and maximise the opportunity.

It seems unlikely that effective, enterprise level professional learning is about to flow into schools in proportion to the technology right now. It seems almost impossible to put a plan into enterprise action.

Professional learning:

  • has to be ‘on demand’ and fit their schedule. This means that you have to prepare resources that allow them to level up their knowledge in under 10 minutes in multiple formats.
  • text information has to be summised and digested in a minute, it has to lead to further action in one page or less. Video has to be 2-4 minutes, and each segment of interest (topic) no more than a minute and it has to play in their browser.
  • contextual development rules. They have to use the minute resources, watch the videos and take the action in close proximity to the mentor – the same room. They have to ask the questions, you have to listen not talk, and help them answer the questions.

Here are some rules I have:

  • you must be prepared to do 50% of their work for them, and in doing it, create independence sufficient for them to complete it – with you riding shot gun. Don’t do it for them.
  • you must expect that most people will have less than 10 minutes to learn something, and want to spend at least half that time ‘playing’. Observing them is key to teaching them.
  • If they walk out the room, and not applied what you taught them to a contextual situation (solving a real problem) – you will get a push back later and it won’t be adopted
  • you need to ride shot gun on their projects as a critical friend, by working though their students and not trying to ‘train’ the teacher directly about teaching.
  • iPhones are great tools – load the video – pass them the phone. People love to hold technology, not look at it. YouTube is your friend.
  • more is learned in 10 mins over coffee than at that fancy seminar. Seminars are critical however – they provide community connections.
  • limit the scope and tools: 2/3 tools is more than enough. Repeated bombing runs over 1 target is effective, aerobatics is just amusing.

Now forget all these rules; and re-write you own. Then break them. This is massive problem with quangos and committees; you have to re-write the rules often – but leave the under pinning theory in place for a very long time. That seems the opposite of what committees do much of the time.

You have to collect local data and information in vastly more quantities than ‘teach’ new things.

This collection can be the 10 minutes on the back porch. Just talking over coffee; pointing out things on a laptop and listening is so important in the professional development of teachers. They are after all professional talkers – and we are learning about listening. Finding ways to listen uses the same rules and ideas – no survey that takes more than a minute etc. Not only are we trying to teach new skills; we are trying to create new pedagogy – and that will not happen unless you find ways to spend very short amounts of time listening followed by similar amounts of time helping – them create. I don’t like ‘spoon feeding’, but do encourage you to put all your staff on a slow drip feed.

Put another way, we have to gain inches not miles, and corrupt people in minutes not hours. Why – because ‘traditional PD’ smells like ‘boring’; so we have to try to find alternative strategies, spaces and times to do it. As soon as it looks like ‘PD’, you’ll get a bolt for the door – but when it looks like I’m getting help – all about me! – I am interested.

Finally, give it TIME. Lots of time. Think in semesters not weeks or even terms. It’s easier to recover from the next ‘yeah but’ if you do.

Online School of Opportunity (OSO)

Why write on the walls, when you can write everywhere?

Mashable posted  “Why Teens Don’t Tweet”, giving a range of data and view on the demographics of a social network growing at +1300% a month. It made me wonder about how effective we are at competing for the attention of students, teachers and educational leaders. Are we too busy pressing the ‘Digg’ button and missing the opportunities presented?

“Twitter’s different than Facebook or MySpace because Twitter is not about your friends … Teens, more than any other age group, care about their friends. It’s the continuation of real-life friendship (and the creation of online ones) that has driven the tremendous growth of MySpace, Facebook, Bebo etc”.

To use these spaces, today’s teens spend increasing amounts of time informally online. They are using informal learning. As formal public education provides almost no spaces for this it is no surprise that teens power down between 9 and 3.30, disconnected from their informal learning networks. And it isn’t a teen sensation; social games and online networks are actively marketed to pre-schoolers. The numbers participating in pre-school social game Webkinz alone dwarfs teen blogging.

McGivney (1999) a decade ago recognised the importance of informal learning pathways.

Informal learning generated by local people themselves often led to wider community involvement and activism, whereas learning arranged by education providers most often led to high rates of educational progression. Informal learning often started people on a continuing learning path by helping them become confident and successful learners. “

Space, time and organisation are cardinal elements of formal learning – which is the inverse of the online educational commons. Informality enables us to be successful learners in playful and social ways that we can take to new situations. Increasingly games and social networks provide this function. It is common to see two teachers talking about education online; but rare to see departmental CEO or Minister add to any authentic open discussion. They have attained their authority by abiding by the rules of formality; where as online authority is now earned through action in informal networks.

Teens use  mobile phones, Bebo, Facebook and MySpace – to successfully strengthen friend networks. What they don’t know how to do is apply it to the discipline needed in obtain life affecting qualifications. There is a clear role for teachers to do this, and students readily work with these teachers – who are not necessarily technocrats – but are adoptive leaders and good communicators. They talk with, not at – which is another characteristic of policy making bureacrats and politicians. You can’t co-opt your way to social change on your terms anymore. Get over it; move on. Stop building walled gardens and ignoring what is there already.

The problem with internalising everything and agreeing with yourself, is that it sustains nothing except yourself.

Seriously – why do we spend millions developing ‘closed’ applications using tax-payer money on things like a blog engine ‘pilot’, when the world is using Edublog Campus? The criteria is less than transparent and hardly going to give any real indication of pedagogical reform; if indeed there is going to be any public release of the findings. Per teacher; what is the investment?

The blog trial involves 20 teachers, each from a different school or TAFE Institute from across the State. Trial participants were selected though a variety of means but all are users of collaborative tools and are keen to use blogs for teaching and learning.

The Centre for Learning Innovation’s website (The public education tech-development arm) says “Connected learning projects allow students to engage with real-life situations, which involve communication, collaboration, self-directed learning, problem solving, researching and publishing findings.” it prompt you to download  a 1997 document which then explains what the internet is, why use it in the classroom and gives an illustration of how to use a website (Netscape 2). The link is dead, and obviously ancient history – yet is on the ‘new’ website.

Do you learn more by skimming last night Tweets than you did at your last technology ‘in-service’?

We don’t need to be at specific time or place to learn – just access the educational network commons that now exists online. We are seeing an effusion of activity in forming and joining new networks that is changing education philopshy, not technology itself. The tragedy is that teachers are often unable to benefit students from this action. It is locked stepped by political orientation to conventional, schematic discernment of the 21st Century itself.

We should be better utilising existing resources such as libraries and teachers, and investigating an ‘Online School of Opportunity (OSO) and not limiting students through long-familiar toothsome approaches to quality improvement (aka “School of Excellence” ). We need centres of opportunity before excellence can be afforded to all –  though investment in public Libraries and community spaces that encourage both teachers and students to get together and transform the way they use technology; not block it.

Ref: McGivney (1999). “Informal Learning in the Community: A Trigger for Change and Development.”  National Institute for Adult Continuing Education, UK.

To feed or lead class?

I read Judy O’Connell’s post in which she describes a colleague who is giving a lecture on the use of Powerpoint in order to give students more than a summary of important points in serial delivery. Judy references the Chronical of Higher Education on the topic. I am not sure it can be removed without leaving a stain. In another recent article, Micheal de Percy talked about the drivers that often promote ‘service and delivery’ at University. I made me wonder about the dilemma teachers between feeding the class verses leading it, and a strategy to over come it.

It doesnt wash off, but washes over.

It doesn't wash off, but washes over.

Educators face a bloated syllabus (which are a summary consensus view of the discipline). Students often say they want revision notes and powerpoint summaries (it sustains their often successful surface learning strategy). External exams are designed in ways that teachers can almost predict questions and game the system focused on results and competitive performance. They provide students with model answers and strategies to pass the test. It happens and we’ve all seen it. “If you want to access the band 6 marks, this is what you need to include and how to do it”. Enquiry gives way to rote learning, which is why enquiry and group work is often afforded lower percentage points in summative assessment. This will be perpetuated as governments insist on drawing up league tables. Yes we have ‘in-course assessments’, but these are usually  internally designed and marked; unlike the almighty HSC exam – everyone knows the exam is the deal breaker here; and powerpoint is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.

Teaching is an essential input to a product (the qualification). It is not simply a service. Qualifications issued by universities are supposed to indicate the capabilities of graduates. Over-relying on student satisfaction (as the main indicator of quality) encourages a service culture which is not entirely appropriate to the teaching role. Michael de Percy (ABC News)

Leading the class is much more of an ideological challenge than a technical one. Many teachers use a very limited toolset. Summising of content in powerpoint is perhaps 50% of their ability – and is often cited as a ‘desirable’ when it comes to student satisfaction. Yet Powerpoint was designed for techies to give summaries to marketing people back in the day. They wanted to spend least amount of time and effort explaining key things, so made Powerpoint. It was not a ‘learning tool’ – but a presentation tool. Over the years it just got more bloated, but still does what it was designed to do. I’m not even getting into BAD Powerpoint; simply by recognising it’s purpose is to talk, not listen – then we can start to think more about developing two-way engagements with learners.

Should we abandon powerpoint, or equivalent Web2.0 slidedeck application entirely?

If we actually want present a summary, then use it. If we want to lead students to deeper or wider thinking, not just remembering, no – dump it. – To lead learning at a deeper level, we should present a range of possibilities and influencers, not a summary. We can still use something visually impacting, aligning with the outcome intended, but we MUST avoid drawing a line between the resource itself and the summation of knowledge. That is what powerpoint is spectacularly good it. We are often so poor at formative assessment strategy that we give students no chance to make that connection – as the summary is on the powerpoint – we draw the line – asking the question and then giving the answer moments later.

I maintain that you can transform learning and teaching using a very limited number of tools. I return over an over to Diigo as the edu-webs killer application.

What is an alternative strategy?

Adapting an aggregator and using in a familiar teaching mode – using Diigo. Diigo provides a way to provide lecturers and teachers with the powerpoint backdrop to present ideas and components of the discipline, but does it in a way that discourages reading dot points. How so? by using Diigo’s list feature and tagging content. The lecturer can collect a mass of content and tag it to represent syllabus content – what is it I want them to know (the outcome). They can reference their own resource or those of others directly. This compiled list is then presented as a webcast in Diigo (example: here). It allows the lecturer to move between areas (links), and encourages them to talk about, not read them. Students no longer receive a 20 page powerpoint to remember, but 20 links, related to the discipline that they have to constructively align to the outcomes though guided enquiry (the activity).

We know if they are learning though assessment. Students need to be asked questions about the discipline and to use the Diigo List as the learning pathway. They can reference that content; or better still – use Diigo to comment directly on the page. Diigo of course allows teachers to set up a ‘class’ account and envoke collaboration. In effect, they draw all over the pseudo-powerpoint! – involved at a meta cognitive level almost immediately – and exploring, comparing, negotiating – as well as remembering. A massive shift in pedagogy, using a very simple tool.

Consider the two options presented – and decide – adapt of ignore. Try or deny.

One option is to provide 1000 students with a summary in powerpoint; the other is to provide interactive content that allows a 1000 students to socially construct a shared, consensus view. The problem is not which is better learning – but which do students see as more effective at getting the qualification. The former. I think convincing students is just as important as convincing lecturers of the perils of powerpoint. This plays out is student satisfaction surveys – ‘a good powerpoint is like gold’.

How do we encourage a change in behaviour?

But we must be cautious of the quantitatively-driven concept of student-centeredness where it detracts from the quality of the qualifications – in essence, the outputs which university teaching creates. Michael de Percy (ABC News)

Through educational leadership at the policy level. The job of education leaders is not to do easy things like buy IWBs and Netbooks (thats a purchasing officer), but to transform the standards of education sufficiently that teachers feel confident to stop feeding and learn new ways to lead. Equally students know why this is important to their attainment, and are not simply buying a service. Teachers and students can’t climb the learning ladder, unless leaders allow and encourage it to be extended. Powerpoint or otherwise – and right now the oppositional polarity being demonstrated by political policy is not exactly helpful to this change process in my view. Regrettebly, most leaders get their key-facts and briefings from powerpoint. We create out own reality.

Dissolving, Revolving or Evolving?

This is kind of interesting – especially if you are into the whole ‘big numbers’ stuff. I think I read way more marketing and gaming slide decks that Edu – I know what the shift is thanks – is a marketing message, and that PD only works 1:1 with simple tools – on demand and pretty happy with how things are panning out right now. Eventually this presentation gave me the impression that social networks are not really markets, but just a maelstrom of conversations; some of which is relevant, but most dissolves as fast as they appear. Seriously do I give a crap what some comic thinks via Twitter? or if some minor-tv panelist Tweets about how cool they are? – I am looking for ideas and methods, not more problems to agree with.

I’m sure that for every Tweet I see that gives me something new, I miss a thousand more – and thats a good thing probably. In fact; despite liking Twitter – it’s just there; and I’m probably not paying attention for the vast majority of the time. I do spend less time in the Brickyard and The Samba; but basically – Twitter feels better than talking to yourself – even though I probably am much of the time. It feels like being in a revolving door at times.

I really only have meaningful conversations with a limited few via Twitter – I can’t deal with the enormity of the follower thing. When it comes to learning, I think I’m much more focused on my own – readying Feedly; and although many are saying that they blog less; taking a lot of information to micr0-blogs such as Twitter and Plurk instead – I’m not sure how much impact they have for me – apart from ‘collecting’ resources that I generally just flick to Posterous with the semi-intention of reading later. I wonder if it actually ‘evolves’ my thinking.

It seems interesting that at #BLC09 that Cover It Live simply sucked Twitter into a deeper mix of media, something I noticed at #necc09, and TwitCam provides a ridiculously simple way to broadcast and get comments. Is the almighty Twitter is beginning to dissolve it’s relevance for me? So many spammers, so little point. I do like the self-styled marketing coaching guru profiles. Their photos often remind me of those that were in the local barbers as a kid – beaming their confidence at me.

I might give it a miss for a month – see what happens – and spend more time in some of the ‘back-catalogue’ of blog posts that I clearly missed – or better still – back in the Brickyard.

5 ways to get some PD traction

FIVE things that you can do in your community to encourage people to take a step forward. These five things use five different approaches – so if you are trying to build a professional learning community, these are approaches that address the behavioral motivators of staff  and reduce the push-back. I’ve found that covert methods are far more effective than head on training, so I try to address behavior not skills when working with a new group of educators.

Context – hit up heads of departments with this one – find out what they are struggling to do; just ONE thing. “Which would be your priority”.

Peer Support – helping friends connect and share as individuals

Personal Aspects – Photobooks are tactile; go make one at SnapFish or BigW; and share something about your family or interests in the staffroom. This is great to draw in the reluctant.

URL Shortners – great staffroom/meeting demo – shows them how a simple tool can train students how to take down an big URL or give you one. This helps improve the perception that computers are rubbish.

Screen Demos – don’t waste your time trying to rally people to lunch-time meetings, take the time to sit and read your Feedly. Provide PD via email; as elevator conversations. It takes 10 minutes to make and spam the office. It also put you at arms length from the critics and sabateurs.

1.    Context – Don’t show a tool, solve a problem in their own backyard – or invent one which they can add value to or improve; don’t ‘train’.
2.    Peer Support – Show technologies that will connect them better to peers that they like working with.
3.    Personal Aspects – Photobooks and online storage! – Make a photobook using Snapfish and show them. They’ll want one too.
4.    URLS shortners– show them how them in unit outlines or write them out faster for students – it demonstrates how to save time, not waste it.
5.    Make screen demos – keep them 2-4 minutes; and don’t edit them! Make them short and conversational and pitch them at absolute novice; newcomer; beginner; intermediate … don’t teach experts (they can teach themselves). Spam your community via email with your channel.

Why Bored of Studies PWNs the BOS

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There is no shift of control of information when you bolt technology onto what you already do. This is the strategy of public education, when you look behind the facade and grand statements. This is the approach known as “spray and pray”. Research shows there is little added value from automation, and incremental improvement. (“In the Age of the Smart Machine : The Future of Work and Power” by Shoshana Zuboff). We can’t simply put a class in a Ning and call it a community; or exchange paper for a blog. In fact the current National Curriculum approach is to defer all measures of attainment to other professional bodies, just to make sure it stands a safe distance away from potential criticism (standard mode of political-operation).  Of course these bodies are politically driven and differ regionally, and Western Australia is using self-evaluation – which NSW DET’s Digital Revoltion portal (the have so many) references – via ‘evaluation’.

The good news is that students are 21st Century learners; and 97% are engaged via social gaming and friend based networks, so have access to pretty much all the answers they need to PWN the current assessment system – and they did it with no help at all.

7 million hits can’t be wrong

twitter_pushbackThe illustration at the top of the screen is the Bored of Studies Wiki; go check it out – it tells students how to pass the HSC and beyond; and to me screams why the current methods of teaching are so easily ‘gamed’ by students. The website was created in 2002 by four former HSC students who had completed their HSC in the previous year: Mark Czajkowski, James King, Tim Cheng and Ian Keong. Of course the real Authority – called the Board of Studies has warned teachers against being anywhere near the thing! So is it cheating or just 21st Century Learning.

Yet, with over 250,000 subscribers and 7 million hits a month (claimed) – its safe to say that students have pwned the system. It positively road-maps how to be a strategic learner – and perhaps is our most outstanding educational achievement, along with Rate My Teacher – which now has one click links to Twitter, Facebook and Stumble Upon.

It matters nothing if we agree with these sites being there; only that they are. These are the social networks kids use – that gives them Authority. Its socially constructed knowledge; do we need to replicate it in class or inside what Clay Burrell called schooliness.

Chris Lehmann wroteBuild consensus – If only a few people are on-board with the idea, it won’t work. But consensus doesn’t mean taking something from everyone and sticking it onto the original idea until what you have is the worst of committee-based decisions. It means listening for the truths in what other people are telling you and being willing to make substantive change when it makes sense.”

So there’s the positive – students are doing what Chris suggests, long live Bored of Studies. I wonder if Mark, James, Tim and Ian are consulting?

Games – Dangerously Irrelevant?

SCOTT McLEOD remarked on his blog that he had some questions about ‘educational games’; so in spirit of 21days of being positive, I’d like to try and answer them – and perhaps he might send me a flashing badge.

Picture 11

screenshot from : Dangerously Irrelevant

Does the quality of the graphics matter when it comes to educational games?

Graphics of any description matter, as research suggest that over 60% of people today are visual learners. So whenever you place an image in front of someone it sends a message to the brain. I noticed for example; that in the cluster of game samples Scott posted, there was this one. Quality is not just ‘resolution’ but the modality of the image itself; what reaction, emotion or instruction does it prompt.

Graphics are a component of game-play; although some of the biggest games of 80s were text only; and such as First Age in such a case graphics did not matter at all. Here is a list of online text-games. CD-Rom Games such as the Magic School Bus; had lots of graphics but lacked any real game-play.

We have to differentiate the role of ‘toons’ and graphics from what they are doing; and therefore the importance of the graphics is directly related to objective – in a flight simulator – yes if you are teaching pilots.

Prensky (2002) “The reason computer games are so engaging is because the primary objective of the game designer is to keep the user engaged. They need to keep that player coming back, day after day, for 30, 60 even 100+ hours, so that the person feels like he has gotten value for his money (and, in the case of online games, keeps paying.) That is their measure of success.

In Warcraft; the graphics are not as important and the social-hobby nature of the game; or the game’s ability to train a player though resonance. What is important perhaps is that the social contructs that interplay with the story. They are MORE important that the graphics; AI; gameplay etc; Some games will suffer mouse-lag due to the intensity of the graphics; Arma2 for example – yet the realism and game play will be forgiven. Others – such as the new Harry Potter has amazing graphics; but almost no meaningful game play. Much of the discussion in ‘gaming development’ today is around story telling; not graphics.

So in conclusion –  NO they don’t matter in the context I think the question was asked.

just how bad are most of these so-called ‘educational games?’

Some are terrible; as they are designed from the perspective of being ‘edu-entertaining’ – with instructional design or didactic skills development. Students, according to Pew Internet Research (2009) are more engaged with social gaming that any other form of social media; yet in school ‘games’ are classified distinctly as an add-on to the disciplinary learning. So if you are looking to occupy a mind – get your games from the sales floor at NECC.

To understand what ‘good games’ are; look towards alternate reality games or a project such as WoWinSchool (check out some of the academic research we’ve added to that project). Let me look at ‘bad’ in an example of one augemented reality game – Webkinz.

What kind of bad?

Webkinz – is ‘bad’ in a different way. A Webkins are plush toys with an online alter-ego and virtual lives – online. It is designed for pre-schoolers.  There are some 255 ‘classes’ of webskins, and even have a foundation to ‘help children’. There is in this tremendous potential to engage young learners; but at the same time the focus for the product is commercial sales driven. The site itself has a number of positive ‘skills’ development attributes and millions of users. This is bad for education; and the time pre-schoolers are spending in playing with commercial interests; takes away from perhaps doing something else. We must recognise that we need to adapt the popular activities of children in games – to learning; not try to create alternatives. Take a walk into Toys R Us – there are hundreds of products; all with an up-sell online using social gaming as a new revenue channel. More on Webkinz at Wikipedia.

So what is out there that’s comparable in the commercial downloadable/DVD educational games sector? Anything good?

The important concept to me here; is that we should not be looking to the past or for comparisons at all. We have to look to market research, massive game conferences such as E3 and to research such as Pew – all of which suggest that what many call the ’21st Century Skills’ are present in current social gaming. So in many ways; we can argue that classroom blogs; wikis etc or the lack of – will not prevent students from demonstrating the ability to communication; seek information; filter; make choices; solve problems; form communities; collaborate etc.,

Like anything; the teacher has to have that magical ability : conceptualisation – The games industry is not interested in educational games as a genre; it is not profitable; yet there are some online games that do work  – Mathletics being the obvious example. There are numerous ‘games’ being used – though adaptation; and being tempted to look for ‘learning in a box’ is a road to disaster. All learning must be blended.

The ‘games in learning gap’.

What is concerning is that games, despite overwhelming research, are seen as outside the current ‘web2.0’ fenzy of blogs, wikis, podcasts and Nings – yet more kids play them and interact with games than FaceBook, MySpace et al,. With a little creativity and planning, there is no reason at all that Wii – Fit, Nintendogs, Warcraft or even Grand Theft Auto can’t be adapted and used as a motivator. Motivation is the most important power of gaming – yet few Web2.0-fanbois explore it in the classroom with students, so we might say we’re missing 50% of the motivational opportunity to engage students.

Retraining Australia

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Image: 'The Sentinel of the Sacred Path'

School isn’t broken; its just got patina and potential. It can be restored; but taking on a large project on your own is a little daunting.

Not all schools can afford to join a private coaching clinic or hire a consultant to provide them with specialist training. Most are totally reliant on their employer and their peers. Teachers may be aware of some benefits associated with adopting technology but can be reluctant to embrace it fully due to a general distrust of computers. This distrust is sometimes a result of a previous computer failure and can be exacerbated by a user’s inexperience in using a computer and/or application.

BUT, simple toolsets; though effective retraining can produce big differences. The real problem is that we are not focused on this; but reacting to the wider changes in read/write publishing; powered by the rapid advanements in technology. It is widely accepted that around 60% of us are visual learners; but unfortunately 60% of teachers are not visual ICT creators or even users. Not every student we teach is going to embrace each tool you give them, so don’t expect your education leaders to  either. Right now we are still awaiting any real definition of the 21st century attributes that are being illuded to in the draft National Curriculum – what exactly is it we have to do again? Oh yeah get Band 6s.

We can’t continue to work 1 or 2 teachers in public schools trying to support 60 forever. We need 10 or 20 to support 600 in a single community focused on retraining. Those 600 will interact with 6,000 – and the structure for this is horizontal, democratic and online, focused on foundational skills – that have low cost or no cost; that allows everyone to contribute something; but not everything. We can restore it; but we’re are not at the glossy paint stage; some are in their supa-communities, but over 90% need fundamental skills training. Its those teachers who are gonna be teaching my kids.

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