Twitter and Facebook are not where kids are heading. Meet Kik and Oink.

There is a myth, perpetuated for little more reason than it’s sellable-fallacy, that kids are gravitating to Twitter and Facebook. From this point, numerous arguments have been made in the sub-culture Alan Lavine brilliantly described as “Edlandia” – a sharp and humurous hat-tip to Portlandia the TV show (relates to MOOCS).

There is pervasive notion that the issues today are the same as those even three years ago. They might continue to sell this obsolete rhetoric to Edlandians, but kids are using very different networks – and here’s why.

Kids are being given hand-held devices. iPod touch, low end Androids and so on. They are no using desktops, laptops or TABLETs. If Edlandians paid attention to advertising data and sales data as much as they do their Twitter feed-bowls they’d know this.

Kids are heading to Instagram and Kik because they are essentially the two messaging services that appeal.

Instagram being the ‘selfie’ universe that screams “I am am here” and Kik the natural successor to MSN Messenger, saying “I belong”.

On signing up for Kik, it will go off and find your friends from other places. No age verification process – choose a name and you’re in. It doesn’t bother to mention it’s geo-locational by default either. Kid’s like it, because Kik automatically builds your close network (the one that matters most) for zero effort. If you missed the Blackberry Messenger phenomenon (we didn’t get that in Australia) – then Kik is the same idea, just on a way bigger scale.

Kids are interested in friend based networks. They don’t waste time talking about PLNs ore trying to self-justify why they send hours a day gazing into a piece of glass like the Edlandians. Kids are mildly interested in the famous and idioms constantly pushed to them by the media if they are bored. Kik ensures every person is a media outlet and a brand at a younger age. It’s massive with tweens, and probably all new to you right?

Intragram says “I am here” and Kik’s multi-participant ‘group’ conversations say “I belong” – or more worryingly, I’m an outcast. The potential for cyber-bullying is mind-melting.

Why is Kik not like Twitter?

Firstly, Kik won’t appeal to those who’ve build a business using Twitter to sell themselves as a brand. Like video-games, you probably won’t hear about it at ISTE this year at all. It holds no value, apart from being represented as an example of ‘bad internet’. It’s ‘bad’ because it won’t work as a direct selling layer. It would be great for messaging colleagues. Kik provides ‘small networking’ where they are selling ‘massive networking’. If you didn’t know better, you’d believe MASSIVE is mandatory in all things right now.

Twitter is, (as forums are) – a shopping mall of entertainment and opinion, where no one really knows who you are – nor do they actually care. Twitter for Edlandians is free feeding bowl of chaotic ideas, resources and events. In between these tweets are the irrelevant ‘self-advertising’ of consultants still feeding off false idioms, first aired in 2007.

Is Kik like Google Plus?

I’ll set Google Plus aside here, as it seems to be a growing source of productive groups. G+ doesn’t work for the Twitter salesman, not those who want a free feed. G+ appears to me to foster more productive communities of practice (which are nothing new) – See – The Well. Google Plus however is populated by the grown-ups.

Is Kik like Facebook?

Facebook is of course the archetypal villan in media-representation of cyber-bullying and the ‘slippery slope’ of failing young people. Like MSN Messenger, My Space and Bedo, Facebook has a connected identity with a generation that will fade in it’s appeal to the next.

Kik will be the network your tweens will want – and probably already have. They know you know about Facebook and Twitter – Kik is like texting (or so it appears to a-typical adults). But it’s not. It’s a very private, geo-located fishbowl that is growing fast.

Kik lets them see if their friends have seen their message. There’s no age verification, seemingly no teen safeguards on the connected app OinkText. If you are a parent, I doubt you’ll like Oink Text. This add on nag-app, pushes ‘randoms’ looking to chat. They call it a friend finder. Hello Yahoo Chatrooms, circa 1998 – A/S/L. Who remembers them? Not the Edulandians thats for sure. Savvy tweens will avoid Oink Text (and others) but the lonely, the disaffected and the vulnerable I could well imagine meeting some very dubious characters through it.

Is Kik like Linked In

Ah Linked In. This is where people make profiles when they have no reputation, relevance or ability to use social media. Its laughable how people use it give themselves grandious titles to fool the world into thinking they are something they are not. Here’s a wake up, if you are only on Linked In, you don’t blog, you don’t tweet and you don’t do something outside that phoney profile, it’s a 200 foot billboard saying “I am a n00b, who’s faking it”. So no, Kik is not like linked it, it’s not a desperate business card or forum.

If I’m a teacher should I be worried?

Yes. Kik is one of a number of tools like this, all of which give kids the friend-networks they crave – and lock you out of. Talking about using Twitter to the Kik-Gen will make you appear a dinosaur. Kik has no educational or pedagogical value whatsoever.

If I’m a parent should I be worried?

Yes, most schools have no clue what Kik (and others) are, how they function or where. They are focused on the fallacies being fed to them by the media and Edlandian consultants. You need to know what Kik is, because you’re kids probably do already. It’s not like Facebook, it’s more like hyper-SMS messaging. What I’m saying is, even the Edlandians who think they are on the cutting edge of educational technology are sadly illiterate.

What else is there to worry about?

How about Snap Chat? Essentially, photo-sharing app, Snapchat lets you determine how long the recipient can view your picture or video, from 1 to 10 seconds. After that, it self-destructs. Young people love it for sending goofy selfies to one another for a laugh. You can imagine what they can do with this when it comes to bullying.

Why do kids use Kik, Instagram and Snap Chat?

Kids don’t use Instagram, Kik or Snap Chat just to communicate. They use it for three more important things, which parents need to wrap their heads around.

  1. Identity (who am I, maybe I’m this, what happens if I say that, is this version of me good?) It’s a messy business in real life, now amplified in the digital.
  2. My Community (do I fit it, am I normal, who is like me, who can help me, can I help them) The digital world is full of illusions that we identify with – it share a lot with how we find comfort and shared experience in music and video games too.
  3. Finding solace and comfort (It’s good to know someone cares, that there is someone to reach out to, someone to listen when seemingly no one else does. Its dangerous thing to seek online, but in lieu of finding it in RL, it’s just a tap away).

Why do they like video-games like Minecraft? Because it feeds them the 3 things they “think” they want most from technology (and life).

The point of this post is in to highlight my growing frustration with the commercialisation which has corrupted Edlandia. While I’ve been advocting for games in the classroom (not very successfully), it seems I might as well point some other things the rhetoric ignores.

The current generation of 7 year olds don’t need teaching about Twitter, Blogs or Wikis. They simply need you to be aware of, and understand what they do use – which will have an impact on how they see themselves, others, the world – and YOU.

This of course plays havoc with the current commercial market of Edlandia which would have you believe something entirely different is happening. I’m Type217 on Kik, see ya on the Tween-side soon.


What emerges from under the bed

Games and what emerges from the games are not the same thing. This seems an essential message in teacher education getting excited at the idea of game based learning. However its not as simple as deciding on a game to play as it requires making sense of how games work, specifically in balancing mastery and boredom.

Professional Development in technology generally assumes an operational integration of technology-tools  into the existing system, which in itself is entirely focused on assessable, known and stable outcomes measured though essays and exams.

Deciding on a technological tool is determined by individual and organisational belief of  how well it will ‘fit’ or ‘integrate’ into known, stable practice which is ruled by constant grades and scores. Abandoning existing technologies also means abandoning methods, which in turn declares them less useful. Education hates this idea – as it constantly draws on seers of the past to interpret the future.

Generally speaking the function of technology currently is productivity. A typed up essay that suits the small amount of time markers actually spend reading it is preferable. A hand written exam is preferable when ticking off declarative knowledge, the NAPLAN allows governments to regulate and assign funding. Technology is by an large system-focused or dismissed. We find it incredibly hard to assess the soft skills, which is evident in the lack of them appearing in the National Curriculum beyond motherhood statements.

Outside of fractious formal educational, technology spawns networks of external sites and forums that support guilds, databases, and wikis, or the technological infrastructure that support solving diverse problems has become an intensely liberating factor in mass social development – which involves not only consuming, but producing and modifying knowledge in numerous form factors online. This work – and teaching about this work – takes place almost entirely in downtime and is perhaps is the exploit needed for those who never stood on the school stage as the celebrated academic elite, or never got that job because the qualification demand was high (despite the pay being low).

As a colleague suggested – everyone wants to pay a nickel for a dollar song – meaning formal education is used to call the shots in life. And yet the most innovation, the most opportunity for those yet to receive an education lies in mobile, mass access to the Internet.

Here is a game you can play with teachers as future-ologists.

Imagine two teams playing a video game online. Both have the objective of building a defensible fortress from the game control enemies. The game-world has limited resources to use in constructing this, and limited time before the first wave of bad-guys seeks to eliminate players. What happens next?

Educators will come up with scenarios based partly on their understanding of the problem and their assumption of what you asking in context. The way they will explain it will be to vocalise or to write something down – and use language that they assume you share a common understanding of.

If we set this problem to educators, they will usually want to know more information, and claim they can’t set about solving it as it has too many variables and too little information. Ask the same problem of children and you’ll probably get the same answer. What becomes interesting is if one team is children and the other adults, even more interesting if you separate them into gender.

This is the recipe that has been served up on reality television for over a decade. It’s what keeps people watching MasterChef, The Amazing Race and Survivor. It’s the same formula that broke gaming out of the arcade era into games like Tombraider.

If we set this as a text-based question in a blog or wiki – what can we learn? How helpful would it be to delve into past-research in order to try and make links between lab-rats and gamers?

What emerges from playing this game – in a game world – is useful. It can spawn a host of explorations and discussions in which those who are situated inside the game-world can explain broader, applied theory of how to solve more complex problems. They have shared experience, shared meaning and shared identity.

When people ask “which game should I use to teach grade 4 science” I can only answer that the question is floored unless you want to use a Taylorist ‘computer as a tutor’ instructional, education game. What would be better is to ask “what scientific phenomenon can we explore in a game-world”. To me that is the point of game-play – to explore scenarios that cannot otherwise occur.

This is one of the key reasons I dislike the idea of ‘gamification’ — the idea that people will declare new enthusiasm or be more work-life innovative, simply because they collect tokens or badges in a game.

What emerges from game-play in teacher education are raw materials. The building blocks of web pedagogy and social development strategies. And I’ve I’ve said before – building a personal learning network is game-play – it’s what happens next.

How to disarm in-active staff with ICT

Following on from my previous post about taking an evaluation approach to selecting the best set of classroom tools, here is another activity that will help you get traction … it probably occurs FIRST in all reality – and is a strategy to better understand their needs. Notice here that I’m not talking about new technologies – that is something to do after the session.

It’s a way to set up a piece of technology that you introduce later — to disarm those who enter the session with a certain view. Draw your bow, provoke thought around current practice.

Provide these as a set of questions on paper.

Ask teachers to read it and spend 5 minutes answering them as individuals. (This avoids immediate group bias and getting side-tracked into conversations they’d rather have).

1. Think about an evaluation of work that you have recently carried out, or are planning to do.
2. Ask them to select a pathway for the evaluation to determine it’s purpose.

a) because you wanted to learn about your own practice
b) because you needed to be accountable.

3. Highlight the characteristics that best describe the evaluation

* Evaluators include staff, students and other stakeholders (parents, executive)
* Examples used in the evaluation are randomly selected to represent the whole
* Evaluation has an emphasis on finding out reasons for success and failure
* Evaluators are independent perhaps external to your classroom
* The aim of evaluation is to improve future activities
* Used a mix of data – qualitative and quantitive
* The emphasis of the evaluation was on qualitative data
* The evaluation was carried out at the end of the project cycle
* The examples are selected because they illustrate a point (what you were looking for)
* The examples are selected because of a potential to transfer the wins and loses to other things
* The aim was to compare current and past activities
* The emphasis is on how successful/unsuccessful the project has been
* The evaluation is carried out during the project cycle – as part of the planning cycle
* The evaluation data is collected once, at the end of the project cycle.

4. Pair with someone; and decide which of the above characteristics best describes evaluations carried out for the purposes of accountability – and which best describes evaluations for the learning process. Draw two columns (accountability and learning). Allow them to only place a maximum of TWO items in BOTH columns (you will have some who hedge their bets).

5. Are the characteristics which describe your evaluation all in the same column or divided between them? – Ask for feedback and reasons (allows people to talk/vent).

If we are interested in introducing technological interventions that bring benefits to a child’s learning – then we are interested in the approach described in the learning column. There is a cross over, but that should not be seen as a conflict.

We should be emphasising the learning column’s potential – and use these characteristics as criteria when looking at technology.

Now let’s gun-down some of the current practice.

Form people into groups of about 6. Ask them to take their tables and start to order the characteristics from most to least important. Get them to draw up a sheet and stick it on the wall. This allows everyone to see how the cohort sees evaluation itself.

At this point – you should be happy – you have just found out a lot about your environment; what they see as important and will have a clear idea about who is leading your table conversations. Observation here is key – figure out who is most likely to support you if you invest further time.

Now ask them to do something they didn’t see on the agenda.

By each of the items on the sheet – ask them directly – “which ICT is best used to help you do that?”

ie Which ICT do you use because it illustrates a point? – an example might be – scanning student work samples.

Now you have your research – you can now go away and find some tools that will allow them to do what they say they are doing – perhaps better use, perhaps entirely new. In the above example; you might introduce a digital camera as a way of imaging student work – during the learning, not just scanning work at the end.

So the action step for you – as the educational developer; review and suggest tools that present characteristics most likely to deliver the things everyone put in the learning column.

Will they stay the same – or change? What can you do with available time/resources – what are the priorities – for learning.

The great thing here is that you are taking an evidence based approach … you have something ‘real’ to talk about.

Now track down people and issues one by one – start to work directly on their practice. Avoid large groups – and make sure you schedule time(s) with staff. Perhaps you can tie this to individual performance reviews; time needed to evidence professional development; or some other organisational requirement. The more you make it appear to be part of their job – the more likely you are to see them adopt or at least consider what you are suggesting.

Make sure you write up your workshop; and give it to everyone who attended for feedback and comment. This is really important. More important – write a further report for the executive to make recommendations – based on your new evidence. Getting the backing of leaders is critical. If they don’t take the time to read it and discuss it with you — then think hard and long about beating your head against the wall in the future. Set it up right and you become empowered – don’t allow your efforts to be a time-filler or nice to know. Make it matter to everyone.

Peer Assisted Learning and SackBoy

I have strayed from the path – and this post I returns to the games and – professional development of teachers. Yey!

In this post I want to look at why teaching Twitter is problematic. I also want to talk a little about why using games in learning grabs the attention of learners (adults included). Hopefully, you might be able to use some of the thinking in your own PD sessions.

Peer Assisted Learning

Much is written about the value of Twitter as a personal learning network — aka PLN.

For those presenting in workshops, one of the hardest concepts to explain is how a mass public access social network fits into education.

Many previous encounters of the digital kind have been designed for educational environments. Attendees have never needed to adapt any commercial offering to an edu-instance before. It has been provided at the institutional level – WebCT, MyClasses, Blackboard, Moodle and the all powerful Portal. Your audience is not motivated, but questioning – as you churn through your slide-deck of choice.

Your audience will be confused by notions of ‘networked learning’ – where learning happens formally between participants, inside a walled-garden, and have been told to value privacy and security.  As their conflicted minds and folded arms try to reconcile the impact (to them) of adopting and adapting your ad-hock, public communication — they are in fact deciding critically whether you are are a genius or a lunatic – challenging their belief.

It is advantageous to align Twitter academic ideas around peer assisted learning (PALS) which is widely accepted as a sound learning strategy. PALS develops a trust network … and your audience has absolutely no need for what you are offering them, unless you have created that value proposition for them.

Ideas need selling, not just explaining.

Twitter is an example of a peer assisted learning platform, that connects people with similar interests and goals. It offers ad-hoc communication entirely at the users discretion.  Participation requires us to send and receive information presented by trusted peers. Success requires on-going and meaningful discussions with global peers on key issues in practice”.

If you ping the Twitterverse live – it looks impressive, but so would pulling IWB out your ear. It says that you have a magical power they don’t.  You can bling up your powerpoints all you like – but don’t miss the under pinning reagent needed to get the change in behaviour you are after.

Why kids use PALs to play games.

Think about games and MMOs – they run on peer assisted learning. PALS is at the heart of the motivation that game designers understand so well. The initial stages of play are semi-autonomous with the game provides guided instruction. Very quickly, players gain the basics and start to work together to solve their first problem – with little ‘in game help’ … very soon, they rely on each other to help them overcome new challenges – that are un-predicted. (Isnt’ that how we use Twitter? – Part learn, part belonging and part fun)

Pre-school, primary and secondary learners have a constant exposure to PALS with technology.

Watch 4 and 5 year olds with their NintendoDS, they immediately look to co-opt. It’s a human instinct to find collaboration and belonging. Strength in numbers or a friend in need. Ever wondered why a 4 year old is happy to watch an 8 year old play a Wii for 3 hours – they are learning and supporting the player — their turn will come. Mobile phones provide the same function – but at a more sophisticated level. This is why 4th graders can reach Level 80 in Warcraft, or nail a new console game in a weekend – peer assisted learning is central to today’s digital-learner.

Using Sackboy to explain PALS

If you want adults to ‘get’ PALs, let them level for an hour using Sony’s Little Big Planet. Teachers don’t engage in collaborative learning with technology – so it is no shock they don’t do it in class. If you play a game that required them to use PALS then you they are actively re-thinking their belief. Little Big Planet is great for this on PS3, but you can do it with Nintendo DS and a cheap quiz game too. Let them figure out what to do, how it works, how to hook 4 players into session … after 20 minutes they will be able to reflect on it – even more so if you record them playing and highlight teachable moments.

Once they accept that PALs is a viable teaching strategy – then you have a meta-cognitive basis upon which you can now start to explain Ning, Elgg, Twitter – or anything else.

Thanks SackBoy.

School Without Walls #2

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FOLLOWING on from the great feedback in relation to the previous post and #sictassy (check the Tweet-related URLS here), I’d like to start expanding out some of the ideas forming around ‘the school without walls’, leading from the discussions with the DET (Department of Education and Training).

I am in no way suggesting this idea is limited to the DET – but that was the start point conversation and #sictassy. The creation of this ‘school’ I believe can only come about as a result of participatory culture and that has to be the central motivation for those students choosing ‘media based education’.

A Virtual School is not a new idea, or an ideal, but I see the school without walls as a very bright idea – as it is ideal to model best practice, model professional learning, and deliver 21st century pedagogy within existing desires of education.

In the comment stream, there are numerous ideas … and we are still talking about some central issues that surpass foci on ‘technology’ itself. The Twitpoll over the weekend took 43 votes – so the conversation has gone from 8 at a table to the network. 95% thought it was plausible. Not a big number, but it represents something bigger – a movement.

3402869547_5d5993b55fThe Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, this week said  “The government did not want this generation of young people to bear an ongoing burden from the economic crisis”, to me, this burden is not just future taxation – but the nature of employment and preparation for it.

The Minister also talked about “… creative provision of education, they can be back, back learning, back gaining self-esteem and self-respect, and back gaining opportunities that are going to make a difference for the rest of their lives.” and “We don’t want people sitting around doing nothing,” on Fairfax Radio.

If this is goal, and we want students to ‘learn or earn’ – why do we have to have duality – why not find a way to blend both or either – depending on the needs of the learner. Some may financially need to earn, but also want to be learners. Even in this mode, the school without walls makes sense to me. Ideas are in a loop, looking internally for answers – or hoping to co-opt ‘the cloud’ and cherry pick palatable ideas based on the past.

Why not empower and trust in the existing movement of teachers already forming behind this idea? – That’s the message.

The National ICT Symposium was addressing some of this.   I see the project as taking innovation to integration – delivering on existing ‘needs’ by the various bureaucratic statements such as the Federal government’s provision for “recognition and reward for quality teaching” or for beginning teachers to have demonstrated successful teaching experience.“. I want to create leaders, not experienced teachers. I experience traffic in Sydney daily, and don’t see it as valuable to my life – quite the opposite.

To keep the conversation flowing – I’ve put together an idea for a charter statement – which you are free to comment, or add to on Etherpad. Please note it only deals with 8 people at once, so be patient if there is a rush. How do you see a mission and vision for this?

I think we are having a great conversation about what are hard questions, please please add your voice – local, international, DET, CEO, AIS, TAFE – participation is the currency of communication.

The rise of the meta-teacher

1410539606_86f47b8e13Has 2008 been a significant juncture in education?. K12 Online was a huge hit, Connectivism ran online and numerous ‘fringe’ edu-events went mainstream. Of course the Australian government has decided it would like to filter the entire internet for us and drop low end laptops in schools.

We wonder why reforming ICT in school is hard … look at the vast differences in what is happening.

Regardless of 2008, it seems obvious that in the last decade – the power of the internet to connect us to things we want to know, buy or with people we want to know or could never meet has changed great parts of our society – of which students and teachers belong. You only have to compare the Australian Bureau of Statitics ‘Internet’ data from 1998 to 2008 to see how powerful the internet has become in our lives. We are not the same as we were.

It is not a ‘digital revolution’ any more than it was an ‘information superhighway’ a decade ago.

I see the rise of the ‘meta-teacher’. A teacher who understands that as information spews out of our desktops, laptops and phones – it sticks to the internet and potentially has to be navigated. These teachers are different. They have skills and understanding that makes them critical in the classroom, and the global ‘edu’ community. They lead, mediate, inspire and collaborate. More importantly they understand how to read, use, integrate, technology, and ‘meta-language’. They understand how ‘things’ get connected to other things. They are aware that ‘tagging’ is significant.

The teacher who thinks that a website address and Google are enough to navigate media and networks of information is gradually becoming media-illiterate – and passing that on to their students.  The ‘universal resource locator stopped working correctly as soon as we stopped hand-writing html and turned on our data-base driven interwebs. The internet is not a level playing field when it comes to content, nor does Google know which is the most relevant site for you. It has a good guess, but without critical literacy skills – how can you tell?

Meta data and meta language are how we tie information, people, ideas, resources and communities together – not links or search engines.

These teachers are power-influences . They can integrate web technology into the curriculum,  interpret, aggregate and organize information to help other’s do it too. Meta-teachers are seen as a ‘problem’ to the incumbents, and despite the enormous goodwill and passion they have – struggle to engage the laggards (who are too busy). When will parents start saying ‘enough’. Is it possible that we could blend face to face with online and rethink schools?

Right now schools are trying to stick a digital clock on a poodle.

Will Richardson recently talked about the school of the future and the discussion that followed was very thought provoking. Will increasing numbers of meta-teachers allow the school of the future – the ‘meta-schools’. Is that how we’ll reform pedagogy and curriculum. How much with Open Education influence this?

Will they appear in the same way ‘charter schools’ appeared. It’s not so crazy and idea as sooner or later someone with money will pay for it – and there will be both parents and teachers who want it. Perhaps the role of meta-teachers is not to  ‘change’ their schools. Maybe they represent an opportunity to create ‘better’ schools – or at least offer an alternative to what we have. It really would be nice to have the choice.