The Digital Dust Bowl



One of the things that is changing the way families experience games are the new media layers that games are appearing on. We’ve known for years that media works better when it is fluid. If you like, if we were to take the sum total of all forms of media that appear in popular culture, make them immersive and interactive – and where to you find yourself?

On the Internet is not the correct answer. The Internet is just the transport for media layers. Where you end up is inside one of several networks, which carries media more powerful and fluid than newspapers, radio, television, books, magazines – or websites.

Sony, Nintendo, Valve, Xbox, iTunes and Google Play are the network layers that manage to exist in two key areas of our lives. Firstly, the pocket. At any moment we can be entertained, thrilled and most importantly – consume and purchase. Secondly, in the lounge room. The one place that most families inhabit  Not the study or a nook (where the PC lives) but front and centre of viewing.

Games are more powerful, because games are a significant part of these networks overall media business. Not just blockbuster games, but Indie games which are relatively smaller and cheaper to download. They exist alongside the DLC (downloadable content) which are ‘additions’ to the games you buy in the store – and you pay for. They sit along side downloadable videos, television, music and news. They link into you social feed. An Indie game, such as Super Meat Boy can turn 10,000 units in a day at 12000c a pop, which is somewhere around $20.00.

A big reason the media (be that television, print, or websites) will fail to win their relentless attempts to diminish games as a media (we already spend more time playing that doing anything else) is that games are central to the economic success (and growth) of these media networks. If you were born after say 1978, you grew up playing games on micro-computers. If you were born after 1990, you grew up on optical-media based consoles. If you were born after 2000, you are growing up on network-games.

The thing about this – the thing which seems of the most importance to me right now – is that we know almost nothing about the motivations and perceptions of parents towards their use in the home. In education, the scary thing is that these things are never mentioned in relation to ‘integrating ICT’. There’s a huge assumption that eventually, though the pathways put forward through popular Internet media layers (the feed of blogs, Twitter and so on) – sufficient adults will understand online information pathways to develop the skills (what skills) needed for the future. At best, this near future is seen as a shift from laptop top tablet.

This of course means that the ‘cutting edge’ in popular culture of online education is based on tablets, mobile phones and on maturation of Internet websites. It ignores completely the use of wearable technology, smart televisions, Kinect, Google Glass and many more technologies that have already entered the home. When educational futurists painted a vision of Web2.0, they assumed it would be on a computer, then a laptop and now a tablet.

The future of online learning won’t be these things. It will be in fast moving, on-demand content that can be immersive and fluid. It is perhaps the biggest reason I found the MS Surface tablet exciting. It looked, worked and talked to my Xbox network. It amases me in higher education that no one (or no one I can see) isn’t working really hard on how eLearning might look via a network layer such as Xbox live – one which has a mature system of reputation, avatar, history of use, money and of course downloadable content. How hard would it be to create an amazing learning managent system that worked on the Xbox network? Well, impossible actually – as education simply hasn’t considered that just about all of it’s ‘innovations’ for interactive screens, live cams, secure mail, gamification, flipped classroom, internet searching and so on can be done on Xbox live.

So when these media networks have machines hooked up to wall mounted LCDs pushing data at us though 8 cores of processing – and hiring thousands of programmers to do it … it seems almost Edwardian to suggest websites have much of a future. Every major media player in the world is on or trying to get on the network layers that sit in our pockets and lounge room walls.

My money (if I had any) is on the future being a solid return to subject mastery in classroom and a retreat from the high invested (low return) that we’ve seen in the last decade. I don’t imagine for a moment that student results will be diminished. I think that higher education and other offerings of ‘learning’ will make their way to layers such as Xbox live (and not just iTunesU) and we’ll be interacting in real time with real people using gesture based technology, wearable technology – because the networks which carry games such as Crysis3 are currently limited by the machines – the Wii, the Xbox and the PS3 are a decade old.

Imagine if the classroom had laptops and computers 10 years old, they would barely run todays software – and yet the ageing PS3 and Xbox still deliver media and games which you’d expect on your iFad3 or i7 PC. If anyone knows how to get the maximum interaction out of a machine – it’s game developers and all of these media networks (those used to selling movies, TV and music) know – if they want a future doing just that – then they need to fund the games industry … and that is expensive … like many millions and years of waiting for it expensive.

I doubt you’ll find a single proposal at ISTE last year, this year or next year, that will look at how networked media will flood into lives of kids in the next few years. We’re about to enter a new generation of machine – the PS4, the Xbox (720) and so on, which will quite simply transform the way media is delivered and interacted with. Instead theres a bunch of people who are in the old-marketpace. To me it’s like the boom and bust of the wheat farmers who ignored the cattle-men and believed the solution to low grain prices what to produce more grain to sell, or if the price of grain is high, plant more grain to make money.

The dust-storm is arriving … me, I’m working on figuring out how and why families choose the games and networks they do … as it’s only by getting that, could I then try to imagine how we might prepare teachers for the next generation – the ones who will grow up feeding on high-speed media via cheap boxes that know their name.

Now I”m going to play Fez – which is metaphor. The world is 3D, it has four sides, a top and a bottom – what I’m seeing in edu-tech is an unwillingness to accept change is not about changing one surface for another (web1.0 to web2.0, computer screen to laptop screen, laptop to tablet screen). It’s about waking up and realising there’s stuff going on around the back that your current feed does not want you to know about.

At times it feels ironic that what is presented as ‘the edge of new learning technologies’, quick to vilify ‘old methods’ – is already a chapter in history – relevant in the 1990s, but in denial of what comes next – for no greater reason than they don’t have a place in it, and about to find themselves living in the ‘digital dust bowl’.

It’s very exciting stuff. It’s like finding the Web all over again, or that whole – what am I doing here – thing that came with Second Life or Minecraft. I’m betting that the way MOOCS and online learning for adults will explode is exactly the same way they exploded for games. I’m also betting right now all the money for MOOCs and massive online learning delivery systems is going into dust-ware.

Me, I’m working on a game with Mr11 about a Monkey with a monocle – because his homework said to make a pencil box using a set-square. I’m by-passing the Google Sketch phase and going straight for the understanding of the design process.


Reality is broken – but being patronising lives

In 2008 is perhaps the year most of todays popular ed-tech gurus first flew solo. In the same year the Joint Research Centre Institute for Prospective Technological Studies in Europe, a peak research body drawing on work from numerous Universities and Commercial bodies looked at what the trend to 2020 would be, in terms of preparing societies for work and keeping them in work (relative to technology). They had apparently seen this trend emerging in journals, research and books on the topic. I know, hard to believe bloggers didn’t invent shifting-change.

They found 4 pillars needed in the future of learning which still seem valid to me.

1. Make lifelong learning and learner mobility a reality;
2. Improve the quality and efficiency of provision and outcomes;
3. Promote equity and active citizenship;
4. Enhance innovation and creativity, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of Education and Training.

The didn’t talk about tools or e-society, they just talked about learning, training and employment needs of European societies.

There are those who’s views fit the facts and those fit the facts to their view. Where this report looked at extensive facts, the dominant story of education told via social-media layers between 2008 and now – is that Web2.0 and ‘being connected’ is not the most important factor in ‘change’. Quite different things. We know technology is important, but I don’t think it’s important to learn in a dime-museum.

Yesterday I say Jane McGonagil “Reality is Broken” author and popular TED speaker posted to Twitter how when she gets her 40,0000th follower, she will randomly follow 4 more people. Hey Jane! can you patronise me a little more please – and thanks for pulp-fictionising the works of others for the masses too. BTW you’re ideas on community in your book – lack evidence.

Stick-to-your-guns, follow the evidence – the muffins are a lie.

Tineye – Reverse image search

Here’s something you might like, because it adds a new dimension to critical literacy, and plugs into your browser. Tineye is a delightfully simple, but clever tool. It allows you to find out where an image came from how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or if there is a higher resolution version.

You can install a browser plug-in to right click and find out more. Here is one I grabbed from Jude’s recent blog post.

It could be handy for finding out just where that image came from, priming discussions around original  source, attribution, copyright etc., or just really handy for finding out how far images that you’ve created as info-graphics have gone since you posted them to the internet. Either way, it’s a valuable addition to the war on ‘crap’, that I also recommend you read from Harold Rheingold’s article in Educause.

The Metaverse: An infographic to represent our world

I seem to spend and extra-ordinary amount of time exemplifying what ‘the metaverse’ is.

I am not a futurist or philosopher — but felt like trying to visualise my interpretation of the metaverse interchange in this infographic. I confess I do subscribe to the discourses around connectivism.

Some of society today gathers at this interchange. The metaverse is not congruent to those displaced or consciously objecting to it. It exists regardless of political or ideological opinion.

Moreover, the ‘real world’ increasingly mirrors the metaverse. Part of what we want is unworldly (manage a cartoon farm, fight in a war, yell at politician) – yet infuses every aspect of life. You don’t need a spinal stem implant or drink Kool-aid. If you are jacked into the technology, you are part of world interface.

The metaverse offers tangible connections, whereby the latest knowledge and facts might be transferred; and intangible connections relating to the development of a critical inquiry approach to learning (anything); a stimulating and rejuvenating environment; a global connection beyond the individual level, making our digital-self a connected agent in a highly complex network of things.

There are repeated attempts to filters and partition this interchange by hierarchical structures. Employees, students and citizens endure FUD, filters, policy and socio-economic barriers that serve to impair diversity and create access-inequity in our ability to mine; construct and grow knowledge for own future. Rather than deal with the metaverse; those with incumbent social capital prefer to simplify the point of technological/human convergence as ICT.

I make a distinction between ICT and The Metaverse – because the world does.

Consider 1:1 laptops in the classroom. While a teacher may be using ICT, they may not be plugging learners into the interchange that exists in the real world. ICT is unrealistic, the ‘metaverse’ — an authors invention, is now an expanding reality for those whom have the ability and desire to do so.

The characterstics of ICT are limited by selective and contestable interpretations of what ‘information, communication and technology’ are. Generally, ICT is based on physical reality – the computer, the netbook, the filter, the modem, the spreadsheet, the virus, the internet – the syllabus demands. To reinforce this, ICT-czars tend to prescribe (or ban) ‘tools’ to be used in order to perpetuate their particular whimsical belief. ICT is not the metaverse.

think of it this way: sculptors sometimes say ‘the sculpture was already in the rock; I just found it’. And, quite literally, it makes no sense to say that the sculpture was not in the rock – where else would it be? Stephen Downes (2006)

The metaverse is salient to knowledge – and the connections we make in acquiring, distributing and using it. By visualizing the current ‘accessible’ facets, I hope that it overcomes the partitioning problem. Yes you have 1:1 laptops; but in order to take in the potential of the metaverse – as a network – the stimulus, connections, people, objects, articles (things) need to have an portal. Chances are, if your predominant experience of ICT though a portal – your experience, connections and knowledge is more erroneous than someone with access to the metaverse. The problem then becomes – who do you trust to lead you, now that you don’t need managing.

How to evaluate the best toolkit for your class

How’s your Web2.0 compass? Are you panning for gold; or still looking for the stream?

I often think of Web2.0 as like gold-panning in a flowing steam.

One person finds a spot using a method and pan that works for them. Before you know it, everyone either wants to be in that spot or use the same pan. Some leave the goldfield – winging that they can’t quite replicate the success in the spot they are in, with the gear they have.

I am prepared to accept that I can’t replicate or improve on everything I see others doing, but try to do the most with what I have in the place I am in. I do notice what others are doing; but I’ve long since stopped running up and down the stream looking for a better spot.

There are three core-components needed in effective teaching strategy.

  1. an outcome (what you want them to learn)
  2. an activity (what you going to do the help them learn it)
  3. evaluation (how do you know they learned it)

Classroom teachers should approach using technology from an evaluation perspective, but suspect many use an activity angle – BBBBzzz.

Students want to know – what is it exactly that you want me to do with this?. Why is it important or worthwhile enough for me to pay attention to it?

Nothing Web2.0 is vaguely interesting to youth-online unless it connects them to their friends or builds their personal reputation in spaces that their friends see as important and worthwhile.

When building a toolset for learning – be prepared to see them used for at least a term – consistently. The novelty of using a new app, soon wears thin, and there is no magic app to gain their attention. Stop looking for it.

Be very explicit in telling students what these tools are for – not just what you want them to do. Give even the smallest tool – meaning and purpose in a realistic, personal context

I’ll unpack this using Diigo as an example, but you can use these 5 steps for anything.


How does it

1. give me an insight into children needs
2. help me to identify what works well, so I can build on it
3. help me to identify what doesn’t work so well, so I can address it.
4. promote participation of parents, teachers and the wider community, encouraging them to reflect on children’s educational needs and their own belief and attitudes towards education
5. help me highlight problems and potential solutions which help us to influence education policy at many levels (locally – in our own context, organistations – both nationally and internationally)

Next consider the student perspectivelet them know what they are expected to do with it, using your belief statements. Test your hypothesis.


1. This will allow you and I to share references of websites and information
2. You will be able to show me which things you think matter and together we won’t waste time on less important things.
3. It helps me give you feedback and help; even when we are not in the same room.
4. We can share all our ideas with the class, and the school – so that in the future, other people will know about your work.
5. You can show you parents how and what you are learning – and that helps them better understand why we are using this technology.

At the beginning, I said that this is evaluation.


What you choose and promise must be judged by your students. You must actively collect data and do more than reflect – you must offer evidence – to complete the cycle of empirical research that most teachers are engaged in – consciously or not. By being aware of the cycle; and focusing on the evaluation – teachers are able to use their data as much more than story telling in conferences.


Write a blog post using your evidence.

Crayons, physics, wipeboards and fun

A colleague showed me this today. It’s called CrayonPhysics, and you can download the demo for nix or spend a measly $20 on a great game, that is going to motivate and engage pre-schoolers upwards. There are endless eCreative applications for it, but one we thought would be really great was to combine this appliction with an IWB and Scribblar. We’ve been working with a Biology lecturer who wanted to combine her internal class with externals. In the past she has had to come up with 2 different types of learning activity, so wanted to find a way to find one. As most of the work revolves around formulas and maths – the IWB was rolled in to replace the wipeboard. We’ve then hooked up Scribbar live, and Bob’s your uncle, external students and internal ones can work at the same time live using voice and vision. We then record the entire thing that the project beams out and stick it on the burbclave so people can re-watch it.

CrayonPhysics would work in the same way! – So while we are using the set up for high-end stuff, there’s no reason not to try this with primary school IWB or EyeBeam between schools and classes. It’s a game! so play will be a great kicker to get kids motivated. They could design their own challenge levels and more … but you get the idea right. $20 and you’re into game-based-learning with maths and physics across the metaverse.

Too tight to buy a game – or still thinking games are not for you – have a look at physicSketch an adaptation …

Games, connecting to others, solid theory and fun … happy-class activities on a total shoe string … if you don’t have and IWB, then there’s the iPhone/iTouch app, Wacom tablet or Wiimote option too. Can’t wait to try this one out with the kids …

Here are a list of virtual boards we looked at, and some short descriptions, leeched from the marketing blurb.

1. Twiddla is a web-based meeting playgroundMark up websites, graphics, and photos, or start brainstorming on a blank canvas. Browse the web with your friends or make that conference call more productive than ever. No plug-ins, downloads, or firewall voodoo – it’s all here, ready to go when you are. Browser-agnostic, user-friendly.

2. skrbl (online IWB) and easy online multi user whiteboard, start skrbl, give out your URL & start working together. Sketch, text, share files, upload pictures all in one common shared space. There are no new tools to learn, nothing to download, nothing to install. Brainstorm on our simple whiteboard to start thinking together, everyone sees the same screen, everybody gets on the same page.Also team skrbl

skrbl now

3. Scriblink (Browser Based IWB) Scriblink is a free digital whiteboard that users can share online in real-time. Sorta like pen and paper, minus the dead trees, plastic, and the inconvenience of being at the same place at the same time.

4. Groupboard – simple java whiteboard

Groupboard is a set of multi-user java applets including whiteboard, chat, message board, games and voice conferencing which you can place on your web page by simply copying a few lines of HTML code. You can also run Groupboard on your own web server. It can be used for tutoring, distance learning, training, or simply for fun! With the whiteboard you can upload background images and draw on top of them, and all of the users connected to the board will see the changes in real-time. Free for 5 users.

5. Dabbleboard (Browser Based IWB Dabbleboard is a powerful digital whiteboard that’s actually easy and fun to use. With a revolutionary new interface, Dabbleboard gets out of your way and just lets you draw. Draw with flexible tools. Reuse previously-made drawings. Share and collaborate in real-time. All as naturally as using a marker or a pencil.

6. Virtual WhiteBoard Virtual WhiteBoard is a web-based collaborative system that provides a realtime canvas for thinking, designing, and working with your colleagues, clients, friends or family. It is free for anyone to use | web 2.0

7. FREE Virtual Classroom! Now teachers and students anywhere in the world, can connect and meet live in the Virtual Classroom for an online interactive class. The collaborative web conferencing environment enables you to communicate synchronously using video and audio or through text chat, and to share presentations, documents and images on an interactive whiteboard. Join us now, to conduct your online live class and experience the next best alternative to classroom teaching.

8 GE IWB A free white board that you can easily invite people to collaborate with. With a plethora of features and no membership required. Great for small businesses, not for profits and just people that want to share ideas.

9. Scribblar Simple, effective online collaboration. Multi-user whiteboard, live audio, image collaboration, text-chat and more

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 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.

If the shoe fits #1

DUTY OF CARE, the age old topic that is rolled out whenever the conversation about changing a culture of learning starts to get a little uncomfortable – when something new might disrupt the status-quo once again floated to the top of the turd bowl this week.

Private education has to comply with the same legal duty. Yet public policy sees Bob the Builder banned. More seriously, this potentially creates a second class experience for public schools using technology – some 70% of our children.

Yes we are critical – we have to be because the system is in a nice safe orbit. Failure to adequately address local policy adaptation and provide local school autonomy in ICT over a long period of time, though successive governments has resulted in a lock-stepped public system that is unable to cope.

Its a cultural problem! – bureaucrats unwilling and unable to create effective public policy, waving the ‘duty of care’ banner on any occasion that feels uncomfortable. The internet brings a macro level of scrutiny that has simply got out of hand. School leaders do not check every book or resource that a teacher brings to class or get it ratified by some faceless womble in head office. Yet the internet does.
I think I might move to Sweden – where I could either choose a school that will work for my kids (not against them), or I could set up my own, with 100% government funding. Could I do that here – absolutely – would I need to talk to DET, probably not – I need to talk to DET teachers – as our school would be different and better.
Now there’s an idea – a Free Virtual School for all Australian Kids online. Jeez why didn’t I think of that and tell someone earlier this year. Oh wait … you get the point – DET is not the only scenario on offer – and there is global research and evidence to suggest that the patriarchal model we have – is not guaranteed to continue. *Puts hand up for Virtual School! A school needs community – and that does not mean locking kids in a room day in and day out for several years anymore.

GOAL! – Event Driven Classrooms

Picture 1

GOAL! … Setting goals, though dates doesn’t work too well for many people. We all too often put the date back if we can, or put the work off ’till we have to. It’s the ‘want to’ verses ‘have to’ thing that often stalls professional development too. We have to get this done by Friday, but when Friday comes and it’s not done or we have to understand social media vs we want to use it – we did nothing,

We give students deadlines all the time – the assignment is due on some date, followed up by a threat. We are then left to procrastinate over a period of time, then find it often hard to meet that deadline. In professional life, this happens all the time with long deadlines; we can work towards them, but often some exception comes along, and blows the deadline. This is get’s worse with students who are using computers persistently. They often know the task, but find it hard to plan their time well enough to meet the goals.

A way to change that is to turn your classroom from goal setting, into event setting. This means calling on people to do short presentations, come to a meeting, share something with another person. While we blow deadlines all the time, we are often less willing to disappoint other people in the process. ICT lessons are often like that – lots of searching, lots of copy and pasting – and even more formatting. What we need to do is get a piece of A4 paper and in nice big letters write ‘This is now a CMC Classroom. ICT has been cancelled’.

CMC – Computer mediated communication is event driven – read a blog post, make a blog post, reflect on a blog post – collect bookmarks and share them, answer the question using Shout ‘Em before the other team does. (Capture the flag with Twitter/Shout’Em and Yammer) is a great classroom motivator). The point is, that life is event driven. So assignments need to have events at the end, not tests. Teacher training also works better when it is event driven. Don’t set training goals such as ‘learn to make a blog’, create an event ‘bring 4 people with you to meet the 2 I’ve found, and some snacks we can eat while working on a new reading list’. One is a chore, the other sounds like fun – and has a visible end.