Enter the failure gap, honour your vomit to identify problems worth solving

I was asked a few days ago about whether students can, or should be able to set their own assessment tasks. It’s easy to think they can – but the number one activity of young people online isn‘t problem solving, it’s information-seeking. They are not alone, most adults want the answers – show me where, give a link to, how do I … and get upset if you don’t vomit up the answer.

So back up a little, put down you’re techno-back pack and look around the room that you’re in.

 Where are the problems to solve? How do student’s know what they look like? Are the problems projected or written in a rectangle and how is this different to looking at the world through a flat web-browser?

If a student was asked to set their own assessment – I’m pretty sure they’d set one that fits inside some sort of rectangle.

Before deciding yes or no, it makes sense to know how good they are at identifying problems worth assessing – and what the teachers role might be.

What happens if they solve a math problem using World of Warcraft, or find a passion for drawing by playing Animal Crossing, is that a rectangle too far?

It’s likely student identified problems won’t line up to with current scope and sequences or standards or pass through the scan-a-tron useful to mass cattle-grading systems. Likewise, large portions of syllabus’ concern themselves with content. The idea being that this is important stuff to know (and there are types of knowing). Students assume that as you’re teaching it, then to someone thought it was important, so it’s likely to be on the test. This makes students who are good at the test appear knowledgeable but strikes me as a big problem in a world bursting with information, and ever more complex problems that information itself can’t solve. At what point in the day does a child get to identify a problem, and work creatively to solve it. What is there in the classroom that might spur them to do it?

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish someone had told me…All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste…But there’s a gap – that for the first couple years you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good…it’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game…is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you…A lot of people never get past this phase…they quit.”

Technology is growing, which is a big problem if it’s only maturing outside of formal education. In the classroom, it seems students can’t begin to learn to solve problems, without firstly learning how to identify them and then to develop strategies – which of course involves failing.

It therefore falls on leaders, to allow teachers to put students into places where they can identify problems and work on them creatively. Along the way, they will still need structure, information and skills, but I don’t think teachers would argue with that.

I have always had a dislike of the idea of ‘integrating ICT’ into classrooms as though it will create better or more meaningful work. Most of the people I’d list as being ‘great’ teachers using ICTs are learning that if their latest project fails it will spur new ideas and helps them gain necessary skills, and should view it as a success, as it may inspire something better down the line and is worth doing.

This idea was somewhat explained by, of all people – Lady Gaga who talked about ‘honoring your vomit’. This might sound strange to look to Lady GaGa over Sir Ken, but interesting people are often interesting because they are not talking about education, but about a process of learning, especially film makers, musicians and artists.

The creative process is approximately 15 minutes of vomiting my creative ideas…And then I spend days, weeks, months, years fine-tuning, but the idea is that you honor your vomit. You have to honor your vomit – you have to honor those 15 minutes.”

So if we mash this up in the classroom, what we might try is to kick off the day with 15 minutes of creativity, just trying ideas on for size and seeing what problems we can identify from it for another 15 minutes.

If you are fortunate enough to have an IWB in your primary classroom (my kids have no such access sadly), then go and buy a Nintendo Wii and a game called Animal Crossing. It won’t break the bank and doesn’t need a network engineer, just plug it in and let kids play on rotation for 15 minutes at the start of the day. Then let them spend 15 minutes doing something creative.

That’s it – you’ve just put yourself in the gap – now you (and your students) can start identifying some problems worth solving … and you can spend 30 mins a day working on it everyday.

I’m a Wii

I thought this (raunchy?) Apple parody would make a good ‘entry document’ to use to talk to older students about ‘Digital Representation and Reputation’.

It is actually very well done and I think would form the basis of a good classroom discussion, given that students already know the “Im a Mac” ads and understand the PS3/Wii war.

Sony homes in PS3 based Social Power


It might not be news to some, but Sony has been inviting the hardcore faithful into Beta tests of ‘Home’. 

Sony claims Home is comparable to Second Life, as a virtual community of PS3 owners living together in both public and private environments.

Users will be able to login, chat with both text and speech and play casual games together such as pool, bowling and even embedded arcade machines. And when the old stand-bys grow stale, users can invite one another into other PlayStation Network titles outside of PlayStation Home.

Every user will have their own virtual apartment to decorate with furniture, their trophies from various games (see: achievements) and content from their own PS3s. Since the initial limited showings, but a fair amount of talk, this ‘world’ is certainly aimed at ‘pull’ technologies. The user has some ability to decorate and move around, however unlike Second Life, Sony decides what is in, out and what you can do with it at this stage.

The proposed interface for navigation is not suprisingly a virtual PSP. Sony claim to be selling 280,000PS3s  a month. At this point Home is supposedly ‘free’ for PS3 customers.

The gamer hardcore (who hnd out in forums) are however a little unconvinced, as recent ‘sneek’ peeks still don’t allow gamers to meet in themed areas. So if you are into Call Of Duty, then your ‘sim’ is not likley to be themed as per the game. Instead, a central plaza offers bollwing and pool.

Jack Buser from Sony commented

“The real reason for the game space being there is to give you an excuse to do something to meet people,” he said. “Take pool. It’s just like playing pool in real life. You do it to hang out with friends. Maybe one out of 10 times you play pool it’s actually to get better at your game.” 


The graphics are going to be slick – the PS3 is a very powerful machine, but how much ‘free’ content will exisit and how much ‘paid’ content remains a mystery. How and financial system works is not clear, nor any mention of connection speed – and the curse of Second Life – lag.

Right now the limted Beta testing is leading Sony Forum types to talk about Home as ‘vapourware’ – as there is little more than a few screen shots and a promotional video to go by – and that has been around for a while – there seems no rush to announce a date. But that is not common in this sector of the market.

Given the endless console wars – this is however an area that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are all exploring. However, content – as Linden Labs know, is king.

Developing an experience that adds to the gaming experience is the product to be sold here – and that is directly linked to commercial interests or not just Sony Playstation and it’s developers – but also it’s wider interests in music, film etc.,

It ‘s not clear how Home will be rated in terms of ‘age’ and ‘safety’ so again hard to suggest where it might fit into the spectrum of virtual worlds right now. Once again, this is very much the challenge of all online communities right now.

PSPs and PS3s are very powerful machines, and have a solid following. This further illustrates how ‘big entertainment’ (Sony pulled out of buying Club Penguin, leaving Disney to do so) – are actively hiring bright thinkers, gamers and social networkers to talk about and develop their product.

The media age is creating new opportunities – and game developers learn about social aspects of gaming – over and above providing a 2D web portal to ‘join a game’. We can’t really tell kids anymore that ‘you can’t make a living out of video games – as quite clearly – you can, and a very good one.

As one forum post commented on Home’s dribble feed of information

Among my worries- people generally don’t “behave”. If you’ve played WoW, Second Life, or to an extent XBox Live you probably know what I mean. Also, ads? This looks like a *very* expensive system to maintain, and if it’s (mostly) free, that means I foresee a lot of ads, possibly to the point of pushing users away. Only way to avoid that would be really expensive add-ons, like the clothes and furniture, and then you don’t get as many buyers, and you’re back to square one. So we’ll see about that.

Commercial advertising or click throughs are the lifeblood of the internet. One advantage I think Second Life has always had is that the user owns the IP, and in that regard to choose to take or leave anything they see, and in that regard you can make a living out of Second Life. Perhaps more significantly for students, they can break into Second Life Development – far easier than they can Sony – and on their own terms.

Nintendo is rumoured to be getting social. Animal Crossing for the Wii will be an MMO/social networking title. It’s no great surprise – in a few short years, Animal Crossing has become one of Nintendo’s most-loved and top selling franchises (over seven million copies sold) – mostly sold in Japan. And Nintendo is quick to talk about it as a ‘communications game’ – will pull technology being used to draw users to it.

The cross-over between console, mobile computing, mobile phone, laptop, desktop, plush toys, action toys has happened.

 Its a convergence that has been made possible by read/write technology over TCP/IP – and is spilling over into all devices that can push out a wifi signal. It is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘how much’ and ‘where’ these things will be accessible from. Everything and everywhere seems to be a reasonable assumption at this point, But there is a snag for society. As Beth commented on an earlier post -“ it further divides the have/have nots – the tech savvy and the not.”

Consoles are pervasive with Australian school age children.

While PS3 is expensive, XBOX360 is also another LIVE console – and as supply issues get sorted out towards the Christmas season – both Sony and Microsoft will wage further price and feature wars – inching ever closer to the console being a ‘social’ experience – as the price point falls.

As we debate – media literacy  and global citizenship s – I think that running a private Teen Second Life Island looks like very simple thing to do in light of what is fast arriving from the commercial sectors. Developing re-useable ‘teen’ content in online spaces has to happen – as teens will be using these spaces after school.

But as many adults don’t play games – and are not used to putting out personal information with ‘strangers’, then there is a huge void between what ‘we’ think and what ‘they’ think. Adults often have no idea of using a 3D Graphical User Interface full stop, and when using a computer – monotask. Kids don’t.

Music, social trends, social networks, video games, movies and fashion have blended into ‘life’ – and that life is online – in a continual conversation – that can be remixed, re-packed and re-used.

If schools and teacher think that some ‘tenure of authoriity’ based on decades of autocratic classroom management will maintain ‘school values’ then I see a very worrying time ahead – for students as their classroom ‘learning’ drifts further and further from their social learning – but at the same time, access to this is based on having, as Beth said, Tech-savvy parents that can afford it.