Tech & Ed | Personalized Learning | Gamification | International Ed | Mobile Learning

I have to admit, after seeing the reading list this week, I squee’d like a little girl and ran right to the Kurt Squire article (“Open-Ended Video Games: A Model for Developing Learning for the Interactive Age”). I am a recent convert to the idea that gaming can be transformative in the education sphere, but like any good convert, I’ve imbibed more than my fair share of the Kool-Aid.

I’m currently taking another class at TC called “Video Games in Education” that has looked at a lot of Squire’s work (along with Salen, Jim Gee and the other gaming in ed ‘gurus’) and I have to say, I’m convinced. Not *every* iteration or implementation of gaming in education is on the mark, of course. But then, neither is the inclusion of technology in general a panacea or even a boost. I can’t tell you how many Smart Boards sat unused for *years* in my old school because no one knew how to use them and none of the teachers were ever trained in how to make the use of them relevant and new for students.

In this week’s article, Squire points out that “Video games, like any emerging medium, are disruptive, challenging existing social practices, while capturing our dreams and triggering our fears.” I think that is the perfect distillation of people’s opinions on gaming: they recognize them for their potential disruption (which I believe is a GOOD thing where our monolithic education system is concerned) and/but also fear them at the same time. Squire also points out that gaming shows what education COULD be like–full of exploration and discovery and *fun* (gasp! How did THAT get in there?)–if we would only let it happen.

To close, I’ll provide a brief anecdote. I stayed up until 3am on Black Friday to score a Play Station 3 bundle for a song on Amazon. I only made this purchase (the first ‘real’ gaming system I’ve bought since the Nintendo 64 I wore out while playing Zelda) to play one game and only that game: SKYRIM. I have since logged more hours playing Skyrim than I am comfortable admitting when it is finals season, but all that playing *has* given me a look into what education / schooling could be like if we thought outside the box like game creators do on a daily basis. See, Skyrim is all about exploration and NOT following the beaten-path. “Students” could get a few tutorials (lessons) and then go on their way, allowing their interest and understanding to guide their quests (activities, homework, etc.) and come out at the end just as “educated” as someone who followed the main “storyline” (curriculum).

So, in a nut shell: Games have some of the answers and we just need to open our eyes and pick up our swords!  …so to speak.


Just reading the title of Facer & Sandford’s 2009 article–The next 25 years?: future scenarios and future directions for education and technology–had me excited, and I’m very glad it was on my chosen reading list this week. Though case studies and in-depth analysis of trends and findings tend to be more ‘useful’ as far as research and learning go, I find the broad-view, speculative nature of articles such as these to be just plain fun to read!

A paper from the UK-based  Beyond Current Horizons(BCH) programme, “a 2-year project tasked with interrogating potential socio-technical futures for education which brought together over 100 academics from disciplines as diverse as computer science, demography, psychol- ogy, and sociology of childhood, and involved contribu- tions from over 130 organizations and individuals from industry, practice, policy and research” forms the basis for the author’s conclusions and projections.

The researchers posit that in the near (25 years, give or take a few) future, Moore’s Law will continue, with the price of tech production going down and “massive increases in computing power” becoming available at cheaper and cheaper costs to more people, which will (hopefully) help continue to bridge the digital divide. The authors, like many others recently, have projected that 3-D printing and human-computer (biological / external) interfaces will become much more prevalent and important in the near future.

When it comes to education, though, what does it all mean? Well, that is less clear. The authors lay out several scenarios (based on projected future economic, social and cultural developments) and within those roughly-defined scenarios, paint a few different ‘types’ of education, from the highly atomized to the totally integrated. Some of their ‘predictions’ (at only one year old as of this reading) are already old news, such as their hunch that people will begin to take control of their own learning resources instead of looking to institutions for the content (“weakening of institutional boundarie”) and organization of said resources (read: Personal Learning Networks, NINGs, Scoop.It, etc.). Other predictions are still definitely ‘future-istic’–such as the deep immersion of technology in our lives and bodies, but it is definitely on the horizon rather than a sci-fi novel.

Perhaps the happiest ‘finding’, in my opinion? “Silver bullets” are not expected to be the cure-all for education in the future. Instead of mass standardization and robots helping to ‘teacher proof‘ schooling, in the future we will view the problems of the day as the complex, tangled webs they really are…or so the authors say…

The real benefit of my class network…is that you all have such great thoughts!  I figured I would switch things up this week and focus more on *your* thoughts, you being in my ‘network’ as it stands, rather than posting a comment or three to your blogs where only you or a few others will seem them. This way, anyone who visits my page can see ‘my network’ in action and bask in your brilliance, and also see one of the very real benefits /aspects of social capital that comes with social networking.

Christine W.: “I think the internet has a lot of positives and negatives, but if used correctly it can positively effect almost every aspect of one’s life – such as jobs, relationships, and opportunities. Parents should be skeptical of the internet but try to keep an open mind and learn more about it so they can teach their children how to safely use it.” I agree. I don’t think we should prohibit kids from using the internet because it robs them of too many resources and opportunities…we do need to monitor that use, though.

Bank: (about one of his friends) “One of her friends suggested to her. She met a nice American gentleman from the site. After establishing online relationship for a while, they finally met face-to-face. Two years later, they got married. They have been together for 4 years. – Happy Ending!” I know a few people as well who are still together  and happy after meeting online.

Fonteini: “Would Unthink have any luck against the well established Facebook, which is now approaching 800 million users? We will have to wait and see what happens!However, according to analysts, the mere appearance of a more “alternative” social network is a sign that a change is needed.” Welcome to Google+.

Sandra: (regarding online dating profiles) “Everyone expects the photos to be a little dated, the weight (if you are female) a little higher, the height a little lower (if you are male) and the age a little lower for both men and women. The real concerns are actually more serious. Many (perhaps a higher percentage for men) lie about their marital status, their relationship status and many other factors about their lives. Whether you are pursuing a relationship that begins online or offline, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).”  True dat!

Andrea: (a news article posted to her Facebook wall) “Translation: Having more friends on Facebook would enhance some brain areas.”  And see, I think it has made my mind mush.

Christine H.: “I think it is interesting that Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe write that “the internet has been linked both to increases and decreases in social capital” (p. 1146). In the early years of the internet, I think there was a fear that online communities would lead to a decrease in social capital because people were spending less time in their “real” worlds and more time in their virtual ones. However, I do think that SNSs, in their current form, are supplementing our “real” world relationships and so, it would seem, they could be helping us increase our social capital.”  I so agree. I feel that they supplement more than replace, though obviously they do both.

Keith: (from the Mashable Mediasummit in NYC): “There was some great discussion of where Foursquare is headed and what the competition in the market looks like for them.”  I ❤ Foursquare!

Jenifer: “After having read this article, can I really blame my parents for some of the opportunities I may have missed while growing up? My parents had no experience in computer knowledge and skills to be able to educate me. I truly believe that there should be more school programs that would reach out to the immigrant population to help educate them on the skills needed to be able to help their children at home.” This is probably true going back generations, with parents limiting kids use of of the TV, the radio, etc., based on what they think about the medium and content available at the time (and the ‘hype’ about it on the street).

Songlak: “since the magnitude is usually small and is hardly detected face-to face, I guess it is kind of okay to lie a little in Online dating sites. (as long as it is not the extremes, marital status, age exaggeration etc.) After all people you meet in a bar can lie to you about all sorts of things.” excellent point! I’m sure people DO lie when they flirt in bars, it’s just less researched or ‘sexy’ to look into, I think. We all misrepresent ourselves when flirting…even if it’s just doing the dishes more than normal that first few months.  😉

Yuewen: “I agree that parents should carefully monitor their young children’s use of computer and internet. For those parents who have limited or no computer knowledge and skills, they need to learn the technology to better protect their young children.” agreed. It’s the parents job to protect a young child, even if that means learning what they don’t know they don’t know.

Christina: “Makeup is not any more “natural” or “normal” than “deceiving” or “drawing attention” to people’s characteristics on an online profile.”  Favorite comment of the week! Gold star!  Wonderful analogy that makes the issue very clear to you readers and very relatable. 

Sorachai: “Parents should be taught be smart about the pros and cons of technology and non-technology. Kids should be taught how to have disciplines when work within the particular mode of lives. Be smart about things we see and encounter, acknowledging they all have pros and cons.” There is definitely a need to educate parents (at least those that aren’t ‘hip’ to technology already) so that they can protect their kids.

Maria: “As a female I catch myself in surprise judging females if they are overweight, sloppy at times and making up excuses for men if I spot them with a beer belly, with a stain on their shirt, with a bushy, unkempt hairstyle in the morning, etc. What does that say about what we came to believe whether consciously or subconsciously of how we are “expected to appear in public?” there are sooooo many shows on TV and in the movies where  the guy is overweight and often unkempt and gets a total knock-out babe, and you often see this in real life…or at least more than you see a drop dead gorgeous guy with a homely woman on his arm. 

Pinar: “In Victorian times the balls were social events where men and women tried to find and impress their future wives and husbands. Men looked for young and attractive women, and women looked for men with social status and ability to provide. But looking at the literature (although mostly fiction) from  that time we may not be totally off to assume men and women used deception to attract one another back then, too (although they would know each other offline). Maybe not about their height and weight but about their social status, background, affiliations etc.” excellent look to the past to find the same phenomenon we are now studying. I think this has been going on since the caveman lied about how big his cave was and how pretty his etching were. 

Liz: “The study in my opinion was not “eye” opening and didn’t present information that I wouldn’t naturally assume:  “women lie about their weight and men generally lie about their height”.”  Exactly!!  I was surprised that some of our classmates were surprised about this.  🙂

Will: “Play is one of the ways we learn about the world. I can image how playing with benign online norms without fear of reprisal could tease out new information about our offline social structures and their actors.” I loved your anecdote about not knowing the ‘propriety’ level when contacting a professor during off-hours through chat.

Cyrille: “As far as Facebook is concerned, the fact that three quarters of parents actually helped their child sign up calls into question COPPA’s relevance. COPPA was written into law before social networks came into being, boyd points out, and the question is no longer whether children should be allowed to share data but rather the ways in which this data is stored and used.” I thought this number was amazing (3/4ths)…most of the students I taught (numbering in the high hundreds) signed themselves up for Facebook and many of their parents were unaware of their accounts. Makes me skeptical of this ‘statistic.’

Patrick: “To challenge the authors of this article, is everyone necessarily using Facebook for social capital, or are these cries of longing? ” I love ‘cries of longing.’ I know that I use Facebook just as you said, as a way to stay connected to people I miss, whose lives I used to be ‘a part of’ (before time and distance and LIFE intervened). I think LinkedIn and Facebook are very different and serve vastly different purposes.

A 2010 New York Times article entitled “Attached To Technology And Paying a Price” explains how, yes, our brains have been changed by technology. And not just our brains, but our habits, our views, our relationships and even our lives. When we, in the 60’s consumed only 4 hours of media, and now consume a staggering 12 hours of media a day (counting media we consume at the same time on its own timer), there has obviously been a radical transformation afoot in our culture. It is difficult to know whether we are driving the technology or the technology is driving us.

In the article, Matt Richtel also debunks the notion that our brains are capable of true multi-tasking–a “finding” that I am rather disturbed to hear, though this isn’t the first time I’ve been exposed to such findings. The reasons I am upset to ‘learn’ it is because it’s something I’ve feared for years now: I’m really not as productive when I’m doing two (or ten) things at once.

My daily habits do involve bouncing between Twitter and Facebook and CNN and CNET and a million other sites and apps, and though I feel I give a good deal of attention to each when it matters, I never find myself able to give anything 100% of my brain. I seem physically incapable of it, in fact, which makes me tend to believe the ‘science’ behind such findings. I even downloaded a Google Chrome extension called “StayFocused” to help me limit my time on “my sites” each day…but I’ve already done my best to disable or limit its power to limit me.

In the article, everyone from Stanford researchers to learned doctors and scientists gets in on the act of speculating whether or not we’re wired for this time of response to stimuli or if it is, indeed, an evolutionary thing: there is definitely no consensus. As one Stanford professor pointed out, he has a near Pavlovian response to hearing the ‘ding’ of the bell indicating a new message in his inbox…and I doubt he is alone in this response. Though for many youth today, it isn’t their inboxes but the vibration or sound that indicates a new text which they cannot ignore. Indeed, I honestly can’t recall seeing any of my adolescent family members or any of the hundreds of my former high school students ignore an incoming text save for those rarest of occasions.

**As an aside, the husband/father depicted in the article who literally seems incapable of putting down his tech-toys, be it for a vacation with family or his own honeymoon is a disturbing commentary on our culture that I hope doesn’t become too widespread, lest the divorce rate climb to 100%…

This week I read and analysed the article by Matt Richtel in the New York Times, “In School of the Future, Stagnant Scores” that looked at the inclusion of technology in Arizona’s Kyrene school district in 2005. Though tens of millions of dollars were spent on the new technology, scores did not go up in Kyrene’s schools (though they did rise at the statewide level). Richtel posits that the expenditure on technology wasn’t worth it without “proof” that student achievement–measured by high-stakes tests–improved. My argument is that the type of learning done with the new technology isn’t what is assessed in this outdated high-stakes exams…

“What did you learn this week, class?”

“I learned that Google has it’s own Navy!”

…class dismissed, then! I mean, what else is there to learn?!

I have to admit, much of the information about “the Cloud” was old hat to me, having been a “cloud user” for a few years now. I can’t imagine a day going by without my relying upon Dropbox, for instance, for everything from research for school to sharing files and photos with friends and family. That being said, it was terribly interesting and informative to learn about Google’s forays into new “spaces” in the data world and their novel idea for sea-based datacenters to help house some of their globe-trotting (floating?) servers. I also found it hysterically ironic that so many gmail users, once finding out that Google harnesses the data in their emails to present targeted ads to them, still “worried” about such practices. So, they worry about it, but once presented with the knowledge that it is indeed happening, they don’t switch email service providers…  Strange, but perhaps it is akin to the ire and rage leveled at banks recently for upping their rates: indeed, there is a national call to leave the banks for credit unions (a movement I personally support) yet I’d be willing to wager large sums of money that the ‘movement’ will not amount to much changeover at all. It is because people are complacent and rarely follow up their words with actions (certainly en mass). But we shall see in regards to the banks and Gmail switchers.

Another major concern for, touched on briefly in the article, is reliability. Though I’ve recently “seen the light” and switched to a Mac–after five PC’s in as many years have broken or broken down on me–I still fear the day that my data in the cloud becomes lost or inaccesible when I need it. Imagine having a major presentation to make and Dropbox’s servers being down. Or writing your great American novel and losing it all due to a technician’s fumbling fingers during server maintenance? Though some cloud-storage providers have backups built it, it is difficult to know how robust these systems really are.


Though I enjoyed some aspects of all the readings this week, there was one article that had me shaking my head a lot.

Though Sherry Turkle makes several keen points in her article “Identity in the Age of the Internet,” (1999) several other aspects seem woefully dated and simplistic. Her concentration on MUDs, for instance, seems quite out of touch with the current reality of the ‘net and user experiences, even though there are, doubtless, still thousands of people that use MUDs still today. They represent, however, but a tiny niche when compared to the “rest of us” who use text and the internet in a different way.

In her examples, she shares several anecdotes about the “Mikes” and “Andys” of the MUD world, who spend their time creating elaborate fantasy worlds with their words. And all of this is text based. Fast forward twelve years, and most of the users of Second Life or Sim City would deride such a ‘boring’ and limited form of “play” or participation. And even though Twitter’s popularity would seem to support the idea that there is still a space for “text based worlds” today, I would counter that the vast majority of Twitter users represent their real selves to their followers, rather than made up characters or aliens. Though their tweets may be mundane (140 characters’ worth of info about their daily eating habits, for instance) they are still “real” slices of life, news, entertainment and information.

With a few areas, such as online dating sites, people may be tempted to present their “ideal selves” (Zhao et al, 2008) instead of their “real selves,” yet these are still anchored relationships in most cases, or will eventually become anchored in face to face, real world contact. This is the same reason that Facebook pages and profiles tend to stick closer to fact than fiction: because most people know each other on Facebook and are therefore aware of any major fictions presented, unlike in the MUDs where the fantasy is part of the package.

In my opinion, modes of communication like Facebook and Twitter will remain “mainstream” while MUDs and other games that require obfuscation and outright lying will remain niche and underground.