Okay, I’ll play your game

game earningsActually, I probably won’t. The one thing about people who play games is that they are very particular about which games they play and which device or devices they use. Some play Facebook games, others console games. Some just want to play on their smart phone. Some want simple games, others action and multiuser games. We all have very strong preferences and so it comes as a surprise in some ways that some games make squillions of dollars and there are gamers out there who can make huge amounts of money from their gaming when the opportunities arise. Those who invested in Grand Theft Auto 5 a while back would have found it sucked up their bandwidth and their money in excess usage charges. Those on unlimited broadband would not have had a problem, but those tied to a capped plan were finding no one else in the house could do anything because the data allowance had run out. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a high performance, cutting edge, state of the art game. The graphics and everything else to do with it are top of the range awesomeness. It is why it was awaited with great enthusiasm by those who play it. Game developers have a significant impact on hardware and software development because their games test what we can currently produce and their ideas drive the creativity to develop better components and ways of doing things. So take a look at the numbers:

1. 10 highest grossing free to play gaming apps
2. Top Grossing iPhone Games – by country (You will need to log in.)
3. 10 highest video games ever

Games are about the money, the market and what people seemingly want to do. Clash of Clans can earn nearly 200 000 million dollars a day in the US at the moment. The money around games is huge, the market penetration massive and our willingness to play never ending. So , what does all this mean for education? We really do need to start that discussion and robust debate. Game companies are not going to be at all worried that students are playing games in class or endlessly at home. My first thought as a teacher is we need to get some balance into usage first of all. Then we need to deconstruct games to see what educational purposes they serve and what technology skills they develop. We need to think about putting our teacher input and  making observations about what games do and mean. We probably need to teach the skills to create games and have some educational input there. We need to understand what games are, what purposes they serve and what the impacts are and then contribute to what they can become and how they can be used. We need to play games ourselves and talk to people about the games they play. Until we start doing these things it will take more than me to look at games and gaming in education.

Should we teach games?

50 millions usersThis is a really interesting graphic which I found on ScoopNest. It took 75 years to get 50 million phone users. It took 35 days to get 50 million users onto Angry Birds. Today we can’t live without our phones or our games. Should we teach games, though? Should we teach the skills for creating games? Currently, we always tend to look at education from an economic rationale point of view . There is little room for learning and intellectual development for the sake of it. games jobsToday on SEEK there are 1008 jobs for games. If you look up Games Developer you only get 157 so the key word search has to be accurate. It’s only Thursday in Australia and already there are over 1000 jobs for games this week.I have been teaching long enough to know we had schools with rooms full of the new, mysterious golf ball typewriters which we used because everyone needed keyboard and typing skills to get a job. There were big discussions as to how much time would be allocated to keyboard skills and typing practice in the curriculum and then students were separated into separate classes so they could become executive in their office skills. I have heard no discussions like that about games and games development.

I read a heartfelt piece on TechCrunch the other night: Dear Teacher, A Video Game Developer Is A Real Job And Should Be Celebrated where a father talks about the need for teachers to recognise games developer as a future career. Matt Burns was clear and made some valid points. Teachers constantly need to shift their headsets into what are currently the job skills sets for any given decade.

Looking at all of this from an education, classroom stand point is matter for some big, robust discussions. It’s not just about games, edutainment, keeping the students occupied. It is about deconstructing games and their impact and looking at their educational value and the skills they teach and use so that we can have some valid input as teachers into this whole industry. It’s about thinking , creativity, collaboration, coding, maths, algorhythms, art, design, literacy, social skills – and that is just off the top of my head. I need more than one post and we need more than one thought.

One for the developers

Put people in an office where they are all teaching the same thing and inevitably the ideas will blossom and grow quite naturally. Our conversation started with the flipped classroom model which the school Level 1is working on this year. It moved very quickly to virtual classrooms and what that might mean and whether you could simultaneously teach a real classroom and a virtual one or whether some students would prefer a virtual classroom and whether that was a good thing and how that would look and work. The consensus on that was it would be a reasonable option but we liked our real classrooms. We then started talking about the Statements and Profiles where South Australia was the first state to get serious about that curriculum approach and we did a lot of work around it but  it all came to nothing and we had to move on. One of the real advantages of that was that it described in detail the LEVELS of learning and you would assess students according to levels. It meant classes would have become Level 1 classes or Level 6 classes in any given subject and students would have been grouped according to their level and not their age. We were talking about the advantages of that for Languages. We then somehow connected that to the flipped classroom and the virtual learning we had been talking about and decided we needed a language game with level so that students could work on core material and level up as they do in games. It would be familiar ground for students and the concept would need no hard work in terms of introduction. We were looking at how a game could introduce the core vocabulary and expressions for that level and the students could even be engaged in the game in conversations for that level. We have voice synthesizers. We have video. We have microphones, cameras and keyboards. A game could follow the format of a text book and introduce new things at each level, practise the grammar expressions, have little audio comprehensions, video instruction and enrichment. It could be used in and out of class and would be valuable for the wider community too since there is a need to learn languages and a decent game platform with kudos would be one way of showing you had a certain level of learning in that language. We need the developers to get onto it for us, please !

The 21st Century – are we there yet?

I love the Jetsons. It was a cartoon series which finished in 1963 and had a revival with better technology to produce it in 1985. The Jetsons lived in the 21st century. Elroy’s Dad drove him to school in the flying car and then ejected him in a space pod to Dipper Elementary School. In 2062 Elroy had a robot teacher with all of its glitches. The bad boy is sitting there reading a paper book and watching a video on his phone watch. These watches are just coming onto the market now. Elroy has a jet pack to fly around the classroom and the school reports are produced on tapes to go home. No thought of email and file attachment or an online portal.No thought of e-books and the robot teacher is quite the martinet. So, do we actually have a vision of what we want 21st century schools to look like? Do we want robot teachers? Jet packs in class? Watch phones with wifi access? Flying cars? There is a black board with maths written all over it in this episode. When Elroy gets into so much trouble from his parents he runs away from home. The bad boy rings up his parents on the Visiophone and tells the truth about the report switch. We have video phones and, occasionally, we have children who run away from home. Wouldn’t the report have had the wrong name on it when George was listening to it? Do they not identify children in the 21st century? Why ruin a good story with the truth! So, while we are imagining an 21st education scenario, how much is it going to be as faulty as the Jetson’s predications? I love the Jetsons. My favourite cartoon. It’s a cartoon, though. When we are doing our thinking and planning we are in the real world with real students and their families. We need to be looking at emotional intelligence with regard to technology as well as dedicated use. Relationship building is a core skill of teachers as is trouble shooting. A robot teacher might be useful but is it the answer and if we create robot teachers, what do we actually want them to do and be? If we don’t have input as teachers, we’ll get technology devices which don’t suit our purposes, don’t suit our purposes, don’t suit our purposes.

Do your students have nomophobia?

Nomophobia? What’s that? NO MObile phone phobia. There have been four significant studies which have revealed that people become stressed when they are separated from their phones. This doesn’t surprise me. Phones have contacts, messages, apps, weather information, pictures. Lots of pictures. Do we suffer from anxiety when we are separated from our wallets? Anything which has the things which are important to our identity are going to create a problem if we are separated from them.Students are brought up on mobile phones these days. They are familiar objects and they witness daily their significance. The article on the  Psychology Today  site which discusses the four research papers states:

My take is that we now have four different studies in four different labs using four different methodologies, all showing the same general effect: Our smartphones make us anxious and that anxiety then gets in the way of our performance and our relationships. Some call it FOMO—Fear of Missing Out—or nomophobia—Fear of being out of mobile phone contact or FOBO—Fear of Being Offline. Regardless of what you call it, this disorder is a manifestation of anxiety, plain and simple.

The article is well thought out because it looks and how you can become too attached to your smartphone and ways and means of dealing with it. It is a very comprehensive article for dealing with nomophobia. It confirms what the original Missouri University study confrmed. When people can see or hear their phones  but not access them their stress levels rise because they cannot deal with it. A smartphone has the planet changing activities every 5 minutes because of a mobile phone sound. This is Skinner and his rats all over again which is why the article in Psychology today looks at breaking that connection with your phone. Skinner taught pigeons to play ping pong with operant conditioning. What are we being taught with our bingly bongs and whistles?

nomophobiaNomophobia is explained really well on the whoishostingthis site and there is a really good infographic which brings to light some fascinating information with regard to mobile use and users.

The Huffington Post article, iPhone separation anxiety is real, study says by Damon Beres explains the video clip more fully.

All of this has implications for us as classroom teachers. I do not separate students and their phones unless 1. They are going to the toilet 2. They have used their phone for private purposes during class time. In both cases their phone is locked in my filing cabinet until they return to class or the lesson has finished. I prefer not to see phones on the desk but that is not always possible if they do not have a bag and their clothes don’t have suitable pockets. Phones on the desk have to be face down. My year 8s were especially good with their phones last year and so I could look more at a responsible use option and that is what I teach with mobile technology anyway. If they asked me and they could show me what they were doing, they could use their phones for French. Sometimes it was easier to run one app on the phone and something else on the iPad or they could take a picture of the board or  what they had made or written. I have just used my iPad to look things up while I am on my desktop writing this. We often use multiple devices . They should not be running our lives and we should not be snapping to attention if they make a sound. That is what we have to change.