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Why Pokémon Go and Minecraft in the classroom are very bad ideas

It’s “back to school” season in the United States and Europe, and the social media universe is ablaze with ideas on how to harness the Pokémon Go craze in the classroom. Some examples:

Global skills? Critical learning? This all sounds wonderful … except that it is not.

When forced upon students by schools, technologies that encourage play rapidly lose their appeal. We’ve seen this before, with examples of how Minecraft can be brought into classrooms to meet Common Core Reading standards, among others. And, these activities, it can be argued, simply ruin a student’s love of Minecraft.

Minecraft and Pokémon Go are built around ideas of free play (play without direction). These are digital expressions of a natural human activity where invisible learning flourishes. Through play, children discover their interests and aptitudes. Play inspires curiosity to test boundaries and learn social rules and norms, together with the development of many soft skills.

In Minecraft, kids build what is of interest to them, fight off creepers, play games with others through mods, and experiment with new ideas. These activities can be done individually or in groups. Learning happens all the time, and because the sandbox world encourages exploration, it is optimized for free play.

Similarly, Pokémon Go encourages kids to engage in free exploration within their communities. They may meet other players, create new social rules, build new friendships, etc. The game provides a framework for new social experiences, but what is learned from it are hard to quantify. What happens, for example, when children engage with people from cultures beyond their own? What do they discover? How does it change them? What new approaches or activities might they create? What skills, competencies, or insights might they develop? This is learning beyond any core curricula.

These games do not belong in classrooms. They are frameworks that place trust in kids to develop their own skills and knowledge. They trust kids to learn what is important to them in ways that are meaningful for them.

The purpose of controlling an educational experience is to make learning visible. It is built on distrust of the learner. Connecting pedagogies of distrust with games such as Pokémon Go or Minecraft creates a disharmony between a realm of free play and control that is not dissimilar to the experience of looking at a beautiful garden from a prison cell.

The Theory for Invisible Learning is that we learn more, and do so invisibly, when we separate structures of control that restrict freedom and self-determination from learning experiences.

If we want to enable invisible learning through technologies, we have to enable trust and reduce the amount of control over learning experiences. Stop using technology to control learning experiences. Stop using technology to create pre-determined learning outcomes. Stop expecting kids to love learning the same old stuff just because we’ve hijacked their favorite games.

The bottom line is learning through these platforms must be centered on trust, and trusting that children always learn — no matter what. It is time for educators to take charge, and look at how we can develop technologies to open ecologies of student-lead learning through invisible approaches. We need to control less, and attend to student learning more.

Manifesto 15: Evolving learning

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From John Moravec:

Like many of us, I did some reflecting over the New Year. It seemed it was time to re-center, and get back to basics. It’s too easy to get distracted and lose track of our principles and where we want to go with them. It was time to write a manifesto on what we’ve learned so far.

Read Manifesto 15 at manifesto15.org.

All of the manifestos that have inspired me are strongly associated with a date. The U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. Charter 77 emerged in January 1977. Dogme 95 was crafted in 1995. Also, as ideas transform and develop over time, Manifesto 15 represents a snapshot of our ideas, visions, and what we have learned to date on January 1, 2015. It serves as a reference point to help us understand how we’ve done so far, and what actions we need to take next.

As I wrote Manifesto 15 at the beginning of last week, I opened it for public edits, contributions, and comments via Google Docs as soon as the first draft was completed. The response has been phenomenal. In just the first few days since being released on January 1, it has received thousands of views and offers for translation into various languages. As I receive the translated (and proofread) documents, I will post them as well.

Please give Manifesto 15 a read. If you would like to sign or have thoughts to share on our principles for education as we move forward, please do share. Let’s see what conversations we can spark and what initiatives we can inspire.

To my collaborators on the project, and to our supporters, thank you!

Whitewater Learning: Designing the future of education in society 3.0

Education Futures has partnered with Whitewater Learning to create an online module of John Moravec‘s popular talk around “designing the future of education in society 3.0.” Now, teachers, administrators, and other licensed school professionals may earn continuing education units by participating in an online learning experience around the topic.

Click here to get started and learn about:

  • The relationship between technological change and social change.
  • How to create a personalized pathway for managing/attending to personal and professional growth in new technology-driven social contexts.
  • The frameworks of Societies 1.0 – 3.0.
  • How you will lead personnel and innovation capital in the Society 3.0 context.
  • How you will build a vision of your responsibilities as a leader for creating opportunities for learners within each techno-social paradigm explored in this module.

Whitewater Learning provides affordable, quality, online professional development created by educators, for educators. The topics are uniquely packaged as modules featuring a multi-layered narrated presentation, annotated suggested readings, a study sheet, glossary, assessment for learning, and practice sets for real-world application. The content aligns with state and national competencies and the flexible format allows year-long access for individuals or groups to use in coaching, relicensure, team initiatives, workshops, small learning communities, flipped classroom approach, and more.

More information: www.whitewaterlearning.org

Matt Novak takes us on a Paleofuture look into our hopes and fears

This interview is available as a mp3 download.

“I firmly believe that by studying yesterday’s futures we can get the most honest look at any given generation’s greatest hopes and darkest fears.”

Matt Novak began his blog Paleofuture in 2007 as part of his work in a college writing course. Since then, Novak’s analyses and critiques of technological and social retrofutures have been featured in numerous publications including BBC Future, Slate, The Atlantic.com, and Smithsonian. On May 17th, 2013 Novak announced Paleofuture is  moving to Gizmodo.

Novak describes Paleofuture as a blog that, “takes a look at past visions of the future. Everything from flying cars, jet packs, and meal pills, to social futures like utopias and dystopias, primarily from the second half of the 19th century onward to the year 2000.” When Novak explains his work he often leads with examples of technological retrofutures but he has also “tried with [his] blog to explore other aspects of futurism that aren’t just gee whiz flying car stuff.”

Through his work the most important lesson Novak has learned, “is to remain skeptical at all times of trying to classify an entire generation.” For example, Novak researched the Apollo Space Program and discovered that in the 1960s the program was not very popular. In fact, “public approval of the program only once breached 51% of adult Americans and that was right after we landed on the Moon.” Novak theorizes that because the people who are telling the story now of what the space program was like then are baby boomers who were children at the time of the Apollo program, their nostalgia has helped to spread the incorrect narrative that at the time, “everyone was behind it.”

Novak has a talent for gleaning historical insights from futuristic inventions. For example, meal pills, a complete meal in pill form, according to Novak, “have their roots in late 19th century feminist novels.” They were designed to help “liberate women from the drudgery of the kitchen.” Novak describes meal pills as an example of how futures thinking can be used to talk about hard issues in a more lighthearted way.

This year, Novak gave a talk at SXSW on “Edison vs. Tesla & the myth of the lone inventor.” Novak said his talk was inspired by a Nikola Tesla cartoon by The Oatmeal, which Novak recalled, “was pretty entertaining, but it was filled with all kinds of errors.” During our conversation, Novak often returned to the importance of remaining skeptical to avoid oversimplifying historical narratives. Referring to the Tesla cartoon Novak noted, “anytime anyone makes the claim that a single man, or single person, invented something so broad as our entire world, or our entire electrical system, you obviously have to be quite skeptical.”

As part of a Paleofuture special series, The Jetsons at 50, Novak examined the concept of robot teachers. The idea of robot teachers was so prevalent and concerning at the time that the Oakland Tribune wrote an article in 1960 titled the “NEA allays parent fears on robot teacher,” in which the National Education Association said “it is true that teaching machines are on their way into the modern classroom and today’s youngsters will have a lot more mechanical aids than his parents. But the emphasis will still be on aid — not primary instruction.” Novak explained that a similar conversation happening now with online learning, “it seems that every broadcast medium has gone through a really wide-eyed techno-optimist stage… the Internet is obviously the next step in that.” Novak is partially interested in how people can be so optimistic about a new technology, but then, “it disappoints in a lot of ways […] it turns out you don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, you take what works and implement that as a tool, just as all technology is a tool.”

Looking into 2012 – what's hot, what's not

In what has evolved into a sort of annual tradition, I again peered into my crystal ball (well, actually a truckload of reports, news articles, and a healthy dose of my own speculation) to see what we can expect in 2012. This time, however, I spoke with David Raths at Campus Technology magazine, and joined Michael Horn, Christopher Rice, and Kenneth Green in advising a “What’s hot, what’s not” list for 2012. A supplemental IT trends to watch in 2012 article is also posted on the Campus Technology website.

Read the article at Campus Technology.

Looking back: How did I do last year? In the article Five predictions for 2011 that will rock the education world, I said:

  1. “2011 will be the Year of the Tablet, but schools still will not know what to do with them.” Yup. That’s pretty much how it went.
  2. “Accelerating adoption of iPads, iPhones and other mobile technologies into social and cultural frameworks is transforming computing into an ambient experience — that is, immediate and purposive access to ICTs is available anywhere and anytime.” The trend in this direction continues, and will likely become more apparent when Apple (and others) make strong pushes into our living rooms (i.e., an Apple television).
  3. “The New Normal: The recession is officially over, but many people are left unemployed or significantly underemployed.” Indeed, we now have a human capital crisis where talents that used to support a middle class lifestyle are now obsolete. Our education systems need to lead the way in navigating this “new normal.”
  4. “We are slowly recognizing that the only constant is change, and many industries will experience increasingly rapid cycles of transformation — for humans that are ill-prepared for change, this could mean more socioeconomic turmoil and unemployment. 2011 will give us a taste of what’s to come.” Upgrade yourself or buckle in. 2012 could be rough.
  5. “People are mobile, too. Rapid developments in mobile technologies also enable society to become much more mobile, and we will see this reflected in the workforce, of which the leading edges will exhibit Knowmadic qualities.” Vivek Wadhwa, Tom Friedman, and others have been outspoken on the need to retain skilled knowledge workers (in the United States). So far, I can’t tell if anybody’s been listening…

Invisible Learning released

Cristóbal Cobo and I are pleased to announce that the Spanish edition of our new book, Invisible Learning (Aprendizaje Invisible), has just been released by the University of Barcelona (Col·lecció Transmedia XXI. Laboratori de Mitjans Interactius / Publicacions i Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona). The e-book is available for purchase at the UB website today. The print edition will arrive in the coming months. Update May 15, 2011: The print edition is now available for order at the UB website.

TO DOWNLOAD THE BOOK, VISIT THE UNIVERSITY OF BARCELONA PRESS

Dialogue with the Cristóbal Cobo and John Moravec about Invisible Learning

The Invisible Learning concept

Our proposed invisible learning concept is the result of several years of research and work to integrate diverse perspectives on a new paradigm of learning and human capital development that is especially relevant in the context of the 21st century. This view takes into account the impact of technological advances and changes in formal, non-formal, and informal education, in addition to the ‘fuzzy’ metaspaces in between. Within this approach, we explore a panorama of options for future development of education that is relevant today. Invisible Learning does not propose a theory, but rather establishes a metatheory capable of integrating different ideas and perspectives. This has been described as a protoparadigm, which is still in the ‘beta’ stage of construction.

Our conversation starts in Spanish

We are pleased that the University of Barcelona approached us to publish the book, and they have the privilege to produce the first printed edition as well as the first electronic edition. Moreover, with more native Spanish speakers in the United States than in Spain, we believe there is a legitimate market for a Spanish-language text throughout the Americas and Europe.

An English edition is in the works, and we hope to reward our patient English readers with the next release as a free ebook. If you are interested in helping us produce this edition (i.e., direct assistance through translation support or other resources), please email us.

Presentations and workshops

Yes, we love to talk! If you are interested in organizing a presentation or workshop about Invisible Learning at your organization, please email us. Recordings of some of our previous talks are linked, below:

Continuing the conversation

This book uses the hashtag #invisi in Twitter. You can also follow us:

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Is YouTube bursting higher education's bubble? Not so fast…

Last Sunday, Jeffrey Young wrote about the use of the Internet to deliver lectures in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The article centered on the work of Salman Khan, who posts home-made lectures on YouTube:

The lo-fi videos seem to work for students, many of whom have written glowing testimonials or even donated a few bucks via a PayPal link. The free videos have drawn hundreds of thousands of views, making them more popular than the lectures by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, famous for making course materials free, or any other traditional institution online, according to the leaders of YouTube’s education section.

Young…

[…] called up one of the donors, Jason Fried, chief executive of 37signals, a hip business-services company, who recently gave an undisclosed amount to Khan Academy, to find out what the attraction was.

“The next bubble to burst is higher education,” he said. “It’s too expensive for people—there’s no reason why parents should have to save up a hundred grand to send their kids to college. I like that there are alternative ways of thinking about teaching.”

A review of the comments appended to the article suggest that many readers agree that higher education faces serious competition from online knowledge repositories. What the article misses however, is consideration of the conversion of information acquisition/collection to personal knowledge. Schools such as MIT, through their support of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, have demonstrated their understanding that the real value of higher education is not the downloading of knowledge through texts and lectures, but rather through the production of new and personal knowledge that their unique environments offer. This tacit, added values provided by the institutions are what define quality higher education.

European colleges and universities are notorious for having embraced lectures over other course formats (i.e., seminars, laboratories). In these environments, student learning does not occur as much within lecture halls as it occurs outside of the classroom — through interactions with other students, individual and informal study groups, independent or directed research, etc.

In the age of YouTube lectures, universities need not worry about their bubbles bursting, but rather, what they should be doing in the classrooms instead of lecturing.

Invisible Learning conversation with Juan Miguel Muñoz – May 24

On Monday, May 14, at 1pm (U.S. Central Time) the Invisible Learning project will host an open webinar with Juan Miguel Muñoz (Barcelona, Spain). This is not a conference, but an opportunity to converse, and exchange ideas and viewpoints in an open forum. (For this event, the operating language will be mostly in Spanish.)

For more information, visit the Invisible Learning website: www.invisiblelearning.com