The Barriers May not be So Great

MMORPG in the Classroom?Last night, Mark Wagner posted part of his dissertation in his blog, Educational Technology and Life.  He’s asked for comments from readers and here are excerpts of my responses to MMORPGs in Schools: The Shift Ahead.  Wagner writes:

They urged that games be designed with “sound theories of learning and socially conscious educational practices” (p. 111). However, they also noted that the theories of learning embedded in videogames as a medium run counter to the presiding theories of learning in schools. Squire and Gee (2003) explained that games may be viewed as suspect in an era when the value of instruction is measured by standardized tests (p. 30).

I think it’s a good point that the learning theories that align and will likely rise out of video game experiences run counter in an era of standardized testing.  However, I think it also runs counter to currently accepted pedagogies, which are based in part on behaviorism (Skinner’s pecking pigeons) and information-scarce landscapes.  In learning environments based on biology (brain-research) and information-abundant information landscapes, video games may likely prevail and become a dominant mode of formal learning.

Mark continues to describe the potential of a fairly “revolutionary” shift in what formal learning looks like.

A century of artificially linear and context-free book learning may be replaced by a system in which students learn by doing. Traditional academic content might be learned by visiting a virtual world in which the content is situated and relevant. For instance, students of history might play a role in a simulation of the American revolution; a role that might just as likely be focused on drafting the constitution as it might be related to the war. Twenty-first century skills might be easier to teach because students are exercising them while working together in a game, and assessment will be authentic; either students will be able to apply their knowledge and skills successfully in the game, or not. Students might, for example, work together to launch a business in a simulated (or fictional) world.

I agree with this statement, especially in light of the 21st century skills in ISTE’s refreshed NETS and the work of The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce (see Readiness Crisis, by Susan McLester) and many others.  However, I guess it’s the romantic in me, as someone who started teaching before the personal computer was invented, that asks, what becomes of school, of the classroom, of the teacher.  Are video games too good?

But, I’m still reading.  Mark starts to describe the paradyme shifts that must happen before MMORPGs might start to have an impact:

First, schools would need to embrace the tenets of constructivist pedagogy. Schools would have to come to value such things as Twenty-First Century skills, reflection, engagement and motivation, context-embedded learning, and social learning.

I think that there is substantial momentum behind this shift, right now.  It could easily be brought to a halt, or accelerated, depending on what happens in Washington.

Second, schools would need to overcome broader cultural resistance to using videogames in schools. Educational MMORPGs will need to be seen as learning worlds, not as a waste of time, and certainly not as violent or sexist in anyway.

There are certainly many people, educators among them, who see video games and “sex and violence” as almost synonymous.

The third change, though, may be the most difficult. Schools will need to accept a significant transfer of power. As with two-way web tools such as blogs, wikis, and social networks, MMORPGs allow students to interact with each other and create content without necessarily being moderated by teachers or other adult authority figures.

I agree that this seems an enormous barrier, especially in light of how this shift in power goes counter to our very definition of teacher, our years of experience, and the education that we received, and that many education students are still receiving.  However, I suspect that this wall, when boldly scaled, may well be easier to pass by than we imagine, because learner directed education simply makes more sense, as it is the way that we all learn “after-school.”

I believe that if we were to see courageous and visionary leadership in the right places, this kind of change could happen and far more quickly than we might imagine.  I believe that it is within our power to do it.  We’ve seen nearly as much change in recent years that go against our intuition as educators and as parents.  It could turn around.

My 2¢ Worth!

[Images ((Dans, Enrique. “Skype x 2.” Edans’ Photostream. 23 June 2006. 31 Mar 2008. ((Lee, Candice. “World of Warcraft! 2006.” Elunne’s Photostream. 27 Sep 2007. 31 Mar 2008. ((Lee, Candice. “World of Warcraft! 2005.” Elunne’s Photostream. 27 Sep 2007. 31 Mar 2008. ]

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I’m Getting Diigo

16 hours ago I Twitter’ed, Diigo! Do I need ANOTHER social network?”

Over the next few minutes, I got replies ranging from,

“Sure you do! 🙂 It seems to be a cool hybrid of Twitter qualities with! Lots of potential, I think.”


“What in Diigo makes you want to jump ship and invest time and effort rebuilding your network. That is a major PITA.”

Picture of my Diigo ProfileWell, I don’t know what a PITA is, but I got the point. At any rate, I did invest some time in populating it out and making some connections or friend requests. The real breakthrough was finally getting my bookmarks over (be patient, it takes time for Diigo to process the tags) — and then learning that I can have new Diigo bookmarks automatically sent to as they are added. This is good since RSS feeds run throughout my online handouts wiki.

In conclusion, I’ve not seen any social networking tool that has sparked my imagination nearly so much as Diigo. I’m still not committed. Time will tell as to whether this will become an important part of my PLN. But it’s got me thinking. It is an interesting blend of human networks and social bookmarks, of people can content.

There probably isn’t anything you can do with Diigo bookmarks that you can’t with But sharing and focused collaborative assembly of resources seems built into Diigo. Perhaps this is what sets Diigo appart, that content becomes the place. It isn’t the place that’s the place. It’s the content.

I’m not sure what that means either. But the best example is the ability to highlight and stickynote sections of web pages, and then share your stickynotes with people in your network or group. Several years ago, I wrote an article for Technology & Learning Magazine about the future of textbooks. I am not sure if I expressed this in the article, but I remember thinking that the textbook, however it manifest itself, should become a meeting place, where students come and discuss, right there at the content. This is what seems possible with Diigo.

More thoughtful educators than myself have already written extensively about Diigo. I’m very much a late-comer. Here is a Google blog search of posts that include Diigo and Classroom, and here is an RSS feed for that search.

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“Change Agency” report on ALF Event

Picture of SS Ustreaming presentation.Here is a blurb from Stephanie Sandifer’s blog post on yesterday’s American Leadership Forum convocation, where I opened the day with a talk about our students and our worlds.

Today was such an exciting day for education in the Houston area. Houston A+ Challenge and the American Leadership Forum co-hosted the 2008 Convocation on Education, the theme of which was: “Education 2021: Preparing Kids For a Future We Can’t Describe”.

It is worth a special link to point out Stephanie’s notes on how she accomplished the Ustream broadcast. Chris Wherley, one of the virtual attendees said,

Best ustream presentation I have seen from a technology standpoint. Well done Houstonaplus.

Many thanks to all who attended, physically and virtually, and double many thanks to Stephanie. [image ((Sandifer, Stephanie. ” David Warlick Keynote — Our World, Our Children — March 28th, 2008.” Change Agency. 28 Mar 2008. 29 Mar 2008 <>.)) ]

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Cost of Spam

Spam is on the riseThere’s been a good bit of blogging and Twitting about a sudden increase in e-mail spam.  Anyone know why this is.  Bob Sprankle wrote about it (Spring Cleaning for Spam) in Bit by Bit, and referenced a blog post I wrote in 2006 (Sick and Tired) about the cost of spam.  I commented on his blog with some stats that I use in one of my presentations these days.

There are lots of stats out there about spam. According to a study from Richi Jennings ((Jennings, Richi, “Spam and Other Email Threats: Market and Technology Update.” Farris Research. 8 Jun 2007. Ferris Research. 9 Jun 2007 .)) , Spam cost the world $50 billion in 2005, the U.S. about $19 billion. Projects are that for 2007, that number will double with $35 billion costs for the U.S.

To put this into perspective, acording the to Copenhagen Consensus ((Kerr, Roger. “hard-Hedadad Spending Decisions not Cold-Hearted.” BusinessROUNDTABLE. 2 Jul 2004. New Zealand Business Roundtable. 9 Jun 2007)) , we could bring HIV Aids, world wide, under control for only $27 billion, less than we’ll spend protecting ourselves from spam. [Image ((Kaiser, Steve. “Spam.” DjBones’ Photostream. 24 Sep 2005. 27 Mar 2008 ]

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What’s Your Story?

Image from BrochureTomorrow I’ll be part of an interesting and unique (for me) experience with the Houston/Gulf Coast Chapter of the American Leadership Forum.  Here is a blurb from the front page of their national site.

American Leadership Forum is a national network of chapters, each dedicated to building stronger communities by joining and strengthening leaders to serve the public good. It enhances leadership by building on the strengths of diversity and by promoting collaborative problem solving within and among communities. ((“National Office.” American. 27 Mar 2008. American Leadership Forum. 27 Mar 2008

It will be an interesting day for business, political, and education leaders from the Houston/Gulf Coast area.  I kick things off with a keynote address about the needs of education.  It will be a version of my increasingly presented, “Our Students • Our Worlds.”  This will be followed by small group meetings, where leaders will discuss the ideas that I have presented and their own experiences, within the context of three grounding questions:

  1. What does the future hold for education?
  2. What do schools and districts need to do to prepare for the future?
  3. What will this future require of me?

This will be followed by a panel discussion of area superintendents, which I will moderate.  Other small group sessions will follow (along with lunch), and I will close things down with a short culminating message.

So, for you, what’s the future hold for education?  What do schools need to do?  and What will this future require of communities?

I await your ideas 😉

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Disruption or Demand to Learn

Picture of Microphone in the Audience Will Richardson just Twittered reference to March 11 CNN article, Welcome to Conference 2.0.  The article, by Dan Fost, tell several stories of recent conferences (SXSW), where presentations were hijacked by audiences who were carrying on their own back-channel conversations about the failure of the presentations or panels to deliver what they (audience) had come to learn.

Here is one scenario from the article:

Consider author Sarah Lacy’s disastrous interview of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival here. Lacy, a Business Week columnist and author of a forthcoming book on Zuckerberg and other Web 2.0 titans, drew the crowd’s wrath by asking Zuckerberg too many questions about his age and his company’s outrageous $15 billion valuation and not enough questions about issues more fundamental to how Facebook operates – things like trust, privacy, and accessibility to software developers. On top of that, Lacy interrupted Zuckerberg, seemed to flirt with him, and then grew hostile as the crowd turned against her. ((Fost, Dan. “Welcome to Conference 2.0.” Fortune 11 Mar 2008 26 Mar 2008 [money_cnn_com] .))

Of course this is partly the reason for stripping our students of social devices (cell phones) and our computers of social applications (iChat) as they enter our schools — because of the potential disruption that could occur in our teacher/textbook/standards-controlled classrooms.  I would suggest that we need not fear these disruptions, if we can learn to channel them.

The article goes on to list several practices of audience-empowerment at conferences, and I wonder what each might look like if introduced in our schools:

  • The “un-conference” model, in which people show up for a conference and the participants pick the agenda and run it in an “open space” model.

    I wonder about a social studies class where the students, with some overview of a range of topics, might collaborate with a wiki to write their own syllabus, and then practice and demonstrate learning literacy skills in mastering the items, through research, reading, analysis and synthesis, and compelling conversation, and then report out to an external audience their findings.

  • The “lobbycon” phenomenon, in which people don’t pay to go to conferences, they just show up and network in the lobbies.

    Certainly, this is already happening in the halls.  But I’ve heard of 1:1 schools where it is not unusual for students to spontaneously be gathered around a laptop, discussing an assignment or project.  Of course, the task is to have something going on in the classroom that students walk out continuing to talk about.

  • The “panel picker,” an online forum that SXSW uses in which people suggest panels and then the community votes on what they want to see. The winners get to present.

    This is very interesting.  Ask the class to pick the students who will compile and deliver reports on specific topics at hand, and give reasons why those particular students are preferred.  Now we are talking about a classroom where true conversations are an integral part of the learning, such that students discover each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and passions.

  • Parties 2.0

    Well, I’ll let you work this one out.

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Upcoming Shortage of Laptop Batteries

A darker side of a flattening world has raised it head, as a major producer of laptop batteries in South Korea recently caught fire.

Dell said on Tuesday the personal-computer industry was experiencing a shortage of laptop batteries partly because of a recent fire at a major supplier, but the company was working with other suppliers to limit any price increases.

Factory fire blamed for laptop battery shortage – BizTech – Technology ((“Factory Fire Blamed for Laptop Battery Shortage.” The Sydney Morning Herald 26 Mar 2008 26 Mar 2008.

I remember, a few years ago, when a fire in a chip plant caused huge price increases for memory chips. I’m not sure what this means, within the context of this blog and it readers, except that a global economic is going to face new global challenges.

Of course there is a certain amount of irony in a factory fire that affects computer battery supplies. [Image Citation ((Lin, Yu-Jie. “Battery.” Livibetter’s Photostream. 8 Dec 2006. 26 Mar 2008 <>.))]

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Blogging from a Moving Vehicle

Picture of surfing the net in the car.Those few of you who follow me on Twitter know that I’m trying out my new AT&T USBConnect card to connect my MacBook to the web while Brenda drives me to Cherryville to visit my folks.  We are currently in the country, between Asheboro and Charlotte, and I suspect that I’m getting only slightly faster than dialup, and I’m pretty pleased at the moment.  We’re in some  big woods right now.  It will speed up significantly when we get close to the 3G speeds in Charlotte — but I’ll be too car sick by then…

Anyway, I’m writing to share this very interesting post from Smart Mobs’ Roland Piquepaille.

According to Nature in ‘Six degrees of messaging,’ computer scientists at Microsoft Research Redmond lab have logged a full month of instant messengers using — logically — Microsoft Messenger. ‘The compressed dataset occupies 4.5 terabytes, composed from 1 billion conversations per day (150 gigabytes) over one month of logging,” according to the researchers. The dataset which was collected in June 2006 contains summaries of 30 billion conversations among 240 million people. And they were very surprised to find that the average number of jumps to get from one random user to another was 6.6.” This is very close to the old ’six degrees of separation’ idea which states that everyone on Earth is six ’steps’ away from anyone else. But read more…

Smart Mobs » Blog Archive » Six degrees of separation in instant messaging


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What Would You Have Them Say?

Vision of K12 Students Today Video ImageI (belatedly) found this interesting and quite well done DIY video by B Nesbitt, via Stephen Downes’ Web News yesterday.  It’s a K-12 take on Michael Wesch’s Vision of Students Today, called A Vision of K-12 Students Today.  The only fault that I have with this powerful production is that it, perhaps, carries to much from previous works like Vision.., Karl Fisch’s Did You Know, and the subsequent Shift Happens.

What I’m curious about is what would you add? 

  • If you were one of those students, what would you write on a card and show the education world? 
  • As a teacher, what would you have them write?

Here’s what came to mind for me, as I was NOT sleeping at 3:45 this morning.

Image mixed by David Warlick

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Brainstorming in Arkansas

Live Blogged, so please excuse typos and awkward wording.

Pat Wolfe speaking at ASBAToday, I’m presenting with brain research guru, Patricia Wolfe for a school boards staff development day — dubbed Brainstorm. Pat talks this morning about what’s happening inside the brains of our students. I’ll be talking this afternoon about what’s happening outside their brains.

I enjoyed a fascinating breakfast with Pat, and hope upon hope that I’ve got the energy and curiosity twenty hears from now.

Powers on high have written prescriptions for our students learning, and they are not working!

She says that she remembers who sat behind her when she took high school chemistry and that is all — and she made an “A.” We have the false assumption that if kids can give back what we’ve taught at the prescribed time, they’ve learned. Her very school-successful son, who is now 44, recently told her that he had a very high HTI — High Trivia Index. B.F. Skinner actually worked with pigeons. This is where the learning theories that I was schooled under, and that I was taught to school, comes from.

We are moving from a behaviorist mode of education to a biological mode of education.

This doesn’t mean that teachers have not done a good job. Good teachers are intuitive, but the problem with that is that you can teach it to other teachers.

I don’t care what test scores are!

Is teaching going to have to change. On the whole we are in a very inarticulate profession. We need to move from being a folklore profession to being a scientific profession (cringing a bit here, but listening).

Brain ActivityThe brain runs on glucose that is processed in the liver and carried by the cardiovascular system. It’s why when she hears about schools that are cutting back on recess and PE for the sake of academics, then they’re shooting themselves in the heart and the brain.

She’s now showing MRI reading of brains when the subject is passively viewing words, listening to words, speaking words, generating verbs. Fascinating!

Every one of the 100 billion brain cells we have have about 6,000 dendrites.

Learning is the act of making and strengthening connections.

You don’t grow brain cells. What grows are dendrites, and “Dittos don’t grow dendrites!”

The two most useless questions:

  1. Do you understand?
  2. Are their any questions?

The brain is the only organ in the body that changes as a result of its experience. If someone is born blind, then the parts of the brain used for vision, get aligned to auditory and tactile. Researchers found that if people are blindfolded for days, brain cells that were processing visual information starts to handles auditory information. I’m paraphrasing a good bit here, so I hope I’m getting it right.

The brain seeks meaningful patterns

We have our brains to survive, so it is not good at working information that has no meaning to their experience. Yet this is what and how we teach.

Pat Wolfe learned to fly during her second year of teaching. She thought, if she’d been taught to fly the same way she was taght to teach, she would have learned the philosophy, pshychology, and history of flying, and all she’d be able to do is taxi her plane — which is what most first year teachers are doing.

Talking about History Alive, a very brain compatible (her term) way of learning history. I’m not aware of History Alive, though I found a paper at ERIC (History Alive! Six Powerful Constructivist Strategies, that is not downloadable. If you have anything to add about History Alive, please share in the comments.

Two kinds of memory:

  1. Procedural Memory: Skills and habits that have been practiced to a point where they are automatic and unconscious.
  2. Declarative Memory: Our general knowledge and our live experiences that we can declare or recall consciously.

We should use rote rehearsal to learn things that are appropriate for procedural memory. But we tend to use rote rehearsal to learn things that are more appropriate for declarative memory, but it’s not the best way to learn what’s to be declared.

Wow, she just got us to say, “tot tot,” but tapping into our procedural memory.

The human brain loves anything that can but put to rhyme rhythm, or rap.

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