Due Diligence and Social Media, Gaming and 21st Century Learning. Will education Institutions be held accountable?

Due Diligence and Social Media, Gaming and 21st Century Learning. Will education Institutions be held accountable?

“What?, you’ve been banned from 8 different servers?” I shrieked at my 11 year old son.  

“It’s part of the game – to build trust, act normal, get more responsibility from the server owner and then, destroy” he explained.

I gasped.


“In many servers, the point is to build and protect. If you are in a server shared by others, you always take the risk of having your things stolen and your creations destroyed…but for some players, hacking into a server and destroying is the main point”.

I gasped. “But it’s not nice…..”
So he explains, “most teachers and adults aren’t even aware of what is going on in the background of the server and chats”. He grins and asks me, “Do you know that most of us can get the brute force server hosting password?”  “Do you know how many servers don’t use ‘world guard or world bucket’ plugins to protect the word, protect the players?”
Minecraft is Boring.  The real fun and thrill comes from the design, the programming and the challenge. What we do in schools is just the “Basics”. Boring.

I gasped. “Where do you learn all this stuff then?”

“Online. Together.  Youtube”  Never school.

I gasped. “What about Ethics? Character? Kindness?”, I wonder. I continue to wonder (now with my TEACHER LENS),  “I’ve never heard of a school based PD about Minecraft servers, or world bucket”. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard of a mandatory in-service, PD session about any social gaming , or media tool or strategy. 

Step Up Districts and Schools. Parents can’t do this alone.   Make Social Media and Blended Learning Strategies as much a priority as traditional literacies. Be accountable and insist that all teachers have a solid understanding of the tools, strategies, and pedagogies so that we can help kids navigate in these online social environments. I want my children and my students to be safe online to understand online risks, and to have a chance to practice good online citizenship under the direction, coaching and support of a knowledgeable teacher. Help our children understand the hard and soft skills associated with these environments – help their parents understand how to coach, monitor, guide.

When it comes to the use of social media, gaming, multimedia and multi-modal learning strategies, I wonder, how many educators are encouraged to teach with it, without fully understanding the tool itself, or grasping the research behind its use, or acknowledging the implications of its use (including safety). How many educators are encouraged to teach with it without being provided the tools (computer, systems)  and aren’t given in-school time to practice and learn?

It isn’t about updating our skills (like other literacies) it is about learning the skill.

The problem is that with other literacies (like reading and writing) we already knew them before entering the profession – we don’t have to learn them. We have a solid grasp about grammar rules, reading strategies, sentence structure, writing process. But with new literacies, especially the use of online tools, we are having to spend more time and resources to learn them. I’m not sure if our resources  (people, infrastructure, knowledge) fully support this reality.

With this, I ask – where does the responsibility lay on education organizations to guide kids in an environment (even facebook, youtube, twitter, gaming)where they are spending so much time? Why are we OK with them teaching each other?

Ask yourself, in your school, or organization – Do teachers , leaders and parents know how to properly moderate a student blog?  How about protect gaming server? or properly cite resources?  or manage content privately while also being transparent and open? or create effective comments on a blog?  or understand ‘public audience’? or how to have a conversation in an online chat?

In going back to my own children’s online behaviour, the story I started with – I as a parent can’t do it alone. I need support from the school system to guide and support my child’s learning in these online environments.

Paper Tweets – Teaching Social Media

Try the activity with your own students – with PARENTS….with TEACHERS…with ADMINISTRATORS…..with FACULTY members. Try with any type of Social Network. PRACTICE FIRST before going live. Use what is comfortable for them FIRST.

“Paper Tweets”

1)   Use a TAG and have students search it. Tags are generally safe and help build a network based on certain topics or themes. IE: #edchat #scichat #comments4kids…..

2)   Hand out strips of coloured paper and have them RETWEET (tell them to simply copy down the exact tweet) on the page. Tell them that they are sharing the tweet because they found it interesting and worthy for others to see it. Tell them they will share it on a public bulletin board in the hallway. Before posting…… Discussion…..

3)   Redistribute the paper tweets (so that they get one that the didn’t write). On another paper  strip, have them REPLY to the paper tweet, using as few words as possible, but making a statement, a reflection or a thought about it. DISCUSS – how do we say “Thank You” online?  What do people want to hear? What does good sharing look like? How do we give credit when credit is due? What is a tag?

Social Networking needs to be taught.

For most of us, we’ve learned the “how” from our friends and if we were lucky and our choices led us to a ‘tech type’ ed conference, we learned from someone who actually knew what they were talking about. Some of us might even think that it is “silly” that such a skill needs to be taught. BUT IT DOES.

Over the last few years we have learned that there are so many wonderful uses for networking. We have learned that PEOPLE are the best resources and that our NETWORKS let us share, collaborate, learn and always be current (really current). Our networks keep us AWARE and give us PERSPECTIVES from so many people.

BUT IT IS COMPLICATED. There are SOCIAL SKILLS attached. Safety Skills to be learned. Tips and Tricks that save time and improve practice. Ways to leverage the best people, sources, and lists. 

Recently, I asked my pre-service students (Teacher Education) who average between the ages of 23-25 (give or take) who uses Facebook. 98% indicated that they did. I asked them who taught them.

None of them said, “teacher”.

Some of them said, “themselves”.

Most of them said,  “friend”.

When introducing them to Twitter (very few – almost none had it)  as part of my class, they were somewhat stunned since social networking had never been part of formal education before.

Like any other skill – scaffolding came in very handy – especially when using public learning environments like twitter.

Starting on paper made it safe and helped them understand what it meant to ReTweet or Reply. Having to write it down made them really think about what they were doing rather then just pressing the button.