May 17, 2012

Recommended Reads: On What Kids Can Learn, Minecraft, Generation Y

Category: Edtech
4 students smiling holding up writing paperwork with edits marked on it

Common Sense Media, known as the go-to resource for solid reviews of movies, books, and television, just released a new ratings initiative to evaluate the learning potential of websites, video games, and mobile apps. You can learn more about it here. The Huffington Post published a useful overview and welcome to the ratings. They found value in how it shifts Common Sense Media towards “a more holistic view and analysis of media.” In addition, it provides both parents and educators a common language to use for talking about media and learning. “Their system, which is more than just categorizing subject areas, looks at the processes through which children learn and how digital technology and games support the development of 21st Century skills.”

Take for example Common Sense Media’s review of the popular mobile game, Temple Run: “There’s not much to TEMPLE RUN, but it’s very good at what it does.” While it is not viewed as good for learning, they go into great detail to help evaluators understand how “freemiums” play out in the lives of youth: “The game does offer in-app purchases for upgrades and new characters, but doesn’t force them down your throat like so many other apps do, which is refreshing.” While Temple Run gets “0” books for learning, the game developing web site Gamestar Mechanic has earned “3,” the highest. “It’s a rare game that allows kids to feel true ownership over their work; Gamestar Mechanic fits the bill.” The review covers seven categories and addresses, “what parents need to know,” “what kids can learn,” “what’s it about?,” “is it any good?,” and my personal favorite, “what families can talk about,” which offers processing questions that can be of use to anyone learning how to talk with youth about games.

Teaching with Games (video)
This is not the first time we’ve talked about Minecraft at DML Central. But now we can begin to point to more evidence that it is being taken more seriously by those interested in gaming and education. A first example is this excellent new video by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center as part of their excellent new series of reports and videos on games and learning (be sure to also check out their new research from the Games and Learning Publishing Council initiative, which surveyed more than 500 K-8 teachers about their attitudes on using digital games in the classroom.) This video focuses on Joel Levin, a NYC-based private school teacher who uses Minecraft with 2nd graders to emphasize “self-directed learning, collaboration between students, and positive social interactions.” What the video only mentions in brief is that Joel is also the founder of MinecraftEdu, a new company that is working with developers at Carnegie Mellon University (with approval from the owners of Minecraft) to offer a customized version of Minecraft for the educational community. Imagine the potential if the owners of Grand Theft Auto or Second Life had let an educator fully redesign it for use in the classroom and resell it to educators? What MinecraftEdu has developed is remarkable, and the company amazed the crowds when featured last March at the Digital Media and Learning Conference. This month, Global Kids is excited to be working with Joel and the Brooklyn Public Library to offer the borough’s first Minecraft Jam, in which local youth will use Minecraft to explore the world and social inequities within the popular series The Hunger Games.

Twitter in the Classroom (blog)
This blog post, and associated video, offers an excellent overview to the potential for Twitter within educational settings. It is an excellent source for those both new to thinking about Twitter’s DML potential and those looking for a new idea. Some uses are obvious, like for announcements and research, while others are more creative, like having parents pick a topic to debate, or taking pictures of objects that start with the letter of the day.

Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives (research)
The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a new report on their research on millennials and their connected lives. The findings from this report are from a survey of more than 1,000 technology experts and stakeholders. Overall, survey takers were split over whether or not being constantly connected will be positive or negative for the younger generation, but there was agreement that networked living would cause millennials to have less patience and seek instant gratification. Survey participants also noted what skills they felt would be important for millennials to have in 2020, including public problem-solving, digital literacy, synthesizing information, concentration, and others. The report also made other predictions and arguments about millennials including:

  • Their brains will rewire to adapt to new ways of processing information.
  • Those who can master the ability to analyze informational critically will be rewarded, while those who can’t will fall behind.
  • There will be a new class division based on those who find a balance between attention and allocation and those who can’t.
  • Millennials’ education should be reformed to focus on managing multiple information streams and then analyzing and synthesizing information.

From what we see at Global Kids, it is clear how to anticipate how the “always connected” lives of today’s youth will shape how they learn and what they expect. We agree with the arguments about the need to reform education — that we need to teach young people the skills to manage, analyze, and synthesize information — but we don’t think we should wait until 2020! These 21st century skills are key components of all of our programs.

Global Kids does a great job each month pointing us to helpful resources. Please share what you’re reading and watching, too! Global Kids’ NYC-based programs address the need for young people to possess leadership skills and an understanding of complex global issues to succeed in the 21st century workplace and participate in the democratic process.

Banner image credit: Global Kids