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Friday, November 06, 2009

Turning young players into game designers

Microsoft Research is literally creating code kids can play with. It's called Kodu – a play on the word "code" – and it's a programming language for creating games on Xbox that's "designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone," Microsoft says on its Web page about it. You design with a game controller (and my 12-year-old thought he was going to have to learn game design in college!). But you're actually designing a game while playing a game – how cool is that? Chris Wilson at Slate tried it and writes that it's "also actually fun!" [See also "From 'chalk 'n' talk' to learning by doing" for a story about a school in New York, Quest to Learn, that teaches with videogames – subjects from math and history to videogame design – and for links to great resources on learning in play.]

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

School libraries: Vital filter developers

Actually, the library is both a filter and a developer of the most effective filter there is: the software between students' ears (as my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid first put it years ago). It's a great filter as school's nerve center of media competency and literacy (hopefully including new media as well as the traditional kind).

As for the filter the library helps develop in students' heads: If properly developed, it can guide and empower them the rest of their lives. Its other pluses:

  • Comes universally pre-installed, free of charge
  • Has no socio-economic barriers to "adoption"
  • Is automatically customized in micro detail as it's used
  • Works at the "operating system" level
  • Not only doesn't conflict with, but supports and enhances, all other "applications"
  • Improves with use
  • Is the No. 1 online-safety tool.

    Critical thinking – about what one is posting, producing, and uploading as well as reading, consuming, and downloading – has never been more important for personal and academic success because of the flood of media flowing to and from the Internet's most active and social users, youth. But now – because media is also social, or behavioral – media literacy is also protective. If it teaches critical thinking about incoming social influencing (by friends, ex-friends, advertisers, predators – see this) and about their own behavior in social media, media literacy will go far in helping students have enriching, constructive experiences online and offline now and in the future. Critical thinking about one's behavior in and with media is protective because people who engage in aggressive behavior are more than twice as likely to be victimized in social media, researchers reported in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine in 2007.

    So I hope schools are engaged in an important shift, not entirely away from tech filters, but at least toward understanding how vital librarians and other media-literacy teachers are to students' safe, constructive use of media and technology. [Besides, in many schools, tech filters are "knee-high fences" that only trip up adults at school (see this commentary in the Washington Post).] I see librarians in a key role of helping administrators, parents, and teachers of all subjects to 1) see the value and effectiveness of the cognitive filter, 2) loosen dependency on tech filtering and other tech "panaceas," and 3) become comfortable with social media. Then schools will be free to do for new media what they've done for traditional media for centuries: guide and enrich students' experience with them (see "School & social media: Uber big picture").

    As Joyce Kasman Valenza and Doug Johnson recently wrote in School Library Journal, "It is the best time in history to be a librarian," but they seem to share my sense of urgency about the need for everybody, including librarians, to understand why.

    [I guess I've been thinking about this so much lately because School Library Journal just published my view of "online safety 3.0" here.]

    Related links

  • Here's a librarian who's clearly developing that filter. The article doesn't say if she's folding the behavioral part of new media into her literacy instruction (critical thinking about what students are uploading, sharing, and producing as well as downloading and reading), but she probably is.
  • The 2009 small, medium, and large school districts honored for technology performance in Converge magazine
  • I'd love librarians' feedback on this proposed definition of new media lit.
  • Of new media literacy in Europe
  • President Obama and new media literacy
  • The media literacy part of parenting
  • A new online safety: The means not the end

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  • Wednesday, November 04, 2009

    Adults' status updates on the rise: Study

    If anybody considers Twitter and other status-update tools all about self-exposure (I don't, but glad to "talk" with you about that in Twitter, Facebook, email, or the ConnectSafely forum), and consequently all about youth, the Pew Internet & American Life Project has evidence to the contrary - just out today. It found that "one out of five Internet users now say they use Twitter or some other service to share status updates about themselves, or to keep tabs on others." That's from a survey of adult Internet users - 2,200 of them. The 19% who now use status-update services is up from 11% last April. Here's more in a Wall Street Journal blog.

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    Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    Students sue school for social Web-related discipline

    The two Indiana girls who, during a sleepover before their sophomore year started this fall, posted some sexually suggestive photos in a MySpace profile set to private, thought of it as a joke among friends, says the ACLU, which filed the lawsuit on the girls' behalf. "The suit contends that someone copied the pictures and shared them with school officials, and they eventually were given to the principal," the Washington Post reports. "None of the photos made any reference to the school," it adds. The girls, athletes, were suspended from all "all extracurricular activities for the year" at first, but the school later "reduced the penalty to 25% of fall semester activities after the girls completed three counseling sessions and apologized to the coaches board." The school's attorney "said [the principal] was enforcing the northeast Indiana school's athletic code, which allows the principal to bar from school activities any student-athlete whose behavior in or out of school "creates a disruptive influence on the discipline, good order, moral or educational environment at Churubusco High School." Do you think the school's definition of "material disruption" (of students' ability to learn, a test that has been used in a number of cases involving student free speech and off-campus behavior in social media) is too broad? Your comments welcome, via email (anne[at] or, better, posted in our forum at

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    Monday, November 02, 2009

    Ning adds virtual gifts

    Seems all the social sites are taking a queue from virtual worlds and letting users buy and sell virtual goods (e.g., virtual clothes, furnishings, holiday stuff, even hair-dos). Now, the site that lets users create their own social networks, is letting them create their own virtual gifts, "bringing a built-in virtual goods store to the site’s 1.6 million networks," TechCrunch reports. So, for example, the "Brooklyn Art Project network can offer gifts that are miniature versions of hand-drawn artwork" and "the New Kids on the Block" network can sell gifts like the bandmembers’ faces," TechCrunch adds. Meanwhile, Marketing Vox reports that the virtual goods market will hit $1 billion this year. For background on Ning, see "Zillions of social network sites" and "Anyone can have a social site now."

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