Posts Tagged ‘Digital Citizenship’

This semester I have been learning a lot about gamification in education and the pros and cons of using gaming in the classroom. Just to be clear…though I’ve played a few games in my time (as a kid and more recently with my young sons), I do not consider myself a gamer! Assuredly, my views in this post will amplify my ‘beginner’ lens for those of you who have occupied the gamer space for some time!

As a teacher, I’m interested in harnessing my students’ interest by tapping into their love of video games but admit I’m a bit of a skeptic. They get enough screen time already…do they really need more? I’ve seen and tempered enough ‘too-much-video-game’ storms from my own kids to believe the negative hype that’s out there. But is it just hype? (It sounds a little like the ‘Tv will rot your brain’ sentiments that prevailed when I was a kid!)

After watching some of Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talks and reading some of Marc Presley’s work, I retracted some of my reservations in my post Turns out Gaming is Good for You.


In Phillip Kollar’s article, Jane McGonigal on the good and bad of video game escapism in March 2013,

McGonigal cited studies showing that violent gameplay is okay, and co-op violent gameplay can be great, but competitive violent gameplay — especially against strangers — raises aggression.”

Here’s another article that presents both the positive and negative sides of the video game equation.

So, having established there’s good and bad in gaming…what about the culture that exists in the gaming world? The title of this post is purposefully provocative but after I wrote it I thought, to be fair I really should have a clear understanding of what ‘gamer culture’ is rather than throw something out there based on my uninformed impressions.

After a quick search it turns out the gamer culture isn’t necessarily the stereotypical misogynistic teenage boys playing violent games on their consoles through the night…though no doubt, it can be. According to the latest ESA study, the average age of video game players is 30 and check out the break down by gender.

Gamer demographics

That surprised me until I read that the study includes all forms of games–from Wii games on a household console to online games on a mobile device. (Even my mother-in-law has a soduko app!) It’s clear that new players are entering the gaming spaces but what about the ones who are well-entrenched there?

In our last class discussion, Audrey Watters reminded me of the dark side of gaming culture, and to the online space in general, particularly for women and other marginalized groups. Much like Bonnie Stewart‘s presentation about networked identity, Audrey’s was not only a cautionary tale of what can happen when you share your opinions with the world, but also a frightening one.

Her presentation was so timely for me as I explore the possibilities of including gaming in the classroom. I am learning to play Minecraft and to use it as a tool for teaching but, as I searched out tutorials to learn how to play I got a glimpse of how the gamer culture might not be the best influence for our students. Specifically, the language used in several tutorials would not be acceptable for my young sons to be hearing. So does YouTube having content warnings? How can we encourage our students’ interests without unwittingly support inappropriate conduct online. Get online parents and teachers! You need to know what’s out there.

And that was just minecraft tutorials…what about the other games and spaces where gamers interact online? I have no idea really…except that my husband occasionally plays Medal of Honor and I have a 12 year old nephew who’s apparently hooked on Call of Duty. In a digital world designed and controlled by men, what about the women who are not only participating in these spaces but also raising their voices against the mainstream. I don’t mean to paint all gamers with the same brush but given the recent events in the gaming world (ie. Gamergate ) one can’t be too careful.

But the gaming world isn’t the only online space where behaviour can be invasive, threatening and abusive. Our class was stunned into silence by the sheer number of names Audrey Watters listed off the top of her head of who she knew who had experienced online abuse. Here are a few more examples off the top of my head:

– Ann Rice explores both positive and negative experiences online in her latest interview with CBC. Check out 7:55 (experiences on Facebook) and 12:50 (tormenting book reviewers on Amazon).

– Audrey Watters noted concerns about ethics and privacy issues with MOOCs.

– Last spring, Saskatchewan news reported on a controversy surrounding the girl from Balcares who wore a sweater reading, ‘Got Land, Thank an Indian’ that escalated to online bullying on her Facebook page.

– and the many other stories like Amanda Todd’s where online abuse moves into real world violence.

So with the online space filled with these minefields should we be encouraging gaming in the classroom? What’s the big deal? Kids love minecraft…but are we inviting real world ‘mobs’ into our classrooms as well? Do our kids get enough positive messages to compensate for the potentially negative ones they may be finding in the gaming world or other online spaces? In his article, ‘Gamers don’t have to be your audience. Gamers are over’, Leigh Alexander wrote:

When you decline to create or to curate a culture in your spaces, you’re responsible for what spawns in the vacuum.”

As teachers, we can’t turn a blind eye on who our students are and the world they are growing up in. However, it is so important to tread carefully and thoughtfully when we bring our students online. We are responsible for the culture that spawns in our spaces. We need to educate students to avoid and not perpetrate the nastiness that can lurk online and in the real world. As Julie Nilsson Smith commented in a recent #moedchat, “Many Ps give phones w/o guidance. Like giving a Ferrari w/o Driver’s Ed.” Like driver’s ed, cyber ed cannot be left to parents alone–our students’ online safety and education needs to be a joint effort.

If your class takes students into online spaces how do you protect them and what things do you do to educate them about online safety? How do you get parents on board and educate them as well? Is an online presence in classrooms worth the risk?

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your comments.


Last week Bonnie Stewart joined our Social Media & Open Education class to chat about networked identity. I was expecting her to immediately talk about privacy and security but instead she started by asking us, “Who are you?”

Most of us identified ourselves with our working identity first, family roles second, and lovers of certain hobbies or things as an after thought. It’s interesting but not surprising that we usually lead out with our professional persona given the audience. As a teacher I get a kick out of seeing my young students recognize me when I’m out and about at a restaurant or grocery store. No where is the notion of multiple identities so blatantly exposed than in that moment when they see me as someone other than ‘their teacher!’

“Mom, is that…? Nope, can’t be!”

Photo Credit: evilpeacock via Compfight cc

So what about your network identity?  Who do you present yourself as when you’re online? For me there’s not much difference aside from the fact that I use different platforms for my professional and personal life…or at least tried to. I find my business and personal identities are merging there too as my PLN grows and as I tap into resources and information from various sources.

Is there no where personal or private? And, how do you know who you’re really talking to?

This semester as part of my studies I am spending a lot more time on Twitter than I had before. Like opening up my comment section on my blog I have also opened up my ‘follower’ capabilities so anyone can follow my twitter feed. This is exciting as people I reach out to turn around and follow me or people I don’t know Retweet my ramblings or resources I’ve found. (Thanks for the ego boost!;) It is really quite amazing to feel so supported and connected but admittedly this open access business is a little unnerving. Now honestly, I’m pretty sure no one really cares about some teacher on the Canadian prairies trying to figure it all out but after seeing some creepy videos about the dark side of cyberspace it kind of makes me wonder, “Who’s watching?”

(Thanks for the find Tammy Lee … I think!)

Maybe my colleague has it right in having multiple twitter accounts. Or perhaps that only provides the illusion of privacy and control? I went to great lengths to control my Facebook account years ago only to hear from a friend that my privacy settings were so high he couldn’t even ask me to ‘friend’ him! On the flipside, I didn’t realize how ridiculously easy it is to have your picture scooped until another friend snipped my profile pic off FB to use for a surprise gift. Hmmm…hope there’s no unwanted surprises out there. I can only thank God that social networking wasn’t around for my teen years. I cringe at some of the pictures I see my young cousins posting and wonder how long the ‘partier’ persona will follow them. FOREVER, that’s the scary thing!!

After drunken night at Chris' II_MMVI
Photo Credit: andronicusmax via Compfight cc

But privacy and identity security are only part of our online story. I found this great visual via Krista Gates’ blog post, Networking my identity: @kristabgates, outlining Mike Ribble‘s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship.

There are so many facets to the digital footprint we are creating. It’s not just about “Who’s watching?” but also what you’re leaving behind for others to see–not just with regard to personal information but equally important, your digital legacy. Instead of asking us, “What do you want to do?”, Bonnie Stewart encouraged us to consider, “What do you want to contribute?” What imprint do you want to leave?

Right now my children are barely conscious of the online world and so most of their exposure is through me and my husband. (But it’s coming soon I know!) We work hard to limit their gaming and screen time and I try hard to be as transparent as possible about what I’m doing with all the screen time I’m logging lately. I am very cognizant of who else is watching.