Game-based Learning Article

GamiTools: tools to gamify

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One: gamification

One of the most popular definitions of the term gamification is probably the one by Sebastian Deterding from 2011. According to Deterding, “gamification is the use of game design elements in non-game contexts”. There are other similar definitions but, in general, all of them refer to game elements, game design and to the fact that its use happens in non-game contexts. 

If we focus on gamification applied to teaching contexts, I like to define this as “the design of game-like learning experiences”. This definition includes the design of learning experiences because that is the teacher’s basic task: to make didactic proposals so that students can learn. And they are game-like experiences because it picks up the idea of using game elements at the time of designing these experiences. 

Two: gamification and technologies

Gamification is often related to technologies and it is believed that to design  gamification experiences it is essential to use applications, computers, tablets or other mobile devices.  

Though it is true that there can be many examples  using technological resources, the use of technology is not an essential condition to gamify. 

Even so, there are several applications and resources that can help us design learning gamification experiences.

Three: tools to gamify

To be precise, we shouldn’t talk about “tools to gamify” but about “tools that can help us gamify”, applications and resources we can resort to when designing our gamified learning experiences. But we have to consider that we should always be guided by the teaching goals of our proposal; technology will be incorporated at a post-design stage.

And, as we should always do when using technologies, we must really care about the impact that a specific tool or technological resource has in our learning design. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model can be very useful in these cases.

It is based on four levels of technology use:

Substitution: technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional changes.
Augmentation: technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement.
Modification: technology allows for significant task redesign.
Redefinition: technology allows for the creation of new tasks, which were previously inconceivable.

Substitution and augmentation correspond to an improvement of the teaching process, while modification and redefinition refer to educational transformation.

In this sense, it seems clear that the tendency is to achieve  the higher levels:modification and redefinition. Designing learning experiences that use technologies and that are in one of the two highest levels is usually the main goal. However, it is as or even more important to really know the level and use of the experience we are designing. We can´t make the mistake of, for example, thinking that our design is transforming when it is actually at the substitution level. It is also possible that at certain times we may need technology just to substitute or improve what we do through other channels. 

Four: GamiTools

In an attempt to bring together a set of tools and resources that can help us design gamified learning experiences, I created GamiTools. 

GamiTools is an application made with Glide (https://www.glideapps.com/), a tool that turns any information from a Google Sheet into a mobile device app. Products created with Glide can be checked through a web environment, but they are more effective if checked from a mobile. Just as with a conventional app, you can  directly and easily access the app on the mobile device desktop to get a better experience.. 

At the moment of writing this article (April 2022) GamiTools is compiling about 90 tools and resources organized in different categories: 8 bit, AR/*VR, avatars, classifications, story creation, game creation, dynamics, desktop, icons, images, escape games, printable games, mazes, books, text messages, sound messages, platform, question-answer, sounds/music.

For each tool and resource there is a link to its official website and a brief description of its basic functionalities. All the proposals are intended to be access-free, or at least, to have a free functional version.

Finally, it should be added that it is a living application. That is to say, it is constantly adding new resources that can be useful for gamified designs. Similarly, other resources are eliminated from GamiTools once they are no longer of interest or functional.  

GamiTools can be found in this link: https://gamitools.glideapp.io/. It can also be accessed by scanning the following QR code:

Do you think there are any interesting resources missing? If you get in touch with me, I’ll revise it and if it’s worth it, I’ll include it in GamiTools.

Autor

Pere Cornellà Canals

Teacher and educator. He works at the Institute of Education Sciences, UdG, as a technician in educational innovation and digital resources. Associate professor in the Degree in Primary School Education at UdG.
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Hybrid Education Article

Hybrid education as a contribution to educational quality and social equality

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In this interview, Cecilia Sagol, Research manager at Educ.ar (Argentina), talks about the benefits of the extended classroom and how it has contributed to transforming education. . 

We specifically asked her about the context to  use educational platforms and about the importance of not quitting them once in-person  classes are back. To conclude the interview, she reveals how the extended classroom can be an innovative educational practice.

Moreover, Cecilia shares various resources for hybrid educational scenarios, taking into account the existing quality and reach of technological conditions.

Furthermore, the following infographic picks up part of the content from the book Escenarios combinados para enseñar y aprender: escuelas, hogares y pantallas (Combined Scenarios for Teaching and learning: schools, homes, and screens).  The chapter “An Overview of Tools” presents a variety of digital applications organized according to their functionalities in the different fields of teaching, each one with its corresponding fact sheet.

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Design Thinking Article

Let’s design education

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Lately, we have seen the emergence of new philosophical and pedagogical tendencies vindicating the recipients of action as protagonists: the patient, the user, or the student have become, accordingly, the center of medicine, services or education. 

That’s why we talk about learning, and the medical process should be treated as a healing process. Because nobody learns or heals if they don’t want to take an active role in it. It’s not about being passive but quite the opposite: feeding, cultivating, taking care of oneself or learning are active actions, and those who carry them out or receive them must intervene in the process. Thus, following these currents of user-centered design, we should explore a learner-centered education. 

Where shall we start? The first step is to understand the students, as well as some new  learning  methodologies and working tools such as design. 

What is learning?

Learning is creating something new. It is establishing new neural pathways. It is imagining new connections among the acquired contents: being able to relate math to climate emergency or biology and arts to elderly care. Creating something new implies a thinking process that includes the definition of a challenge, starting by understanding the  context to arrive at its consequent resolution. In this sense, learning follows a procedure that should include a stage of documentation and introduction to contents, and another one helping students to define  specific challenges that allow them to connect  all their learnings to find new solutions.

For a long time, the educational community  didn’t work to define challenges together with the students, but defined them in advance:  however, it is as important to solve a problem as it is to be able to raise it. Consequently, if we can’t identify the difficulties correctly, we may end up living in a society with many answers but without the appropriate questions. For example, some years ago at a symposium on transgenics, there was a debate about not adding carotene to rice to improve the diet of those who live on rice alone. Someone from the audience pointed out that the right question should have been asked before the debate. The challenge to be discussed should actually be : “What can we do in order to avoid such unequal economic distribution?” Since the fact that some people live on rice alone is the result of the economic gap.. Therefore, this could be a good example of a poorly framed challenge. 

How can we redesign user-centered learning in teaching?

Science  is very useful to schools since it uses clear unique working methods that are applicable to several branches of knowledge, scientific or not . Then the question is: can we address education with a similar design? The answer is we can through  design thinking. 

The scientific method is a great way to understand and analyze everything around us. It is the basis of empirical knowledge. It encourages the educational community to raise questions, ideate hypotheses, design experiments, validate and disseminate results. It is therefore a process that provides a strong support in deciphering the contemporaneous nature of educational phenomena, contextualizing past and present. Nevertheless, how can we learn to predict educational phenomena? How can we learn to give innovative answers to real problems? How can we prepare students for an uncertain future? Teaching them to design. Educators can design their learning process so that students can become the designers of their own thinking   processes and creating contents adapted to the current needs.

Finally, it is important to highlight the intersection of design and engineering and how its working method has been analyzed to develop what today is known as design thinking. An example of this is the consulting company IDEO, which was a pioneer in reflecting on the importance of design and in naming this process. Understanding how things are thought from the design discipline helps us put ourselves in the students’ place, define the challenges of future phenomena, propose diverse ideas, prototype economically so as to test the ideas quickly, and implement innovations that better fit the needs of the educational community. This method of implementation encourages educational innovation and focuses on detecting real problems, avoiding in this way baseless theories. Therefore, this method, design thinking, drives us to empathize, to define challenges, to ideate, to prototype and test proposals, so we can structure learning as an educational project.

The magic of project-based learning

 

Let’s picture ourselves in the Harry Potter saga, by J.K. Rowling. Harry’s life is in danger while he is at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft. Each class is faced with new challenges that should be solved using their learnings. If we pay attention, these learnings develop “dangerously” in project work. Fortunately, Harry has the knack for connecting all his knowledge so as to always come through with flying colors. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the young wizard learns that in order to fight mythical animals, you have to empathize with them. This is the advice that his friend and forest ranger, Rubeus Hagrid, gives him. Once they learn about Fluffy’s (the three-headed dog) interests, Harry and his friends can move forward and look for the philosopher’s stone. Therefore, getting to know the context and the people we are addressing is crucial. It helps us find a better solution for the challenge we are posed with. In the same way, by connecting everything we have learnt, without the limitations of specific classes , we are put to the test. We are trained for the real world.  Fortunately, a wand battle is not necessary to achieve significant educational projects, but what is needed is a cross-cutting challenge.  For this reason, studying a snake isn’t a project. Instead, designing a terrarium that can be better adapted to the snake’s needs is one indeed.

 

No tricks, back to the classroom

Being empathic, defining challenges, ideating and testing solutions are not just learnings for the students in the movie, but also for students in real life. Paradoxically, this methodology may motivate those who aren’t good at abstract or theoretical contents and test those who are good at curricular contents. For example, we have been working for many years on the project “La Mandarina de Newton’, where we take these methodologies to the educational world considering the specific characteristics  of students.  

Along the same line, collaboration with mSchools in conceptualizing and dynamizing EduHack has resulted  in an improvement in the application of these methodologies. Besides, together with the Ministry of Education of the Government of Catalonia, we have organized an online EduHackathon. The goal of both initiatives was to empower teachers and professors from Compulsory and Post Compulsory Secondary Education. And in this way, to create their own educational resources following the design thinking methodology. Once again: who better than the teachers to care about the students’ needs and interests, to define and ideate resources adapted to the reality of the territory, with the aim of creating a living repository of teaching material?

On the other hand, together with the Barcelona City Hall and the public museums of the city, in 2018 we launched the proposal “Natura i Ciutat”. In this case we invited students to follow the design thinking methodology so as to make an improvement in their community, using heritage, the city and nature as a basis for their improvement proposals. At first our goal was to create  projects combining learning and community-service. And we succeeded with the creation of an ecological food cooperative born from the collaboration between Institut Quatre Cantons de Poblenou and an already existing cooperative; or the landscaping of a nursing home to increase green areas, both designed and  carried out by ESO students from the Sagrat Cor Besòs School. In both cases, design thinking helped students know their context better, empathize with several collectives, participate in ideating sessions, monitor the chosen dynamics, prototype solutions and implement improvements specifically in their neighborhood. In other words, they learned while offering a service to their community.

Finally, if we want education to allow for new connections among contents, practices, social skills, collaborative techniques and the discovery of real needs of the contemporary world, the key is to offer a service adapted to the current educational challenges. In the same way, we must reframe the contents so students can be protagonists and can follow a unique process. It is important for them to be able to sum up what they learnt in a project and to use design thinking to give an answer to the needs of their environment. We must use and share the design processes with students. Design thinking can be very useful for the students who are immersed in a real project as well as for the teachers who want to design better activities, and even for the management staff aiming to transform education. That’s why we must design education together!!

Game-based Learning Article

Educated, gamified, and hacked without knowing thanks to video games?

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Educated, gamified, and hacked without knowing thanks to video games?

What if there existed a massively consumed tool with a high capacity to transform the way we relate to our environment, granting us a number of key advantages and abilities for current times?

To answer that question I wrote the book  Homo Aliens. Videojuegos y Gamificación para el Próximo Hacking Cognitivo -published by Héroes de Papel- right at the beginning of the COVID19 epidemic, which delayed its release in bookstores until September of 2020. In the book I delve into key issues of how the different human societies have related to playing games, why playing has had its own peculiarities in each stage and context, or why at some specific point of history, playing was practically eliminated from our lives in a process I call “gamicide” or “ludicide”. 

In Homo Alien I also try to share certain ideas, doubts, and questions we should ask ourselves to think and feel playing not only as a hobby but also as the tool that any living being with a complex central nervous system (some reptiles, birds, and of course, mammals) inevitably needs if they expect such a system to fully develop. As Homo sapiens, we have developed a very complex culture of learning, and playing games is for us the main tool to learn. I’d like to emphasize the word “learn” here, since every game can be used to learn, which doesn’t mean that every game can be used to teach, i.e. to teach under a curricular perspective of formal education. For that reason, I also explain why most of the Serious Games don’t “work”, neither as games nor as educational tools.

What does seem to be evident is that games and, more specifically in this digitized age, video games help us develop certain abilities or competences called skills. Games and now video games have a direct impact in the way we perceive and interact with the environment. These are crucial skills for the current historical context, where we have to deal with the digitalization of practically every communicative and productive process, with high volatility and uncertainty, as well as with the need  to be creative  to differ from automated work and artificial intelligences. Of course, these are not “new” concepts but they are important arguments to return to, after a context where playing was meant almost exclusively for youths and children to develop certain skills before becoming an adult, and once at a productive adult age was reached, playing was seen as a waste of time and thus of productivity. That is how we get to the previously mentioned gamicide.

Nowadays we face challenges that didn’t exist in the Industrial Age, challenges that encourage the adult population to stay within a process of Long Life Learning, where the workplace is not just a place to produce but also a place to research and learn, to improve and contribute in a creative way. Work is no longer a mechanical activity for human beings because we already have machines and digitalization for that; so the skills that can’t be developed -at least not yet- by these machines are the most important ones in our Knowledge Society.

The Soft Skills Dilemma

In The Global Achievement Gap Prof. Thomas Wagner argues that “students are not learning the skills that matter most for the twenty-first century”, among other things because “our system of public education—our curricula, teaching methods, and the tests we require students to take—were created in a different century for the needs of another era. They are hopelessly outdated”. In his book he goes on to mention how positive it is that the education of the other skills (the technical or hard skills) has been democratized to the point that countries from the Asian and American Continents which didn’t have access to such education, do have it now and become industrial competitors with better initial conditions: lower salaries and laxer environmental regulations, among others.

A professional context of permanent innovation and uncertainty that we call Knowledge and Innovation Economy, combined  with competing technically qualified profiles  from emerging countries, calls for a change in education in the developed countries where other non technical skills play a crucial role.  Wagner himself calls them “Survival Skills” and justifies his argument by saying that “parents and educators who do not attend to these skills are putting their children at an increased risk of not being able to get and keep a good job, grow as learners, or make positive contributions to their community”, the warning also extends to political leaders. In general, when we talk about these non technical skills, we actually refer to the still largely unknown soft skills. Practically every author and organization coincides with the need to train and assess soft skills such as Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Collaboration, Leadership, Agility and Adaptability, Initiative and Self-motivation, etc.

Unfortunately, knowing what you need is not the same as having it. For instance, in a sample from a Gallup survey conducted for NWEA (previously known as NorthWest Evaluation Association), more than eight out of ten teachers (83 %), parents (82 %), superintendents (82 %) and principals (83 %) said it is equally important to assess academic as well as non academic skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking, and creativity; however, the teachers admitted not having enough time to train these skills, especially in those children with greater difficulties, and only 40% said that current assessment tests are useful to measure these skills, and just 10% consider that some of those skills are being measured correctly.

We therefore seem to be facing a triple problem in the Formal Education of developed countries: 

  1. We have limited awareness of the value of soft skills. 
  2. We roughly know how to assess them.
  3. We have a very vague idea of how to teach them or train them.

 I can say there is limited awareness of the value of soft skills.  ome experts like Prof. Wagner and organizations like the OECD, the WEF, or the European Commission itself have published reports highlighting the importance of these skills, and warning on the urgent need to train and develop them, even stating that an ever increasing percentage of hiring depends on these skills. And this warning is also limited because it isn’t correctly permeating formal educational centers, except for the Vocational Education and Training (VET) ones. At VET centers, and specifically in their entrepreurial classrooms, we do observe an ongoing movement with soft skills as protagonists, but, I insist, it is a teacher’s not a political move.   

Regarding the assessment and teaching of these skills, the truth is there is  little literature about it and everything suggests that those who use soft skills training and assessment methods, do it a bit analogically in the first place; and in the second place, very intuitively and excessively related to the performance of a specific task in their working environment. I want to emphasize Bruce Tulgan’s book Bridging the Soft Skills Gap where he gives a pretty shallow description of these skills and explains his peculiar way of training them: imitating those coworkers who could possess such skills and subjecting oneself to a kind of question and answer self-test so as to reflect on whether we have acquired the skills, that is, to make a self-assessment.Moreover, even though there is a certain awareness of soft skills and of how necessary they are in working environments as well as educational contexts, there isn’t a global standard nor a European one that defines the skills themselves: which ones are better t and why, and of course in which professional sectors they are more relevant. Some European agencies like the JRC and ESCO have started to work on this, but, honestly, there is still much to be done.    

(Real) consequences of playing video games

In spite of the popular, though generational, thought that video games are unproductive or time-wasting, our own research as well as others’ have found out about the effects caused by the most popular leisure tool today. Unlike television or radio, video games turn users into active agents, and both the stimulation received and the context on the screen demands of players a series of behavioral as well as cognitive actions. 

Thanks to current measurement tools, we have been able to find out different phenomena related to the use of video games. On the one hand, the demystification of their relation to addiction and violence. Contrary to the media’s portrayal, there isn’t any scientific evidence relating video games to an increase of violence . However, as usual, we should be aware that video gaming is a cultural artifact like any other that, when used in excess, can produce negative effects, which is why we should continue placing emphasis on controlling and monitoring gamers’ habits in the potentially vulnerable groups. 

On the other hand, we have an incredible amount of evidence showing that video games are an excellent asset in relation to brain improvement and change.

To be brief, we would like to sum up such evidence into 4 categories:

1

Cognitive effects

Which include, among others, improvements in processes like problem solving, attention, perception, spatial skills, working memory, and reasoning speed.

2

Motivational effects

Related to the user’s commitment to playing; the generalized motivation for any activity involving the use of games, and the capacity of attention derived from that motivation.

3

Emotional effects

Or emotional management, related to the improvement of stress or frustration management.

4

Social effects

Including, among others, an improvement of prosocial behavior, empathy, interaction, team coordination, communication.

In order to add more arguments in favor of the beneficial neurocognitive effects that video games have on players, it is worth mentioning that a more specific line of research has, in the past decade, been relating the use of video games to the improvement of the soft skills mentioned at the beginning of the article. Though some of these skills have already been mentioned in previous categories, the ones that stand out are: the relation of video game playing to a better communication, cognitive adaptability or flexibility, creativity, complex problem solving and organization, leadership, etc.

Video games in the classroom: does it make sense?

As may be observed, video games have become a tool of cognitive stimulation in many senses. This sounds logical, since there is also a great amount of types of video games closely related to every cognitive area we normally use. In this way, research has been unraveling the truth behind the influence of video games. Even certain educational figures have applied video games in the classroom, taking into account the previous information and other studies that showed an improvement of learning skills thanks to the use of video games.

For example, video games have been used in different educational institutions to support the learning of STEMcourses, taking advantage of the effects of Flow created in the students or increasing their motivation for learning and improving classroom interaction.

To be precise and more down to earth, and to portray the scenario of the video games’ role in the classroom, they have been applied to different courses such as Mathematics, using the algorithmic-numerical system that underlies the design and programing of each video game, as well as Language, using above all games with a high narrative load. Furthermore, video games have been used to teach History to foster the learning of mythology or historical events, and of course, for Science courses, though all the studies highlight the importance of the teacher as a moderator in class.

VERSA Project. Video games and soft skills for PhD students. 

With this bibliographic information and the research projects, our foundation, Gecon.es, began an international project of educational innovation in 2021. The project, called VERSA (Video games for Skills training), financed by the program Horizon 2020 Science with & for Society Call (SwafS-2020 Topic 8), has the goal of fostering entrepreneurship-related soft skills in PhD students from the AURORA European universities network.

In order to do this, we designed a specific module structure for each soft skill related to the use of a particular video game, supported by the use of certain standard tests so as to be able to have a procedure of external measurement. The project’s main hypothesis is that, as stated before, the use of video games will improve the level of soft skills in students participating in the project.

With more than 80 students per module, all the results aim at a significant relation to the improvement of the first five soft skills that have already been trained (there are still as many to be started). The skills are: Cognitive Flexibility, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Teamwork. Therefore, and once more, the evidence suggests that video games may mean a very valuable support in educational contexts, not only to improve specific skills but also to improve commitment, motivation, and students’ participation in the development of such skills.  

The next step, once the project is finished, is to develop the model in order to continue its practice in the educational context and even extend it to the working context, so as to get into the field of professional training in working environments – what is called re-skilling. Thanks to this know-how, we have become increasingly more capable of creating specific programs to develop key soft skills in educational, training, and professional contexts, which allows us more and more to build bridges to close the competence gap between the academic and working fields, by specializing professional profiles thanks to, among other things, video games and also by using the motivating power of playful contexts that such video games create. 

Enlaces de referencia

Authors

Flavio Escribano

Flavio Escribano is a doctor Cum Laude from the Complutense University of Madrid. He is the author of the book “Homo Alien. Videogames and Gamification for the next Cognitive Hacking” (Paper Heroes, 2020). He works as Head of the Research Team at GECON.es Foundation where he carries out projects with Video Games and Gamification. Co-founder of the collective ARSGAMES, a collective dedicated to Game Art and Games Studies. In addition to being a speaker and professor at various master's degrees, congresses, workshops and seminars related to gender, video games and art, he has collaborated with companies and organizations such as the European Commission, DIAGEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, AMAZE (Berlin), MediaLab-Prado , Intermediae-Matadero, Zemos98, European University of Madrid, Complutense University, International University of Andalucia and other national and international institutions in research and dissemination work.
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Flavio Escribano

Flavio Escribano is a doctor Cum Laude from the Complutense University of Madrid. He is the author of the book “Homo Alien. Videogames and Gamification for the next Cognitive Hacking” (Paper Heroes, 2020). He works as Head of the Research Team at GECON.es Foundation where he carries out projects with Video Games and Gamification. Co-founder of the collective ARSGAMES, a collective dedicated to Game Art and Games Studies. In addition to being a speaker and professor at various master's degrees, congresses, workshops and seminars related to gender, video games and art, he has collaborated with companies and organizations such as the European Commission, DIAGEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, AMAZE (Berlin), MediaLab-Prado , Intermediae-Matadero, Zemos98, European University of Madrid, Complutense University, International University of Andalucia and other national and international institutions in research and dissemination work.
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Media Literacy Article

Educating for critical thinking in social media

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How many hours do young people spend in front of a screen? What do they do? If we ask these two questions to a parent of teenagers, we will surely get a confident answer to the first one. They will say it’s a very long time and they might refer to a specific number of hours. But what about the second question? This one is more complicated.

Do we know what our teenagers do with their cell phones or tablets, what influencers they follow, what messages they get on their social media? Media literacy is about supporting and educating them so they can think critically  when using all kinds of media, and have ethical and responsible behavior on these platforms. And this means not leaving them on their own and setting an example.

 

One of the current key issues of media literacy is, without question, the education of critical thinking on information consumption and production. From an adult-centric view, we make the mistake of thinking that young people are not informed because they don´t read newspapers or don’t consume news on the so-called “traditional” media. However, if we ask them about current key issues, most teenagers can give an answer. They are informed, but they access information in a different way.

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The Digital News Report 2021, a reference study, concludes that 6 out of 10 young people get their information from social media, and 4 out of 10 do it from television. That’s also the picture we get in our workshops about disinformation and digital verification: Learn to Check workshops that for the past 4 years have trained more than 3000 people, most of them young. And why do they get their news from social media? It may be a natural evolution, but there are other factors to consider such as the families’ information model or young people’s distrust of the news media. 47% of young people between 18 and 24 believe there is an unfair media coverage on their generation, according to the Digital News Report 2021.

Young people get informed through social media. And this isn’t a burden; it’s a reality we have to go along with. In Learn to Check, we  train them to make them aware that together with good quality, fact checked  and contextualized information, social media can also contain  false, useless or malicious information. We must learn to handle and, if necessary, to verify this volume of information. Also, we must learn to identify biases on, for example, gender, demographic, or race . Because technology isn’t neutral at all. 

We have to teach our youth that being informed is important because it has an impact on their lives. And that disinformation harms everybody. Teachers, educators, families, journalists, as well as all implied stakeholders  should be able to train the young to  learn to evaluate sources, filter information, identify evidence, propaganda and hate speech, read closely with a critical mind, and get to know useful tools and resources. Educating on critical thinking today is more crucial than ever.

Social-Emotional Learning Article

With whom we learn in the digital world

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  1. New learning opportunities and new digital divides.

We are living in a historical moment where it is easier to learn practically anything: how to make a cooking recipe, how to play a musical instrument, how to speak a foreign language. This is mainly because technology helps us access different kinds of information (in multiple languages and platforms), build knowledge,  and share it with the rest of the world. And we are not learning alone. Social technologies are increasingly present in our society and they offer new possibilities to live learning, communication, and culture.

Every technological advance within our reach offers new opportunities, creating a new culture around it. Applications, software, and their growing accessibility make a long-time dream of many educators’ possible: to facilitate personalized learning and to develop it both at a social and networking level. Also collectives with intellectual or physical disabilities, have now more opportunities to be connected and learn together.

Digital education implies developing competences that enable us, by using  knowledge, to choose how we want to live culture and practice digital citizenship. There are, however, three divides that need to be counteracted, especially in the most vulnerable social groups: access divide (to have access to devices such as a cell phones, tablets, computers); use divide (to have the skills to use applications and manage content); and purpose of use divide (to make a purposeful, sovereign, and ethical use) of the digital world. We usually pay more attention to the first divide because it is the most visible one, but dealing only with it doesn’t ensure our right to a good digital education.

  1. We learn with digital education.

Digital education, as well as its hybrid face-to-face virtual format, is applied largely at schools and high schools to help students’ development in the current society. This is not the society we adults grew up in. Nowadays we have a new communicational, relational, and cognitive ecosystem. But it’s not about choosing between books and screens: now we can educate so as to get the most out of books, screens, and the new culture resulting from that interaction. The educator must know and be familiar with these media, and the best way to achieve that is using them to share experiences, resources, and learning projects.

Faced with the possibility to access information practically every time and everywhere, we have to develop a critical ability to become active and responsible citizens, and not just information and product consumers. It is necessary to work on the treatment of information and the communicative competence in order to understand and make explicit all ideological, political, and economic interests that are implicit in the messages we send and receive. At the same time we need to know how to manage privacy (know what we are sharing), security (to avoid and deal with risky situations), and how to be critical with information, knowing its cultural and consuming values.

Students need to be able to learn how to think in the current context and to act accordingly. Although the digital medium is very rich, education is necessary to tackle elements such as fake news, cyberbullying, digital identity, hate speech, emotions in social media, sustainability, data sovereignty, and algorithmic bias. We know that this environment will be increasingly more complex with the development of quantum computing, blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, metaverses or certain social control mechanisms on platforms that are immersed in the economy of attention and vigilance. 

Many youngsters have been protagonists of digital education by teaching their families how to use communicative tools like video calls. During the COVID pandemic we could witness how digital tools were used to maintain ties and to give emotional support in situations of uncertainty, anxiety, and grief. Many children saw their mothers and fathers work and parents saw their sons and daughters learn in a different way: through active learning, new interfaces, digital portfolios, collaborative methodologies, and virtual environments. Emergency remote education didn’t happen in an ideal scenario, but it seems that from now onwards we will have to coexist with a hybrid system.

  1. We learn within the family environment

Consuming content doesn’t mean knowing and making a competent use of the tools we have. In fact we must help families to intergenerationally educate one another, in a natural and knowledgeable way. The traditions, habits, and values within the family environment, the place where we usually spend more time, are key elements. It is increasingly necessary to have a global vision focused on the process of education and accompaniment, and not so much on a device or specific age. Another important point to consider is the difficulty of balancing schedules, since we can’t foresee everything, and we must learn to deal with daily contingencies. In an increasingly digitized society, it is essential to educate on issues concerning connectivity as well as to learn to get offline when it’s convenient.

Considering a scenario where everything is connected, our main challenge is to achieve families’ digital literacy. That’s not an easy goal to accomplish since the digital environment is in constant change, and because in spite of the good initiatives, there is no consensus on who will lead them or carry them out. Digital literacy of families is very important because of, at least, three reasons: it empowers families when faced with digital media, it enables them to help the young ones build criteria using their knowledge, and it demands both companies and institutions an ethical, informed, and transparent use.

Families are diverse. Some of them understand their responsibility and take the time to get  informed about these issues. They conduct a periodic monitoring of the inquired content or the Internet activities. They look for alternative spaces, activities, and time free from technology, respecting meal times and sleep hours. Others go to the opposite extreme, managing their children’s school homework without realizing that might be overprotective. Some families ask for miracle formulas that may help them with this management. In some cases, fear of possible dangers leads to  parental prohibition. In others, inhibition makes them turn a blind eye.  It’s even more complex to make the conscious choice of creating focused offline and online spaces when concerning dysfunctional families and when there aren’t any agreed criteria of technology use. 

Neither prohibiting nor allowing everything. The right choice, as usual, is to educate. How can we achieve that? Sharing experiences between grown-ups and children to develop criteria. Giving them support to prevent them from being digital orphans who know how to use the tools but don’t understand their implications. Developing a healthy digital diet with reasoned rules that can be agreed and revised regularly. Working on responsible and autonomous access to the Internet, social media, touch tablets, or cell phones from early childhood. If necessary, using tools such as filters or parental control, though the best way to monitor should always be done by people.

  1. We learn with our peers

Humanity is more connected than ever before. Many of our daily activities are digitized: communicating, reading, traveling, playing, learning. More precisely, many young people use the digital environment to search news, develop their creativity, live their emotions, get socially involved, and experiment and build their identity. That’s why it seems natural, and even more so in pandemic times, that they want to use the Internet to socialize with their peers.

They can take advantage of an ever-growing networked society to learn from and with others. They can meet people who will help them integrate the new formative opportunities, such as adults who are also articulating networks of interests where they collaborate to build knowledge. Young people must  learn not only how to be present but also how to set up these virtual spaces so as to generate scenarios of significant learning.

How to know where they are and what they are doing? More than controlling (which is impossible), the best way is talking, being close, and trying to put into practice the elements of the following formula. If we work on these elements, which are actually very little technological, we will probably succeed. However, it is true that there is no guarantee because there are no magic formulas to educate.

  1. We learn with the whole society

When problems arise, it is easier to look for external factors: the use of the Internet, the cell phone or social media; however, a bad use is sometimes a symptom that something is wrong. It’s very common to associate lonely people with the use of technologies when it is exactly the opposite. We also need to know that technologies are not neutral and their own design can influence processes, how we think, and how we feel. That is why we should get educated in this environment and get all the social agents actively involved. 

As educators, we always say that “it takes a village to raise a child” when we want to highlight the importance that every member of a community has, since we are all responsible for educating, and not just those involved specifically in the education field. This includes communication media, private companies, and public institutions. Everybody is responsible for building a new social consensus which reconsiders our relation with technologies and for defining how our digital world will be.

In order to go along this path, together with the sociologist Liliana Arroyo, we developed the New Digital Culture Manifesto https://manifestoculturadigital.wordpress.com/. Our intention is to help build awareness on how the constant technological advances affect us in different areas such as politics, health, or economy. These changes imply a great opportunity to design a new digital culture that can develop a better society. To achieve it, we need to reflect, share, and connect people and entities that may enable us to act from an ethical, reflective, and informed perspective.

Author

Jordi Jubany i Vila

Teacher and Anthropologist. Trainer and advisor in digital competence, culture and citizenship. Author of “Hyperconnected? Educating us in a digital world”(Lectio, 2018) and“ Social and Personalized Learning ”(Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, 2012). He collaborates with institutions, universities and the media in different countries. Co-author of the Manifesto for a New Digital Culture.
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Design Thinking Article

EDhack – Design Thinking in a vibrant and memorable learning environment

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The origin of the term Hackaton comes from hacker and programmer communities, referring to the encounters organized to create new apps and solutions to problems or challenges. The term integrates two concepts: first marathon, meaning you won’t win, you will enjoy, improve, overcome a challenge. Second, hacker, meaning a person that defies status quo, who does not settle, who creates, resolves, compromises and someone who is always learning. If we take both things into account, adapting a hackaton to the education sector enables us to maximize the experience and results, creating an environment filled with motivation. We include a methodology fit to get the students to generate new ideas through a creative process, and also, that allows them to overcome their fear of making mistakes and appreciate contributions, whether they are their own or the ones made by their group, during the process of creating solutions and prototypes.

 Our proposal is the EdHack project, designed by Bofill Foundation. It includes a methodology and values inspired in the hacker culture and Design Thinking, making a connection with those educational transformtions we are going through. This is, learning while doing, taking advantage of passions and curiosity, having a community approach or accepting mistakes as a source of significant learning. The main ingredients that make EdHack are limited time in the creation steps, quick decisions that look for efficiency, taking risks without the fear of making mistakes, constant learning to improve solutions and creative freedom. The participants (Edhackers) decide everything, in a flat organization, so there are no barriers because the values are on passion and the commitment of working in teams and in an open way. They can make experiments since the prototyping of solutions allows you to think with your hands. All of this in an environment in which passion and teamwork are encouraged to improve by collaborating, learning and building through empathizing with the beneficiary of the challenge.

We can assure you it works!

There have been encounters in Barcelona´s Raval neighborhood, in Girona, Tarrega and Reus, where very young users have worked nonstop for two days with incredible energy and excitement and accomplished highly satisfactory results. Edhack has also inspired some projects in learning centers where Design Thinking invites students to create ideas that can respond to the real challenges of their surroundings.. Some examples of these projects are Jo puc canviar-ho in Mataró, with the GEM Foundation and Iluro Foundation, in which 15-16 years-old students go from the complaint to the proposal stage by building projects to improve the city. The IES Monturiol in Figueres has developed Icaria educational proposals through the Musseu de lemporda and high complexity IES Cendrassos has built the Pligoniga project, a proposal which involves all lines in 1 ESO to give solutions to challenges linked to the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Shall we start? 

Edhack with its design thinking inspired proposal offers educators a methodology that speeds ability-based learning and helps make innovation tangible in the classrooms.

Author

Pep Marés

A graduate in History from the University of Girona and a Master in Cultural Management and Communication from the University of Barcelona, Pep has more than 15 years of experience in cultural management. His professional career spans between private enterprise and cultural management, participating in corporate social return projects, sponsorship and development of innovation strategy projects and positioning of cultural entities.
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Media Literacy Article

Jose Puig I Cadalfach Institute: “Our students weren’t aware of the dangers behind misinformation”

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Our Institute, the Jose Puig i Cadafalch Institute, is a teaching community. The learning process of our students is extremely important to us but we strongly believe that it has to go along with proper behavior models, a great amount of autonomy and a sense of responsibility. In this regard, one of the main goals of our institute is to favor the students’ access to digital technologies, and to help them relate in the healthiest way possible with mobile devices and their  apps.

These cross-cutting learnings are meant to be strengthened through the  long-term project “Digital Media Awareness” that has been implemented , with our Erasmus+ platform international partners, . This project, with English as the working language, provides the students with a space to research and learn about current ICT related subjects.  This space allows them to share common thoughts and worries with their international classmates, and discuss  important subjects such as misinformation, fingerprints, digital identity and digital fingerprints, as well as hate speeches and cyberbullying. The project Fake News has been developed together with 4th year ESO (secondary) students.  They have created workshops and dynamics, to develop during the visit of their international classmates, and to work in the classrooms with the younger students from the school

When the Fake News workshop started,all students from the Institute and all participating students from international schools that are part of the program were surveyed. Results showed the lack of knowledge and awareness about the dangers behind misinformation, the lack of analysis and revision of accessible information, andand what we can do to spot false content in time.

Once the Project ended, the same survey confirmed that the 4th year ESO students had increased their awareness on these issues and how to act on them. It was highly rewarding to see how their work had an impact on their behavior and their use of information sources. The rest of the surveyed students showed a fundamental change in their knowledge of this phenomenon and how they perceived themselves as agents involved in the fight against misinformation.

We are aware that we need to continue working and creating materials that can be used in the classrooms. Due to the wide range of possibilities to apply these workshops we will continue to use them in our school, to educate new generations that arrive at 1st year ESO The materials and workshops will also continue to be available as information sources so other teachers in the Erasmus+ platforms can use them during their lessons. The result of this project has been a success and we are very satisfied. We have been able to create awareness in our students and have resources to form and educate them in the best possible way.

Author

Lorena Anido

She has a degree in English Philology from the University of Barcelona and a postgraduate degree in Business Techniques and Management and a Master's in Business Administration and Management (Executive MBA), also from the University of Barcelona. She is currently the coordinator of international projects and a teacher of English at the Josep Puig i Cadafalch Institute.
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Hybrid Education Article

Learning in times of COVID-19: Reflections by Manel Trenchs, a high school teacher

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The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus more than two years ago has caused a great deal of stress around learning at home and online. Suddenly, teachers from all over the world found themselves immersed in an unfamiliar scenario: how can we continue our teaching practice if we can’t go to school? I, as a teacher, can tell you that I remained, and still do, calm. Some will think, how is this possible?

Well, I’m calm because technology has allowed us to continue our teaching practice without interruptions. My students had and still have all the material and activities in the cloud, so they can access it from anywhere, anytime. In addition, I can access and contact them in a very easy way, and take care of all the activities.

Did we need to have a conversation about something? No had no problem. We used Google Hangouts, the tool we had already used during the course to talk to people from Japan, Peru, or even a sick student who couldn’t come to school.

I felt very reassured that we could continue with the learning because they already knew all these tools that enable us to do homework and work from the cloud, and therefore students had a basic digital competence to be able to manage everything. So my students and I, in that time of crisis and now, do not have to rush to find resources: we already have them.

Digital skills are habits. And like all habits, they require time. It is important and much more effective to apply good habits from the beginning of the course.

Manel Trenchs,

Art History teacher, Pia School, Mataró

 

There are many resources that we used, and still do, to manage class activities.

Do I have to make a list to be able to prepare assignments for the class? I share it via Google Classroom and give the students permission to edit and they. Need to share a document and work in groups? The students themselves make a doc with permission to edit between them.

Need to watch a video and answer some questions? We use EDpuzzle, which helps us to manage the answers, systematize the deliveries and incorporate all the important information for the teacher.

Need to do some content review? We use Socrative, Kahoot Challenge…Need to share a document in the cloud ? We can do it via Drive, for example.

In short, we did not do anything that we would not have done during the course. The only difference is that I was not present in class. This, however, is also noticeable. I want to say that it is not the ideal situation, of course. There is nothing like face-to-face contact with students. But it is not necessary to see each other every day. There are some classes that, at all costs, the same students want to do by Hangout as soon as possible to be able to see us and each other, even if it’s on the computer or mobile screen.

As a teacher, well, I was and am calm. During the pandemic, many colleagues wrote to me telling me that, in the midst of this crisis, they felt overwhelmed, with a great sense of loss of control. I have helped them and continue to do so as much as I can. But I regret to say that if you haven’t incorporated digital tools with time, and as a habit, it will be difficult for you to implement them now, all of a sudden.

Ultimately, digital skills are habits. And like all habits, they take time. It is important and much more effective to apply the “slowly” mindset, and create good habits from the beginning of the course, than to pretend that, suddenly, we are all experts because the urgency of the moment asks us to do so.

Article author

Manel Trenchs

Professor of Art History at the Pia School in Mataró. Google Innovator and Trainer and member of GE3 (Google Earth Education Experts), Google Local Guide Level 9. Adobe Creative Educator Level 1 & 2. Interested in rethinking learning, the use of ICT and all those educational aspects that serve to help improve the education of 21st century students.
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Social-Emotional Learning Article

Screen time in the covid age

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Michael Robb, director of Investigation in Common Sense Media explains the scientific reasons behind the new rules of screen time.

 Families and caregivers need to rethink the screen exposure children have, especially since the pandemic.

Quality over quantity

That is the question

What can we do from the schools?

Talk to children about their digital practices, help them alter its nature and question their beliefs about them.

IN This Common Sense Media article, a non profit organization, you will find key points to address this debate.

Access the article here