February 27, 2010

Play Responsibly

These days, whenever I blog or speak about the value of video games as educational tools, I almost feel like I should a bumper sticker like those you see on the delivery trucks of alcohol distributors: "Play Responsibly!"

Yes, we all know that some people (adults are as vulnerable to this as kids) spend too much time playing computer games. Do I really have to say it? I do not advocate that anyone spend too much time playing video or computer games. I similarly do not advocate that anyone spend too much time watching TV, reading, running, or hiking in the woods (don't scoff...I have relatives who can't hold a job because of hunting, fishing and trapping addictions - somehow we never hear about those in the media!).

Unfortunately, "too much" is something that people need to define for their particular situation. I can't give you a number, which frustrates parents who ask me how much time their kid should be spending playing games. The answer they are looking for is really, "less than what he is spending now" ... that negotiation needs to be taking place between the kid and his (or sometimes her) parents or guardians.

My general rule of thumb, especially for parents or worried spouses is this ... figure that it is a hobby or a sport. How much time is reasonable for someone to spend - for instance - on reading fiction for pleasure or stamp collecting or something sedentary like that? Use that as your guideline and suggest other, more acceptable uses of time.

A note to parents: if you look at some of the more popular games ... World of Warcraft is one ... you CAN set time limits for how long a child is in the game. Use these tools if necessary in conjunction with discussion and modeling of appropriate behavior. If you have a hobby, use it to discuss the appropriate balance between getting the necessary stuff done ... and having some fun too. Kids need to learn how to balance fun and necessity, so look at this as an opportunity to teach some important life skills. It's not easy, but it is essential for all of us to learn to play responsibly.

Posted by bjohnson at 2:42 PM

February 22, 2010

Why Twitter?

I twitter (often re-twitter) thoughts and content ... often links to the work of others .... because I no longer can remember who might be interested in a certain topic.

Once upon a time, I had a very few friends and colleagues who shared my interests in education and technology. Now, the number is probably easily in the hundreds (and no, it is not because I'm popular.... perish the thought) because I have been lucky enough to make a great many connections in the intersection. And they don't all use the same list-servs or social media services.

Hence, Twitter becomes my default method of broadcasting something I think may be useful to anyone with similar interests. Could be my students ... could be family ... could be perfect strangers. That's the joy -- the burden of trying to figure out who might be interested is taken off of me and placed on the shoulders of potential consumers. They can choose to follow me (i.e. subscribe to my feed) or simply search on keywords.

Either way, it is now up to them to decide to access my tweet or not, without me trying to remember their individual interests ... and feeling like my ideas may not be worth the time it takes to delete a message in their email in-box.

For me, it is a sigh of relief combined with the feeling that I am still contributing to the distribution of information.

Posted by bjohnson at 4:48 PM