A question of culture… and games.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks: presentations, games, panels, games, travel, panels, games, mixed in with new friends and old, and a couple of drinks. But there’s one thing that seems to have kept resurfacing over that time: culture; and our ability to mold it, nurture it, change it, and bask in it. The topic of culture also seems to have been triggered by games, and the baggage that comes with them.

Duke photo

We all love to celebrate culture, but we hate to be the ones to try to acknowledge its flaws. This seems to be the case with education. The reason for this is that it is impossible to talk about the opportunities of curriculum change, technology, or teacher skills without considering the impact of any one of these within a particular school culture. And with about 9,500 schools in Australia, that’s a pretty big number of variants in school culture. Implementing changes like these can be easy if you have a culture where innovation is the norm, and doing things differently is the way things get done. However this would be the exception. Generally any culture resists change because it establishes itself in the longevity of the people, places, and practices that have stood the test of time. These are often good and productive elements of culture, except when they stagnate and imagination wanes, then you’ve got problems. That’s where games come in as a vehicle for shifting culture, either strategically as a way to shift the models of learning and creativity, or subtly in the technology and resources being introduced.

So you can imagine why games meet with such cynicism and resistance in education settings: because they were stowaways on the great ship of technology that has been sweeping schools. Teachers want the tech, but not the games that kids want to play. Kids want to play, but not in the way school wants them to. The school makes rules, but not the ones that help kids feel empowered. The kids look for loopholes and alternatives, in the same way they do in games. Yes it’s a spurious point, but it’s the same game schools have been playing with cyber-safety: build a bigger fence around the ‘pool of websites’ so that kids don’t drown (and is less risky for the school). The only problem is that schools are trying to build a fence around a veritable  ‘ocean of websites’, all the while kids are not learning to swim. Games are in the same boat: schools would rather shun the external world that kids inhabit, because they are a threat to school culture. If that is in fact part of school culture then I would argue that the school has no real culture, but a series of rules enforced to artificially maintain a culture that is more like the world the adults once inhabited. Sorry to be beating up on schools, it’s not their fault. They are trying to implement an archaic curriculum, supplemented by the assumed panacea of technology.

Lets move the focus on culture towards libraries because they are tied with the same constraints. Libraries can be anything they want to be, but what happens when the community wants them to be something else? Libraries are the mirror of society, they reflect the knowledge, the tools, the heritage, and the stories of communities in all sorts of settings. This makes them pretty complex places: a giant spice rack of all kinds of cultures, housed within a culture of their own. So it is interesting when games are introduced into this mix. They are at once a saviour and a black-hole: engaging youth and new people, but expensive to maintain and complex to program around. They also push buttons in the same way as the do for schools: they create noise, they make people gather in groups, they distract people for other more important studies. This is where the games communities come in. They generally love libraries, or have vague recollections of one, and are energised by the opportunities of having public space to play in. It’s the same context in which students want to play games in their school libraries. It is an acknowledgement of a culture, based around the concept of play, that brings people together. It also presents a pretty powerful springboard for libraries, especially when you realise lots of people want to participate. It only took a couple of days at PAX Australia (and a panel on The Playful Library) to be reminded of just how rich, diverse, and wonderful the games communities are. As for the noise, the groups, and the distraction: this is actually quite negotiable, once you’ve opened your mind and your spaces to them. It was refreshing to see these very concepts being challenged in New Zealand at the Auckland Library Youth Services Hui.

I made a lot more sense in this article on Games and learning for SCIS (Schools Catalogue Information Service), but that was before I turned the lens onto culture. In fact I am not so sure culture is the target now, I should qualify it and say workplace culture. This seems to be the place where it becomes clear just how far you can take those words of ‘risk’, ‘innovation’, ‘imagination’, and ‘play’. Workplace culture will only show its beauty and its repulsion when you put these words into practice – and it seems most of us, including the students, are still trying to figure out why it reacts the way it does.

 

Consumption mentality is mental delusion

Sculpture: OMG LOL / Eyebeam Art + Technology Center Open Studio

 

At what point does human kind stop consuming? Food. Land. Raw materials. Flora and fauna. Water. We have an insatiable appetite for all of them. It has driven colonization, exploitation, invention, and confrontation. No matter how much we have, enough is never enough. We are feeding the beast of growth, and it is only when faced with disaster, obsolescence, or extinction we correct our ways and try and to make amends.

Perhaps then it is no wonder that with all these heavy thoughts I have been thinking about the role of information in this mix of consumption. Human kind has been creating information in many forms for thousands of years, and because of its relative scarcity in the past (pre-20th century) it was easier to archive, read, and consume. In this century we are seeing billions of pieces of information being produced, and re-produced. Primarily we produce this information so it can be quickly consumed by others. All of us are contributing to this sweet social junk food of information, while also finding the bigger meatier chunks of information harder to digest and more complex to store and consume. I guess you get my analogy; I am going to liken my thinking with information to the theme of food.

The consumption of information mentality is something I liken to the obesity epidemics of many countries. Our public libraries, and those at schools and universities, swell with physical and digital information, sometimes shedding the burden of physical weight in favour of more digital fare.  I know why we collect all this information, so we can consume it later, but it seems to underpin so much of the routine of our lives that I feel many have lost the ability to have an imagination. The other aspect to this analogy is consumption of information from starvation, and it also creates incredible dangers whereby people desperate for any kind of information or communication technology will happily consume pretty much any kind of crap. It’s as if our brains are being fed on all kinds of mindless and pointless information, to the point of slowing us down, making us lazy, complacent, and narrow-minded.  But is it no wonder? Since the emergence of tools and spaces to store and archive information centuries ago, we are now trying to house within the Internet the entire memory of the human race, no matter how trivial, while at the same time expecting that because it exists there, then we must know about it, watch it, listen to it, and acknowledge it.

In many instances information is force fed into young people and called education. It is again no wonder that as time beats on, more information is deemed worthy to add to an obese curriculum, more data must be memorized and regurgitated. We have become dominated by the process that consumption of information equals learning. It’s as if students are treated as birds, little chicks learning to fly, waiting for the teacher to regurgitate information into them because they cannot eat it by themselves. Perhaps this is as innate (or inane) as it gets. Education has been serving the same ‘portioned and segmented meals’ for too long  – ‘eat it because we say it’s good for you’. In many instances this is also implicit in conferences and professional learning seminars. I know these are horrible over-simplifications, but from one perspective I feel that we have created institutions and systems based solely on the consumption of more and more information without any real transformation. This is as opposed to systems and environments which develop skills and discernment with information. Good schools and good teachers know the difference; as too do good libraries.

We all know what pigging out on information feels like. We have studied and crammed for exams and essays, only to have it dissipate from our heads in the near future like sugar from our system. The information was not nourishing, but we were told to consume it so we could develop our palette. However when we absorb information that really stimulates and challenges us, it changes us in the same way we build muscle; it is memorable and empowering. Herein lies the real problem: there is so much ‘sugar-filled’ information out there that we’re lacking the skills to find and focus on what really matters, we don’t know what healthy consumption of information looks like, and we most certainly have not developed enough imagination, problem-solving, invention, and creation in our lives and in the lives of young people that grounds us in the present.

The antidote to consumption is play: physically and mentally. We have stripped many of our institutions of play as we became heavier with the burden of information to pass on. It is inevitable. But play is not what happens at ‘recess’ or ‘lunch’. Play is not mindless, in the same way not all information is mindless. Compelling information coupled with playful experimentation, helps us create meaning and improve processes. The digital age has a great deal it can prove that this is the case. The Internet is one of the mirrors in which we can look at ourselves and be happy with what we see. However with it comes obesity and starvation of information as two extremes that can corrupt our perspectives on this, requiring a deeper degree of discernment to know the difference, and how to take action: something I think will be another of the great challenges of human kind.

Game developers take on game-based learning

You know how these things start: a tweet about some new research into the benefits of game-based learning spawns 45 tweets and all sorts of thinking about the intersection of games and learning. Yeah, that old chestnut. What was exciting about this tweeting flurry was that the insights and perspectives on what makes a game a learning experience came from game developers, not teachers.

The conversation was sparked by my tweet about an Australian study from Macquarie University for the NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre which highlighted the benefits of game-based math. The research was carried out by Dr. Kristy Goodwin, who highlighted the following benefits in the Mangahigh Extended Evaluation report (PDF):

  • Improved student learning outcomes,

  • 100% teachers reported that games had improved student learning,

  • 83% of students reported that the games helped their learning,

  • 94% of students reported that Mangahigh was more enjoyable than traditional modes of mathematics instruction,

  • Teachers reported enhanced student confidence which may lead to greater engagement and motivation, and

  • Instant feedback contributed directly to a more transparent learning process.

Getting acknowledgment that games have a role to play in learning and education is always good news – except the use of the phrase ‘Digital Game-Based Learning’ just seemed unnecessary and overly academic. This report added to the growing global body of significant research into the value of games in learning environments. Learning through play, who knew right? Der.

No, the really exciting bit was that I had only been recently reflecting on being more engaged with my Twitter followers who are either game developers or those that support the games community. This kind of report provided the fuel to get the conversation started. Very quickly game developers Andrew Goulding (@brawesomewaffle), Ben K (@AussieBen), and Andrew Duval (@_AndrewDuval) got involved in a tweet-chat about games and their impact on learning.

A few things became central to the conversation that followed. First, my initial point that other factors are crucial than just dumping the game in a classroom of students: that time and again the tech/game is only as powerful as the capacity of the teachers to make it meaningful in the context of the students’ work, otherwise it’s just a stupid way to crowd an attention-seeking, disjointed, and desperate curriculum. This means that teachers have got to start understanding games as a separate medium, the same as they might do with books or films, in order to appreciate the mechanics, design, and opportunities they offer. And there’s only one way to do this: play them.

Second, the way games are funded in Australia has a history of being pretty sporadic. Given that Australia has developed games which have stood their own ground on the world stage makes for a very impressive story – but that’s for another time. Certainly when it comes to the funding of educational games, things get even more lean. The US has gone quite a way to making in-roads on developing better educational games, thanks to the funnelling of major philanthropic investment from groups like the MacArthur Foundation, the Joan Ganz Cooney Centre, and the Gates Foundation. Of course the scale of these organisations do not exist in Australia, and neither does the kinds of support and thinking for games-based learning. This is gradually changing however, with examples like Knowledge Quest, Mathletics, LiteracyPlanet emerging as some examples of ways games can be built around learning outcomes.

Third, most people who grew up with games know that making a game educational is not the only way learning happens; and edutainment has a horrible history of trying so hard to gamify learning to make it ‘fun’ that it sucks all the fun out. And those who make games are even more qualified to have insights on this area, as Andrew Goulding pointed out –

The second comment by Andrew nailed it, in my opinion. It highlighted something often overlooked by those wrapped up in edutainment, and the same affliction teachers have when they use a tool, resource, or game that they don’t fully understand. Mechanics and motivation matter. I think this tweet would make great context for a panel program with educators and game developers. Andrew Duval qualified this by saying –

That last comment by Andrew Duval would also make a great public debate for educators and developers; and parents for that matter. There is such a pressing need to better educate people about how games function, their purpose, and their potential for teachable moments. For far too long games have been lumped together in the bucket of mindless violence, subconscious gambling, and meaningless story – it’s worth remembering that other mediums have all gone through this societal evolution; consider music, films, comics, and even books. Andrew Goulding wrapped it up towards the end with this nice insight –

While there is still so much to learn about game-based learning, there is also clearly a need to have more conversations like this, with a wider audience of experienced developers, designers, educators, and learners. It can start and end with everyone playing their way around a room full of games of all genres and platforms, coming together to explore perspectives and experiences, and building a better awareness that the answers often lie in communities we’re not connected with enough.

Also check out: Mangahigh and Dragonbox App

Disconnected learning

If you could have a day off tomorrow to learn anything you wanted, what would it be? Have a think now…

There could be so many things you or I could learn in a day, probably the vastness of choices would make it so hard to decide. It might be connected to other people. It might be working with experts. It be making something, or finally learning to finish something. Imagine the pathways that one day of learning might open up for us? OK, now back to reality. Sorry.

Today across parts of Australia, children undertook testing for NAPLAN, the National Assessment Program – Literacy And Numeracy, to help the Government work out how well our children spell, write, add, subtract, etc. A lot of anxiety happens around NAPLAN. Schools become dominated by it. There’s the idea that a lot is riding on how well the students do, because it reflects how well the teachers do, leading to how effective the school is. Sure, I get it. I can understand the pressure. What I can’t fathom is the learning.

I hear that some schools let primary school students watch a movie after their NAPLAN test was over. I hear some schools are giving students the Friday off from school after all the testing they’ve endured over the week. Are these meant to be rewards? Are they an acknowledgment that testing is hard work? The preparation, the testing, the recovery – all this for what are otherwise incredibly disconnected experiences from real learning.

You know what hard work is? Changing the system of education. If you’re reading this then you probably have a very good idea of what challenges this kind of change brings. Seeing education evolve isn’t going to happen with NAPLAN. It keeps us firmly planted in the traditional mindset that testing, scores, and buckets of testing data is going to give us insights into how to help education be better, be more effective; be better funded? Today I came across this video about the ’10 Expectations’ of school from the people at Leaving to Learn. The video does a very good job of defining the things that make school work, giving teachers and students a sense of purpose and engagement. The irony is that these ten expectations are more like ten challenges – because schools don’t work this way. These expectations would scare many schools.

As the video explains: these are imperatives. And to think that schools might evaluate themselves by these? Now there’s a test I’d like to see implemented. These imperatives suggest that current schooling is full of disconnected learning: we give kids the pieces, in the form of lots of separate lessons, hoping that somehow they will figure out how to make a whole. What it ends up creating are lots of ‘holes’ – ones that I’m sure existed for all our school experiences as well.

This thinking leads nicely into another piece of the puzzle: the content king. Education is dominated by content. It is saturated by it, driven by it, and confused by it. And in the world of the internet, content has multiplied millions and millions of times, in all its forms, from catalogues to cat videos, from testimonials to tweets. What we’ve gained in the technology though, is the ability to finally make connections with our learning, in real time to real places and people, really, really fast. The web scares schools too – because, just like the big bad world outside the walls of the school, the internet is waiting to chew up our attention, making us mindless, thoughtless, and selfish victims. Or so Nicholas Carr would have us believe.

Something about this logic seems all wrong. Just like the logic of NAPLAN tests. It makes sense at first, but the more you consider how the web is empowering nations of people who haven’t had the chance to learn what they really wanted, to help innovators and inventors iterate faster than ever, then you have to wonder whether Carr has simply watched too many cat videos. If you only go by the numbers then we all think Gangnam Style is the world’s greatest ever music video. The long tail of the web should make us think twice. ‘Disconnected learning’ in this context, can also relate to those moments when we are absorbed in thinking and learning deeply through the web on a key topic, a key talk, a moment of inspiration. If we need to make time to refocus, think deeply, meditate away from all the distractions of this world, then education is still not making the grade.

As a final footnote, last night I played Commander Chris Hadfield’s now famous video cover of ‘Space Oddity‘ to my two little kids. They were amazed. The questions came thick and fast. We went to his Google+ page to have a look at his other exploits and commentary while he was at the space station. More questions. More wonder. More opportunities to learn. I found it quite amazing to see these two little children discover there was another world in space, where the laws of science weren’t quite the same as on Earth. It gave them new perspectives, and a reason to connect with their learning.

Curated serendipity

What brought you here?

No, really. I doubt you came here by accident, or through a series of clicks on other sites; it was probably me that brought you here through a tweet or a cross-post. Whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t serendipity. Serendipity is often described as a ‘happy accident’ or a ‘pleasant surprise’, but can also just be the result of pure luck. And we’re not talking about the kind of luck that gambling wants you to believe, that’s closer to deception. Real serendipity, I think, is when you put yourself into a different situation, space, or environment, and another element of your life collides with it.

I have been doing a fair bit of thinking about serendipity recently, since delving a little more into the research and ideas of Aleks Krotoski. Aleks is a social psychologist, journalist, and all-round web geek who’s also done a fair bit more thinking and writing about serendipity than I have. Heck, she even tried to build a machine that models serendipity. I am really looking forward to her upcoming Melbourne events. It’s an incredibly thought-provoking concept. One that we are often duped into believing the web delivers for us on a daily basis. I think that serendipity is rare within the web. Serendipity is much more at home in a bookstore, or a video rental shop, or at a festival, or walking through the park. All it needs is the right time and place.

I have no doubt that my networks, contacts, perspectives, and passions have grown and shifted because of the web. I have run at least four successful public events that started from seeing an opportunistic tweet. But is that what counts as serendipity? In building online networks, creating RSS feeds, subscribing to news, and joining communities I am simply shaping already latent interests – and finding common people that keep popping up. Actually, I am trying my best to use Google+ more and to curate it with different people that I don’t follow anywhere else, just so I can make the space more surprising, more engaging, and possibly a little more serendipitous.

The web is really just ‘curated serendipity’; things posted and linked together in a way that others can find them. Since none of us randomly surfs the web hoping to find enlightenment or for something to happen; unless you’re a troll, in which case you’re inciting something to happen. There’s nothing wrong with curated serendipity, it’s just it isn’t authentic enough for my tastes. In fact a library is also a form of curated serendipity – the books and items are all neatly cataloged and organized, so even if you find your book on the shelf, the books either side of it were deliberately placed there too. It’s the places which have a certain randomness that are the best for serendipity. Which puts serendipity back on the playing field for libraries, because the most random elements you can add to a place are people and nature. And libraries are magnets for people.

If an organization or museum, or library, or shopping mall manages to crack the code for fostering more or better serendipitous moments, then they will have incredible engagement with people. Effective organizations and institutions are using surprising and often playful elements to to break visitors’ assumptions and build their anticipation; which is so amazingly powerful. I think the web is teaching us to be more accepting of different people, places, and spaces, thereby maximizing serendipity in the real world. And that can only mean good things, but only if you act on them; a little like Shaun Tan’s story of ‘The Lost Thing‘. Bumping into an old friend randomly on the street is not serendipitous unless you act on the moment. They are among some of my biggest regrets – and when I’ve trusted my inner-self and acted on them, something unique always happens. It’s a little like this video that was doing the rounds a while ago. It’s pretty good at showing people make the most of serendipity –

Sure, maybe it’s not as authentic as Soul Pancake may want us to believe, but it makes for an energizing experience if you trust it. Which is maybe why the web doesn’t always cut it for serendipity, because we approach it with a certain level of skepticism and opinion. But if you’re quick to seize moments, or curious enough to follow that trail of links, then it will pay up for you. You see, serendipity requires you to take risks, and most places mitigate risks to the point of ‘disinfection’, thereby killing off the very lifeblood that adds spice and intrigue. I guess that’s why I like to put myself into interesting scenarios, for example meetups like The CPX or Social Melbourne, there are always opportunities for things to go slightly off the rails, if you let them. But you know, maybe these are just more examples of curated serendipity. Finding something unique in what was otherwise mundane or expected is no easy feat. Especially when you’re not even looking for it.

Testing the regime

So much of our education has relied on tests. Every single person on the face of the earth who went to school, or finished university, or even got their driver’s licence, has sat some form of test. This means sitting on your own with a test paper, answering various types of questions within a time limit. I would go so far to say that we cannot perceive anyone being good at anything unless they were tested on it.

Since reading this very interesting article two days ago by Professor Peter Nonacs on ‘Why I let my students cheat on their Game Theory exam‘ my thoughts on testing have been stirred again. What makes this experience with Nonacs’ students in Behavioural Ecology at UCLA so interesting was that it was time spent reflecting on the purpose and function of testing that led him to take a different approach. It was also probably the fact that the course he was teaching challenged and observed systems and patterns that had him thinking in this frame of mind. His revelation that “life is games” is profound. It is in our nature to respond to challenges and circumstances differently and diligently, depending on the established environment. Needless to say, his students were pretty perplexed. After all, how could we find out if people are good at anything if they don’t take tests?

Across the world education is being strangled by tests. Tests that provide huge amounts of data. The data-nerds are having a field day with all that information gleaned from tests. Politicians and governments are lapping up comparative results and and ranking data sets as if testing meant everything in setting education policy – it’s like the Cold War of Tests. Sure I love numbers and data too, especially if it’s presented in one of those funky infographic or visualization mediums, but we are so easily blinded to the simplicity of statistics (once they’ve been explained to us!). Governments have created curriculum systems that can almost only be measured by testing in standard and standardised ways, thereby crippling the emphasis on social, emerging and creative intelligences; the very things that education is most often held to account for.

So what would happen if you stopped testing children at single tables, on their own, repeatedly throughout the year? Well anarchy surely? My god, how would we ever know how a child can apply themselves if they aren’t forced to regurgitate an answer within a set time? How would we ever complete our reports? For all the talk of the wonders around formative assessment, testing is still the ‘summative’ cop-out for not having the rigour in place. Furthermore most of these  ‘official’ tests (for VCE, high-school, NAPLAN) are never seen by the teachers, let alone the students. Even then the results come so late, that passing or failing becomes ‘oh well’ or ‘oh yeah’. By contrast some of the most compelling strategies about effective testing means reducing the feedback loop to zero; there being no lag between answering and getting a response on your progress. Leading educator Alan November has often shared these approaches within a wider system of how schools need to reform. The problem is that assessment, ironically, is always the last thing to be considered in curricula reform; sometimes deliberately.

Tests are here to stay, let’s face it. The conception and execution of them on the other hand is up for rewiring though. Just like Nonacs’ lesson on Game Theory, the notion of how a test plays out can be flipped on its head slightly. It could start by letting students bring their textbooks or novels into an exam. It could shift to having students creatively collaborate on their tests; with the right kinds of questions. It might mean the test being highly practical, or being extended over a period of time to allow depth, much like a game. Or it could simply mean letting students bring every know laptop or device into a test, and let their ability to apply and navigate the device be one measure, while their digital literacy and strength of networks be another in ensuring their responses are unique and efficient. Which is the outcome Nonacs’ class was heading to, and an outcome that some innovative schools are tackling too. In these environments anarchy doesn’t reign at all; new skills and new forms of sharing emerge and new types of respect are formed.

Of course the maths and hard-core science groups would baulk. They’re the same ones who screamed and tried to block Wolfram Alpha when it appeared on the scene. Actually the real push of this regime of testing sweeping the globe is probably the result of the hard-core education traditionalists when they discovered the internet [sounds good, but no]. All these embedded systems  and curricula, trying to keep everyone honest by making sure only you, the test paper, and a pencil define the capacity of your brain. Maybe if I were an artist this would make sense; and I’d probably come up with a creative way to illustrate the test too.

As educators we have to be better at the process of testing and better designing tests. Thirteen years of school is a complete waste of time if all we’re doing is preparing kids for a couple of exams, so that some might get a chance to go to university. Ironically, it’s universities which are looking at testing with fresh eyes. Their systems of educational accountability are different. If there was a ‘NAPLAN for university’ you’d see otherwise.

I’m fearful where all this testing will lead and the fake systems of accountability they create. I’m fearful that teachers won’t have the courage or the energy to come up with alternatives. Many others have grappled with the challenges tests create at the very core of what an education means, and like others, traditional tests died the moment my phone could Google the answer.

Fake to be familiar

I occasionally get pretty worked up when watching commercial TV. Probably a reason why more people are watching their favourite TV series in a format that they bought, rented, or downloaded. Watching what you want when you want means you aren’t subjected to the mindless garbage on commercial TV, and you certainly don’t have to put up with the commercials. I’m grateful that I can watch YouTube clips and cut the add after 5 seconds. This evening I witnessed the latest in a series of commercials that uses school education as a setting, sentiment, or a sell. It was for Woolworths ‘Earn and Learn’ initiative; designed to turn what you buy into points for a school of your choice to buy more stuff.

There’s been a lot wrong with commercials which have used school education, and one of the biggest things they get wrong is that school has to be familiar to the viewer. Being familiar means being traditional: teacher at the front, with a blackboard, the kids in rows, with their hands-up. A little part of me dies every time I see one of these commercials. I wonder for how much longer will we have to put up with this stereotypical view of school education. How many people out in TV-land see that these kinds of commercials reinforce education in a traditional mindset? What good will money raised, funded, or otherwise do to a school which still puts students into formats that have existed for well over 100 years?

So I went looking for the clip to post as an example. Instead I found a different clip, showing what happened behind the scenes as Jessica Mauboy visited her old school –

The hot air blew out of my sails. The first thing I thought was: why didn’t Woolworths just run this ad instead? It had heart, it had context, it showed connection with the teacher and the kids. Sure it was still quite staged, as you’d expect it to be, but this told a different story.

I wish someone out there working for the marketing departments of powerful (read: influential) organisations would take more notice of the real story in schools. Stop projecting a fake ideal of what you think school must be in order for it to be palatable to the consumer. Be brave – show a teacher not at the front (maybe they’re giving a student a hug), a classroom with walls the kids write on (or a screen they’re running a Skype chat), the chairs in open circles (resolving a dispute), and kids not raising hands but taking a stand. Maybe one day I’ll watch a commercial featuring an education I wished I’d had. Maybe I’ll have stopped watching TV by then.