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Although I am no longer an academic, I see research opportunities everywhere. One set of untapped research is in Pokémon Go (PoGo).

I am not talking about the already done-to-death exercise studies or about the motivations to play and keep playing.

I am thinking about how sociologists might add to PoGo’s trend analysis. Number crunchers have already collected data on its meteoric rise and now its declining use. While these provide useful information to various stakeholders, I wonder if anyone has considered the impact of PoGo uncles and aunties.

I am not the first to observe how much older players have started playing PoGo. I tweeted this a while ago and someone just started a thread in the PoGoSG Facebook group about uncles and aunties at play.

A quick search on Twitter with keywords like “pokemon go” and “auntie” or “uncle” might surprise you.

The PoGo aunties and uncles are quite obvious here. So far I have noticed three main types: Solo aunties, uncles in pairs or small groups, and auntie-uncle couples. There are more types, of course, but these three are common enough to blip frequently on social radar.

But I would not be content with just describing the phenomenon. I would ask if they contribute to the “death” of PoGo just like how the older set adopted Facebook and how teens then migrated to Snapchat.

We should not underestimate the impact of uncles and aunties. After all, there must be a reason for this saying: Old age and treachery will always overcome youthfulness and skill.

The video below highlights some research that would not pass muster today.


Video source

Today we are guided by the principle of “do no harm”, or at least “do the least harm”.

I wonder if the same could be said about social experiments that are a result of non-researchers tinkering with systems and policies.

For example, how much social experimental harm has the PSLE caused?

Make no mistake: The PSLE has been a very successful as a social experiment. It has become the operating standard, it shapes expectations, and we cannot seem to think outside it.

However, we need to ask ourselves if the PSLE embedded in our collective psyche is a good thing. Simply mentioning it as harmful begs disbelief in some quarters and helplessness to do otherwise in others.

Just because something is successful does not make it helpful or harmless. Pandemic diseases spread with us as carriers and our technologies as enablers. Often we do not even know we are helping the disease spread until it is too late.

This doctor is highlighting some symptoms of PSLE. Are you feeling OK?

 
Play Pokémon Go safely and responsibly. That is the refrain that we have heard and will keep hearing because immersed and excited gamers think of little else while gaming.

A good game immerses and excites because it reaches into the parts of our brains that reward and pleasure.


Video source

The very simple and logical message to be safe and responsible is easy to follow while not gaming. It just as easily flies out the window while gaming because playing reactivates our child-like wonder and responses.

So what concrete action might we take to prevent accidents, injuries, or worse?
 

 
Pokémon Go is a mobile, location-aware game. Those are its core technical affordances. It also has an optional social affordance: You can play alone or with others.

Unless a solo player is very disciplined or self-aware, the player is likely to be immersed in the Pokémon Go pool. Watch any console, PC, or Pokémon Go gamer in the state of flow and you might recognise that same look and body language.

The in-person social aspect is often overlooked in Pokémon Go. By social I do not mean a group of people dashing across a road with no regard for safety. A mob is not that social.

I am referring to working together in groups and assigning one person to be like the designated driver on drinking night. However, this does not mean that the person cannot play. This person has a radar and warning role.

Alternatively, do what this community in Clementi did to take advantage of the interest in the game. It is not about safety in numbers. It is about learning with and from others.

I play Pokémon Go with my son. I remind him to look up when we are moving between Poké stops or to move to the side or somewhere safe when we are throwing Poké balls.

We also discuss options and strategies. He knows a lot more about the Pokémon world than I do thanks to other Pokémon games and YouTube videos. I read Pokémon Go articles on trends, tips, and education. We complement each other with our knowledge bases and wisdom pools.

From him I learnt that I should collect free Poké coins (defender bonus) when I assign a Pokémon to a gym. From me my son learnt that we should plan walking routes to maximise Poké stops.

Our gaming sessions are not just times to talk and bond. They are also opportunities for us to model behaviours for each other.

I refrain from saying “play Pokémon Go safely and responsibly”. The game itself is not dangerous; some human behaviours are. The behaviours are a natural result of our human programming.

The social element of Pokémon Go is an important way of rising above that instinct to play without consequence. In doing so, we might discover the value of interacting with the game, the environment, and with each other.

Every now and then I get requests to be interviewed, to write an article, or to have something I wrote be part of someone else’s site.

I say no almost all the time and I explain why based on the context of the request. But there is one reason that is common to all requests: I do not want to be manipulated into pushing someone else’s agenda.

Everyone has an agenda, even if they say they do not. Having an agenda is fine if you are honest about it and if you have your heart in the right place.

Quotes taken from what I say or write might get decontextualised. An opinion piece that I write might get edited until its original message gets diluted or warped.

These are probably why some politicians who are interviewed by the press also post their speeches or thoughts on platforms like Facebook. Better to hear from the horse’s mouth.
 

 
The sad thing is that not all do this. Instead of allowing people to thinking critically and make their own decisions based on source material, the sources and the press conspire to leave it up to the press to publish selectively.

What is our excuse in the realms of schooling and education?

Is the source material unavailable?

Is the source material available, but not accessible?

Is the source material available and accessible, but not understandable?

If we say yes to any of these questions, why is this the case and what are we doing about it?

In the wider world, people can take control of the information they generate. They create, share, and discuss, largely on social media.

If the goal of schooling and education is to prepare kids for the wider world, then why are we not allowing and insisting that students create, share, and discuss more openly?

Gaps by Mr Moss, on Flickr
Gaps” (CC BY 2.0) by  Mr Moss 

Recently CNA reported how DPM Tharman noted that social mobility was in trouble as social gaps widen.

There is no point arguing about how our schooling and education systems are social levellers or creators of equal opportunities if social gaps (like access to opportunities) widen to the point that even the mobile cannot bridge that those gaps.

DPM Tharman mentioned one broad response to such a threat:

“One way to do this is by providing a pool of qualified teachers. There are also efforts to improve the education system, by changing the curriculum to suit a child’s learning abilities and reducing the emphasis on examinations, he added.”

On the surface this reads as reasonable action. Dig deeper with a critical thought shovel and you will hit rock.

Qualified teachers are not necessarily good teachers. They may have good results or grades, but do they have the qualities? One might argue that desirable qualities are part of qualifications, but how are the former measured and made part of the latter?

Curricula can never address different learning needs because by nature they are siloed and standardised. People forget that a root word of curriculum means “to race” and that is how content is taught. We cannot use the same words and to operate within the same practices of completing checklists as quickly as possible.

The shortest portion of the response was “reducing the emphasis on examinations”. Depending on how this is done, it could have the best and longest term consequences of creating better equity (not equality).

Changing the assessment system is strategically more sound from a systemic point of view. Assessment is a key leverage point: Change that and everything else — curricula and teaching practices included — will change.

DPM Tharman warned that there had been “no substantial improvements of interventions over the last 50 years”. I say that if we let old words and actions persist, there will be no change for the next 50 years.

I am working on a keynote address to illustrate the importance of taking advantage of social media for lifelong learning by social workers.

I learn with social media every day. But I had to ask myself if I had taught or mentored with social media. I have, both groups and individuals.

I am regarded by some as #edsg’s Yoda. That could mean that I am considered old, green, and wrinkled. It could also mean I dispense wisdoms in ways that cause foreheads to look like Yoda.

When I was head of an outfit at the National Institute of Education, I mentored my staff as they sensed and shared with Twitter, Diigo, and wikis (Google Sites).

Several years ago, I mentored someone I had never met using Facebook. I provided dissertation advice and reviews.

I also mentor individuals over Twitter DM. One of those DM sessions will evolve to a ‘live’ Google Hangout session with a group that wants to explore flipped learning.
 

 
A cursory scan of edu-Twitter will reveal that I am not the only one doing this. Remote teaching and mentoring not only increases reach, it is also more customisable and personalisable. It is no wonder that it is in-demand and on-demand.

We live in interesting times. I would like to see this cottage industry of remote mentoring grow to be a significant force in personalised education. That way I can add Remote Mentor to my CV without sounding pretentious.

It started with a tweet from @hsiao_yun.

I weighed in with this:

Why did we tweet? The original photo was supposed to feature Singapore, but the two men in the foreground were wearing cold weather gear.

Then @RoughGuides tweeted:

I have interacted with many individuals and organizations on Twitter. At least, I have tried. More often than not they do not reply. If they do, they drop canned messages, are ill-equipped, or forget to be social.

@RoughGuides’ tweet had the components of a well-crafted response to critical inputs. Here is a sentence-by-sentence deconstruction.

  • Acknowledgement: Hi there, well spotted on the photo.
  • Admission: This was our mistake!
  • Action: We’re looking into changing it now.
  • Appreciation: Thanks for nudging us!

It changed the main photo of the online resource shortly after tweeting. If only more Twitter entities acted like this.

Being on social media is not about bearing down in silence or ignoring sincere comments or questions. Far too many people and organizations using Twitter do this (@TwitterSG included!). I am ashamed to note that I know teachers and educators who do this too.

Learning on Twitter is about engaging others whether you are right or wrong*. It is about having honest and open conversations. It is about giving back. If we do these consistently, we would learn what it is really like to be social in social media. We would learn something about ourselves and want to be better.

*Addendum: The exception might be responding to trolls.


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