February 25, 2017

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How to Create a New Year’s Resolution the Whole Family Loves — Make it About Pizza

First posted on our Family Pizza blog.

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Every New Year’s Eve I poke the hubby and kids into committing to a self improvement goal, and every year, it falls flat. Until this year. I was inspired by the New Year’s resolution episode of The Sporkful podcast, which talked about how people resolve to eat less and exercise more, and most abandon that resolve sometime in February. Instead, why not resolve to eat more of what you love?

I asked my son if he might go in on a resolution for 2017 with me, to eat and make more of a food we both love. He was in. It would need to be something with depth and history that we could geek out on, and opportunities for variation and innovation. Some food types we considered were tacos, donburi, pasta, curry, and soup, but pizza was the winner. A new family project-based learning adventure and this blog was born.

We’ve been casual pizza makers for a long time, in part because I avoid dairy so it’s hard for me to eat pizza out. 2017 would be all about upping our game — eating our way through the best pizza in SoCal and cooking our way through different styles, with the goal of improving our homemade pie. This is a resolution the whole family could get behind.

I’ve never been this excited about designing a curriculum. I’m an educator by trade, and often designed “activities” to do with the kids, including weekend cooking, but this felt different. This was a long term investigation that involved both hands-on learning and what our family bonds most around — eating great food together. I don’t know why we hadn’t thought of this sooner!

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 5:23 PM

January 13, 2017

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How Dropping Screen Time Rules Can Fuel Extraordinary Learning

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First posted at the Connected Camps blog.

Last fall, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) finally backed down from their killjoy "screen time" rules that had deprived countless kids of the freedom to pursue their interests and explore digital worlds. No screens in the first 2 years, no more than 2 hours a day. After pushing their famous 2x2 rule for almost two decades, now they advocate against a one-size-fits-all approach and suggest that parents can be “media mentors” and not just time cops. But damage has been done.

For almost as long as the AAP 2x2 rules have been in place, I’ve been studying how multimedia, digital games, and the Internet can fuel extraordinary forms of learning and mobilization. Young people are growing up in a new era of information abundance where they can google anything and connect with specialized expert communities online. However, our research also indicates that most kids are not truly tapping the power of online learning. In part I blame the 2x2 guidelines for holding kids back, and putting parents in the role of policing rather than coaching media engagement.

By focusing on quality over quantity, families can move away from fear, maintain a healthy balance, and seek out extraordinary learning.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 3:58 PM

December 26, 2016

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Three Lessons from My Son on Minecraft and Learning

Reposted from Connected Camps.

Why do some kids spend their time killing each other while others engineer epic builds in Minecraft? The educational benefits of Minecraft are celebrated, particularly for developing tech skills, but not every kid is unleashing her inner MacGyver. It doesn’t really matter if Minecraft is good for learning if your kid isn’t engaging in complicated builds, coding, engineering or collaboration online. After all, there’s more variety in Minecraft play than any game on this planet.


My son’s binary calculator

Minecraft was a big part of my son becoming an avid coder, a positive digital citizen, and an aspiring engineer. He started playing Minecraft in middle school with his friends, and he played in a server that the school hosted. What really got him excited about being creative in Minecraft was discovering YouTube videos of epic builds. Eventually he applied to join a Minecraft server community hosted by some of the heroes he discovered on YouTube; he leveled up in his building, as he collaborated with and learned from others in the community. A few years later, he was exposed to coding in high school, and decided to explore coding in Minecraft and build a massive binary calculator with redstone (a special type of Minecraft block that acts like an electrical wire and allows players to create circuits and other machines). In the summer, he helps out in the family business, working in the Connected Camps Minecraft server teaching kids to code.

Here’s three lessons I learned growing up with my son about unleashing learning in Minecraft.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 2:56 PM

November 29, 2015

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Writing with friends -- Participatory Culture in a Networked Era

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Emerging from my turkey coma, I am writing with much gratitude for my two dear friends and colleagues Henry Jenkins and danah boyd. I am a bit late to the party in announcing that the book we wrote together is now available in electronic and hard/softcopy.

As danah has already noted, this book was instigated by Henry, who approached us about writing a book together for Polity. We agreed that we’d only do it if would become an occasion to have fun and learn from each other. It would be an excuse for a conversation, for danah to fly out to SoCal on occasion, and for us to sit on my couch or in the sun out back and catch up on what we thought was most fascinating or frightful about today’s networked world.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 8:55 PM

March 12, 2015

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Connected Camps Summer of Minecraft

I am stoked to announce today a project today that I'm kicking off with co-founders Tara Brown and Katie Salen. It's a virtual summer camp for Minecraft, being run as a co-venture between our new benefit corporation, Connected Camps, and the Institute of Play. Registration opened today at connectedcamps.com.

Media release is here.

Check out our promotional video!


Posted by Mizuko Ito at 7:12 AM