Good Luck Stopping Students From Playing Stadia Games In Class

Good Luck Stopping Students From Playing Stadia Games In Class

If Google Stadia games work as advertised, it’ll become all too easy for students everywhere to play video games on their school-issue laptops instead of listening to their teachers’ lectures.

On this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen, we answer questions from listeners, including one from a high school teacher about how much of a pain Stadia will be, on top of all the other typical distractions that students already battle in the classroom.

First up, we talk about the games we’re playing; I’ve finally got the hang of flying in Outer Wilds, Jason is playing Dragon Quest Builders 2 for a future review, and Kirk has fallen in love with fixed beat mode in Cadence of Hyrule.

After that, we open up the mailbag (22:32) for discussion of Stadia in schools, our personal processes for reviewing games and how bizarre the release schedule for Final Fantasy 7 Remake will be. Lastly, we get into off-topic talk (1:20:18) about Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Veep before Kirk’s funky music pick of the week.

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below.

Writes Joe:

Dear Maddy, Jason and Kirk,

I’m a high school teacher with a question about Stadia and corporate responsibility. As a person who loves video games, the idea of being able to take games wherever I go (with an internet connection) sounds wonderful. However, as a teacher, I am terrified.

It is already challenging enough to get students to read an article, write a paragraph, or complete any kind of academic task when their rapid dopamine-producing technology is always right there at their fingertips, whether through their personal phones or on iPads or Chromebooks (in an ironic twist) provided by schools — and that’s just from basic mobile gaming, watching Twitch, and social media apps.

But now, they’ll be able to instantly play actual good games, like Apex: Legends or Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey on their phones?

I mean, I’d actually empathise with my students at that point: Even as an adult who understands responsibility, there are times I’d far rather be playing video games than working (but thank god that I can’t even make that bad choice because my PS4 with Bloodborne is safely at home). Now, for my students, that all changes.

As teachers, yes, it’s our classroom. Yes, we can try to moderate what students are doing with their time. Yes, we can attempt to ban counterproductive technology. But this is so much easier said than done: Teens inevitably find ways around the barriers that teachers and school technicians put in place.

What I’m asking is this: Does Google have a responsibility to — at the very least — develop tools that empower educators to make sure students don’t make the bad choice of playing games when they shouldn’t be? Surely Google, one of the most powerful companies in the world, can, if it devotes the resources, do something positive and helpful here.

Otherwise, I fear that many teens, who can’t see in the long-term, will choose the escapism of video games and suffer destructive personal consequences, than engage in the difficult work of being a student.

Kirk: … So, I was on faculty at a high school. I taught many classroom sessions, I subbed for classes, I ran classrooms. I’m at least familiar enough with this and was in all the faculty meetings where this was constantly talked about.

The school that I taught at, the Urban School of San Francisco, is this super ahead-of-the-curve amazing school in San Francisco. This was in the 2000s. They were one of the first schools to have a one-to-one laptop program. At the time, all the kids had Macbooks, and they could get online. There was basically no restriction…

So, yeah, I do think that it’s Google’s responsibility, and it’s all these companies’ responsibilities to give teachers and give parents tools. But at the same time, I’m sure a lot of parents will also tell you that while it’s nice to have parental restriction on content, it’s also really hard; if a kid really wants to see something or do something, they can probably find a way to do it.

One thing they would do at Urban that was really funny was, Howard — his name was Howard, he was a really brilliant guy who was in charge of technology. He was the czar of all the computers. He had the ability to get and look at anyone’s screen on the network — of the students, not the faculty.

He never did this. He was a really busy guy; he was doing all kinds of stuff. But he had the ability to, and as a result, the kids were always scared that they would be playing a game or something during class when they weren’t supposed to be — because this was a thing back then, even.

Kids wold play Halo on their Macbooks; they would download freeware copies of games, and then they’d all be playing against one another. And they would be like, “Oh god! Howard’s gonna know!” Which I thought was really clever psychological warfare.

Because of course Howard 99.99 per cent of the time was not looking at your screen. But it only took him doing it once to one kid, and like walking into class out of nowhere and just busting them for whatever they were doing.

Maddy: That becomes the urban legend that all the other kids tell each other. “Oh, Howard can find you at any time! He’s always watching!”

Kirk: Also, coincidentally, Urban Legend? The name of the school paper at the Urban School of San Francisco.

Maddy: Great name!

Kirk: So that was one thing that kinda worked… [but] I don’t think that Stadia’s actually going to be — like, Maddy you mentioned social media. Social media is just as much of a distraction.

Maddy: And addictive!

Kirk: There are so many things that can potentially distract a student who is supposed to be paying attention in class. And you go back to when we were students, and it was even stupider. More basic things, like calculator games, or tic-tac-toe on a notebook.

Maddy: Or passing notes, which was our equivalent to social media back then. But still distracting.

Jason: I’m sure kids today are still passing notes, too, by the way.

Maddy: Oh, sure, because they aren’t allowed to take out their phones in class, usually, from what I hear.

Jason: Or they get them taken away.

Kirk: That’s definitely one good restriction: You have to be on your computer, your computer’s on the network. I think there are even more advanced ways now, to block access to certain sites. People’s work does this too. Like, you can’t get on YouTube at work, so you just can’t do it.

Maddy: There’s also the old school thing my maths teacher did, which was physically walking around the classroom every time she did a lecture — up and down every row — to make sure nobody was playing games on their calculators. Just literally looking at everyone’s screen over everyone’s shoulder. All 40 students, or however many. I went to a big a public school.

Jason: That’s actually smart. That’s a good way of teaching, also, to not stand in one place. Kirk, I’m curious to hear — do you think that Google has any responsibility? Or do you think it’s a school-by-school, teacher-by-teacher, parent-by-parent responsibility here? And the onus is on them to make sure that their classrooms are behaving?

Kirk: To zoom it out from Google, just because Stadia doesn’t even exist yet. That’s, I think, a concern but all of these companies can be lumped under one umbrella. Just ethically, I do think that they do. I think it would be nice if they did that.

But, at the same time, if they’re not creating software for the Department of Education to use, or something like that, then in the end, it’s just not really their responsibility in the same way that it would be if they were actually making teaching tools.

This is just software that they’re making. There are a million things that can be misused by students in the classroom, and it is hard to draw a line and say, “Well, you all have a responsibility, in addition to treating your end-user, to make it so that students can’t abuse this in a classroom.”

There’s just a practical fact that it’s going to come down to the teachers and the students. That’s where the buck is going to stop.


  • Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahaha you actually believe schools have the infrastructure to support stadia HAHAAHAHAHAHA.

    Sorry to tell you but the majority of Australian schools, including the one I work at, use a *single* 50-100mb in line for their internet *still*.

    It ain’t happening, not yet. Sorry.

    • And before anyone says “Yeh but you can still use that 50mb”, we can barely run 240p youtube, barely, at all, in the public system, good luck with this. What a great laugh I got from this 😀

      • Yeah, and if the school does have the pipe to support it they will start to put things in place to block them anyway.

        Youtube doesn’t work for students, but it does for teachers. And while it’s easy enough to get around with a VPN. The reality is that it’s obvious as a teacher when a student is playing a shitty flash game where all they do us move left and right. Because the key inputs aren’t natural.

        That’s going to be far and away more obvious with actual gaming.

      • They could try this indeed, however this is the point it becomes my responsibility to actually pay attention to what my kids are doing in class. To get my ass up out of my chair (I timed myself this semester. On average in a 70m class, I spend 62 minutes on my feet, I choose to be active due to weight issues in the past and it encourages positivity from students) and to make sure students *aren’t* doing this sort of thing. At the end of the day, it’s my classroom, they’re *my* students and it isn’t Googles responsiblity at all. I have to teach kids responsibility in my room, and I will. They can try to tether, but they’ll get in trouble for it if they’re found out.

        • It’s been a while since I’ve tinkered with GPOs but I don’t think they have native support for scheduling, and the scripted solution for toggling policies on/off on a schedule is messy. This would make it infeasible if the device needs to be used outside of the school as well (eg. for homework) in a way that still requires internet access.

          • If it’s off school property it’s not my problem was the policy the school I worked in had. When they logged into the domain was when I was able to control them, and you couldn’t log in without a domain account internally, everything external was accessed via sharepoint for students/parents.

          • I imagine it’d become your problem if the policy hinders a functional requirement though (like needing internet access for homework), since once applied the policy affects either the device or the account whether they’re on the domain or not.

            As an aside, which policy did you have in mind? I skimmed the list but I could only find policies to disable removable storage, but those don’t affect non-storage devices even with the custom class policy.

          • Yeah, I saw those policies but they seem to only apply to USB storage, and not to non-storage devices like wifi dongles. Grats on the early retirement by the way, living the dream!

    • we’re putting 1Gbps into our schools. HS will have 10.

      If it becomes a real problem I”ll block Stadia with our content filter. Not a big deal. If kids want to play it in class they can do it on their own 4G

    • Putting the network control part aside, it’s not like school devices can wave flags to every site or service a student visits saying “hey I’m a student and I’m in class right now”. And even if it could, it’s not the responsibility of the service to decide whether that’s allowed or not. Not long ago we had stories about Assassin’s Creed Origins being used as an educational aid, so it’s not like Google can just determine what’s appropriate and what isn’t in every circumstance.

      Google can provide parental controls, and they already offer some of the most comprehensive controls I’ve seen via FamilyLink (which includes screen time limits, allowed hours, auto- and remote-lock and so on), but that’s the responsibility of the account owner to set those limits. Teachers who don’t own and aren’t responsible for these accounts have no business fucking around with their settings.

      I hope this doesn’t come across condescendingly since you’re a teacher yourself, but if the account owner doesn’t want to restrict things, teachers can just do it the old-fashioned way – pay attention to what their students are doing, and make them do it on paper if they can’t be trusted with a device.

      • Oh I don’t take offence to that at all. I don’t have my head up my arse in that position, trust me. I’m a parent with a 15 year old in High school as well, he’s got a laptop and uses it for gaming at times. I had a teacher contact me, telling me they’d ‘deleted games off his computer’, which led to the school and I having a heated discussion about their lack of professionalism, laying their hands on private property and to what extent they can interact with a students laptop. I know my own private, personal limits in the classroom and would never over-extend, however it seems a lot of people still don’t.

        Teachers who don’t own and aren’t responsible for these accounts have no business fucking around with their settings.

        I agree with you entirely, I would never mess with those, that’s for a parent to deal with. Like you said, pay attention and 99% of issues go away. Classrooms used to be shaped in straight rows facing the teacher. That’s worst way for a laptop based classroom now. NOW, they should be in a U shape, preferably with swivel chairs. The students should have their screens facing the teacher, allowing the teacher full visual access to the screens. This stops the hiding of any information, allows interactivity and exposes any untoward behaviour. But also, the teacher needs to get up off their ass and do something. Get up, walk around, interact with the kids, not just be up the front. Then most of the kids become far more responsive. I also do as you said, if a student repeatedly proves they can’t be trusted, I drop them back to pencil and paper (not even a pen!) until they learn to behave. It’s a bit slow and grindy but by god it works…

  • IT guy here. turns out that we have firewalls. people can’t even get personal devices on the network without approval. even then we can monitor any and all network traffic. turns it stadia is ridiculously easy to deal with if the IT department is at all competent.

    • special consideration here is also to app ratings. if someone does the wrong thing on the network, they get locked to specific app ratings. 4+ that means only apps officially recognised as 4+ can be run. if it is unrated or higher… no such luck.

      Basically yeah at the end of the day, if an organisation wants to stop games and is competent at their jobs it’ll never be an issue.

    • Great, except that the kids all have mobile hotspots in their pockets so they can access anything if the teacher isn’t vigilant.

  • You can quite easily stop them. Have bandwidth limits. If you use too much bandwidth in a certain time frame you get throttled or cut off. Problem solved.

    Any IT department could easily do this.

  • unless the school have no IT infrastructure whatsoever, I can’t see this being an issue. I mean as a MS specialist I can already think of half a dozen methods to deny access

    • It may have changed since I was at school, but Back In Those Days, the ‘IT specialist’ was a teacher that was into computers as a hobby, or the librarian.

      • It’s definitely changed. Schools hire IT workers these days for their IT hubs unless they’re rural/remote schools which sometimes do what you’re describing.

        • I don’t know what schools you work at, but I am a supply teacher, and I have yet to work at a high school that has a single person that is vaguely IT competent, and the kids are running rings around them.

          • That’s a gross generalisation. I’m permanent at mine, have been for a while now, but have also worked supply and found the exact opposite. Most schools are allowed to hire a minimum of 1 IT worker, if theyre lucky theyre allowed to hire them an offsider. The private schools are where they can have big IT depts like where I worked in 2009 prior to becoming a teacher (unless youre Brisbane State High which has a huge IT dept for a state school). Like Darren said though, the reality is most kids don’t have a level of IT knowledge in that environment comparable to a professional. They know how to perform very simple actions such as join a network, or maybe even clear their phone cache if they googled it but beyond that, good luck finding more than the rare one who knows say, how to get the printer spooling on the network again, or to get them to even be able to describe why an antivirus is a good idea (literally something I’ve had to discuss with students). Again, the rare one, the “golden goose” as per se, sure, but not the bulk.

          • I don’t know what schools you worked at, but I was a IT admin hired directly by a public secondary school for 5 years, and had a departmental hired guy who’d spend 2 days a week on site as well.

    • School networks are pretty tightly managed and restricted in Australia (or at least in NSW, I can’t speak for other states). But students don’t need to be connected to the network to have internet access – they can set up a hotspot from their phone and have faster, unrestricted internet.

Log in to comment on this story!