This week I’d like to share with you a personal screen-play about the power of technology, creativity, and children…
- Cast: Father and son (yes, me and mine)
- Setting: family room on a weekend afternoon
- Props: couch, iPad, desktop computer
Background: Remember the cool wooden maze game, Labyrinth? It is a wooden box with knobs on the side, and the goal is to guide the steel ball through the maze without falling into the holes. I have many memories of playing this game. Fast forward to 2010 – I have downloaded Labrynth 2 HD for the iPad. There are virtually limitless mazes to solve, new materials, bumpers, cannons, etc. My son is hooked on it. Following is a re-telling of what my son discovered:
Father: (on couch, playing Labyrinth 2 HD on iPad) Drat…got blown up by a cannon again…
Son: Daddy, click on the Create button on the screen.
Father: OK – let’s check it out…there is a “New” button – it looks like you can make your own levels.
Son: (squeals) Really?! Let’s do it!
Father: The directions say to go to a website, enter the code for the software, and design levels on the computer.
Son: (leaps to the computer) – I’m at the website – what is the code? (enters code) (investigates for a few moments while figuring out design interface) (squeals again) Awesome!
[2-3 minutes pass]
Son: OK dad, try out my level! (leaps back onto couch)
Father: (opens level created by son) Is this the one you just had on the screen on the desktop computer?
Father: Sweet! (finishes newly created level quickly)
Son: (leaps back to computer) Hold on – I know what I have to change! (brief pause) OK try it now! (leaps back to couch)
Father: (reloads level, son is eagerly hovering overhead, watching intently) Oooo – tricky, but I think I can do this – thanks for putting this wall here.
Son: I think I need to add some cannons and a few holes here…(leaps back to computer)
Father: Got it!
Son: Reload it and try again! (leaps back to couch)
Father: (reloads level) Grrr…hmph…grrr…almost…rats. (tries again multiple times) Whew, got it finally!
Son: Do you want me to make that harder for you?
The above scenario is one that has played out countless times in my house. There is a magic mix of design, creativity, physics, and immediate feedback that is spectacular. The physical manipulation of the game on the iPad (Labyrinth is on the iPod Touch also), combined with the ability to design levels and immediately try them out creates a hyper-motivating environment which my son (and now my daughter) loves to work in. One aspect we have not begun yet is to create and share levels with other people, but I’m sure we will get into that before too long. While the original analog version of Labyrinth is still fun, it cannot compare to where the current version has gone, thanks to technological connections.
There are many thoughts and ideas triggered for me when I think about this scenario, but on my mind right now is this: The students entering our schools are familiar with and live in these environments. There is content they have to learn that is most likely not familiar to them at all. What are we doing to help our students learn in ways that will immerse them and motivate them?
To use a concept from David Perkins book, Making Learning Whole, what are we doing to help kids “play the whole game?”