I have a nephew who is almost 14. He doesn’t really like school and struggles to keep up with homework. He isn’t really keen on reading, but he loves video games. Put an Xbox controller in his hand and he can think through problems, work with other people in a team, and show creative ways to get to his goal. He doesn’t give up or quit, he is motivated to keep at it, even if he doesn’t get it the first time. He loves video games.
I’ve talked to him about how I’ve used video games in my classroom, whether it’s a novel study using the game Professor Layton (he loves to solve the problems!) or exploring the Arctic using Endless Ocean on the Wii. He asks questions and I get the ultimate praise of a conversation and a response of, “Cool!” I’ll take it. I’m not surprised that he isn’t interested by pages of math worksheets, and I’m not surprised he’s refusing to do them (although he should!). He isn’t engaged, but he is a very practical, very capable young man.
Games and challenges really appeal to him. He was playing Scrabble Flash with his mom. It’s an electronic version of Scrabble where you are given letters on cubes and you have to rearrange and connect them to make as many words as you can in 30 seconds. After, it tells you how many words you made and how many were possible. He and his mom each had several turns, recording how many words they made, and how many were possible, then sat down to work out the math to see who won. He was interested and completely engaged. He was spelling, and doing math. He even worked out the percentage of his word rate.
Everytime I come to visit I’ll pull out a new game, tool, or site and he will give it a try. Last summer I was showing him Nintendogs, a nintendo DS game I had used with my Primary 1 (Kindergarten) class in Scotland. He was teaching his dog to sit, but was finding the voice recognition inconsistent. He went down to the computer, pulled up Google translate and had the computer speak the word for him, so it was the same and consistent each time, quickly training his dog.
He also likes to geocache. I‘ll take him out with the GPS and he’s on the hunt for treasures in the woods. He’s really good at judging distances and will often guess where the cache will be as we get close. He likes to hold the GPS and is good at route picking and navigating.
When I spend time with my nephews, my teacher hat is always on, but so is my fun hat. I love to find active things for them to do, but also sneak some learning in.
My other nephew is 10. He is a good artist and likes his projects, but is another one who doesn’t choose to sit and pull out a book. He has his own blog Word of the Day. He loves Scribblenauts.
Scribblenauts is an problem solving game, which allows for open choice of tools or problem solving method. You have to get the star in each level, but you can write any noun and the object will appear to help you. If the star is across a lake, you can write submarine, jetpack, bridge, boat, or helicopter (or even more things I haven’t thought of!) and they appear. Your character gets in the boat, drives across and gets the star. It’s completely open, creative problem solving. He’ll be playing the game and he’ll ask a question like, “How do you stop ants?” We’ll talk through ideas and he can try to solve the problem. It might not work the first time but he keeps working away at it, trying creative, out of the box solutions. It really plays to his creative side.
He still seems engaged in school, but I’m worried that he isn’t getting to show his creative talents and skills. He has a great sense of humor, a good eye for photography, and sees things in a different way. Is the education system going to recognize his talents and use tools which are going to play to his strengths?
My third nephew is almost 3. I want him to be educated in a classroom which embraces innovation and uses the tools he uses in his everyday life. I want him to love school and feel challenged. I don’t want him in an artificial environment learning in a way that doesn’t apply to the real world or the working world.
I want him to be as interested in the world and asking as many questions as he does now when he is 13.
I want him to learn with other people around the world. I want him to have access to tools which interest him and talk to people without the barriers of geography or content filters.
We are innovating to meet learning needs. We are innovating for the most important people in the world, our students.