At a delicious chili cook-off this past Saturday, I engaged in a conversation with one of my dear colleagues’ two children, grades 6 and 8.
“Do you play Minecraft?” I ask the 6th grade daughter.
“Yeah. It’s so fun,” she sweetly replies.
“So, it’s like… a game that let’s you build things?” I probe, trying to truly understand this game that so many of our students engage in.
“Yeah. You can also play with other people – and build things together.”
I was intrigued. Once we moved the hang out venue from the chili cook-off to my house, I grabbed my iPad, downloaded the Lite version, and asked my friend’s daughter to show me how this game works.
Once she started to play, I was blown away. No, (not mind blown like I was at the EARCOS iPad conference) not because it was so amazing that I couldn’t wait to play it, but because it was a series of pixelated cubes that she kept calling “wool” of various colors.
“What’s this?” I ask.
“Oh, that’s sheep. In Creative mode, they’re just there, but in Survival mode, you can use their fur for warmth and stuff.”
Losing interest to the Goats that sound like humans Youtube clip, she left me to my own device (ha! Pun so intended). Losing interest in the lone game of pool, her 8th-grade brother came out of my game room and took over my iPad. Thank goodness – I could barely turn left in the game.
“Here, let me show you something really cool.” Oh, great, I thought to myself. How cool can these pixelated weird objects can be? But like rubber-necking an accident, I couldn’t help but stare at the swiftness of his fingers, the calculated laying of colored wool blocks, the strategic crumbling and rebuilding of… stuff… and when he finished, he said, “Look!”
“What the…” was my response.
He had built a massive building designed in the shape of a sheep, multi-leveled and… well, impressive. He had done it in 7 minutes while warding of zombies at night that tried to kill him, even pausing to laugh at the Trust Fall video clip from Youtube that I just had to share with the company. How’d he do that?
“Wait, how did you know to put the blocks at these strategic places? How did you know how to create this hollow space, or spaces, to make the shape of the eyes and mouth in a building?”
“Uh… like… you can see it,” he shrugs as he answers.
“And why did you decide to put the fire torches here?” I ask in fascination.
“Oh, that’s to keep the zombies from spawning.” Again, a matter-of-fact reply.
Marc Prensky in “Shaping Tech for the Classroom” is right: “If we want to move the useful adoption of technology forward, it is crucial for educators to learn to listen, to observe, to ask, and to try all the new methods their students have already figured out, and do so regularly.”
Hearing these two kids, and hearing my high school kids (as I’ve found myself doing more intentionally ever since starting COETAIL), talk to me about technology has been not only intriguing but meaningful. To them, to me – there’s a lot out there to talk about. Who knew that pixelated, amateur-is-this-the-80s looking images could be put into building amazing things that you’d (okay, maybe just me?) never have imagined possible? Who knew that spatial reasoning, proportion, survival (albeit basic in my example) could be brought up so matter-of-factly in a conversation with an 11 and a 13-year-old?
I agree that our kids are digital citizens so it is important for us to put in “a big effort [that our kids] deserve no less” of (Prensky). I’m fortunate to be a in a school community that does value this notion and plan to take full advantage.
What kinds of tech-related conversations are you having with your students?
(I must add: By “our kids”, I do mean those who are of-the-like in international schools, the mid-to-high SES level family homes, parents with college degrees, etc., because I greatly wonder about what this shift is doing for our low SES students who do not have access to such means.)