Today my son put together a presentation for his Grade 1 class show and tell session tomorrow, in response to a theme chosen by his teacher: TECH (technical and/or technology).
With a little help from his mum, he put together a nice little powerpoint demonstrating some of the basic functions and challenges involved in Droid Machine Pro, a sort of construction and physics app he loves to play on our Galaxy Tab. For his final slide he made a video demonstrating how to make your own level:
I found all this to be interesting and very thought-provoking, beyond just a father's infatuation with his son's creative and cognitive growth, for a couple of reasons.
1. This is an android app I found in my search to help Jamie develop CAD-like skills, feeding off his love of 3-D sketching, making plans and models, etc. He gets the 3-D interaction with another app called 'Cogs' (and now as well with Google Sketchup), but in this one ('Droid Machine') he works primarily in 2-D designing terrain and machines, part by part, which he can then animate to see what happens based on which parts he motorised and how they are connected, placed, etc.
It amazes me what's out there now in the way of really creative apps for kids that can feed their cognitive development alongside their natural kinaesthetic interests, and how rapidly they pick up (on) and go with the technology.
2. As many readers of this blog know (and have probably come to regret!), I make a lot of instructional screencasts. Jamie is usually sitting next to me in the office when I make them, keeping quiet as he draws/designs/creates.In his presentation above, it's flabbergasting how much 'screencasting etiquette' he seems to have picked up (they're sponges, aren't they?). As an educator friend on Facebook observed: "he's a mini-raven!"
It never really occurred to me that my work, in this case with video/screencasting would be something he would pay much attention to, nor for that matter want to emulate. How wrong I was! And aside from the natural sponge factor, it's amazing how presentation skills have helped him come out of his 'shy shell' around his peers at school. The interactive Skylanders presentation we made using Articulate Storyline a few months ago was a huge hit with his classmates and gave him so much confidence when it came to sharing his creative ideas.
3. One of the things that really impressed me about this was his basic awareness of audience, and preparing something for a specific audience. He deliberately focussed on putting together something simple. He has made other levels that are incredibly complex, with all sorts of machines rolling around and through buildings and platforms hanging in the sky, knocking balls and blocks around for various effects. But he went with a simple demonstration, because he apparently wanted to make something his friends could easily understand and apply on their own pretty quickly.
Something tells me that this awareness of audience is really important for learners to pick up, and I'm happy to see my son start developing this early on. It's great to have great skills and creative ideas, but it's even better if they can be fused with social awareness and interactive nouse.
But above and beyond all of those points above, I was both motivated and sad when I saw Jamie putting all of this together...
I can't help wondering how we (and so many of our learners) come to lose this essential creative spark. The urge to experiment, share knowledge for the sheer joy of it (in a way that is palatable and enjoyable for our peers), and just be creative.
I wonder more about how we can prevent our 'older' learners from losing it, or help to re-spark it. Surely this has to be one of the most important and fundamental challenges facing us as educators, irrespective of who/where/what/why/how we go about what ought to be the greatest gig in the sky.