– Like many kids, my own children would spend endless hours with their Wii or their Nintendo DS systems. Unfortunately for my own children, they have mean parents who restrict their time, kick them outside to play (one of the advantages of living in a small town) and who won’t let them play World of Warcraft, Medal of Honour, (inset other random shoot ’em up game).
But, being a geek, I’m always interested in what they are playing, what’s hot, and what’s coming out. One thing that I’ve noticed more and more is that s lot of the games they buy are not only gaming platforms, but they can be used as engines of creation as well.
This isn’t new. For a few years games have been allowing the people who buy them to build their own creations. Some of them let people build new levels while others, like Simcity, have been dramatically redone by the community that circled around them. What I’ve noticed lately though is that tis idea of creation, invention, and dramatic customization is built into almost everything. It isn’t an extra – it’s something that is now expected.
Christian, my ten year old this summer bought a game for his Nintendo DS that is called Warioware D.I.Y. If you’re not familiar with Wario, he is generally the bad guy in any of the Nintendo Mario games. What’s different with this game is that outside of a few small mini games, the game itself is actually a series of tutorials teaching you how to make your own games. It leads you through a set of experiences designing backgrounds, making sounds and working with animations. It builds these up step by step having you help to finish partially designed games that are preloaded on the game cartridge. then of course, once you have finished working on the games – you get to play them.
Nintendo has also extended this out, allowing your Nintendo DS to connect with your Wii and with other players, allowing people to exchange games they have built and also to exchange their expertise, helping other players to finish their creations.
This is only one example of the power of these tools. I’ve been deeply interested in other struggleware like Scratch, Phun and Alice. I think open source software like Open Office, Gimp, Audacity and Inkscape are other instances of this same thing; tools that give us the power to create in multiple formats.
As educators, one of our largest challenges is simply to motivate our students. One valuable way to do this is to push them from being passive consumers of information to active participants who play a real role. As educators, issues of budgets used to hold us back from including our students in experiences such as these, but with most of these tools being free or very low cost, money is no longer an issue.
I’ve been thinking about this becoming a central issue in education and in classrooms. The shift from passive reception of information, completed products, opinions and viewpoints towards the active construction and connections that are possible today.
A shift from going to a school to “get an education” and a move towards “building,” or “earning,” or “constructing” the learning on an individual basis.
Still have much to think about on this.