Remember this kid? I’ve posted this picture on here before.
This is Alexander, he’s one of my two kids. I took this picture in 2008 when Alexander wasn’t quite ten. He was pretty proud because we had bought him a new Asus eee pc to use at school. Alexander was born at 27 weeks, 13 weeks premature. This has caused him a few troubles in life, one of them being that he has relatively poor fine motor skills. Short form: writing with a pencil or pen is tough. Solution? Laptop.
Now, Alexander, who is 14, types as fast as I do and can do all sorts of amazing things with the laptop he has now; a 13 inch MacBook. He’s now getting interested in the Open Badges initiative and is doing some investigating around that. If anyone has any information about how he could get involved, please let me know.
(Here’s an updated picture of Alexander and Christian in the summer 2011 outside of the Canadian parliament buildings in Ottawa. BTW, if you’ve seen that New York hat on Christian’s head any where – let me know. I think I lost it in Montreal…)
Over the past six months or so, Alexander has taken to playing a MMORPG called Dofus. Much more popular in Europe and South America than in North America, he was introduced to this game by a friend. He jumped right in, levelled up a few characters, paid for a membership, and in the past month or so has started his own guild. It took him a while to get to this point because his characters needed to be a certain level, he needed a lot of in game money, and he needed certain items before he could purchase the things he needed that would let him become a guild master.
His guild now has about 40 members in it. This means that he has 40 people that he needs to help along, work together on challenges and quests with, and keep together in one coherent group who need to cooperate and collaborate to get anything done. Its invloved a fair amount of learning for him a long the way. For example, when Alexander first started his guild, he was excited that a high level character wanted to join his group. So he quickly accepted him and in not time flat granted this person full rights and powers over the guild as his “right hand.” A valuable lesson was learned (in a relatively harmless way) about trusting people online when this person banned everyone from the guild and disbanded the group. We talked about this. About not really knowing people online. About the powers that you have as an administrator over a space or over a group of people. In the end, he started a new group and is much wiser now about who he recruits and how he recruits people. Interestingly, he has had to deal with people from other countries a fair amount and is closely tied in with google translate now since many of the people who play this game speak Portuguese.
Pretty high level online skills. And it seems to me, exactly the kinds of skills that we want our students to have. As much as I as a parent might hate to admit it – he’s learning and gaining new skills by playing video games. Actually, I don’t hate to admit that and I certainly knew that games could help students to learn new things. This is why we play in our classroom when it fits what we are doing. But it really is interesting to see in your own house. It’s also interesting to see how these skills translate into academic skills.
As a student who work in the Idea Hive (yes, poor kid, he’s had his own father as a teacher for the past two years), Alexander is called upon to do a fair amount of online collaboration. Chat rooms, blog posts, commenting, taking photos, working on google docs with students from other places around the world. And in each of these situations he performs very well. He can lead a group effectively, work through the troubles that invariably arise when students work online, and has good research skills. In my mind, the work that he does in online gaming spaces has translated directly into his effectiveness in academic situations as well. How do we promote this kind of work in classrooms? How can we assess it and show the value behind it? How do we even explain the value of it to others?