My son is a tech inspiration
This past Saturday, my nine-year-old son asked to go on the computer. We limit his time on the computer, but he hadn’t been on at all that day, so I said, “Sure.” I expected the usual video games, of course. But what did he do? After a little messing around, he fired up Comic Life, and started making a comic: “The Victorious Victor vs. the Slippery Seals, pt. 2.”
For almost an hour he sat in our kitchen and worked on it–developing the story, pasting in pictures, adding speech bubbles, even taking pictures of his stuffed velociraptor, Victor (the hero of the story) and importing them into Comic Life. By the time he got to four pages, he said, “This thing is going on forever. I need to take a break.” But he kept working, until it was six pages long and he was done with part two (with part three to come!).
Perhaps I’m reading too much into this. I’m fortunate enough to send my kids to a school where computer use is integrated into the classroom on a regular basis, so he is very comfortable using technology. And perhaps it’s an ordinary act of creation. Perhaps there are lots of kids who spend their Saturday mornings making things–if not e-comics, then something else: blogs and podcasts, lego vehicles and paintings, maybe even just stick forts in the backyard. The imaginations of young children can be very impressive. But still it was a healthy reminder: kids like to create, and they like to create with technology.
That seems obvious, but it was a useful reminder to me. The creation of content is at the heart of the argument for using technology. The night before my son’s creative effort, I had been reading “Hacking Teaching” (part of the larger Hacking the Academy project), and I was finding the constant invocation of creativity slightly naive at points–not bad, just utopian, given other social conditions (an argument I hope to say more about in a future post).
And yet clearly kids, at least some kids, really do like making things on computers. And it got me wondering: how can I redesign my own assessments to get my students as excited about doing their school projects as my son was about doing his comic?
I think there are limits to what technology can do for education, and of course you can teach well without any technology at all. But if technology can help capture the enthusiasm that my son showed that Saturday morning, it’s worth using.