keyboard with apple ipadMy favorite new Tech Update service, FastCompany.com, has a great article on A Is for App: How Smartphones, Handheld Computers Sparked an Educational Revolution.

Here's a snippet:

As smartphones and handheld computers move into classrooms worldwide, we may be witnessing the start of an educational revolution. How technology could unleash childhood creativity — and transform the role of the teacher.

I know that I have seen amazing changes in my kids educational enthusiasm due to some engagements with technology and gaming we introduced over a year and a half ago. The fun part was I got to be a major participant and enthusiastic force in redirecting what might otherwise be tv time into game time. Yes, it's screen time, but we cannot kill the screen less we cut out kids off from the popular culture that is of critical importance in bonding, tribing and thriving at school.

But how much happier I am when my son asks enthusiastically to go to the library to get some books on "magic and crystals" for a game he and his schoolmates have been inventing over the course of the last 4 recess periods. "It's got a lot of people, Dad," he said. "And we are trying to figure out other crystal compounds that could be of use in our magic. That's what we do."

Que huge grin on my face. "Sure, let's go to the library. I'm sure they've got a lot of books that would work for your research."

FACT: Life is not a game.

Corollary: Many aspects of life are game-like. And more and more the "gaming skills" of:

  • exploration/curiosity
  • persistence
  • just-in-time learning
  • teamwork
  • complex system control and navigation
  • manipulation of 3d virtual environments
  • storing and recalling hundreds of directions and commands
  • long-range strategy building
  • accurate science and mathmatics
  • agression
  • non-agression (or patience)
  • the concept of allies
  • defensive vs. offensive strategy
  • collaborative team building
  • collaborative environment/world development

I can tell you the skills in that list are still ones I work on daily. As an adult in the social media and online marketing space, it is all about collaboration, allies and team building. And the team building at our level often happens with people that we may never meet in real life. But the parameters are very game like.

  • establish trust (friend of foe)
  • build a working agreement (money and roles and responsibilities)
  • define the objective
  • proceed with quest
  • make adjustments along the way (new team mates, people changing roles on the team, people leaving the team)
  • successful completion of objective
  • future planning for new campaigns

So the iPads are coming. And I make no secret about my predictions that the Apple iPad will change everything we know about computing.

Let me take you through my family's progression back into gaming.

In November of 2008 I bought Rockband II for our PS-2. While my son (9) didn't immediately join in, my daughter (7) jumped at the drums and honed in on a song and practiced and got really good at playing drums. While my son didn't want to pick up the instruments right away, he was content to watch and take on the "manager" role of the band that my daughter and I played in.

A few months later in January 2009, I started playing SPORE. If you haven't seen it, you might want to give it a gander.

educational gaming - spore

Now I guess you have to get over the "evolution" question, but I believe even hard core anti-evolutionists can imagine that some of life evolves. I mean you can watch yeast and sea monkeys change before your very eyes. So I won't get into the intelligent design vs darwin discussion here. But what I will share is that conversations around our house started being about the advantages of being a herbivore or and carnivore. And a wonderful surprise when we discovered how to make our evolving cell into an omnivore.

Without much direction from me, the kids dove into SPORE. They both played their own games their own way. And since the game only works on a Intel-powered box (we're a family of Macs) and it was only installed on my machine we were often negotiating for who could use my machine. And one classic statement my wife heard at bed time, soon after the SPORE questing had begun, was "When you make it to land you can totally lose the flagella."

Que more large grins by both parents. I don't think either 1st or 3rd grades have been working at the flagella level.

So the final evolution, thus far was when my son saved up his money for an iPod touch. And the change this device brought into our family was even more comprehensive.

Here are a few of the over arching changes we've noticed thus far:

  • my son saves money for games on his iPod Touch (He is motivated by a few other things, but he is constantly asking for ways he can make money to get an upgrade or new program for his iPod Touch.)
  • my son is enrolled in guitar lessons and is thriving at it
  • my daughter is loving her piano lessons
  • after the addition of Beatles RockBand the kids and I have been walking around singing Beatles songs (I can't tell you what a thrill it is to hear either child break into song, and if it's McCartney and Lennon rather than Pa Pa Pa Pa Poker Face Lady GaGa then I am doubly pleased.

So the games have lead to more games, music and imaginative play that includes film making, computer game making, comic book making, and ever more exciting conversations about new games and new ideas for games that they might build rather than simply play.

And if the TV is off 100% of the time during the weekdays, well, that too makes me a bit happier. Not that I don't like iCarly, I do. But I'm not a big fan of Sponge Bob or Chowder. Ren and Stimpy are more my speed.

So will the iPad change everything? Well, as a way to demonstrate what's coming in a way that you can imagine it, dial back just a few years to the launch of the initial iPhone. Here was another device that the Mac-loyalists had been begging for and finally we had our PHONE. Big deal right?

And the captains of Nokia and Samsung and RIM were happy to tell us that their devices were coming soon. And the iPhone would be interesting but not that important over all. Replay my response to today's nay-sayers. "EXCUSE ME?"

As I was telling a fiend today it's not so much what Steve Jobs and Apple showed about the iPad that is exciting. Yes, I like the redesigned apps and the larger format games. But the exciting thing is what is going to happen after April 3rd. While I am working with an iPhone and iPad developer today, we do not know what is going to happen when we actually start PLAYING with them.

It's what happens after the iPad is released that is going to be amazing. And if things go as planned, several projects I am working on, will help a group of smart people, designers, programmers, technologists, redefine some of the ideas we have about computers and mobile devices and most importantly: the manipulation and entry of data with the touch-swipe-tap-pinch gestures that we will be trying to harness in the coming weeks and months.

Onward into the fog. The amazing and shiny future may be obscured at the moment by media hype, counter-hype and Apple-hunters, but the future will be written by the users and dreamers, not the media. And I hope to capture just a bit of the dream and maybe have a tiny part of defining a unique use or user-interface opportunity with the iPad. And a last promise: the future of education will be changed forever by the Apple iPad. Starting April 3, 2010, we begin the next chapter.

If you are interested in discussing iPad opportunities with my dev team, please don't hesitate to contact me. We'll be happy to show you what we've got so far.

@jmacofearth
permalink: http://uber.la/2010/03/edu-ipad/

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From FastCompany.com: A Is for App: How Smartphones, Handheld Computers Sparked an Educational Revolution.

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