From Gaming to Game Changing
How anyone can make a difference whether you are 6 or 60!
technology The necessary Evil
Technology is in everyone’s hands today. Even before kids hold a pencil, they hold iPads and iPhones and can master a game or two at that. While most parents see technology as a necessary evil, they are at a loss as to how to make it meaningful for future generations.
When my son started mastering levels of Lego Star Wars and Donkey Kong at age 4, I knew something needed to change. I wasn’t totally sold on the hours he wanted to play these games or the strain on his eyes. But I knew he was gaining something. He was becoming more tactile and logical by learning how to navigate a strategic plot in a virtual environment. So instead of setting limits on his gaming time, we just pretended the Wii broke and that he had to make his own to play it. Call me a liar, but it served my purpose pretty well.
The next challenge was to find programming camps for young kids his age. He was an advanced reader at 5 and could pretty much understand instructions better than me! He crafts a Lego creation faster than I can put together a laundry hamper from IKEA! I have seen him assemble a 250 piece Lego puzzle in 2 hours and burn my pocket every week because he was bored of remaking the same thing.
We had a gap or rather an articulated problem statement
“Find a resource that will allow a 5 year old to make new things everyday without costing his parents a fortune”.
I couldn’t find a single code camp, leave alone one that will take a 5 year old as a student where we lived. Thank god for the internet, I found a solution!
A fun platform that allows young kids to experiment with programming! I believe that its just the visual aspect of the interface and the fact that kids can animate their own creations that had him hooked for hours on end. We couldn’t keep up with his desire to keep learning. He was devouring every video tutorial on You-tube, we bought him every book on Amazon and learned a few things in the process
- He definitely preferred the Audio Visual interface over books to learn.
- There weren’t any tutorials made that were age appropriate for young kids.
- The funnier a program, the longer he wanted to play it/ make it.
- There weren’t any resources which answered questions when he got stuck on a program or functionality. Being a programmer myself, made it easy to augment his learning.
Stories – great way to Learn!
He has loved stories from a young age. I remember at one time, he could say the whole Lion King story from memory. The other thing that got him excited? Puppets!!! He just wanted to make his own puppet show where he could teach kids how to code. So we started “Little Code Ninja” to help share resources with other kids to create fun things.
Maker Faires – Magical Land of Learning
I love to expose him to new things like all parents do, and decided to take him to the National Maker Faire in DC where he could learn some new stuff! I also just applied to have a booth there where we could interact with other children to exchange our ideas and joy for programming. Lo, Behold! We were accepted and it was an eye opening experience for me.
My son taught me something that day, that made me cry;
It was a Friday afternoon , we were just getting setup at our booth, still figuring out the much needed WIFI connection to get our programs fired up, my husband was sent off to get print outs of the lesson plans that I had created to share at the Faire and then my son started to twitch in unbearable pain. He suddenly had a rash on his back that was itching and then he was complaining of unbearable stomach cramps. He has never had a tummy ache this bad with tears in his eyes and jumping up and down. I didn’t know what to do! I frantically called my husband, he told me to get the paramedics. Thankfully my sister was with me and went to search for them! I was fighting back my own tears and praying for things to calm down on its own.
Then we had a visitor at our booth Olivia, an intern from the educational department, stopped by and was eager and curious to learn about what we did :). I briefed her quickly on our fun experiments at home with programming and asked her if she would like to make her own program with us. She said ‘Yes’! I got her a chair and was going to explain when my son tucked at my arm and whispered on my ears –
‘I am the teacher here, not you. You are just my helper, remember?” He fought his pain and taught a whole game spanning for a good 20 minutes! I was shocked! Was his pain all gone? When Olivia left, he started howling in pain again, I rushed to find him a portable potty and after visiting the bathroom he had much relief :). The paramedics came and my world was back to normal again! He drank some water and was flapping around like a happy butterfly in no time! Olivia was so kind to share her experiences at our booth, with other educators at the panel discussions that were happening the same day. Many of them stopped by to see us and share that they had heard about a little eager 6 year old teaching Scratch.
It just made me realize that when we love what we do, nothing stops us, even if we are just 6 years old! Sometimes we take the tenacity and passion of our kids lightly, may it not be the case anymore.
Progress through Making & Sharing
- Consumer to Creator – From loving to play Star Wars games to learning to create his own War games, Kedar had made some big leaps.
- Beginner to Teacher – The Maker Faire gave him the experience where he could share his passion and have fun being a teacher!
- Found his passion – Just making his own puppet theatre deepened his love for programming. He was having so much fun doing pretend play that he wants to do it everyday!
- Become a Life Long Learner – Learning was not traditional anymore and it sped up his interest and output.
Late that evening we had a gentleman from the DC Library asking if we had any solutions to help the visually impaired community with programming. Sure we had never thought of it before, but that didn’t stop us from thinking of it now!
Now Kedar’s ‘Coding adventure’ had found multiple causes –
- Having fun,
- Learning deeper and faster,
- Teaching others and
- Solving problems!
He got on to the challenge with my help. He had some ideas for story books and board games.
Here is his invention of a Puzzle book that teaches children programming from the basics to advanced concepts without using a computer
Here is his 2nd invention of a board game that was made specially with visually impaired children in mind.
His grandpa helped him create the board.
Our Local Make Chapter at Lehigh Valley invested their time in teaching him 3D Printing and Laser Cutting.
Our friends from the Summer Camp at the Vision Loss Center in Allentown gave Kedar an opportunity to test his game.
- If you or your kid is passionate about something, relentlessy keep seeking ways to share it.
- Find real problems to solve with it.
- Always keep your eyes wide open to find ways to multiply its use a million fold!
- Tell yourself, if you love something, it is meant to be shared!
- Pay it forward, pass on the love so someone else can be inspired to do just a little more, until everyone benefits from each other’s passion for making and sharing in a positive way!
Today, Kedar looks at everything and wonders how he can make it instead of just use it. And more importantly he thinks about ways he can make it better! That is the mindset we need to create with our education system where every child becomes a life long learner, explorer, inventor and an invaluable asset to humanity.
Kedar was able to share his game at 5 different Maker Faires and get many children excited and engaged with his inventions! He also won first place in the Junior category of the ‘Young Inventor Challenge‘ organized by the Chicago Toy & Game Fair.
U.M.A (U, Me, Anybody)