Last holiday break I spent hours and hours playing games on my iPad. This holiday break I spent hours and hours creating them on my iPad. (and organizing resources on how to do this at Appcraft.wikispaces.com)
Last year at this time, I was organizing a Professional Development event on "Using Games to Promote Creativity and Innovation in Schools". We hired Ruben Puentedura to kick off the day. We prepared for the day by listening to Dr. Puentedura's Games and Learning Podcast on I-tunes University and by downloading some suggested games so that we could EXPERIENCE game play.
The event also included 3 mini-lessons that introduced entry level tools to create games (Scratch, GameStar Mechanics, and Inform). At this time, each of these required a computer to create games and only (Inform) could create text-based games playable on an iOS device.
A strong believer in the benefits of game-creation to help students develop critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and innovative thinking, I started my search for ways to use the iOS device to create games (not just play them). With the influx of iPods and iPads in homes and schools, it was obvious that more and more students would be interacting with these devices, so I was determined to find ways to use them that would promote creativity and innovation, especially in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
Having witnessed the power of SCRATCH and the work done by Dr. Mitch Resnick at the MIT Media Lab to promote constructivist type learning, I was really looking for something similar on the iPod/iPad -- something with low threshold, high ceilings, and wide walls. In our work with Dr. Puendetera, I learned of an APP called AppCraft HD which seemed to meet some of the criteria. But it was not until this holiday break that I found the time and space to really PLAY with it.
Not only did I explore and play with AppCraft, I relived the experience I had learning Scratch. The constructivist approach to learning to create, get immediate feedback by playing the game, revising my approach, imagining what next, creating, playing, revising, imagining more -- and soon I was spiralling through the creativity cycle that Dr. Resnick outlines in his description of learning with many of the tools created in the M.I.T. Lifelong Kindergarten project.
Exploring a tool that allowed this type of learning using an iPad/iPod turned my holiday into a creative and productive use of the space and time that the holiday break affords many educators. I spent the week, creating my first App/Game, and setting up lessons and tutorials that would guide students and educators to cross the low threshold into creating apps/games with AppCraft, on their iOS devices. I organized these lessons, tutorials, and resources on a wiki so that others would be able to contribute. My hopes is that students and teachers can start forming community around this type of use of the iPod/iPad.
It's only the beginning. The tutorials are rough. I used the Explain Everything App to create them on the iPad. And even though the Explain Everything App is the best screencasting tool I have found (so far), it does not have the features I'm used to with computer based screencasting. I decided that my goal would be to put together a proof of concept that got teachers and students started and get them to the point where they could move past the low threshold and start pushing out the wide walls or climbing towards the high ceiling that I think are possible with AppCraft. Once some groundwork as been laid and a community formed, we could together on revising and improving the resources.
I also spent some time during the holiday reading John Seely Brown's book - New Culture of Learning which was the perfect companion to this activity. I highly recommend reading this book and other articles by Dr. Brown, or watching some of the videos online of Dr. Brown’s lectures, to validate that this type of learning fits into the type of learning possible (and necessary) in the 21st century.
This combination of activities (reading Dr. Brown's book) and (Playing with AppCraft) gave me a chance to play out the concept of TACIT and EXPLICIT learning described by John Seely Brown.
And finally, but not least, I started asking questions about physics and mathematics that went beyond my limited knowledge base. AppCraft has a built in physics engine. Since I was the girl who ventured toward the social sciences in school, my understanding of how to use the physics engine was somewhat limited. In my search for a better understanding of these concepts, I discovered a wonderful series named "Stop Faking it!- Finally Understanding Science So You Can Teach It" and rediscovered Newton's Law and am reading about gravity with a brand new motivation-- the type that Dan Pink speaks of in Drive. I'm not looking to pass the physics test, but I am looking to add new interactive elements to my game using the AppCraft physics engine!
Coincidentally, I'm also involved in a PLPNetwork group that is interested in Inquiry Based Learning. What a great week to experience the practice of inquiry. How do we create the space and time for inquiry that the Holiday break provided me to teachers and students? I am pondering this on a day when many are making New Years Day resolution -- and the only answer I can come up with is that when each of us comes to a place where we TRULY believe something is important -- not only important (but ESSENTIAL, NECESSARY, a NON NEGOTIABLE) then we will add it to our RESOLVE of 'must do' and the space and time necessary come to the front burner, and our resolutions manifest themselves into reality. Just as Dr. Brown promised -- my inquiry is not providing answers but questions, but different questions than those I had when I started. I think I am ready to move on from "Where do we find the space and time......" to "How do get students and teachers to a place where they truly believe this type of learning is ESSENTIAL, NECESSARY, an a NON NEGOTIABLE?"