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Using Video Games to Teach Children to Fail

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– Thomas A. Edison

We’ve all probably made the connection on how important it is to fail. I recently read the book, Creativity Inc, written by Ed Catmull, and Amy Wallace. The book charts the rise of Pixar, specifically detailing their process of Creativity and success. One of the things that Ed Catmull, highlights throughout the book, is the importance in learning to ‘Fail Early, and Fail Fast’.

My boys increased interest in the iPad, has come about thanks to his discovery of Minecraft (going beyond YouTube Kids). Minecraft is a great game for Creativity, as it's sole goal is to create and make.
My boys increased interest in the iPad, has come about thanks to his discovery of Minecraft (going beyond YouTube Kids). Minecraft is a great game for Creativity, as it’s sole goal is to create and make.

As adults, I’m sure we all recognize that when we start something new, it’s probably going to take a few attempts before we get it right, particularly if the activity requires a set of skills that must be developed or learnt along the way. However, teaching this concept to a child can be difficult, particularly to the ones that are impatient and want to succeed on their first attempt. How do you explain to a five year old that they’re going to fail at first, and however upset they might become, they should keep trying (and keep failing) so that they can get better – they want to win, and WIN NOW!

See Also: Creativity Chit-Chat: A Parents Quick Guide to Creativity at Home

I’m not going to take a really deep dive into my feelings toward failure, and how students in our current system of schooling are not always given adequate opportunities to fail – neither am I going to talk too much about how we as parents, in our desire to ‘help’ our little ones along the way, often remove the opportunities for them to fail, because we want to see them constantly succeed. Instead, I’m going to talk about a mobile game called Mr. Jump.

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I think this is probably the first time that I’ve actually written about a mobile game, and that’s because I don’t find the time to play them often. However, my eldest has finally begun showing a greater interest in the iPad, and recently requested that I download Mr. Jump, after spending a day with his cousins.

Given his enthusiasm, I immediately made the purchase from the App Store, and we began playing. Oh my days – it was hard, and of course it immediately provoked annoying temper tantrums that made me want to delete the game immediately. But, then I realized that we can use video games to teach children to fail. One of the things that I noticed immediately about Mr. Jump, was that instead of losing a life after dying (failing), the screen displays the percentage of the level that the player has completed. This was fantastic, because it allowed me to show Lucas that he was making progress. As opposed to focusing on getting to the end of the level without dying, we were able to set goals, and the game assisted us with our goal setting by providing a line to indicate our best attempt. At first we just tried to get into the teens, then the twenties, and finally thirties. Each time we reached a new high I took the time to celebrate the success, and slowly the goal of our game shifted to beating our previous number, as opposed to getting to the end of the level (which is really hard!).

Mr. Jump, displays the percentage of the level completed. Allowing players to see their progress, and thus improvement.
Mr. Jump, displays the percentage of the level completed. Allowing players to see their progress, and thus improvement. It’s a minor detail that for me, has made all the difference.

In-between our attempts, we discussed the concept of failure, and I used our progress as an example to how we get better, and learn after each attempt. We even began to singing one of the verses from Zootopia after obtaining a new high number

‘Birds don’t just fly, they fall down and get up’ 

Slowly, but surely, Lucas was discovering that it’s ok to fail, so long as he picks himself back up, and tries again.

On writing this article, I find myself thinking this is an obvious thing to discover. After all, digital games are designed to give their players the opportunity to fail. It’s how players learn, and develop the necessary skills to overcome future challenges. I think this is referred to as ‘Game Flow’ within game theory classes.

Anyway, I’m going to take this experience into teaching Lucas, how to ride his bike – wish me luck on that one! If you haven’t see it, here’s the Zootopia song.

PS. The game’s great. I’ve been sneaking off to play it myself. Just got to level two yesterday!


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Imagination is more important than knowledge

Let your child Daydream: Imagination is more important than Knowledge

Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

My co-conspirator to DadsforCreativity.com, shared an absolutely awesome New York Times article last week. This October marked 100 years since Einstein came up with the General Theory of Relativity, which is something I barely understand and will not try and explain during this post. What I found most fascinating about the story is how Einstein utilized his imagination to generate his world changing theory about our universe (for those of you not familiar with the story, Einstein imagined he was riding a beam of light through space and this experience is what led him down the path to the General Theory of Relativity).

See Also: What if your child’s Imagination could Soar!

As pointed out in the NY Times article titled The Light-Beam Rider, Einstein ‘relished what he called the Gedankenexperimente’, this was his word for experiments and thoughts that he played out in his head. While none of us will likely claim to have the mind of arguably the greatest scientist of the Twentieth Century, we might still have some type of ‘crazy’ question or theory that we Gedankenexperimente with.

At the weekend my eldest found a rainbow in our house. I can only imagine what type of thoughts and questions were shooting through his mind as he wiggled his fingers in the different rays of color.
At the weekend my eldest found a rainbow in our house. I can only imagine what type of thoughts and questions were shooting through his mind as he wiggled his fingers in the different rays of color.

One of mine first began to manifest during my car journeys to Darbyshire to see my Mom’s family. As we sped up or down the M1 at around 70MPH, I would look out the window at all the objects that zoomed past our window. I used to try and make them go slower by fixing my gaze on an object in front, such as a road sign, and then following it as we passed by. I noticed that if I concentrated hard enough I could make the object almost stop in front of my window for a brief moment, before it disappeared behind me. As I played this game a question began to emerge – what would happen if a wasp entered the car and hovered in a stationary position just above my head? Would it zoom back at the same speed as the outside objects such as the road sign, and thus smash and splatter against our back window? Or would it occupy the same space as our car? While I suspected it was the latter, this only generated more questions – what exactly takes place between the wasp hovering 1mm outside my window and zooming by at 70mph, verses being 1mm inside my window and not?

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I reckon this question might easily be answered by a 12th grade physics teacher, and embarrassingly for me, perhaps it’s common knowledge to everyone, but this is the first time I’ve ever shared this question publicly and I still do not have a solution or more importantly WHY! (Hint Hint – comment below if you know the answer!).

As we think about cultivating creative thinking skills in our children there’s two things to make note of from my question about a wasp. For some reason I’ve kept this question locked up in my head for approximately 25 years. What’s stopped me asking this question? Why didn’t I bring it up during my hundreds of science lessons at school? Why didn’t I ever ask my parents or friends?

In fact, Einstein did more than just notice what the blind beetle couldn’t see. He was able to imagine it by conjuring up thought experiments. That ability to visualize the unseen has always been the key to creative genius. As Einstein later put it, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Walter Issacson (NY Times)

I wonder if this is a question that I must answer on my own? Am I forever destined to wrestle with this question until I begin to formulate a theory? Do we all have these types of experiences as a child – and if so perhaps there really is a scientist within everyone of us?

As these thought experiments remind us, creativity is based on imagination. If we hope to inspire kids to love science, we need to do more than drill them in math and memorized formulas. We should stimulate their minds’ eyes as well. Even let them daydream.- Walter Issacson (NY Times)

Read The Light-Beam Rider here.


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Can a child's imagination go too far (1)

Can a child’s imagination go too far? Introducing Coconut Island

Hello World – I’m Coconut Island

Anyone heard of Coconut Island? I’m not talking about the Coconut Island that Google Maps will take you to on the island of Hawaii. I’m taking about the Coconut Island that now exists in the Indian Ocean. Yes, that’s right! Me, and my boy have been busy over the winter adding a new Island to our world, which I think makes for a good excuse for not blogging much over the last few months.

See Also: Imagination is more important than knowledge

Well to be accurate, my boy’s imagination has been busy manifesting a small horse shaped island not too far away from Madagascar, which has moved about a little, but now resides at approximately 10.479898 Latitude, and 42.710072 Longitude, thanks to the new world map we created in Photoshop (see below) – has this gone too far? Can a child’s imagination go too far?

The location of Coconut Island as described by my boy.
The location of Coconut Island as described by my boy. Was putting it into Photoshop too much?

It could be argued that my role as a parent on this project has been limited to a silent observer and videographer – but clearly I’m encouraging! I’m not really sure where the island came from, how it’s customs materialized, and why Mount Humainus, it’s tallest peak, was once a volcano, but no it’s not – I’ve learnt a lot about the island as part of our Discover Coconut Island series that we started on our YouTube channel.

It’s certainly been fun asking him questions about this epic adventure, which has just grown and grown and grown. Even his teachers and friends and school have heard about Coconut Island, and I’ve started to wonder if we’ve (or more specifically ‘I’) been playing into his imagination too much? What do you think? Can a parent’s encouragement take child a little too far beyond reality? Is that ever a bad thing?

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Here are 4 reasons why I’m ok about encouraging his imagination right now:

  • He seems to apply factual information that he obtains about the real world to his island. For example, we only heard about Mount Humainus after watching a show about Mount Everest.
  • Our conversations about Coconut Island, have given us reason to utilize Google Maps, learn about the Climate near the equator, and explore some of the things that I suspect will come up in his geography lessons.
  • He seems to be creating a ‘culture’ that has money, customs, and a value system. It feels like every time we share something new, such as what people eat in other countries, or what they believe, he takes this into his heard and responds with it’s equivalency on Coconut Island.
  • I think the initial concept of Coconut Island came about during a SKYPE call with Granma, so anything that adds to their relationship and brings them closer together is never a bad thing.

PS. I’m back – I’ll be blogging approximately once a week over the summer and have collected some FANTASTIC 3 Question Interviews, that I’ll be sharing soon.


 

CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.

 

 

 

7_Ways_to_Cultivate_Creativity_for_ParentsFREE BOOK on Cultivating Creativity

7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity is a FREE eBook for parents who want are looking for ideas on how to cultivate creative thinking skills at home. Subscribe here to download the book.

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Revisiting Tips for Raising Wild Butterflies

As it’s spring I thought it would be the perfect time to revisit one of my favorite articles and share some tips for raising wild butterflies. This experience was a fantastic experience and I was sad that we weren’t able to find any caterpillars during the fall – but don’t worry I plan on taking the boys to a local pond to collect some frog spawn (don’t tell Mommy!)


 

Raising Wild Butterflies

There are few things more exciting then exposing your child to the wonders of nature – it’s literally magic to them and will engage their curiosity in ways almost unobtainable elsewhere. Last fall Lucas found a number of colorful caterpillars in Nana’s garden. This particular species were fond of parsley and could always be found munching on the storks of the parsley bush. Lucas would go and visit them regularly and eventually wanted to take them home. So, reluctantly I gave into his demands (as we do!) and gathered up a caterpillar – soon to be accompanied by a second one. We took them home, knowing absolutely nothing about raising caterpillars, and encouraged Lucas to observe and draw.

See Also: Capturing Wonderings With our Mobile Devices: 3 Question Interview on Phoneography

However, after a few days things Lucas wanted to feed them, so we offered them some lattice, fruit, and even greens from the Dill family, but these guys are incredibly picky and would only eat the fresh goods from Nana’s garden. This meant a we had to run to Nana’s house every other day to top up on food, and the more they ate, the more they pooped – these things literally transformed into our pets.

Creativity in Children: Raising Wild Butterflies.
This is a picture of Lucas looking for the caterpillars

After a month or so I realized that they might want to form their chrysalis soon, so I took sometime to consult Google and added a coupe of sticks to their habitat in preparation.

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Literally two weeks later the magic happened and within a couple of days both had begun to form a chrysalis. First it was green, but then it took on the same shape, color, and form of the branch that I had added – it was really cool! As you can imagine, Lucas was ecstatic and took the cage to school so that he could show his classmates.

Creativity in Children: Raising Wild Butterflies
These guys stayed in the chrysalis for the entire winter. I did NOT expect them to ever come out!

These little guys stayed in their tiny homes throughout the winter, until this month when Lucas came screaming upstairs to let us know they one of them had hatched into a beautiful Black Swallowtail Butterfly. After a few days, and on a bright sunny day, we let him go, ending what has been a wonderful journey that I hope to repeat again in the fall. Should you want to follow, I’ve identified a five pointers when raising Black Swallowtail Butterflies:

  • Be sure to identify the plant where the caterpillar was found. This is likely their favorite food and ideally should be what you feed them.
  • Place a slightly damp kitchen towel on the ground of your cage/box. These guys will poop little black pellets all over the place and it will be easy to keep it clean if you can simply change the floor once every few days.
  • Find a stick or branch that can be placed at an angle in your cage/box. Make sure it is secure because the caterpillar will form his chrysalis on this thing so you want to make sure it’s not going to come loose.
  • Don’t worry about adding water. These guys get all the fluid they need from their food (at least that’s what Google told me).
  • Once the chrysalis has formed it’s reasonably secure. If you’ve found a caterpillar in the fall it likely won’t hatch until the following spring, but during the summer it might only take a couple of weeks. Whatever the case, when the butterfly eventually hatches, don’t panic, most butterflies don’t need to eat in their first 24/48 hours, when they do they’ll be looking for nectar so find some fresh flowers or fruit (water mellon is great). That being said, they’re certainly more fragile then their caterpillar form so I encourage you to let them go unless you plan on taking it to the next level and breeding them.
Creativity in Children: Raising Wild Butterflies
Once they hatched we had to move them into a larger enclosure. We kept them there for a couple of days and then let them go.

*For disclaimer, this is my first year raising butterflies, and my only experience was Black Swallowtail Butterflies. 


 

CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.

 

 

 

7_Ways_to_Cultivate_Creativity_for_ParentsFREE BOOK on Cultivating Creativity

7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity is a FREE eBook for parents who want are looking for ideas on how to cultivate creative thinking skills at home. Subscribe here to download the book.

Read More