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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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CYBER MONDAY: What Mobile Apps should parents look out for this weekend?

    CYBER MONDAY DEALS (FALL 2015)

Usually Saturday’s is devoted to a 3 Question Interview, where we get to hear ideas from subject matter experts on Creativity or creative activities. However, this Monday is CYBER MONDAY, which means there’s an opportunity for us to grab some new mobile apps at discounted prices. Sadly, it’s impossible to know what apps will go on sale come Monday, but I’m going to share some of my more recent favorites, as well as three from a previous 3 Question Interview with award winning educator Jonathan Nalder.

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Now as I’ve referenced in the past, most toddlers will begin to develop an interest in mobile devices by observing their parents with the technology, but there are some specific apps that offer the type of interactivity that can enhance the experience for our young ones.

SEE ALSO: Introductory Apps for Toddlers

This CYBER MONDAY look out for apps produced by WonderKid, and as of today Tiny Farm – Animals, Tractors, and Adventures, is currently available for FREE. Other Toddler apps to look out for are Baby Musical Hands and Toddler Cars.

For preschool, the selection expands considerably and parents should identify apps that fit their child’s interest and creativity. My new favorite, The Earth by Tinybop is right now discounted at 75% off, and another preschooler app to checkout this weekend is LaunchPad.

Here are 3 others suggested by award winning educator Jonathan Nalder as part of a DadsforCreativity 3 Question Interview on Mobile Apps for Childhood Creativity.

 

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We’ve received requests on what mobile apps are best for young children? What are your three mobile apps for creativity at home or in the classroom?

Minecraft – is far and away one of the most popular apps for 4-10 year olds – because it lets them use their imagination and challenges them to constantly problem solve. Only caution is to manage access to the ‘survival mode’ for younger children as it introduces gameplay elements such as dying, zombies and other such elements.

MyPlayhome – is now a series of apps that allow kids to act out home, shopping and school/ kindy environments. A great one for them to experiment with different situations and to explore the interactive rooms on offer.

PuppetPals – a super simple app for creating animated videos that records a child’s voice and on-screen movements of puppet characters (which can include their own face) to introduce them to digital storytelling.


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iPad App Series: 4 Introductory iPad Apps for Toddlers

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Our children are growing up in a world where much of their technology is interactive. Most children have access to some type of tablet device and we as parents watch in wonder as they quickly learn to navigate the interface to select their favorite applications. This article suggests 4 introductory iPad apps for toddlers.

See Also: 3 Mobile Apps for Creativity: 3 Question Interview with Jonathan Nadar

While the impact of mobile devices on learning outcomes is lacking research, much of the studies appear to be focused toward the improvement of children’s test scores in Reading, Math, and Science. A recent study cited in a BBC article suggested that increased technology in school has done little to improve scores on the PISA tests (a world wide assessment used to rank school student test scores globally). However when we think about the cultivation of creative thinking skills these types of findings are irrelevant, even if they prove true, and I believe all parents should take advantage of the multiple ways these devices can challenge skills in problem-solving and creativity. While Pediatricians advise parents to limit screen time to approximately two hours, I haven’t heard anyone suggest that our technological phenomena should be ignored completely (though I‘m far away from advocating for the iPaOtato – couch potato). – So where do we start?

Remember most toddlers will begin to develop interest in mobile technology through observation, but there are certainly a number of iPad apps for toddlers that introduce the interactive nature of this technology. To get started it’s best to look for simple touch and response apps and as they quickly become accustomed to the device you can expand your apps based on their individual interests and creativity. For example, my eldest is highly imaginative so we look for story creation or drawing apps that allow him to engage this aspect of his skillset.

Below are my four favorite apps for toddlers, with a special mention to Tiggly, who integrate tangible objects into the learning experience. All have proven to be a hit with my 18 month old (though FaceTime with his Skypagran is probably his favorite) and are available from the Apple App store, though I’m confident the same, or similar alternatives are available on Android.

4 Introductory iPad Apps for Toddlers

 

Tiggly Safari: Integrating tangible objects into the learning experience

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My Little Town from Wonderkind: My favorite interactive app and they’ve now added to the collection

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Baby Musical Hands: An award winning app that I think even babies would enjoy

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Toddler Cars: This is one of a few similar apps that allow toddlers to touch and hear everyday objects

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3 Mobile Apps for Creativity: Interview with award winning educator Jonathan Nalder

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A few weeks ago I was at the New Media Consortium Summer Conference, meeting great educators from around the world. During a dinner conversation we landed on the subject of Lego and I was lucky enough to make the connection with a fellow Dad from Down Under (Australia). Jonathan Nalder is an award-winning educator who has presented around the world with organizations like Learning Without Frontiers, 21st Century Learning, Apple, and Ulearn. Much of his current work centers on mobile technology, and I figured he’d make the perfect Dad to connect with on the subject of mobile apps and creativity.

We’ve received requests on what mobile apps are best for young children? What are your three mobile apps for creativity at home or in the classroom?

Minecraft – is far and away one of the most popular apps for 4-10 year olds – because it lets them use their imagination and challenges them to constantly problem solve. Only caution is to manage access to the ‘survival mode’ for younger children as it introduces gameplay elements such as dying, zombies and other such elements.

MyPlayhome – is now a series of apps that allow kids to act out home, shopping and school/ kindy environments. A great one for them to experiment with different situations and to explore the interactive rooms on offer.

PuppetPals – a super simple app for creating animated videos that records a child’s voice and on-screen movements of puppet characters (which can include their own face) to introduce them to digital storytelling.

As a Dad and educator, what type of things can parents do to nurture creative thinking skills at home? Any do or don’ts, which they should consider?

Best thing is to create an environment where it is not only ok to fail, but where failure is just an opportunity to learn. Kids tend to think this way anyway, but as parents we often forget how crucial this phase is and inadvertently communicate different messages about failure such as avoiding taking risks.

What are some of the natural creative characteristics that you’ve experienced with your children*? And in what ways have you attempted to nurture/celebrate these skills?

My children seem to have no fear – they honestly still think they can do almost anything and this can be very inspiring if you spend enough time with them doing projects and making – it really rubs off.

If you’d like to learn more about visit http://JNXYZ.education or download the App here.

As for me, I started to play MineCraft with Lucas this weekend. After one session he already appears comfortable with the controls, but as a four year old he needed some guidance to make his Icy Palace, which is still under construction in the image below (clearly the Frozen obsession is alive and kicking).

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