Making Digital Natives – for Real


hunter

No, I don’t mean that kind. Well, sort of, I mean, Hoksinato is a main character in our game, and he is Native American and digital.

No, actually, I mean this kind. These are the teachers at Tate Topa Tribal Elementary and Middle Schools in  training learning to use our games. (Unfortunately, school policy prohibits pictures of children.)

teachers

 

 

 

 

While our games are designed to teach math and history, they also help students develop computer proficiency. Not every student has equal access to technology, either hardware or software.

While we generally are working very hard to make our games as easy for students to play as possible, in a few instances, we are deliberately difficult.

Why would we do such a thing? Well, it’s not because we want to be deliberately mean to small children. 

Perhaps some day the world will be all pointing and clicking – but it isn’t right now. So, we try to gently move children in the direction of keyboarding skills –  typing, dragging and dropping objects.

In some places, they need to scroll down to see the arrow to go ahead in the game. They need to type in answers on the keyboard, not just click on A, B, C or D.  They drag numbers to the correct place in a number line, use models to solve problems. Moving up on my priority list is adding a “calculator widget” so that the student can use this calculator in a corner of the screen to answer questions.

If you are thinking that some of this sounds like practice for the standardized exams from Smarter Balanced, you win the smarty-pants prize of the day. Here you go. Hope it makes you happy.

pants
I am very certain that many children in the next year or two will be using a computer for the first time to take their state tests.

On the other hand, children in more affluent school districts are likely already practicing for those tests on their computers at school, at home and in the after-school tutoring programs their parents pay for.

This is one of the goals we had in starting 7 Generation Games, to try to provide children in dis-advantaged communities with some of the advantages they were dis-ing. We are very pleased that some after-school programs in these communities are using our games.

One of the reasons that some parents are so upset about Common Core standards and assessment is that it is a major change in what students are asked to do. Not only are they asked to explain their reasons, manipulate objects to demonstrate answers  – but they are asked to do it using a computer. Not an iPad. A computer.

Developing computer proficiency in 9- and 10-year-olds is something most people probably haven’t given much thought. What’s an acceptable level for a fourth-grader?

I actually HAVE thought about this. What I intend to accomplish with our games is:

  • Improved keyboarding skills – maybe not touch-typing, but at least faster hunting and pecking!
  • Understand and apply basic navigation; scrolling, arrow keys, dragging and dropping
  • Understand and use non-character keys such as control, for functions
  • Use computer-based aids to solve math problems, such as models, graphing and calculators.

This isn’t a lot but computer proficiency is not the main focus of our game. However, given the limited time in a school year, and the amount students need to learn, anywhere I can hit multiple objectives at the same time, I’m all over it. If they can learn math + history + computer skills, then we are hitting a triple.

 

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