Well, that all changed recently at the Leadership 3.0 Conference in Irvine, CA. As I was going through my slide deck one final time, a crazy thought crept into my head. As I looked at my slide on how the learner has changed, I felt that someone else could make a stronger point than I. During this part of my presentation I typically relay stories of how learners are extremely creative with technology outside of school. They construct their own knowledge, solve problems, and employ critical thinking skills through many of the games they play. Thus, the perfect person to make my point was my own son, Nicholas. He is currently a second grade student at PS 3 in Staten Island, NY.
Image credit: Elizabeth Calhoon http://instagram.com/p/YBGCTxhFb1/
I immediately texted my mother-in-law as I knew there was not much time to act. Nicholas was about to get picked up at the bus stop and I needed to know at that very minute if he would agree to Facetime with hundreds of strangers and answer a few simple questions. Once I received the go ahead from him, I tested out Facetime using his sister’s iPad mini as his iTouch was not working. During this test I told him that I was going to ask him a few questions about Minecraft and that it would be a piece of cake.
Now I am never nervous when I speak, but this time I was a wreck. In my mind Nick’s performance was going to be the highlight of my keynote. About ten minutes into my presentation it was time to call him. The first attempt failed and I had to actually call my wife on my cell phone to work out the small issue. The second attempt worked and I could not be prouder of my son. He told the audience that his favorite game was Minecraft and went on to explain all of the amazing things he has created on his own. He spoke about creating his own McDonald’s that serves food, a racetrack for his pigs, new buildings, and a pool with a slide.
His little words and cheerful demeanor conveyed a powerful message. Learning should be fun, creative, collaborative, and self-directed. Creativity is an essential skill that drives learning, especially that of our younger students. Schools must recognize this fact and work with students at all levels to implement outside experiences that authentically engage students in learning and construction of new knowledge. Everyone in the audience saw firsthand the profound impact games such as Minecraft are having on my son's learning. Thank you Nicholas Sheninger for being the best keynote speaker ever!
P.S. I plan on videoconferencing my son into future talks as long as his schedule permits it.