Recently, as part of the larger PELeCON conference in Plymouth, Pete Yeomans asked if I’d like to come and help out with an afternoon ‘Kidsmeet’ session. I immediately liked the idea of this and wasn’t disappointed. The idea was to invite kids (aged 8-12) to come along with their parents and attend a workshop (in the truest sense of the word) that would involve them making some stuff. Also in attendance were Jo Neale, Paul Hutson (The Night Zookeeper), Pete Yeomans himself and some teacher trainees from the university.
Plymouth University provided some ‘kit’ in the form of ipads, Flip cameras, laptops, some Robosapiens and other resources and attendees were invited to avail of the kit to produce stuff. What might that ‘stuff’ be? Well, they could do stop-frame animation, something using Scratch or Kodu, a piece of music, whatever. There was also the understanding that the resultant ‘artefacts’ would be showcased to conference delegates later in the afternoon (a true proud-dad moment for me).
I set myself up as something of a Kodu person and introduced it to my own son, Fionn (10) and an 11 year old called Will. Both Will and Fionn are huge Minecrafters and so I was interested to see how they got on with Kodu. Both boys definitely needed 5-10 minutes introductory input to get them into what it is that Kodu actually does and the ins and outs of the software. I was glad I had brushed up on it myself in advance of the Kidsmeet. In an astonishing display of rapid, highly-motivated, intuitive learning, Will then sped away with the software, quickly finding his way to achieving the results he was looking for, opting to use the Xbox controller as his interface device of choice. In a couple of hours, he had produced a couple of wonderful, working games with considerable complexity.
Something I realised but should have known is that the stop-frame stuff was probably the activity of choice because it was something intuitive – the ICanAnimate app is so straightforward, it requires no prior experience or input (point and click). Scratch and Kodu (and to a certain extent the Robosapiens) need a little bit of teaching to get them off the ground. On reflection, I’m sorry now not to have got some people going with Scratch.
Why I like the model and why I think it works:
- Kids learning with and alongside parents is a very powerful thing
- This highly constructivist model is very effective
- There was a joy about the learning and activity
- The session was very open-ended (perhaps a little too much so)
What might be an improvement:
- A little more direction for the participants. Think effective EYFS practice here – it isn’t just the presentation of the resources and opportunities for learning that are provided, the skillful practitioner leads learners in and moves them along (I’m not saying this didn’t happen, just that I, personally might have done it more and is something I’ll bear in mind for the future)
- Some way to shift people away from the comfort zones (too many(?) opted for stop-frame). Again, EYFS approaches would help.
Some of the animations: