Happy new year everyone!
I hope you had a wonderful holiday and looking forward to everything that 2016 has to offer.
I spent my holiday break with my young nephews and nieces (12, 10 and 9 year olds) who live interstate. I don’t get to see them often (we do however communicate via WhatsApp) but when I do, it’s a joyful time where we catch up with each other, learn what they’re doing as well as get shown what they’re learning.
For me however, there’s also something else. As someone who doesn’t have kids of her own, I relish the opportunity to sit with, watch, observe and listen to them play and learn. Also the act of lurking into their conversations from ear shot reveals a fascinating view of the minds of young children. Watching them interact and co-ordinate their efforts to build new tools and buildings in Minecraft, obliterate their enemies in Clash of Clans or squabble over which app to buy (and why) with their Christmas gift voucher. Even what kids ask for nowadays is a world away to what I asked my parents back in the 80s.
For the first time in my life, I heard children plead for a Gmail address.
What alternate reality was I in?
Who in their right mind would PLEAD for email?
My first thought was “be careful what you wish for kiddo. Just wait until you enter the workforce and see your email inbox run out of control! Will you be asking for email then?” I snapped out of it – it was too early in the Christmas season to be considered the grumpy old woman.
Ah, the innocence of youth who believes that email is the doorway to access a magical wondrous world of games… well, it is. The adults in the corporate world play all sorts of similar politicking games with their emails.
But I digress.
Christmas can be a silly time with families. You can get strange looks and comments from other adults based on how you react to the presents that each child receives.
“Cool” Does Not Equal “Nerd” In Kids Eyes
My reputation elevated to “cool aunt” by my young nephews and nieces and in one foul swoop, dropped to “total dork” (by my adult family members).
Of course, this may have been because of my unnatural excitement when my nephew unwrapped his gift from Santa. It was a book called “Coding For Kids“. I think the gift momentarily confused him. (The fact that it was a book. Learning to code from a book? Not even software or a voucher? Does this mean he has to READ?)
As I waited for him to toss the book aside (it took 1.5 seconds), I picked it up and flicked through it. It had various coding assignments to create games and I felt my excitement rising.
“Look! You can code your own game! How about we do these together? I really want to learn how to code. Maybe you can teach me and help me out here? PLEEEASSSSEEEE!! ” I pleaded.
He looked at me incredulously. Surely not. Is this an adult ASKING to learn how to CODE from a KID?
What alternate reality was he in?
Who in their right mind would PLEAD to learn how to code? (I’m sure he thought this).
The cool aunt status reached it’s zenith early one evening when I mumbled something about Unity3D and he looked up from his tablet.
He eyed me suspiciously.
Surely this is a test. Is this adult testing me? Let’s see how much she ACTUALLY knows…
Nephew: Aunty Helen, I bet you don’t know what Alienware is.
Me: It’s custom hardware like desktops and laptops designed for immersive gaming experiences.
Nephew: *Stunned silence*
Nieces:“Wow!” nieces exclaim in unison and look up from their tablets.
Nephew: (Quietly) “Ok so you know”
So there it was folks.
If there was an open badge for Cool Aunt, I would have got that there and then!
During this time, I was also watchingRobert Scoble’s live interviews on Facebook. I thought they were too good not to share with my young nephews and nieces and show them what people were designing and developing around the world. I gathered them around the tablet and told them that it was a live interview with a “real life” developer, David Levitt who was working on a multiplayer virtual reality game by Pantomine Corporation.
“Is this interview happening right now?” my nephew asks.
“Sure is,” I said. “Do you have a question you want to ask him?”
He shook his head but you could see that he was fascinated with what he was seeing – and learning.
I also showed them this video of Future Assembly, (a new tech expo that was on in Melbourne last year), talked about Occulus Rift virtual reality and 3D printing. They lamented they didn’t have a 3D printer at school and then asked if you can print clothes.
My 9 year old niece immediately started rattling ideas of what she wanted to create.
“I want to make a tee-shirt which you can wear and it tells other people that you’re sad. But I also want it make it so that you can change it so that it makes you happy again!”
Million dollar idea right there. Why didn’t I think of that?
Oh hang on, they’ve already thought of that….(this would have been a tough gig for the model below. She would actually have to THINK and EXPERIENCE different emotions to get that piece of clothing changing colour. Hope she upped her hourly rate for doing the modelling gig – just saying)…
Make 2016 The Year to Be Cool In the Eyes of Kids
So where am I going with this ramble?
Make 2016 the year to be that cool adult in the eyes of the kids.
When they want to show you something or teach you how to do something on your laptop, make time to learn with them. Be curious, ask questions, seek clarity, explore the questions that they can’t answer and find the solution together. Take an active interest in what they’re learning and how they’re learning. Don’t default to the way you used to learn and force traditional methods that are not only foreign to them but disengage them from a potential connection with you. Instead, seek out ways that are not only experiential for them but for you too.
Before you think I may be giving you parenting skills (trust me, I’m the LAST person to give anyone any parenting skills), the reason I’m saying is that children bring out in us the curiosity and wonder to learn again – and be excited about new ideas and possibilities with no restraint, conditions or rules.
In a world that is changing every day, it is this skill that will help us be open to be continually learning.
After all, I’ve lost track at the amount of times I’ve learned something new on YouTube that was created by a 12 year old. Maybe the time has come to set aside some assumptions that when it comes to learning, adults know best.