Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Long Distance Play Date

Image credit: Lanata, Nick. "My Brother Playing Video Games," 2/16/2008;
Most of my Facebook friends are relatives - mainly my cousins (the rest are classmates in my Instructional Technology cohort.) Lately the discussions and postings have revolved around pretty normal things such as the game - ah, I'm sorry. I mean THE GAME - next weekend, along with the normal sort of banter that you might expect between cousins - travel, aunts and uncles, food, kids, etc. It's a great way to keep in touch, console during tough times, tell stupid jokes, and share both crazy and important websites.

The other day one my my cousins posted on his Facebook page about how his son here in Iowa and his nephew in Missouri were watching the same film on the Xbox while wearing their headsets so they could talk to each other while watching the film. Who says you can't go to the movies with your far-flung relatives?

The digital natives have figured out a few things, and not just the people using the the technology. I'll hazard a guess (forgive me, Educational Research classmates) that most of the development team for the Xbox are also digital natives, or at the very least nearly digital natives. Understanding the connectivity potential and incorporating it into a device suddenly makes it more usable, attractive, and powerful. Digital natives get the whole connectivity concept, and they run with it.

(NOTE: Depending on which definition you use, a digital native is someone who has been born since the advent of computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3 players. While an exact year is somewhat argued, in general, people who are 21 to 25 or younger are considered digital natives.)

Suddenly, your kid sitting in front of that game console isn't quite such an antisocial activity. Even though this episode was done with entertainment in mind, can you imagine how collaboration is possible? Replace "movie" with "project" and the game box becomes something more impressive. Surely someone will figure out a way to get ebooks on those devices, if they haven't already done so. Can you see the kid in Iowa sharing info about Grant Wood with the kid in Missouri for his art project, or the kid in Missouri explaining the New Madrid Fault for the earthquake assignment that the kid in Iowa is working on? Here be distance education at the earliest opportunity.

I'm guessing that these two young cousins didn't think much about it - there might have been a "cool factor" in there somewhere, but this probably seemed easy for them. I also know that there are people reading this saying "yes, but there's probably a computer in the home that will do the same thing." This is what these kids know right now - using Skype requires adults and access to the computer, which they may not be allowed to have. This - using the gaming console - they can do on their own. The more they interact using technology, the more seamless it becomes for them, and the more they will investigate its potential.

Kids say and do the darndest things, even when they don't think it's a big deal.