Archive for April, 2013

My oldest son is 7 and he is currently enthralled with Angry Birds! Regular Angry Birds, Angry Birds Star Wars, Angry Birds Space, Angry Birds Seasons and most recently, Angry Birds Rio.  He would play non-stop if I let him. When he’s not playing he’s still thinking about them. He’s obsessed with the structure of the game. He’s studied the levels and has an intimate knowledge of the intricacies of the game. He knows the different set-ups within the game, how many levels are in each set and which birds arrive at which levels. (A little OCD perhaps? Maybe!)

When he’s exhausted his video game limit he takes to other activities to get his Angry Bird fix! He writes Angry Birds stories–one with pictures, one with mom as scribe, and most recently, one he’s written and illustrated on his own. He plays pretend with different colored blocks (aka birds) creating homes for them and imagining all sorts of scenarios for them. And now, he has graduated from angry bird blocks to printed out paper versions of the birds and has even included his younger brother in this newest version of Angry Bird play. (I was just excited they were playing nicely together and that my younger son was getting some fine motor practise cutting out his birds in the process!) It is healthy to be this obsessed with a video game? I don’t know but it has got him writing, creating and engaged and that can’t be a bad thing!

Not long ago he said he wanted to make up his own levels for the game. Ok, I thought, now we’re getting somewhere. “Great” I said “but you’ll have to check with the people who made the game in the first place since it was their idea.” (Nevermind learn how to program and navigate the world of video game development!) “But mom, who made Angry Birds?” Awesome! A little self-directed inquiry based learning is on the menu!

“Let’s find out,” I said. So we went on-line to check it out. We found an article about the inventors then snooped a little more to find them online. It didn’t take long before we had found all three of the original creators. HE WAS SOOOO EXCITED! I said, “Well, why don’t we email them?” “Can we?” he asked. “Sure, why not!”

SO WE DID!! We carefully scripted an email about how much he loved the game and how he was hoping to make up his own levels one day.

“Mom!  Am I on the angry birds team now?” “Well, not yet Bud, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t be one day.” “Let’s have a look at some of the other people that work there and what kinds of things they’ve done. Do you think they’d need some special skills to work there or maybe some special schooling?”

I started to lose him a little when we got reading about the staff at Rovio and what they’ve done but WOW were we excited when a few days later we GOT A REPLY to our email from an actual person! Kudos to Rovio Entertainment for their carefully crafted and encouraging response! My son was thrilled!

And what did I learn from our Angry Birds inquiry?

It’s amazing how motivated even a young student can be when learning is self-directed! I guess video games aren’t all that bad! It’s not a bad thing to have a thorough understanding of the rules (in this case, levels) before springboarding to make up on your own creations. Don’t we need to know our ABCs before we can read and write? Don’t we need to know the notes before we can play? Many great composers first copied the works of their teachers before writing masterpieces of their own. Wow, what’s next? Teaching grammar?;) There is a place for learning and drilling facts provided we take our students past memorizing to actually manipulating them and incorporating them into higher order thinking.

As for us on the homefront…I can’t wait to find out what the next ‘Angry Birds’ will be that will inspire my son to explore a new passion:)