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My Kids’ Technology Adventures Began With An Alien Named Cosmic Osmo

When my first-born daughter Liz was a toddler, I was hoping I’d be able to guide her towards becoming a techie. No pushing and no pressure was what I tried to achieve. Instead I tried to be a coach to her, gently showing her how stuff worked while striving to make it fun.

One of the ways I introduced her to technology was through games. There was a HyperCard ‘stack’ game — released at MacWorld in 1989, which I bought there, called Cosmic Osmo — and we played it often. She was always delighted to play it and asked to do so whenever I was on my Mac SE/30.

HyperCard was amazing and I learned how to build my own stacks. I built one with sounds I created in SoundEdit, and when any button on the stack was clicked, it would play that sound. I loaded as many funny sounds as I could find (along with the ones I recorded myself, including my daughter’s own voice) and she LOVED clicking on the buttons to trigger the sounds!

Fast forward to today and she definitely became very technically astute. She worked for the Apple Store for five years during college and just afterwards, at Best Buy (where she moved to corporate in to human resources), and every time I’m with her I learn some new tip or trick with my iPhone. The best part is that she grasps technology instantly and I hope I had some influence on her in this way.

Here is a video from 1989 where we are in my home office, she is sitting on my desk, and we talk about “Osmo” and I record her voice with SoundEdit:

Alex Begins His Technology Adventure

In 1994 our son Alex was born and he took technology like a duck to water. For him it was all about play, which fit perfectly in to my goal extending to him when it came to making the use of technology fun.

By this time Liz was well on her way toward her belief that technology was a seamless and integral part of our lives. She became a patient and encouraging tech-coach to her little brother. He wasn’t much interested in what Mom or Dad had to say about tech, but rather he watched, listened and allowed himself to be guided by his big sister. It was fun to watch!

In 1998 I was working at Apple in the business group after Steve Jobs came back, and had the chance to bring home the first iMac introduced and it had some built-in games, like the one they loved called Nanosaur.

Here’s a fun video of my kids using that first iMac at Thanksgiving, about three months after it was introduced:

We Have Come A LONG Way With Technology!

1) Holy buckets has technology advanced! When I watch these videos above (and the one below) and think about SoundEdit and a Mac SE/30, it’s just stunning how far we’ve come with computing technology, graphics, gameplay, sound, animation, and so much more.

Want to see what Liz and I experienced playing Cosmic Osmo on a Macintosh SE/30 with a 9″ screen? Here is a video of Cosmic Osmo’s click-to-trigger interface in HyperCard:

2) By the way, somehow I missed this Ars Technica article (30-plus years of HyperCard, the missing link to the Web) on May 25, 2019, but thought I’d add it to this post. In that article I learned about a way to goof around with HyperCard — this time by downloading Steam for your PC, Mac or Linux computer and actually introduced in 2010 — and, once you’ve installed it, you can load up an instance of HyperCard here.

Make Technology Fun

Whenever I’m asked about kids using technology too much, not enough, how to make it fun or educational, I always coach parents to limit screen time, always keep an eye on their kid’s use of tech, but most importantly make the use of it fun!

Having phones that are dozens of times more powerful than that previously mentioned Mac SE/30 and original iMac — along with Internet of Things devices that are inserting themselves in all parts of our lives — we all need to keep vigilant about how we use it. If you haven’t watched the Cosmic Osmo video above, view it now and see how laid-back, at-ease, and fun Cosmic Osmo is having with his out-of-this-world technology use. There’s a lesson there for all of us.  😉

Fail. Fail. Fail. Learn.

Can the lessons learned from video games point the way to a new fail, fail, fail and learn model for K-12 education?

Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, parent or teacher, employer or employee, trainer or trainee, one thing is clear: traditional models of learning are being attacked from all corners as broken, virtually unchanged since the 1890s, and desperately in need of fundamental reform.

You’ve seen or heard the statistics about India’s top 10% of K-12 students being more in number than all the students in the U.S., and that the Asia Pacific region graduates more PhDs in one year than the U.S. does in 10. 

Questions abound about how to fix it:

  • With the world’s information increasingly at our fingertips with an internet we’re connected to with computers, smartphones and tablets — at home and mobile — how much information do we need to pack in to our brains like traditional K-12 models emphasize?
  • Now that cognitive scientists, psychologists and education-oriented startups are gaining new insights in to ways in which students can learn and do so quickly, what are the right models?
  • With gaming and game theory being viewed by many experts as the best way to move in to a model of fail, fail, fail and learn…what works? Will all our kids be taught with Halo3 or other off-the-shelf games?

What’s the fix? This is a complex question and I’ve watched several talks, by experts in the field, and a new Minnesota startup (CogCubed) has compiled several videos on one page here that you should watch if interested. What’s pretty clear after watching them all (which I’ve done over the last few years) is that there are some great ideas out there but few ‘platforms’ upon which people can build fail, fail, fail, learn applications.

Let’s face it: without platforms (e.g., computers, the internet, desktop & now ebook publishing) and higher level tools and approaches, new innovations and industries struggle to emerge, even with great ideas and directions!

What was a big surprise this morning was discovering just such a platform company for new ways of enabling students to engage in learning that encourages play, manipulation, failing and ultimately learning. Sifteo is a “…venture-backed startup based in San Francisco, California. We make Sifteo cubes, an interactive game system designed for hands-on fun and Intelligent Play. We also make a growing number of unique and exclusive games for Sifteo cubes.

Rather than me telling you more, go view those compiled videos above and then watch this very short introduction by David Merrill about Sifteo. If you don’t come away with interest, intrigue and the ability to visualize new emergent models of learning, I’ll be even more surprised:

To learn more, here is David Merrill’s talk at a recent TED conference or just go to their website.

Feedback. Friends. Fun. The Power of Gamification

Serendipity this morning brought me to an article, How to Give a Great Keynote by Gabe Zichermann.  Even though I intended to see how he presents to an audience himself, as I began watching the video at the bottom of the article I was stunned and delighted to have my horizons raised about great ways to think about the possible gamification of the world.

Gabe was presenting at The Next Web 2012 conference held in April in Amsterdam. But what he talked about in this presentation was gaming, game theory and ways in which his audience could think about the accelerating shift in task/achievement/reward and how profound gaming is in making that happen.

I’ve written in the past about gaming here and follow people like this guy, a Northwestern University professor named Dr. Tae, who has publicly wondered Can Skateboarding Save Our Schools?, and I’m sold. Now I am wondering how long it will take before people understand how to create work, tasks, and achievement all wrapped up in to what Zichermann says is essentially the magic three: Feedback. Friends. Fun.

Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean:

[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdUclLUDxRg&hd=1″ width=”640″ height=”400″]
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