Thursday, April 12, 2012

Caine's Arcade - What Happened During a Summer Freed From Texts, Tests, & Teachers

Coauthored by Lisa Nielsen and Lisa Cooley - The Minds of Kids


For readers who question child-focused learning, passion-driven learning, doing work that matters and is worthy of the world and ditching tests, I’d like you to meet Caine, a nine-year-old boy who thinks neither inside or outside the box. Instead Caine uses the box to follow his passion and dreams.  
Visit the Caine's Arcade website here.

As you are about to see, Caine needed no textbooks, tests, or teachers to learn. In place of that he had tape, trinkets, time, and talent combined with a Dad who embraced, rather than dismissed, his love for arcade games.


The video speaks for itself, but a few observations just sing out. Is learning more fun when it is completely unsupervised? A safe space, lots of materials, a benign, caring and busy Dad and Caine gets to work, tape, cut, fail, try again, design, think. Ideas are popping out all over him. He's not worried about failing because nobody's around. He must have tried a few things that didn't work out, tried again, used different materials, changed his layout, with the freedom that comes from being completely unobserved, in a world of his own.

It is so much better than what happens when adults try to provide creative opportunities for kids. This level of passionate creativity is best when it is left to grow wild.

And in this world which is his own, he meets his first fan, a guy who knows a good thing when he sees it. What follows is the other, equally important part of his dream: after building his arcade, he got to watch people have fun in it. What better lesson could there be but discovering the good will of strangers who not only support him in person but as of the writing of this post have donated nearly 100,000 toward his college fund!

We can list the different lessons he learned; we can even align them to standards if we wanted to make the whole thing as dull as a doornail, but here's the important thing: his education is doing just fine. He is fueled by his own passion and the joy of his accomplishment. The world is wide open for this kid. I can't wait to see what he does next.

As you watch this video, ask yourself this:

  • What subjects did Caine learn?
  • What is the role of adults?
  • How much funding is necessary for such an endeavor?
  • What is the role of technology?
  • How can teachers bring the stories of the Caines in their classroom to the world?
  • What would have happened if there were texts? teachers? tests?
  • How should parents and teachers be empowering young people to use the power of social media to help them pursue their dreams?
  • How can we fight against school policies that try to limit the ability for young people and their teachers to harness the power of social media?



      Please comment to let me know your answers and how you can enable the Caine’s you teach or parent to follow their passions.  

      4 comments:

      1. Lisa,
        Great post. I also posted about Caine's Arcade this week (http://davidpriceblog.posterous.com/121732051) partly n response to a recent article about 'fully guided instruction' which appeared in American Educator. Caine's story is an example of the authentic assessment available thru social media, in sharp contrast to its often inauthentic equivalent in schools. It's a real challenge for educators, I think.
        There's another example on Vimeo (http://vimeo.com/34381687) a 13 yr old British schoolboy doing outstanding work, and getting job offers as a result. Caine himself gets a scholarship fund.

        We need to find ways to open up assessment - away from a grade - to encourage a more authentic experience, I think.

        Thanks for another great post.

        ReplyDelete
      2. Great post, (to both Lisa Cooley & Lisa Nielsen). It is very inspiring to come back from a week long internet hiatus and see this post. I will take a stab at answering some of the questions.
        What subjects did Caine learn?
        I not only look at traditional 3R subjects but also look at the Seven Cs of 21st century learning as defined by Bernie Trilling of the Oracle Foundation. Caine has shown abilities in
        critical thinking - as he worked out problems to create a claw machine and to make the soccer game more challenging
        creativity and innovation - Caine has mastered this one!!!
        collaboration - Perhaps, there was some collaboration shown, when Caine discussed his project with his dad and Nirvan.
        cross-cultural understanding - not demonstrated
        communication - Caine learned the power of this when Nirvan mustered a flash mob
        computing technology - Caine learned the power of this when Nirvan mustered a flash mob. He also worked out an algorithm to verify authentic passes.
        career learning - Spending time with his dad at work and developing his own brand show that Caine is well on his way to mastering this one.
        When looking at the 3Rs
        Caine has mastered measurement, and spatial reasoning (math). I am certain he learned some basic physics in designing his games. (science)
        What is the role of adults?
        His father was there as a facilitator, answering questions and allowing him space to work and develop his project
        Nirvan helped Caine assess his games. Nirvan’s enthusiasm encouraged Caine to explain his reasoning, showing his mastery and understanding of his critical process.
        How much funding is necessary for such an endeavor?
        As with other natural, passion led learning projects, there was little or no cost involved. Caine did rely on his father’s business for space. However, the cost of putting Caine into another summer program would definitely offset that cost.
        What is the role of technology?
        For Caine, he was able to learn the basics of algorithms when designing his pass verification system. Even though the system used very basic technology resources, the process to develop would not have changed substantially if he had used more sophisticated technology.
        How can teachers bring the stories of the Caines in their classroom to the world?
        The Vimeo video would be a great place to start. Then allow interested students to develop a website looking for other stories of success, such as Adora Svitak, Eva Ridenhour, Line Daile, Taylor Wilson (nuclear fusion generator)
        What would have happened if there were texts? teachers? tests?
        Caine would likely have lost interest, had testing been inserted into the process. He would never have achieved the level of creativity, if required to find textbook sources.
        How should parents and teachers be empowering young people to use the power of social media to help them pursue their dreams?
        The power of social media in this situation was great. It did help him achieve his dream, as he had refined his arcade. However, if pushed to use social media prior to the refinement, Caine may have been discouraged from negative reaction to his incomplete designs. The timing of the use of the media, must take into account the readiness of the child for the authentic assessment that comes from using these mediae.
        How can we fight against school policies that try to limit the ability for young people and their teachers to harness the power of social media?
        We can use Caine’s story, and that of other successful children to show the power of social media to administrators and legislators. This may encourage them to look at the benefits of authentic assessment. (However, I think, their reasoning against it is firmly entrenched. That is a different matter altogether)

        I think that this is a great example of the power of natural passion led learning. Caine likely learned more useful skills in completing this project that he would in an entire year at school.

        ReplyDelete
      3. The learning that is taking place through ‘play’ is amazing. I just love Caine’s imagination, resourcefulness, creativity, passion and definitely persistence when there were no customers. I think it just goes to show that as parents and educators, we don’t necessarily always need to provide the latest and greatest toy or resource that works in one way. That maybe our kids are able to imagine, build, have fun and still learn when provided only with a few simple materials and their imagination.

        ReplyDelete
      4. Amazing, amazing, amazing post. Thank you so much!

        ReplyDelete

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