Friday, April 13, 2012

What can we learn from Caine's Arcade?

Editor’s note: In yesterday’s post about Caine’s Arcade I shared several questions to ponder when watching the video.  Here is one reader’s insightful responses.

By Jo-Anne Tracy

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?
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).
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.
  • Critical thinking - 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.

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 media.

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.

Jo-Anne Tracey was a classroom mother who became a passion-led learning advocate, when the school system decided her 9 year old son did not have the ability to learn to read and write.  So, the Tracey family left traditional schooling behind and became homeschoolers.   After 9 years of a passion-led, unschool education, her son is now studying geoscience at university.   

Jo-Anne, now advocates for passion-led learning.  Recently, she created an online learning community, Discovery Portal Active Learning Community, offering homeschoolers the active learning challenge program that she designed with her son and other virtual learning opportunities.    


  1. I disagree about the importance of social media here, because that wasn't of Caine's doing--it was something the adults around him did. Rather, I think that the most important thing we can learn is how valuable it is to shut the technology down and television off. We need to allow kids the space and time they need to become creators of knowledge rather than merely receivers of constant streams of data, information, and other kinds of input. Caine did what millions of kids before him did without TV, video games, and computers: He created. This is the foundation of good critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In the future, Caine will be one of those adults who is active, not passive. If we balance this kind of activity with the necessary development of technological skills, imagine what future learners will be like!

    1. Kids didn't stop creating when TV became popular 60 years ago, even though adults warned that they would. Millions of kids are still creating and many, if not most, are using computers in one way or another (including video games like Little Big Planet). The only reason kids used to create without computers is because they didn't have access to them.

  2. @Jill Rooney, Ph.D.
    In the case of Caine, adults partnered with him to use social media in age-appropriate ways to not only bring his dream to life, but now, also to create a college fund for Caine.

    As far as technology...
    In Caine's case he created without technology but MANY young people are using technology in powerful ways to create and connect in ways never before possible.

    Technology is far from passive. It is the very thing that, like never before, allows people from all over the world to come together, share ideas, connect, collaborate, create, and even start a revolution.

  3. The whole circumstance was a great marriage of high-tech and low-tech, and you know what? That is the way we live now. What it did for Caine is help him realize that his dream was, as Lisa N. likes to say, "Worthy of the World." To villify and attempt to marginalize the impact of technology in education is to miss the big opportunities that the technology provides. I think what was shown by the success of the Arcade was that dozens of people value Caine's low-tech, cardboard-box genius, and w/o technology, they never would have found out about it.

    1. I want to also add that a friend of mine who is a hard-working farmer/gardener, who plows with draft horses and sells her produce at farmers markets, now owns an Ipad that she brings with her into the fields to keep track of all kinds of necessary data of farming.

      Even the whale researcher in the sea off Alaska has an onboard computer to track similar research off Antarctica.

      Tech is not an "either-or" proposition.

  4. It would be nice to employ social media to showcase not only achievements such as Caine's, but also failures, half-completed attempts and other activities that kids do as they wander their world. After watching Ghost Hunters, my kids tried to hunt ghosts in our own house. They filmed the whole process of finding....... nothing.

    I also documented an attempt they made at programming a game with java to create their own modifications (Minecraft). They gave up after an intensely focused effort of 15 minutes. Regardless of the outcome (or lack thereof) a tremendous amount of learning occurred for them.

    Showcasing kids doing (but not necessarily completing) things would be an important way to illustrate that learning happens. Publishing these via social media for other kids to watch can inspire experimentation, and even collaboration. Type in "epic fail" in youTube and you'd be surprised at how many really compelling videos come up.