Monday, 30 August 2010

Kids have imagination, Let them loose.

Imagination, oh how I miss thee

Its not something you notice is missing until its gone, and when its gone you can't remember what it was that is now missing.

Over the past 2 years I have been blessed working in a pioneering industry in Virtual Worlds and no where grasps it as close as Education, Learning and Simulation.

But I want to talk about the meetings I have with the kids (young adults, youths) call them what you will but they are so much better at my job than I could ever dream to be.

2 years ago Second Places started construction upon CANVAS (Children's art and the national arena of Scotland). A place where kids art from all over Scotland could be showcased. We came up with the concept design, a replica of the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. Not an exact replica but the similar idea, large stair case, wings off a central area, you know the type, the normal Victorian build of an art gallery or museum.

We were excited by our design, I was very much looking forward to the build. However in a workshop with the kids from Auchterarder Community School it became very clear that I was OLD.

Here was a world (virtual) where gravity was not a problem, where it never rains and the limits of this rather sad world we live in can be simply ignored. And I came to a bunch of kids to say, "We should have it like buildings that already exist!".

Luckily the Teachers knew better and let the kids come up with the design. A massive ream of paper with kids on both sides just doodling. Their designs were just amazing, it really put me and my team to shame.

"There is no gravity, so why not build up the way?", "Does it need a roof?", "Why walk when you could use a turbo lift?". The questions just came from innocence and enthusiasm.

The final design of CANVAS shows 32 art pods floating the sky, each containing 30 unique pieces of art.

CANVAS is now live and kicking and last week at another consultation with kids every pupil doing Art and Design knew about CANVAS and what it could do.

Last week I had 8 Consultations with kids from all over a region in Scotland. What an experience! We had some groups who were shy, glazed looks with not a scooby what I was talking about, while we had others who could see virtual worlds as their way to try new skills, find skills they didn't even know existed.

It was my role to get them involved from this early stage.

Their new virtual world would be based upon the ideas from these kids. I'm currently writing up the consultation now, but we had kids wanting to run for mayor, run as police commissioner, setup up community groups, help create content, stream their band into their own club. Allow them to hang out and compare stuff with other kids from all over the region.

In total I spoke to over 40 kids about virtual worlds and what was possible and the majority just embraced it like ducks to water. I left one group sorting out roles to create a shoe making business.

I stressed to them that making something was only a very small part of the experience. I used my own company to explain. "I have the best product in the world, its quite simply light years ahead, however I have no marketing skills, I have no sales skills and I have no interpersonal skills, so my idea will fail unless I find people who have these skills to help me!".

The kids just loved that! Here was a way for a group of people to work together, find what they are good at and use it.

Another group was more into the politics of the world. Everyone was told that there was always "GOD" in the virtual world, the person who can over ride government (lets be honest the kids also had some ideas that had to be closed down quickly), but they wanted a recall process for the mayor of the world (who would be a kid) we even had a debate about the voting system.

And there was real enthusiasm, you could see them getting passionate about something that would require hens teeth in the real world. Their imagination just ran riot and it got them learning so much more than listening to me preach to them.

Reading my notes we covered politics, economics, law and order, citizenship, freedom of speech, freedom of movement I bet we spoke about "boring" stuff in an exciting and engaging way in that 1 hour slot than most of these kids had spoken about in their past year.

Kids are great, lets get them using virtual worlds, let them enjoy using it with as much freedom as we can give them. Let them learn skills they didn't even know they were learning.

Second Places can help you with consultation as well as create your very own Virtual World. Secure and safe and as locked down as you "GOD" see fit!

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