Allyson and the Land of Squirrels

14 06 2010

The trip to Brazil continues in the air. Before I go to sleep, I wanted to capture this short story about some of my daughters first days of summer vacation…

The other day, I watched my daughter at play and was reminded of a time when I used to watch her play before she could read. As a parent, I get great joy out of watching my kids grow, experience and learn from the world around them. The particular memory is one where my daughter used to sit on her bed, surrounded by all of her stuffed animals, creating stories and using the animals to help her tell these creations. She was lost in the world of make believe. She was lost in a creative world. To this day, I regret not capturing a recording of some of her stories.

Well, it would appear that she still enters this creative world but that it has new dimensions. Over the past several weeks, I have found her in her usual position in front of her laptop (I wonder where she learned to do that?). Like a good parent, I dropped my head in over her computer to see her involved in a “Buzz” discussion. In this case, her and her distributed friends were helping another one of their friends create a list of 10 reasons he should be allowed to get a cell phone. For those who don’t know, my daughter is entering 7th grade. While I was skeptical, I must admit that they had come up with a quality list. I must also let you know that the cooperative problem solving with distributed community resources did not escape my notice.

In another instance, I found her again in front of her computer with Skype running with a friend of hers who has spent the past year in Italy. Skype conversations have been a regular occurrence between this girl and her friends at school. What was different this time is that they were both working on a website that allows for virtually unlimited development in both the x and y axis. While this is not considered a good practice in web design, it was what they were doing that again caught my eye. They were both in a world of make believe. Allyson had found a location on the site where she started to develop what she called her “land of squirrels”. What you ask is a land of squirrels? Yes, I asked the same question. She entered her creative world and was creating a place with a giant acorn for her many “super secret agent ninja squirrels”. At the same time, her friend in Italy was creating a place of make believe somewhere else on the page. It turns out that you can identify your location through a coordinate system and that each had shared their locations with each other. Now I don’t know how much time she has spent with Cartesian coordinate systems but here she was creating a fictitious world that she was mapping with such a system. Oh…and did I forget to mention that this is summer break?

So to recap…Allyson is still creating stories but in a new environment, a digital environment. She is connecting with her peers including one who has half-way around the world. They are using “group think” and outsourcing collaborative problem solving with her peers. This appears as natural to her as my picking up a legal pad to write the first draft of a paper. Yes, there are still times when I must do that. As easy as the words sometimes come at the keyboard, there are times when I must work with a nonlinear tool and think through images, maps and largely illegible notations that I must translate quickly to words or loose forever. So as I look at this first week of summer vacation, I find myself thinking about the difference in her play and her experience in the classroom. Why must these be so different? But as a dad, I am glad to see that her creativity continues and that the world of make believe is still alive in her. May she continue to get lost in her “Land of Squirrels”.




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