If you’ve been following the ponycorns saga, you know that i made a game with my 5-year-old daughter Cassandra at a weekend game jam, and it went viral. This isn’t the story of its unexpected success … i’ll save that story for another time. It’s still unfolding. This is the story of how my highest hope for Cassie (for the time being, anyway) came true.
Have you ever imagined how a scene in your life would play out, and when you reached that moment, everything went exactly as you envisioned it, as if you and everyone around you were following a script?
Actually when i pictured it, it was more of an octopus ..
When i originally had the idea to work on a TOJam game with my daughter, i knew the ultimate pay-off would be the day she walked into her kindergarten class with our Blackberry Playbook, and showed the game off to the other kids. Short of “Daddy and i built a jetpack”, it’s probably one of the coolest show n’ tell sessions ever.
In the days after TOJam and all the fun Cassie and i had there, she would excitedly tell her classmates about the experience. True to form, her fellow five-year-olds actually started mocking her, saying “TOJam isn’t REAL. You’re making it up!” They even doubted the existence of “The Boss”, TOJam co-founder Jim McGinley, who took on a Santa Claus-like mystique following the jam.
He does have a magical twinkle, doesn’t he? (photo by Paul Hillier)
Eat THIS, Five-Year-Olds
All this doubt floating around at school, and Cassie’s Snuffleupagesque insistence that it really did happen, paved the way for a truly magical show n’ tell session today in her kindergarten class. There we were, just as i’d pictured it, showing the Playbook version to a formerly disbelieving group of kids as they sat, spellbound, on the storytime carpet.
Cassie’s finest hour.
Wit a grown-up telling the class all about it, there was no way the little TOJam-deniers could object. We told them all about how you get to stay up way past your bedtime there – even overnight – and that lots of people brought pillows and slept on the floor. We told them about the kitchen full of candy, where you could grab as much as you wanted and still go back for more. Cassie regaled them with the tale of how she ate two and a half bagels, and they made her fart, so i told her to stand in the designated “farting corner” to keep our work area bearable. (This is a story she gleefully repeated this evening when we were interviewed by BulletProof Radio.)
“What did you learn in school today?” “Ponycorns friggin’ RULE!”
The kids watched, transfixed, as Cassie showed them how to collect the first two ponycorns. We left it on a cliffhanger, but i wrote a little note that will go into each student’s Wednesday envelope that tells their parents how they can access the game to play the rest of it with their children. i also wrote that if the parents were interested in making games with their children, they could check out the fabulous Scratch.
Games for Change
To wrap it up, we did a “question” period. The questions were “Um, Cassie, i like the green ponycorn,” and “i like the colour purple that you used in your rainbows.” Then Cassie showed the children the plush ponycorns that her mom made for her, and we gave each of the students a little ponycorn button.
i really, truly hope that this will spark a desire in the kids and their parents to get more involved in technology, an area which is tragically stagnant in elementary-level education due to the age of the teachers and a lack of funding. This is the same school where i’m working with the principal to offer Scratch instruction to the grade three class, which may yet become a lunchtime program that all of the students can enjoy.
The ponycorn revolution is turning out to be more than just the story of a little girl making a game … i’d like it to be the story of kids, everywhere, using technology to create – not just to consume.