World Building and the Quest for Identity (Social Computing)

World Building and the Quest for Identity

So this is the first post tagged for “social computing” which is a departure from the computer science curriculum. I think it’s important to not sugar coat – time is limited and you have to choose between the computer lab being an aggressive learning environment, or an environment that uses technology to foster social interaction between students.

Normally I’m a stickler for learning computer science, but I think this temporary temporary departure has been amazing.

There are moments when kids on the spectrum appear to have no social problems whatsoever.  I stumbled upon this fact 4 years ago when two boys on the spectrum, who had nothing to say to each other, found themselves shoulder to shoulder, using the same computer program. Their ability to help one another rivaled anything I’ve seen neurotypical kids do. Which brought up the question: are we asking kids on the spectrum to have conversations about the wrong things? What if the conversation is about beating level 4 on Super Mario? I’ve seen students, from memory, dole out the most precise and detailed gameplay strategy to a listener who can visualize the game and follow the train of thought unlike anything their neurotypical peers are able to do.

Second, if I take two kids on the spectrum, give them foam blocks and ask them build a house together – it’s iffy. If, as virtual bodies, they meet in a Minecraft virtual world, with the agenda of quickly building a house to protect themselves from zombies – then they construct things very well as a team.

The third aspect of world building is that I believe that when people create an imaginary world –whether kids or adults, artists or kids with autism, you can suddenly step back and see the world as a perfect an completely honest metaphorical portrait of their life. What is your world? What is your house? What is your superpower? What is the enemy? How do you win? How do you lose?

So now let’s look at how this translates into curriculum (post coming soon).