Video Game School – – the wave of the future??

One school in New York City is on its way toward a revolution.  This experiment in education is called “Quest for Learning”, and the idea behind is is using gaming literacy to teach to today’s video game generation.  If everything goes according to schedule, the 6th-12th grade school will open in Fall 2009.

There is a lot in the description of what is involved in gaming literacy, that I can’t comprehend, even after a second or third read of the overview.  But the gist seems to be that kids work collaboratively to solve problems, brainstorm solutions, and think out of the box to create innovative ideas (much like those who work on today’s most popular video games).

This idea has already been fueling video game creation camps at different university campuses for several summers now.  More and more preteens and teens are heading to these technological camps instead of heading out to the great outdoors to learn how to pitch tents and sing campfire songs.  I guess it only makes sense that the camps would give way to an entire school built around the premise of gaming design. 

(I just can’t tell you how many memories the PacMan song on that video brought back!!!)

And in an era where school life and real life (and all its technological advances) probably seem more polarized than ever, it might be that video game schools are one way to keep a percentage of students engaged in their education.  More and more kids are feeling the uselessness of pencil pushing to learn names, dates, and facts when they already have picked up (on their own) several foreign languages (HTML, Java, CSS), shorthand (texting), and advanced math skills (I’ve seen the math my son uses to program a simple Flash game, and it ain’t 2+2!).  Knowledge is at the fingertips, literally, of those kids who use the computer for hours each day, and can instantly download information in a few seconds flat.

So the vocational schools of yesterday may soon give way to a new generation of vocational learning – – learning of the techie kind.  If you want to find out more about the Quest for Learning initiative, check out their web site.

So what do you think?  Is this going too far with technology?  Would you allow your kids to attend a school like this one?

A Thousand Words Thursday


We went on a field trip to a local air museum this past week, and the boys surprised themselves with how much they enjoyed perusing the planes, and all the cool antique airplane memorabilia.  There was even a framed poster of the original signatures of many of the WWI flying aces (from both sides of the conflict!)  It is one of only two such documents in the world, and we were duly impressed.  We headed over late in the afternoon, and were actually the only people in the museum, so the volunteer on duty gave us quite the detailed tour, including a chance for the boys to sit in one of the crafts and fulfill their flying fantasies. 

I love this picture so much because Uber (front) looks like he has curlers in his air above those headphones!!  Hey, if my hair were blowing around up there at 70-80 mph, I’d probably need some curlers too!

9-20 009

Still No Gas!

Our little area of the world is small.  Some might say unimportant.  In fact, we seem to be so unimportant that the gas companies don’t even know we exist.  We are generally good people.  We nod to our neighbors on the street.  We stop and help someone who has a flat tire.  We eat our vegetables.  So what gives??!!  Why do we deserve to be ignored by the powers that be? 

Seriously though, people are really taking a hurtin’ from this gas crisis.  Delivery drivers can’t make their rounds.  School teachers can’t make it to school because their tanks are dry.  Even our police are having to curb their watches and cruise through only the most difficult neighborhoods. 

You could say our family is one of the lucky ones.  We live in the city limits and can walk to the grocery, the library, the post office.  But many, many of our area residents live in much more rural areas, and can’t find a way to get to work or to the store. One local community college has canceled classes for the rest of the week. 

A few gas stations in town got a gas delivery today.  The line at those stations has sometimes been forty cars deep.  And the gas is usually gone in about two hours flat. Here is a picture from our local paper of a recent gas line:

Tell us which stations have gas 

We went from panic to chaos, and so far, there is no clear indication of when things are going to get better.  The local government just tells us to be patient.  The media tells us to be patient.

And the gas companies?  Well, they still don’t know we exist.  Think sending up a flare would do any good?

Anyone have a clock that runs on nanoseconds??

We have a situation.  I think I mentioned that Spore has arrived at our house.  Actually, the boys had preordered it, so spore they got it the day it came out.  I was expecting that it would captivate the boys attention for a while.  What I hadn’t expected, was that we would have to schedule our days down to the millisecond because of it. 

The issue with Spore is that it is a computer hog of a game, that requires lots of processing power and a mighty hefty graphics card.  Unfortunately, only Uber’s computer is in possession of these handy dandy features, so the boys are having to share and share alike.  They haven’t really had to test out this concept of sharing very often in their lives, because like most spoiled American children, if they wanted the same thing, we usually bought them one each.

The only other thing they have had to divvy up recently is their Wii, and most of the time they just play it together.  Not so with Spore.  This is a one-player game.  And there hasn’t been so much controversy in the Techie household since 2000 when we only had one Hot Wheels motorized Jeep, and two boys who thought they should always be the one in the driver’s seat.  My husband and I had to be in the backyard with the boys at all times, or someone would inevitably be thrown (pushed) out of the Jeep at full speed. Good times.

So our days begin with me sweetly and quietly waking the boys up with their usual “Good morning/Rise and Shine” routine only to barely duck out of the way before Ninja 1 and Ninja 2 hoist out of bed, sweep by the ceiling fan, over the dogs, behind the dresser, across the Dance Dance Revolution mat and hit the computer chair simultaneously shouting “I got here first!!” in their best groggy, hoarse, first-peep-of-the-morning gravelly chorus.

Breakfast ends and begins in the same minute.  The rest of the time between breakfast and school is spent figuring/arguing/name-calling/coming to blows over who gets what blocks of time to play Spore during the day.  We usually have a fifteen minute break each hour of our homeschool day, but apparently it takes Spore ten minutes to load each time, so that blows those chances (thank God).  The rest of the day is planned down to the minute.  Everything must be exactly even and exactly fair.  So imagine the chaos that ensues when I dare to call one of them to supper during “their” Spore time.  Or when the computer freezes up and they lose five precious minutes while it reboots.

Incidents such as these set off new discussions/arguments/name-calling/blows until the boys have worked out a new fair arrangement that allows for the catastrophes that interrupt their Spore schedule.  You know, things like: a friend calling, or their grandmother stopping by to say hi, or (God forbid) chores. 

So far, things are working out well.  The boys haven’t needed stitches yet.  The computer doing all the heavy Spore labor hasn’t overheated yet.  And I haven’t lost my sense of humor – – yet.  But if I hear one more discussion about how the dog came in the room and started licking himself in an unspeakable way, and it caused child-X to get distracted and lose 45 seconds of playing time…I just might have a difficult time keeping myself jolly. 

p.s.  I am looking, of course, for a better graphics card for H-T’s computer as you read this…any offers?? 

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints – All About Animals

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic I’d like to say we are an animal family, because we really do love animals, but I reserve that status for those cool families that start naming off the animals at their house, and it begins to sound more like a pet shop than a house, ya know?  Our next door neighbors, for example, are the proud owners of several chickens, a couple of guinea pigs, some lizards, some fish and a cat. (They actually would have a few more chickens if the poor things hadn’t made the unfortunate choice of flying over into our fenced back yard where they were basically hunting practice for our mutt who happens to be part bird dog)  Anyway, THEY, in my opinion, are animal people.  We have two dogs – – big deal.  But we honestly do adore animals, and think it is kinda cool having a “pet store” right next door.

So, in honor of those many-legged, sometimes furry, sometimes scaly, always interesting critters, I’m dedicating today’s HHH to the animal of the species.  Enjoy!

  • First off, a video game with educational value – – no that is not a oxymoron.  I’m talking about Animal Genius for Nintendo DS.  This game is chock full of animal facts and trivia.
  • Smithsonian National Zoological Park Homework Helper – if I had animal homework, I’d want the Smithsonian having my back. If you’ve got a question about animals and their habitats, you’ll probably find the answer here.
  • BBC Extreme Animals – Is there any other kind??  Watch all the videos on this page, then you decide which animal gets the title “Most Extreme”
  • Who doesn’t like animal games?  PBS Kids has a great one called Link-o-Vision that lets you match up animals with their characteristics.
  • Enchanted Learning Animal Printouts – When my kids were younger we had a ball with Enchanted Learning’s printouts…there are so many creative ways to use them.  Games, scrapbooks, lapbooks, scavenger hunts…the possibilities are endless.
  • We LOVE animal cams!!  The National Zoo Animal Cams is a weekly must-visit site for any animal lover.
  • I don’t know about you, but I still miss Steve Irwin.  If he were alive today, I think he would really love the Field Trip Earth website, which is completely devoted to animal conservation
  • AnimalLand – If you have kids who want a pet of their own, make sure they visit this site first for all the info on pet care for different kinds of pets.  There are cartoons and information for every future pet owner.
  • HumaneTeen – a great site where teens can learn about and get involved with animal welfare issues
  • AnimalBytes – incredible site where you can find out about every kind and type of animal, watch videos about them, and even hear the sounds they make
  • Discovery School’s Animal Lesson Plans – Organized by grade level, this is a comprehensive list of lesson plans for anyone studying animals
  • Pet Pals Animal Doctor – this downloadable game lets you play veterinarian, and learn about the animals you care for in an interactive and up close way
  • Zoobooks Animal Directory – Remember Zoobooks?  Well don’t think you’ve seen everything they have to offer because their website is high tech and high fun!

A Thousand Words Thursday


My techie teens being not so techie in the teenie bit of water left in these parts…please pray for rain!!


Who Took My Gas ??!!

Hysteria took over my town this past week and weekend.  Warnings about how Hurricane Ike was going to seriously gas can slow down oil production in Texas sent our city residents into panic.  They took their cars, gas cans, and Tupperware, and headed out to the pumps in droves over fears of gas shortages.  There were lines of cars nine or ten deep at particular stations.  So guess what happened?

Yup.  A gas shortage.  Dontcha just love it when people fulfill their own worst fears??

So now people are calling their local gas stations each morning the way parents call Wally World two weeks before Christmas when they neglected to pick up a ‘Tickle me Elmo’ back in September like the rest of the sane world. “Is a shipment coming today?”  “When do you expect it in?”  “I have a daughter I will give you…she’s not that pretty, but she can cook a mean cornbread.”

You get the gist.

We literally have no gas in our town.  The stations all either have police tape around the pumps, or garbage bags over each of the nozzles.  We look like we’ve been taken over by serial gas station murderers.  And when one station gets in a shipment of fuel, it makes the radio headlines, and guess what happens?

Yup.  Stupid people head over with their cars, gas cans, and Tupperware, and there isn’t anything left for the rest of us. 

Some stations are putting $20 limits per customer on new shipments.  It’s sad when you have to treat a city  like an overgrown day care facility, but it looks like that is what it has come to. 

Come on people…think for yourselves once in awhile and stop following the group!!! Oh, yeah, and STOP STEALING MY GAS!!!!   If you’ll excuse me now, I’m off to get my bike fixed…..