Until recently a common occurrence in my house was to argue with my 8 yr old to do her homework.
“Just a sec”… “Do I have to?” etc were the replies.
Her 11 year old sister was actually pretty good, and would do it without argument or prompting most days. But they were both more interested in playing Minecraft than using the computing tools in their power to advance their education. And who can blame them? Minecraft is addictive and it’s fun. Its an outlet. Don’t get me wrong, I think Minecraft has its advantages and I can see they have learnt quite a bit from playing the game – improved typing skills, great spacial skills, and some of the worlds they build are amazing. But it’s still not something I want them playing all the time. And I just don’t want the arguments either.
And just 2 weeks later we don’t get any argument. Actually we don’t even have to ask them to do their homework. They come home from school and they are straight into reading eggs, Khan Academy, Mathletics or the new CodeCombat platform where they are learning python programming.
So what changed?
We started using a utility called Einstein’s Agent – actually we developed it – and our kids have been our test subjects. It’s a utility that runs in the background on your computer and the kids earn Game minutes by doing educational activities. So by doing Reading Eggs, Mathletics and any other activities you designate as Educational Activities they earn “Game minutes” that they can use on any games that have been added to the games list. No minutes, means no Gaming. Simple as that.
And it works…
We no longer have to tell them to do their online homework. It’s done. Actually it’s even better than that. The desire to earn the minutes has become greater than the thrill of playing the games. And slowly the desire for learning is overtaking the thrill of gaming also. It’s being rechannelled into real self development. Transforming screen time into Quality time.
Our 8 yr old has spent many hours over the past few weekends doing Reading Eggs and CodeCombat to earn her game minutes. Her goal was 1000 minutes, which she achieved easily.
Yes, she has now used up some of those minutes playing Minecraft, but her desire to obtain her goal again is high and she is working her way up to that goal again. I have no doubt she will achieve and surpass it easily and in the progress she is learning programming, Maths and English.