This afternoon and evening was quite momentous in terms of co-learning with my 10 year old son, Alexander. For many months, we have discussed together the possibility of him starting his own video podcast about creating different types of string figures. For the past two years, since we moved to Oklahoma, he has learned LOTS of different string figures from friends at school and from other places. His teachers have had books about string figures, and he’s been given books about string figures for birthdays by our relatives. He loves making string figures and teaching others how to make them. Given the visual nature of learning about string figure creation, I have thought for a long time this would make an ideal video podcast channel. I remain convinced that if we encourage young learners to further develop their hobbies and interests, and find ways to support them sharing and communicating about those activities with others, we can potentially help them cultivate their own literacy skills and abilities at many levels.

I also remain convinced that learning to write and alter simple programming code (like CSS and PHP in WordPress templates) is a great activity for several reasons. As John Jones stated in his TTT presentation about Drupal last week, kids may not have many opportunities to learn and practice “attention to detail” in the ways they do when coding and tweaking code. The direct feedback which a person receives when attempting to use computer code to achieve a specific result is very powerful. It can be frustrating when things don’t work, but very gratifying when they do. This process of tangible feedback in the course of CREATING something is a big part of what constructionist educational pedagogy is all about, in my understanding.

It is also wonderful to learn how to author documents on the web and engage in hyperlinked writing. As I wrote in my December 2006 post “Shining lights, finding nuggets, adding tools”:

… hyperlinked writing is the most powerful form of writing that has ever existed…..

How wonderful to help one of my own children unlock the door to powerful, hyperlinked writing!

As a result of these conversations and thought processes, I helped Alexander create his own website “String and Me” this evening. We just activated the site late this afternoon (for $45 total: $15 for a 1 year domain registration and $30 for the “add-on domain” fee with Siteground) and the speed with which our new registration become “resolvable” via DNS surprised me. There is not a lot there yet, but we did spend several hours tonight configuring things. Alexander checked out multiple WordPress themes but ended up settling on Blue Wonder. (Look familiar?) He learned to use a ftp client and was able to delete unwanted themes from his site (via ftp) as well as upload new themes and activate them. With this being his first day to work with WordPress, PHP, and some basic scripting, I asked him how long it would be before he knows more about “this stuff” than I do. I bet it won’t be long.

Alexander spent almost all day with David Titus at the Survive and Thrive Single Mom’s conference. David came in to work with many of the older kids whose moms were attending the conference, and Alexander (as an experienced and knowledgeable string figure creator himself) served as David’s assistant. David uses string figures to tell stories as well as do Christian ministry. Alexander remembered LOTS of string figures he had forgotten, and learned a bunch of new ones as well. We both realized NOW is the perfect time to record (with video) the procedures for creating many of these string figures, both so he can remember how to make them in the future and so he can share his expertise with others.

It was an exciting evening– It’s not often you have an opportunity to introduce your own child to something as powerful and potentially life-changing as hyperlinked writing and blogging! Alexander as written previously on Learning Signs, of course, but I sense there is a BIG difference between a website he shares and has relatively less ownership and “stake in” and one (in this case, “String and Me”) in which he has a 100% stake and 100% control. He is fired up! It’s great to experience and share in his enthusiasm for learning, writing, creating, and sharing. I’m a proud dad! And we’re just getting started. Father’s Day tomorrow will be marked (I predict) by multiple video podcasts being recorded by the ten year old male in our house and posted to the web! 🙂

The proud fisherman!

SiteGround is my web host

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3 Responses to Momentous evening of family co-learning with WordPress

  1. Alexander is definitely on his way to creating some great digital footprints

  2. CindyLane says:

    What a great father’s day gift for you…watching your awesome son do and go in his own but similar path…String figures rock, both my kids know some too! *I give Alexander a couple of years before he knows more than you…but wow, he is moving FASTER than the speed of creativity!!
    HAPPY FATHER’S DAY WES, looks like you are excelling at another job!!

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Wes. It is great to hear about the things you and Alexander do together. Since my son is only a few years behind him, it allows me to think ahead of time. I look forward to camping with you guys one day soon. See you in San Antonio. Make sure Miguel brings you to the feast on that first Sunday if you are down there then.

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