Thursday, 28 August 2008

Is school keeping up?

My son Max is due to hand in his school project tomorrow.

He nominated Ian Curtis from the band Joy Division as the person he would research for his project.

I don't know about you but that's not the sort of thing I would have done for a project at primary school.

Obscure yet very influential band with a singer who committed suicide.

The kid's only 11.

Regardless of the topic the biggest surprise for me was how he did his project.

When we were kids we spent time in the library. Max did most of his research on his computer at the kitchen table.

He sourced additional material from a BBC documentary that had been downloaded using Bit-torrent.

When his sister, who is 4 years older than him, did her project at the same age, she produced a poster with pictures and printouts stuck to it.

Not so for Max. He made a short film and burned it as a DVD!

His movie used classic documentary techniques like panning and zooming on still pictures to give a sense of energy and movement.

He even incorporated some footage found on YouTube.

I am writing this post not because I think he's special, but because I'm wondering whether or not our schools are keeping pace with kids like Max.

And I'm not just talking about his movie making abilities. I'm talking about how the internet has changed they way we research.

Googling is something we as adults do on a regular basis.

Why would someone who's grown up as a Googler want to go to the library to find information?

And how can an academic system staffed and run by people who grew up with books and libraries understand these kids. These 'digital natives' as Rupert Murdoch called them?

At the end of his project he not only listed his sources, he also listed the software used to produce his film.

As Bob Dylan once said, many years ago, the times they are a changing.