This morning on the radio, Dr Tanya Byron was being interviewed. She is a clinical psychologist and host of BBC's House of Tiny Tearaways (if you haven't seen it, then think: Kids do the funniest things.... with ear-piercing screams and lego bouncing off the walls). She has been asked by the British government to head an independent review into: "How we (the British government) can help parents and their children get the best from new technologies while protecting children from inappropriate or potentially harmful material".
So, imagine my surprise, when instead of talking about how technology could be used to create great strides in learning and bridge the gap between those that do well at school and those that lag behind... she talked about the dangers of the internet. In fact, allowing your children on the internet was "akin to opening your front door and saying to your child, off you go and play outside …." But that's good isn't it? That's real life; I used to play outside as a child and I learned some pretty important life skills as well as burning a few calories, but according to Dr Byron children should be allowed to do that only in order "to understand risk".
After that sobering interview I walked to the South Downs Learning Centre where I was due to talk to a group of students. This group was a dozen 11-15-year-olds who, for a variety of reasons, were not in school. This was my first meeting with them and I did not know what to expect - what kind of risk was I putting myself in the way of? Well, it was a fantastic experience. I was there to talk about the basics of film-making as they had been given a camcorder, a lap-top and told to go ahead. When I arrived it was 11-year-old Ruby who led the discussion/Q&A, as they had met before-hand to plan their questions for me. Some were obvious - what films have influenced me, have I ever worked with anyone famous, yada yada, yada. But when we got into the mechanics of film-making they were so attentive and eager to learn - and they had shot a short film. They showed me an actual film with credits and everything. They had got together as a group and gone out (yes into the street and a local garage) and filmed a simple 1-minute film. I went to film-school in 1983 and it took about 9 months to get to that stage. And yet technology - this potential evil our kids must be protected from, was firing these kids up creatively, critically and challenging their minds. Now it would be a big untruth to say this film was going to win any awards (and I agree with them that their main actor was pretty bad) but it was still a film. I am going to go back soon and see how they have taken my comments on board - about structuring the editing of a scene, and at that point I will put their movie up for you to see. Watch this space.
So that, dear audience (so far my wife, the Lynneguist, and my mother) is what I aim to explore as this blog continues. I want to look at positive uses of technology, of resources that engage and stimulate students (of all ages) and to see how learning can bring together parents, students, teachers and the wider community.