I visited a school in Queens, while enjoying my fact finding tour of NYC last week. Its focus is technology, though in this school, like The Beacon School, technology is rapidly becoming the paper that holds teaching and learning together. What I mean by this statement is that in the same way that we rarely talked about paper in the schools that I attended and taught in, technology is rarely talked about in these schools. People spend their time talking about science and social sciences, literature, and math, etc. Technology is merely the paper that ideas are delivered through.
Still, technology is seductive in a way that paper could never be. I visited a multimedia class at this school, and was invited to sit with one of the students who was working on his project. I can not pronounce his name, and his thick eastern european accent was difficult for me to wrap my brain around. Still, I was deeply impressed with the genius of what this student had accomplished.
The class was required to produce a video. Most of the students worked in teams to write, act out, record, and edit their video productions. The young man I was sitting with had somehow (legally, I’m sure) gotten hold of the development engine for one of the popular multiplayer game environments. I do not recall the title, but it involved characters dressed in space suits wondering around on an alien planet.
Rather than acting out the characters of his video, this resourceful young man programmed the game to act out his story. Then he recorded the automated delivery, did some editing, and presented his production. It was one of the most impressive pieces of work I have ever seen from a high school student.
I do not know if this young man is a genius. I suspect that I could figure out how to do what he did, given the inclination, and I know that I am no genius. But the fact is that in an information economy where video games are now drawing more revenue than the motion picture industry, anyone who can tell a story through video game technology has very little to worry about for future vocation.
But for us as educators, the important part of all of this is not the technology, it’s the story telling. Our students can figure out how to drive the technology. Most of them do not need us for that. However, are we teaching them to tell a good story. Are we teaching them enough about the real world around them that they can see the rich stories of our lives and retell those stories in ways that do not merely impress us with their resourcefulness, but touch our souls.
Technology is their language — it is their paper. It is also a window through which we can invite them to become a part of the great conversation.